Category Archives: geisha

Perfect Partners: Neocolor and Luminance

Recently I have been sharing a method in Facebook coloured pencil groups which has piqued the interest of some of my peers; therefore, I have decided to write a post about it.

My method is to use Neocolor 2; a water soluble wax pastel by Caran d’Ache (I use it without water) as undercoat for coloured pencil drawings.

Putting Neocolor onto the paper before coloured pencils are applied speeds up the process of the drawing – which is especially good if I am working on a large picture.  (The drawing shown here is 33.5 x 48.5 cm.)  Anyone who uses coloured pencils alone to render big areas like sky or still water knows how tedious it is.  Neocolor makes the process faster and more pleasurable.

The texture of Neocolor 2 makes a welcoming cushion-like base for coloured pencil to relax into.  The pencil glides over Neocolor so much more readily than it glides over virgin paper.

I find that complicated areas (such as Venetian palace facades) cannot help but be simplified when the initial layer is put on with Neocolor.  You can’t be too fussy with this medium because it is never super-sharp.  (I use a knife to sharpen the pastel but even at its sharpest, it is kind of blunt.)  Therefore it attunes my brain to the main shapes as opposed to fiddly tiny details.

I use very light pressure when putting Neocolor on.  It is barely there – and yet it makes SUCH a difference to the surface texture.

Work in progress 1:  undercoat of Neocolor 2 before any coloured pencil is applied.

Because I don’t like holding a crayon-length instrument, I use a Fixpencil 0012 (also by Caran d’Ache) to hold it with.  I find this longer length much more comfortable for my hand and it gives me added control.

Applying Neocolor 2 (held inside a Fixpencil 0012).

If you’ve read other posts of mine, you’ll know that Luminance is my number one pencil.  However in the photo below you’ll see I’m blending using a Derwent Blender.  This blender is hard and dry.  There’s enough wax already in the Neocolor/Luminance mix.  It doesn’t need added wax in the form of a wax-based blender, so the raspy dry Derwent blender makes the perfect tool.  Once I’ve blended, that isn’t the end of it.  I can carry on adding more colour over the top; no problem.

Enter the Derwent Blender

The final image shows where I’m up to currently with the drawing.  In my opinion, the partnership of Neocolor with coloured pencil gives a soft painterly aesthetic which, to me, is delicious.

Work in Progress – as it was on 13th January 2020.
Work in progress – as it was on 18th January 2020

Postscript:  The drawing is finished on 24th January, 2020.  It is called “Most Serene”.

Most Serene January 2020

See also Art Materials page

See also Brush and Pencil post

Here is a step-by-step exercise to show my impressionistic technique using Neocolor and Luminance. I originally created the piece “Daydream” for Ann Kullberg’s COLOR Magazine. It is featured in the November 2020 issue. You can click on the images to enlarge them.

Source photo for “Daydream” exercise
Line drawing for “Daydream” exercise.

Working from a cropped photo I took of a maiko (apprentice geisha) I trace minimal lines onto a piece of Arches Aquarelle smooth paper, 9 x 7 inches. The lines are arbitrary for when everything is blurry where exactly does one draw the line? With no sharp tonal boundaries and everything merging the graphite guide lines may only be approximate.

Once I have my graphite lines on the paper I begin the undercoat process. This can be done purely with coloured pencils but I like to begin with Caran d’Ache Neocolor wax pastels. Neocolor’s waxy texture makes a nice surface for coloured pencils to go over. Because a Neocolor stick is a fairly blunt instrument it encourages me to work in a loose manner. As I put Neocolor on I simultaneously erase the graphite lines. I work with such light pressure that if I put a colour in the wrong place I can lift most of it off with an eraser.

