Painting Inspired by a Surreal Drive in the Rain

Today I went to help my friend Mark. He was clearing up his exhibition in Yufuin.

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

I should also add that I had two paintings in his exhibition. And I had also come to collect these. So my trip had not been completely in vain.

But then things became even more ironic, but in a good way, when a gallery owner, who shows some of my work at her gallery and who was helping the next artist to install her work, offered to take my two paintings and put them in her gallery.

Of course, I accepted her offer and was delighted but at the same time I realized that I hadn’t really needed to make that long one hour drive to Yufuin.

However, 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 painted a koinobori one time but I think I threw that painting away. I hope, though, to paint one again in the future as they would make for a great painting subject.

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 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 silver gray and car lights and road lights shone brilliantly and scatteringly across its surface.

My window kept misting up and I had to keep lowering it. And yet it was wonderfully atmospheric. I loved it.

I just had to stop despite the lateness of the hour and do some sketches. It was just so powerfully atmospheric.

The next day, in my shoe-box studio 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 still not happy with it because the scenery was actually a lot darker, more dramatic and misty so I still have to work upon this and try to capture those qualities.

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


This story was originally written in June of 2014, I am editing it in April of 2021. Since 2014, I have done many, many paintings of this atmospheric scene 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 painting that really portrays a scene that I experienced and that truly conveys some of the magical atmosphere. My wife hates these particular paintings. She thinks they are too dark. I, on the other hand, find them very interesting.

As I edited the stories I wrote during the year of 2014, I noted that I did a lot of rainy road scenes in that year and also some rainy scenes of a festival in Nagahama.

I will at some point include a link to a gallery of my “wet road paintings” as I know have quite a collection.

And 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 scene.

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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