Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nara Sketches

On our second full day in Japan we went to Nara, one of the former capitals of Japan (read about Japan long enough and you’ll start to think EVERY city was once a capital of Japan).  We had a Surutto Kansai 3 day pass so getting there from Osaka was a breeze.  Our first stop, which was 5 minutes away from the Kintetsu Nara station, was the Kokufu-ji temple complex (note: very loosely, ji means temple and jo means castle in Japanese) and the sketch above is of the 3 pagoda temple in the complex.  The Japanese characters on the left were from stamps found at the 2 pagoda temple.  I believe they’re meant to be prayer stamps (ie stamp what you want to pray for on a piece of paper and hang it on a tree) but like a disrespectful gaijin I went ahead and used them to decorate my sketch.  Sorry Japan. :(
There’s a much larger 5 pagoda temple in the complex, as well as a building housing some really spectacular ancient statues oh ashura and other boddhisatvas.  Unfortunately photos and even sketches (first time I’ve ever encountered that) were not allowed in the building housing the statues.
The sketch on the left was one of the lanterns flanking the main entrance of the daibutsu-den in Todai-ji, which holds the massive daibutsu (literally “large buddha”) of Nara which is almost 50 meters tall.  Unfortunately I don’t have any sketches of the daibutsu, mostly because I was just so overawed by its scale that I think I’d have to spend an entire day there just to make sure I got it right.  After the Daibutsu we wandered around Nara for a bit until we found a small row of shops mostly maintained by elderly folk.  A very nice old gentleman sold me a portable pen-brush with two tips for 525 Yen.  I thought it was pricey at the time but bought it anyway because he was so genuinely kind and I’m a sucker for nice old people (conversely, I really hate cranky old people who use their old age as a crutch for being vicious towards anyone below 80). Turns out later on that it was probably the best brush pen I bought in Japan, but more on that later.
The sketch on the upper right side was just a random scene in Nara that I gravitated towards while we were resting our feet on a park bench.  I was excited to try out the pen brush so after laying down some outlines with a fountain pen I wen over it with the brush to give it more depth.  This is one of the sketches I’m most pleased with during this trip.  I quite liked the sketches of two men sleeping on the train back to Osaka in the lower right page as well.  These were done purely using the brush pen (both thick and thin sides), and they have a much more fluid feel to them from something laid out with a fountain pen.

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