A Nightmare Exhibition

This is about a small exhibition I had in a shop in Usuki. Usuki is a small town in Oita prefecture famous for a lot of traditional buildings – especially temples. It’s also famous for a magical bamboo candle festival that it holds every year.

The first part of this nightmare gallery exhibition was that I couldn’t show three of my best paintings. They were a new larger size for me and I didn’t have enough money to buy frames for them. A sudden cash-flow problem took away the money I’d saved! 

Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans – thanks life. Above is one of the larger paintings, probably my favorite. I actually went to Usuki and painted this for the exhibition. And below are the other two.

The second nightmare was the printer. I made postcards advertising the event and they looked really good. It took a long time and involved translating everything from English into Japanese – that is not easy for me. The final result, though, was spoiled by an inky tire mark over nearly all of them.

The third part of my nightmare was the good old printer again. This time with the labels for the pictures. Actually, not really the printer’s fault, but rather the stupid situation of having one computer that has word and in which I can write the labels but is not linked to the printer and another computer that doesn’t have word but is linked to the printer.

So I was making labels on one computer and sending them to another via e-mail and then printing them; although this worked for other things I printed it didn’t actually work with the labels which disappointingly came out of the printer as pure white as they went in. That was a stressful moment. Especially as it happened the night before the exhibition.

The next morning after a lot of hassle, and involving the wife who was none too pleased – and quite rightly so (after all who wants to have to sort out somebody else’s problems and not even get paid for it), I managed to get the postcard size labels printed but at A4 size. So on the way to the exhibition I was cutting the labels down to postcard size. I don’t recommend using a cutter while in a car but needs must. Luckily no fingers were lost which is especially important for an artist.

At this stage, I thought that my nightmare was finally over. After all, I just had to put up the paintings in the shop. No problem right. Wrong!

When I arrived at the shop I found that they had fixed hooks in the wall that were so close to the ceiling I couldn’t get the string on the back of my frames to go over these hooks – it just wasn’t physically possible unless I had bendable frames.

So, I asked the owner for any sliding hangars and she started rummaging around. At first it looked like she had nothing. After 5 or 10 though minutes she found one!

Then slowly a variety of different hangars appeared. First a plastic one, then handmade ones that had been made from bending thick wire and not too gracefully either. There were some very weak looking ones made from string with a hook on one end and a simple loop on the other. A few of the loops just unraveled when I tested them with my finger. I was less than enthusiastic to put my 70 dollar frames on these hangers but what else could I do.

So with this assorted collection of hangers I eventually had my paintings on the wall in a yo yo alignment.

I was a bit disappointed with the end result but my wife said it looked good and she liked the black background.

Here is my beautiful wife and wonderful Anne – who didn’t want her photo taken.


I am editing this in 2021 and it is a bit of a shock for me to relive this experience which I had pretty much forgotten. And after all that time and effort I sold nothing at this exhibition except for a few postcards.

But I think it is good to end a note of optimism. So I will say this. In my last exhibition I sold over 10 paintings. And although I only got 30% of what I sold I still made over $1000. I know that’s not great but it’s better than zero. I also met some lovely people.

And most importantly of all, I am still painting and just still love to paint.

And below is one more painting of Usuki that I did and which I happened to sell online.

And here is a video I did in which I talk about this nightmare exhibition and in which I paint another picture of Usuki.


Gareth Naylor

I am an Englishman living and painting in Japan. I have now been here for over 17 years and have been painting for all that time. I love to travel around the Japanese countryside and find beautiful places to paint.

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