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

Starry night

Another painting from photographs taken during our summer holiday in Kerry. This was quite late at night and the sky was an amazing blue colour (being mid-summer, there was still some light in the sky, even in the middle of the night). There were a few cars driving nearby, and their headlights were lighting up the trees in the foreground, in contrast with the dark mountains, which is what I've attempted to convey here.

Don't you love it when you can be somewhere so dark that you can see all the stars in the sky? It doesn't happen often in Dublin, unfortunately. I have two strong memories of starry nights: one was in West Cork 30 years ago - I was on a weekend away with the Trinity College Geography Club, and we were staying somewhere remote - I don't remember much else from that trip, but the sky was so so dark, and so so starry, it stayed with me. The other one was in Australia, near Uluru - we were staying in the nearby holiday village, and if I remember correctly, there was a night viewing point that you could drive to - the sky was alive with these countless stars - just wonderful. I probably even managed to briefly forget my snake anxiety!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Food Food Food - Part 2

Don't be put off by that raw steak! Lots of delicious food to follow!

Kitchen Hida, in Takayma, where we ate the softest steak ever! Yes, they do present the meat to you raw before cooking it! And they don't believe in serving the chips with the steak, only as a snack with beer!

A few of the courses from our ryokan dinner in Hida-Furukawa- we had our own private dining room, and course after delicious course kept coming. That would be the meal I would request as my last meal if I was to face the death penalty!

Katsu dinner -this was back in Tokyo, so I'm breaking chronological order here, but I'm dipping into BB's pictures - generally better quality than mine, let's admit it. This meal came with instructions on what accompaniments to choose, but I can't find these instructions now - sorry!

Tempura restaurant in Tokyo - we picked a set menu, and each item arrived one by one: prawn, fish, eel, aubergine, etc. Again, there were instructions about the various accompaniments - three different types of salt (plain, wasabi, perilla (shiso in Japanese)), soy sauce, daikon radish, and something else - I should really research this a little more, but if I get caught up in all the detail, we will never get to the end of the meals!

And here are the contents of that ekiben that I showed you in the previous post!