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People have been asking me ever since I returned from my three-week adventure traveling through Japan, has the trip made a profound impact on my artwork? “Oh, you must be bursting with ideas, got all this creative inspiration, so on and so on…” I sincerely wish that were true. But I’m being patient. We all know as artists, looking at a blank sheet of watercolor paper, (or a blank canvas or blank Word doc), can strike apprehension, anxiety, and downright dread. Adding the pressure of coming up with something marvelous based on influences from my travels East would be just too much.

I wasn’t born Japanese and only exposed to the cultures, customs and their way of viewing the world. I have much to learn about their world. I don’t intend to create work that looks like it was created by a Japanese artist. It’s just not possible and it’s important to be true to yourself. “Write what you know” is the sage advice writers are given and in some respects that would be true for visual artists in order for the work to feel authentic to themselves and their audience.

Kyoto Kitty Two © Kristin Maija Peterson

With the above introduction, I am giving you the Sketch of the Week inspired by photos I took of cats hanging out and around Kyoto temples. For the most part, they look well fed. I imagine they earn their keep as mousers, keeping temples rodent free.

I did these drawings using “MetalPoint” a technique that was widely popular among artists during the middle ages and Renaissance — plus soft graphite pencil for the darker parts — MetalPoint is limiting in the levels of tone you can achieve. Only over time will the scratched lines turn a warm sepia — in about four years, give or take.

The process involves using a metal tool or stylus and scratching a drawing into the surface of paper that has been prepared with layers of a medium. In this case, I’m using Chinese Titanium White watercolor pigment as a medium. I just purchased a bottle of Gesso as an alternative medium and have a number of sheets of watercolor paper slathered up drying out in the basement. I’m excited to try it out and see if it fairs better as a medium than the watercolor pigment.

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