Japan

Bessho Onsen

A few weekends ago we took a trip to Bessho Onsen, a little town near Nagano, in a pretty little snowy valley. It's the last stop on the local train and has several ryokans and shrines. We stayed in a magnificent place called Ryokan Hanaya Nagano.

ryokan.jpg

It used to be a Samurai residence, and has been a ryokan Since the Meiji era. Our room was sublime and we spent most of our time there tucked up cosily in the kotatsu!

ryokan room.jpg

I loved the rotemburo, the baths and the dining rooms and drew some of the beautiful dishes we were served.

plates.jpg

We walked around the town in the freezing but beautiful sunny weather and admired Anrakuji where the wooden octagonal pagoda is a national treasure of Japan.

anrakuji sketch.jpg

I wish there were more weekends I could spend in this luxury...

slippers and wall.jpg

snowy tokyo

It is the coldest winter in Tokyo so far in the Heisei period (the last 29 years) and last week it snowed; suddenly and violently and beautifully.I walked outside in the early evening to take a look...and found a little local shrine, glowing in the snowfall.So magical, just for a night.

sobachoko

This week I went to the Boroichi fleamarket in Tokyo. It has been held twice a year in the same place for over 430 years, and is an intangible folk cultural asset of Japan. I wandered, browsed and sketched, and bought a beautiful little sobachoko. When I got home, I did some watercolour sketches of it...I enjoyed it so much, I did a few more, looking at old sobachoko online for reference.And then made a little design of my own...

mokuhanga exhibition

Monday to Friday this week I have some prints on show in the CfSHE gallery in Tokyo. It's an exhibition of prints from all the artists who attended the mokuhanga residency in Kawaguchiko this summer.Let me know know if you'd like to meet up there! Date: From 15 to 19 January 2018 Venue: CfSHE Gallery B109, 6-11-14, Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, 1010021 Tokyo Hour: 13.00/17.00 Admission Free

2017年 MI-LAB アドバンス・プログラム参加アーティスト Artists who participated in 2017 MI-LAB Advanced Program

Kathleen(Kaite) Baldwin ケイティ・ボールドウィン (USA) Kate MacDonagh ケイト・マクドナー (Ireland) Mariko Jesse マリコ・ジェシー (UK) Melissa Schulenberg メリッサ・シューレンバーグ (USA) Natasha Norman ナターシャ・ノーマン (South Africa) Patty Hudak パティ・フダック (USA) An Gee Chan アン・ジー・チャン (Hong Kong) Brenda Petays ブレンダ・ぺテイス (Canada) Fuko Ito フウコ・イトウ (Japan) Jon Lee ジョン・リー (USA) Sarah Hulsey サラ・ハルシー (USA)

You can see more information here.

mokuhanga print

I completed one large-ish print while I was on the mokuhanga residency in Japan: one that features plants in a garden. I was inspired by the abundant greenery all around the house, and in the surrounding gardens.I did some initial pencil sketches and arranged them in a wide landscape.Then did a painted version to work out solid areas of colour.I then started carving a long block of shina wood. And then carved, and carved some more...When the block was fully carved, I set up, ready to print.It's the largest mokuhanga print I've ever made, and was extremely challenging. But I learnt alot, and really pushed myself. I had only meant to do a pink and green version, but felt that blues might work too. I'm now fond of them both!I intend to take the print further, and create an artists book out of it. It'll be shown in Hawaii in a few month's time, and I'll blog again when it's all done...

tokyo

This week I spent a few days in Tokyo, visiting friends, art stores and exhibitions. First stop the Ota Museum in Harajuku, to a ukiyoe exhibition of Edo from the water, and then the Nezu Museum, to a ceramics one. Both were wonderful, and highly recommended!Then on to Pigment, a store with paints and paraphanelia, and more brushes than I've ever seen in my life. So. Many. Brushes. And all of them gorgeous.I love the city, well, cities generally, but in particular Tokyo, and I find the everyday urban views beautiful. Even just the railways at dusk, walking home after an exhausting day.Can't wait to visit again soon!

Kawaguchiko

This weekend I did a little sightseeing around where I'm staying, in Kawaguchiko, Japan. There are a series of caves you can visit at the foot of Mt Fuji, formed from lava from the last eruption. The Narusawa Ice Cave is one of them, and is a National Monument. And also a little bit scary to get through due to the extremely low ceilings. The entrance is fascinating, as you go down under the floor of the forest, and suddenly it's literally ice cold, like you've walked into a fridge. The haze you can see in the photo is the air condensating between hot + humid and freezing! A walk in the sea of trees, along lava strewn paths, was also truly beautiful: it had my favourite combo of moss and ferns.I visited a site called Saiko Iyashi no sato NENBA, a recreation of a thatched village that was destroyed by a typhoon in the 60s. Each lovely building had examples of local crafts.And of course, a visit to the opposite side of Lake Kawaguchiko, to get a magnificent view of the sacred mountain, looking just like a Hokusai print.

mokuhanga peony

This week I carved a small block from cherrywood (my first) to do some paper-testing. I printed two versions of my peony design onto many different types of washi paper to decide what sort I would use for my big project. I'm hoping to do some bokashi printing, and wanted a paper that would show the gentle gradations well, as well as printing black sumi ink sharply.

mi-lab

I'm in Kawaguchiko, Japan, for the next few weeks, on a mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock) printmaking artists residency with mi-lab. It's in a beautiful location in a small town on the edge of the lake at the foot of Mt Fuji. I'm working on a series of prints, but in the meantime, here are some little sketches of the famous mountain.The views all around are beautiful, surrounded by mountains, wildflower meadows, and small farm plots, but it's Mt Fuji that dominates the landscape, whenever it appears from behind the clouds...

