Japan Adventures: First Day in Kyoto

[Previously on: Japan Adventures]

Technically we'd arrived in Kyoto a day earlier, but that day was lost entirely to travel. Our heads were soaked in sake and karaoke music and we had vague memories of paying a cab to drive us back to our hotel the wrong way down one-way streets after midnight because the trains had been mysteriously shut down early the previous night.

Between this and the car accident I'd been in exactly one week prior in Los Angeles, I was beat. My back had finally started to hurt from days of walking and standing, and the various forms of pain medication I'd been told to flood myself with weren't working. (Kristen kindly offered to carry my backpack for me, leaving Greg to lug around two suitcases on his own. If I was too delirious to do so at the time, MANY MANY THANKS for that.)

I remember little of that day. It was a blur of trains and napping.

So, basically, our first day in Kyoto happened the following day.

Looking through the pictures, it seemed more like that day must have been 3 weeks long. I can't believe we did so much in about 15 hours. It was warmer by now, we were further south, and Sakura season was coming along. The blossoms everywhere were heavenly. We walked and walked and walked. The temples were amazing, and there seemed to be millions of them.


Around sunset, we arrived at a Hanami (flower watching) festival at a temple in Gion. It was perfect timing. The sun was streaming through the blossoms and everyone was celebrating. We grabbed a beer, sat beneath the trees and checked out the different street food stands. Evening in Kyoto is quite magical.

It was a very long, very incredible day. And our time in Kyoto was just beginning.

Synthesis . 24x36 . 2011

1. natural light
2. artificial interior light
3. artificial and uv light combined
4. uv light only (blacklight)
5. no light (glow in the dark)

Ingredients: acrylic, phosphorescent pigments, crushed glass, varnish, water & light

I envy the room this painting will live in. Not because of the painting itself (although I think it's awesome) but because the *room* is awesome. It's a sunroom, with a fireplace and an attached deck, and giant windows that overlook a full wall of the prettiest, greenest trees I've ever seen. I can't imagine what it must be like to live there. I don't really think I'd leave that room much. Seriously, it's like my dream room.

The colors in this piece are intended to reflect that. It changes from olive and teal to orange and blue just by walking past it. 

^Viewed from the left.

^Viewed from the right.

I'm very excited to see what it will become in a room that's so alive with light and movement. I've intended it to reflect and change as the sun moves across the sky each day, mirroring the outside world as Amanda and Robert enjoy life from the inside. In natural daylight the painting already leans very green, and I'm sure this will be enhanced by reflecting the color of the outside trees. At night the tones warm up to darker golds.

The painting itself was made for the sun and trees. Just as the trees change colors all year, so will the painting. The daytime should be a direct reflection of what color is outside, in the sky and all around their home.

I love working with the seasons. Adding yearly transits and seasonal cycles to interact with my art makes me feel like I am part of something so much greater. I use our very sun to paint with.


The Shire . 24x36 inches . 2011








1. morning (natural light)
2. noon (natural light)
3. late afternoon (natural light)
4. evening (interior artificial light)
5. Midsummer's Eve party is beginning! (interior and UV black light combined)
6. Gandalf's firework show (UV light only)
7. Time to sleep and dream (no light / glow in the dark)

Ingredients: acrylic, sand, phosphorescent pigments, crushed glass, glass beads, water & light on canvas

I'm showing you 3 different natural lighting pictures so you can really see how it changes when the sun moves across the sky during the day. :)

When my friend Beth texted me to ask if I'd be willing to do a painting based on the Shire, I said yes immediately, despite "landscapes" not being something I normally paint. I knew exactly what it would look like the moment I saw her text. The final painting isn't much different from the sketch I jotted down minutes after telling her I would do it.

The sky changes colors! Of course it does. It's THE SHIRE.

^Viewed from the left.

^Viewed from the right.

The stained glass windows of the hobbit hole change colors too. :) Check out picture #4 up top.

