Watercolor painting of a beautiful Japanese beach and striking a painting vein

So recently I found a drawing in my sketchbook of Itogahama beach. I can’t remember when I drew this and whether it was from an image or even done on location.

The original painting was of a beach in shadow with a dramatic thin line of light across the beach created by a path through the cliffs and this light dramatically shone on my family and gave them long shadows.

It was a beautiful image but when I attempted a painting the result was okay but not wow. I will probably work on it again at some ‘indefinite’ point in the future – in other words, probably never.

But I decided, on this occasion, to paint the scene but as if it were early in the morning.

Yes, that’s right, I would totally move the sun and change the whole lighting effect. 

I wanted to paint soft vertical shadows and so I painted on scrap paper which I always do when experimenting as it really frees me up and surprisingly, or maybe not, out of this an amazing painting appeared and led to a series of other paintings on scrap paper.

Through these experiments I found a wonderful way to paint beaches.

I was so excited I painted a proper painting and this was so successful that I painted another and then another and now I have a mini-collection which you can see here; it is like I have struck a creative vein of gold ore.

In the painting above I did a shadow within a shadow, but what I really wanted to do was have a figure with a white top that created a white space in the cliff shadow. So I will paint this again.

This is the first time that I have had this kind of experience of creating a series and it’s a lot of fun; it came from taking something quite rudimentary, a basic pencil drawing, and really experimenting with it on scrap paper.

Over and out for now.


I originally wrote this story in July of 2014. I am editing it in April of 2021. The story needed almost no edits. And it was interesting to find out that this is when I did my first series. Although I’m not sure that statement is totally true. Perhaps what I meant is focusing on one particular scene and really delving into it. 

So this is a more focused kind of series unlike, for instance, my paintings of construction scenes, which I did a lot of during this year. With the construction scenes I didn’t really delve into one particular scene but rather painted various scenes of construction through the city. 

And although I have favorite haunts which I have painted again and again, such as Beppu bay or Oita river, I’m normally painting the same place but with a different atmosphere.

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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