Once the page is filled with Neocolor I bring in the coloured pencils. At this early stage I am working them over the Neocolor gradually intensifying the values. I am using light to light-medium pressure only. I still see this as a continuation of undercoat even though I’m now using pencils. My pencil work is reasonably free and non-fussy as I begin to build tone over the page. I lay white pencil over the pale pink kimono (but nowhere else in the drawing) because I want the maiko eventually to stand out from the rest of the drawing. The application of white will give her kimono a glow. I use the pencils in a vigorous way letting all manner of expressive marks show.

From now on it is a matter of layer-building. I mostly work with small vertical strokes however I use other directional strokes too. For instance on the path you can see that my strokes are diagonal – in tune with the perspective. I also use an all-over-the-place scribble which helps the diffused look. My scribble marks are gossamer-light however; no heavy-handed scribbling. (What is scribble if not a type of mark-making?) Stroke direction can also add to a feeling of movement. I want the maiko to look like she is rushing away from me so my directional strokes help to create that effect.

To create blurriness there is a lot of colour overlapping taking place. For example I push the pink of the kimono into the grey path and push the grey of the path into the pink kimono. Throughout the drawing I am pushing and pulling colours which constantly merges the boundaries between areas and objects.

Because this kind of drawing comes together from a distance I only sit down to work on it in the early stages. I work in an expressive way with my whole self. That is, I work from one end of the room to the other. The drawing stands on an easel. I walk up to it and away from it, putting a mark here, going away to check how it looks, going back to adjust, stepping back again to see from afar. It is action work. And as I go I continually adjust and fine-tune until at some point I think I am done.

“Daydream” is complete. What were my aims? I was seeking a mood, an impression, an atmosphere, in this case perhaps a sense of walking speed as well. The source photo was my jumping off point – or you could say it was my way back to the memory of that Kyoto afternoon.

An Italian Dream – technical note

How the drawing looked as a work in progress.

In “An Italian Dream” I wanted the colours in the foreground to be the most deeply saturated parts of the picture, being closest to the viewer. So I put Neocolor II wax pastels down as undercoat for this water/boat area. The sky, hills and buildings have no Neocolor underneath. They are rendered with coloured pencils only. Having wax pastels for the pencils to work into and over makes for a finish of delicious intensity.

“An Italian Dream” December 2020

How do I manage to do fairly detailed work at the undercoat stage with Neocolor? The answer is that I sharpen my Neocolors using the Faber Castell dual pencil sharpener. The larger of the openings of the dual sharpener fits Neocolor perfectly.

Currently (January 2021) I am working on a drawing of sunrise on the Grand Canal.

Undercoat stage with Neocolor II completed. Ready to begin with Luminance.

When you see the Luminance colour go over the top of the Neocolor undercoat, you can appreciate by comparing the coloured pencil with the pastel areas how lightly I use the Neocolor. Neocolor maps in the shapes with the lightest pressure. The Luminance going over the top does 95% of the work. Despite the light pressure of the Neocolor, its presence makes a difference – enriching the work as a whole.

Luminance making its presence felt on the left of the work.

The drawing continues – Luminance over Neocolor gradually moving from left to right across the buildings. Also I adjust as I go, for instance, intensifying the glow in the sky.

In the next image I am working on the building on the right. These are not its final colours; rather, it is perhaps half-way completed.

Entrance

“Entrance”
Coloured pencil drawing of Katsutomo. 370 x 460 mm. June 2017

“Entrance 1. the act or an instance of going or coming in; a door, passage etc. by which one enters; right of admission; the coming of an actor on stage.”                                        “Entrance 2. enchant, delight; put into a trance; overwhelm with strong feeling.”           (The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary)

In September 2015 I took many photos of Katsutomo during her erikae (when she become a Geiko).  This month, June 2017, I have made my third drawing from this auspicious occasion.

