Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 14

Himeji Castle
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2015 Charlene Brown

The next day we were off to Himeji to see the White Heron Castle, “the best castle in Japan or possibly the world,” according to our guide. Its recently-unveiled refurbishment is “too white” according to some, but was just perfect against a deep blue sky that day.
We climbed to the top – in stocking feet up many flights of ladder-steep stairs – so I was able to photograph this unique view including a tiny portion of the very complex tile roof.  I decided to paint that instead of trying to capture all of the ornate gables in the prototypical Japanese castle architecture

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 13

Todaiji Temple Daibutsu (Great Buddha)
Watercolour and crayon
©2015 Charlene Brown

The Todaiji temple complex includes a hall that was until 1998 the world’s largest wooden building, rebuilt three times after two fires and a typhoon. This hall houses the world’s largest bronze Daibutsu, a magnificent statue of the Buddha, almost 15 m. in height, that more than makes up for having to traverse the prevailing deer menace…
In Nara, both the Todaiji Temple and the Kasuga Shrine are surrounded by deer parks that proved to be a challenge for those of us with the usual Victoria deer attitude – and it turned out the Nara deer have attitude as well, especially toward anyone who hasn’t come up with 150 Yen for deer cookies. Actually, they are a little easier to deal with than Victoria deer as they are very small and obey traffic signals. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 12

Golden Temple
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2015 Charlene Brown

The day after our Shirikawa visit, we began our journey to Kyoto on a regular train and switched to the famous ‘Bullet’ at Nagoya. Our luggage had been sent ahead (because of the unlikelihood of making the 18-minute, three-level connection in Nagoya if we had it with us) and upon arrival in Kyoto, as soon as we ascertained that all our stuff was in fact at our hotel, we went back across the street to explore the multi-level architectural wonders of the railway station – as if Kyoto, with its 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites didn’t already have plenty for us to see.

The next day, our itinerary included the famous Kinkakuji, the Golden Temple, where we looked first at the iconic view with the reflecting pond, shown here. Then we went right up close – our guide made sure we realized the Golden Temple is covered with squares of gold leaf, not just paint – and all the way around the magnificent temple grounds.  As with the Imperial East Garden on our first day, I loved that the serenity was undisturbed by the dozens of workers quietly maintaining the perfection of everything with hand tools and twig brooms.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Japan Sketchbook - 10 and 11

Thatch-roofed temple at Shirakawa
Watercolour and crayon
©2015 Charlene Brown



Our day trip to Shirakawa took us through a series of viaducts and tunnels, one 11 km long! Before the tunnels were built, the area was so isolated and snow-bound, it was sometimes called the Tibet of Japan, and a unique thatched architecture evolved.  I thought the temple pictured above was an especially appealing example of this, and made a point of putting it in the second painting, in which I’ve tried to include the whole village, along with the three to five-story A-frame houses, the suspension bridge, the vegetable gardens and paddies on the valley floor, and even the terraced crops on the mountain slope in the background. The temple, should you be looking for it, is surrounded by purple trees, just to the left of the centre of the panorama view.



Shirakawa Village
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2015 Charlene Brown


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 8 and 9

Onsen at the ryokan
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2015 Charlene Brown

After a night sleeping on the floor on tatami mats at an onsen ryokan, some of us enjoyed a sunrise dip in the milky green sulphur hot springs pool – ‘some’ being those of us unafraid to go out to a pool where no bathing suits or clothing (or cameras, fortunately) were allowed.  

The ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, is located in a caldera with active steam vents in the allegedly dormant volcanic peaks towering above. This was a brand new experience for most of us, and (also allegedly) made us each five years younger.

Hakone caldera

Watercolour and crayon
©2015 Charlene Brown


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 7

(click on image to enlarge)
Lake Ashi
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2015 Charlene Brown

Still making our way to Hakone, we went for a boat cruise on Lake Ashi, passing the torii gate at the entrance to the Hakone Shrine shown here near the shore on the left. 

One of the truly iconic views of Mt. Fuji includes this gate, but Mt. Fuji was pretty much clouded over when we were there and most of us didn’t even know it was out there.


Anyway, I really liked this view, which includes the torii gate to the Hyoshi shrine in the background… and we had a terrific look at Mt. Fuji over several hours of our travels the next day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 6


(click on image to enlarge)

Hase Temple
Watercolour and crayon
©2015 Charlene Brown

This Buddhist temple is most famous for its 9 m. tall gilded statue of Kannon, the goddess of Mercy – one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan.  The temple also includes an underground cave, the Benzaiten Grotto, and a garden with hundreds of poignant little stone Jizo statues – some laughing, but all tragic – placed there by grieving parents.

There is also a spectacular cliff-top outlook to the sea, with this uni-lingual but easily understood warning about aggressive kites .

