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 that looking at a white 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 travel East would be just too much.
I wasn’t born Japanese and only got 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.
So with that introduction, I am giving you the Sketch of the Week that was inspired by photos I took of cats hanging out and around Kyoto temples. For the most part, they looked well fed. I imagine they earn their keep as mousers and keeping temples rodent free. These drawings were done using a technique called “Metalpoint” that was widely popular among artists during the middle ages and Renaissance. Plus some soft graphite pencil for the darker parts – metalpoint is really limiting to the levels of tone you can achieve but over time the scratched lines turn a warm sepia – in about four years. I did mention patience earlier. It involves a metal tool or stylus, scratching the surface of paper prepared with layers of a medium. In this case, I’m using Chinese titanium white watercolor pigment. I just got 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 than the watercolor pigment.