Maiko Misedashi

Maiko Misedashi, Watercolor, 24″ x 24″

I have a deep affinity with Japanese culture which I really can’t explain.  I’ve had  a self imposed study for many  years on their food, customs, design, textile arts, horticulture, you name it.  So when I finally had a chance to visit Japan, especially Kyoto, the old capital, on two separate occasions, it was a dream come true.  I have had the idea for this painting floating in my head for a few years, and finally executed it.  On one trip to Japan during cherry blossom season, we came upon a number of  maiko, apprentice geiko, as geisha are known in Kyoto. The maiko in the painting was surrounded by lots of fanfare and was accompanied by her male dresser.  Maiko must by assisted by a person, usually male, to help them layer their formal dress of kimono and tie the heavy and cumbersome obi. The obi is tied differently for the Maiko, leaving a long tail of the two ends down the back.  For the geiko the obi is tucked in and doesn’t hang loose.    A Misedashi is a ceremony when a  girl who aspires to be a geiko becomes a maiko, an apprentice geiko.  It is the official beginning of her career.

I wanted to integrate in the design my love of the textiles of Japan and pay homage to the art of ukiyo-e or wood block prints whIch I also adore.  I used to  do textile work for years  and used some of those former techniques I used to do on fabrics in the background.  Ukiyo-e literally translates as “pictures of the floating world” which describes the lifestyle and culture in the Edo-period of Japan when the prints were produced by artists such as Hokusai. The fish, or Japanese carp, in the design makes reference to the “floating world” depicted in this ancient art form, which also inspired many of the impressionist artists, like Monet and Van Gogh in the late 19th century.  Monet collected ukiyo-e and Van Gogh was inspired by them as well and integrated elements from them in some of his work.

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Plein Air Friday

Tori Gate, 14 x 11, Watercolor

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since my Favorite Things, Top Ten series over the holidays.  Where did January go? This morning I painted in the Africa area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I have painted a few times in the Asia area and this is the first in Africa.  I lost my bearings and didn’t realize after I started that about an hour and half into the painting, drawing then block in, I wold have the sun right on my paper and in my face with no umbrella.  Oh well, I will try and go back next week to finish it before the sun crests the building I was in front of.  

On an interesting side note, the past 2 Fridays I have tried a new paper, Windsor Newton Cold Press.  I painted at Epcot last week, this Tori Gate painting, and struggled with the paper drying too fast because it was chilly and windy.  Today, no wind and in the sun, it took forever for the first wash to dry so I could move on!  Just goes to show you different papers behave differently then when you add the elements on top of it, that’s a whole other story,  Something, my fellow oil painters don’t have to worry about. Unless you are painting in freezing conditions and the paint gets stiff. Painting in freezing conditions, not my cup of tea.  Won’t be worrying about that! 

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Plein Air Friday, “Japan Cascade”

Japan Cascade, Watercolor Sketch in Khadi Paper Sketchbook, 18 x 9

Staying inside today while hurricane Hermine passes through Florida. The west coast and panhandle are getting it way worse than we are in central Florida.  Everybody be safe!  I thought I would post a plein air sketch I did earlier this summer at Epcot.  This one is in the Japan Pavilion.  I loved painting all the different color temperatures in the rocks.  Plus, I also really like doing long vertical formats in my sketchbook.

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Kim MinichielloLimited Edition Giclée Prints & Note Cards of my work available here.

Japan Plein Air

Japanese Pagoda, Watercolor, 10″ x 14,” Plein Air

Another plein air at the Japan Pavilion at Epcot, done mostly on site and another half hour in the studio adding the last few details.   This one is on Twinrocker paper. I use Twinrocker  a lot in the studio and have just started to use it more painting plein air.  Love it for that purpose too!  I love how this paper is sized and how the color seems to float more on the top instead of sinking in right away.  It also lifts very will too.

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Kim MinichielloLimited Edition Giclée Prints & Note Cards of my work available here.

