Japan Series #Sketch





Today's #Sketch series comes to us from our talented Dublin studio Storyboard Revisionist, Olly Blake, who took inspiration from his surroundings while on vacation in Japan. He came back to us with these amazing sketches and stories that we are so excited to share with you!

/images/labs/Japan-sketch-olly-blake-007.jpg 'Rural Well' by Olly Blake /images/labs/Japan-sketch-olly-blake-003.jpg 'Takayama Old Town' by Olly Blake /images/labs/Japan-sketch-olly-blake-006.jpg 'The Tufted Puffin' by Olly Blake /images/labs/Japan-sketch-olly-blake-001.jpg 'Castle Wall' by Olly Blake /images/labs/Japan-sketch-olly-blake-002.jpg 'Outdoor Market in Kyoto' by Olly Blake /images/labs/Japanese_Garden_Part_1.JPG 'Joyama Park Part 1' by Olly Blake /images/labs/Japanese_GARDEN.JPG 'Joyama Park Part 2' by Olly Blake /images/labs/Japan-sketch-olly-blake-005.jpg 'Takamatsu Port' by Olly Blake

Olly: Sketching outdoors is something that I have always enjoyed and look forward to doing more of any chance I get. That's why I was so anticipating my holiday, as I would get the opportunity to spend a month in Japan and sketch as much as possible.

I think sketching is the best way to record memories of travel, so I was excited to document all that Japan had to offer. I find that drawing, rather than taking photos, means more time spent in the moment. When I look back at sketches I have done I find that they bring wtih them the memories of the time of day, the feelings that surrounded the various locations and what I was feeling when I was drawing them.

I didn't bring my sketchbook on this trip and instead bought one from a Japanese art shop. I wanted to have something from Japan rather than Ireland. It’s a watercolour sketchbook made by MUSE designed with landscape drawings in mind, which means the paper is quite long. I really like this design because it allows me to draw more panoramic views.

'Takamatsu Port' by Olly Blake
'Takamatsu Port' by Olly Blake

We were at the Setouchi Triennale, an arts festival which is spread over 5 different islands and 2 ports. The festival is on for an entire month but we saw it all in 3 days! However, this meant I didn’t have a lot of time to stop and draw the scenery. Thankfully, I did end up getting some time on the ferry going over to the island, so I sketched the port we had left. I also sketched the island port that we arrived in but didn’t get around to adding the watercolour.

'Joyama Park' by Olly Blake
'Joyama Park' by Olly Blake

This is Joyama Park in Oiso, which is a small town on the coast not far from Tokyo. I drew it with pen and painted over it with watercolour. It went across two pages which gives the image a lot of information. What I remember from this place was that it was full of dragonflies. There must have been thousands, I’d never seen so many in my life!

This small pond had so much life to it. There was a turtle swimming around in the water and a toad under the decking, which I failed to include in the artwork as I was worried that maybe it was perhaps too much detail.

On the middle island you can see a crane and a statue of a Pagoda. On the right page you can see the decking and a seating area. The weather at the time was quite humid and the sun was hot, I remember wanting to finish the painting quickly so I could get a drink or an ice-cream. 

'Takayama Old Town' by Olly Blake
'Takayama Old Town' by Olly Blake

Takayama is in the Hida region of Gifu Prefecture. I had a lot of fun with my girlfriend exploring the old town which had a lot of beautiful traditional wooden buildings and narrow streets, with streams of water running alongside them. There were also lots of places that sold the local Hida beef, which is a specialty of the area. This little place was selling beer and skewered beef as well as skewered mochi, which sticks to the roof of your mouth!

'The Tufted Puffin' by Olly Blake
'The Tufted Puffin' by Olly Blake

The 'Tufted Puffin' I drew at an aquarium in Osaka. The aquarium is this amazing building in the port. You take an elevator up to the top and then descend through the floors as if you are driving deeper and deeper into the ocean. As a result, you get to see the creatures and animals that live at the different levels of the ocean. I did a couple of studies of the sea creatures and took lots of photos for future reference.

'Castle Wall' by Olly Blake
'Castle Wall' by Olly Blake

This is part of the castle wall in Hiroshima. It was a lovely night and we had been walking all day, so it was so nice to just sit and look over the moat at this amazing historical building. I tried to keep the colours very dark on the roof since the sky was brighter than the building.

'Rural Well' by Olly Blake
'Rural Well' by Olly Blake

We went to visit a heritage village in Takayama and I decided to sketch this little water feature. Unfortunately, I don't know what it was used for, however each time the water spilled out of the bottom funnel it would bounce up. It looked like some mechanism was working inside.

There were also stamps you could collect while exploring the folk village! One of the stamps can be seen in this image which I added to the sketch in the top right corner.

'Outdoor Market in Kyoto' by Olly Blake
'Outdoor Market in Kyoto' by Olly Blake

Having done some practice, I attempted a more complex scene with figures at an outdoor market in Kyoto. After doing the linework I found it became too busy and I just needed to simplify everything. I did this by putting most of the people in shadow, apart from a few of them in the foreground. Even the woman closest to me I put in dark shadow.

It isn’t always easy but what I would tell people attempting urban sketching is to always simplify your work at every stage. You can’t tell but I used pencil to sketch out this scene first, which resulted in it being an even bigger mess of lines before I eventually did the pen work.

Each stage of the sketch should result in a reduction of the images detail. If you add more details to each step, you will lose your viewer's attention because there is nothing of interest to focus on.


Sarah Ott


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