I have never been to Japan, but in May 2016 Japan came to me with the Japanese Cultural Fair in Santa Cruz, California.
I have always loved drawing people in motion, especially musicians and dancers, and most especially if they are in costume- so I figured this would be a prime opportunity for some juicy sketching.
I grabbed my supplies and headed to the Mission Plaza Park, where it turns out the fair has been held every year for the past 30 years.
When I arrived the Awa Odori Folk dancers were performing. I had brought several Inktense watercolor pencils and a waterbrush with me, so I sat on the grass with the rest of the audience and sketched the dancers and musicians, inspired by the beautiful traditional costumes and movements.
There was an older man in the group who had had a wonderful smile and so much energy. While I was drawing him he disappeared from the stage. A few minutes later a wild haired demon appeared and began to dance and weave among the audience.Later I realized that it must have been the same man.
Then the San Francisco Taiko Dojo came onstage and I decided to try loose watercolor and ink, using a Lamy Safari pen, my tiny set of Winsor Newton watercolors and a Pentel water brush. I had to work in quick gestures to try to capture the movement, and found myself mesmerized by the rhythm and intensity of the drumming.
One of the joys of being an urban sketcher is sharing my drawings with my subjects. I was so moved by the performances and beauty of the festival that I sent my sketches to the JCF Facebook page. Several months later they asked if they could use them as promotion for this year’s fair. I was happy to give my permission as a way of saying “Arigato!”