Izanagi and Izanami: The Separation of Hell and Earth

The reason I used this much shading and dark areas in the right side of the page was to bring the readers attention to where the story begins. There was a lot of time spent in the detailing for the characters and scenery. A traditional Edo Japanese art style with a mixture of modern Japanese manga style were used, reason being that The story I am depicting is based in Japanese Shinto culture. The background’s brown papyrus texture was used to help bring out an authentic ‘Japanese work of art’ vibe and I believe that I have done a good job at achieving this.

A high uses of foreshortening and perspective shift helped me depict the action I intended on creating. I tried to avoid a uniformity to give the illusion of movement in my characters. My character’s design were based on my prior knowledge of what Edo Japanese style clothing. I looked into what demons look like in Japan and I decided to give Izanami a horn and pale skin. Considering that she’s dead she lacked lacked blood and I gave her blood thirsty eyes to push an idea of hostility.

Izanagi’s design was based on casual Edo Japan fashion. His hairstyle and wooden shoes were common among the people of Japan in this time period. I went a little further with his hair to give him a common trope seen in modern manga of stylized hair and very sharp eyes. His eyebrows and facial hair are meant to show some type of masculinity and strength, emphasizing this with the wrinkles present in his forehead.

This project is relevant to the program because it encourages me to think about how to plan, research and draft out a plan in order to create something worthy of presentation. I see this skill helping me in DMA and in the work world for the next few years.


Izanagi and Izanami

The gods of the sun, moon, and ocean ruled the natural world of the ancient Japanese people. Legend said that these deities were descended from a sea of darkness, a shapeless mud that formed the world at the beginning of time. Out of this cheerless chaos came the kami, or divine beings.

One devoted kami couple became the parents of Amaterasu and her brothers. They were called Izanagi (the male who invites) and Izanami (the female who invites). According to one myth, other kami gave the couple a jeweled spear with which to create the earth. Standing together on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, Izanagi and Izanami plunged the spear into the formless waters and vigorously stirred them. When they pulled the spear up, some drops fell from its point back into the sea. Those drops formed the Japanese islands. The land was beautiful, filled with mountains, rivers, trees, fruits, and herbs, each possessing its own unique spirit. They then gave birth to Amaterasu to rule the new land and give it life.

According to Shinto beliefs, life and death are not far apart. The latter is a painful reality, even for the kami. To their sorrow, Izanagi and Izanami discovered death. Yet, they redeemed themselves by finding a way to overcome it.

Izanami, in her role of life-giver, gave birth to many other kami, including fire. While fire was beneficial, it also proved fatal to Izanami, who was burned by it and died. She tried to conceal her death from her mate by hiding underground, in the world between light and darkness. In his anguish, Izanagi followed her to the underworld and soon discovered the awful truth. Nothing remained of his beloved Izanami but a rotting corpse.


Furious at his discovery, Izanagi fled back across the barrier between the two worlds. When Izanami realized that Izanagi had discovered her secret and left her behind, she promised that she would kill a thousand people every day for his leaving her. In response, Izanagi vowed that he would give birth to one thousand five hundred new people every day!

The story of Izanagi and Izanami explores the fear humans have of the nothingness of death. As they were torn apart by forces beyond their control, their separation and struggle explained the earthly cycle of birth and death. The myth also introduces the idea that death has the power to pollute the living. On his return to the land of light, Izanagi saw that his body had been soiled during his journey in the underworld. To cleanse himself of the impurities that clung to him, he bathed in the ocean.


S.H. and D.D. “Izanagi and Izanami.” Calliope, vol. 8, no. 7, Mar. 1998, p. 12. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.alfredstate.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid&db=f5h&AN=350272&site=eds-live&scope=site.

This entry was posted in Best Work, Figure Drawing, Illustrated Journal, Time-Based and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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