My disastrous art exhibition

Watercolor painting of Japanese rice fields in Usuki
“Japanese rice fields in Usuki in winter”

Part 1 Preparation

This is a story 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 bamboo candle festival that it holds every year.

The first disaster was that I couldn’t show three of my best paintings at the exhibition. 

These paintings were a new larger size for me and I didn’t have enough money to buy frames for them. 

A sudden cash-flow problem had taken away the money that 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 even went to Usuki and painted this picture solely for the exhibition.

The next disaster was a printer problem. 

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 was not easy for me. 

The final result, though, was spoiled by a leaky printer that made an inky tire mark over nearly all of my beautiful postcards.

Photograph of a watercolor art exhibition in a small Japanese town.

The next disaster involved the printer again. 

This time with the labels for the pictures. 

Actually, it wasn’t really the printer’s fault, but rather the ridiculous situation of having one computer that has Microsoft Word and in which I can write the labels but is not connected to the printer and another computer that doesn’t have Microsoft Word but is connected to the printer.

So I was making labels on one computer and sending them to the other computer via e-mail and then printing them.

Although this strategy worked for the postcards it didn’t work with the labels which disappointingly came out of the printer as pure white as they went in. 

That was a very stressful moment as it happened the night before the exhibition.

The next morning after a lot of hassle, and also involving the wife who was none too pleased, 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 it was a “needs must” situation. Luckily no fingers were lost which is especially important for an artist.

Photograph of a watercolor art exhibition in a small Japanese town.

At this stage, I thought that the nightmare was finally over. 

After all, I just had to put up the paintings in the shop. No problem right. 


When I arrived at the shop I found that they had fixed hooks in the wall that were extremely close to the ceiling.

As a result I couldn’t get the short string on the back of my frames to go over these hooks. It just wasn’t physically possible unless I had bendable frames.

What I needed was sliding hangers.

So, I asked the owner for any sliding hangers.

She seemed surprised by my request.

But the truth is artists always need sliding hangers.

And for the owner of the exhibition to not have sliding hangars is ridiculously bad.

Anyway, she appeared doubtful about having any hangers but went into the back of the store to check.

And at first it looked like she had nothing because she was gone a long time.

About 10 minutes later though she returned with one.

Just one.

After informing her that one wasn’t enough, she reluctantly went in search of more.

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 appeared. 

Then, some very weak looking hangers made from string with a hook on one end and a simple loop on the other appeared. A few of the loops unraveled when I put my finger through them. 

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.

Photograph of a watercolor art exhibition in a small Japanese town.

However, my wife said it looked good and she especially liked the black background.

Part 2 The end of the exhibition

Watercolor painting of a traditional Japanese street
“Historical Japanese street called Nioza”

Today, I went to collect my paintings from my exhibition in Usuki. 

I had exhibited about 15 paintings.

And I had made about 9 postcards.

I wasn’t expecting amazing results.

But I was extremely disappointed when I discovered that I had sold just 1 postcard.

And that was to a friend too!

The postcard sold for 5 dollars and the owner took twenty-five percent. 

I couldn’t believe they would even be bothered to take twenty-five percent of 5 dollars but they were!

It cost 10 dollars in gasoline just to travel to this town.

So I had lost money from doing this exhibition.

Certain feelings go through you when you fail and you look to blame someone but really there is only one person.


But what surprised me was when I entered the shop and saw my paintings. 

I was myself enchanted by the beauty of them and I realized there was nothing wrong with these creations. 

Not only was this original work but it was beautiful. 

It was interesting how the two staff people at the shop showed no enthusiasm for the work.

Clearly, for them it was totally valueless.

That’s all,



I originally wrote this story in March of 2014. I am editing it in January of 2021. 

I have to confess that it has been a bit of a shock for me to read and thus relive this experience which I had pretty much forgotten.

I can’t express enough to you how soul-destroying it has been on many occasions to be an artist. 

Perhaps most people think artists are egotistical, and perhaps they are, but perhaps we all are to some extent if we are honest.

However, what they don’t consider is how most artists’ egos get tortured.

And I thought it important to add to this rather dark story a bit of a golden lining. 

So the painting above, which is of a famous traditional street in Usuki, and which I showed in my exhibition, was not long after this event bought by a French man who lives in America. 

This man is quite a character and it is a pleasure to know him. He is a blackbelt in karate and a talented mosaic artist.

And finally if you are looking for original, beautiful and inspired art then please consider buying some of my artwork.

I still paint and I love to paint. But I have found it very difficult to make money from it.


In this video I talk about this nightmare exhibition while painting a picture of a street in Usuki.

More paintings

And here are a few more paintings that I did of Usuki.

Watercolor painting of a small Japanese town from an elevated viewpoint
“Rooftops of Usuki”

This one was painted from the top of a hill. I did a lot of walking that day. 

I like this painting’s bird’s eye view of the town. It is almost like an abstract painting. And I especially like the pattern of the numerous roof tops. I think the train line gives a focal point to the painting and as such unifies it.

Watercolor painting of a traditional Japanese street
“Traditional Japanese street”

And this is a beautiful traditional Japanese street. I think the buildings and the shadows look good. But I am not so happy with the figures.

This picture was painted in 2014. This place is Usuki town in Oita prefecture, Japan.