Wednesday, November 1, 2017


   Sitting in the Los Angeles airport with my buddy George sketching people coming and going while I'm waiting for our flight to China and then onto Lhasa, Tibet. I constantly kept the art journal going with a stream of paintings and drawings of people, portraits, animals, landscapes of all types, temples and holy men.

     Lining up for check in at the ticket counter at Air China. Of course it being Southern California there was a fellow that brought a surf board along for the ride. Ballpoint and gel pen on paper.

    A quick little pen sketch of our jet lining up for us to embark with me, George and Jameson heading off on 17 hours flight to Beijing.

   Sunrise over a small erupting volcano over the McKinley Range in Alaska. Jagged peak with dim warm colors and jigsaw shaped lakes and cloud banks. Nine hours into the flight and I'm drawing a boring little still life of camera and coke cans.

   George (in hat) watching the Simpson Movie and Jameson reading Travels with Charlie. I don't know what I would do if I didn't know how to draw during the flight. 8X6" pen drawing in a moleskin sketchbook.

     A woman clutching and counting her "worry beads", black egg goo that soaked through my sketchbook, and a couple of Air China stewardess portraits. We had gone through 2 sunrises and sunsets in one plane ride.

Parents teaching their daughter (who reminded me of "Boo" from Monsters Inc.) to write a letter to her grandma. Flying from Beijing to Chengdu, China

George momentarily hanging out in the Beijing Airport.

The flight from Beijing to Chengdu. Not the half-assed, rattle-trap plane I thought I would be on. My father-in-law flew C-40s out of this airport during WW II.

Bridge over river on the way to Lhasa, Tibet. Seems Air China lost our luggage and we couldn't get a hold of it for a couple of days but Lhasa was definitely in another world...couldn't believe we were there.

Downtown Lhasa. Spent a day just acclimatizing for the elevation

View from our hotel in Lhasa. Nice little place but we spent a lot of time wandering the city during the day and night. Lots of Chinese soldiers and police patrolling the streets.

Standing in front of the Portola Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The main courtyard was a large concrete plaza dominated by Chinese police looking for anyone that might be a protesters 

  Heading up the to the entrance and into the inter chambers, temples and hallways in Portola. It was quite strange heading up into a ancient amazing religion and culture and this was this long trek up these stairs was our introduction.

A couple of farmers washing their hands at a spigots in front of a large patch of Black-Eyed Susan flowers.

Walking up the stairs to the Portola palaces entrance. Looks crowded but the crowds were pretty sparse. Tourists, Tibetan and pilgrims walked up these stairs. It a good amount of effort considering it was at about 13,000 ft elevation 

Main entrance to the palace. Beautiful carvings and paintings lead into the main temple chamber.

As we climbed up the stairs an old woman tottered up and held onto the door for support and then disappeared inside

The main Dalai Lamas palace complex and apartments at the top of the mountain

The main entre stairway. Common people on the left, priest on the right and the Dalai Lama goes straight up the middle.

Found this strange little still life around a corner. A bent can of yak milk and everything else painted red ochre.

Leaving Portola Palace and weaving our way down back into the city and the main garden.

On our way to Jokhang Temple, one of the holist sites in Tibet. The central courtyard has a line of prostrating pilgrims and Buddhists in line to visit.

The main entrance to the Temples  main doors. Many pilgrim spend days kneeling and chanting before entering the compound. 

Many will spend day and night staying here, belongings and sleeping blankets in hand. These too ladies strung beads and sold them for food. The thermos hold hot yak butter tea - a item we would see throughout Tibet.

Various pilgrims from many lands. the hand mittens are for protection as they kneel, prostrate and then slide forward with hands against the pavement, locked in prayer

A mother straightening up her daughters outfit before entering into the temple for a blessing from the second Panchen Lama. The yellow bag is a barley flower for an offering

Inside Jokhang Temple the halls and corridors were decorated brightly. When yo entered the building it was all very dim flickering lights and yak butter lamps 

While walking through the dark passages I turned a corner and tripped over a teapot and fell into the lap of this understanding monk. At first surprised, he laughed, picked me up and then gave me an amulet to ward off bad spirits 

 The monks and priests apartment windows

A group of supporting monks tending to the needs of the Penchen Lama who was there in Jokhang for a special blessing occasion. They wore masks to either keep from getting sick or filter the air that was thick with smoke from yak butter candles.

 I did this drawing after the ceremony. I was given a yellow scarf and instructed to walk up to the very young Penchen Lama and bow. The scarf was lifted of by one monk, the lama would then bless it and then it was handed back to me and on of the priests wrapped it around my neck. This was done in a very dim room with pilgrims lining a stairway down to the chamber

In a light rain a monk runs from on complex to another.