Every hobbit hole needs a fancy door.

Fireflies. They stay twinkling even after the fireworks have gone out. :)

Beth wanted a painting of her favorite place, something that inspired her and gave her a calm, peaceful mindset in which she could write. (She's a writer!) The Shire is her favorite place, I think, and I like to pretend that it exists somewhere out there. She and I both share Hawaii as a profoundly inspiring (real life) place, so I felt I knew a bit where she was coming from. I read The Hobbit while making this painting, and it influenced every step I took. As I experienced Bilbo's journey, I kept asking myself what *I* would want to return home to after such an ordeal.

Man that book is awesome. Have you read it? Of course you have. I hadn't, technically, it felt like I had, I knew the story, it had been repeated to me endlessly by Colin and our friends over the last 10 years and I knew all about the Shire, of course, that was something that always really resonated with me. But obviously The Hobbit is a whole different (smaller, cuter) beast than Lord of the Rings and I was wrong to think I knew everything I needed to know about Bilbo and him going There and Back Again and omg how many ponies had to die in the making of that story?

Anyway. Fantastic book. The only bad part about it was that it ended. Well, I guess, except for the three other (giant) books that come after it. Anyway.

Just so we're clear, this is not Bilbo's house. This is Beth's house.

Beth, I've stocked it up with ale and pies, a few cakes, some tobacco, and plenty of wood to get you through the first leg of your stay, but you'll likely need to fill it back up before you move to Vancouver. There's plenty of rooms though, you won't ever be without pies and visitors. May this painting bring the Shire to you and serve as the perfect writer's retreat no matter where you live. :)

Sacred Space . 30x40 inches . 2011

1. natural light (bright, clean, direct daylight)
2. natural light (warmer sunset daylight)
3. interior light (direct artificial lights, warm toned)
4. mixed interior and uv black light
5. uv light only (with a blacklight)
6. no light (glow in the dark)

Ingredients: acrylic, candle wax, beach sand, phosphorescent pigments, varnish, water & light on canvas.

Perhaps you've seen this design before. (If not, you're gonna have to search it out in my portfolio.) The original, Thin Space, was my first professionally sold painting, completed in 2006, a little over 5 years ago. I've played with the design on request a little bit here and there, though this is the first time I've recreated it on the exact same size canvas. 

It's funny (to me) how people react to it. Everyone in my life seems to have a profound relationship with Thin Space, for whatever reason, probably because it was the painting I announced my career with. As an artist, my relationship with it has evolved much in the same way my techniques and inspirations have evolved. They are definitely no longer the same. It's not just that I cannot create a piece exactly as it was, although I can't. I don't even use the same materials. There's no possible way to get the paint to dry exactly as it did on a previous painting. More importantly, I wouldn't choose to. My art now is a reflection of my life now, just as it was then. Who I am, and the person I've become is reflected directly in what I create.

This painting is not in competition with Thin Space. This is who I am now. I made it to be what I see now. I reworked a few things I wanted changed, of course, but mostly it's that my exploration of the concept is fundamentally different. Today, I see Thin Space as mother-of-pearl, and almost futuristic looking. Shiny, glassy, new. I have moved beyond what I liked five years ago. They both represent different phases of me. I wouldn't expect anyone to say that I, myself, was better 5 years ago, or better now. I'm just different. (Actually, I do think I'm better today than 5 years ago, but that's another blog post.)

Either way, I think I'm going to retire this design for now. Maybe in another 5 years I'll make it again, to see how I've changed. I like using this painting as a benchmark for my progress. It seems fitting. Thin Spaces are a constant in all my paintings, though the titles may change. I paint This Spaces. That's what I do. 

As viewed from the left.

As viewed from the right. See how the color changes?

Whatever your opinions are about this piece, I see it as better, because I see myself as better. It's not about the painting. It's about who I've become. I will be different in 5 years, I promise. It's a good thing. 

"You cannot step into the same river twice." -Heraclitus