Just Walk Away Renée

Red on a Grey Street A drawing from 2009

Red on a Grey Street

One of my favourite motifs is that of maiko or geiko walking away.  Why?  For one thing, I don’t like to photograph in people’s faces as they come towards me.  I am happier to let my subjects pass and then photograph as they disappear down the street.  The 13 drawings on this page are all examples of young ladies walking away.

Out and About on a Gion Afternoon Coloured pencil drawing from 2009

Out and About on a Gion Afternoon

I love to draw urban streets.  To put two figures in the composition is like inviting you, the viewer, to accompany them as they travel on foot.   Often there is a sense of intimacy, especially if the figures seem to be engaged in conversation.  In such a drawing I have just as much fun working on the urban-scape as the figures it contains.

On Business 2006

On Business

Sometimes it is just a single figure.  The light might catch the gold fibre in her obi.  How I love that luxuriant piece of cloth though its complicated patterns are a challenge and are apt to drive me crazy.  In the case of kimono ensembles, a maiko or geiko is just as splendid (if not more so) seen from behind as in front.

Gion Fantasy Coloured pencil drawing of Mamechiho, 2010

Gion Fantasy

In “A Stroll Before Dusk” below, you may be able to see that the two figures are tourists dressing up as maiko.  How can you tell?  Because they don’t have the natural grace and poise of real maiko.  They walk a little awkwardly and the kimono are rather haphazard too.  Some people who follow maiko and geiko on-line take offence at women dressing up and parading in the streets of Kyoto – “Imposters!” – but I don’t mind ‘cos-play’ maiko  at all.  Why shouldn’t they have fun?

A Stroll Before Dusk coloured pencil drawing from 2011

A Stroll Before Dusk

You can compare the figures in “Diamonds” with those from “A Stroll Before Dusk”.  The three genuine maiko almost float as they walk.

Diamonds 2014


Enfolded 2014


Kyoto a la Mode Coloured pencil drawing of Katsuyuki and Mameyuri.

Kyoto a la Mode

Observation My drawing of Katsuyuki on day two of her erikae observing a white heron in the Shirakawa stream.


Rare View The title of this drawing is a play on words as this IS a rare view, but it is also a rear view.

Rare View

Floating in Kyoto 2008

Floating in Kyoto

I caught a moment in “Surprise!” where two maiko have rounded a corner to be faced with a wall of photographers.  There is no turning back.  They are like rabbits in headlights.

Surprise! 2013


Step by Step 2014

Step by Step

Next week I will be back in Kyoto.    You will find me on a street corner in Gion, Pontocho, Kamishichiken or Miyagawacho humming to myself, “Just walk away, Renée/You  won’t see me follow you back home”.  I always liked that song.

In 2018 a couple walking away from me still gets drawn from time to time.

The Liberation of Art
oil pastels and coloured pencils – 290 x 420 mm. April 2018.


13 thoughts on “Just Walk Away Renée

  1. sherrytelle

    As soon as I read the title of your post I starting singing the song in my head! Always one of my favourites. It is funny, I never noticed how many of your subjects are walking away. That is because the whole image is the painting not just the figure and your pieces always tell such a great story. Hope you have a wonderful and successful trip! Thanks for the blog, I will be humming that song all day now!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Isn’t it a great song, Sherry. I must have been 10 years old when it came out – 1969. I remember liking it as a child – and ever since.
      You never noticed how many of my subjects are walking away – but that is partly because these drawings span several years. In between there are many drawings which don’t involve subjects walking away.

  2. Julie Miss

    You never cease to amaze me with your work Julie. Always enjoy reading your posts as so entertaining and informative and such an insight into so many aspects of an artists life but the body of work in this one is exceptional!
    You really are a master at what you do! Keep up the posts please! x

  3. anna warren portfolio

    A back view is so enticing and enigmatic, it often says far more than a full face, and gives the viewer a chance to add their own story. I will borrow a simile that you just used for my work and say that a full frontal view is like a closed book or a complete circle, it is all there. A back view offers so many possibilities.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Oh yes, Anna, I can see the comparison between a back view and an incomplete shell, you’re right. I also think that when there is even a small face in a big scene, one’s eyes are pulled towards the face. When it is not there, as in a back view, the viewer can range all around the composition and not be pulled into any particular area.

      1. anna warren portfolio

        Yes that’s it! I was trying to put my finger on exactly why not having a face is a good thing, and that is it, it is a distraction. It depends on what you are trying to achieve of course, but when it is building a story using the surroundings, the colour, light and shade and so on a face is just too much.

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