Category Archives: maiko

Kyoto Belle Époque

“Kyoto Belle Époque”
coloured pencils and oil pastels. 22 x 27 cm. September 2017

To each of you who came to my art exhibition “Entranced” this month, thank you so much!  Many of you saw me working on this drawing and some of us discussed techniques together.

The drawing as a work-in-progress at the gallery in September 2017.

Once the exhibition closed I finished the drawing at home.   I call it “Kyoto Belle Époque” as it calls to my mind the elegance of the ‘beautiful era’ of Paris in the late 19th century.  So, to me, this is a touch of Paris in Kyoto.

People who came to the exhibition saw that looking at my blurry drawings close up and far away were two different experiences for the eyes.  So for this post I have taken a photo of the drawing from a small distance.  The blurry drawings make more sense from a wall across a room (as they are designed to be viewed)  than they do as a close-up computer screen image.

“Kyoto Belle Époque” on the easel.

Finally, who were these two maiko?  They were Taka and Hisamomo of Pontocho.

The two maiko in the drawing

 

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.

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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

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Doll of Paradise

Doll of Paradise A drawing in coloured pencils of a doll I saw on display in a Higashiyama shop window. July 2016

Doll of Paradise
A drawing in coloured pencils of a doll I saw on display in a Higashiyama shop window.
July 2016

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?

 

Fun in Higashiyama

Fun in Higashiyama

Fun in Higashiyama

When I go to Kyoto I spend a lot of time on the streets of Gion, Pontocho, Miyagawacho and Gion Higashi trying to get photos of maiko and geiko.   Trooping around the kagai (geimaiko districts) is sheer hard work!  In contrast, a gentle stroll around the eastern hills of Kyoto; Higashiyama, is pure fun.  This area is where I can enjoy all I see, smell, hear, taste (and spend money on) without any of the self-induced stress suffered in the four hanamachi below.  There is a magic atmosphere in Higashiyama.  Everybody seems to be happy – just like me.  Let me show you a little of Higashiyama, experienced from my June 2016 trip.  (Click on the photos below to enlarge.)

Blue Stocking dress shop. I am always fascinated by the clothes in the window.

Blue Stocking dress shop. I am fascinated by the sweetly conservative outfits in the window.

This 4 cm cat was crying to be saved. It was sitting on a rock by the side of the road. I scooped it up and brought it back to Australia where it now sits by my art desk.

Tiny Cat (4 cm high) is crying to be saved. It is sitting on a stone by the side of the road. I photograph it (not caring that passers-by must think I’m nuts) then scoop it up and bring it back to Australia.  (See final photo)

Many brides and grooms come up to Higashiyama to be photographed as there are so many areas of gorgeousness here.

Brides and grooms come up the hill to be photographed as there are so many areas of gorgeousness here…to which they add their own colourful splendour.

A street scene with hydrangeas.

A street scene with hydrangeas. (Warm and wet June is hydrangea month.)

Joyful bride and groom.

Joyful bride and groom.

Higashiyama is also where you will see many 'henshin' (young girls and older women dressing up as maiko and geiko).

A couple of henshin (girls dressing up as maiko) pose for one another at a particularly photogenic spot.

Stunning architecture framed by trees.

Traditional wooden architecture framed by trees; Yasaka Pagoda behind.

I gaze and gaze into shop windows - and sometimes like to photograph into them too - enjoying the juxtaposition between what is inside with the reflections from outside.

I gaze into the window of a shop which sells fine incense.  I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of what is displayed behind the glass pane, with outside reflections upon its surface.

Can you see the reflection of the couple walking past this shop window?

Can you see the reflection of the bridal couple walking past this shop window?  (Enlarge the photo by clicking on it, then you will.)

Stunning dolls on display in a very expensive souvenir shop window.

Stunning dolls on display in a rather exclusive gift shop window.

From up at Kiyamizu Temple there are expansive views to be had of the basin which Kyoto sits in, surrounded by mountains.

From up at Kiyomizu Temple there are expansive views of the basin which Kyoto sits in, surrounded by high blue hills.

Looking down one of the steep streets at a small group of yukuta-clad girls.

Looking down a steep set of steps.  (You can stroll but you still have to climb!)

Yasaka Pagoda peeps over the wooden buildings which house tempting shops and cafés.

Yasaka Pagoda peeps over the wooden buildings which house tempting gift shops and cafés.  Many visitors to Kyoto wear yukata which brings even more colour and charm to a scene.

In the distance, a bride and groom pose under the Yasaka Pagoda.

In the distance, a bride and groom pose under the Yasaka Pagoda.

I zoom down (literally) to get a closer photo of the bride and groom.

Ai ai gasa – two under the same umbrella.

Back down on the flat in the district of Gion Higashi. This bland urban environment is a stark contrast lush Higashiyama, just a few minutes walk away.

Back down on the flat in the hanamachi of Gion Higashi. This urban desert is a stark contrast to lush Higashiyama – just a few minutes walk eastwards and upwards.

From Higashiyama to Julie's studio, Tiny Cat among friends.

P.S.  From Higashiyama to Julie’s studio, Tiny Cat among friends.

Higashiyama is a tourist area but it is also a spiritual place, housing many temples, shrines and ancient gardens.  Nobody ever tries to grab your attention or herd you into their shops.  You can have as much or as little people interaction as you please.  Even when it is thronging with people, there is a sense of peace.  To me, it is a kind of paradise.

Currently I am working on a drawing sourced from my time spent in Higashiyama. (It has something to do with one of these photos.)  When it is finished, it will be unveiled on my next post.

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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

Ephemeron and Ephemera

Ephemeron A soft-focus drawing of Mameyuri 170 x 260 mm. May 2016.

Ephemeron
A soft-focus drawing of Mameyuri
170 x 260 mm. May 2016.

Ephemera Mameyuri and Katsuyuki 170 x 260 mm May 2016

Ephemera
Mameyuri and Katsuyuki
170 x 260 mm
May 2016

Ephemeron (singular) and Ephemera (plural) mean ‘short-lived’.  The titles refer to the transitory state of being maiko in particular, and to youth and beauty in general.  Both maiko in these two small drawings; Mameyuri and Katsuyuki, have long ago given up this traditional life and are fully back in the modern world.

The photographs which I used as source photos for these drawings were taken by Lucy, my youngest daughter, in 2007 when she was 13 years old.  We joined a photo-shoot in the streets of Gion and decided to hang in there unless somebody told us to go away.  Nobody did so we took many photos of Mameyuri and Katsuyuki.  Lucy can still remember my telling her not to delete ANYTHING off her camera – including blurry photos.

Lucy, aged 13, in 2007. She was my partner-in-crime in Kyoto, helping me to gather photographic material.

Lucy, aged 13, in 2007. She was my partner-in-crime in Kyoto, helping me to gather photographic material.

Below is another drawing I did (in 2010) from the same 2007 photo-shoot.  It is also drawn from one of Lucy’s photos.  We sure had fun together, Lucy and I!

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

Kyoto a la Mode
Coloured pencil drawing of Katsuyuki and Mameyuri.  2010.

It seems like just the other day that Lucy and I were photographing in Kyoto together, yet she had barely entered teenage-hood.  Today, a young woman of 22, she is the age of a geiko and is pursuing her own artistic career in Sydney.

The two little drawings side by side.

The two little drawings side by side.

Related page:  An Exceptional Day in Gion

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