The Fleeting and the Transient

Dichotomy A coloured pencil drawing of Koai exiting a convenience store (with Makiko still at the counter). Drawn in 2010, 530 x 640 mm.

A coloured pencil drawing of Koai exiting a convenience store (with Makiko still at the counter). Drawn in 2010, 530 x 640 mm.

Dichotomy:  a division into two classes, parts etc, especially of things that are opposed or entirely different; a sharp or paradoxical contrast. “Dichotomy” became the title of one of the biggest coloured pencil drawings I have ever drawn.  At 530 x 640 mm, that is a lot of space to fill with the point of a pencil.

The story began in December 2009.  I was in Kyoto and thanks to my friend, M, who I had only met the day before, I found out that the annual kabuki performances were on at Minami-za Theatre.  All the maiko and geiko of Kyoto were invited to the performances which meant an absolute field day for photographers as each day for five days one could be sure of seeing maiko and geiko walking to and from the theatre.  (M, I will always be grateful that you told me about this!)

A photo I took just outside the entrance of Minami-za theatre. You get an idea from this of the number of photographers trying to get good photos.

A photo I took just outside the entrance of Minami-za theatre. You get an idea from this of the number of photographers trying to get good photos.  My friend, M, is actually in this shot.

If one waited with the pile of photographers then any photos one took had photographers’ heads in.  No good.  I cottoned on to this fact and waited further up the street.  And then a golden opportunity:  two geiko nipped into a convenience store.  All I had to do was wait for them to come out.  But it was a very busy street with pedestrians going back and forth every second.  Please please could nobody come past at the crucial moment.  I waited and waited – silently asking for a clear moment at the crucial time.

Eventually – here she comes.  The doors slid open.  Out came Koai.  Click.  JOY JOY JOY.  No pedestrians blocked my shot.  I knew at that very instant that this would be a drawing.

Later that day I saw the words, “The Fleeting and the Transient” advertising an art exhibition at Kyoto Museum of Modern Art.  I wrote in my journal, “I think my work is about the fleeting and the transient too”.

It took months before I gathered up the courage to attempt to draw this.  It was so complicated and I wrote in my journal that I nearly gave up on it soon after I started.  Yet I so believed in the idea of it; the visual clash between traditional and modern Kyoto, that I pushed through fear of failure.

Here is an entry from my journal on 9th March 2010 explaining one of the battles: “What turned out to be one of the hardest parts was the supermarket ceiling.  It really went to mud but somehow I think I’ve weaseled my way out of catastrophe.  Matt said Koai was on the same plane as the inside of the store so I had to bring her forward.  This meant pushing the inside panel back by darkening it.  That’s when I turned the ceiling to mud.  Matt said I’d be able to fix it by applying grey and he was pretty much correct.”  [My civil engineer husband has an uncanny sense for solving art problems.]

In 2011 the drawing won the City of Belmont “Open Acquisitive” section of their annual art award and now it is part of their public art collection.  Perseverance rewarded – the fleeting and the transient was captured and given permanence in a public space.

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11 thoughts on “The Fleeting and the Transient

  1. Lissa Rachelle

    This is an absolutely exquisite drawing, Julie! The amount of detail and complexity in it is mind-blowing! No wonder you were intimidated! Bravo for pushing past your fears…and for creating such a remarkable drawing!! 🙂

  2. Sherry Telle

    The stories behind your drawings are just as interesting and beautiful as the drawings themselves. I know very little about the Geisha culture in Japan but your drawings and stories have inspired me to do some research!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Fantastic to hear that my work has inspired you, Cousin. Only thing is – prepare to become obsessed by the culture. Obsession with geisha culture happens to many people all over the world when they start to find something out about it. It is a compelling subject. Here are two wonderful books either of which would be a great introduction and so entertaining to read: “Geisha” by Liza Dalby and also “Geisha” by Lesley Downer. I don’t think one could go wrong with either of them.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Thanks, Karen. It’s a funny thing but the name just flew into my head. I wasn’t even sure of the exact meaning and had to turn to the dictionary to define it. It was like someone higher than me handed me the word on a silver platter.

  3. Justine Victoria Sobocan

    I think the ceiling turned out great (Good eye Matt!). If I had to go on a “this should be fixed” binge, I would have also darkened the windows of the store since they look incredibly transparent and don’t have that full glass/barrier quality to them. Also, Koai seems to stand out in a pop of color but doesn’t seem to have any definitive (ie: dark/black) lines to her, almost as if this part went unfinished or she isn’t completely solid. I still tend to have this problem with my own pieces; I’m never too sure when I’ve crisped the lines enough to the point where the subjects either look not defined enough or look like an Art Nouveau print lol.

    I wonder what they were buying to bring to the performance though. That in itself is as fleeting and transient as this moment captured in time ^_~

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Maybe they were buying sweets to munch on while they watched the show!
      Thanks for your critique, Justine. In the end I was happy with the way it turned out – but I expect there is always more one could have done.

  4. anna warren portfolio

    Gosh, the detail … I am so impressed with your perseverance Julie, it really has paid off. Very difficult with such a large piece to make sure the far edges don’t become unbalanced, but you have got them right. The three-panel composition works very nicely, neatly dividing the image, almost separating Koai from the mundane modern day world, but still allowing for the contrast of worlds to be clear, and making her very much the focus. I have to say I like the clarity of the glass panels – this enhances that sense of the garish convenience store. It seems to be saying something about your experience as a viewer as well.


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