Thursday, February 5, 2015

Shellabration Week 4 - Puerto Rican Theme

This weeks dish featured a Puerto Rican Chillo Frito - Red Snapper.
Really good and I'm starting to really like this Shiraz too!
I was told this wine couldn't be purchased at as store though, bummer....

I'm going to be missing out on week 5 Shellabration since I'll be out of town on a business trip next week. Another bummer.....

Shellabration Week 4 & B&G Oysters

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

B&G Oysters: Shellabration Week 3 - 1 Whole Fish!

Here's week 3 of B&G 'Shellabration'.
This week featured one whole Dorade Fish!
Also came with Fennel/pork lasagna and warm Squash salad. 
We were able to eat and head back home before the huge blizard hit Boston. Excellent food as usual!

Chef hard at work frying the fish
Nice glass of Syrah to go with the meal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

B&G Oysters: Shellabration Week 2

My wife and I went to B&G Oysters for their weekly specialties called "Shellabration" where each week they have a different pre-fixed course. This week reminded us of the great tapas we had in Barcelona. They have 5 more weeks of Shellabration and we're already looking forward to next weeks food!

B&G Oysters: Shellabration Week 2

Monday, January 19, 2015

Coldest sketch ever!

Well, I think I topped my previous coldest sketch by sketching outside at 15 degrees F (-9.4 C)!

The day was acutually beautiful but what made it most painful was the fact that I had no gloves for this.

My fountain pen containing Noodlers Ink stopped flowing and watercolor was almost impossible to apply on since it kept on freezing up.

Here I used my warm pouch to keep my hands warm but it didn't help too much.
My hands turned bright red since and I was starting to get numb.

It was a fun 15 minutes though.
Additional color was added later on.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Zoo sketching - day after Thanksgiving

I read about a half off admission to the zoo the day after thanksgiving and decided to take a quick visit.

Boy, was the Zoo empty.
It was cold but the sun was out and quite nice.
Franklin Park Zoo (Boston)

Strolling around ran into a Peacock and Camel.
They looked pretty lonely.
Franklin Park Zoo (Boston)

A large indoor building housed numerous tropical birds, animals, insects.

These two little birds were really cute.
They had a small mouse in their mouth and kept on giving it to each other.
The entire time they never swallowed the mouse and when I saw them 30 minutes later they still had the mouse in their beaks.
Franklin Park Zoo (Boston)

Bat sketching.
My little book light came in handy since this display was completely dark with just red lights.
The bats seemed to be surprised by my mini light at first but then settled down.
I never looked at them this close but they were actually quite cute looking.
Franklin Park Zoo (Boston)

Coming to the Gorilla section, this one gorilla sat right next to the window and I had a great view.
He (or she?) kept looking up and we had eye contact numerous times but he didn't really seem interested in me or what I was doing. It was just me and the gorilla the entire time.

I finished the line sketch and for some reason I decided to show the sketch to the gorilla.

The gorilla opened his eyes wide open, looked really surprised, almost even a little shocked and shifted his head slightly backwards. He was fixated and starred at the sketch for a few seconds.

This was my highlighting event of the day.
I hope I didn't scare him since I never expected this type of reaction from him.

Franklin Park Zoo (Boston)

Finished line art.
A few seconds before showing the gorilla the sketch.
Franklin Park Zoo (Boston)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

3 Weeks in Japan: Part 2 - Osaka and Nara

By Mike Daikubara in Osaka and Nara, Japan

Osaka is roughly 500km west of Tokyo and it's a pleasant 2-1/2 hours Bullet train ride. This time I was still so jet lagged that I slept through the entire train from Tokyo without having an opportunity to eat my 'Bento box' lunch on the train! bummer.

It's been a long time since I visited my wife's parents home in Osaka and I was really looking forward to it. Every time we visit, they take us out to their favorite 'Kushikastu' restaurant near their home. Kushikatstu is a deep fried skewer - basically anything on a skewer with breading that is deep fried. Osaka is well known for lots of inexpensive but really good food and they definitely brought these Kushikastu to an art form!

We sat at the counter at this restaurant and ordered the seasonal 'Omakase' - basically the chef's special of about 16 skewers. 1 at a time the chef prepared and placed the kushikatu on a plate divided up into 4 sections and it was up to you to dip them into the 4 corresponding sauces for the optimal taste. A dream like experience and taste, I was able to eat and sketch at the same time in the beginning then gave up since I had to focus on eating!

Ingredients from the Top:
- Mastutake Mushroom with Sudachi
- Beef
- Shrimp paste
- Takenoko Bamboo shoot
-  Large Shrimp
- Clam
+ 10 more unsketched skewers..

Next day I headed out to a place I wanted to go sketch for a very long time - Tsutenkaku.
Almost all natives know of or have heard of the famous land-mark tower in Osaka.
This place is quite surreal with tons of people eating kushikatsu and drinking 8AM in the morning!
This scene below is probably the most famous view of the Tsutenkaku tower in the background looking through the busy restaurant district. Up front is also the famous blow fish sign and a sculpture of Biliken - A god of happiness that everyone in Osaka seems to love and in this district alone I saw a good dozen or so of this sculpture.

