Saturday, December 03, 2016

What I'm wearing today

It's been a while since I've posted my outfits of the day. I bought some coloured tights in M&S recently, which have given a new lease of live to my black skirts. So here are the outfits I've been wearing lately:

Boden skirt
Boden coat
M&S tights

Boden skirt
M&S tights
M&S maroon top
Japanese scarf

Choice top
Levi's Outlet jeans
Maroon Clarks shoes

Black jeans
Grey cardigan
Fatface grey poloneck
Necklace from the V&A a few years ago

Boden skirt
M&S tights
Lidl stripy top (purple and green)
Fatface Turquoisy scarf

Friday, December 02, 2016


I still have so much to tell you about Japan, but as the weeks go by, it's falling back in the order of priorities. Sorry!

So I'm picking random photos and bringing myself back.

Kenrokuen is one of the top three gardens in Japan, and it's definitely one of Kanazawa's top attractions. My favourite area was the big pond with the pine trees. The gardeners were just working there, setting up the iconic protecting cones, but we were just a little early, so we didn't see the final result. It would be nice to see it in the winter, when the gardens are covered in fresh snow.
If you speak Japanese, you will see that the name contains the word "roku", which means "six". I found the explanation here: "The name Kenrokuen literally means "Garden of the Six Sublimities", referring to spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views, which according to Chinese landscape theory are the six essential attributes that make up a perfect garden".

PS: what the photos I'm showing you here don't reveal is how busy it was - coachloads of tourists all around. It was a beautiful day after all, so I can understand why everybody went to the gardens rather than the museums. It is something to be aware of, though - Japan is a big country with a large population and a big tourism industry. So, don't believe any of the idyllic pictures you see in the travel magazines - if a place is beautiful, you will not have it to yourself. Which can be a bit of a shock when you come from Ireland. But once you get used to the idea, it works out well, as the Japanese are masters of living in harmony in densely-populated areas. They are courteous and polite. We found that tourists from another Asian country (which shall remain un-named) were not quite as well-mannered, however. Queue jumping seemed to be quite acceptable, but then again, coming from Belgium myself, that's no big deal. Nail cutting at the breakfast table, however, is another matter altogether. (I kid you not!) But the less said about that the better!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Self Portrait at the hairdressers

I feel I haven't been drawing as much as I'd like lately. I should really follow my own advice and bring a sketchbook and a pen everywhere I go! But this time of the year is always busy, isn't it? So I told myself "no more excuses" and I brought my pen and paper to the hairdressers - for that time when you're waiting for the colour to develop! Normally I'd be looking at magazines, or Facebook, or if I'm feeling productive, going through my Japanese lessons. So I was happy I went ahead and drew my face instead. I couldn't really see very well without my glasses, but in a way, that made it easier, as the wrinkles were blurred out.

You may not think that's how I look, but that's how I saw myself on the day!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Measured Setup

I'm slowly making progress through Liz Steel's Foundations online course. There aren't just enough hours in the day. I think also that I'm in procrastinating mode. I knew this module was all about measuring - and I knew I wouldn't like it! That doesn't mean I didn't take the assignment seriously, though.
I did measure carefully with my pencil, using a unit to compare everything against. And I did restate wrong lines and angles in pencil before moving to ink. (I even took a picture of it, just in case you don't believe me). But it still doesn't look right to me. And it looks really stilted and stiff. 
So, what to do? More procrastination - it's at least two weeks since I did this drawing, and I haven't moved to the outdoor prompt (drawing a door). Maybe I should just move to the next lesson, but wouldn't that be cheating? 


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shinjuku gyoen

We should probably have gone back to Shinjuku gyoen, but there was so much to do, so much to see, that we never got a chance. The last time we had seen this public garden in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, it was spring time and the cherry blossoms were just past their glorious best. This time, in late October, we got there quite late, just about an hour before sunset. The light was beautiful, but difficult to capture with a camera, all subtle shades of green and browns.

After a long day's journey, I wasn't quite ready to tackle a painting. But I decided to try it now that we're back home. I'm using a technique described by Marc Taro Holmes in his Craftsy class, "Travel Sketching in Mixed Media", which is actually fantastic for capturing the essence of a place when you don't have much time, which is often the case when you're travelling (unless you're travelling alone, but that's not much fun, is it?). Maybe I'll try that next time I'm travelling!

Working directly in ink, a quick line sketch that plots the main shapes

Using a brush pen, adding main shadow forms

And then, just having fun with juicy watercolours, working shape by shape where you don't want the areas to bleed into one another, and touching pigment where you want colours to mix on the page. This was so much fun!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

2 hours at the National Gallery

Yes, it took me two hours to draw this. But it is my favourite view of the whole building, well until they re-open the old wing I guess. I didn't feel like painting paintings or statues, although I can't deny there is a lot to be learned from that. But all these angles and lines were beckoning me!

So, next time you're at the National Gallery and you walk up those stairs, just stop for a moment and turn back, and you'll see what I saw.

As I hate measuring, this was quite a challenge for me. I started with a small section in pencil, measuring that carefully, to the best of my ability at least. I hate using a pencil to measure, but it had to be done. Once I was satisfied that I had a good start, I decided to go straight to ink, because I hate drawing something in pencil and then going over the same lines in ink. The final step was to created some darks with a waterbrush, and adding a few people for scale!

