“Observation” the finished drawing.

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.

"Gift Wrapped" a drawing I did of Katsuyuki (with Mameyuri) in 2008.

“Gift Wrapped” a drawing I did of Katsuyuki (with Mameyuri) in 2008.

"La Belle Epoque" a portrait of Katsuyuki I made in 2010 (from one of my 2007 photos).

“La Belle Epoque” a portrait of Katsuyuki I made in 2010 (from one of my 2007 photos).

ps Katsuyuki retired a year after she became a Geiko.

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8 thoughts on “Observation

  1. Jody

    Hi Julie, are you back? You sound as though it was a gruelling trip. Even New Zealand sounded as though it was difficult seeing the aftermath of the earth quake. If you are back I would love to catch up with you soon. Jody xx

  2. anna warren portfolio

    Lovely, Julie. I especially like the softness of the background. It adds to the story in a very subtle, under-stated way. Its so good to hear the back story too, and that you have developed a relationship with this girl, even though she may have no idea!

  3. Ann Kullberg

    I truly love your posts, Julie!!! Wish I could be with you one of those trips, so I could translate for you. I’d love to see what they might have to say to you! Do they ever see your paintings?????

  4. juliepodstolski Post author

    John has given me permission to copy his comment from my email inbox to here: He writes
    “There is a famous dance called “Sagi Musume” or “The Heron Maiden” that is performed in kabuki and other forms of Japanese dance. I don’t think there’s a version in Inoue’s Kyo Mai, but perhaps Katsuyuki was thinking of this dance as she struck her pose. No matter what she was thinking, you captured the gesture at just the right moment!”
    John’s excellent blog is http://johnpaulfoster.com/

  5. Anne Mccaughey

    How very interesting and it looks almost as good as the picture did in real life….it is such a funny feeling thinking of you drawing her in such a very focused way and yet she has no idea of how interestingly she has been translated! Guess when you become Maiko or Geisha you give up your private image and know that mini versions of yourself will exist world wide….never as well captured as this though!

  6. Robyn Varpins

    that drawing works perfectly on so many different levels..so do the others, although Observation works as a purely abstract art piece too…DELICIOUS


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