Another view or Tsutenkaku from right underneath.
The store in the back is a very famous Kushikastu restaurant with a sculpture of the owner holding 2 skewers in hand which is quite comical! It was morning yet there was a long line to get into the restaurant.

I watched the construction site in fascination as the concrete trucks came one at a time to dump fresh concrete which was then piped all the way up to the 5th floor. I watched about 5-6 trucks come and go and everything was so well orchestrated and went so smooth.
oh, I ended up being able to see Tsutenkaku tower in the right hand background too.

At home I watched my mother in-law play online Mahjong game.
She occasionally teaches Mahjong to friends and is really good!
In this sketch she's a little upset that she lost.
Next morning my wife and I took a trip out to Nara - a 45 minute train ride.
Nara for most people are known for 'Daibustu' (Great Buddha sculpture) and the deer's that roam around the park.

We went straight to the Great Buddha at Todai-Ji and was it massive! - considered to be the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha. This was a special day and I can't remember what the occasion was but this place was packed with tourists from all over the country and from the world.

Koumoku-Ten and Tamon-Ten sculptures by the sides of Buddha. Quite large too but looked small in comparison to Buddha.

Everywhere you looked, there was wild deer roaming around the Nara city. They were all wanting the special 'Shika Senbei' snacks that were especially made for deers that were sold throughout the city.
Most of them were quite tame, but there were signs reminding people that these were actually wild animals. I loved the icons showing what they can do!

Most of them had their horns cut off. I found out that 3 days earlier, there was an yearly horn cutting ceremony that Nara has been doing ever since the 1600's! I heard that they do this to prevent accidents right before the deers go into mating season. I did see 1 deer with a massive horn though. He just quietly sat there as tons of tourists took photos of him.

At Todai-ji there was a new museum that had opened up and I was really excited to check it out.
I purchased tickets, and just as I was about to enter the exhibition was this sign:

From the top:
- Turn off your cell phones
- No Photography/ Video
- No Pen light/ Laser pointing devices
- No Sketching (!!!)

Wow!, I've never seen a sign this explicit stating that sketching was not allowed!
You were allowed to take notes (writing), but sketching was not allowing!
All displays were behind a glass panel so it couldn't be about ink/paint or anything...
I was quite upset and ended up seeing the entire exhibition in just a few minutes.

Additional Thoughts:
As I spent couple of weeks in Japan, there were couple of things I noticed about sketching. 
- Sketching as a hobby seems to be gaining popular especially with the retired people and the elderly which is a good thing.
- I saw a number of sketching groups (usually a dozen or so people) sitting and clustered in 1 location spreading out equipment.
- Large groups of people clustered and sitting in 1 location can stop the flow of the traffic of people especially in a busy tourist location in the small spaces in Japan.
- I can now see why this museum would have a 'No Sketching' sign to prevent disruption in the flow of people but I think it should have been more like "No sitting" to prevent this.
- I personally believe sketching while standing with all equipment in the pocket/bag does not disturb anyone and the majority of the time this is how I sketch in busy areas too.

It was quickly starting to get dark and I had time for maybe 1 or 2 more before it got completely dark.
Kasuga Taisha is another very famous shrine in Nara build in 768 AD.
Here's the entrance gate.

Climbing up to the top of stairs, they sold Fortunes rolled up and held in the mouth of a small wooden and Porcelain deers. My wife bought the wooden one and I purchased the porcelain one. We both got 'Chukichi' - which isn't excellent but it's not a bad fortune either. 

Back in Osaka, I went to go sketch the 'Glico' sign with a person raising 2 hands and 1 feet.
This is another famous landmark that every Japanese native knows about - except at this moment they're in the middle of constructing a new sign and therefore have put up this temporary poster backdrop with a photo of Ayase Haruka taking the same pose. She's a very popular actress.
As I sketched, lots of events were going around me:
- tons of tourists were taking photos with the same pose with the sign in the background.
- a homeless person continued to pretend to be talking with someone on a cellphone for about 30 minutes.
- a number of high school boys were taking videos of them performing the 'Gangnam style' dance with the sign in the background.
- A boat tour (the yellow boat on the left) came every 15 minutes or so and would push a remote control button which would make the giant red octopus (in the middle of the sketch) move and sing a song that went "Takoyaki~ Takoyaki~ ". This song stuck to my head.

A block from the Glico Sign.
I wanted to capture the bustling streets of Dotonbori.
There was this giant octopus and once again every few minutes would start singing a song.
Osaka is quite well known for 'Takoyaki' and this store was part restaurant and part museum showcasing the history of Takoyaki.

Kuidaore Taro electric sculpture - another landmark of Osaka.
He kept on pounding on his drums (well not really since the sound was digital and not from hitting the actual drums)

We had a nice afternoon featuring authentic Japanese snack combo which was a really nice way to relax.

to be continued.....