Watercolor Painting of a Waterfall

Finally, I went to Ogata to paint tulips. When I arrived, though, I discovered that most of the tulips had gone. That said, I quite liked the scattering of tulips I saw rather than the almost overpowering bright lines of tulips that look so unnatural.

But all was not lost as there were other interesting things to paint in this place so I skipped the tulip fields and went to the river where there is an amazing suspended walk bridge.

It’s really unusual in Japan to see a bridge that is actually elegant, most look like they are built for tanks to cross; although they are probably made so sturdily because of earthquakes. I still think though that they could construct something better.

What was really exciting about this bridge in my painting was how the walkway, which looked like a white line across a dark background, acted as a lovely directional line leading the viewer’s eye to the focal point which in this case was the people at the far end of the bridge.

I also love this dramatic gorge with the foliage and the strong shadows which gives a wonderful textured background that emphasizes the bridge.

The figures are a little too big and in a future attempt I will make them a little smaller or the bridge a little bigger depending on which works best.

Next, I went down to the river and the waterfall. I have painted this several times now but it’s such a wonderful scene to paint that I couldn’t resist. 

I read that it is about 20 meters high and forms a perfect crescent shape. 

Despite being a beautiful scene it took me quite a while of hopping over countless stones to find a good composition; as I’ve said before composition is critical and the first thing to think about because a beautiful scene doesn’t necessarily mean a beautiful image.

What I really like about this scene is the mist that wafts across the bottom of the waterfall. It was also nice when this mist wafted over me because it was a very hot day; although at first I thought, in a sudden panic, that it was raining.

It was a very sunny day with a warm breeze; ideal conditions for drying clothes and watercolor paintings; in fact, my paint was drying out so quickly I had to keep spraying it with water. 

I also folded the cover of my watercolor pad above the paper so it acted as a little ‘parasol’ over the paper blocking out the sunshine over half the paper.

Despite these measures the paint dried really quickly. Truth be told I am a little disappointed with the waterfall part but I will have another attempt at home. It’s not bad but I have produced better.

I ate my lunch while my first wash was drying. Most of my paintings consist of two washes: a first wash, which is an under wash and then an over wash. 

This was a bad idea though because of the excessive sunshine I got; when I finished this painting my head was feeling like a baked potato and so I retired to the restroom and then the local shop where I wandered around in a slightly delirious fashion enjoying the cool shade.

After recovering sufficiently, I painted the final picture. This scene is of the river just before the waterfall. 

Despite an excessive amount of construction, which the Japanese often do, especially to areas of natural beauty like this place, the river still retains these beautiful little grassy islands with water flowing between them; I absolutely love this and also the gate, or torii as they say in Japan, even though it’s probably made of concrete. 

I guess it could be worse for if they had the money they might use shiny pink marble or something; I wonder if they will stick a solar panel on it in the future.

The whole scene was really inspiring especially as it was set against a very dramatic sky that imparted a wonderful mood; I literally live for this.

A group of Japanese people even came by and showered me with smiles and compliments before they continued with their sightseeing – which is never a bad thing.

After finishing I returned to the shop and bought some Japanese sweets called manju for my family. These are basically buns with a very heavy doughy texture and an adzuki bean paste filling: very nice. 

I really had to buy these as a kind of peace offering to my wife as she had looked after our toddler all day while I had been out painting; you just have to give somebody something for that; I wish that I could have given her something more.

It was really wonderful to return home and to hear my toddler’s excited stomping feet coming to the door; she’s only one year and eight months but she gave me a bow as I entered the house – adorable; her sparkling eyes, wide smile and rich chuckle of a laugh touched my heart.

Torii means bird abode, perhaps this is because birds perch on it, but that’s just my guess.

And here’s one more quick watercolor sketch I did of the waterfall that I liked.


I originally wrote this story in April of 2014. I’m editing it in April of 2021. The painting of the bridge I threw away so I had to use an image from my computer. Sadly it was a small image and I had to blow up the image a little and then sharpen it using a photo editing app. I think the final result is pretty okay but it is obviously not ideal. Since this story was written, I’ve visited Ogata several times and I now have a small series of paintings of this place. Although I never did another painting of the bridge in which I made the figures smaller. In the near future I will add a link to all the paintings I’ve done of this wonderful place.