Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Sketching Adventures in Japan...part 1


June 15, 2016...

After  eleven hours of non-stop flight over the Pacific Ocean I arrived in the "Land of the Rising Sun".

After many email conversations and dialogue I meet Ki Innis in person for the first time. He and  Sanae Hiraya greeted me at the airport and drove me to the Richmond Hotel in the Asakusa section of Tokyo that would be home for the next two weeks.

The view (below) is looking west from my hotel window.
Little did I know that in the coming days the Senso-ji Temple area (center- red pointed roofs) would be my greatest resource for people watching, meeting new friends and sketching.

(View from the 7th floor)
This adventure was the brainchild of Ki, transplanted from the U.S. and now living in Japan, he is a martial arts instructor and fine artist. Several months ago he contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being a guest artist for his Master Drawing Japan (art students of all levels are exposed to lectures, drawing classes and hands on instruction). He orchestrates these events several times a year.
A big "yes" from me and he started working on the details for a date for me to come and conduct a drawing workshop.      

My book 'Quick Sketching with Ron Husband' in Japanese translation was to be released about the same time as my visit there. Ki made contact with Born Digital, the Japanese publisher who did the translation and they too were interested in having me conduct a workshop/lecture for them while I was in the country.

June 17, 2016...

On what was my second day in Tokyo I had the opportunity to get in a little sketching at the Senso-ji Temple area, a short walk from the hotel before Ki arrived.

(Standing in front of the entrance to the Senso-ji Temple)

Many women (and men) in traditional Kimono style dress, school children, tourists and locals caught my eye in the Senso-ji Temple area.



While sketching I sit next to this gentleman (below). He is unaware that I drew his picture. I present it to him expecting him to say something in Japanese. He says "You speak English?" and we have this great conversation.
His name is Shig Kitauchi, living in Tokyo but born and raised in Visalia, California, about 175 miles from my home in California.

(Shig and me at Sensoji Temple area)
    After I took a short walk back to the hotel to meet Ki for a visit to the Born Digital office where the translation of Quick Sketching with Ron Husband was done.

{l to r Sanae Hiraya- supervised translation, Ki, myself, Yuko Sawa and Toshio Ishibashi, executive director at Born Digital)

(Yuko Sawa-translator and Aki Nakae-cover designer who worked on the translation with Sanae)
(QS on display)
A trip to Books Sanseido to see "Quick 
Sketching with Ron Husband" on display with other art books.

(Hiroshi Suzuki store employee and QS)

June 18, 2016...

The first workshop/lecture drew about 70 participants, some I was told from as far away as Osaka, a three hour ride on the Bullet Train.
Session began at noon.

( My point of view)

Without Russell Goodall (grey shirt), a professional Japanese interpreter, my workshops would have not have been a success.  Thank you Russell!

(Part lecture...)

(...power point...)

(...drawing demonstration...)

(...hands on instruction...)

Drawing session complete with female and male models (above).

   7 pm the session comes to an end followed by autograph signing (below)...

 an interview...
...results of the interview link (below)

then to dinner and back to the hotel at 10:30 pm :-)

June 19, 2016...

It will be another week before the next workshop and Ki has planned some sightseeing for me 

9:15 am...

Sitting on a bench outside the hotel waiting for Ki I spot two men (one dressed like Charlie Chaplin and beating a drum, the other dressed in Kimono and playing a flute) parading down the narrow street catching the attention of many onlookers.

 As the two men come closer to where I'm sitting, Charlie notices I'm sketching him. 
 The two man parade investigate what I am doing.
Gesturing, I ask if it is ok to draw them (8 1/2 x 11 in china marker).
"Yes" is what I read on their faces.

I present Charlie with his likeness and as I'm drawing the flute player, Charlie gives me a 1000 yen bill (approximately $10.00 in US currency).  I hand gesture "no" and continue to draw his partner.
He insist I take it, again I say no. This goes on a couple more times until I finish with the 'flute guy'.
In Japanese they thank me, prepare to walk away and Charlie hands me what appears to be a folded advertisement flyer.   They are down the street entertaining the onlookers as I unfold the flyer, in it is the yen bill.  "Charlie" got the last laugh.

(Children earlier that morning and Charlie and friend)


Ki arrives and we take the subway to the Kaneji Temple in the Ueno section of Tokyo.

June 20, 2016...

Another exciting day to see the sights.
Ki and I take the subway to Meiji Jengu Shrine in the Shijuku section of town.

(In front of saki barrels)
Walking the long path to the shrine we pass saki barrels (wine) and enter the shrine beneath the Otorii (the Grand Shrine Gate). Built in 1920 it is the largest wooden 'Torii' of the Mojin style in Japan.
(Under torii entrance)



Sketching a Monk bowing next to giant drum (right).

(Viewing wedding procession)


(Procession coming my way and leaving a short time later (right.)


To the tailor's...

My wife LaVonne had been encouraging me to  get a tailor made suit while in Japan.
Walter Edwards another transplanted American and associate with Ki knew just the place.
 An added bonus, Walter speaks the language fluently and would navigate me through the measurements.

We catch the train to meet Walter at the tailor shop in Shibuya, the 'times square of Tokyo'.

This picture does not do justice to the crowds of people at this intersection:-)
(the 'Times Square of Tokyo')

Disembarking the train and as we are walking to our destination Ki wanted to stop at the Apple store to try out the new I Pad Pro. After he 'checks it out' Ki hands me the stylus and encouraged me to do some sketching on it.
 The staff and customers are quite 'amazed'...'a professional artist sketched on this pad!' A minor shake up in the store day ensued.
(Sketch which caused all the commotion)



(Apple store employees Sara and Yukari)

(Yukari-"how do we save this sketch?"

(Store manager Janne gets into the picture)

On to The Dankan tailor shop by taxi to meet Walter.

The fitting...

Material chosen, measurements taken and every comment of Hidetoshi, the tailor, was interpreted by Walter. The suit will be ready and shipped in about a month.
Hidetoshi is pleased to know I worked on one of his favorite movies Fantasia 2000 and asked for an autograph. 
"Let me I draw your picture instead..."

This put a smile on his face and a great ending to this day.
more to come...


  1. It was an honor and a ton of fun having you as our guest! Thank you again Ron! Looking forward to seeing more!

  2. It looks like you had a great time!
    As always, I love seeing your sketches!

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  4. Your life gesture sketches are energizing like always. Truly grateful to witness your draftsmanship. Thank you for inspiring