Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Done pulling

Pulling nails from the last few 2x8 and 2x6 pieces I picked from the skip was all the manual work I had time for today. I had my winter padded overalls on despite the mild weather. There were two clumps of frog spawn in the pond today, so spring is approaching in the opinion of the amphibian. The spring water is still very chilly to the touch, so the little black motes of life will be needing all the solar power they can get in the next few days.
Last week I bought my first ever workmate clone. Everybody has their price and I succumbed at 980 yen. (less than a fiver). It is a handy height for these kind of jobs that I usually do on a couple of beer crates, and it folds up easily, but it is not particularly sturdy looking.
Now I will have to think of a use for all the bent and broken stainless steel nails I pulled. Stainless always seems such a marvel with all the organic matter of wood rotting away around it. I can imagine they might be fun to weld into something sculptural, but perhaps I should weld them onto the workmate and see if that will make it more solid.
Gouache washes and charcoal on Cartridge paper 35x25cm

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Underarm flip

Really stuck for a theme today as it was all spent with the computer. In the end I painted a brown frame around the page and the corner looked like my elbow. That reminded me of my evening duty of throwing down firewood to stack outside the window.
Once you get used to the landing zone you don't need to look round each time, just give the lump a little flick back under the arm. I thought I was done, but later when I was back inside I heard more wood being chucked, so Sammy had popped out and chucked down some more. Very mild today so I didn't even put my hat on to go out.

Acrylic gouache washes and charcoal on Cartridge 25x35cm

Monday, January 29, 2007

Primates wash

Before the trip to the meeting yesterday I did a bit of exploratory surgery on the washing machine. It had sprung a leak internally and I needed to take the top off and stuff to asses the repairability. It was a hairline crack in a plastic part. I figured out that an application of super glue and a quick blast with the compressor to force the stuff into the crack would leave us better off, so I disassembled parts and whatnot, but was careless with the solenoid cut off valve and the stainless steel core of that fell into a tiny little awkward spot deep down inside the machine. We tried double sided tape on a stick, gum on a stick and finally scrapped a bit of the gunk from one of our sticky mouse traps onto the end of a stick and that did the job. I was able to probe down, pick up the tiny stainless rod and drop it down onto the floor where I could get at it with another stick from the side. Sammy was on hand with bits of tape and whatnot for the procedure. I felt like the chimps with their sticks and the crows with their serrated palm leaves would be proud of us. The leak is cured, but I guess we will have to buy a new one soon.

Washes, chalks and charcoal on Cartridge 25x35cm

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Unidog Walker

Given her proper rights this kid should be in context seen out of the window of the little truck on the way back from a meeting, but I simply had to have a whack at the piano this evening, so drawing got cut to a minimum.
I can't imagine ever being able to take a dog for a walk on a leash while riding a unicycle, but this little girl managed fine on the pavement of a busy road talking to the appreciative little pup all the while. The future of the human race is not in such grave doubt after all even if the BBC assures me that the politicians of this country think of her as a baby machine, I am sure this is an indicator that there is a lot more to it than that.

Washes and charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I had another day fiddling with wood today. Pulling nails from a stack of the 2x6 timber and chopping up the rest of the wood collected in the week. I was about to start up with the evening sketch when I got a Skype call, so spent about an hour laying about on the floor chatting on there. The stool from the hair cutting session put to use to rest the laptop on. It is also the perfect height for resting a bowl of noodles on. We have a kind of persian rug spread over the tatami mats in winter, but just the mats in the summer as it is cooler without it then.
Washes and charcoal with colored chalk on cartridge 25x35cm

Friday, January 26, 2007

Winter Sheering

Rewriting and sawing up the huge pile of timber in front of the house today. I also got out the nippers and cut the lights off of the weird pegasus wire structure they were strapped on to. I then quickly disposed of the horse shape and the wings scrunching them up to a suitable size for the rubbish men. I didn't have the heart to chop up all the 2x6 timber in the end. I am sure there must be somewhere I can build a bit of wood decking with it.
In the evening Sammy decided he was going to have a go with the clippers, but his little battery number ran out of steam so he finished up using the trimmer I use for the dog. It was so warm with the stove blasting away I had a go as well once I had had a quick go at sketching. We sit in the living room with a mirror balanced on a chair and newspaper over the floor etc in order to stop hair getting all over the place.

