Sunday, May 19, 2019

Japan adventures

Its been a long time since I did my last post but I got fresh sketches from our recent Japan adventure.  Our time spent there was split between the two major busy cities Tokyo and Osaka with a break on the calmness of the islands on the inland sea. During our stay we our lucky enough to attend a urban sketcher meeting with our friends from Tokyo in Ginza neighbourhood, so we meet the "locals" they were very friendly and we all had something in common to share. Tokyo is huge, there is all types of neighbourhoods, building scales and streets, but even the most anonymous street corner is interesting enough for a sketch, full of signs, restaurants and urban paraphernalia. Our major goals for visiting Tokyo according to our daughter was to visit Pokemon centre, studio Ghibli, all the 300 game centres and spin all the gachapon machines that we could find on street. Most of them became reality...

Tokyo street view
Tsukiji market
Tokyo street view

The main reason to flight down south to the port of Takamatsu, where we stayed for 5 days, was the  Setouchi Art Triennal that is happening during the springtime. Takamatsu is a special port city with interesting covered streets and a lot of bicycles. To complement the beauty of the landscape, this year there were art pieces and installations spread over some islands. Firstly Naoshima, which is already very art focused because of the famous Benesse house and Chichu museum designed by Tadao Ando which can be visited any time of the year. The following day we went to Teshima that has a museum designed by the japanese architect Sejima, a bubble of white concrete. The last day was Ogijima, a small fisherman's village that has a timeless sense of place. Some of the art installations were done inside old houses which gave us opportunity to see traditional architecture from the inside. In these small places time slows down compared to big cities so it end up being our favourite moment of the whole travel. 

Takamatsu restaurant while waiting for the ramen
Ferry boat and daily tickets
Ogijima view to the inland sea
Naoshima fishermen's boats
Teshima art installation with scaffoldings

Osaka seemed to be a bit more laid back compared to the busy and working focused Tokyo city but, our stay was during the golden week when japanese go on holidays, this year they had an additional 3 leave days due to the new emperor transition.  The food in general is delicious, I think its difficult to find a bad restaurant, a good ramen its almost a guarantee for a decent meal. Interesting how the electric cables are part of the streetscapes of all japan cities, but when you find very narrow streets like some in Kyoto, the complexity of the cabling becomes the main focal point and maybe the sketching subject.

Electric cables and the crows are a constant presence in Kyoto

Shichirin restaurant in Tokyo

Osaka street view close to a nice art store.

The Kishi train station is the end of the line of a rural monorail in the Wakayama prefecture. The station was near closure in 2004 because of financial problems on the rail line, in 2007 was decide to adopt Tama as a station master, her primary duty is to greet passengers, so she spend most of the day being photographed and sleeping, its a pretty hard life. The publicity from Tama's appointment led to an increase in passengers, the trains keep running and Tama became the motif for the station, the cafe, the decoration and even the roof. Tama is a cat. In Japan everything is made to look cute.
Train station, the electric strawberry train and the stamps from the temples

Monday, May 13, 2019

Hard Things To Sketch: Sketching Therapy after the Christchurch Shootings

I travel a lot in my job and on 15th March, I was about to catch a plane back to Christchurch when I discovered the flight was cancelled.  A few texts later and the group I was travelling with, realised something terrible was happening in Christchurch.  I rapidly organised to drive a rental car back and begun a long drive, with the radio giving constant updates, as I headed back to my friends and family in the heart of what was a 'war zone'.  It was one of the most deeply traumatic days I've experienced. The mosque was something that I, like so many people from Christchurch, felt emotionally linked to.  Over the next few days I found myself grieving with thousands of others.  For me I just grabbed my sketchbook and begun a bit of sketching therapy.

It took a couple of days to pick up the courage.  The first time I went to the rapidly growing wall of tributes I had only intended to go for half an hour but stayed for a couple of hours.  Sketching while trying to hold back emotion, was something quite new and difficult.

