Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sakura Girls

Young ladies admiring the cherry blossom in Kiyomizu-dera:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


On our first full day in Kyoto, we followed Page 130 of the Lonely Planet guide - "If you had only one day in Kyoto..." Southern Higashiyama Walking Tour. It was a full day, so wear good shoes!

We took bus 100 from Kyoto Station to Gojozaka. Really easy. It's a set fare, you pay into a machine beside the driver as you exit the bus, so make sure to have change. And there is a panel at the front showing the next stop, including in English.

The instructions in Lonely Planet are great. Apart from the noodle shop and the pharmacy at the start of the walk, we found all the milestones outlined in the book.

First stop: Kiyomizu-dera - I had seen pictures of this temple, sitting on huge pillars on the side of the hill and it's just as impressive in real life. I think it would be worth going back again in the autumn. It was full of school kids, but we did manage to get a bit of peace and quiet in the more remote parts. And don't miss the Jishu-jinja shrine. It's packed with young women trying their luck for love!

Then, we went down a busy touristy street and another cobbled street to the right. Some lovely shops on the way, particularly if you're fond of Kyoto sweets! And we saw two British girls dressed as geishas. They were quite tall and awkward, and at first, I thought they were men in drag. Oh dear, they wouldn't be happy to hear that!

We then got to Ishibei-koji, a beautiful old-style street with restaurants. All were closed though - and most didn't have menus outside, but the few that did were pricey. Probably better to see this place at night. I guess there would be more of a buzz and you might get a glimpse of their inner courtyards.

We also went in to a very quiet temple area, Otani Mausoleum, with literally no tourists, and found ourselves in a cemetery, very different from Western-style graveyards. It's built on a hill and, if you go up and up, you will have a stunning view of the city with thousands of graves in the foreground. Well worth the effort.

Then we went to a nice little park to rest our feet for a while, and we saw some feral cats that completely ignored us, but went wild when two Japanese ladies went by. We then moved on to Chion-in, a major big temple, with hundreds of visitors. I briefly went in to the main temple during a service - the sheer scale of it was impressive, but hardly a place for quiet reflection.

Last, we went in to Shoren-in, a peaceful temple. There are huge camphor trees at the front so you can't miss it. Lovely garden and a small bamboo grove at the back too.

After Shoren-in, we managed to find a subway station to make our way back to the hotel, where we put our feet up for the evening. A long day!

We took lots and lots of pictures, but at this stage, I would find it hard to identify which temple is which if they were not sorted chronologically!

Temples Temples Everywhere. It must be Kyoto so

Kyoto is very different from Tokyo, more so than I had imagined. It's a smaller city, first of all, so your mind can grasp an idea of where things are quite easily. This is helped by the fact that it's in a valley running North-South between hills on both sides. One side is Arashiyama (West) and the other is Higashiyama (East). Both areas are packed with interesting temples and scenic spots, but Arashiyama wins in my mind. With it's river running between two steep hills, it's really pretty.

We had five days in Kyoto, and not enough time to see all the temples and famous sights. Which is probably just as well, as temple fatigue can set in.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Evely Cusack - 26 June - Black and White wrap dress

I think that wrap dresses suit Evelyn Cusack. I am particularly fond of this black and white number.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Siobhan Ryan - 22 June - Summer top

Nice stripy summer top yesterday for Siobhan Ryan. I just wish the weather was better!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Japanese Fireman

Here is my latest project. I'm not sure if I'm done yet, but it's getting close. I started with the idea of a Japanese fireman from a blockprint by Yoshitoshi. Then, I played with Spectra tissue paper. I got that paper at least a year ago, but wasn't sure what to do with it. But having watched a video from the Pacon website, I realised that it wasn't just for collage. If you apply water to it, it will transfer the colour to the page, and I found that if you spray it well, the paper will contract and create a striking zebra effect. It was too strong a pattern for what I was looking for, though, so I applied a dark blue acrylics glaze over it.

In keeping with the Japanese theme, I scanned some origami paper I bought in Japan in a paper shop in Asakusa, and I also photocopied a newspaper article (about what, I have no idea). Last night, I felt something was missing - I couldn't just have some random words that I don't even understand (but I kept them in there anyway). So I went to the Asahi newspaper website, used the Google Translate feature, found a page with a mention of the Fukushima nuclear plant, turned it back to Japanese and printed it. The 19th century fireman represents the bravery of the teams who have been trying to get things under control in Fukushima since mid-March, but is also a symbol of the futility of their efforts faced with such a complex task. (That's starting to sound like an "artist's statement"!!)

PS: the glue I use is Liquitex matt glazing medium. I find it's the best way to apply paper to the acrylic page. I then generally apply a transparent layer of matt & gloss medium over the page to unify the textures.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trees in the desert

Inspired by a National Geographics photo of trees set against a dune at sunrise:

Le Comte Ory

I think it was in early April that we went to see the Met HD production of Le Comte Ory by Rossini. Just as I had expected, it was so much fun. I don't know why people think that Opera is boring or tragic or melodramatic. For me Opera is full of life, vitality (I'm repeating myself here), and can be very entertaining.

