Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Hi there and thanks for dropping on by my blog!


I'm so sorry but I haven't written a blog here since 2018.....
I have instead been posting (mostly daily) on my IG site so hopefully you can check it out!

Thanks again!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Isiwari Jinja (Shrine) in Japan - 石割神社

Last month I visited my father in Japan for a short 1 week visit and we took a trip to Lake Yamanaka in Yamanashi prefecture (about 2 hours from Tokyo). It's a place we used to come often when I was a child during the summer time for it's cool climate (compared to the brutal Tokyo summer) and a beautiful view of Mount Fuji.

1 place I've never been to and wanted to also check out during this visit was Ishiwari Jinja, translated to 'Cracked Rock (boulder) Shrine' and I was just blown away by a picture I found on the internet of this place, also known as a spiritual 'power spot'. Any time I visit new places, I typically try not to read anything about it and like to read about it after the visit like I did with this shrine.

About a 15 minute drive from Lake Yamanaka, we came to the entrance of the shrine. My father had difficulty walking up steps so he decided to stick around a nearby coffee shop while I went up for a quick sketch before we had lunch. I had my sketching bag, wore sandals and told my dad I'll be back quickly.

I didn't know any better at this time.

Entrance at the base

2 Statues at entrance
Straight steps leading up. Cannot see the very top.


I think this photo of the sign must have been around mid point. It's saying to be careful of the stair steps. On the top left is a hand scribble note reading "This is the 243rd step". I wish it also told me how many more steps were remaining until reaching the shrine.

Warning sign to be careful of steps

At this point about 45 minutes up the stairs, I'm completely wipe out and out of breath. The T-shirt I was wearing is completely drenched in sweat and I haven't met a single person going up or coming down the steps. I have no choice but to keep on going up.
Then eventually I spot a rock with some religious rope wrapped around it.

Then a sign.
Old hand written sign talking about the history of this location
 Then I see something!!
I finally see something!!

I finally made it to the rock! It's hard to describe in words but I'm completely blown away with this scene since I just walked up 403 stair steps for an hour, not meeting a single person and something like this all of a sudden appears.
Like with any subject, I like to sketch before thinking about it and that's what I did here while I'm trying to cool down. I'm also starting to get text messages from my father who wants to go eat lunch and didn't think it would take this long for me to come back. I didn't think it would take this long to come here too.
I'm sketching super fast.


After the line sketch is done, I'm starting to feel good and relaxed and my left side of the brain starts working again. I go check out what's written on the sign and it tells me that there's a passage way going through the split rock and going around the path 3 times (clockwise) will bring good luck. I immediately give it a try.

Here's the 'rock'!

Stair steps from the left leading up to the rock.

A very tight corridor and the walls of the rock was wet too and I barely fit through.


Upon quickly returning to 'base' and having 'Hoto Udon' with my father, I'm telling him all the stories about this shrine.  I also remembered my iPhone kept track of my steps so I look at it and just cracked up. I was blown away by the amount of steps I had taken!!

What a fun memorable trip!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Having fun with my New Mop Brush

[Mike Daikubara in Boston, NYC and LA] Influenced by many amazing sketchers in our community, a few months ago I decided to try a different sketching technique from my usual approach of Fountain pen ink line first then adding color. This approach was the exact opposite of adding washes of color first, then going into the details with ink.

For my first sketch ever using this approach, I used tools found in my art closet that I even forgot that I had: a cat's tongue brush I bought many years ago (that I never used) and a small Nalgene container (which I also never used too).

I've been Urban Sketching since 2000 but have only used a Waterbrush on location so the first step was figuring out how to hold all the tools in my hand! With a little bit of fumbling around I was able to hold the color palette, water container and sketchbook in my left hand while I dipped the brush into the water container. The brush width was just about the width of the mouth of the Nalgene making it really hard to dip in, and I also had to be careful not to spill the water too (which I never had to worry about when using a Waterbrush).

Another difficult part (at least for me) was since I was using so much more water in my sketch, I had to wait a long time for the paper to dry before I could start going in with ink. This really did feel like it was forever. The sketchbook shown is my trusty Stillman and Birn Alpha series book I've been using for years but for this technique, the paper must have been too thin. I love the way the thin wash came out though - something I could never achieve with a just a waterbrush.