Japan Kyushu travels - week 2

After the mountains, we travelled to the coast, in the misty rain, ready to explore another side of Kyushu. We stayed in a hotel in Nango, and watched the changing mood of the sea and the sky...We drove and drove, along winding roads, past smaller and smaller villages, watching the green around us get more tropical, and finally reached the southern-most tip of Japan. There's a little lighthouse and the sea was wild and it was wonderful. We took a ferry across the Sakurajima bay to Ibusuki, and I sketched the misty views of the mountains on both sides.We went to see the little volcano called Kaimondake, jutting out into the sea. It's somehow not as scary as Sakurajima, and both calming and beautiful.

I find rural Japan fascinating and special and worry that people are leaving for the cities, but am hopeful that there is a movement now for people to return and enjoy a slower pace of life. These are rice paddies in Miyazaki after the rains, when we could hear the frogs singing. Just thinking of the beauty there makes me happy.

Japan Kyushu travels - week 1

For 2 weeks I've been travelling in Japan, mostly in Kyushu. We started in Kumamoto, with a wonderful view of the famous castle, although we couldn't go inside due to earthquake damage.We spent an evening at Good Time Charlie's bar, and met the man himself, the Johnny Cash of Japan, and listened to him playing classic country music.We travelled on to Kagoshima and picked up a cute little square rental car and drove through the mountains to Satsuma. We passed Japan's largest tree, over 1500 years old, and arrived at a pretty onsen ryokan where we sat and looked at our garden view and sipped tea.We next drove to Mt Kirishima, walking to see some lakes formed by volcanic craters and then on the the highlight of our stay, Korian. They are primarily a restaurant, specialising in grilled chicken, but also have one set of rooms for guests to stay in. We've never stayed anywhere so traditional and meticulous in preserving their heritage. The house is from 1882, and has been kept in use by the family since then.They even had the original round stone and metal bath, which is stoked by a fire! It literally felt like we were in a Ghibli movie.Each meal we ate there was special and superb: we watched as they hand-made soba noodles, and they made us a bento for our day trip to the countryside. We visited the local sightseeing places like this pretty little shrine in a cave......where I did a little sketch and admired the moss and ferns. We spent some time at home, sitting in the cosy kotatsu and I painted and it was heavenly. The whole family welcomed us as old friends and we never wanted to leave.  

 

exchange show

My printmaking workshop GAW has done a print exchange with a small gallery in Yokohama, Japan. It's very exciting! The exhibition of both our work and their work will be on show at the GAW gallery from next week 9 September to 1 October on fridays and saturdays, 12-5pm.snowdomes 2 2 I'm showing two of my San Francisco snowdome prints. The lighter one will be on show in Yokohama, the darker one in SF. There will be a reception at GAW on saturday 10 September 3-5pm. Hope to see you there!2af78bc1-6c1f-4a94-bd75-49e91afadaed

There will be a reception at Launchpad Gallery, Yokohama, on saturday 17 September 7-10pm, with the show running from 16 - 26 September. Hope you can make it one or the other of the shows.

Kyushu part II

From Kumamoto, we travelled by scenic train to Kagoshima, with its famous active volcano Sakurajima. We visited up close, riding the boat across the bay, watching nervously at the smoke puffing gently from the top...sakurajimaWe spent a day further south in Ibusuki, and visited the famous sand baths. At Yamakawa it was calm, almost tropical, and we saw another famous mountain called Kaimondake, with its perfectly conical shape.ibusukiThe skies we saw over the waters were truly magical through the train windows, as we travelled along the coast.coastWe ate at a tiny restaurant, that specialised in local style yakitori, and the regulars were amazed to see us. These sorts of places are what make travel amazing...IMG_9169From there we made our way to Kurokawa Onsen, passing by yet another active volcano, Aso san. At Kurokawa we stayed in a lovely traditional ryokan and tried many different sorts of onsen baths. We rested, and walked in the Autumnal mountains.autumn And then back we went to Fukuoka for one more evening of tasty food. Here's a lovely tempura place we found, dating back to the 1930's!IMG_8230And then on to Tokyo, and home.

Kyushu part I

This week I have been in Kyushu Japan, starting my travels by train around the island. from train 2I love travelling by train here, it's so efficient and also somehow charming. As you get further into the countryside, the trains become smaller, more unusual and fun! We started in Fukuoka, eating at yatais, and we're now in Kumamoto, at an adorable minshuku guesthouse in the countryside. I drew the view from our two windows.window watercolourThe rice has just been harvested, but the fields are still beautifully green, resting until the summer.countryside1