Down by the River (August, September, 2004)

I have lived near the mighty Arakawa river for these past 15 years and never even considered sketching the boats down there until now. (Sometimes it takes a while for us slower people to realize the obvious.) It's only a 20 minute walk to these docks. I could take a bicycle down there but I could use the exercise. What a wealth of sketching matter! I discovered quickly that I enjoy sketching boats and water.

Most of these sketches were done with the Berol Eagle Color black pencil (number 935). Regular graphite pencils don't give black enough lines, unless you go to real soft grades. Then they smudge under watercolor. The colored pencil lets me get black lines without smudging. I love dark black lines. That's why I have usually used ink for sketches. I also used an old Japanese fountain pen with extremely flexible nib, filled with Platinum carbon black ink for one of these sketches. I sketched faster and looser with no preliminary sketch this time, applying what I learned on my recent trips to Gunma and Hokkaido, and relying more on instinct.

I had to sketch this one quickly because the sky was very threatening. It rained soon after I finished.

This sketch was done the same day after the weather calmed down and the sun came out. A typhoon was passing on the other side of Japan, and the weather kept changing.

This sketch was done in the morning, and the tide was high. I used ink for this one.

Many of the boats at these docks are "yagata-bune" which are party boats. The insides have tatami mats and low tables, and the windows are the traditional paper shoji type. There are also outer windows of glass to protect the paper from spray. This yagata-bune was pink, and looked like a lot of fun. I'd love to party on one of these some day!

I'm sure I could use these sketches to make tight drawings later at home, but I don't enjoy painting indoors anymore (except maybe when I'm in the subway). I love the breeze and the peaceful surroundings, and the sound of the waves, far from the loud traffic noises which dog inhabitants of Tokyo 24 hours a day. So these sketches are the final product, warts and all. I got a nasty sunburn after sitting out in the sun all morning, but it was worth it.

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