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Part 3: Summer 2008 to Fall 2009

Bell at Ganshoin in Obuse, Nagano Prefecture

This was done during a sketch trip to a small town called Obuse in Nagano Prefecture. This town is famous for being a sort of retreat for the famous Japanese artist Hokusai who often came here in his old age, and left many paintings. This particular temple called Ganshoin is just outside of town and has a huge phoenix painting on the ceiling done by Hokusai. This sketch is of the bell on the temple grounds, which Hokusai himself must have seen many times. Perhaps he sketched it as well. As I was sketching this, I heard a low "BONG" and looked closer to see an old man sounding the bell. So I included him in the sketch.

This was my first weekend sketching trip, and it had a profound effect on me; it was a high point in my sketching career. I even stayed at my first youth hostel. I was reluctant to do that, but there were no other accommodations in town. Now I wonder why I waited so long to try a youth hostel; they suit me perfectly, and are perfectly suited to sketching trips! Great fun, and you get to know the other guests. I can't wait to take another weekend sketching trip -- and stay in another youth hostel.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


Old shrine in Obuse, Nagano Prefecture

This was also done during that sketch trip to Obuse. This particular shrine is called Konpira Jinja (jinja means Shinto shrine) and is in the center of town. It was a spooky run down place with many very old buildings slightly askew. I parked myself under a roof over a well in one of the few spots that didn't have a huge spider web stretched across it, and did this one in two hours. My wife says it's one of my best!

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo

This is a sketch of Yasukuni Shrine in the heart of Tokyo. It is often at the center of controversy because the spirits of war criminals are supposed to be "enshrined" there, and when a government official such as a prime minister goes there to worship, other Asian countries find it offensive and protest. The compound usually has a number of right wing groups hanging around with their military uniforms and loudspeaker trucks.

I don't really have a strong opinion on this (maybe I should) but the structures themselves on this compound are nice to look at, and it is usually a peaceful spot.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors.


Party boat docked on the Arakawa River, Tokyo

Here is a sketch which I found among my collection of sketches done at the Arakawa river in Tokyo. It is a yagata-bune or party boat, which is set up with tatami mats and low tables so visitors can cruise up and down the river and have a party far from the cares of the world, or at least away from the land. I've always wanted to go for a cruise on one of these floating party boats. The name of this one is the Yamaguchi maru, and I have sketched it on several occasions. Maru is the suffix on every boat name I have seen in Japan, and it basically means round, or circle. I have no idea why it is used for boat names. Yamaguchi is a common family name.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors


Bentendo on Shinobazu pond, Tokyo

This is the famous temple built on an island in the middle of Shinobazu pond in Ueno, Tokyo. It is called Bentendo and is dedicated to the Benten (or Benzaiten) the goddess of wisdom, knowledge, arts and good fortune.

The island was built in the 1600s and originally could only be accessed by boat. Now there is a bridge. This is a very popular subject of photos and paintings, although nearly everyone chooses to depict it from the shore of the pond, where this building has an impressive field of lotus plants in the foreground which are so dense, that one might not realize it is a pond. I decided to go on the island and sketch this from the other side, where there is an unobstructed view. I spent a few hours there, as the sky started to turn a little threatening.

This was done entirely on the spot with brush and ink and watercolors, with liquid sumi and a bamboo brush, which caused a few passersby to be mildly surprised and ask me about it, since most sketchers use more modern tools now.


Meiji Era Liquor Shop in Ueno Sakuragi, Tokyo

This is an old liquor shop built in the Meji era. It is no longer in business, and all the items inside are on display as sort of a museum. One of the items in a display case was a yatate (portable brush and ink kit) similar to the one I was carrying -- and used to draw this shop!

On a recent sketch outing I decide to visit one of Tokyo's old neighborhoods in hopes of finding an old shop. I got off the train at Nippori station, passed through a large cemetery and a few temples, and decided to go just a little bit farther, and discovered this just around the corner! It was in a neighborhood called Ueno Sakuragi, not far from Ueno. The sign is a huge wooden slab that I imagine is very heavy. It has the kanji YOSHIDAYA HONTEN (Yoshida shop, main store) reading from right to left as was the Japanese writing system before World War 2. As I sketched, several visitors stopped in to look around, including a few ladies dressed in kimono, so one became a model for this sketch without her knowledge.

This was done with brush and ink and watercolors, with liquid sumi and a bamboo brush.


Old corner shrine in Tokyo

This is a little shrine that sits on the corner of two narrow streets in my neighborhood. According to the sign next to it, it dates from the Edo area. There is an old worn small stone statue inside, and there are often bowls of food and water (sake?) placed in front. It sits on top of a concrete wall which brings it to eye level. The wall is much newer than the shrine itself.

I did this sketch some time last year but have been hesitant to sell it because of its odd size. It's 6 1/2 by 7/12 inches, and won't fit neatly into a standard frame, but it's one of my best, and there may be people out there who are not interested in standard frames. This sketch is particularly interesting because I took photos of it during various stages of development for a demonstration on my style of sketching. I even included a photo of the real shrine for comparison. You can see those photos and descriptions on page 16 of my online book about sketching.

This was done with brush and ink and watercolors. The first phase was done on location and I was standing the whole time. It was finished later at home. I later signed it with my Japanese name (the name I go by here in Japan) since it looks more natural with a brush.


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