Washes and charcoal on cartridge25x35cm

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Another day of all sorts. A business type meeting in the morning, to discuss a future project. I hadn't realized it had gone on for two hours when I left, and the general trend was positive. I popped in at a demolition specialist on the way home to ask about a pile of timber I am interested in getting hold of. I collected a small sample of rather decent planks from there and must organise a foraging trip in a larger truck.
I stopped off to buy kerosene on the way back as well. The store has a skip out the back and I asked the chap behind the pump if I could take a peek. I ended up going back on another trip to collect a truck load of firewood and a couple of sets of those rubber tube type christmas lights. One shaped in the words merry xmas and the other a flapping winged pony. I only want the lights, but it was interesting to see them in the skip there one month to the day after the event. They worked fine of course and my veranda is now aglow with an entirely coincidental and wonderfully garish tribute for the dogs birthday with symbols he doesn't understand. The old chap accompanying me in the sketch today is a perfect stranger. He got interested in my wood gathering so I pointed him at the skip and for a short time we were like pigglets at the trough. He had a little chuckle when I showed him the 5p price tag on one of the offcuts of 2x4 I pulled out for the stove. I am sure I will hesitate over some of the pieces, but the vast majority will be soaked up by the trees in the vicinity as carbon dioxide in the next few days.

Gouache and charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cod bones

Another evening in the kitchen with sammy. We had to pull the bones out of some Cod fillets, these were going to be fish and chips, but changed down to something else and finally to a kind of kedgeri (not a word I can spell). We did a fillet each talking about the future of the fisheries, but I didn't have room on the paper to put me in. We have a normal mixer tap for the water supply from the city and a tap for the spring water we drink (left). There is usually a kettle or two of that singing on the stove in the winter. The kettles had some company with a few baked potatoes this evening, which I have just rescued from over tanning.
Gouache black charcoal and a grey chalk on cartridge 25x35cm

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I had a chat with my brother on the skype phone the other day and he mentioned that a friend of his had spent a good part of an evening with one of his boys who was feeling poorly fliping through the blog from the start. It is around ten years since I met the gentleman in question and I am not sure if the young master was even around then, but it seemed like a nice kind of compliment to pay this collection of irrelevances. So I searched around in imaginary world and found them lying around in bed or on it looking at a laptop. Next time they have some time to fill they will be a part of it too, even if they don't look like themselves, don't own a laptop, or never stay in bed when they are poorly. Anyway, I hope the young gentleman and his brother are feeling better by now.
Washes and charcola on cartridge 35x25cm

Monday, January 22, 2007


My turn on cooking today, rather a turn up for the books these days, but fairly palatable. Still got the hat on as proof of winter. The long chopsticks are mighty handy for chivying things about and in this case picking bits of pasta out to check for cookedness. Back to the translation work now.
Gouache and charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Sunday, January 21, 2007


It is my son's birthday today and he is happily tinkling away on the piano nearby. but I have opted to pull out a different picture from my memory. Several stray cats have lingered at our house for a while over the years. The longest lived was a black female with a very affectionate character that would jump up on my shoulder like a witch's cat. Her last kitten was very tiny when she disappeared; the other siblings were eaten by a badger. Anyway the kitster turned to the dog as a surrogate, he was very obliging, but not highly concerned. This kitten would sometimes follow us on our walks up the mountain slinking behind hiding out and catching up or mewing when left too far back. When we stopped for breaks he would sit guard or; if we lingered for a while, choose one of us to sit on once the dog had stopped rolling around in the leaves. The kids named him Mame (not like the American song, but like the calls of a sheep and a goat), which means bean. It suited him very well as he never grew too big. I guess at a young age the nipples on a male dog have their limits when it comes to nutrition.