Two previous drawings of Katsutomo …

A Reflective Moment
330 x 490 mm, 2015

Being There
365 x 510 mm, 2015

and when she was still a Maiko…

Here she is in my drawing “The Art of Elegance”, 2014

I have recently been invited to exhibit my drawings at Kidogo Arthouse – 7th to 20th September 2017 – hence a return to memories – and new drawings – of Kyoto.  My co-exhibitor will be Ceramicist, Stewart Scambler.  This is a Gallery East exhibition.

 

Fascination Finale

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Today, members of Perth Kimono Club visited our art exhibition “Fascination: Maiko, Geiko, Kyoto”.

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Outside it was an incredibly stormy day.  Only the bravest of the brave actually wore kimono as a strong bitterly cold wind blew non-stop while horizontal rain teemed.   Inside the gallery we sat and discussed maiko, geiko and Kyoto – interrupted at regular intervals by the front door blowing open.

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President of Perth Kimono Club, Izumi Woods, was given the task of randomly selecting the winner of 40 Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 coloured pencils (held by Robyn Varpins) donated by Kadmium Art + Design Supplies in Sydney.  220 names were in the bag.  Congratulations Di Swain!!!

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After a group photo, people chatted and looked at the art.  It was a lovely way to finish off the exhibition.

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Matthew (my Better Half) was given the task of photographer.

Tomorrow people will come to take away the sculptures and drawings they bought.  And I will go back to being a person who works quietly at home…at least for another two years.

Thank you to EVERYBODY who took the time to visit our art exhibition over two and a half weeks.  Your interest, encouragement and support are hugely appreciated.

Peruse Contents of Posts Index

 

Fascination:  Maiko, Geiko, Kyoto

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From September 17th to October 2nd 2016, Robyn Varpins and I open the doors to our art exhibition Fascination: Maiko, Geiko, Kyoto celebrating maiko and geiko (geisha) of Kyoto.

"Odori" by Robyn Varpins

“Odori” by Robyn Varpins

Maiko and geiko are practitioners of the traditional arts of Japan.  These are cultivated, refined and graceful women who not only perform art, but themselves become works of art.

“This has felt like creating icons, as maiko and geiko have an ‘other-worldliness’ that make them symbolic and able to be imbued with meaning” ( Robyn Varpins)

"Super Deluxe" Drawing by Julie Podstolski

“Super Deluxe”
Drawing by Julie Podstolski

In case you wonder, “But what do maiko and geiko actually DO?”, we are fortunate to have copies of “Geiko and Maiko of Kyoto” by Robert van Koesveld for sale.  This sumptuous photographic book, published this year, will answer many of your questions.

"Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto" by Robert van Koesveld.

It is our wish that you will find contemplation, inspiration and even a touch of enchantment when you visit our exhibition of drawing (by Julie Podstolski) and sculpture (by Robyn Varpins).  Our muses are mesmerizing.  Welcome to our fascination.

Artist talks at 1 pm Sunday 18th and Sunday 25th September.  We welcome questions and discussion on our exhibition subject, our art techniques, art materials and Japan.

I have a list of all my drawings in the exhibition on my blog page Fascination: Maiko, Geiko, Kyoto – an Art Exhibition

The exhibition will be open 7 days per week: 10 am – 4 pm.  Early Work.  Shop 9, 330 South Terrace, South Fremantle WA 6162

Browse Contents of Posts Index

 

Super Deluxe

Super Deluxe A new drawing for August 2016 in coloured pencils

Super Deluxe
A new drawing for August 2016 in coloured pencils

Word association:  the words on the taxi are a perfect description for maiko and geiko.  These practitioners of the refined arts of Japan are cultivated and rarified beings.   They are super deluxe.  The geiko in this drawing is Chisako; this has just been confirmed by my good Kyoto friend, Mima-san.

This composition was hidden inside a very ordinary photo which I took last September. While examining the photo, it was seeing the words on the taxi which piqued my interest.

Here is the source photo for the drawing "Super Deluxe".

Here is the source photo for the drawing “Super Deluxe”.

