March 20, 2021

Virtual sketching tour of Kyoto (3/14/2021), Sanze-in Temple in OHARA, (Prismacolor colored pencils and POSCA pens on toned paper)

Our artist tour guide for last Sunday’s virtual sketching trip to Kyoto was amazing. First, he spent a few minutes giving us a quick bit of history for that ancient city. Here’s just a few things he said: Kyoto was the capital of Japan for 1000 years. Tokyo became the capital in 1868. Japanese emperors lived in Kyoto for 1074 years and there are over 1600 temples in Kyoto. Such an interesting and old culture…

Our host was so thoughtful. He used his colored pencils to draw us a map of all the places we would be visiting that morning. At the top of the map he penciled in where the airports one might use to get to Kyoto (Kansai, Narita or Haneda). He also noted on the map the relative distance and time it would take to get there based on which airport you flew into. Below that he sketched a very simple and easy to read map of several landmarks around town as well as 4 stops we would be making—Ohara, Gion, Toji and Arashiyama. I don’t think he had planned we would sketch in all 4 areas, but with 30 minutes per sketch, he thought we would do at least 3. (We spent a little longer for our first two sketches and never got past our second stop. That was fine with me.)

For our first stop we were treated to a temple in OHARA that he had seen one fall while visiting Kyoto. The lovely orange and yellow foliage in the background are the leaves of Japanese maples. If you have never seen a Japanese maple, please Google it and just enjoy what you see. Japanese maples were a particular favorite of my parents and they often planted them in the gardens of our family homes in Silicon Valley and Grass Valley. I have written about the Japanese maples they planted in our Saratoga yard in the 60s. I haven’t been past that house in a while, but my brother (who lives in Sunnyvale) said they are still there. He said they absolutely tower over the terra cotta roof of that single story Spanish style house in Saratoga. I should go check it out one of these days. There was a particularly slow growing Japanese maple in my parent’s garden in Grass Valley. I remember my dad telling about a time when he took a friend on a tour of our old house (built in 1850) and garden. My dad said he stopped to show him the maple tree. He said the friend stared intently at the tree and made a comment about how expensive that tree must have been. (Actually, that’s kind of a weird thing to say, right? I guess it was his way of saying how lovely it was, but he wouldn’t have planted something that expensive as it might just die some particularly cold Grass Valley winter. Hmmm…) If you have followed my art with stories you have already heard me speak of many of my beloved CA trees—oaks of all kinds, redwoods and dogwood. I am also in love with many non-native CA trees, such as fruitless mulberry (native to China and favorite food of silk worms) and palm trees.

Virtual sketching tour of Kyoto (3/14/2021), Yasak Pagoda and fan shop in Yasaka area, near Gion, (Prismacolor colored pencils and oxblood ink with Fude nib on watercolor paper)

For our second stop we went to the Yasaka area, near Gion. For this view we could see the Yasaka Pagoda in the background with the sign for a fan shop more close up. I love the idea that there would be a shop that sold only fans. Our host said that it gets warm in Kyoto in the summer and a fan came in handy to keep cool. He also that there were many shops that sold paint brushes, inks and watercolors. It seems that such materials were originally for those who painters who did calligraphy. But of course all kinds of artists now go to such shops looking for all things painterly. All of our ears pricked up when we heard of yet another place to buy lovely art supplies. And of course I have already looked up several places to shop for such goods in Kyoto.

I can’t leave today’s post without mentioning that I recently watched Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan on Netflix. It was fascinating and focused on some pretty fierce battles between competing warlords from 1551 to 1616. I’m not usually partial to stories of wars, but I would definitely recommend it. 

Photo of SoCal monarch chrysalis, 3/17/2021–St. Patrick’s Day


Today is the first day of spring and I went to sketch the tulips at the Descanso Gardens. Yes, they are up, open and beautiful. I sat on my sheet of bubble wrap and sketched them in the damp low fog. Actually, I’d planned to share that sketch here today. The fog was so low and the air so very wet that the Inktense pencil and water soluble majestic purple ink mixed lightly together in a very subtle and interesting way without any help from me. However, on my way home I stopped past a nursery to replace a milkweed plant I had inadvertently killed. Thinking of the many monarch chrysalis I have hanging from the under side of my front porch I thought I would share a photo of one here. There is just no way I can sketch or paint something as beautiful as this. It’s my homage to spring 2021. Welcome!

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