Name: Gareth Naylor
Occupation: Painter, English teacher
1. What first brought you to Japan? Several years of studying in a small room — I wanted to travel, to experience a very different world and have some adventures.
2. What’s keeping you here? Sunshine in December and the gifts. When I’m outside painting, passers-by sometimes give me gifts: an item from their shopping bag, vegetables from a farmer’s garden or even homemade honey.
3. Why Oita in particular? Chance. When I applied for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, they asked me where I’d like to go and I said, “Anywhere.” This is where fate put me.
4. What do you miss most about Japan when you are away? The smiles. When you go into a Japanese store one of the nicest things you get is the smile.
5. Whom in Japan do you most admire? Keiko Tanabe and Brian Williams, because they lived out my dream of making a living from traveling and painting.
6. What’s your favorite phrase in Japanese? “Daijōbu desu” (“That’s OK”). I like this phrase because of the confusion it used to cause on New Year’s Day at my father-in-law’s house. He would often ask me if I’d like some more food, and I used to say, “Daijōbu desu,” meaning that I’d had enough. However, my father-in-law would get confused by this and tell everybody that he didn’t know if I meant I’d had enough or wanted some more.
7. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “I shall pass this way but once.” This phrase haunts me because it reminds me that every moment of life is a precious one that we will never have again.
8. What first inspired you to take up painting? Probably the work of Edward Wesson. His watercolor paintings have a simplicity and boldness that really moved me. He could paint just space and make it look interesting.
9. You specialize in watercolor as a medium. Why? It’s the best medium for painting outdoors and I love to paint surrounded by the elements. There is also the wonderful combination of it being both delicate and powerful — you often get one or the other but you rarely get both. I feel this medium is the one that allows for the greatest expressiveness.
10. Do you ever work with other mediums? I feel the need to focus and to go as far as I can in one medium. Most people think limits are, well, limiting, but they can sometimes be liberating.
11. You also specialize in painting landscapes. Any particular reason for this? Because when I am outside, painting in the middle of a rice field and looking at mountains in the distance, I feel deep down inside that I’m in the right place. And all that space above my head feels liberating.
12. I am assuming you take a lot of photos and then re-produce this in watercolor at a later point in time. What are the advantages of such a process? I can’t always paint outside and, even when I can, I often see scenes that I don’t have time to paint or are momentary, such as the last flush of light before the sun sets, and so a camera is really useful.
13. Do you have a favorite location/setting you like to paint? About eight or nine years ago, I started getting on my bicycle and following my local river deep into the Japanese countryside. I have had many wonderful adventures and painting trips following this river.
14. Is there a landscape somewhere in the world that you have never seen but would love to paint? Small towns in southern Europe that have crumbly stone walls. And I’d also like to paint the buildings in Morocco.
15. Is there a particular season you like to paint? Probably autumn when the weather is ideal for painting outside. The sunsets can be spectacular and you have a beautiful variety of colors.
16. You say that you’ve developed an interest in wet roads. What is the attraction? Roads are like a mirror and the glaring light from car headlights in the dark can be very dramatic and distorted.
17. Your work typically features a lot of shadows or reflections. What do these types of scenes mean to you? Shadows help connect the painting — they add drama and mystery. And they make it easier to see scenes in a more expressive, abstract way that delights me and, I hope, delights the viewer.
18. What do you think about when standing on the train? I don’t think on trains. I look and sometimes sketch. The arrangement of the seats on a Japanese train gives you a beautiful uninterrupted view of all the people on it.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? To avoid becoming too adult. Sometimes, instead of being so serious, we need to be a bit more silly — or at least I do.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Every morning when you wake up, let your first thought be thank you (God) for this day. And then add 10 more things you are grateful for. Why? Because life is not forever and you’ll never get that day back again — ever.
For more information on the artist, visit www.garethnaylor.com.