It took me a few months to see the potential for a piece of art hiding inside my hastily taken photograph.  That is the exciting thing about candid photography on Kyoto streets – one never knows what treasures lie within the copious material brought home.  What a bonus to have captured the reflection of the lantern in the taxi’s shiny paint.  I loved drawing this.

 

 

 

Kimihiro and Kimitoyo

A touch of Klimt; surely the obi on the right was influenced by the Viennese artist.

A touch of  Gustav Klimt; surely the obi on the right was influenced by his art.

Three weeks ago today I happened across the Erikae of Kimihiro of Miyagawa-cho.  Here are eight of my favourite photos from this most fortunate of spontaneous photo-shoots.

I took the top photo during the Erikae walk.  I was one of a hoard of photographers.  But then it was all over.  The photographers dispersed.  Half a dozen of us remained, chatting, deciding what to do next – when Kimihiro surprised us by coming back out of her okiya.

Kimihiro steps out of her okiya.

Kimihiro re-emerges.

Kimihiro’s sister, Kimitoyo, appeared; I don’t even remember where she came from. Perhaps she also came out of the okiya.  It is all a blur in my mind.  They delighted us by posing with a baby.  Possibly the baby was related to them or she could have been the neighbour’s baby.  (Yes, the baby’s mother was there too, standing to one side.)

Kimihiro with her sister, Kimitoyo and a baby.

Kimihiro, Kimitoyo and the baby.

Kimitoyo and the baby.

Kimitoyo and the baby.

It was such a happy time of posing.  How often have I seen a maiko holding a baby?  Never – until that moment.

Kimihiro outside her okiya.

Kimihiro outside her okiya.

Three is a GOOD crowd - Kimihiro and Kimitoyo are joined by Fukutomo.

Three is a GOOD crowd – Kimihiro and Kimitoyo are joined by Fukutomo.

Fukutama can't help but smile at the celebrations.

Fukutama can’t help but smile at the celebrations as she passes by.

I like this photo because of the delicate hand movement of Kimitoyo, reminding us that these young women are ARTISTS.

I like this photo because of the delicate hand position of Kimitoyo, reminding us that these young women are custodians of traditional Japanese PERFORMING ARTS.

I was over-the-moon to be able to photograph the small ‘happening’ after the erikae walk. Occasionally I will know in advance that an erikae or misedashi will be on while I am in Kyoto but I didn’t know about this one.  What a gift!

Related post:  Sisters (my first post about Kimihiro and Kimitoyo)

Hurry Up!

"Hurry Up!" is drawn with coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth. 250 x 305 mm. June 2016

“Hurry Up!” is drawn with coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth.
250 x 305 mm.
June 2016

I may be nearly 57 but my eternal inner child is alive, well and as insistent as she was when I was actually her age.  A fortnight ago we travelled to Kyoto together.

“Hurry up!” she implored on each of the three nights we stayed out to photograph maiko and geiko.  “I’m bored already.  We’ve been out all day.  I’m tired.  I want to go back to my room.  I want to eat.”  And – “Buy me a macha ice cream”.  [I did.  It was delicious.]  “My feet hurt.  My knees, back and shoulders ache.  I need a bathroom.  I need a bed.”

I had to be firm.  “Just another half hour”, I replied.  “Wait until I get a couple more photos.  I tell you what, after the next maiko or geiko shows up, then we’ll go.  Just until 9, 9.30, just until 10.”

So the internal dialogue continued.  Adult Julie simply HAD to hold out; resist the whine from within.  This was a small window of opportunity (three days and nights) to acquire new source photos to draw from.  I couldn’t waste precious time by giving in and going back to the hotel.  I MUST HAVE PHOTOS!  (Or to quote a famous lady, “I must have my share…”)

We agreed on one thing; when maiko and geiko appeared, enabling us to get photos, both adult and inner child were exultant.  “YES!”

