Special Article: A letter from Robert Adachi “Photo and Watercolor”

2020.05.15 BLOG

Hello, it’s Machuko@- the admin.

This is the third article of STAY HOME project, “Photo and Watercolor" by Robert Adachi.

Painting Watercolor out of Photo

Hi, this is Robert.
Great to be back.

Although I’m a GRist and known as a photographer, I’m also a music composer and painter.

When I was a teenager and in my early 20’s, I did a lot of drawings and paintings, and received many awards. At some point, I worked as a professional painter and painted for books including a picture book for children. Watercolor was the main medium.

After that, my passion went for music and then photography, and didn’t paint much.

However, when I painted the first picture in some years since I had started photography, I found myself looking at things differently. For example, I was composing in terms of focal length, and seeing more light when I painted.

The reverse is also true. Painting can help you grow as a photographer.

When you take a photo, you don’t necessarily have to see the object- your camera sees it and captures it for you. But when painting, you see everything by yourself- from composition, detail, to colors for a longer period of time.

One of the things I tell my photography students is the importance of ‘conscious photographing,’ where you know what you are photographing. By consciously photographing, you clearly get to know why and what you are photographing, which leads you to being able to write your statements easily. You naturally do that when you paint.

Well, what I’d like to show you here as one simple way to enjoy painting is to how to make a watercolor painting out of a photo, because, in these difficult times, it is one of the things you can enjoy at home easily with photograph. Watercolor is easier to start and handle with than other mediums, say oil.

Here, let me show you how I paint a sunset river out of a photo taken with the GR III during my trip to Thailand in 2019. Hope this will inspire you.

This is the original photo (I’m not going to talk about how great the GR is this time).

Let’s start by drawing with a pencil by looking at the photo. When you do it, you don’t have to draw too much detail. You simply draw the essence of the picture.

What’s good about drawing is that you can omit things you don’t want in the picture,
or add things you want.

Now, let’s put some paint on the pallet. In my case, as I do this, I look at the drawing and the original photo, and plan ahead how I’m going to paint. This time, I’m using a small piece of paper. All I need is just a small amount of each color I will probably need.

Let’s paint now. Before I use the color, I put clear water on the area of the sky because it will make nice blur when I actually put the paint.

One of the things you should always keep in mind is to start painting lightly, with a very little amount of paint, and gradually paint heavier, darker colors.

By the way, when you buy a set of paints, I’d recommend you to buy a small number of set, like 12 colors, because if you mix more than one color, you can get this blur effect. For example, the green paint doesn’t produce any blur, but mixing blue and yellow instead makes beautiful blur.

Another advantage about painting, compared to photograph, is I can change the colors if I wish. The picture does not necessarily have to look the same as the photo. In this case, I made the sky a little more colorful than the original photo.

Let’s go on to the river. Paint the water of the river as clean as possible. Paint very gently, but boldly.

Now, it’s time to paint darker colors. With watercolor, compared to oil, it’s difficult to fix the colors once you have painted. It’s not impossible but difficult. However, don’t be timid. Paint boldly and elegantly.

This is the final picture.

In these difficult times, you can’t go out to travel, but sooner or later, you will, and you will be able to enjoy more freedom because you have gone through the limitation. The GR is not a Swiss army knife, it has some limitations; the 28mm fixed lens for example. However, limitations help creativity. I use them as ‘rules of a game’ instead. No game is fun without rules. So let us think of the limitations we are having in our life nowadays as rules and try to be creative.

Here is the link to the the whole process as a movie. The music is also mine. Maybe you are not as interested in painting as photography, but I’ll be very happy if you subscribe.

Follow my new watercolor Instagram account if you are interested. 
My watercolor exhibit is scheduled in June at Roonee 247 fine arts in Tokyo, if not affected by the COVID-19. Here is a sneak peak at one of the exhibiting works. This is a more abstract and imaginary picture that has not been painted out of a photo.


Robert Adachi
Having always been interested in how we connect and create things, Adachi studied foreign languages, programming languages and art as a teenager, studied international law and global issues at the university, began composing music at the age of 22, and self-taught photography at 32. He was in charge of the brochure/official sample photos of the GR DIGITAL III, GXR, and GR. Composed the original music for “GR Concept Movie.” Received many awards worldwide in fine art. His publications include photobook “Clarity and Precipitation” (arD).

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