I've been having a wonderful week in London, visiting museums and seeing friends and family. I'd been waiting all year to see the Tove Jansson show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and it didn't disappoint...Her work has always inspired me (especially the black and white drawings in the Moomin books), and I feel invigorated to work harder now. I also loved the Modigilani show at the Tate Modern. I'd never seen so much of his work all at once, and it was extremely moving.And of course the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition at the V&A. So adorable, and a wonderful example of author and illustrator producing perfection together...
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
I love sketching and photographing the wonderful, beautiful food and restaurants in Japan, but I have to be quick, before it all goes cold!We ate all sorts of dishes, from udon to kushiage, and all of it was fantastic... Here's a little watercolour sketch of a simple rice onigiri on a red wooden plate.
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.
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!
We took a few days off during the holidays to have a little road trip down the coast to Capitola by the sea......and then on to Pinnacles National Park. I spent time sketching, walking and thinking about my goals for 2017.I 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.We also visited the Lick Observatory outside San Jose, which was fascinating.Hope this year will be full of wonderful views, and incredible possibilities!
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.This is the crew of the USS Golden Gate, exploring new worlds.I sketched throughout the show, trying to capture the strange situations, wonderful conversations and fantastical characters. My very favourite drawings are these little simplified characters I made of all the actors...Try and go and see them if you can, they have more shows this month. Live long and prosper!
A few weeks ago I went to a fascinating book talk at Omnivore books in San Francisco, about Darjeeling tea. Author Jeff Koehler spent time in the various tea gardens there and learnt about the tea, how it's picked and processed and made into 'the champagne of tea'.You know I love tea, and everything about it, and now I can't wait to try Darjeeling again! You can check out his book here.
At the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco I admired the gorgeous anemones and seaweed in the aquarium.There were fish, seahorses, sea slugs and coral, and all sorts of weird squiggly things.The shiny gold sparkles of the piranha were mesmerising.There were also fascinating historical displays on the upper floors. I just can't resist the labels and cataloguing of these types of collections.I loved all the hand-writing and little boxes...
This weekend we went to the San Francisco zoo. We were given an adoption of a penguin as a gift, so we popped along to take a look. I love penguins! They were Magellanic penguins, several of them rescued when they swam too far north inland and were starving, and now they look very happy and healthy...We watched them floating, waddling, and swimming and my very favourite pose: just standing and thinking!We saw many of the other animals, and I loved the golden eagle (a broken wing meant she couldn't fly any more) and the rescued grizzly bears, but my special favourite was the capybara!
I was interviewed for the online fashion & lifestyle magazine Hokk fabrica this month. You can see the full interview here. This month's issue is about the concept of 'local', and they sent me questions which I was asked to answer by hand, like this... I was asked about my first memorable piece of artwork... It's a print I did in Japan. I really love it.Take a look at the full interview and hope you enjoy!
I went to see the San Jose Sharks play ice hockey recently. It was pretty amazing. Especially when the players all skated into the rink through a huge shark's head!I tried to sketch them as they played, but they moved so fast! Especially as they slammed into the walls. Here are my first sketches of ice hockey players in action...
I've just spent a wonderful five days in Morocco with my best friend, relaxing and seeing the countryside. We arrived in Marrakech, and stayed in a beautiful riad to the NW of the Medina. It was calm and soothing, and even had a hammam.We wandered around the souks, buying babouches and a rug, admiring the wonderful details of life in the bustling city.We then went on a three day trip into the mountains, with Desert Majesty. They were super helpful, and our guide Said was very sweet. Here's a map showing where we went.We drove up into the Atlas mountains and down into the valleys. Our first notable stop was at Ait Ben Haddou, a stunning UNESCO world heritage site. It was exciting to find that it has been used as a location for quite a few movies and TV shows, including Gladiator and Game of Thrones.We drove and drove, past huge vistas of mountains...and into an endlessly blue, blue sky...We explored an ancient Kasbah, and found an old display in one of the courtyards, like a lost moment in time...We stayed the second night in a Berber tented camp, and rode camels into the sunset, and in the evening, sat around a campfire listening to songs and drumming.And then on again, into the dusty, red and pink landscape.We drove through Rissani, where the Moroccan king's family comes from,and back again to Marrakech, to get the Saharan sand out of our shoes...All through the trip we were welcomed everywhere with hot, sweet Moroccan mint tea in beautiful little glasses, and invariably, a pretty silver teapot. Yum.
I went to visit Winchester Mystery House in San Jose recently, home of the widow of the heir to the famous Winchester rifle fortune. She was a bit eccentric (to say the least) and built a truly bizarre house. There was a very nice little mini exhibit of all the things that the Winchester company made in their heydey, and I drew these sketches there. I really love old handtools!
A few weeks ago I went to Istanbul and was amazed at the changes since my last visit twenty years ago. The sun shone, the Bosphorus sparkled, everyone was super friendly, and it was magical...I loved the subtle shades and patterns of the tiles in the blue mosque, and also in the Topkapi palace.The huge cavernous space of the Hagia Sofia was incredible, and I especially admired the Byzantine mozaics that had been partially uncovered under the Ottoman painting of the interiors.
I did a few sketches while at my friend Karen's wedding. It was held in the University Chapel in Glasgow, which was rather grand and imposing, but everyone was so happy and beautiful it felt warm and cosy. I really adore Scottish weddings, with all the men wearing kilts...Karen's dress was classical and simple...The flowers at the reception was adorable, lots of anemones and simple glass jam jar holders.