Step by Step

Step by Step

Step by Step is a drawing in pencils and wax pastels completed on 29 th October 2014.

Two women with umbrellas approach one another in Miyagawa-cho, Kyoto.  One is a young woman who happens to be a maiko.   Her gait is fluid, she walks tall and her umbrella is the colour of sakura (cherry blossom).  She radiates ease and elegance.  The woman at the other end of the street is rather a contrast.  She is in the shadows, her back is bent and her walk is arthritic.  Her clothes are utilitarian and her umbrella is black.

Step by step youth strides out.  Each day in a life is such a small unit of time.  We don’t even think about time as we busy ourselves.  How the months fly by!  January is suddenly June and … how did it get to be November?  In no time at all old age can be seen up ahead approaching with certainty.  Well, we are the fortunate ones who can see our older selves approaching…it means we are still alive.

Literally the drawing depicts two women walking towards one another.   Metaphorically it alludes to life paths, the passage of time and (ultimately) mortality…but only if you want it to.


Seconds after I digitally captured an image which froze two figures in time, their paths crossed.   They greeted and bowed to one another with sincerity and mutual respect.

Afterword:  “Step by Step” has won the $2000 EXPY and CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America) Great Explorations and Best of Show Award.  1st February, 2015.

I have been interviewed by CPSA.  Here is the interview in two parts:  Part I  and Part II

Related post:   Based on a True Story

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14 thoughts on “Step by Step

  1. occasionalartist

    What a lovely story, and how appropriate that youth and age acknowledged each other so beautifully as they pass. The mako is gorgeous but I really like how you have rendered the footpath, it has great rhythm and pattern and links the two figures beautifully. Karen

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      I’m glad you picked it that the path is just as important as the figures. It is an essential part of the story and the drawing. Because there is so MUCH path in the composition, it has to be well drawn otherwise it could let down the entire piece.
      I have an issue with people who talk about ‘background’. As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as background. An art work is a whole and ‘backgrounds’ are for primary-aged school children. What I’m trying to say is that every part of the drawing is of equal importance – including the humble paving stones.

      1. anna warren portfolio

        I would like to add a little ‘agree’ to this – either an image has no background as such, it is an intentionally floating object (which I do like to do) or the artwork is conceived as complete with the main feature placed in its surroundings which are part of the whole. If you just drew your maiko then thought about what background to add, it would never gel.

  2. 蛍斗

    Oh wow! What a unique picture you’ve captured. In a sense, you can imagine the young maiko walking forward in life (aging every day) and the older woman looking back through the years.

  3. anna warren portfolio

    The composition and rhythm of this one is stunning, everything balances, but not too obviously – the tone, the colour, the structure, it is all in equilibrium. I love the story, and in a way it doesn’t need to be told, it is there. This is one to be looked at and thought about, it will keep rewarding the viewer, there is a lot of subtle symbolism. The final touch of the respectful acknowledgement of one another caps it off.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Yes, Anna, the story doesn’t need to be told – but in this age of glancing quickly at something before moving on to the next thing – I thought that I had better tell in just in case.

      There wasn’t quite such equilibrium in the original photo as there had been a third person there – who was (at that second) bowing to the old lady. However that person was just an annoying black headless shape in the scheme of things so I had to remove her and ‘make up’ what would have been behind her. It was quite a tricky exercise.

      1. anna warren portfolio

        That is the great skill you have – using the photo as a resource then interpreting it, and doing so elegantly and intelligently. I’m glad you did tell the story, it is important in the context of the blog, but on a gallery wall I think it will sing out the story!

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