Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nests Revealed

11/30/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink,
100 lb. paper
The thermometer still reads 31 F, but the sunshine is brilliant, and yesterday’s high wind has died down completely, so we bundled up for a brisk walk up to Maple Leaf Park. I was fine as long as we kept walking, but as soon as I stopped for a very quick sketch, my hands froze (fingerless gloves help only for a little while).

One thing I enjoy about sketching trees in winter is that all the abandoned nests are suddenly revealed. 

Hey, its the last day of November! This is sketch No. 64 for NaNoDrawMo - not quite as many as last years 72, but not too shabby, either. How did you do?

"Admiral Ozzel, you have failed me for the last time."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Outside Urban Sketching from the Inside

11/29/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, watercolor,
Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
We’re having unusual weather here this weekend. Yesterday we had high winds and heavy rain all day, but the temperatures were in the mid-50s. The mercury dropped by more than 20 degrees overnight, and we woke to a couple of inches of snow. Then the wind kept blowing, despite sunshine, and with the wind chill factor, we’re down to 22 F (although the thermometer currently reads 31)! Brrrr! I know that’s nothing by east coast standards, but it’s pretty dang chilly for these parts.

Needless to say, I didn’t go out to sketch, although the sun looked tempting, even in the brutal wind. As I was admiring the snow through our front windows, I noticed interesting shadows that the power lines were casting on the new pole (on the left) in front of our house. (That’s the pole that was installed in August right next to the old pole.) The lines themselves formed a fascinating abstract pattern (once I got over their stark ugliness). And then to top it all off (literally), a flicker landed on the top of the old pole and stayed long enough for me to sketch him several times.

11/29/14 Take-sumi ink

Friday, November 28, 2014

Leftovers for Lunch

11/28/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL140 lb. paper
Were you hoping for pie? Actually, we do have some pie left, but as I dished out some leftovers for lunch today, I decided to sketch my plate instead of pie because I figured it would be a bit more challenging. I drew the asparagus and broccoli and then started on the dressing when I realized there was nothing to “draw” – better to go straight to paint with amorphous subjects like mashed potatoes and candied yams. Who knew that sketching big blobs of starch could be so difficult! It was worse than painting clouds.

Speaking of big blobs of starch, I tried a new recipe for candied yams this year: Toffee Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole, which Greg found on the KCTS9 website. It was so sweet and yummy that we could have had it for dessert! (I used actual yams, not sweet potatoes.) This recipe is a keeper. Good thing Thanksgiving comes only once a year!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Study in Ellipses

11/26/14 Platinum Carbon ink, Pitt Artist Pen, Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman
and Birn Beta sketchbook
The other day I showed you a still life of ingredients that would be unlikely to appear in the same recipe. Today it’s a still life of the main ingredients for the single-most important and non-negotiable food item to appear on tomorrow’s table (and it may be the only recipe I know by heart!).

All the cans and jars turned out to be a study in ellipses more than anything else. Even after examining Liz Steel’s helpful tutorial on how to draw ellipses (as they appear in tea cups), I still have trouble with them.

You may have guessed from my urban sketches that I hate doing lettering (as on signage, advertising, etc.) and generally avoid it. Since the eggs were the only ingredient that didn’t contain text, I could see that this still life would take a while if I struggled through all that lettering. Heck, I have a pie to bake! I decided to see how little lettering I could get away with and still evoke the products accurately. 

My plan is to sketch the remains of the finished product tomorrow, but in case it gets fully devoured, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rainy Day Therapod

11/25/14 Diamine Sargasso Sea ink, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
After dropping off my car for servicing in the U District, I dashed through today’s relentless drizzle to the Burke Museum a few blocks away. The last time I visited, I had sketched the stegosaur skeleton in the main dinosaur exhibit, and despite my best efforts, I didn’t scale correctly, so I had to chop off his tail and put it on another page. Today I sketched his buddy right next to him – a therapod dinosaur, whose front half I had sketched back in January. This time I scaled accurately and managed to fit the whole skeleton onto a sketchbook spread (barely).

How fortuitous that the time it takes me to sketch a therapod is just about the same as the time it takes to get my oil changed.

Sadly, I’m running out of Burke dinosaurs. I have one more large one left to sketch; after that, I’ll move on to the small prehistoric cat skeletons and the animal skulls. After that, I might have to plan a trip to the Smithsonian for a bone fix!

