This is a shrine at Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata prefecture, one of a group of shrines near the base of the trail to Mt. Haguro. This was meant as a quick-ish study, thinking about using this in a watercolour when I get back into that medium again. I messed up with this, there are some issues with the perspective on the wall of the shrine nearest the viewer. By the time I noticed there was a problem it was too late but I decided to try and at least progress it to a more complete state.
The Enoshima Electric Railway or the Enoden as it more commonly referred to is a small railway line in Kanagawa prefecture that runs between Fujisawa and Kamakura, the latter being the location of a giant Amida Buddha statue. This sketch is from the entrance to the Goryo-jinja shrine, in Hase, just two or three stops before Kamakura. Here there is a railroad crossing just before the entrance. I think it makes for an interesting contrast.
A thatched roof tea-house in Nara, named Mizutani-chaya. Situated near to Nara park and the famous Kasuga Taisha shrine. The watercolour version was made in a small Bockingford spiral pad, 5″ x 7″. Not sure how I feel about this, the values are wrong, they don’t quite make logical sense and there is a weird “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” vibe to it! I really need to be practising a lot more than I am.
Line sketch in ink prior to adding the watercolour.
Initial pencil sketch – proportions were a little off here but I fixed that in the line and wash sketch.
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!
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.
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.
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!
This is my initial, quick pencil sketch of the scene.
This was meant as a throwaway exercise on cheap paper, trying out a technique of using masking fluid to reserve areas of the paper from paint application. It’s kind of scrappy, completely lacking any finesse but I feel it does nevertheless communicate; I like the sense of light and the vitality.
There is a massive metal utility pole in front of this shrine, literally a couple of feet in front of it, which I’ve removed from the sketch – I was thinking of including it but in the end decided against it.
I used this sketch as an opportunity to try out my Derwent waterbrushes, which I’ve had for a while but haven’t really used them. This is my second sketch using those brushes – I feel I still have some way to go before I feel entirely comfortable with them. Various things went wrong while painting this, the intended result was different to what it is but in spite of my clumsiness I think it still came out sort of okay. Maybe I’ll redo this at some point.
Below the watercolour sketch is an earlier ink sketch I made of the shrine with my micron pens.
Decided, as an exercise, to render the Buddhist monk statue from Motsu-ji in watercolour, pen and wash style. The statue was partially sheltered from the bright sunlight by trees that provided some dappling.
One sees stone-water basins (temizuya) like these at the entrance to every shrine in Japan. This is one I spotted at Chuson-ji temple in Hiraizumi. It is the first stage of the process in visitng a shrine, a ritual purification, using the long handled ladles to cleanse the hands and the mouth. This one is quite plain, many have their own pavilions.
As an exercise I drew it again with my Pigma Micron pens, which I started using only recently.