Maiko and geiko finally came out of various ozashiki and dashed in the rain to their next appointments.  The drawing’s title refers to their speed as they hurtled (with grace) past one another beneath red umbrellas.

Hurry Up!” is a drawing about movement; an impression of speed.  Plus the title acknowledges Inner Child.  It reminds me of our nightly reckoning as we endured mind-numbing boredom and fatigue on the dark wet streets of Gion – waiting interminably for a few quick bursts of elegant action.

Photobombs on the streets of Kyoto

When one is trying to photograph maiko and geiko on Kyoto streets, one is certainly not alone.  Cars cruise by while dangerously-speeding taxi drivers blare their horns at straying pedestrians.   Delivery boys on bikes whizz and a constant stream of cheek-by-jowl pedestrians wander willy-nilly.  Huge whale-like tourist buses haul themselves down narrow Hanamikoji-dori. (Why, oh why, are buses allowed on such a narrow pedestrian-filled street?)  On every trip I get many photos which are severely compromised by other people’s body parts or rushing traffic.  I usually delete them but I thought you might like to see some from this trip.  It can be quite entertaining to see what turned up in one’s photos, often not realised until one is examining them back home.  (Click on each photo to enlarge.)

A very common situation - another person walks into my picture frame. (By the way, the girl at the back is a shikomi; if she makes it through her shikomi year, she will become a maiko.)

A very common situation – another person walks into my picture frame. (By the way, the girl at the back is a shikomi; if she makes it through her shikomi year, she will become a maiko.)

"Dear Shikomi, one day in the future you may wear clothes like those whose bags you are carrying, but for the moment, you spoiled my obi shot".

“Dear Shikomi, one day in the future you may wear clothes like those whose bags you are carrying, but for the moment, you spoiled my obi shot”.

Sometimes it is the people behind your subjects that spoil the shot. No offence to them to them personally, mind.

Sometimes it is the people behind your subjects that spoil the shot. No offence to them personally, mind you.

Another person walks into my picture frame.

Another person walks into my picture frame.  Because I always stand and photograph quite far away from my subject, this often happens.  I never want to loom in a person’s face.

Drats!

Drats!

In this case I was the photobomb. The lady you see taking a photograph of this wedding couple kindly asked me to move. (I quickly did so.)

In this case I was the unwelcome addition to a photo. The person you see taking a photograph of this wedding couple kindly asked me to move. (I quickly did so.)

Fast action on the part of the photographer who jumped in front of me.

Fast action on the part of the photographer who jumped in front of me.

The ubiquitous elbow photobomb as its owner takes a photo of Kimihiro.

The ubiquitous elbow photobomb as its owner takes a photo of Kimihiro.

Look at me! I was in the view of all these guys (sorry guys!) just as they are in my view.

“Look at me!”  I was in the view of all these guys (sorry guys!) just as they are in my view.

Another 'drats' moment.

Another ‘drats’ moment.

There is that rotten bus. Such a huge vehicle should not be allowed on this tiny street. Plus a small example of the billion school children who I saw over my three days on Hanamikoji-dori.

There is one of those tourist buses.  In my opinion, such a huge vehicle should not be allowed on this tiny street. Plus, a small example of the billion school children who I saw over my three days on Hanamikoji-dori.

Nothing wrong from in front of this maiko. But the guy in the black face mask pretty much bloops the photo from behind.

Nothing wrong in the foreground.  But the guy in the black face mask behind the maiko is the spoiler.  And the car doesn’t do any favours either.

I would just like to point out how NOT to photograph maiko and geiko. Here is poor Sayaka having her personal space totally invaded by a woman. Meanwhile the woman's partner waits right at the entrance to Ichiriki, where Sayaka will enter, to accost her again. This is terrible behaviour by tourists.

I would just like to point out how NOT to photograph maiko and geiko. Here is poor Sayaka having her personal space totally invaded by a woman. Meanwhile the woman’s partner waits right at the entrance to Ichiriki, where Sayaka will enter, to accost her again. This is utterly insensitive and predatory behaviour by tourists.