Monday, November 24, 2014

An Unlikely Recipe

11/24/14 DeAtramentis Document Brown ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman &
Birn Beta sketchbook
Looking around the kitchen for something to sketch, I found that the only produce on our counter today was two bananas and a garlic with one clove taken out. Be thankful that I was just looking for a still life and not trying to sketch a recipe.

(Can you tell it’s still life season? Last year for NaNoDrawMo, I ended up sketching a whole alphabet of still lifes!)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Comparison of Three Waterproof Inks

11/23/14 DeAtramentis Document Brown ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman
and Birn Beta sketchbook
For the past couple of years, I’ve been using Platinum Carbon Black exclusively when I’ve needed a waterproof fountain pen ink. Not only does it dry almost immediately and become waterproof in a matter of seconds, it has never clogged any of my Lamy, Pilot or Sailor pens.

Before finding it, I had tried a few Noodler’s inks that were supposed to be waterproof and even “bulletproof” (waterproof as well as bleachproof). In addition to their varying degrees of so-called waterproofness (I wasn’t very concerned about chlorine!), my main issue was that they seemed to clog my pens. Annoyed and frustrated, I got rid of all those inks and swore never to use Noodler’s again. And once I found Platinum Carbon, I had no need to look further.

At one point I wanted a little color variety, so I tried a waterproof blue (Sailor Sei-Boku Blue-Black), but it is a little too bright a blue to use with watercolors (this Gingerbread Village sketch is an example). I also wanted a waterproof brown, and since Platinum behaves so well for me, Platinum Carbon Sepia seemed like a natural choice. Unlike black, however, sepia is too pale and reddish for my taste (this sketch of Santa is an example). After those brief distractions, I stuck with black, and for the most part I’ve been happy.

Lately, though, especially in the fall when I was sketching so many trees, I started wanting a waterproof brown again. All that red, orange and yellow foliage seemed to demand a warmer ink color than black. Noodler’s #41 Brown is a popular choice among sketchers, so despite my skepticism about Noodler’s, I gave it a try when Peggy offered me a sample.

A few things about it made it less than ideal: The color is a bit cooler than I like in a brown, and it’s not quite as waterproof as Platinum Carbon. In my timed test, Noodler’s #41 washed a bit even after 20 minutes of drying time, while Platinum was completely waterproof after 60 seconds (see below). And dangit if it didn’t clog my trusty Sailor, which no ink has ever clogged! (That’s it! No more Noodler’s for me. Ever!)

It might be difficult to see in this scan, but DeAtramentis Document Brown was
completely waterproof after only 30 seconds. Noodler's 41 wasn't completely
waterproof even after 20 minutes. (Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook)
Then I started reading that Liz Steel was raving about DeAtramentis Document Brown. Its waterproofness seemed to satisfy her, and she liked the color (which looked good to me, too, in her scans). I went out to to order a sample. (Inksamplepalooza is still going on – all ink samples are 20% off through Nov. 30! If you’ve been wanting to try some new inks, now is the time.)

Immediately, I liked the color – a rich, strong, warm brown. I tested it with Noodler’s #41 against Platinum Carbon Black, and its drying time was just as fast as Platinum, if not faster – it was completely waterproof after 30 seconds. I’ve had it in my pen for only a couple of days, so it’s too soon to tell whether it has a tendency to clog (stay tuned). But as of today, it looks like a winner.

Edited 12/15/14: My idle-time test on DeAtramentis Document Brown is complete; check out the results.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


11/22/14 India ink, twig, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The afternoon turned out drier than expected, so after lunch with a friend, I drove through the Crown Hill neighborhood looking for a sketch.

Although most of fall’s colors are gone, and I certainly miss them, I also love the stark beauty of bare trees – and I love to sketch them. The 5-Day Black & White Challenge a couple weeks ago taught me that making monochrome (or mostly monochrome) sketches of bare trees forces me to stay focused on the harsh, brittle shapes the trees form against the white sky. I sketched the same tree twice – once with India ink and twig, and once with a cool gray ink and tan colored pencil.

11/22/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun ink, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencil

October – November Sketchbook Bound

Rain – it’s in the forecast as well as the hindcast and the currentcast. A good time for binding my October – November sketchbook. On the front cover are maples at U-Village to remind me of fall’s splendor (the yellow covers and orange binding thread complement the colors); on the back is a different sort of tree – a moss-hairy one from our trip to the Olympic Peninsula.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Not that Bride Again!

