Tag Archives: Kyoto

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



“Daydream”  coloured pencils and oil pastels, 215 x 290 mm.  August 2017.

Daydream – a pleasant fantasy or reverie.

“Daydream” is my second drawing from a photograph I took in Pontocho, Kyoto in the spring of 2013.  The first drawing is “Promenade”, February 2016.

190 x 250 mm, February 2016

I was persuaded to let Matthew (husband) keep “Promenade” as it is a favourite of his.  However I did so want to exhibit it in my exhibition Entranced next month.  A few days ago I had the bright idea to do another version of it, this time using Sennelier oil pastels as well as coloured pencils and drawing it larger than the first one.

I was curious to see how I would treat the subject 18 months after my first interpretation and after months in the interim doing impressionistic Paris drawings.

Here they are side by side; the new one on the right.  I didn’t look at the first drawing   while I drew the second so as not to be influenced by it.  The dark areas are more intense (saturated) in “Daydream” than “Promenade” and I think the new drawing has more luminosity and power than the older one.

In the new drawing, the figures have a floating quality and the road sweeps up rather than along, but the scene has a gentle dreaminess so I’m leaving it this way.

So Matt gets to keep “Promenade” while I get to exhibit “Daydream”.  This is called ‘having one’s cake and eating it too’!

“Daydream” is the 23rd and final drawing for Entranced opening on 7 September (until 20) at Kidogo Arthouse, Bathers Beach, Fremantle.


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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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.


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


"Promenade" A Pontocho impression 190 x 250 mm February 2016

A Pontocho impression
190 x 250 mm
February 2016

Art made with coloured pencils does not have to be sharply defined, precise and detail-filled. Pencils can create their own version of impressionism; loose and soft with boundaries spilling over, merging and melting into one another.

As you, Honourable Viewer, are not given every single bit of information, you are free to fill in the gaps. You can make it your own story, perhaps become one of the people strolling.  While lack of specific detail makes the drawing impersonal on one level, it makes it more personal on another.  There is plenty of room for you to add, interpret and imagine.  You can actually put yourself into the picture.

The source photo for this drawing in its entirety. You can see what a small part of the photo I chose for my composition.

The source photo for this drawing in its entirety. You can see what a small part of the photo I chose for my composition.




Fascination Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth 300 gsm 200 x 265 mm. January 2016

Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth 300 gsm
200 x 265 mm.
January 2016

What was I doing when I found out about David Bowie’s death three days ago?  I was drawing this.  So when it came time to give the drawing a name, I wanted to use a title of one of Bowie’s songs.  That way, the drawing would be my private homage to him.  The song “Fascination” from the album “Young Americans” fitted the bill perfectly.

What is my fascination here?  Kyoto, sakura, geisha, illumination, dusk, transience.  The Japanese admire sakura (cherry blossom) because it represents the beautiful fragility of life.  It bursts into flower and gives people tremendous pleasure, but it lasts such a very short time.  Soon the ground is carpeted with fallen petals.  It reminds them (and us) of how fleeting life is.

“Spent some time in old Kyoto/Sleeping on the matted ground”.*  David Bowie.

*Lines from “Move On” from the album “Lodger”.


Transition coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle 300 gsm smooth January 2016

  217 x 425 mm
January 2016

“Transition” is the second drawing (just finished) from a source photo I took back in 2013. It is the transition; the half-light, between day and evening.  As the natural light fades over Pontocho, so the artificial lights in that narrow lane pop on.  I drew from a smaller section of the composition just a couple of weeks ago and called it “Love Story”.

Love Story 200 x 230 mm 2015

Love Story
200 x 230 mm

This brings me to a chicken and egg story.  Which came first?  I originally thought there was a similarity in spirit between Kyoto and Paris when I did an early drawing of Pontocho back in 2006.  I used to look at “Illuminating Dusk” on my wall and think of Paris.

Illuminating Dusk Drawn in 2006.

Illuminating Dusk
Drawn in 2006.

From 2010 to 2014 I visited Paris several times and drew many Paris drawings which were sometimes out-of-focus and usually emphasizing quality of light.  It was during this period when I visited Kyoto (March 2013).  Because I had light and blurriness on my mind, I took deliberate out-of-focus photos of Kyoto urbanscapes during my stay.

Recently (late 2015) after the terrorist attacks took place in Paris, I looked at images of my French drawings and posted a blog about them.  In light of the attacks, I was reminiscing about my time in that gorgeous city.

Marais Impression 2011

Marais Impression

Scarlet Pigalle 2011

Scarlet Pigalle

Revisiting the Paris drawings answered my what to draw next question last month.  I found myself being irresistibly drawn to the set of blurry Kyoto urbanscapes I had taken in 2013.

Kyoto lights/Paris lights/Kyoto lights.  “What goes around, comes around”.  How often I quote that saying and how relevant it is to my art practice.

Transition small size

To have a look at some of my other out-of-focus drawings, I invite you to view the page “Subject 3: Lights and Blur”  Among other things,  there is a short explanation on how I take out-of-focus photos in case you would like to try taking your own.  Also relevant to today’s post is Subject 1: Kyoto to Paris .