Japan – People

I am always nervous of photographing people, it seems so intrusive. I do sometimes ask and I’m happy to not take their photo if they say no – of course. But actually asking can be awkward, embarrassing and often just too late, the moment has gone.

This little girl was part of a wedding – she wanted to be in the bridal procession but was not allowed to be. Her mother and grandmother spent quite a few minutes trying to restrain her, but she eventually escaped. There was a big crowd watching!
Here she is – running for freedom.
Here are the bride and groom with their families having formal photos taken.
She looked so sad but such an enigmatic face and expression, i daren’t ask, I knew she would say no. I tried to look as though I was photographing the shrine buildings but I think she saw me, I feel sorry for that.
What a distinguished looking gentleman, i think he might have wanted to be photographed, he wandered around in the temple grounds, adopting rather posed stances. i was too slow for tis one, its slightly out of focus.
Peaceful moments in the grounds of Odawara fort in the late afternoon sun.
These two spent quite a long time trying out different poses with their stuffed rabbit, trying to get just the right selfie. I deliberately caught them between poses.
A school group were practising and then performing a song with actions, to make a video at Odawarra fort, – they were accompanied by 4 volunteers dressed in traditional costume. The teachers welcomed us to take photos. The children were thrilled and wanted to see the images we took.
In the street where people go to parade in costumes (Cosplay)I saw her and I asked if i could take her picture, she was terribly shy but her friends encouraged her, then she broke into this gorgeous smile, and performed the ubiquitous hand gesture.
This lady seemed reluctant to believe she was no longer 20 but kudos for the style!
The Beatles got everywhere didn’t they?! Loving the matched colours though.
Shibuya station, one of the busiest in Tokyo, there’s a bus station right outside where guys in uniform with LED lighting tracks in their jackets and red sabres, orchestrate the passengers into queues and then usher them onto the buses, finishing with a bow to the bus driver!
I came across this man in a side street in Yanaka, Tokyo, he seemed to be making a plan of street services, he spoke no English but I managed to ask Shashin? which is Japanese for photo! He happily agreed, whilst fighting the wind from whipping away his drawing.
This girl was absorbed by her mum’s phone, she had just a minute before, been taking a selfie, big grin on her face. Sadly I was too slow and also a bit reticent to photograph a child.
I asked her just as she moved the poster from in front of her face, held up my camera and pointed, she nodded, I clicked!
I took this in Odawara at the fort. He had dip-died his dogs ears! One pink one orange, he turned away and took up the exact same pose as the dog – irresistible.
On holidays and weekends lots of young people wear full kimono clothes and visit their local temple.


Our group waiting for the tutors to arrive with the hire cars. Shades of the “Usual Suspects” A bit of attitude going on as well though.

The Street of Bitterness – painting

I managed to trace the steps I’d taken as I wandered around old Havana, these people are standing in Calle Amargura, outside the Conde del Castillo restaurant which is within the Marqués de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal hotel on the corner of Calle Amargura and Plaza San Fransisco near the port.

I was struck by their expressions, a mix of boredom, anticipation of the hard work to come during the busy midday period and their suspicion of me taking their photographs. They made such an interesting composition, the two men looking over the woman’s head, the pot-bellied chef’s whites stark against the dark background, that same darkness almost engulfing the taller man, concentrating the eye on his upward-pointing arm resting on the door frame.

Amargura translates as Bitterness.

The painting is not quite finished, a few refinements and adjustments to make yet.

Street of Bitterness

“Break-time” painting

I’m taking a break from painting the portrait to let the oil paint dry for a couple of days. Here’s what I’m painting instead, three restaurant workers taking a break before the lunchtime rush in old Havana, Cuba. I was aiming to take the photograph without them noticing me, shooting from the hip but the woman caught me, though she didn’t seem to mind too much. I have just laid in the first colours, lots more detail to fill in. Its a small painting, only  30x30cms.


BP Portrait Award 2014

Its that time of year again, I have just four weeks to paint a credible portrait, from life, that might stand out amongst the usual 2000 or so entrants’ works.

Only 55 paintings are selected in total to be exhibited, the top prize this year is £30,000. The award is made for “outstanding and innovative work ” – it is increasingly  hard to produce something that is innovative without bordering on the pretentious.

I chose to paint a friend, who is a painter herself, indeed she only paints herself, often in elaborate guises, adopting personas or attitudes, situations or allegories. I know what she really looks like as a friend but does she show me the face that she paints or someone else?

Here is my beginning – the first day of oil paint after many pencil sketches. I love the background and the shapes but I’m anxious about her dress, which is made of thick wool, dark blue with a contrasting maroon panel on the front. She was also wearing a necklace made of felt but I have decided to leave that out.  I might try to make to the wool look like silk instead.

Her hair – a  halo of marvellous auburn curls, will be back lit by a nearby standard lamp to the right. In this image, the holo of hair is much smaller than it will be when finished. She is sporting navy blue tights with white spots, I’m looking forward to painting those.

Its all looking raw and too bright just now and with no details but hopefully things will come together soon.

BP portrait 2014