The basic story of Le Comte Ory is set at the time of the Crusades. All men have left for the Holy Land, leaving behind their wives and sisters, and a few men like Le Comte Ory who prey on all women. A beautiful countess nearly falls for his tricks (he disguises himself as a hermit first, then as a nun), but then is tricked himself in the most hilarious 3-in-a-bed operatic scene I've ever seen.

I loved the Met production, full of colour and action and fun and wonderful singing. It was a special day for the main singer, Juan Diego Floreza young Peruvian bel canto singer, as his wife had just given birth to their first child that morning. If he was distracted, he didn't let it show. His performance was dazzling, and his facial expressions were pure comic genius. 

I also loved Diana Damrau, in the role of the beautiful countess Adèle.

Rossini comic operas are pure joy, and I'm glad I got to see this one!

Also, a special mention for the gorgeous red wigs for the ladies in waiting

Friday, June 17, 2011

The American

Not much dialog in this George Clooney movie. But a lot of atmosphere and a compelling story, set in a small town in Italy. A shocking start too.
And you can see Anton Corbijn's photographic eye in this movie all right. Maybe that's why there is so little talk.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Red Hello Kitty Umbrella

There wasn't as many Hello Kitty goodies shops as I had hoped, but I managed to find a few nice bits and pieces (and Véronique also gave me some real cuties - I suspect she was a closet Hello Kitty fanatic - she wouldn't buy them for herself, but she always found gorgeous pieces for me.).

Amongst the items I bought: a little red umbrella with a Hello Kitty handle. Unfortunately, it's not as strong as the Japanese convenience-store transparent umbrellas (that I would have loved to bring home, but the one I bought in Nagoya wouldn't fit in my suitcase, and I left it with Véronique), but it's so pretty!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Irish

I'm re-reading The Irish by Sean O'Faolain, one of the books that my thesis supervisor, Robert van den Haute, recommended to me many many moons ago (probably 27 years, since I finished college in 86, and started working on my thesis 2 years before that). I'm not reading the 1947 edition, but the 1981 one (considering it was only revised once, in 1969, it probably doesn't make that much of a difference).

When I get frustrated by how things run in Ireland, this book is a great reminder that some of the nation's key traits are very much part of the Irish DNA.

I'll give you a telling quote "If the Celtic tradition has given us anything in this field what it has given is that old atavistic individualism which tends to make all Irishmen inclined to respect no laws at all"

See, they can't help it. No point in fighting it.

Very different from the Belgians, I think, if this Belgian girl is anything to go by.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things you don't eat at home every day: yuzu cheese cake

Kyoto offered many delights, but the one sweet that sticks in my mind is an orange-flavoured-philadelphia-type-cheese-filled pastry. I have no idea what it's called. We came across it at a little stall in Kyoto station, and it was the packaging that attracted me, of course. A simple "kore kudasai" was enough Japanese to be able to buy them, and I didn't know how to ask "What is this delicious sweet called?" (that's advanced Japanese!). The only English on the packaging was the flavour, in this case, Yuzu, which is an Asian citrus fruit. It was sweet and light and fruity. I would dearly love to know what it's called and if I was to win the Lotto, I would arrange to have them delivered to me daily, all the way from Japan!

Jean Byrne - 12 & 13 June - The Good and the Bad

Jean Byrne was wearing a very classy black long-sleeved dress yesterday, with a striking bracelet. But unfortunately, today saw the return of the little black leather jacket over the satin blue dress - not a good mix in my opinion.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Excellent tips on how to store pastels:

Dolphins in Killiney Bay

As I mentioned yesterday, we saw dolphins in Killiney bay. Brendan managed to take a picture. You'll have to blow it up to full size to actually see a dolphin, but it's there, believe me.

Birds of a Feather

Well, I thought that one feather in a corner of the page wasn't enough. I decided to add a bird. I initially toyed with the idea of adding the hen from The Eagle Has Landed, but that was never going to work, really. I looked at the Twitter bird as an option (it's easy to draw!). Then I saw the yukata hanging in my bathroom, with it's pattern of cranes in flight, and I knew that's what I needed. I traced a photo I found on the web (using my Wacom tablet and Photoshop Elements) and played with various shades of blue. I created a Picasa collage,  printed it in 2 sizes, added some more glazes of acrylics, and then drew some pastel squiggles in matching shades. Et voilà!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Vico Road, Killiney

We had a dry sunny morning (though still cold when the sun went in), so we made the most of it and headed for the Vico Road. And we saw dolphins! In all my years here (25), I've never seen dolphins in Killiney bay. They were happily following the wake from a boat and waterskier. Beautiful.