11/21/14 Diamine Sargasso Sea ink, Caran d'Ache
Museum water-soluble colored pencil,
Canson all-media paper
With dismay, I walked into Gage’s life drawing open studio this morning to find that the same model I had sketched more than a month ago was again wearing the same bridal gown in the same pose. I’d forgotten that the Friday morning long-pose sessions were still reserved for “Artist’s Choice,” so the same artist was still working on her painting. But I’d driven over in the pouring rain – why not stay and make the best of it?

Despite the model’s mundane pose, I had to admit that the dress was a fun challenge – all those voluminous folds of fabric were good practice. I sketched her three times – once each in water-soluble pencil, fountain pen ink and India ink with a twig. By the fourth sketch, I was bored with her; I turned 90 degrees and sketched the other artists.

(This makes 53 sketches for NaNoDrawMo!)

11/21/14 India ink, twig, Canson all-media paper
11/21/14 Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored
pencil, Canson drawing paper
11/21/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Museum
pencils, Canson all-media paper

The Sketch Pistols Come to My ‘Hood

11/20/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
For a strong introvert like me, very few things will get me out of the house to meet new people on a rainy November night when I could be curled up in my recliner reading a good book and sipping hot tea. Sketching is one of them.

I’ve been in the Sketch Pistols’ Facebook group for more than a year now, but they always seem to meet in neighborhoods outside of the driving radius (about a mile) that I’m willing to go on such a November night. But last night the Seattle chapter met at the Green Lake Bauhaus Books & Coffee about five minutes away, so I had no excuse.

A fun and lively group showed up for drinking and drawing. I noticed that the women sketched other people in the café, while the men sketched imaginary people in their minds. A diverse group, indeed! Thanks to Dave Adams for organizing us.

11/20/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink
11/20/14 Diamine Sargasso Sea ink

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I’m on the Urban Sketchers Blog!

My guest post is live on the international Urban Sketchers blog! My thanks to Suhita Shirodkar on the editorial team for inviting me to blog about my urban tree sketches!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


11/19/14 Diamine Sargasso Sea ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
You know I’m not the kind of sketcher who shies away from ugly or unpleasant subject matter. It’s not that I seek out things like cell towers or dead bunnies, but sometimes the unappealing still has a story to tell.

At the Wedgwood Starbucks this afternoon, I was enjoying sketching a young man’s hand, which he repeatedly put back in the same place against his face after taking sips of coffee. His overgrown hair was a good shading opportunity, as was his T-shirt. Overall, he was an ideal model – seated in good light, close enough that I could see him well yet unaware of me sketching him, and staying stock-still most of the time.

I was fully into the sketch when I saw that a good two or three inches of his butt crack were exposed above his jeans. Repulsed and yet somehow compelled, I couldn’t resist. What I was really tempted to do was take a picture with my phone and show it to him as I walked by to leave. Instead, I’m just posting this sketch of him on my blog.

On the upside, I’d forgotten how much I like using icy Diamine Sargasso Sea ink, especially during the cold months. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

So Ugly It’s Ugly

11/18/14 various inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencils, Zig markers, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
A while back the Urban Sketchers Flickr group theme was “So Ugly It’s Beautiful.” Several candidates had come to mind besides the one I ended up sketching then – an electrical substation in my neighborhood. This morning after an errand in north Seattle, I took the opportunity to sketch another candidate high on my list – these twin cell towers on Aurora Avenue North. A nearby Home Depot parking lot gave me a suitable view of these ubiquitous towers that are somehow even more unattractive than standard utility poles.

Cutting the Fat Again

IN: essential materials in my newly slimmed-down daily-carry bag.
In preparation for my trip to Europe last summer, I put my daily-carry Rickshaw bag on a diet. After much careful consideration, I jettisoned all art materials and tools except what I considered to be the bare essentials for sketching in Spain and Germany.

After I returned home, and in the year and a half since that time, things kept creeping back in. I pared it down again shortly before I went to Brazil this year, but now I find my bag overweight again (we all know how that happens!).

Actually, it’s not so much the weight (which is still tolerable) but the bulk that made me realize it was time to cut the fat. The bag’s inner compartments were so stuffed that it was getting difficult to dig things out, and when my “Stefano” sketchbook was also in it, I could barely get my hands in.

Another motivator was that we’re moving rapidly toward winter when I sketch mostly indoors and tend to prefer the monochrome simplicity of pen and ink (with just a marker or two for color). Even the brightly colored trees that I delighted in painting last month are now mostly brown or bare, so I won’t miss color there.

