Sketches from summer trips (August, 2004)

This August (2004) our family took two trips, one was the twice-a-year visit to my wife's home town in Gunma Prefecture and the other was to Hokkaido.

My wife's home is surrounded by rice field and mountains. The family even owns a few of the local mountains. While everyone else is inside chatting or watching television I have total freedom to go out and sketch the entire time.

Of course just about the only things I can find to sketch in Gunma are rice fields and mountains!

These are the mountains directly in front of my wife's family home. I sat in the rice field to sketch them using Sakura Pigmagraphic pens. Overseas, these are called Microns. The sky was dark as I sketched these mountains and I finally had to stop as rain drops started splashing all around me.

On the left there is a small clump of grave stones. Out in the country every family keeps its own cemetery, usually somewhere in the middle of the rice fields. Of course, in Japan, cremation is the norm, which is why these cemeteries can hold many generations and still be small. There are tiny cemeteries everywhere!

As it turns out, everyone in the family had sketched these very mountains over the years for various school art projects, so mine was just another for the pile.

Just like the Tenjin bridge sketch on the previous page, I spent too much time on this. So I was more convinced than ever that it's time I started looking for ways to loosen up and sketch quicker!

This time I decided to take out the trusty old pencil which I had never given a fair chance in sketching (I'm a nut for pen and ink) and jump right in with no preliminary drawing. As I had done all week, I sat in the middle of a rice field and looked around me for a subject. There are mountains literally all around for 360 degrees! I decided on a nearby group of houses.

I sketched as fast and loose as I could and then colored in the same spirit. This is perhaps not one of my better sketches, but it was a major breakthrough for me. What freedom!

I continued to fill my sketchbook with quick pencil and watercolor sketches like this one. This week was like sketch boot camp, and there has never been a week like it in my life as far as sketching goes.

The Hokkaido trip was very different in terms of sketching. There was no way the family would stop for a moment to allow me to sketch, and of course, I couldn't blame them.

Out of desperation, when we took a long train to the coast, I tried to sketch anything I saw flying past the window (barns, mountains, etc). Now that I had experienced success with fast loose sketching in Gunma, I was willing to give it a try. This time I had to observe as much as I could and then sketch from memory as the objects disappeared forever.

I continued this method of spontaneous quick sketching when we were on a boat heading for a small island, and after we docked for a bit. I filled many pages with loose sketches and splashes of color. It was great fun! This is one of the pages with three sketches on it.

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