This picture was taken from the top of Sorrento park. It's not much of a park, really, but it offers gorgeous views.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Siobhan Ryan - 10 June - stone dress & purple jacket

Another good outfit choice for Siobhan Ryan.

Birds of a Feather

Not sure what to do with this one - part of me thinks I should leave it alone, but then again, it's a lot of empty space. I'm toying with the idea of a birdy collage in the top left, but that's a bit obvious, isn't it? Or I could glue seeds somewhere... Really don't know. It all started with 2 acrylics blues and plenty of acrylics glazing medium (matte and glossy), and a fan brush. Nothing more than that. Then I decided to try and glue a feather to it (used the Liquitex gloss glazing medium, excellent glue). And I like it just like that. But the question is "Is it enough?". I'm not even going to ask the obvious question!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Siobhan Ryan - 9 June - black top & animal print skirt

Nice summer outfit for Siobhan today, but she appeared a bit nervous. Maybe she hasn't been in front of the cameras for a while and it takes a few days to get back into it.

Evelyn Cusack - 8 June - Black Dress

Classy black dress last night - and a great warm smile to tell us about the bad weather that's ahead of us!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Why not take a rest and have a cup of tea?

A colourful little project in acrylics, pastels and collage - inspired by a dream I had of a painting with words embedded in it. But I could not remember the words. So I picked up this phrase from a brochure from the Hama-rikyu gardens in Tokyo. And I built up my painting around it. I used alphabet stamps and acrylic paint, but you'll probably find it difficult to see the words, as I have added many layers of acrylics and pastels over them. In the centre, a little collage from a drawing of mine, printed on A4 paper (not acid-free, I'm afraid, so the original will not last forever) and glued using acrylic glazing medium, then enhanced with pastels. Great fun.

Things you don't see at home every day: Cute dogs in a pram

Yoyogi Park on a Sunday: and dog owners come out of the woodwork with their cute little doggies. These dogs don't get much exercise, and they obviously don't mind a bit of hair colour and pretty little coats. In Kyoto, we even saw a greyhound in a zebra pyjama - he didn't seem to mind!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Harajuku, Yoyogi Park

The whole area around Harajuku and Yoyogi Park comes to life at weekends. Yoyogi park is teeming with families, dog lovers who meet up with same-breed dog owners, musicians, rockabilly dancers, cosplay girls and of course Lolita girls! Only in Japan. Nowhere else in the world have I encountered such passion for dressing up amongst young girls. The Lolita girls go for a cute, demure, look, but somehow, I found it quite provocative. Not their intention, I'm sure, but I found it somewhat disturbing for girls who appear to be no older than 14 or 15, in some cases accompanied by their mothers. We encountered one group of cosplay girls dressed in what appeared to me as fantasy manga characters. That look was much more fun, and at least these girls had attitude! Or maybe they were just in character!

Apparently, there is huge variety in the Lolita styles. Here are a few we came across that day:

Monday, June 06, 2011

Evelyn Cusack - 6 June - purple dress

Gorgeous fitted purple dress on Evelyn today. We didn't even notice the bad weather she's forecast for the next week!
PS: Haven't seen Siobhan Ryan lately, and Jean Byrne hasn't bought a new dress in a while!

Blue tits love fat balls

That sounds like the title of a porn movie, doesn't it? Well it's the little blue tits in our back garden, and we've hung fat balls from Lidl's range of bird feed at the side of the Shomera. And they love it. I'll have to go and buy more bird feed, as they are eating through it at a major rate.


Another interpretation on an old drawing. I'm planning to incorporate it into a little acrylics project of mine. I should really print it on acid-free paper, but I'm not too worried about posterity, so standard A4 will do.

Earth from Above

This one was inspired by a satellite photo I found in Wired Magazine. The crinkly effect is done with clingfilm applied on wet paint. Perfect for textures.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Lovely to see the swallows darting over the big pond at Airfield. It's great to see that the pond is attracting wildlife.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Things you don't feel at home every day - aftershocks

We were just about to come out of the Imperial Palace East Gardens. We were consulting our map to figure out if we could walk to Ginza. When I felt slightly dizzy. But then realised it wasn't me, it was the ground beneath my feet. It only lasted a few seconds. Everybody stopped. Then everybody got under way again as if nothing had happened. That was my first earthquake ever. We experienced another two during our stay - one of which I slept through, except to wake up for a second thinking that Brendan had said something to me. The third one was on our last night. 9:12 pm. We were in bed watching Japanese television with simultaneous interpretation. It felt like the ground was rolling. A second or two into it, it was already on the news - a 4 on the Richter scale, but with minimum damage. Véronique had told us that whenever she felt an earthquake, she always turned on the television straight away, as they have an alert system that immediately kicks into effect. At least, I knew I didn't need to go and hide under a desk with a pillow over my head!

Desert scene

Inspired by a watercolour I saw. This was done using ArtRage on my iPad2
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