As opposed to the previous photo, these tourists, while they also wait at the entrance to Ichiriki, they look on with admiration and respect.

As opposed to the previous photo, these tourists, also at the entrance of Ichiriki,  look on with admiration and respect; completely non-threatening.

And finally, if you have read and looked this far, not every photo is bombed or blooped.

And finally, if you have read and looked this far, I am happy to say that not every photo I take photobombs out!  Here is Fukutama.

 

 

 

Sisters

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I made a spontaneous visit to Kyoto last week.  As far as I knew nothing was happening; no erikae or misedashi (debuts).  I planned to walk and photograph for three days and hoped that I would find some good material for drawing.  Imagine my surprise when on the second day I walked into an erikae!  It was the erikae of Kimihiro of Miyagawa-cho.  I was incredulous and gobsmacked!   But there was no time to be a stunned mullet.  I gathered up my wits and got straight to work with my camera.

Today I have been sifting through 800+ images from my three Kyoto days and printing a great many of them. The top photo moved me to stop what I was doing and quickly write a blog post.  The photo is of Kimihiro and her younger sister, Kimitoyo.  I don’t mean just geiko/maiko sisters but REAL sisters.  Kimitoyo looks so proud of her big sister.  You can see there is love, respect and admiration between these two girls.

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This interaction came when the official erikae walk was over.  Kimihiro went inside her okiya and at that point most of the photographers left.  I was chatting to a friend when, surprisingly, Kimihiro came back outside with Kimitoyo.  Only a handful of people witnessed this sisterly scene.   There was much posing, chatting and laughing – and happily for me, tolerance of the photographers.DSC_0610asmall

Related post:  Kimihiro and Kimitoyo  more photos from the Erikae of Kimihiro

Speed of Life

"Speed of Life" Neocolor II and coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth. 285 x 415 mm. June 2016

“Speed of Life”
Neocolor II and coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth.
285 x 415 mm. June 2016

For the past fortnight I have been working on “Speed of Life” – a title I borrowed from David Bowie’s album “Low”.  (Thanks again, David Bowie.)

I caught this magical moment when Satsuki dashed across Shijo-dori with a big smile (as she recognised a friend) on the night of her Erikae last year.  I wanted to show Satsuki’s energy, vibrancy and speed.  (Maiko and geiko are ALWAYS rushing!)

I had wanted to draw this for months but the original source photo had so much road surface in it that it put me off.  Also, the light behind Satsuki cut off part of her nose.  It was only recently I realised that I had other profile photos of her which I could refer to, enabling me to give her a nose.  And then – those lights behind … I complained to Matthew, “You won’t be able to see her face because of those bright lights”.  We had a discussion.  He convinced me that the viewer wouldn’t really have to see her face as the title (which I’d already come up with) suggested to the viewer that he/she was looking at the whole figure moving at speed.  OK.  Matthew convinced me so I was prepared to give it a go.  (Thanks again, Matthew.)  In the end, you can see the face pretty well after all!

The original source photo.

The original source photo.

Even though I cropped the composition so that I didn’t have too much road surface to cover, it was still a considerable amount.  The first layer of colour I put on the paper was with Caran d’Ache Neocolor II.  Having this crayon as a base then made it much easier and faster to cover and build the road surface with pencils.

Not all maiko and geiko are as great as Satsuki.  No wonder I want to keep drawing her!

Below are the other drawings of Satsuki which will be included in my September 2016 exhibition.

Oh! You Pretty Things

Oh! You Pretty Things

Coiffed

Coiffed

Jewel

Jewel

Diamonds (Satsuki on the left)

Diamonds
(Satsuki on the left)

Finally, a photo of  the night I gave Satsuki her portrait.  This was taken 48 hours before I took the photo which I used for “Speed of Life”.

Artist and Muse

Artist and her muse