Japan Pagoda Plein Air

Japan Pagoda, Watercolor, 11″ x 15″, on Handmade Paper

The last few months I have been sticking to my every Friday morning plein air sketching and painting practice.  I just got back from today’s session, got a good start,  and this is the painting I did last Friday.  I say sketching and painting because I have this thing in my head that says if I’m working in my sketchbook it’s a sketch but if I’m working on paper it’s a painting.  Even though while I’m working on paper I try to psyche myself into thinking I’m only doing a sketch which makes me paint a bit looser and be less fussy. I’m also not using my easel lately and painting on a foam board or my sketchbook on my lap.   I’m still trying to balance the two concepts in my brain.  Crazy!

If you live in the central Florida area, I will be teaching a Watercolor Sketching in Plein Air Workshop in Winter Garden, Nov. 14 & 15.  For more information click here.

#watercolor #epcot #japanpavilion #pagoda

Kim MinichielloLimited Edition Giclée Prints & Note Cards of my work available here.


A Loose Watercolor Sketch

Japan_Epcot coprt

Watercolor Sketch in Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook

This was my sketch from last week.  You never know when you work outside what you will encounter: can’t find shade where you want to sketch, bugs, crowds, people wanting to chit chat right when you have started to  lay a critical wash down, vehicles pulling up and blocking your view,  and landscaping maintenance, just to name a few.  The latter was what I encountered the day this sketch was done, hedge trimmers, cherry pickers beeping, pressure washing, etc.  You get the idea.  That’s why this one was quick and loose!  Share your stories in the comments of the craziest things you have run across while painting or sketching outside.


Day 4 of the Facebook Three Paintings in Five Days Challenge

Odd Man Out, Watercolor, 20.5″ x 40″, 52 cm x 101.5 cm

Painting is framed and available for purchase, please contact me.

DAY 4 of the Three Paintings in Five Days Facebook Challenge…More Asian inspired works from my time traveling there. “Odd Man Out.” was recently judged by an artist I greatly admire, Thomas Schaller, for the Kansas Watercolor Society Exhibition. Thank you Thomas! It evolved from a plein air sketch I did on Peel Street in Hong Kong. I love this painting because it takes me right back to the memory of doing the sketch.  I did a blog post about it here.

 www.kimminichiello.comLotus Nocturne, Watercolor, 39″ x 18.5″, 47 cm x 99 cm

Painting is framed and available for purchase, please contact me.

I adore the Lotus plant which I saw all over Thailand, Japan, and China. “Lotus Nocturne” is a self-reflective painting for me. From a previous post here, you can read about the symbology of this beautiful plant.

 www.kimminichiello.comKyoto Tanuki,  Watercolor, 8″ x 10″, 20 cm x 25.5 cm

Painting is framed and available for purchase, please contact me.

I had to paint the “Kyoto Tanuki” seen all over Japan because he is so darn cute and mischievous. You can read about the symbology of the Tanuki on from a previous post here.

www.kimminichiello.comLimited Edition Giclée Prints & Note Cards of my work available here.

Kyoto Tanuki


Kyoto Tanuki, Watercolor on Archival Paper, 8″ x 10″, 20 cm x 25.5 cm

Anyone who has traveled and lived in Japan can’t help but be intrigued by the Tanuki, the Japanese Raccoon Dog! This animal is a subspecies of the raccoon dog native to Japan.   An artist’s version in ceramic statuary is mostly seen outside of Japanese bars and cafes, to symbolize wealth and prosperity, because of some Japanese word play associated with a certain anatomical feature! (See number five below.)   Folklore legend of the Tanuki  portrays this creature as a mischievous prankster with shape shifting abilities that can take on a human form.

The legend of the Tanuki has eight special traits that bring on good fortune:

  1.  A hat to protect against trouble or bad weather
  2.   Big eyes to make good decisions
  3.   A sake bottle that represents virtue
  4.   A big tail that provides steadiness and strength
  5.   An over-sized scrotum that symbolizes financial luck
  6.   A promissory note that represents trust or confidence
  7.   A big belly that symbolizes bold and calm decision-making
  8.   A friendly smile

While traveling in Kyoto, I visited a workshop that made ceramic Tanukis.  They can be as tiny as 3 inches and as tall as 6 feet.  All varieties and sizes were nestled in the bamboo wooded area around the workshop, this particular guy caught my eye and was the inspiration for this painting.

