Watercolor Paintings of Rickshaws

Story

In 2017 I decided to do a series of paintings on rickshaws. I was feeling ambitious. It was meant to be a one year project and to result in 100 paintings of rickshaws (gulp) and an exhibition. I even booked a place to have the exhibition.

The inspiration came from my trips to Yufuin, a popular tourist town in Oita prefecture. In this small town you can see many tourists travelling around in rickshaws through the town streets and into the surrounding picturesque countryside lanes.

As an artist I am always looking for something that will be interesting to paint. 

And it is easy for me now to find interesting things to paint because I have developed a visual eye, but it is very difficult for me to explain that visual appeal in words. But I will try.

Firstly, I would say rickshaws are interesting because they are such an unusual and strange contraption. You have a big, heavy boxy shape balanced on two very large, thin wheels. It’s a lovely contrast of bulky heaviness and thin elegance. 

Secondly, everything is slightly tilted, including the folding roof which is like a series of tilted planes.

And thirdly it is not just one shape but several very different shapes interacting together, so you have the vehicle and then the human puller and finally the riders. It’s really like a see-saw on wheels and you can feel this dynamic, balancing act.

I knew this contraption would look interesting in a painting as a focal point.

But it was very challenging to draw and paint rickshaws. The qualities that made it interesting also made it difficult to render. Such as all those irregular angles, the strange shape of the hood and the shape of the large elegant wheels. 

I travelled several times to Yufuin to look at the rickshaws. And from those trips I amassed a lot of photos. At times I was almost chasing rickshaws down the street. And I tried very hard to take photos of them from different angles and in different places. 

From these photos I spent a long time doing sketches. It took quite a long time before I really got a feel for the shape and structure of a rickshaw. These sketches eventually led to about 20 or so finished paintings. Not quite 100!

Sadly, my ambitious series got derailed at this point – as normally happens. I became interested in another subject.

Hopefully, one day I will be drawn back to painting some more scenes of rickshaws, especially as I still find them so interesting.

And I also intend to have a ride in one of them someday – despite all my interest I have yet to experience what it’s like to travel in a rickshaw.

I know that John Singer Sargent did a famous series of paintings from being seated in a gondola. Perhaps I could do the same thing but seated in a rickshaw.

That’s all for now on the subject of rickshaws,

Gareth.