Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A view eastwards along 104 Avenue on a cold, grey winter day...
The Epcor Tower, the CN Tower, the downtown casino, and the pyramidal roofline of City Hall frame the view towards the horizon, dotted with the smoke stacks at the the oil refineries all the way out in Strathcona County. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lunch Break

The nearby college/university is packed with students at lunch time... the relatively new MacEwan nursing school building, which I've only been in twice now, has a very generous and varied series of spaces for informal student gathering, interaction, and studying. Although the interior finishes are quite bare, the space planning of public interior areas more than makes up for this, and there is much to admire.

Monday, November 22, 2010

From the Archives #003: Lane in Nagasaki (December, 1999)

I dug up an old sketch from almost 11 years ago, drawn at almost the same spot as that of November 14 this year (http://sketching-along.blogspot.com/2010/11/nagasaki-finally.html)...that's the same electrical post. This older one's much closer to the shop on the right (still there and operating), but boy was I young, persistent, and patient to get into this much detail! As I seem to recall, I talked with an elderly man from the neighbourhood who said he used to work for Kenzo Tange (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenzo_Tange). He seemed indeed about his age.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Corrugated siding house in Nagayo

More sketches from the day (Nov. 18) here: 

This house which includes a small shopfront is adjacent a narrow but busy hillside road on one side, and the Nagayo co-op supermarket parking lot on the other. It is like a hands-on living museum of weathered and new corrugated metal (and translucent plastic) siding... there's something incredibly powerful about this scene as it expresses how its site has stood up to so many constraints and challenges over the decades: economic, geographic, temporal, climactic, and development pressures.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A panoramic view of the Town of Nagayo

I don`t think I`ve ever drawn this many buildings at once...

I was pleasantly interrupted half way through by a large group of local elementary school kids on a day hike to the park, greeting me as they climbed up the endless set of stairs leading to the top of this hill.

I sketched part of this panoramic view from Nakao-jo Park last year, but this time I took on the challenge of taking in a much wider view to include pretty much all of the central areas of the town... the civic building, the agricultural coop, the commercial strip, the river, the railway tracks.
Nagasaki is located left of this view, the rest of Nagayo to the right, while beyond the hills at the centre lies Omura Bay and then another land mass (Nishi-Sonogi Peninsula) shown far away in this sketch.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Across the tracks

Only one sketch today...

I took a 15 minute walk to get to this street, which branches off the main road into Nagasaki and crosses the train line. It winds its way uphill into what probably used to be a small rural hamlet on the hillside. Some shuttered structures suggest there were some small shops at the entry to this community at some point, but the little shrine seen in this scene is still there.

Monday, November 15, 2010

By the train station, Nagasaki

 I rarely spend more than 30 minutes on a sketch these days... I used to be able to spend up to 2 hours, but I no longer have the patience or the time.
With the amount of "stuff" happening in front of the main station, where taxis, buses, trams, and trains all converge, I couldn`t stop... and was late meeting my appointment.

More sketches from the day here:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nagasaki... finally

Finally, a trip into Nagasaki today. There`s some time for a few sketches before the church service, which starts at exactly 11:02 am with the sound of a bell in the sanctuary and a moment of silence, to remember the atomic bomb that struck the city at 11:02 am on August 9, 65 years ago. This event remains a powerful piece of history that continues to shape the spirit and psyche of its residents in a most admirable way.

More sketches from the day in Nagasaki here: 

I`ve sketched this lane three times now, and not much has changed in the 10 or 11 years since the first one... not even the advertisement on the street post. I`ll have to revisit the other two...

Sketching in this city gives me a rush I rarely get to experience!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Old Apartment and New Motorcycle

 More sketches from the day are here:


I`ve been eyeing this old apartment building since last week. While my mother does some shopping at the local grocery, I step out to spend some time by the busy road with a finer pen to get into more detail.

These apartments, probably built right after the war, are a dying breed... perhaps for good reason. I am reminded of the similar post-war apartments that killed so many people during the Kobe earthquake in 1995. But I must admit they have character, and tug at our nostalgic heartstrings, reminding us of those much poorer bygone decades. The shiny motorcycle unwittingly presents some social commentary, telling us how much things have changed since...

Friday, November 12, 2010

in and out all day... 

I`ve been out sketching about four times today, all in short spurts. So all the sketches are very close to the apartment... I managed quite a few though, and they are all uploaded here:
 This one is at a water channel, typical to this area... they manage storm/runoff and flow into the river, but this one is deep enough that there are some large carp swimming elegantly in the murky water. There are perhaps hundreds of them in the Nagayo River, mostly 12 inches or more in length, and they add dignified dashes of bright yellow, red, and orange to the otherwise brutal concrete waterway.

Some colour remains at the dilapidated shopfronts of the main market street... but I was delighted to see it alive in the late afternoon before dinner preparations.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A short walk in Nagayo...

 We still haven`t had the opportunity to go into Nagasaki yet (15 minutes away by train), so I took a brief walk around Nagayo again... this time along the main road in a direction I`ve not ever walked, past the local train station. This sketch is from the steps of the Catholic church, towards Nakao-jo Park, which is at the top of this hill. It`s a great public amenity, with spectacular views and interesting outdoor recreational amenities (like grass skiing and a long tubular slide that you can see from miles away... not shown here).
I turn from the main road and walk uphill towards the newer residential areas... and look back towards the hills on the other side of the river - a very nondescript, typical view here along the winding street. It`s still interesting enough for me, but in a few days these will become more insignificant as the initial excitement of being back home fades away.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My niece takes a nap...

Over the past five days or so I`ve been spending time with my 11 month-old niece, who I`ve seen for the first time, and today she`s finally warmed up to me enough that I can hold her without her whining. It`s a significant day!

More "typical"sketches from the day here:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nestled between the hills...

Much of Nagayo lies along the Nagayo river, and sprawls tightly towards the surrounding hills that form a background to the long vistas... a typical scenario as far as the landscape goes around here. This means there`s lots to draw, whether here or in the neighbouring larger city of Nagasaki - a real treasure trove of sketchable opportunities.

More sketches from the day are here:

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Town of Nagayo, Nagasaki Prefecure

The town of Nagayo is a few train stations north of Nagasaki. Its main commercial street, a once lively strip of small stores and a market closely associated with everyday life in the community, has been in steady decline. Now, there are a significant number of empty shopfronts with their shutters a permanent face towards the sidewalk. It`s a common phenomenon in Japan, and perhaps throughout the world. Malls and big boxes are now everywhere. 

At the centre of town is a large industrial-looking complex... it is the Nagayo agricultural coop, and it will be bustling with activity in the next few weeks as the mandarine oranges throughout the area are harvested and brought here. The orchards on the hilly landscape are quite a view around here...


Edmonton International Airport

Narita Airport

and Haneda Airport

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kwiki Mart Convenience Store

A sketch from several days ago, this time at 107 Avenue and 110 Street. I don`t think I`ve ever walked along this area, but the quaint, run down Kwiki Mart sign caught my eye. Unfortunately, not much of it made it into the picture plane. These little corner stores really define and reinforce the notion of community and neighbourhood. This one even has a bit of a plaza out front.