Movie Review: Leonie


Leonie is the story of Leonie Gilmour who was a writer and  the editorial assistant to poet Yone Noguchi.  She became his wife and had a son, artist, sculpture, and designer Isamu Noguchi.  Set in the early 20th century the film chronicles her life meeting Yone, the trials and tribulations of marrying him, the time she lived with her mother in Pasadena California, and her eventual move to Japan to reunite with her philandering husband, and the birth of her daughter, Ailes Gilmour.  (Yone Noguchi is not Ailes’ father.)

I was anxious to see this film. When it was released in the theater, it only played in one theater that was 2 hours from my house!  I couldn’t believe a city as large as Orlando couldn’t support this movie in at least one theatre. We noticed it was available on iTunes so we rented it last weekend.

I’m always drawn to anything relating to Japanese culture, and for those who have studied Interior Design, they are probably familiar with the lighting and furniture designed by Noguchi.  From the movie trailer I expected the film to cover the life of Isamu a bit more, however the movie is titled Leonie and is really more of her life story than his.  The latter part of the film does touch on her support of the artistic endeavors of her son. She made him design their house in Japan when he was 10,  and upon her insistence, he left medical school to pursue his life as an artist.

Noguchi Table

 Noguchi Table via Herman Millers web site.

I wasn’t blown away by the film but did enjoy it. It does portray Leonie as a strong independent free spirit.    Anytime I learn something and enjoy the production design, sets, and scenery I’m happy.  I also enjoyed the performance of Emily Mortimer as Leonie.

I was intrigued to do more research on Leonie, Isaumu and Ailes after watching the film.  I never knew that Isamu graduated from La Porte High School in Indiana, my home state.  And Ailes after graduating high school went on to study dance and performing arts and was one of the first dancers to join Martha Graham’s first professional dance troupe.


 Noguchi Lamp available via Noguchi Museum’s web site’s shop

If you are interested in Noguchi, Japanese Culture, and period films, I would recommend seeing Leonie.  There is also a wonderful web site,, which is the site for the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, accessible by public transport from Manhattan.  Many of Noguchi’s products, lamps, furniture and objects can be ordered through the museum shop on line.


Watercolor Sketch, Kawadoko: Dessert Above the Kibune River, Japan

www.kimminichiello.comWatercolor Sketch on handmade paper, Kibune, Japan

This is such a simple sketch but has such fond meaning and memories for me.  When visiting Kyoto. My daughter and I took a day trip to the northern mountains to the villages of Kurama and Kibune.  Fist we took the train to Kurama and enjoyed time in a traditional japanese onsen, a public bathing house, fed by hot springs.  We were the only non Japanese there but we felt right at home soaking in the outdoor tub under the forest canopy.  There are a number of rituals one must partake in before entering the tub.  Since language was a definite barrier here, we relied on what we had seen in the Miyazaki film, My NeighborTotoro, which is one of our favorites, for clues to the preparation before entering the big bath!

www.kimminichiello.comForest from Kurama to Kibune

After a relaxing soak we continued on into the forest to hike the trail to Kibune.  The walk took several hours but was not strenuous.  The forest was magical.  There are a number of small temples and shrines to take a rest and reflect on the beauty of this place.  We reached Kibune in the late afternoon and scoped out the restaurants and made reservations for dinner.  Kibune is a small village nestled right in the forest along the Kibune River.  In the summer the restaurants place covered platforms above the river for dining and it flows beneath you as you dine Japanese style inches above the water.  This is knows as kawadoko.

www.kimminichiello.comRestaurant platforms above the Kibune River-Kawadoko

Kim MinichielloOne of our courses during our kaiseki meal

 After visiting the Kibune Shrine we settled into our spot for dinner.  We were served a kaiseki meal, which is a multi course meal of a variety of Japanese delicacies.  Between courses we could lean over to the side of the platform and dip our feet into the cool rushing water below, nice after a day of hiking!  When we were served dessert, this simple piece of melon, I did this watercolor sketch.  The whole day was such an amazing experience.  I will never forget it and I have my sketch to take me right back there!

www.kimminichiello.comLanterns above a dining area