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.
A Pontocho impression
190 x 250 mm
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.
Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle 300 gsm
For the past month I have been working on “Encounter”. The drawing came out of a combination of two photos I had taken back in spring, 2013. In this drawing I take reality and spin it into a slightly different story. The term for this process is ‘artistic license‘. My bending of the truth makes for a much more interesting tale than what I actually saw through the lens of my camera. What do I mean? I invite you to look at my two source photos. (Clicking on them will enlarge them.)
Source photo 1
Source photo 2
If you can be bothered scrutinizing the photos and comparing them to the drawing – (I suggest you simply take my word for it) – you will see that bits from both photos appear in the drawing. Importantly, I have subtracted that which is unnecessary; various pipes, a Marlboro cigarette ad and, the main omission, the girl walking the dog.
Geiko and dog exchange glances as they approach one another on a Pontocho morning. I can almost imagine them uttering morning greetings, “Ohayou gozaimasu”. This is another of my drawings, therefore, which lurks under a based on a true story umbrella. Julie’s truth.
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Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth 300 gsm
200 x 265 mm.
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”.
217 x 425 mm
“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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle hot-pressed 300 gsm paper.
A stroll together down Pontocho lane at dusk as the lanterns and neon signs start popping on; this is a love story. The drawing is small in size yet big in heart; a Kyoto dreamscape.
Here is the paper I used – for the first time. It took the pencils beautifully. Information on where I sourced it is on my Art Materials page.
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