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...
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...
In September, after a short holiday on the Big Island, I went to Oahu with my friends Katie Baldwin and Yoonmi Nam, to attend the 3rd International Mokuhanga Conference at Honolulu University. We installed Into the Fold, an exhibition of our newest collaborative mokuhanga project. It was an extension of our current project (un)fold: we invited three printmakers, Sarah Hulsey, Fuko Ito and Mia O, to collaborate with us, exploring the ideas and acts of folding and unfolding, and the lineage of learning the mokuhanga technique. We also gave a presentation about the project during the conference.Here's a close-up of my piece Into the Garden. It represents an abstract garden, is printed so that it can be viewed from either side of the paper, and has a printed enclosure. It's lovely when it sways slightly in the breeze, and the plants seem to be alive.My Meyer Lemon Curd Recipe was also shown in the juried international group exhibition: Beauty of Mokuhanga: Discipline & Sensibility 木版画の美：修練と感性 I did quite a few sketches in the presentations I attended, and also at the conference opening and closings, of the speakers and committee members...I had never participated in the open portfolio at the previous conferences so I thought I would give it a go this time. I showed a selection of my mokuhanga prints and artists books, and spoke to anyone who was interested...Here you can see my blue Into the Garden piece in an alternative configuration.Katie, Yoonmi and I also showed our previous wood+paper+box print collaborations on a separate table, and everyone was encouraged to open and handle each of our individual prints in the boxes.It was a thoroughly enjoyable conference, where it was great to meet up with old and new friends and colleagues. It encouraged me to spend more time on my printmaking practice and I can't wait to start more prints.
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.
This weekend I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. It had forests, volcanic rocks, and beautiful lush meadows with wildflowers... There were tiny streams and creeks of clear icy water...and incredible mountain-top lakes, surrounded by snow.We watched the Perseid meteor shower and saw many falling stars.It was like a dream...
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.
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...
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 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...
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!
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.
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.
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.
I did a little calligraphy job this week, for Van Cleef & Arpels in Hong Kong, for a press launch of their new collection. I hand-wrote place-cards for the invited journalists in a pretty, delicate style.I was also on location during the event, to write any cards for unexpected guests, and while I waited, I sketched the pretty PR ladies.
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!