Colored pastels on cartridge 25x35cm

Saturday, January 20, 2007


A bit of a disorganised day meant I was clutching at straws in the end to get something on the screen here. I went back to the computer just for today, drawing on my tablet PC in bed, this is the view from the futon as I look up into my wife's office space. She is at her desk working on a translation, but she sometimes does basketry and other stuff up there, too. I shall aim to get back to paper tomorrow.
Artrage 2 2minute sketch

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cub sprocket

After the trip to the dentist the other day I took Sammy to buy some bits for his bike, a little honda cub. He spent a couple of hours fiddling on it this afternoon. There were only a couple of times when he needed a bit of help from someone with a softer mind, but hardly any need at all for my dextrous digits to get involved. I know didly about bikes, but a lot of it is just basic principles put into practice. More teeth on the drive sprocket means the drive ratio will make it go a bit faster. It turned out to be a bit like changing car wheels, you need to loosen the bolts before you jack it up in that case, and here you need to loosen the sprocket bolts before taking the chain off so you can hold it still with the back brake. We had to loosen them with a bit of clever spanner twisting as we already had the wheel off.
washes charcoal and a bit of chalk on cartridge 25x35cm

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I just remembered in time to check the oil for the water heater before stepping in for the evening. The wood stove heats the house, but we still rely on the fossilized form of solar power for heating the bath etc. It always makes me think about rigging up a system for heating from the stove, but I still haven't got it figured out yet as the water levels and relative positions are all wrong for the perfection of spring water pouring itself through a pipe into the bath. The shadow cast by my head on the trees opposite was huge with the shape of one of the cedars corresponding nicely to the shape of the hat. These red poly tanks are ubiquitous here in Japan and I found the various lightings from the lantern rather attractive while doing the necessary.
Gouache washes and charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dentist weds 11:30

My first visit to the thoroughly modern dentist. It must be about ten years since I last had the call to the chair. I rather borrowed the will of my son on that occasion as he had a little tiny cavity, so I got a checkup at the same time. I lost one of the several bits of metal I carry around when I bit on a slice of dried mango last sunday. At first I thought I was in for some complaining letter writing having found a peice of a can in their product, but soon realized what I had got. No particularly severe pain involved, but as always it took me a few days to summon up the courage to have my chompers checked. There was a nice little digital xray machine in a little cupboard like room and the tooth panorama pics were displayed on a windows computer screen back at the seat. Not quite all mod cons, there was the slight incongruity of a wireless mouse operated on a little plastic tray that the assistant held in her other hand, a pen on the screen will be the next step I suppose. The array of drills and whatnot on a separate spur from the chair zone was very nice also. I was right next to the viewing window for the kids room. No kids in there, but a pleasingly concerned arrangement of toys huddled in the corner furthest away from the buzzing. The dentists ask to place a towel over the patients eyes while they are operating, which I found rather soothing, it is always difficult to know where to look, I expect they had the same problem as it was only when I got up to leave that I found I had been lying back with my fly undone. Serves me right for being in such a hurry to get there. I wonder if the novelty will have worn off by next week when I go for some proper drilling.
Pencil on cartridge 15x20cm

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Crashed again

The young uns were at it again this afternoon. The dog was in almost exactly the same pose as 24 hrs earlier. A day at the computer keyboard for me, so the peaceful scene was most welcome as a subject. I guess if you read the paper lying on the sofa as darkness falls with the kettle singing on the stove nearby you must expect to get knocked over.
6Bpencil on cartridge 15x20cm

Monday, January 15, 2007


Another lovely clear day, morning on translation work and afternoon scrabbling amongst the gubbins around the house to try and get the shop organised or at least make some floor space. Sammy signed up for driving lessons today and maybe the effort tired him out, but he went straight into nap mode quickly followed by the pup, who is always ready for a little something in the way of mental refreshment. He is a master of sleeping with his eyes open. Anyway, I came in to find them both still unconscious, so took advantage of the excuse for a sit down.
Pencil on cartridge 15x20cm

