I have finished my portrait of Ichifuku-san who was, when I photographed her in 2010, about to become a Geiko. It was two days before her erikae hence she was wearing ‘sakkou’ – which a Maiko wears for a short period before transition to Geiko.
Though she is from Pontocho, I found her posing for an official photographer near the Shirakawa River in Gion. Hardly another soul was around therefore I felt that I had chanced upon a wonderful secret.
I will show the drawing in five stages. To see the work more closely, click on each image to enlarge.
1. Here is the tracing stage – with just a little colour begun on her face and surrounds.
2. The under colour (or undercoat) is completed with the original lead pencil lines gently removed as I go. Now I start to build up layers of colour.
Putting the under colour on is like working on a puzzle. Which lines correspond to which colours and shapes?
3. I generally begin in the distance and work forward. At stage 3 of the drawing I am in the midst of working on the leaves of the weeping willow.
4. Although I am working on the kimono at this stage, I am constantly adjusting all around the drawing. Making one thing more intense means intensifying EVERYTHING.
5. Once the drawing is nearly complete I take it off the drawing desk (which I sit at) and put it on my big easel so that from now on I have to work standing up. Then I can begin to pull the work together.
The last stage can take days as I find I have to go away and come back (ie do the housework, cook dinner, watch tv … anything but look at the drawing). At intervals I return to look at the picture with fresh eyes. Then I can see what needs fixing.
This one took A LOT of fixing. Indeed, I hope it really IS finished now. I will announce that it is finished and leave it.
The image below shows the final work “Ichifuku-san” which is 400 x 475 mm, 2013.
Final note: In January I had thought the work was finished but I had another look at it six months later in June and found that it wasn’t good enough. I reworked the drawing to the point that finally, now, I am happy with it.
Related page: Subject 2: Geisha