Painting the artificial river banks of Japan

Watercolor painting of two people taking an evening walk along the river bank
“Evening walk along the river bank”

Perhaps the first thing any landscape artist should learn is to take advantage of whatever is there even if it appears ugly.

For instance, because Japanese rivers are subject to flooding nearly all the main rivers here have an artificial bank on either side of them. Sometimes this is a grassy bank and sometimes it’s a concrete wall. 

I was so upset when I first saw these artificial banks. Yes, I can understand their necessity, but they are so ugly, especially the concrete ones.

These banks also stop the viewer from seeing the exciting vista on the other side of the river. In other words, when you paint these river banks you might as well be painting a big stop sign.

Then about a year ago I realized that the grassy banks made for an interesting view when looked at from below. And sometimes the figures on the top of the bank could appear quite dramatic with the right kind of background sky.

I did a few paintings of scenes like that last year and today in my studio I just decided to do another one but this time with a very warm sky. The painting above is the result.

When I first painted that sky though I was a little alarmed because I thought it was too strong. I think I’m a bit of a heavy handed watercolor painter meaning that I paint a little on the thick side.

Yet when I added the foreground tree and bank then I thought that the sky was actually quite successful.

I’m happy to say that I sold this painting.

And here is another painting I did of the river bank at about this time but this one is a bit of a cooler version.

Watercolor painting of a couple taking an evening stroll along the river bank
“Evening stroll along the river bank”

That’s all,



I originally wrote this story in July of 2014. I edited it in 2022. This story needed very little editing.

I would add though that I guess the message of this story is to not stop because of problems but instead to start looking at those problems from different angles and in such a way they can become new creative frontiers.

What an irony that an obstacle instead of stopping you can become a new path with a new horizon. I’m not sure such a concept translates to all fields, but it certainly does in art and I think it is well worth applying it in other fields too.