Gareth Naylor

Atmospheric paintings of Japan

Watercolor painting inspired by a drive in the rain

Painting inspired by a drive in the rain

Watercolor painting inspired by a drive in the rain
“Drive in the rain”

Today I went to help my friend Mark. He was clearing up his exhibition in a small tourist town called Yufuin.

It was a long one hour drive from Oita city, where I live, to Yufuin. And, ironically, when I got there my friend was leaving. He only had time to shake my hand, wish me well and then said goodbye.

But my trip had not been completely in vain because I also had two paintings in Mark’s exhibition. And I had partly come to collect these. 

But then, at the exhibition, I met a gallery owner who offered to take my two paintings and put them in her gallery. Of course, I accepted her offer. This gallery owner already shows some of my work but I was delighted that she was going to show more of my work.

However, at the same time I realized that I hadn’t really needed to make that long one hour drive to Yufuin.

And now that I was there I felt reluctant to just go straight back home. So I hung around, feeling at a bit of a loss.

But this was how I got the chance to see another artist put up her work. And her work was amazing. It is called bingata in Japanese and it is essentially dyed fabrics.

But these fabrics can become all manner of things as I saw when looking at her work.

One of her works, for instance, was a painting of Yufuin. It was a vibrant, colorful picture of the place and it was beautiful. Another was a real kimono with a beautiful design. 

And another was a koinobori. This one was very impressive. It must have been about 10 meters long and it looked stunning. 

A Koinobori is a tube-like flag, a little like what you see at airports sometimes. They fly in Japan from the top of very high bamboo posts. And the design on this flag is of the carp fish. They always fly them around boy’s day. In Japan they have a day to celebrate boys and a day to celebrate girls.

I actually did a painting of some koinobori. I wasn’t pleased with it though so I threw it away. However, I think they are a great subject for a painting so one day I will try to paint them again. 

Anyway, looking at these large, stunning and beautiful works of art, I felt some regret that I didn’t have my camera with me. I realized that I should carry my camera with me everywhere.

It was a long hour’s drive back home and it was raining. It was also a somewhat surreal experience. It was dark and wet and the mountains were mysterious apparitions only partially visible with almost black pine trees in front of them. 

The road was a reflective mirror-like silvery gray and car lights and street lights reflecting brilliantly across its surface. In the rain, the light seemed to be almost scattered across the surface of the road.

My window kept misting up and I had to keep lowering it.

Despite it being late and very dark, I had to stop the car and do some sketches. The scene was so powerfully atmospheric and looking at it rejuvenated my spirit.

The next day, in my studio, otherwise known as the kitchen table, I did some paintings in which I tried to capture that amazing atmospheric scene.

They are really experiments. And although these experimental paintings are not quite right they are very interesting and I am hopeful.

As for the painting above, I’m not happy with it because the scenery was actually a lot darker, more dramatic and more misty so I still have to work upon this and try to capture those qualities.

Below is another one I did. I’m not happy with it either. But it’s fun to paint this kind of scene.

Watercolor painting inspired by a drive in the rain
“Car lights in the rain”


This story was originally written in June of 2014, I am editing it in 2022. 

Since 2014, I have done many, many paintings of this atmospheric scene I saw on the way back from Yufuin. But I think all my results have failed. 

One day I know that I will do a good painting of this scene. But sometimes it takes many attempts before I can make a good painting. Such a painting will convey the magical atmosphere that I experienced. 

My wife hates these particular paintings. She thinks they are too dark. I, on the other hand, find them very interesting.

In the process of editing this story, and other stories from the year 2014, I saw that I did a lot of rainy road scenes in that year as well as some rainy scenes of a festival in a place called Nagahama.

And so here’s one more painting – just for the road (I love bad jokes). I quite like the surface of the road here but it’s still not quite right! I sigh but then I laugh and forget about it. One day, I tell myself, I’ll make an amazing painting of this incredibly atmospheric scene.

Watercolor painting inspired by a drive in the rain
“Atmospheric drive in the rain”