3rd February 2011 – the turning point between late winter and early spring. Here was a perfect winter setting; crisp air, perfectly still with watery sunshine. I had travelled to Kyoto especially to photograph Katsuyuki who was having her erikae. On day two of her erikae (graduation from Maiko to Geiko) she wore a pastel blue kimono with a spectacular obi. Along with an orderly group of photographers and well-wishers, I followed Katsuyuki as she called into many establishments to pay her respects. She was cheerful and relaxed, chatting with her paparazzi as we all followed the well-worn path. If only I spoke Japanese. If only I could tell her that I had drawn her portrait several times over three years and that I had come all the way from Australia just to see her transformation from Maiko to Geiko. But I couldn’t. So I just smiled inwardly and walked in silence.
At the Shirakawa stream Katsuyuki stopped. There was a moment in time – THIS MOMENT – (click) where she saw the white heron preening itself. She observed its stance and made a swift motion with her arm – like a dance movement. I caught it. I was the observer of a fellow observer. Perhaps she was thinking about dance as she imitated the heron’s position. It was a poetic moment.
Now, let us imagine the observation, design, dexterity and gruelling patience which went into that obi! The designer had been inspired by nature, just as Katsuyuki, right then, was being inspired by nature. We can all be observers – noticing life’s moments. We can be inspired and create from them; whatever form our art takes; words, vision, movement, sounds, forms. “Observation”, then, is a celebration of art. The art source is life itself.
The images below are just two of the several drawings I have done of Katsuyuki since I first saw her in 2007 as a junior Maiko.
ps Katsuyuki retired a year after she became a Geiko.