It takes a bit of time to process a trip. I find that I reach a saturation point where I can't really take anymore in, I'm tired of living out of a bag, and I look forward to getting back into my normal daily routine. It's a weird balance between being present, dealing with traveling fatigue and preparing to pick up where you left off before the trip. Then of course you get home and immediately the experience you just had while away seems distant. Did I even go on a trip? Did that really happen? Then comes the odd stress of what do I paint about this experience first?
I went with my gut for that last question. I thought about the things we had seen and experienced in Japan that stuck out to me the most:
-the color orange. So many of the shrines and temples were painted this bright happy color which also happens to be one of my favorite colors of paint (cadmium red light).
-the water features in all the gardens we saw. This wondrous green/grey when the sky is overcast, with deeper blue/green reflections when the water was still, which it was unless it was raining.
-the peacefulness of the gardens. We didn't visit many remote places. We spent all of our time in cities, but surprisingly the gardens and shrines were very quiet.
-the patterns of the traditional kimonos! And the colors! Everything goes; stripes with flowers, red with electric blue, yellow with pink, solids and stripes. The attention to detail was astonishing as well. Some of the hair pieces I saw in shops or adorning the lovely hairstyles of women we passed were stunning. So intricate! I did a lot of gawking, and most likely open-mouthed.
-the shapes of the trees. Every tree in a city is heavily manicured, be it the ones lining a busy street in the middle of downtown, or growing along the wall of the Imperial Palace (Tokyo or Kyoto). I had so many moments of oh! THAT'S why they draw or paint trees to look like that because they actually do! I am usually late to the party.
-the old architecture. I saw not one but three five story pagodas! In real life! I did not think that would happen because Japan was not on our travel radar. Foolish us! We even got to stay in a ryokan-style hostel. Our room had tatami mats on the floor and a little private deck that overlooked the river in Ito. The room was very light and spacious and the building was over 100 years old.
-the lanterns hanging outside of bars and restaurants along the narrow streets in the old neighborhoods. I couldn't read what was on them, but it was an easy way to spot a place to eat or drink when out wandering, especially at night.
-the blossoms! There were so many advertisements in train stations, on trains and on and inside buses showing the lovely places you could go all around Japan and participate in 'hanami' or blossom viewing. We were too early this visit for the real spectacle though.
Of course there are many other things that I loved about Japan, but these were the visual cues that immediately come to mind when I think back about our trip. So here are the paintings I've done so far:
Drunkard's alley; just off the main path by the infamous Shibuya crossing. We walked from a literal sea of people and glaring light to a rather dark, very narrow set of streets lined with shops and small 'izakaja' or bars, which had only 6-10 seats inside. Very small and very intimate. And overhead in the narrow streets between the little pubs hung so many beautiful red, white and yellow lanterns advertising what was available inside.
We were definitely in the shoulder season of blossoming activity. The winter blossoms (plum) were just petering out and the spring blossoms (cherry) were just making their debut. The fragrance from the few flowering trees we did get to enjoy was so lovely. I can't imagine what the air in Japan smells like when all the spring blossoms are out in full force! It was a most delicate and refreshing fragrance, not sickly and overpowering like, say a cluster of hyacinths up close can be.
Water features! I fully intend on painting a piece (maybe two) with the golden temple in them, but this glassy pond with it's little islands of perfectly manicured tree and perfect reflection was a must paint NOW. I chided myself for how many photos I took of tree reflections in various ponds, but now that I'm home I wish I had take more of them for painting and drawing purposes. Oh well.
Speaking of open-mouthed gawking, seeing men and women enjoy an evening out wearing traditional dress was quite a highlight for me during our time in Kyoto. I snapped as many unobtrusive photos as I could. I even contemplated renting a kimono so I could get all gussied up for an evening, but upon observing the footwear and the narrowness of the kimono and how the women had to walk in them, I decided against this as I have a hard enough time keeping up with the long, fast stride of the BD at the best of times, and I would definitely loose him in a crowd wearing that somewhat confining get up. Instead, I settled for gawking and picture-taking.
Surprise! Another water feature. This time with koi. Many of the ponds in gardens or near shrines had koi in them. If you stood by the embankment long enough, they would gather near you in a quiet, flowing group, peeking their noses just out of the surface of the water, opening and closing their large mouths slowly, requesting food. The majority of the koi I saw were darker in color, almost a reddish-purple. We even spotted koi from our little deck in Ito in the Matsu river. There were some gold ones, but the majority were darker.
More cherry blossoms. I can't get enough of their color and shape. This piece is from a photo taken on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. There were in a small courtyard, only two of them, beside one of the buildings in the main part of the grounds just after the gardens. One pink flowering tree and one pale yellow. I'm planning a triptych of cherry blossoms, to mimic some of the painted screens I saw inside the palace through the windows. That and I just really want to paint a larger piece about cherry blossoms because why not?
This isn't it for paintings from our trip, just what I've gotten done so far. I hope to have some ready for Artwalk in Edmonton in July, and perhaps a few for my installation at the Vermilion Public Library in September. Early next week these pieces will be making their way down to Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta, just in case you happen to be in the area and would like to see them in person.