Watercolor paintings of a Japanese river

Watercolor painting of Oita river on a beautiful evening
“A walk by the river on a beautiful evening”

This is a painting of Oita river.

This river is on my doorstep. 

And I love this river.

It’s a small haven of space, greenery and fresh air surrounded by a city that is cramped, gray and full of cars and noisy motorbikes belching out gasoline.

I have to admit this river is not all beautiful. 

The Japanese are excessive in their use of concrete and even by the river there is concrete everywhere.

At the same time, I have to confess the concrete path is extremely convenient and it would be very unpleasant to have to walk through one or even two meter high plants.

And, nature, as much as I love it and would love to say it is wonderful, is not simply wonderful. 

Nature in Japan is like a wildfire and along some wilder stretches of the river you can see an extremely dense mass of trees, bamboo and bushes covered in a net of ivy. It’s not pretty. 

But the river is still a haven compared to the surrounding city and I have spent many hours outside painting this river.

I think these paintings were done in 2013. 

At that time I was still struggling with the medium of watercolor and although I enjoyed painting outdoors by the river I also experienced a lot of frustration and produced a lot of bad paintings.

The paintings here are the few survivors from the many paintings I have done of this river. 

The picture above is my favorite one of this small surviving collection. 

What I like most about this painting is the strong mood of beauty and peacefulness.

Some of the other things I like are:

The viewpoint. This is one of my favorite viewpoints of the river and I have done many paintings of the river from this spot.

And I like to paint figures walking by the edge of the river with the water sparkling behind them.

Next, I like the sky in the painting which is very luminous and has a very soft and gradual diffusion of a yellow sun into a blue sky with a cluster of beautifully shaped, warm gray clouds around the sun. This pattern of the clouds makes for a lovely composition.

And I like the reddish mountain (which is actually very unnatural but works in this painting) with the receding mountains becoming noticeably bluer and cooler.

The distant buildings and foliage work fairly well as you can distinguish the different objects but at the same time it is subtly done.

And the river has a beautiful glow and sparkle.

The foreground is very nice. The green is just the right color, the distant tree is well painted and the figure slightly disappearing into the grass gives a lovely feeling of softness.

For me, this painting is magical.

I won’t, though, say anything about that signature except that I’m happy it’s fairly small.

Watercolor painting of two fishermen walking by Oita river early in the morning
“Early morning fishermen walking by the river”

What I like most about this next painting is the vast expanse of sky.

This painting has a very similar viewpoint as the previous one. 

But I think you’ll agree that it has a very different mood.

This is an early morning scene and I like the early morning long shadows of the figures in this painting.

I also like the reflective surface of the river and the sparkle.

And I like the brown grass and gravel path in the foreground which has been subtly but beautifully depicted.

The background is okay. The buildings are not particularly beautiful but their irregular shapes of the buildings along with the reflective roofs creates an interesting skyline.

I think the figures of the two fishermen on the left hand side of the painting are fairly well done and also the figure of a woman with a dog in the distance. 

But the other two figures are not so good. 

I think those two figures are the weakest part of this painting. 

At some point, I’d like to paint this picture again and try to improve those two figures.

Watercolor painting of two fishermen returning home after fishing by the river
“Fishermen returning home”

This painting shows a small island in the river.

I think this island creates a very interesting scene.

This scene has since changed though as they have built a bridge across this river at about this point. 

This bridge has spoiled the view and I no longer paint this island.

What I like most about this painting is the luminosity. 

This painting almost glows with light.

I also like the bright colors.

Next, the distant background is a beautiful gray color that has subtle touches of a green color within it and some interesting little gaps.

It looks very realistic.

The trees are lovely shapes and have beautiful shadowy areas.

 And they have a beautiful bright green color.

And the grass is well done, especially that brown grass on the island. I’m delighted with that.

The green grass in the foreground looks good. I love the touches of brown and the tufts of grass. 

Also the subtle blue color of the river and the rich, dark gray-green reflections are very good.

The figures of the two fishermen are passable. I don’t like how similar they look to one another. For instance, both seem to have the same hat but in a different color. 

If I painted this picture again then I would make these two figures much more different from one another. Or I would just have one figure.

But overall, I like this brightly colored painting. There is a feeling of it being a lovely day and there is an aliveness and cheerfulness in this scene.

Watercolor painting of a fishing boat on Oita river at evening time
“Peaceful evening by Oita river”

What I like most about this painting is the very subtle color changes.

So sometimes I paint from the other side of the river and this painting is from the other side of the river bank. 

This side of the river gives an interesting view of Oita city center and the mountains behind the city. 

I like the way I have painted the distant skyline in this picture. The distant mountains are soft and seem to melt into the sky.

And the city is beautiful. The color of the buildings is nicely subdued and yet there are a few subtle color variations which make it interesting to look at.

Then there is the lovely blue sparkle upon the river.

And the foreground grass and trees are well done.

And I like the figures and the boat, especially the shapes of these objects. I think they might be even better with a little more color added to them. But I’m not completely sure about that.

I don’t often paint this outlet. This is because it is artificial and the sides are very straight so I don’t think it is a particularly nice subject to look at. 

But in this picture, I tried to hide the straightness of it with the rough grass and trees and the reflections and I think it turned out quite nice.

Overall, I think this painting has a lovely feeling to it. For me, it beautifully captures a quiet, evening moment by the river.

Watercolor painting of father and son walking by Oita river as the sun is rising and with chimney smoke rising up from the distant steel factory
“Factory smoke and morning sunshine”

This is an odd painting. 

In the foreground, for instance, we have something almost bucolic and idyllic, as we have some greenery and people fishing and a boy with a butterfly net walking by the river with his father. 

But across the river it is not at all bucolic or idyllic.

You can see gray city buildings and the distant steel factory with those tall chimney stacks which are belching out gray smoke.

Although not exactly beautiful, those chimney stacks along with those baseball lights and some of the tall buildings are quite interesting shapes and make for a very interesting skyline. I especially like the shape of the baseball lights.

And I thought that the gray smoke passing in front of the early morning sun and the white fluffy clouds is not only visually interesting but kind of beautiful. Perhaps I’m brainwashing myself.

Whether this painting is beautiful or not, it is certainly interesting and so I’m glad I painted those chimney stacks and all that smoke.

Steel factories have a big significance in my life. 

And not simply because nowadays I live right next to one.

But also because my mum’s family is from Dublin, Ireland and her family moved to England in order to work in the steel factories. 

It was a good job with a good salary until they closed nearly all of them down.

Although I don’t like having a steel factory near where I live, at the same time I think it is important for a country to have heavy industries.

That’s all,