Watercolor paintings of a Japanese river called Oita river

2021

Aerial view of Oita river bending towards the mountains

3 cyclists by the river

Beautiful clouds by Oita river

2020

Aerial view of Oita river on a cloudy day

Beautiful tree by Oita river

Dramatic sky near Oita river bank

Shining, silvery path by Oita river Small series

A cyclist by Oita river

Beautiful trees by Oita river

Glorious morning sunrise over Oita river

Beautiful, dramatic sky over Oita river

Stormy sky over Oita river

2019

Late evening cyclist by the river

Fisherman in a boat in Oita river

Evening cyclist by Oita river

2018

Oita river glowing orange

Dramatic sky over Oita river

Reeds by Oita river

Firework display by Oita river

2017

Beautiful sunrise over Oita river

Fishermen by the bridge at Oita river

Walk along the river bank with a heavenly sky above

2016

Fisherman by Oita river on an intensely bright and sunny summer’s day

Early morning fisherman by Oita river with a dramatic sunrise

Canoeist on Oita river on a sunny summer’s day

Two men walking by the river with a stormy sky above them

Strollers by Oita river on a lovely, peaceful evening in summer

Fisherman walking by the river

2015

Walk in the rain by the river

Moored boat

Hazy morning

2014

Pleasant walk along Oita river bank

Fisherman coming home

Nyudougumo over Oita river

Beautiful wispy clouds over Oita river

Fisherman coming home

Fishermen by the river

Evening stroll along Oita river bank

Misty day by Oita river

Beautiful sky reflection in Oita river

2013

Evening stroll by the river

Evening fishing trip

Father and son on a morning stroll by the river

2011 and earlier

Fisherman in Oita river

Strollers by Oita river

Traditional Japanese boat at Oita river

Story

This river is about a 5 minute walk from my house.

I’m writing this in 2021 and nowadays I walk by this river everyday. It is one of the highlights of my day. I often walk for over an hour. I love it.

It is one of the few places in the city where there are almost no cars, where there is a lot of greenery and a feeling of space.

And this river has also been a source of inspiration for my watercolor painting. And I suppose you could say it was a source of inspiration in two ways. One was, as a subject for painting in of itself. But the other was as a  gateway because via the river I could cycle to the sea and have a wonderful view of Beppu bay. And I have done many paintings of this beautiful bay which I could quickly reach via Oita river.

Below is one of my paintings of Beppu bay done around 2013.

And if I cycled the other way, then I could soon go deep into the Japanese country and find many interesting and beautiful scenes to paint and I also had a lot of fun adventures.

This is one of my paintings of a cyclist going along Oita river towards the mountains and into the countryside.

I have now been painting this river for over ten years.

I must admit when I look at some of my early paintings of this river I cringe because they are so bad such as the one below.

And yet at the same time they remind me of where I used to be and how much I struggled to paint this river at first and they also have nostalgic value.

Indeed, at first I hated this river as a painting subject because of the high river bank which is a characteristic of all Japanese rivers and is a very real protection against flooding. And about 15 or so years ago there was flooding that almost reached the house where I live!

But that bank basically destroys the normal distant view you get when you look across a river. And that’s why I disliked it most. It’s basically like having a wall across your painting that stops the eye from going into the painting.

However, I have found (or perhaps I just brainwash myself into thinking) that this drawback has become a benefit because I have looked at this bank and found ways in which to make it a good subject for painting. One of my best examples is the painting below where I like to think I’ve turned that artificial bank into a very interesting feature and created a beautiful painting.

I used to go to the river a lot and paint there. But at some point I started to paint more and more in my studio. Perhaps it was due to a loss of confidence because I wasn’t selling enough art to make a living from it. But whatever the case in 2020 I went back out to the river and did some plein air painting. 

Perhaps this was due to regaining a bit of confidence after having some financial success and also the desire to be outside again and painting as it is so wonderful to paint outside. Below is my favorite plein-air painting of the river bank.

2020 and 2021 has been an interesting time by the river too, for they have done a lot of work on the river and removed many trees and bushes and flattened long stretches of the river. And when I walked by the river I would see long stretches of soil where only a few weeks ago there had been a dense mass of trees, bamboo and bushes – and much of it covered in ivy. And they really do remove everything. It was just brown earth. However, a few weeks later and the whole area is covered in 2 meter high plants. 

I actually did a painting of some of the construction work which I’m quite happy with.

And at the end of 2020 and in 2021 I got myself a drone which is funny because I never thought I would buy such a thing. Anyway, I started to do new kinds of aerial paintings of Oita river. This has opened up a whole new way of looking at the river for me and has made me quite excited.

I hope to do some dramatic paintings of the mud flats along this river in the near future. In Japan, the rivers tend to be very wide and shallow and at low tide you can get mud flats appearing. I have the notion that in the right lighting they can look very beautiful. We will find out at some point.

Some of the paintings in this gallery I don’t really want to show because I think they are poor paintings – and certainly the really bad ones I probably won’t show. But I added them because I thought you would find them interesting and sometimes they show you a few of my weirder painting experiments or just add to the overall story of 10 years of painting a river. 

It’s strange how our assumptions can be wrong (well, I’m guessing here but I think I’m right) which is basically the assumption that I should show only my best work, but I actually think to show it all – or as much as you dare – is much more interesting, perhaps because there is more variety and depth. 

I don’t know for sure, it is just a guess. But it is also a fact of life that I have had to come to terms with which is that not every painting is going to be great – some are but some, maybe even most, will be average (it is the law of averages if you like and how can you beat that, it is like trying to beat gravity) and a few are going to be spectacularly bad. It has taken a long time for me to emotionally sober up and realize that reality but when you do it is also a big relief.