It was clear in Kyoto—the first sunny day after off-and-on rain during our stay in Tokyo the week before—and the banks of the Kamo were bustling. The river ambles through the center of the city, and on that warm afternoon, it attracted a motley mix of people making the most of the glorious weather; the crowd included my partner Chris and me, thrilled at the chance to explore on bikes, slowly rolling along the dusty, grass-lined paths.
It was our first visit to Japan and I was overwhelmed in the best possible way. Vacations have a knack for heightening senses, rendering moments that might seem mundane at home as magical. I wanted to capture absolutely everything that caught my eye and/or heart, but I wasn’t interested in stopping to carefully frame photos, or in pausing to sketch each tableau that made me go “ooOOoooohhh.”
Instead, every so often I pulled my phone out of my pocket for quickie snaps on the go. The goal was to preserve moments while still living in them.
At night I scrolled through the pics—disappointed by some, delighted by others—and faved any that stood out as special. These photos were the raw material for a series I brought to life with the Adobe Fresco drawing app on my iPad Pro.
One by one, I took the selects into Fresco. I used a basic round vector brush to trace (and trace, and trace, and trace), until I was left with an intricate black-and-white line drawing. The process was engaging and pleasantly painstaking, striking a satisfying balance between precision and creative license. (It also cleverly covered up a bunch of potential bummers: blurry bits, weird lighting, poor composition, and other “imperfections.”
From there, I used Fresco's masking tool to add pops of the original image back in. Finally, I played with other tools—such as pixel and live brushes, and the paint bucket—to punctuate the scene with stylized colors and textures.
Spending time with the pictures in this way—examining forms, zooming in and out, forever noticing fresh and surprising details—allowed me to (re)connect with the experiences on a deeper level that made them that much more meaningful, both individually and together as a visual narrative of a journey that continues to inspire me.
Jordan Kushins lives in San Francisco, California, where she draws stuff, makes things, designs jewelry, writes stories, and does a little creative project everyday. Check out her website: jordankushins.com.