Gareth Naylor

Atmospheric paintings of Japan

Watercolor painting of people walking in the rain in the Japanese countryside

Disastrous painting holiday

Watercolor painting of people walking in the rain in the Japanese countryside
“Walking in the rain”

My first painting holiday. 

It was a nightmare.

And this painting reminds me of my first painting holiday.

I think it was around 2010. 

It was summer. 

And I had decided that that summer holiday I wasn’t going to sit under the air-conditioner all day.

Instead, I was going to go out into the countryside and have my first painting holiday. 

And it would not just be a day trip.

I intended to stay somewhere beautiful for several days. 

I thought that it would be a great adventure and I became very excited.

I already had the destination in mind.

It was a place called Kikuchi Keikoku. 

This place is deep in the Japanese countryside.

It is famous for a mountain river that has many waterfalls.  

Soon my head was filled with thoughts of painting those beautiful waterfalls. 

I think this was going to be my first time at painting a waterfall so it would be a challenge too.

I’d been there once before but it was just a brief visit. 

I discovered, on that occasion, that even in the middle of summer this mountain river is icy cold. 

And I thought it would be nice to go to a place where I could find some coolness as Japanese summers are uncomfortably hot. 

I had this idyllic image in my head of being the real artist outside and painting a beautiful waterfall.

As the day of departure drew nearer I became more and more excited by thoughts of the amazing pictures I would paint.

And finally the day of my journey came and we set off.

We only had one car and my wife did not want to join me. 

So my wife would drop me off and pick me up about 4 days later. 

My wife is a city person and didn’t want to endure the discomforts of camping in the countryside. 

So I was going to be staying in a tent all by myself. 

I could put up with the discomfort of sleeping in a tent though because this was going to be my first chance to spend several days in the Japanese countryside painting.

And I was completely free to paint.

I would be able to paint the sunrise and also the sunset.

This is  something that I normally can’t do on a family trip because we start too late in the day and come back before the sun sets.

It was sunny when we left Oita city but 2 hours later, when we arrived at the campsite at Kikuchi Keikoku, we found it was raining. 

The painting above is what I saw. 

Already there were big puddles on the ground. 

I didn’t know that mountain areas such as Kikuchi Keikoku get a lot of rain. 

I think my wife checked the weather forecast and told me that it would rain for the next day too. 

I was so disappointed.

But then my wife suggested another place called Shiramizu. 

We had been to this place before. 

Shiramizu had a beautiful river and waterfall. 

Shiramizu wasn’t as beautiful as Kikuchi Keikoku but it was better than nothing.

And I didn’t want to give up on my imagined amazing painting holiday and so I said let’s go.

When we got there, I was delighted to see that it wasn’t raining. 

So I decided to stay and have my amazing painting holiday there. 

My wife stayed for a short time while I put my tent up. 

And then she said goodbye and drove back to Oita city.

I was in high spirits. 

But I think it was on that very day that it started to rain.

However, I was determined and optimistic. 

I told myself that the rain would stop at some point. 

But it didn’t. 

It continued the whole day. 

And when I went to sleep with the sound of the rain drumming on my tent, I told myself that tomorrow might be sunny and that the rain would have to stop at some point.

But it never did. 

In fact, every single day of my holiday, except the final day, it rained. 

One evening, I remember the rain stopping. 

But what could I paint in the dark!

Sometimes there would be pauses during the day, but they were very brief. 

My reaction to these pauses was almost comical. 

I would jump out of my tent with all my painting gear and start to paint.

I would only have painted a little though before I started to feel drops of rain.

I persevered, though, and told myself that the rain would stop. 

But the drops soon became a drizzle. 

I still fought on though and found shelter under a tree and continued to paint. 

But the rain would get heavier and eventually I gave up. 

I angrily shook my fist at the heavens and swore at God. 

But no one or nothing cared and the rain just continued.

I must admit I got very down. 

And I was stuck there like a prisoner.

Ironically, if I had stayed at home I would have been able to do more painting because I had lots of space, light and photos.

Whereas the tent was cramped and dark, and I had no photos or other paintings to copy. 

My only relief from the cramped space of the tent, my gloomy thoughts and the monotony was a small restaurant there. 

And that’s where I spent most of the time. 

Even there though it was pretty boring. 

On my last night I had to sleep next to a pool of water in my tent. 

It wasn’t very pleasant.

On my final day, the sun eventually came out.

My wife arrived early and wanted to get back to Oita city soon so there was no chance to do any painting.

She was so surprised to learn that it had rained every day and she was also somewhat amused by that. 

She told me that every day had been sunny in Oita city.

I had imagined that my painting holiday would be so exciting.

In reality, it was a complete disaster.

I didn’t produce even one good painting.

After the holiday, I did the painting above from a photograph. 

I don’t think it is a particularly good painting but I’m glad that I have it as otherwise this would just be a story without a painting.

Also I am lucky to have this painting as I would have thrown it away if it hadn’t been on the back of another painting that I liked and decided to keep.

Below is a painting I did of the restaurant interior.

This painting is from a photo that I took on another visit.

This was with my family and on that occasion it happened to be a beautiful sunny day.

Watercolor painting of the interior of a traditional Japanese building
“Traditional Japanese Beauty”

While I was writing this story, I realized that this was not only my first painting holiday but also my last one.

That is if the phrase “painting holiday” means something lasting more than one day. 

And this holiday was about 11 years ago. 

Perhaps this experience deterred me from any further painting holidays. 

In more recent years, though, I have felt a growing desire to go on another painting holiday. 

I almost went to a beautiful place called Miyajima for several days a few years ago. 

I even booked a hotel on the island.

But near the date of my departure, the weather took a turn for the worse and, perhaps remembering this first nightmare painting holiday, I decided not to risk it and cancelled the trip.

 At least if I do go on a painting holiday again I will take the car with me.

Then I’ll have a means of escape. 

And also I can perhaps paint from inside the car if it rains.

In fact, this year (2021) I’m thinking about going to the southernmost point of Miyazaki where there is a beautiful coastline next to the Pacific ocean and wild horses. 

It will take a day or more to drive down there. 

And it would be a great painting holiday – if the weather stays fine. 

It’s just an idea and not yet a plan. 

If it happens then I’ll let you know and hopefully the adventures this time will be more cheerful.

That’s all,

Gareth.

Postscript

I actually went to Miyazaki.

It was so hot.

But I was blessed with two days of beautiful weather.

And I did some paintings of horses.

Below is one of the paintings.

I hope you like it.

Watercolor painting of the wild horses in Toi Misaki
“Wild Japanese horses”