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Today was the new year party for our little village here in the mountains outside Tokyo. I was slightly lubricated on returning home, so it was either a sketch of my fellow inmates, or something from life. These were some of the gentlemen sitting around me during the proceedings. Generally a happy bunch with varied careers. The drink of choice was a kind of moonshine mixed with hot water and a pickled plum for visual and taste appeal. Sake and beer also on the table. I have found that my body ignores all sorts of nerve messages on the following day if I imbibe sake. The moonshine mix is fine the next day, but on the day of consumption can lead to unseemly behaviour for an ambassador such as myself, so I stick with beer for the duration. There were some intimations that the little chap second from left had passed away, but he was OK, just contemplating the infinite. These doos used to be more lively, but most of the major consumers have now passed on for obvious reasons. Surprisingly, none of the more dramatic incidents like driving or walking iinto the river resulted in fatal casualties, they all held out for the less glamorous slow decline in the hospital. This get together is also a kind of thanks giving for a safe year and a prayer for kind treatment from the mountain deities in the coming one.
Pencil on cartridge 20x15cm

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The ritual of doing these drawings is basically how my working day ends. This one shows how my winter day begins. Obviously there are certain functions that need to be attended to first, but then I am straight to the stove to get that fired up. When there are no coals left from the day before I get it started by winding sheets of newspaper round my hand to make it into little balls tucking the ends into the middle, then stack them up under the load of wood to get things started. Very rarely something catches my attention in amongst the news before it gets into the stove and once I actually cut out a picture to save.
Working on the floor in front of the sofa as I had to stick on a bit of paper. The little retractable flat eraser on the right is fun to use.
Charcoal on cartridge size seven feet for scale.

Friday, January 12, 2007

More wood

Another day of firewood weilding. In the morning I sawed up the stuff from yesterday and then went to get a fresh batch in the afternoon. This was with Sammy, but for some reason he came out looking more like my daughter. She has helped out in the past, but wasn't on hand today. It could be that practicing driving on the way there and back with sammy put her into my mind as she and I did the same thing a year or so ago when she was learning, or maybe just a slip of the crayons. It is harder to draw after a day of this type of work, but still possible. Somehow the harder it is to draw the recalled stuff the more point there seems to doing it, but I may have to resort to drawing from life tomorrow as there is the sawing and choping still to do and probably more collecting too.

Pentel pastel on cartridge 25x35cm

Thursday, January 11, 2007


The wood we went to collect is in a big stack, about three minutes drive up the road from our house. It is left over from when a big house was pulled down a couple of years ago. There is a concrete path up to the summer house that stands on the site now and that leads down to the road. We toss the wood down on to the path and then go down and toss it down to the road. Some peices fly on down to the road impatient to get away and when a car comes we run down to clear them out of the way skipping over all the bits on the path. So that is what Sammy is doing with his arms in the air, keeping his footing among all the lumps of wood. Not many cars go by as there is a gate to stop traffic just up above where our little truck is waiting to be driven down and loaded up. The gate is supposed to stop people driving up the mountain and chucking their rubbish away, but they just do it this side of the gate instead. The only car to go by was this van full of guys who had been working up the mountain clearing branches and stuff. The road is paved all the way up and over the mountain to the neighbouring toan, so it is a bit of a waste having it closed off to traffic.
Acrylic gouache wash and charcoal

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Through the door

I printed out the requisite three copies of the report and dropped that off at the school for them to forward it to the proper authorities, then went on a shopping exhibition for various necessaries of an edible nature. On returning I sank into a restorative nap and was rudely reminded that winter is still up around the neck line when I awoke to find that it was already darkling outside. I made hurried preparations for nightfall gathering together enough wood for the evening and hopefully tomorrow morning. Our stock is now back down to the green wood I collected with sammy way back on November 23, which I have been mixing in with dry stuff over the past few weeks. Basically like putting damp sponges on the fire until the moisture burns off. I shall be off somewhere with sammy again tomorrow afternoon to see about securing reinforcements for the woodpile. You can think of this one as the view from the armchair on January 07, which has not been correctly dated by the bloggy machine for some reason.

