A portrait of the ink painting artist, from Japan.

March is not just the time for winter’s final curtain call. It is also the time of year when independent artists and fine artisans usually re-introduce themselves to audiences. This is courtesy of Joanne Hawker and her #marchmeetthemaker initiative. I am posting some content over on instagram following Joanne’s daily prompts, but mostly in random order as my current activity fits them.

One of those prompts is “portrait”. A good time as any to share a photo from my archives and re-introduce myself as an artist to new and not so new followers in here alike too.

On the Nakasendo trail, Narai, Japan, 2018

Hello, I am Mafalda, an ink wash painting (水墨画) artist, developer of slow, hand-made editions and all-around Japanophile, among other things. I am based in Zurich, Switzerland and born by the sea in Porto, Portugal.

The portrait above says a lot about me, in a subtle, detailed way. A lot like my art, actually.

Walking through Japan’s trails and heritage

One, I am always looking exceedingly happy when walking through Japan’s nature trails or heritage. It has been that way since the first time I landed in Japan. And that smile remains no matter how often I return. This is a portrait from 2018, when I was getting ready to walk the Nakasendo trail, from Narai in the Japanese Autumn season.

A history and literature fan, ever ready to sketch

Two, I am very fond of its art history and literature. Which is why even though what I am holding in my hands contains a map of the trail, I am fairly sure I was reading about the history of the place. On that backpack is a sketchbook, and a pencil case loaded with brush pens for the times when inspiration strikes. Also a small postcard from a local artist. Usually inspiration doesn’t strike on a cold trail. I’m all for waiting until I reach the comfort of a specialty tea house or a kissaten. There are lots of those in Japan. I am so very much planning to hoard a table for hours again when we are out of this pandemic. I will entertain anyone willing to put up with it with all the details of the stories and places that I paint.

Spotting my favorite painting subjects

Third, my absolute favorite subjects are birds, which is why sitting under tall trees is a common activity. It takes time and silence to hear and spot different bird species. This is why finding a good place to slow down is key. Even in a city like Zurich, if you just stop and listen, you will be able to spot something between 10 to 20 species within a mere 10 minutes. I have painted 100 different Japanese bird species last year. This year I am painting Zurich birds as I spot them through the seasons of the year. No fixed number goal this time, I will let the birding encounters decide.

What about you? What inspires you, as an artist and person?


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