Gareth Naylor

Atmospheric paintings of Japan

This watercolor painting of Japanese haystacks was done outdoors during a painting trip in November of 2014. This place is called Shonai. It is a village in Oita prefecture, Japan. This painting is by Gareth Naylor.

Watercolor painting of Japanese haystacks

Watercolor painting of Japanese haystacks
“Japanese haystacks”

Today I was just going to sit in the studio and paint. But then my wife suggested that I go out and paint as it was such a beautiful day. 

My relaxing day suddenly became a hectic one. Now, I was planning a trip and wondering where would be the best place to go. 

Should I look for a watery place such as a port or a river as I might be doing a big exhibition next year on the theme of water? But then it is autumn and the leaves are so beautiful so maybe I should be painting them before they’ve all fallen off the trees.

And then I have to take into account that I only have about 8 hours.

Eventually, probably while in the shower, a place in the countryside called Yufuin came to mind and the other possibilities were abandoned. 

And that’s how it started. But as so often happens when I try to go to Yufuin I never arrive. On the way, I always stop because I see a scene that I want to paint. I think this is a good thing. In my opinion, outdoor artists must always be opportunists. 

I stopped at a place called Shonai. It was midway between my starting point, Oita city, and Yufuin. 

In this place, the road runs next to an enormous gorge and the sight was so spectacular I had to stop and paint it – or at least try. I did two paintings and both were disappointing. 

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to see the river close up. So I tried to descend down to the river at the bottom of the gorge along a small trail through a bamboo forest. I stopped though when I reached a waterway with no apparent way around it. 

Next to the waterway, there was a huge sign that was peppered with rust and had tiny flakes of paint sticking off it but which despite the damage clearly said danger in Japanese. 

I accidentally brushed my hand against the sign which was sharp and for the next hour worried about blood poisoning despite knowing that such a shallow graze was harmless.

After my misadventure on the mountain I’ve become more anxious.

And then it was back to the road to look for another scene. There wasn’t enough time for Yufuin now so the next painting scene had to be nearby. And luckily fairly soon I came across a field with some beautiful Japanese haystacks. 

The shape of these haystacks and the arrangement of them in the field was like a very beautiful work of art. After finding a place to park I was soon in the fields looking for a good composition.

Unlike the first scene this was quite an easy one to paint.

As well as the haystacks I liked the stubbly rice field. It had a wonderful pattern and I could spend hours playing around trying to capture that amazing pattern and texture.

I also liked the contrast of the yellow trees against the cool blue of the background mountain.

This was truly a wonderful subject and the light was glorious. What more could you wish for? Well, perhaps the chance to do another painting.

That’s all,



I originally wrote this story in December of 2014, I edited it in 2022.