On the roof of the Jokhang Temple with these giant golden totems gracing the crest. It was cold and windy that day but amazing to be in such a special place. In 2019 there was a massive fire in the Temple and this section burned down, engulfed in flame.

The next day we thought we would explore the neighborhoods of Lhasa and the perimeter of the Portola Palace. This is along a kora/holy walking circle at the base of the Portola. The gold cylinders are prayer wheels to be constantly spun in praise  of Buddha.


The main shopping district in Lhasa, Barkhor Street where you buy everything from ancient coral and turquoise jewelry to the flimsiest plastic Chinese toys imaginable.   

This little guy was coming home from school through the market, put on this disguise and followed us around the market mugging it up the entire time.

Tibetans traveling through the market below Portola. Lots of hustle-and-bustle going on around this location

Grain and spice merchants at the base of the walls and towers that ring Portola Palace

Meat and yak butter sellers right across the street.

Small sacred shrines that are placed in the walls around the market place. Small offerings such as money, flowers and food are placed on a ledge.

While sitting on the curb sketching people this little Tibetan boy came up and we "talked" for a while. Didn't know each others language but I showed him some sketches and gave him a couple of lessons. He was very cute. I had been told Tibetan were shy and scared to have there pictures taken or talk to Americans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

At the end of the day George and I dropped in for dinner and some weak Chinese beer at a local restaurant. One day down a month-and-a-half to go.

Monday, October 30, 2017


Pobonka Monastery above Lhasa. One of the oldest sites in Buddhism and a mysterious place with invitations to watch several ceremonies, seeing Tibetan eagles, grand yak butter candle lit temples and hermit caves and chanting ceremonies with old & young monks

One of the younger monks at the Rigsum Gonpo Temple. He would sweep the floors, dust the tapestries and cases and arrange the prayer books and ceremonial bells and countless shrines. He followed George and I  around the temple like a lost puppy.

     The  ancient hermit priest, Palden Lhamo meditative cave with paper money and prayers glued to the ceiling, sacred prayer scarfs and offerings of fruits and candies left by pilgrims.

       The Rigsum Gonpo Temple with beautiful tapestries, sacred relics and offerings. The light steamed through the small windows and filtered into the small nooks and crannies and wonderful colors would break out and glow on the walls and ceilings

    The She-Turtle boulder temple where the morning and afternoon prayers would take place. Built in the 7th and 11th century and where the Tibetan alphabet was created.

We were invited in for a chanting ceremony where the senior priest was training the monks sequencing and timing of ceremonial songs & words. Young apprentices would circulate around pouring fresh, hot yak butter tea while being joked with (rubbing the kids heads)by the elders. One monk would display sacred ancient art and mandalas. 

      Yellow hat monk chanting, meditating and counting prayer beads in a room off the main hall. These are quick choppy little sketches done as we moved from one ceremony to another

    The large vats of yak butter candles softly lighting the main temple hall. At the end of the row is a "self arising" sculpture of sacred letter carving. The mood was calm and beautiful with several monks sweeping the floors, incense drifting through the shrines with soft afternoon daylight 

    Colored carvings of wives of Chinese Buddhist kings. We would stumble onto these hidden bas-relief sculptures as we hiked up the hills. These were scattered throughout the upper temple grounds


     Yaks wandered through the chorten shrines and short grass fields that overlook the valley of Lhasa

Tibetan "eagles" Vultures circling over the sky burial site above the temple. These bids are huge with six foot wings and look very majestic soaring in the air.

Colorful hallways emerged from darkened temple halls and monks rooms as we wandered through the multi-layered temple. Ladders lead up into the daylight through these stairwells

       Placing written paper prayer offerings into the stone cracks of sacred wall below the main temple for blessings and luck. 

      Chorten temples overlooking the Lhasa Valley. Above this temple was the sky burial site with many Tibetan eagles swirling through the skies feeding on human ceremonial remains

  These white chortens structures dot the landscape with golden spires reaching into the sky.

 Sera Monastery outside Lhasa. Monks heading to the debating yard. One of largest monasteries with acres of temple buildings and residences outside of Lhasa, Tibet. We stayed until all of the tourist buses left and we had the complex all to our selves.

George standing in front of one of the massive doors at a monks group residences 

In the afternoon the Sera Monastery was deserted with the occasional monk moving back to his residence. I really enjoyed seeing all the various colorful entryway drapes and stone showing through white-washed walls.

Just a couple of the various many doorways doors the Sera Monastery. The monks residences compounds, small temples and the occasional priests courtyards all had individual painted decorative designed double doors.

    Tibetan monks debating in the moment (a question only exists for a moment and is gone) and then with clapping of the hand it is over. The debates are over philosophy and Buddhist teaching.

 George and our guide resting in the hot sun right out of the sound of the debating monks