Gate, Kyoto

The two sketches featured are of the entrance to a temple or perhaps a garden, in Kyoto. I’m not exactly sure, my photo-reference doesn’t state where exactly in Kyoto this was and I don’t recall where it was either, as the photo dates from several years ago.

I made these sketches a few months back – I didn’t put them up on the blog, probably because I wasn’t very happy with them.  Looking at them again now, I’m still not really happy with either of them but I think there’s value in publishing both the bad and the good. In fact, looking at them now all I can really see is a catalogue of errors!

The first sketch was made on a sheet of student-grade paper, Daler-Rowney Aquafine (A4 size), which I then cut into two so it’s roughly 5″ x 7″ or a little larger. I’ve read and heard from quite a few professionals now, who say that it’s not a good idea to learn watercolour using so-called student-grade paper as the lower quality of these papers just makes it more difficult to learn and get good results.  However, I’m not going to use that excuse here, I think it’s just my technique is awful!



Thatched Entrance Gate, Kyoto


The second sketch is a slight improvement in some ways, I think I did a fairly good job with the texture on the walls and the road and pavement (sidewalk) is okay. The most glaring problem is the roof, which looks distinctly off!

One point is that this sketch was made in a small 5″ x 7″ Bockingford spiral pad with rough paper. Rough paper is I feel a poor choice for this, what was intended to be a fairly tight sketch – a rough paper I think would work better with a more loose approach.

Thatched Entrance Gate, Kyoto

Shrine, Gokayama-go

These are from a trip a while back to the areas of Gokayama-go and Shirakawa-go. They are a UNESCO world heritage site famous for their traditional architecture, the steep-sided thatched gassho-zukuri houses.

For these sketches, however, instead of the houses I concentrated on a shrine in Gokayama.

I also tried using a paper which I purchased recently and had never used before, Bee Paper, advertised as a 100% cotton watercolour paper. I bought the paper after watching Teoh Yi Chie’s review. Having used it now, my impression of it is that it is useful for practice pieces but nothing more than that.

In the first sketch, I applied masking fluid, on the torii, only too late realising that I hadn’t tested the paper to see whether it would handle masking fluid well. It doesn’t! Some of the masking fluid pulled off the paper surface with it. And then I went and repeated exactly the same mistake on the second sketch, thinking that the first time it happened was just because I had left the masking fluid on too long!

Another thing I noticed was that the paint seemed to behave oddly or at least not in ways that I am used to. After applying a wash for instance the paper seemed to take an inordinately long time to dry.

And then there’s the surface texture. The paper is cold-pressed so it has a slight texture to it but the texture has a regular, uniform, machine-like appearance to it which seems less than ideal.

So, all-in-all, not terribly impressed with the paper but I’ll continue to use it for practice and testing ideas.

So, the sketches turned out sort of okay. Not exactly what I was looking for, but I think this is a scene that I will return to again.


Shrine, Gokayama-go, Bee Paper, 6×9 inches, 300gsm


This is the first version; you can probably see the marks on the paper where I tore the surface when taking off the masking fluid!


Shrine, Gokayama-go, Bee Paper, 6×9 inches, 300gsm


This is my initial, quick pencil sketch of the scene.