OTSU, SHIGA PREFECTURE – Brian Williams, a Peruvian-born American painter, has lived in Shiga Prefecture for 29 years, producing over 2,000 pictures of nearby Lake Biwa and its surrounding nature.
Williams, 63, left the United States at age 22 while he was studying art at the University of California, as he opposed the Vietnam War. Interested in Japanese food, he visited Japan during a planned around-the-world trip to make sketches and ended up settling in the country.
Williams said he initially drew temples and shrines in Kyoto but instantly “fell in love” with the traditional houses with thatched roofs that he found in the city’s Sakyo Ward. Whenever he visited the area to sketch, Williams saw many of the old wooden houses being demolished and the thatched roofs being replaced with corrugated iron.
Williams said he became aware that “cultural assets may be preserved but traditions and nature may be destroyed.” So he started painting landscapes that he was afraid would disappear.
Williams then moved to live by Lake Biwa, east of Kyoto, which has been redeveloped but which still has rich nature.
“We are in times when a landscape painter must address environmental conservation,” he said.