OUT: the "fat" nonessentials!
The fat I cut was ruthless (shown at left): my watercolor paint box, four fountain pens with various ink colors, two waterbrushes filled with more inks, seven colored pencils, three Zig markers and a few other assorted writing instruments I consider “nice to have” but not essential.

What stayed in my now lean-mean-sketching-machine of a bag (see top of page)? Three fountain pens (waterproof black plus water-soluble black and brown), two waterbrushes, Kuretake fountain brush pen (for bare trees), three Zig markers, three waterbrushes filled with ink (bright blue for sky, dark blue and gray for shadows), two colored pencils and – a new essential combo – a twig and small jar of India ink. (Not shown is my still-essential Stefano sketchbook, which doesn’t stay in my daily-carry bag if I’m only going shopping or to yoga; I grab it as I’m going out the door toward any potential sketch opportunity. Also not shown is my tiny DIY sketchbooklet, which does always stay in the bag.)

A small belt pouch now holds the "fat."
Of course, every dieter cheats, and I’m no exception. All of the jettisoned supplies went directly into a belt pouch (shown at right) I bought this past summer when I was experimenting with the“quiver” concept: A small holster-like bag that would contain my essential supplies at my side while larger items stayed in a backpack.

My current thought is that when I’m on my way to a full-on sketch outing (defined by me as at least a couple of hours dedicated to sketching, with or without other sketchers), I could easily grab the quiver – now full of my second-tier “fat” supplies – and throw it into my car or over my shoulder. It would be a good test of which, if any, of those jettisoned supplies are actually essential. For day-to-day quick sketches (such as trees I capture on my way home from errands or meetings), the lean kit would certainly suffice.

Of course, my color needs are seasonal. I’ll probably add a couple of red and green markers for the holidays. And come spring, I’ll certainly want my watercolors back in my everyday-carry. We’ll see if I stick to this “diet” until then.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wider Than Tall

11/17/14 India ink, twig, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

Driving through my neighborhood, I spotted a black locust tree with an asymmetrical shape that might have been natural but was more likely due to the nearby power lines. Still, it isnt nearly as haphazardly chopped as most trees I’ve been sketching. It still retains its gracefully wide reach.

11/17/14 India ink, twig, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Its reach, in fact, is so wide that my first attempt (at left) wouldn’t fit properly on the sketchbook page. Somewhere in my brain is the incorrect “knowledge” that trees are taller than they are wide. After I saw that my sketch wasn’t proportioned correctly, I sight-sized closely and realized that this tree is, in fact, a little wider than it is tall. I tried again, this time using a full sketchbook spread. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pioneer Square Station

11/16/14 Platinum Carbon and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun inks, Kuretake brush pen, watercolor, Zig marker, Canson XL

Our outdoor thermometer read 33 degrees when I left the house this morning to head for Pioneer Square Station. Despite the chill, the bright sunshine brought out a good showing of Urban Sketchers Seattle to sketch in and around the Metro tunnel station.

I decided to get the hard one out of the way first – the view from the mezzanine level out toward the tunnel, plus a few sketchers.

The tunnel station turned out to be colder than I thought it would be. By the time I finished that sketch, I was so chilled that I had to go outdoors to seek sunshine! I set my stool down on Second and Yesler facing west. Just as I was finishing up, I ran into Michele, so we ducked inside Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub to warm up with coffee and a quick sketch of the bar. 

11/16/14 India ink, twig
11/16/14 India ink, twig

Saturday, November 15, 2014

In the Zone at Third Place Commons

11/15/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Canson XL
After attending a meeting at Third Place Commons this morning, I stayed for lunch and a little sketching. I wish this place were a little closer to me – it’s ideal for practicing sketches of people of all ages. The huge space with lots of tables is congenial for small, informal meetings, chatting over coffee or just staring into one’s laptop screen. Although I’ve sketched there several times (most recently last summer when I sketched Ciscoe Morris), it had been a couple of years since I was there without a specific event as the focus.

Today I didn’t even try to give these “floating heads” a story or context as I often try to do when sketching people in the urban landscape. I had my choice of so many faces that I just sketched whoever sat in front of me. (I probably could have paid a little more attention to proportion when drawing the woman reaching for her daughter’s salad – her arm looks about 10 feet long!)

This type of sketching is, for me, what Liz Steel refers to as “reflex sketching” (which, for her, is usually of teacups): being mostly on autopilot and in “the zone.” I think it’s the only subject matter that can kick me into the zone immediately, and I find it completely relaxing and meditative. I really lose all sense of time and space. I could have stayed there sketching people all day! (Unfortunately, I couldn’t.)