For my 2nd sketch, I switched to the thicker Beta series sketchbook and  the paint definitely dried much quicker! I also purchased a smaller mop brush which holds lots of water/color and went into the water container mouth really easily too! I also 3D printed out a small plastic sleeve to protect the tip when carrying the brush in my bag - works great!

On a sunny day the wash dried much faster than I originally imagined it would take so that was nice. While I waited for it to dry, I could start to think about how I should approach the inking details too. I also noticed that my fountain pen ink lines didn't go onto dried color washes very well but switching to a Micron felt tip pen worked nicely.

There are times where I couldn't finish though since the paint didn't dry fast enough and it got too dark outside. With the inking approach first, I rarely had this issue since I could at least get the inking done and color later on from memory or a photo.

During this business trip to NYC, I also tried using pencil lines first to block out the rough shapes before going in with the color wash. It definitely gave me much more control of the shape which was really nice.

This is a crazy feeling but I also felt like I was 'cheating' when using a pencil! I think it has to do with the fact that I trained myself for so long to sketch directly with a pen without any underlines.
But in the end I was pretty happy with how this one turned out especially where some details are accented using a white gel pen.

Back home in Boston, I was able to capture this war memorial sculpture just in time before sunset. I love how gravity drips the paint.

For my most recent family trip to LA, my wife let me sketch the famous TCL Chinese theater in Hollywood. She was sitting by my side for most of the time and took pictures of me while I sketched.

Sketchers knows this well in detail but the great thing about sketching is it allows you to control the details/colors of what you see. The sunlight was so strong during this time of the day that when taking a photo the dark/light contrast was too strong and made it an awful photo like shown below.


But when sketching, that could all be changed.
Here's the breakdown of the steps I took.

Pencil: 10 minutes. Once again I felt like I was cheating when using a pencil... I'm quite sure this feeling isn't going to go away for while.

Color Wash: 15 minutes + 5 minutes of drying time.
Inking: 30 minutes

 Additional color: 15 minutes. Adding more dark spots and details using my trusty Waterbrush.

Finishing with White accents: 5 minutes. I used 2 different white gel pens that has different opacities.

Total time: 90 minutes.

Here I'm sitting in the corner with my mini stool trying to take up as little space as possible since there were tons of people and I didn't want to get stepped on! But what's nice about a place like this is that while there are tons of people, they just come, take a few pictures, and then leave making it pretty easy to sketch without being obstructed by people.

This was a fun day and I'm glad I was able to get this sketch thanks to my wife.
Here's my wife that slipped into my sketch-selfie shot!

For me 90 minutes is an awfully long time for 1 sketch, especially when I have someone waiting for me. I don't think I'll be able to use this approach frequently but I found it refreshing to be able to occasionally work on a different approach.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ramen is HOT in Boston! (+1 bonus London Ramen)

I remember many years ago, it felt like there was a brand new Ramen shop opening up every month in New York city. Now NYC is filled with great Ramen shops that you could only once get a taste of in Japan. Fast forward to 2016 and Boston is finally starting to boom too!

I still have a handful of places I need to visit but here are some that I was able to go to eat and get a sketch of too:
  •  Little Big Diner (1st Sketch) in Newton is probably one of the more newer places to open up and I had the Shio Chicken Ramen which was excellent! They had a number of nice looking appetizers and a nice selection of alcoholic drinks too. I'll be sure to be back!
  • Yakitori Zai (Now Closed) - This place used to be a high end Yakitori restaurant that also served really nice Ramen just on the weekends. I heard that the reason they closed down was due to the neighbors complaining from the restaurants food venting. Bummer... 

  • Snappy Ramen - They have stores named Snappy Sushi too and I've been to the one on Newbury Street as well as the one in Davis square. This sketch is from the Newbury one and it was my very first 'Lobster Ramen'! This Ramen was actually more of a novelty item and was fun sharing with friends. I thought their more standard ramen dishes offered at the Davis Square store was much better.

  • Here's the Davis Square version of Snappy Ramen:

  • Yume wo Katare  This place has been super popular ever since they opened up 3 1/2 years ago. known for their Jiro-kei style Ramen, the place usually has people waiting in line for hours to get in. I thought the taste was really good but portion wise, I couldn't even finish 1/3 of the ramen bowl since it was too big. I have numerous friends who swears by this ramen and their large portion so if you're super hungry, this is the place to go!

