Painting Yatsufusa

This beagle is the key to our new animal hospital.

Fujii-san and Yatsufusa met Dr. Aoyama at a dog park in Tokyo many years ago. Because of that encounter and the friendship that developed, Aoyama-sensei and her family moved to Kamogawa to build a house with an attached veterinary office.

So I thought that a portrait of Yatsu would be an appropriate gift to mark the opening of the clinic.

It was a pleasure to sit in my studio and spend some hours drawing studies from a reference photo of Yatsu. I recalled all the nice times I’d had with him and his silky beagle ears.

When I was satisfied that I had his likeness on paper and understood the shapes and shadows, I started painting. Of course it all went sideways, as paintings do when I’m trying to be realistic, but I layered the paint until I got it right. Paint is forgiving.

In an unusual twist, I let myself work on the painting of the course of a few days. Usually I sit at a canvas, dive into a flow state, and suddenly (well, some hours later) the painting is complete.

But this time, I took it more slowly, coming back to the canvas several days in a row to work on different parts: the background and a silhouette; filling in the colors roughly; tackling the nose and eyes; refining the light and shadow; fixing all the details.

I think Aoyama-sensei liked it, though it was opened and quickly put away in the hectic atmosphere of last night’s party to celebrate the opening of Oyama Animal Hospital.

At the end of a delicious Thai buffet, Akiko captured the partygoers on Hitomi’s phone.

I also trimmed one of the study drawings and popped it into an envelope for Fujii-san. He loved Yatsu with all his heart and I thought he would appreciate the sketch. I think he did. When he looked at the drawing, he told me that June 18th is Yatsufusa’s birthday and he would have been ten this year.

We all miss Yatsu and I am glad that his legacy is the new animal clinic.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.