There is a great book (featured above) called "Kimono and the colours of Japan" by a kimono collector called Katsumi Yumioka. (Also "Summer kimono and the art of Japan) These books are fabulous references for colour theory about Japanese colour schemes and their use in kimono.
Each page shows a single colour in a photo of a kimono with a description of the colour and its meaning in a Japanese context. For example, white, black and gold is an expression of cheer. Red represents the sun, blood and fire. Various botanical motifs are also explained in context of the traditional kimonos.
So, with being inspired by colour theory and Japanese style, I completed a new painting featuring a Geisha in a blue kimono (below right). This was actually a re-creation of an earlier painting (below left) taken from the same source photo. I wanted to show the kimono in full length this time and experiment with more unstructured background styles... The paintings are about ten years apart, so as you can see, my style has really not changed at all...
The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment. The word Kimono literally means "thing to wear". Kimono are T-shaped robes worn to the ankle with long, wide sleeves. They are wrapped around the body and secured with a sash called an obi which is tied at the back. They are worn with traditional footwear and split toe socks.
Today, Kimono are worn mostly by women on special occasions, although a few older women still wear the kimono on a daily basis. Traditionally, kimono are sewn by hand and are made of silk , silk brocade, silk crepe and satin weaves. Modern day kimono are widely available in less expensive fabrics as well.
The pattern of the kimono can determine which season it should be worn. For example, butterflies or Cherry Blossom patterns are worn in Spring, watery designs are worn in Summer, Autumn designs include Japanese Maple leaf patterns and Winter designs include bamboo, Pine trees and plum blossoms.
The photo I took in Gion, Kyoto a few months ago (above middle) is of some tourists dressed up in modern day kimono. The bright colours and yellow flower motif suggests they are Spring time kimono. The fabric is made of cotton, or possibly synthetic fabric, but I was still inspired enough by the bright colours, especially of the striking and beautiful obi designs, to paint them.
Below are some examples of more traditional Spring kimono featuring Cherry Blossom and flower motifs.
Once a year, Kyoto's Geisha community puts on a show allowing ordinary people to see Geisha perform their arts. The most famous show is the Miyako Odori. "Miyako" means capital city and "Odori" means dance. So the Miyako Odori is the Capital city dances, as Kyoto used to be the capital city of Japan. This performance is also known as the "Cherry Blossom Dances" as they take place in Cherry Blossom season (April). The dances are held in the historic Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre.
We booked in for a tea ceremony first, where we saw a Geisha and Maiko (apprentice) prepare the tea. We then entered the theatre to watch the show. Each performance has about eight scenes which depict aspects of Japanese life. Performances include dancing, singing and mini-dramas with an orchestra of Geisha playing traditional instruments. The performance lasts about an hour. The kimono and costumes were truly amazingly beautiful, as were the Geishas and their dancing, and it was very interesting to see the traditional arts being performed after having read so much about it in various books and novels. If you ever have the chance to visit one of these performances - I thoroughly recommend it !
Some more detailed information about the Miyako Odori can be found here: http://www.unmissablejapan.com/events/miyako-odori
Below are some Geisha paintings I have done in the past - all available as posters and prints:
Sacha Grossel is a practising Visual Artist from Australia.