  • Santouka Ramen This ramen shop originally from Hokkaido is probably one of my favorite places in Boston. I used to visit New Jersey to see my father quite often and used to always have a bowl of Santouka before returning to Boston. Well, now it's open in Harvard square and it's really good!

  • Ganko Ramen This place in Brookline opened up about 8 months ago and really enjoyed the overall presentation of the place. The menu is simple ( I believe only 4 dishes and couple of drinks), the interiors simple and calming too. I really like this place.

  • This last one's not from Boston but had it on my recent trip to London at Shoryu Ramen 
    It was Excellent!

(Added January 2017)
I've been to the one in NYC but this was the first time visiting Totto Ramen in Boston.
It was actually really good and for some reason crazy filling too.

I had this for lunch, and skipped dinner and wasn't even hungry the next morning too !

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sketch NOW think later: Workshop booklets have arrived!

Updated 8/20:

I'm all sold out!

Thank you for everyone that showed interest in my booklet!
My last 2 copies were shipped out to Pennsylvania and Germany today and I'm completely sold out of this booklet.

I hope one day to be able to expand on this material to create a bigger sketching book and to be able to do more classes & workshops.

Thanks again,



Updated 08/10:
I'm super excited to have the booklets finally made available on my shop HERE

Sad news is that I only have a limited amount of copies but hope it's enough for everyone interested in this booklet.



Updated 6/20:

Hot off the press!  I'm so excited that my workshop booklets have safely arrived. I thought they came out really nice, and my cat TenTen agreed too :)I can't wait to share them with everyone that signed up for my workshop.

I ordered more then the amount of people that signed up for my workshop and plan to make them available on my website in August after the symposium.

If you're interested in a copy, please leave your email here and I'll be sure to get back to you with the info! (Sorry, sold out on 8/20)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Zoo sketching with Sophie & Maggie

[Mike Daikubara in Boston] Last week I went sketching with Sophie and Maggie, identical twin daughters of our good friends and they have been interested in drawing. I had promised to go sketching with them for a while now and finally made an opportunity to go sketching together.
It was their first time sketching at a zoo so I went a little early to Stone Zoo to do some research and do a few practice sketches to see what would be easy to sketch.

My 1st choice: Flamingos. They were really loud and seemed to move a lot but in reality they didn't move very much. Even if they moved, there was another flamingo standing right next to the first flamingo in a similar pose. I thought this would be good.

2nd choice: Black-Necked Crane. Another one that didn't move very much which was good - but since there was only 1 crane, when he got up and walked away, you had to stop sketching.

The girls arrived so I took them to the Flamingo area.

They hated it!!

They couldn't stand the noise and especially the smell (which indeed did smell pretty bad)

So we started walking around and came across the alligator area.
He was all the way near the front glass and didn't move - most of all he didn't smell which was important to the twins :)
I started sketching, then the girls just followed along without any intimidation.
While we were sketching, there were lots of spectators, little children coming real close to see what the girls were drawing, yet the two just continued to sketch without being distracted - I was very impressed.
The alligator didn't move but the foreshortening perspective and the details of the reptile made it a very hard subject but they seemed to have enjoyed it and successfully captured the shapes/colors too.

Lots of other children were inspired by Sophie and Maggie sketching and they asked their parents if they could sketch too - that was great to hear. I also loved this one conversation:

(3yr old girl asking her dad): Can you draw the alligator?
(Dad): Mommy and Daddy aren't good at drawing...
(Girl): But I'm good at drawing!

What kept going through my head was Picasso's famous quote "All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up" - I wish the little girl can keep it up.

Next we walked around and saw 2 bears.
I immediately pulled out my sketchbook to see if the bear was even possible to capture since he just kept on walking around. The girls saw me do this and starting sketching while standing on their own too. I never thought they could sketch while standing so I was impressed. They also jumped right into using the felt tip pens I gave them that day.

We also spread a blanket on the floor to continue sketching the details and to add color. A while ago my wife and I gave them watercolor pencils and a water brush which they have been using really well. The youngest sister Ellie even started drawing with her crayons too!

I drew the 3 girls.
They loved the bear poop which I also added into the sketch :)

What a fun relaxing day!
Hope to do more sketching with them in the future!