Pencil washes and charcoal on 14x21cm Rowney cartridge sketchbook

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


We went in to town for a kind of a business meeting this evening, so Sammy offered to cook dinner for when we got back. I am usually first to the stove to check it is burning OK, but the misses beat me there with her scarf still on to check the doings. Another person for me to get used to drawing. The stew was fine, Sammy was tinkling away on the piano as we got home.
Pencil and wash on cartridge sketch book 12x18cm

Sunday, January 07, 2007

River crew

This was the first set of girls to do the volunteer crafty course ten years ago. All girls back then, but I do get a few boys these days. It was finding this sketch that made me realize I had been doing the thing for ten years. I felt I had to set an example on the day and actually draw something and even put a date on it, which is almost unheard of for me. We never do drawing on the course any more, one or two kids usually suggest it, but they are voted out and the kids have the final say on what we do in each session. It is a shame. Some of the drawing the kids did back then were interesting. I scanned this one of mine and worked over it a bit to make it more printable in black and white, so I guess it is valid as a sketch from today even if it is very out of season. It is going into the report anyway as part of the historical document.

Caran D'ache crayons on cartridge with charcoal overdraw.


Working on other stuff today again. Morning ripping out more of the rot and afternoon on the report translation. Written Japanese is a challenge I am not up to. I did a quick sketch of this view down and to the left from where my wife works in her new office space. One of the reasons I like the interconnectedness of this open space with bits of raised floor here and there is that we get different aspects on the places we inhabit most of the time. The green blob on the right is the curtain for the window we duck out of to get firewood from the stack outside. My son at his desk through the open door. The ash can with a stainless bowl we put over potatoes and stuff on the top of the stove when baking them. The widget I made to open the stove lid hanging above that. The stove itself glowing nicely with the kettle on top. The pup in front melting into the floor as he works on being even more stinky. An armchair made of branches with seat woven of straw rope in which I am known to sit.
Water soluble pens on cartridge 15x20cm

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Same materials different model. Sammy has changed up the evening wear to include sweaters. On the piano here, struggling to find something new for a while and then sinking into the ever popular bluesy themes. The music is coming from somewhere, but I am not sure where he has soaked it all up from. We were watching the last of a mini series about the apollo moon landings at lunch time. It really does seem incredible that we just lost interest in that back when I was ten and decided the other activies we have since become so expert at are better for us as a species. The young un was moved to order the book it was based on from amazon, so that should take him a while to ponder through when it gets here.
Water soluble felt pen on cartridge paper 15x20cm

Friday, January 05, 2007

New Coat

Continuing the series, it is nothing like the little darling really, but perhaps that is because she has a new coat and a hair cut. Nowhere to go out and party, but she is happy anyway. Cutting out pictures from some free newspaper to collage. I forget sometimes that the kids will both be back in school in a while, so drawing them each day even sketchily is not a bad idea. More translation work today and finally making it through to the other side of a huge accumulation of junk that needed sorting down in my work space. I don't know how long it has been building, but my daughter is now twenty and there was stuff in boxes she hasn't touched for 18 years or so down there. Time to say goodbye to a lot of it. As well as the floor under it, which had been issued a double whammy of rot and termites a long time ago. There is something satisfying in getting to the bottom of things, the place from where you can build back up rather than knowing all the time that the stuff you are standing on is unsound. Well I don't actually stand on it that much, it is just where I store my timber. The more lived in areas of the home have been fairly sound for a while now thank goodness.
Water soluble pen on cartridge again 15x20cm