Monday, December 21, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 5

(click on image to enlarge)
Great Buddha of Kamakura
Watercolour and crayon
©2015 Charlene Brown

On November 5, on the way to Hakone, we stopped at Kamakura. The presence of the Great Buddha was surprisingly calming, considering the throngs of tourists and uniformed school children at the site.

This huge (13.35 m) bronze statue has withstood much worse over the years, since its original casting in 1252. At first it was housed in a large hall, but this was destroyed (twice) by storms during the 14th century, then washed away by a tsunami at the end of the 15th century. Since then it has stood in the open air. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 destroyed the base, which was repaired in 1925, and a seismic upgrade was completed in 1961.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 4

Switchback 26
Watercolour and crayon sketch
©2015 Charlene Brown

The next day we went up to the Toshugo Shrine at Nikko in the mountains north of Tokyo. The famously ornate Nikko Gate which, with its surrounding structures, would have made a great (and extremely difficult) panorama painting, has been under wraps for several months... but they have lots of other good stuff and we marveled at it all. My alternate ‘Nikko’ painting was better suited to a square format than to this sketchbook.  I wrote a blog post about it a couple of weeks ago. 


Our return to Tokyo via Lake Chuzenji at the top of the spectacular Kegon waterfall (three metres short of Niagara, 20 switchbacks up and 28 switchbacks down) was quite fantastic. This sketch shows the incredible number of switchbacks visible through the lacy interwoven evergreen and brilliant red foliage on our descent through the precipitous mountain forest.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 3

Asakusa Temple
Watercolour, crayon and marker sketch
©2015 Charlene Brown


Next (and we are still talking about our first day here) was the magnificent Asakusa Temple as night fell... pure magic.  The original (Buddhist) temple, the oldest in Tokyo, was founded in 645 CE and a (Shinto) shrine was built within the precincts of the temple about a thousand years later. During World War II, the temple was bombed and destroyed, but was rebuilt later and is a symbol of rebirth and peace to the Japanese people. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 2

(click on image to enlarge)

Meiji Shrine
Watercolour and crayon sketch
©2015 Charlene Brown

After our serene little interval in the Imperial Garden we were deemed good to go and toured the National Museum and the Edo/Tokyo History Museum before a late lunch. 

In mid-afternoon we visited the very popular Meiji Shrine.  It’s a huge place, so the fact that this was National Culture Day, and it is customary for families to bring five-year-old boys and seven-year-old girls, beautifully dressed in National costumes, to the most significant historic sites in Japan on weekends or holidays in November, only added to the enchantment and there was plenty of space for all of us.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Japan sketchbook - 1




Imperial East Garden in Tokyo
Watercolour, crayon and ink sketch
©2015 Charlene Brown

I’ve finally finished the ‘panorama format’ sketchbook paintings I started during our Art Gallery of Greater Victoria tour of Japan in early November. I'm scheduling them to be posted here between now and the end of the year – while we head south to meet our daughter and her family for Christmas in San Diego. (Yay!)

After what was for many of us the longest flight ever, our tour began with a leisurely stroll in the beautiful Imperial East Garden in the heart of Tokyo.  Initially I was taken aback by how green everything was, as I was looking forward to spectacular fall colours, but was assured by our guide that the season was much further along higher up in the mountains where we would be spending most of our time. 

I had brought along an array of orange and pink crayons, and did in fact find lots of applications for them, as you will see in a couple of days…

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Virtual Paintout in Ecuador

(click on image to enlarge)
Christmas in Baños de Agua Santa
Watercolour and crayon
Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in Ecuador this month. This seemed to offer a good chance of finding mountainous terrain to paint and I first headed for the capital, Quito, situated high in the Andes at an elevation of 2850 meters. 

The city is usually within sight of the spectacular Cayanbe Volcano… but the only views of Quito I could find were pretty hazy, so I headed down to Baños de Agua Santa, sometimes known as the  Gateway to the Amazon, as it is the last city still located in the mountains before reaching the jungle of the Amazon basin. The atmosphere was lovely there, and I thought this Streetviewwith the Christmas tree in the centre, was just right for a December painting.


Friday, December 4, 2015

My favourite places in Japan

(Click on image to enlarge)
Nikko Gate
Watercolour and crayon
©2015 Charlene Brown


It’s the torii gate before you reach the main part of the Nikko shrine. Torii gates are found on the approach or entrance to all Shinto shrines, marking the transition from the physical to the spiritual world. They are usually either unpainted or painted vermillion – and I think I prefer the unpainted ones, like this one at Nikko.
   

Having said that, I found upon my return from Japan that I took more photos of the thousands of vermillion torii gates at the Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto than just about any other place!  And one of the many sketches I started during my trip (and will paint some day soon) includes a couple of bright red torii gates in a village on Lake Ashi.