As I sat on the plane on the way to Japan last month, I instructed myself, “Don’t forget to take photos into plate glass windows”.
Two days later I found myself in a narrow lane in Higashiyama which was lined on both sides with souvenir shops. I stared at a row of dolls who danced without moving in a display window. As I looked, my visual awareness deepened. I noticed fans reflected in the glass from the shop opposite. What perfect accompaniments for a doll in a dance pose. I manoeuvred myself into position to capture the composition with my camera.
Back home in my studio I wanted to draw the doll in the window but I was unsure. Did I have enough patience to handle the amount of detail on the kimono? Was drawing an impassive doll a worthwhile project anyway? I asked Matthew. He reassured me on both counts. He said, “You’ll enjoy it”. He was right. The obsessive-compulsive part of me was in its element. I drew for extra-long hours by day and into each night as I could hardly pull myself away from the colourful and intricate work. I would say it was a labour of love, except that it didn’t feel like any labour was involved; only joy.
I call the drawing “Doll of Paradise” as she is a figurine who is exotic, rich, colourful, luxuriant and unusual. She is an imitation of a maiko. And yet, often maiko are described as looking so much like dolls. So my question to myself is – who is imitating whom?