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Paid work took over my day again and I was left only enough time for a lightning sketch of the young lady nestling her head among a collection of wrists knees elbows and scarves, while she checked something out on the Internet. As the evening draws on the pressure to get on with the family ritual mounts and it is a little too much of a gamble to leave this tentative activity beyond dinner time. I am certain that if I let it slip once, it would become a habit and I would be back where I started in no time.
Actually it was so warm up in her space I had to keep taking deep breaths to keep up the blood oxygen levels. The other young un has just been out to get some of our collection of green cedar to calm the stove down a bit in accord with the mildness of the evening.
Water soluble pen on cartridge with irrigation applied 15x20cm

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bracelets and dogs

A social visit took me later into the evening and I am still computer bound, so here is one of the sketchy items to describe misanga making. I need to adjust the order and add captions, but feel free to puzzle through if you want to give it a try.
I have found myself slightly exasperated with the news over the past couple of days, I have nothing positive to say about the mobile phone hanging, but the dog biting news in the UK is annoying. Of course the incident is tragic, but all the news coverage does nothing to help. Each segment should have a few doggy tips on it.
There is no excuse for agression in household dogs. If you have children make sure that they regularly place their hands on the dogs shoulders in your presence and lean on the dog. Preferably when it is a puppy, but even when grown up. This is a sign of dominance for all the breeds I have seen, if you are what the dog considers leader you will see them looking at you to check that you approve of their new rank below the child made plain by this action. If they try to wriggle out of it you make them take the action until they accept it. If they still wriggle you are not the leader and you need to find out who is. Once their subordinate position is established they can not attack the child without it becoming an attack on you in their pack mentality.
This obviously means that you never let the dog put its paws on your shoulders or anyone elses or let it perform any kind of mounting type behavior as your allowing that puts them a rank above the individual in question with your approval as leader if you are present, they must always be the lowest in the human family pack order. You can further reinforce this by allowing the children to feed the dog (in your presence at first), but making it wait for the food until they say go. I think this is animal psychology common sense and I am obviously over simplifying, but it works and nobody has mentioned it even once in the coverage of the several incidents over the past year. It goes to show how low the human animal has sunk when you realize that they understand us better than many of us understand them when their set of rules is really very simple to learn.
There are many internet sites devoted to dog training, even a few minutes on there will help you understand the keys to the wolf mentality. Actually maybe it does relate to the SH situation more than I thought, especially if you are the parent of a child whose best friend is an iron bar.
Spikey pen on A4 copy paper.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Card research

I think I am starting to annoy the young mistress standing around drawing her, but she manages to put up with it. She actually took out the earphones shortly after and it turned out she was listening to a lively little ditty, which then emerged from the computer speakers for our edification.
The animal for the chinese calendar is often used for new year cards here in Japan, and we are in the year of the boar. Very appropriate now that their population is reaching record levels. My daughter was looking for some references on the web for her slightly belated new year cards with pictures of boar families. We were both on a continuation of yesterday's activities for most of today, but we split up, she was upstairs in her own space while I continued to infest the sofa.

Spikey ink pen and wash on thick cartridge 15x20cm

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sofa buddy

My daughter and I both have the same model laptop. This afternoon we were also sofa buddies for a few hours. She is working on a transcription of some people talking, which I will check later and my wife will then translate. She keeps coming out with some of the words that the people are saying "Everyone is Unique" "Vulnerable" etc, or asking them not to talk at the same time.
I was still going through my report ideas pruning like crazy. There was a scene from earlier in the day that I did store a little at the time, but, this was easier. The three of us went on the walk with the pup today and there was a length of copper pipe chucked out that I couldn't resist, so I had that over my shoulder on the way home. Wishing oncoming hikers a good morning or happy new year depending on whether they were known or unknown. I felt slightly guilty leaving the rest of the gubbins in the ditch where it had been abandoned, some kind of air conditioner tubing, but I lightened the environmental burden a little and maybe I will tidy the rest up another day if I remember.
Charcoal on cartridge 25x35cm