“sunlight of Madagascar” is the title of a photo collection I published years ago, for which I used this photo on the cover:

I chose this title for the photo-book because that happened to become the main focus of my photo shooting while I was staying in Madagascar. I joined a photo-shooting tour hosted by a travel agency in Osaka to visit Madagascar, and I took a DSRL and compact digital camera for the tour. But I met a robbery on the street on the first day in Madagascar and I lost my DSRL then. The possibility that I would get the camera back was almost zero, so I had to think about how I could utilize my compact digital camera to the fullest. There were many interesting animals in Madagascar, but a compact digital camera was insufficient as a tool to photograph dramatic movements of these animals. There were expansive deserted fields with a lot of baobab trees too, but they could not fit in the narrow angle of view of the compact camera. I pondered for a while and thought maybe all I could do was to catch the sunlight of Madagascar. The sunlight of a particular place is one of the key elements which define the appearances and impressions of the things you see there. You take a photo of the same plant, one in somewhere in the Northern Europe and another somewhere equatorial, then the two photos must look very different because you have different types of sunlight. So I decided to take a photo where I felt that the sunlight of Madagascar played an important role to make the subjects look the way they were.

The photo of this plant is one of the photos taken with this intention. Therefore I could have made my pastel version of this scene exactly like the reference photo. Obviously the reference photo has much stronger contrast compared to the pastel drawing and the strong contrast is probably easy for those who have never actually been there to imagine the strong sunlight in Madagascar. But I did not want to do it because one of the things which surprised me most over there was actually the mildness of the sunlight. As many of you may know, photos can be greatly different depending on the setting. The photo version is not necessarily one and the only representation of the scene I witnessed. So for the pastel version, I tried to develop the tenderness of the sunlight of Madagascar, hence the decreased contrast plus more clearly drawn surrounding leaves, which are hidden in the darkness in the reference photo.

It took me four days to complete this work. Four days again! At first I thought I could finish this work in a day because this looked a pretty simple subject, but I was totally wrong. I was here at Day 2:

I was surprised that it took me the whole two days to come to this point, but I thought I would need only a couple of hours to complete the work the next day. But again, it took me the whole day. The version above looks fine enough and I expected I would find some minor corrections to make when I review the work on the 3rd day. But this expectation turned out to be wrong and I found tons of major changes, mostly the values, that seemed necessary. I corrected everything I did not like about this work one by one, and found myself giving a huge sigh of relief after finally making the last correction at night on the 3rd day. I then immediately scanned the work and checked the digital data. I found some additional corrections but decided to work on them the next day because I was too tired. On the 4th day, I spent an hour or so to make final corrections checking the digital data.

This work took me so long mainly because I had to choose and decide the colours to be used for the dark parts. In the reference photo, these dark parts show almost no colours information, so I needed to newly think which colours would work well for this piece on the whole. I used lead-green, purple, dark green, blue-grey mostly, and I think they go along with the brighter parts of the work. It would have been much easier to follow the colours layout of the reference photos exactly, but it would have made the task to draw this work pretty uninteresting, too. While watching the VI’s Member’s Minute, I hear the word “artistic decision” and “your style” pretty often, and I think the accumulation of tiny artistic decisions eventually build your style, and at the same time, your style appears in each tiny artistic decision you make. All the artistic decisions I made for this piece indicate my style that I prefer to loyal to my mental picture rather than to the photo, and this style affects my choice of the colours for the colourless dark parts of this work. It has been tough to stick to one piece of artwork for four consecutive days, but it has been a very rewarding experience no doubt 😉