hot air balloon

This weekend we went to Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, to go up in a hot air balloon. We waited in the pre-dawn for the balloons to be lit and the baskets prepared, and nervously readied for the ride.

We watched the sun come up and it was magical… I managed to bring one brush, a little sketchbook and travel paints in my pockets and did several watercolour paintings. It was a surreal sketching experience unlike anything I’ve had before: painting while over 1000ft up in the air, feeling the sun and breeze ruffling the pages.Napa Valley in all its glory glided past slowly, with San Francisco in the far distance.Here’s a little sketch I did of the vineyards below us as we floated gently past…If you ever get the chance to go up in a balloon, I recommend it! Thank you Napa Valley Balloons

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HOBBS USA

HOBBS of London, a boutique fashion brand I’ve done a bit of work for recently, famously known for being a favourite of Duchess Kate, has just opened their first US store in Greenwich Connecticut. I did several pieces of new artwork for both the store itself and its launch.Some of the artwork I did for the London stores, plus a few new pieces, have been printed and framed inside the elegant new location.I love the way the artwork has been mixed and matched and hung together in different combinations to create a ‘collection’. Some has even been framed up for the changing rooms…I also did a detailed map of the area around the new store, full of interesting buildings, a park, and some historic houses……which is now framed up and on display.It looks like a wonderful store, I hope I’ll get to visit one day. Thank you to Hobbs for providing these photos.

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my shop!

I’ve finally launched my own little online shop! I’m going to Japan this summer for a mokuhanga print residency, and to help with funding it I’ve decided to try and sell some prints. There’s a new small cat + jug print, exclusively and for the first time on sale:A new version of my Meyer Lemon print, this time with gold pigment in the lemons:And a selection of my San Francisco Snowdome prints…Please go and take a look and let me know what you think. Happy shopping!

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Japan travels – food

I love sketching and photographing the wonderful, beautiful food and restaurants in Japan, but I have to be quick, before it all goes cold!We ate all sorts of dishes, from udon to kushiage, and all of it was fantastic… Here’s a little watercolour sketch of a simple rice onigiri on a red wooden plate.

 

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Japan Kyushu travels – week 2

After the mountains, we travelled to the coast, in the misty rain, ready to explore another side of Kyushu. We stayed in a hotel in Nango, and watched the changing mood of the sea and the sky…We drove and drove, along winding roads, past smaller and smaller villages, watching the green around us get more tropical, and finally reached the southern-most tip of Japan. There’s a little lighthouse and the sea was wild and it was wonderful.

We took a ferry across the Sakurajima bay to Ibusuki, and I sketched the misty views of the mountains on both sides.We went to see the little volcano called Kaimondake, jutting out into the sea. It’s somehow not as scary as Sakurajima, and both calming and beautiful.

I find rural Japan fascinating and special and worry that people are leaving for the cities, but am hopeful that there is a movement now for people to return and enjoy a slower pace of life. These are rice paddies in Miyazaki after the rains, when we could hear the frogs singing. Just thinking of the beauty there makes me happy.

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Japan Kyushu travels – week 1

For 2 weeks I’ve been travelling in Japan, mostly in Kyushu. We started in Kumamoto, with a wonderful view of the famous castle, although we couldn’t go inside due to earthquake damage.We spent an evening at Good Time Charlie’s bar, and met the man himself, the Johnny Cash of Japan, and listened to him playing classic country music.We travelled on to Kagoshima and picked up a cute little square rental car and drove through the mountains to Satsuma. We passed Japan’s largest tree, over 1500 years old, and arrived at a pretty onsen ryokan where we sat and looked at our garden view and sipped tea.We next drove to Mt Kirishima, walking to see some lakes formed by volcanic craters and then on the the highlight of our stay, Korian. They are primarily a restaurant, specialising in grilled chicken, but also have one set of rooms for guests to stay in. We’ve never stayed anywhere so traditional and meticulous in preserving their heritage. The house is from 1882, and has been kept in use by the family since then.They even had the original round stone and metal bath, which is stoked by a fire! It literally felt like we were in a Ghibli movie.Each meal we ate there was special and superb: we watched as they hand-made soba noodles, and they made us a bento for our day trip to the countryside. We visited the local sightseeing places like this pretty little shrine in a cave……where I did a little sketch and admired the moss and ferns. We spent some time at home, sitting in the cosy kotatsu and I painted and it was heavenly. The whole family welcomed us as old friends and we never wanted to leave.

 

 

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calligraphy

I did a little calligraphy job this week, for Van Cleef & Arpels in Hong Kong, for a press launch of their new collection. I hand-wrote place-cards for the invited journalists in a pretty, delicate style.I was also on location during the event, to write any cards for unexpected guests, and while I waited, I sketched the pretty PR ladies.

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Hong Kong

I’ve just arrived in HK and am loving being back in the warm weather. I spent a day wandering in Causeway Bay and Wanchai, soaking in all the sights and sounds, especially in the wonderfully noisy markets…Here’s how it looked on the day!

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sketch

This week, just a little sketch I did of an astroemeria flower I have on my desk.I was trying to concentrate on work and got distracted and thought I’d do a little drawing to get focussed…

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Jack London Park

This week I visited the Jack London State Historic Park near Sonoma. It was a beautiful day spent wandering along green paths and poking around in the museum and cottage. I went to the museum first, admiring all the artifacts the Londons brought back from their world travels……and then wandered into their farm. I loved the wide sweep of the green.I saw Jack’s studio where he wrote in their cottage, and their pretty garden. I bought a copy of one of his plays, and painted and sketched in it during my visit.I went to see the pig palace (!) and painted the delightful view of the vineyards.A lovely day, the only scary part being these signs everywhere. Luckily I didn’t see any snakes!

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