Art Journal 2019

Paintings and Stories of a Watercolor Landscape Artist Living in Japan

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January

Japanese Fishing Boat

Saiki

I visited Saiki with my family. While my wife met her friend and went to a school reunion I took at trip to the port and saw a really lovely fishing boat. The sketch on the left done with pen and watercolor paint was much better than my "proper" painting. I have to realize that my sketches are better than my proper ones!

Watercolor painting of Lake Kinrinko in Yufuin, Oita prefecture, Japan. Painted in January 2019.

Lake Kinrinko in Winter

Lake Kinrinko

I visited Yufuin. I was hopeful that I could sell some of my calendars and even some of my prints. What actually happened is that I sold nothing and one of my precious prints got blown by a gust of wind into the lake. The only person to talk to me was another artist who told me about her exhibition! 

Cyclist by Oita River

Oita River Embankment

Japanese rivers are very different to the rivers I know in England. They are very shallow and very wide. They also have very high artificial embankments. I really hate these embankments as they make it difficult to paint a nice picture. I have tried though many times to paint beautiful images of these Japanese rivers and even of these embankments. Over the years I have also begun to see potential aesthetic aspects to these embankments - this is one of those attempts. 

February

Watercolor painting of Kuju, Oita prefecture, Japan in December 2018.

Gold and Mist

Kuju

Visited Kuju in December to collect my paintings from an exhibition where I sold not one painting! Returning from the exhibition I took a detour through Kuju which is a beautiful national park. It was a gloomy, rainy day but suddenly the sun came out and changed everything into gold and mist.

Water Jet Feature

Water Jet Feature

This water jet feature is so visually interesting. The play of water, mist, light and running children is amazing. I love the way shapes partially disappear into the mist and the broken reflections. This water jet feature changes the ordinary into a surreal image.

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Rural Japan

Near Yanagawa

I don’t know exactly when I painted this, it could even possibly be the end of last year. This is from a photo I took last year when I went to Yanagawa, in Fukuoka prefecture, with my family. It was a wonderful trip and the icing on the cake was the beautiful scene of these farm buildings that I saw in the car on the way home.

March

Sunlit Fields

Kitsuki

This came from looking at photos on my cell phone and seeing an interesting countryside image of a place called Kitsuki that I visited in 2018. This is a one off experiment. I'm not sure if it worked. But I wanted to capture that feeling of a brilliant beam of light - which is on the right - that just cuts through everything.

Yufuin Shrine

Yufuin Shrine

I did many super loose paintings of a shrine in Yufuin. Most of them I will just throw away but they were fun to do. I like the strange arrangement of the benches in the image above and I liked leaving the image like this - a kind of abstract image.

Dramatic Urban Scene

Developing an Urban Scene Painting

I had some paintings of urban scenes done in one color. Although these paintings weren’t good enough to show at the same time I found them visually exciting. I decided to spruce one up by adding some strong darks and a few other touches and I was delighted with the result - it’s so much more powerful than my normal urban paintings. I love to paint urban scenes but I'm not sure buyers like them so much.

Dramatic Sky

Painting Skies Series

I decided to paint a picture of a rickshaw. But to begin with I practiced doing different kinds of sky for that picture. I got carried away though and did a small series of skies - this is one of my favorites. I was surprised by how dramatic they became - but I was going full out and not being careful.

April

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom at Shidaka Lake

Went to Shidaka Lake to paint the Cherry Blossom. I was surprised by how so many hills nearby had been covered in solar panels. I thought it was a shame and ugly - to be honest.

Japanese Rickshaw

Rickshaw Series

Haunted by a painting of rickshaw. I love this painting but the sky isn’t quite right. So I tried to paint it again and ended up painting a totally different picture. So at some point I’ll try again - probably.

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Psychedelic Tree

Psychedelic Tree

I was practicing painting a tree with just 2 color and 2 brushes for my 2 brush method course. At some point I decided to add a colorful background - just a bit of arty fun - and this was the result. Perhaps a bit too psychedelic.

May

Watercolor painting of a mountain path. This is Kuju mountain in Oita prefecture, Japan.