I wish I could move that quickly and easily into the zone with any subject matter. I usually do get there eventually, regardless of the subject, but with architecture or complex scenes, it takes me a while to get past the technical processing (where is the vanishing point?) or internal arguments (Don’t sketch that! That’s too hard!) before I can get into the pure pleasure of the eye-brain-hand connection.

What kind of subject matter puts you in the zone immediately?

Friday, November 14, 2014


11/14/14 India ink, twig, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
With one day left for the 5-Day Black & White Challenge, and since I forgot to leave my second sketch at 6 Arms uncolored as I had intended, I stopped on the way back to sketch this tree a few blocks from home. Unfortunately, I don’t have a color version for this one. Seeing it in full color several weeks ago, I had planned to come back to sketch it. Alas, I was too late – it was completely bare today.

6 Arms, Sore Neck

11/14/14 various inks, watercolor, Canson XL paper
It had been more than a year since the Friday ad hoc sketchers met at 6 Arms pub on Capitol Hill. With good food, big windows and lots of intriguing décor, it was an ideal location to sketch as well as to celebrate my birthday (a little early)!

Last year I started off with a sketch of the pub’s six-armed mascot on the wall. Although the place is filled with many interesting objects to sketch, she was still the most compelling to me. Seated at a sunny corner booth, I had a great view of her – straight up. My neck got sore, so I had to take frequent breaks, including a long one to enjoy a yummy veggie burger.

After lunch I remembered that I still needed one more sketch for the last day of the 5-Day Black & White Challenge, so I pulled out my twig and India ink to sketch the bar. Then I got to chatting and started adding color, forgetting that I had intended to leave it monochrome!

Thanks to the Friday sketchers who joined me for my birthday celebration!

11/14/14 India ink, twig, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencil
Standing from left: Linda, Tina, Darsie, Warren, Cate. Seated: Peggy and Kate
Natalie (who had to leave before the group photo) and Tina

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dark Blue Shadows

11/13/14 Kuretake brush pen, colored pencil,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
A relatively tall tree grows in a traffic circle just next to the Tibetan Monastery (which I had sketched a couple months ago) in the Greenwood neighborhood. For day 4 of the 5-Day Black & White Challenge, I used a Kuretake brush pen to sketch the tree (plus a gray colored pencil for the annoying car that parked in front of me). The sketch seemed to be missing something besides color, and I wasn’t as happy with it as I have been with the previous black-and-white sketches I’ve done this week. I tried again with color, and I think I was better able to capture a sense of depth this time.

I wish the crow had stuck around for the second sketch! (I know I could have faked it in. . . I’m too honest a sketcher for my own good.)

11/13/14 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Twilight inks,
colored pencil, Pitt Artist Pen, watercolor

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Three Trees, Three Times

11/12/14 Kuretake brush pen, Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-
syogun ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Nearly two months ago I sketched this same Greenwood neighborhood traffic circle from the opposite direction. Last time I thought it was interesting that the three maples were showing such a wide range of color from pure green to yellow to bright red. This afternoon the easternmost tree was completely bare, while the other two still had a scattering of yellow leaves left.

First I sketched the scene with a twig and India ink (for the 5-Day Black & White Challenge). I loved the stark monochrome look of it so much that I tried it again, this time with my Kuretake brush pen, which I often use to sketch bare trees in winter. Finally I tried it one more time with twig and ink with the addition of touches of color.

(Yes, the sky is bright blue behind those trees! Even though the temperature is only in the high 20s and 30s, we are still enjoying sunshine!)

11/12/14 India ink, twig, Fuyu-syogun ink
11/12/14 India ink, twig, various inks, Zig marker

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Raking in Shoreline

11/11/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Zig marker, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
We are having a cold (though not as cold as it is for my Midwest relatives . . . brrrr!) but beautifully sunny streak of weather this week! On my way home from a meeting in Shoreline, I drove around looking for a sketch I could do from my car. I didn’t have to go very far to find this maple – once huge and glorious, now bifurcated. Just as I was wishing I had a car or some other object nearby for scale, a teenager came out of the house and started raking. The poor kid has a big chore ahead – that maple had dropped a lot of leaves.

After I finished the color version, I got out my Kuretake brush pen and gray ink in a waterbrush to make the monochromatic version for the 5-Day Black & White Challenge. I used to think the brush pen was clumsy and difficult to control, but compared to a twig, it’s a piece o cake!