If you click on this link, you will see how everybody is interested in different things.

Food Food Food - Part 4

I will have to close the Japanese cuisine chapter now! I bet you never thought I could be so enthusiastic about food.
My favourite sushi restaurant in Kanazawa, Ippei Sushi! The little yellow parcels are tamago (Japanese omelette) wrapped in nori (dried seaweed)

More from Ippei Sushi. Aji (horse mackerel - it's mackerel, nothing to do with horses!) on a shiso leaf, and to the right, Ikura (salmon roe on top of rice and wrapped in dried seaweed

A popular breakfast, when you're not eating a big buffet, that is. Thick toast with butter, hard-boiled egg and salad

Tea and coffee, and two beautifully-wrapped sweets, all in gorgeous pot and mugs

Since we were in Ōsaka, we had to try okonomiyaki - no it's not a cake, it's an omelette type of dish, with egg, cabbage, and other bits and pieces, in this case, octopus and prawns - the beautiful glazing on top is okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise.

Different restaurant, different style of okonomiyaki, this time with spring onion topping. Just as delicious

Takoyaki, the Ōsaka street food par excellence - a gorgeous hot bun with a filling of tako (octopus) - you generally buy a little tray of six from street vendors, and it will keep you going for the day. Very hot, so be careful!

Another train, another ekiben

And another ekiben - we did travel by train quite a bit.

And to finish - a sample dish from a lunch buffet we had when we got back to Tokyo. This was in the Daimaru department store in Tokyo Station - all-you-can-eat buffet at a very reasonable price. There was a time-limit (2 hours, was it?), but we had lots of time to eat everything we wanted. What I don't understand is how we managed to eat so much for two weeks and not put on weight! That's the healthy Japanese cuisine for you. 

That's it for the food. I hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Favourite Chimeys

There is now competition for my favourite chimneys in the whole wild world, which, in case you're wondering, are at Poolbeg powerstation in Dublin.

I woke up early in Kachigawa (near Nagoya) and looked out our hotel window. It was just before sunrise. Who would have thought that a paper factory could look so beautiful?

It was a good start to the day.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Persimmons everywhere

Well, I had to sketch them and paint them before they were eaten, didn't I?

One thing I found is that I struggled with the shadows - I had one disaster where all my shadows turned brown, and it wasn't pretty. I'll spare you that one.

Then I remembered I had read somewhere that a good shadow colour for yellow is green, so I thought that maybe red would be good for orange, and it worked, I think.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Food Food Food - Part 3

Are you tired of these food photos? We're getting there, believe me. But with every meal a feast, there is a lot to tell you about.

This was the bento that was delivered to our AirBnB in Takayama every morning (well, we were only there two nights). Pretty healthy stuff, as you can see. No full Irish there!

Soba with mushroom and forest vegetables

I can't remember the name of this noodle, but, yes, the bit in the middle is a raw egg yoke.


Chestnut bun in a broth

Breakfast at the ryokan was as hearty as dinner, and just as refined. We even got to grill our own fish on the little stove in the middle of the table. Who needs a full Irish?

Yes, these are little fishes - I don't know what the red bits were, but they were tasty too

And to finish breakfast, chocolate custard in a beautiful bowl

Another element of breakfast - to the left is nattō, fermented soy beans, which have a reputation for being an acquired taste. I remember I would not touch it on our last trip. But I have to say I ate it several times on this trip and I really enjoyed it.

And here is the menu from our ryokan dinner - don't read if you're squeamish!

Chrysanthemum and persimmons

This is what happens when I go to Lidl on my own - you never know what I'm going to come home with. On this occasion: chrysanthemum and persimmons.

The persimmons, because they were the fruit of the season when we were in Japan, and they were served to us in many different guises, but I actually had never eaten one fresh, and I thought it was high time to try it.

And Chrysanthemum? Because it's November, it's about the only flower that survives at this time of the year, and we put potted chrysanthemum on graves on the 1st of November in Belgium. But mostly because they were a gorgeous colour that I thought would make for an interesting painting! Then of course when I started painting them, I was more interested in the leaves than the flowers. Go figure?

And did the persimmons taste nice? We just tried one this lunchtime and it was delicious - just wash, dry and cut like an apple. The flesh texture is a bit like mango, but not as strong a flavour, and it's a lot less sweet. We'll have the next one tomorrow.

Here is the setup that was in front of me.

And here are persimmons hanging outside a house in Japan - they peel them and hang them in the sun to dry them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kanazawa - Gold Leaf on everything

Are there gold mines near Kanazawa? I have no idea. But there is a tradition of gold leaf decoration that's even found its way into food

Sushi Don (don stands for donburi and basically means a bowl of rice, so this is sushi on top of rice)

Unagi Don - unagi is eel, and it is gorgeous. I really don't understand why we can't find it on Irish menus. I remember once in Graiguenamanagh, we saw a big Norwegian truck picking up a load of eels from a local supplier - it was like an oil truck, except it was carrying water and live eels.

coffee and gold leaf