sketchbook

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.

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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...

Hawaii

Recently I went to the Big Island of Hawaii for a little holiday. We travelled most of the way round the island, visiting all sorts of different landscapes...and sketching...I loved seeing the sea, in pretty coves and the wide, wide open...We stayed in wonderful retro hotels that felt like Wes Anderson movies, and saw secret and mysterious bays,and lush, tropical rainforests with towering trees and ferns...

and then visited the dry, ashy caldera of the most active volcano in the world, in Volcanoes National Park.

We watched bright green lizards playing,and every morning watched the sun rise over the palms...I can't wait to go back again. Aloha!

Grand Teton National Park

When we visited Yellowstone, we also went to the Grand Teton National Park, and I found it more beautiful than I could have imagined.We stood at the same point that Ansel Adams took his famous photograph, overlooking the winding Snake River, and I did a pencil and watercolour sketch.The wildfires in nearby Montana were making the skies a strange smoky texture, and many of the views we had were softened and mysterious. We went on an early morning river rafting trip and I managed to paint a few quick sketches of the passing scenery and sunrise. We saw elk, moose, bald eagles and even two baby bears.

It was a truly inspiring place; a smaller but perfect National Park. I loved it.

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.

London week three

This week, I visited more museums, and happily spent time sketching. These were both taken in the V & A my most very favourite museum in the world.And then at the weekend, a visit to the Cotswolds. We stayed in an adorable house in the tiny village of Lower Slaughter, and spent time chatting and walking in the countryside. We stayed right by this lovely watermill, and I took an early morning walk one day...We went to the farmers market in Chipping Norton......where I managed to do a few watercolours, in spite of the drizzle.This is a little sketch of the house where we stayed. I loved sitting in the tiny garden courtyard...And then it was back to the city for my last week, and no visit to London would be complete without a cake and cup of tea at Maison Bertaux.

London week two

This week I spent some time with friends in lovely places, and managed to do a little sketching too: here's a watercolour of a quiet garden inside Regent's Park.I also did a little drawing while I was having a tasty afternoon tea with scones at the Mock Turtle cafe in Brighton,and here's an atmospheric shot of my sketchbook in the window of Kew Palace, the summer home of King George III, inside Kew Gardens, one of my very favourite places in London. I'm loving being here, seeing all the familiar places with new eyes and sketching every day...

London

I'm in the UK for a while, and working hard, while trying to fit in some visits and exhibitions when I can. Here's a sketch I did today watching my niece and her dance group in the little town of Horsham. It was adorable, and sort of like going back in time.Whenever there's a chance, I stroll in the garden, and soak up the green-ness of the Spring. I could sketch plants and flowers forever...I've been inspired by some amazing exhibitions, sketching and making notes as I go. This one was at the London Original Print Fair at the Royal Academy. I love trying to work out how different prints were made, and what techniques were used... I especially loved the Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. So many incredible patterns and designs!I was incredibly moved by the Howard Hodgkin exhibition Absent Friends at the National Portrait Museum. I've always loved his work, but this show made me see the paintings in a different way...So much to do while I'm here. More London sketches next week!

hot air balloon

This weekend we went to Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, to go up in a hot air balloon. We waited in the pre-dawn for the balloons to be lit and the baskets prepared, and nervously readied for the ride. We watched the sun come up and it was magical... I managed to bring one brush, a little sketchbook and travel paints in my pockets and did several watercolour paintings. It was a surreal sketching experience unlike anything I've had before: painting while over 1000ft up in the air, feeling the sun and breeze ruffling the pages.Napa Valley in all its glory glided past slowly, with San Francisco in the far distance.Here's a little sketch I did of the vineyards below us as we floated gently past...If you ever get the chance to go up in a balloon, I recommend it! Thank you Napa Valley Balloons

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.

Jack London Park

This week I visited the Jack London State Historic Park near Sonoma. It was a beautiful day spent wandering along green paths and poking around in the museum and cottage. I went to the museum first, admiring all the artifacts the Londons brought back from their world travels......and then wandered into their farm. I loved the wide sweep of the green.I saw Jack's studio where he wrote in their cottage, and their pretty garden. I bought a copy of one of his plays, and painted and sketched in it during my visit.I went to see the pig palace (!) and painted the delightful view of the vineyards.A lovely day, the only scary part being these signs everywhere. Luckily I didn't see any snakes!

happy new year!

We took a few days off during the holidays to have a little road trip down the coast to Capitola by the sea...capitola-sketch...and then on to Pinnacles National Park. I spent time sketching, walking and thinking about my goals for 2017.pinnacles-ekstch-1I tried to paint pinnacles in the red of the rocks, but then realised that I more interested in the shapes than the colour, and did a wider panorama in just blue and green.pinnacles-3We also visited the Lick Observatory outside San Jose, which was fascinating.observaHope this year will be full of wonderful views, and incredible possibilities!

Star Trek improv

I went to watch Phasers on Stun a Star Trek improv group in San Francisco and I absolutely loved it! The actors was so versatile, playing starship crewmembers, aliens, animals, and sometimes even playing two characters on stage at once.uss-golden-gate-clour-copyThis is the crew of the USS Golden Gate, exploring new worlds.star-trek-sketches-copyI sketched throughout the show, trying to capture the strange situations, wonderful conversations and fantastical characters. star-trek-little-copyMy very favourite drawings are these little simplified characters I made of all the actors...startrek-characters-color-copyTry and go and see them if you can, they have more shows this month. Live long and prosper!

Yosemite

We went to Yosemite National Park at the weekend to attend a wedding, and I loved being surrounded by the trees in the wonderful clear air.wawonaWe stayed at the historic Wawona hotel (now renamed the Big Trees Lodge), and completely relaxed.wawona copyWe went up to Glacier Point twice, the first time at midnight to watch the Perseid shower, and the second time during the day. The meteor shower was one of the most magical things I've ever seen: the night was totally dark and all the stars in the milky way were visible. And then the stars fell, some brightly, some quickly, and some leaving a trail of sparkles. sketch and domeDuring the day the view was spectacular, with blue mountains and valleys all around as far as the eye can see. Truly a marvel of the world...