11/11/14 Kuretake brush pen, Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun ink

Monday, November 10, 2014

Five-Day Black & White

11/10/14 India ink, twig, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
As if I don’t have enough sketching challenges this month!

On top of NaNoDrawMo and my own self-imposed addition of a delayed Inktober (not to mention my weekly homework for Sketchbook Skool, which I’m behind on), my friend Gary just invited me to join the 5-Day Black and White Challenge on Facebook! For the latter, participants post one monochromatic photo daily for five days and also invite another photographer to participate each of those days. (Gary changed it up a bit by inviting me to sketch my entries.)

It’s hard for me to pass up any kind of sketching challenge, and I realized that sketching in ink only is the same as sketching in black and white, and they all count toward NaNoDrawMo, so I’m not really adding to my homework pile. So I accepted his challenge!

Here’s Day 1: a tree on the next block of Northeast 81st from our house, just west of Fifth Northeast. I’ve sketched this maple several times in all seasons, most recently when it was fully leafed in April. I usually sketch it while facing west, so today I sketched it from the opposite side. Asymmetrical, it always seems to grow in a slightly northerly direction. True to form, it’s completely bare on one side but still has a few leaves hanging on on its north-facing side.

11/10/14 Platinum Carbon and Noodler's #41 inks,
watercolor, Zig markers
Of course, I can’t resist sketching a tree in autumn with color, so I sketched it again from the same spot. (At least if I get challenged to a five-day watercolor challenge on Facebook, I’m ready!)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kirara Logo

11/9/14 Pitt Artist's Pen, colored pencils, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
In August 2001, Greg and I visited Japan with part of my extended family on a tour of Yamaguchi prefecture on the western end of Honshu. The tour included attendance at a major expo highlighting the prefecture’s culture, commerce and industry. Called Kirara (a play on the word for sparkling or glittering), the expo culminated with a spectacular electronic and fireworks display (I’m amazed that I was able to find a link to the show 13 years later!).

Although the Kirara expo doesnt really stand out in my memory, the trip itself is special to us for a couple of reasons: For one, it was not only our first (of several so far) trip to Japan; it was also our first trip with a passport. (It may now seem like we travel frequently, but that has only been true the past few years.) Secondly, we returned home from that trip only days before 9/11, so it was the last time we flew without going through the TSA security procedures that we all now know and love so well. After that, the world was forever changed, so I still associate a sense of innocence with that first trip to Japan.

Here we are at the expo with a 3-D version of the logo characters.
The logo for the Kirara expo included a musical band of five animal mascots who appeared in many forms all over the expo grounds. The Japanese are famous for their love of all things cute – Japan is the birthplace of Hello Kitty, after all. Since grown Japanese men have no problem wearing clothing or carrying backpacks with cute icons on them, the official expo T-shirt was emblazoned with this logo – and this logo only. There was no conservative (non-cute) alternative.

Of course my family ended our expo visit in the gift shop, where I spotted the T-shirts. I decided it would be a terrific idea if everyone in my family got the shirts and wore them on the flight home, expressing some kind of family team spirit. Everyone managed to dredge up enough spirit to buy the shirts, but I didn’t see many wearing them (I’m guessing my brother wouldn’t have been caught dead in a “cute” shirt even in the privacy of his own home).

Greg and me in our Kirara shirts at Kansai airport.
I think my nephew Jason was the only other family
member who wore his on the flight, but I couldn't
find a photo of him wearing it.
I, on the other hand, not only wore my Kirara T-shirt on the flight home; I continued to wear it to Jazzercise, to wash the car, to clean the bathroom or to do any other activity that required my least formal attire. I tell you all of this seemingly irrelevant information because today, 13 years later, I’ve decided to retire that shirt. (A hole finally appeared in the armpit after its last washing.) Despite what you may be thinking, I’m not one of those people who keeps on wearing clothes until they are rags, but I guess I was sentimental about that shirt. (And although the logo is a bit faded, that T-shirt has held up better than most!)

Normally if I’m feeling sentimental about an object that needs to be tossed, I get Greg to take a photo of me with the object, and then I can let it go. This time I decided to memorialize the logo by sketching it. I tried to reproduce the details and colors as faithfully as possible. Despite the many years that I wore the shirt, I had never studied the logo as carefully as I did today. It incorporates an amazing number of colors – I had to use 12 colored pencils!

OK, now I can toss it. (But it’s not the last time I’ll see the logo; it also appears on a dishtowel that I still use!)
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