Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dead leaves and a dirty ground

It's been a gorgeous Fall and I can see why Kyoto is famous for its Autumn leaves. The last few weeks of November are one of the most popular times for tourists to visit, second only to the vast crowds who come to view the sakura (cherry blossoms). Among the most stunning of the leaves are the momiji or Japanese Maple.

Here's one transitioning from yellow to red or is it red to yellow?
And this is a cool photo of Victo.

We visited a popular Zen rock garden, Ryoan-ji and photographed the leaves there. The leaves are much smaller than then Maples in the US and are also famous for their brilliant red color.

Up close of the momiji in the tree before they fall to the ground. Near the end of Fall they lose some of their brilliance and start to litter the ground in drabber shades of their former selves.

Covering roads, moss and filling ponds, still quite vibrant!

They fill all of the Japanese countryside and cities, just as festive as Christmas lights.

I like the bold silhouette of this tree against the fierce orange of the leaves.

A garden Near Himenji castle when the leaves were starting to change.

A fabulous shade of yellow seen through an archers window at the castle.

From yellow to green

Green to red

A Ginko tree at the park near my house morphs into a flashy shade of yellow.

Victo admiring the vibrant momiji.

Near the temple was this old aqueduct and leaves covering the roots of the trees

Buddha is enjoying the leaves, cant you tell?

The shapes of the leaves also contrast with the traditional roofs and add some vibrancy to the normally subdued colors of the zen garden.

Some monks we saw visiting the Zen garden, I felt compelled to take a photograph because his robes looked so good amongst the fall leaves.

Orange and the weird evergreens

The red leaves are covering the ground nearby the Nanzen-ji Temple. It supposedly has some of the best leaves but I think we came a little too late.

An assemblage of Autumn colors.

Takagaraike park near my house is a great place to view trees up close and to enjoy the mountains as well.
More trees around the pond at Takagaraike. I go running here and get to enjoy the leaves as well as the tiny Japanese dogs dressed in sweaters. (I'm not kidding, sometimes they wear raincoats too!)
On the weekends Old Japanese couples gather around the pond with giant cameras and photograph the ducks, turtles and fish that live here.
One more shot of the mountains going bald. It's a shame these photos don't do the leaves justice. In person you can see the light shining through them and the colors are even brighter.

A view of the autumn leaves from Himenji Castle.

I've been busy the last few weeks, so I hope to have some more posts of work and trips before my family comes for the holidays!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Little Red Research Project

One of the classes I'm taking is a book class and for our assignment we were instructed to do a 12 page accordion book without words. I decided to use that as my guidelines for a reinterpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. In Japan she is known as Akazukin or Red Hood. The Japanese have lots of bento boxes, candy, hair combs and really cute post-its with Akazukin on them.

I had a lot of ideas about things I wanted to change in the story to make it feel fresh and more Japanese. I wanted the story to be contemporary but include traditional elements. Here's some of the first sketches of the characters. I looked through some Japanese fashion magazines and clipped out clothing I liked for the characters. I really had this strong image in my head of Lil Red in a bamboo forest, mostly because I think bamboo is so otherworldly and beautiful. From there I thought about other things I could change; have her riding a bike instead of walking with a basket.

Next I started thinking about the bamboo forest and the color palette I wanted to go with it.

Here's some bamboo reference I took.

I love yellows, greens and blues of the bamboo.

More bamboo

I painted a few photocopied versions of this before settling on colors for this one. I wanted to work with a limited range of colors for the bamboo but still make it feel inviting and lush.

Finally, I knew I needed to do a character study to get a handle on some of her movements and expressions. I figured it wouldn't hurt to include some background too. I love incorporating pattern into my work and I hate painting landscapes. So... I decided the best way to deal with this is to think of the background as small shapes and patterns. I think it works pretty well with my characters too.

So there you have it, the beginning of my Little Red Riding Hood or Akazukin. Next I'll post some sketches of my wolf, which is not a wolf but a Tanuki.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why I'm here and not at home eating a burrito...

I don't think I've touched on this yet, but I wanted to come to Japan for a few reasons. Firstly, I am very much inspired by the traditional imagery and the culture. I love the patterns that are used on kimono, paper and ceramics.

Many of which are inspired by nature and the 4 seasons.

I love the color combination in her clothing.

Traditional family crests with modern graphic appeal.

An old saddle. with elegant textures and patterns fusing.

Secondly, I've always enjoyed Ukiyo-e (traditional woodblock prints) and I wanted to learn more about the myths they depicted. Some of my favorite Ukiyo-e imagery has fantastic pictures of ghosts, demons, monsters or traditional tales with animals. I wanted to come here and learn more about the characters in these stories so that I can incorporate them into my work.

Foxes hung at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, each is done my an individual who then writes their wish on the back.