Mountain Path

Mt Kuju

Climbed Mount Kuju with my family during Golden Week. This is the third or fourth time that I've climbed this mountain. We were surprised to find lots of ladybugs near the top of the mountain. My daughter collected some in a plastic container. And we had lunch just before the final ascent to the top because we thought it would be colder at the very top but actually when we had lunch it was very cold and when we got to the very top it was quite warm and mild.

Sea Sparkle

Sasebo

My obsession with Sasebo returned and I did many paintings of this wonderful place. Read more here.

June

Japanese Shrine

Japanese Shrine

I've done a lot of very loose watercolor sketches of the shrine above which is in Yufuin. I visited this place several months ago. I really like the arrangement of the benches in the foreground.

July

Japanese Shrine

Trip to Spain

Trip to Spain! When I told my friend Mark he said: "You lucky bastard". It's great to have a friend who makes you laugh. Last year I went to Valencia in Spain. It is a beautiful place. Above is one of the streets I saw. This time we are going to Southern Spain.

Why did I start an art journal?

This is probably a waste of time. That at least is the thought that holds me back from doing this - and it could be right. Time will tell. 

So I’m writing this in May of 2019 and I’ve been painting for about 20 years and although I’ve done a blog for the last several years on and off - mostly off - I’ve near been able to keep to a consistent journal. I wonder if that will change this time.

Creativity is messy

So the reason for starting an art journal is because creativity is messy and it can soon get out of control - especially if you are creative for 20 years. So the art journal is an attempt at controlling this chaotic flow of creativity.

I became so swamped by my creations that I felt like I was drowning in them. It often surprises me to see gurus offering courses on developing your creativity - let me tell you now, there is a dark side to being creative.

I have a friend who rents a huge building that use to be a restaurant (until it got flooded, there is still wallpaper hanging from the ceiling) and it is filled with his artworks. Everywhere you look you can see his work. I vividly remember chatting with him and being aware of all that artwork around us - there must have been hundreds of pieces.

Culling my creations 

For me it was time to “cull the creativity”. Or rather “cull the creations”. So I sorted through 20 years of work. I have periodically culled my work but I still had hundreds of paintings. It was difficult, painful and time-consuming but at last I culled about, at a guess, 60 or 70% of my work. I can’t tell you what a relief I felt.

What remains of my work is stored in just 2 boxes now with silica gel to protect it from the intense humidity you get in Japan. Although I might get one more box for future creations!

However, what is left is still a substantial body of work which I hope to show here. It needs though to be organized and that is what I hope this journal will help me to do. Also I have written many blog posts related to some of these paintings that are now scattered over different sites, on my computer hard drive and in paper files that I hope to put in order.

Momentous task 

It’s going to be a momentous task - perhaps I am really wasting my time. But I will devote about 30 to 60 minutes a day. Let’s see what happens. I will stop though if the whole project seems to go sour.

One of the big problems is that I am not very sure when I painted some of my pictures. So I can’t promise absolute fidelity to the time of creation but I will do try to be fairly accurate. Also some works got spread over a long period of time and became a series. Furthermore, I was working upon them sporadically so these are difficult to date. And then there are the one offs that just came out beautifully but I have forgotten when exactly I did them. Also the date of when I actually went to a place and when I did a painting of that place can be very far apart - even years apart - I will try to let you know that when I am aware of it myself.

Final hope

My final hope for this project is that it will give structure to my creativity and in such a way that it will improve my creativity and also help me learn more about the creative process.

I have the fear though that creativity and organization don’t mix well. I fear that creativity is messy by nature - we shall see. And so I fear that by trying to be organized with my creativity I might affect my creativity for the worse - again, we shall see.

Comments please

Comments are very welcome. I might not be able to reply but I really do appreciate them and do read them. Also, if you have any suggestions for titles of paintings then they are very welcome because it is so difficult to think of good titles.

It’s also useful to know which paintings you like and why and this can help me with sales. For instance, I love to paint urban scenes but people rarely buy them. So it really helps when people tell me which works they like. Also there are some paintings which I think are not good enough and that other people really like - so your comment could save a painting!

I hope you enjoy this journal.

Gareth.

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