This first one was one of the biggest floral arrangements I have seen.  It was made with the seed pods of the local, South Island flax.  The two bunches were adorned with a islamic and christian symbols.  Next to them, on one side, was a simple kiwi, with the words "they are us" painted above: this became the identifying phrase of grieving.  On the other side, someone had grabbed a cardboard box and painted their tribute and tied it to the gates.

This next sketch is a bit of a composite of the crowds and people's personal, painted tributes... It was when I realised the media presence, which made everything a bit surreal.

 For this last sketch on my first day, I crossed the road to record a bit of that media circus... Tents, generators, huge satellite dishes, reporters reporting.  It was a different side of grieving.  I found it quite personally confronting, and sketching was again, my way of recording it and letting it go.
The next day was even harder. After a couple of days back at work everyone's 'wheels' began to fall off.  It was as if we were all reliving the hard parts of our past and were having to do it in public, with the people we work with.  It wasn't the easiest place to be so I thought I'd go back and do a couple of other sketches...

 This tribute was for a young Bangladeshi guy who was in NZ on his own: no family here but his workmates, who clearly felt things deeply.  They had simply picked up his Hi-vis gear and written their own, personal message to him on it.  This still brings a tear to me.  It's so deeply personal. Some mates in the tough world of contracting, who really were struggling with the grief.  It was Zakaria's 34th Birthday.  He had gone to the mosque to celebrate his birthday.
 This last sketch was a tribute from some school kids written on post-its, formed into big hearts.  It was amazing and people stood and read as many of the tributes they could...

I try to sketch every day but, after this, I couldn't sketch for at least a week.  Getting back with our Christchurch City Sketchers after this, was a much needed return to normality.

As hard as it is, sketching can work wonders in processing the hard things in life.  The memories of this are permanent, the feelings raw and real, and I wasn't 'personally affected'.  This was trauma on a city scale, returning after we thought it had gone.  The city is a stronger and more together place as a result.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Police Line-up

Walking to our regular sketching meet  today - I couldn't go past this colourful lineup.  When I shared it at the front desk, they asked did you draw this from inside or outside the fence? I said 'that would be telling...'

Zen and the art of motorcycles

Sometimes it is nice to borrow the enthusiasm of others for inspiration.
Recently my partner has embarked on a dirt bike restoration (a Yamaha WR450f for those in the know) which has provided excellent opportunity for documentary sketching and studying mechanical details.  It doesn't hurt to be under cover in the garage during the variable autumn weather either....

Here I enjoyed creating a 'collage' of sketches to convey the process of deconstruction and cleaning the motorbike, using different media and colour to create layers of focus.  I can't help myself when it comes to watercolour splatters, but they seemed appropriate in the messy workshop environment.

It is also fun to draw mechanical details that you don't necessarily understand but are familiar to those in the know once the sketch is finished.  Adding the human element with people sketching is a more recent exploration for me.

I also took the opportunity to draw the prior project bike before it was sold (Yamaha TTR250).  I sat on a low chair, getting more of an action angle on the parked bike and playing with splatters and mixing media to add some of the dirt bike energy.

Looking back through my sketchbooks I have found inspiration in the bikes many times in the past...




I look forward to documenting the restoration as it progresses through the repair, replacement and reconstruction phases too. 
The bike was in pieces before I had a chance to sketch it as a whole, so watch out for the final reveal!


(Autumn/May 2019)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Bone Carving

Several of our sketching group attended the Mokau Easter Bone Carving weekend with 30 others.  Master Carver Owen Mapp presided and Mike Brown did the magnificent organising. Owen was recently in the New Years Honours List.

Even bone carving needs some sort of sketching skills, here were my attempts

A wonderful event and a big shout out to the whole town who came out on the communal meal and fed us hot cross buns.

Pizza Heaven - Cuba St Wellington.  Tasty pizzas too.