Finally, contemporary culture here is equally inspiring. The juxtaposition of the two is what makes Japan so crazy and fascinating. What I love most about Modern Japan is the way the Japanese borrow and incorporate words, food and characters from other cultures into their own. They sort of end up giving the elements they borrow new connotations.

Here's some examples:
Betty Boop eyelashes anyone?

Or perhaps a green tea ice cream setto complete with red bean sauce, rice balls and green tea?

Or would you fancy a game of tug of rope with a pair of Santas? You have to win to get your Christmas presents.

And I bet this little blond girl mask keeps away the crows from this rice field.

I wasn't sure at first how I could incorporate all of these elements into my research project. But, then I got here and it all sort of fell into place. I wanted to continually research traditional folklore and incorporate the characters from those into traditional fairy tales/folk stories from Western culture. An audience from the West would gain a better understanding of Japanese culture and history. At the same time it gives any Japanese viewers a chance to see their culture and history re imagined. So far most of my Japanese teachers and peers seem interested in my project and curious about my impression of their culture and traditions.

Thomas the Tank Engine, but as a bike pillow.

A Halloween inspired floral arrangement
So yeah.... these are all things that inspire me. Having an opportunity to document what I'm seeing in Japan and reflecting about it is so useful and this blog is giving me a chance to collect my thoughts, adventures and inspirations. I'm not convinced anyone is reading this, but if you are then that makes me pretty happy too!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tokyo a GoGo!

I spent a few days in the end of October through the beginning of November in Tokyo. My trip was mostly seeing the sights, shopping, and delicious food. We saw a lot, so I'll just put up favorite photos and say a little something about them.

We went to the Ghibli Museum on the first day we arrived in Tokyo, its a museum of the work of animator Hayao Miyazaki. His most famous movies are probably Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and my Neighbor Totoro. I haven't seen most of his movies. But his most recent one, Ponyo was released in the US and I enjoyed it a lot. Here's from the roof: the building was especially designed for his work and its very whimsical. All of the details from the stained glass inside to the light fixtures have images from Miyazaki movies on them. You aren't allowed to photograph inside the building, but we took some photos from the roof.

It was a beautiful sunny day and Victo and I made our way from the overnight bus to the museum. We were a little sleepy but determined to see the museum.

On the roof of the museum there is a statue of the Iron Giant. Having just seen Ponyo right before I left it was great to see sketches and the gorgeous hand painted backgrounds from the movie. If you are a Miyazaki fan and are in Tokyo its a must!

I stayed in a the Ninja Hostel in Asakusabashi!
It was cheap, clean and I got this cool cabin bed!

Here's the room of cabin beds.

The inside of my cabin included; a light, a shelf and an outlet so I could charge my phone.

Here's me looking out from my bed!

Victo and I spent a day sight seeing and we grabbed a beautiful bento set lunch near the Asakusa temple. It had soup, chirashi (sushi on rice) and a variety of delicious pickles. The outside of the container is painted to match the famous lantern of Asakusa.

Asakusa is a very popular tourist destination, its quite crowded with lots of other tourists each trying to get a photo of themselves under the lantern.

Past the lantern are stalls leading up to the temple filled with kitschy gifts, food, and other souvenirs.

I really liked these dog costumes, too bad they don't come in a larger size to fit Lexey or Chloe.
Past the stalls are another set of lanterns and these abnormally large sandals.

The lantern is bigger than me!

The inside of the temple has these beautiful painted ceilings, last time I was here I tried to photograph them but I wasn't able to get a good photo.

Around the outside of the temple there are small shrines, a koi pond and a garden.

Yay Koi!

More street vendor food: takoyaki! (octopus cooked batter)

Seafood on a stick!

Olivier and I took a trip to the 53rd floor of Roppongi Hills,
where there is an art museum and this great view of the city.

I spy... children standing in a heart shape outside!

Giant bowl of ramen in Shibuya or Shinjuku?

We also went to the Tokyo Design Week Exhibition where Olivier was attacked by a preying mantis.

We managed to meet up with friends of Victo's and Olivier's. Victo's friend Nori brought us delicious dessert from a great place in Tokyo. Banana tart and cream puffs!

Victo and Nori with the cream puffs!

Laeyn was able to meet up with us so
we grabbed some dinner at a delicious Chinese place and we got some drinks too!

Harajuku, the younger fashion district, was one of my favorite places to walk around. There's great shopping there that appeals to a younger crowd, mostly teenagers and twenty somethings. In Harajuku you can find lots of creperies, sock stores, toy shops and trendy boutiques.

Shinjuku at night looks like lots of other big cities.

...Except that its even bigger and so very crowded. We had a great time in Tokyo; running for the last train, grabbing okanomiyaki , karoke and visiting with friends. I look forward to going back again when my family comes to visit!