44 Watercolor Paintings By Japanese Artist Keiko Tanabe

Keiko Tanabe Painting

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Keiko Tanabe Painting

Keiko was born in Kyoto, Japan. As a child growing up in an art-loving family, she always enjoyed drawing and painting and won many awards in children’s art contests. However, art was not her chosen field of study later on. She earned a B.A. in intercultural communication (International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan) and an M.A. in international education (UCLA, California). She then worked in international relations positions in a Japanese government trade organization in Tokyo, at a large law firm in San Francisco and at a private consulting firm in San Diego. For decades, she has traveled extensively, mainly in European countries, Asia and North America.

Through all these years, Keiko knew there was in her heart the growing desire to someday become an artist. That, fueled by her love of travel and strong interest in other cultures, eventually found its way out in 2003. After learning basic drawing and watercolor painting skills at a local community school in San Diego, she took on her first project as an artist together with her father, a renowned scholar of French literature in Japan. Through the Azure Sea and Sky of Provence: A Tribute to Her Joie de Vivre (Kosei Publishing, Osaka, Japan) was published in August, 2003, authored by her father and illustrated by Keiko. From then on, she intensely taught herself to be fluent in watercolor painting, just as one would do to master a foreign language.

Mostly self-taught, Keiko embarked on a professional art career in 2005 and started exhibiting publicly. In the same year she took a workshop from Alvaro Castagnet and discovered the joy of plein-air painting. Since that year her paintings have been juried into many exhibitions across Americas and in Asia and Europe. Her work has been purchased by private and corporate collectors from all around the world. She also had her paintings published in leading art magazines in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Additionally, she self-publishes her art books and nine books have been completed by 2019. She’s also a sought-after workshop instructor. Since 2011, she has been invited to and completed successfully more than 230 workshops and numerous live demonstrations around the world. She has served as a juror in a number of art exhibitions including some major watercolor shows around the world such as the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, the International Watercolor Society, the Northwest Watercolor Society, the Utah Watercolor Society and the New Mexico Watercolor Society. In 2015 she was named an official Ambassador for Winsor & Newton. In 2018, she was appointed to the advisory board of the American Watercolor Weekly. In 2018 and 2019, she was invited to be a faculty member for the Plein Air Convention & Expo, the world’s largest plein-air painting event.

Keiko currently lives in San Diego, California.

Keiko Tanabe is award-winning artist and a signature member of the National Watercolor Society. Often working en plein air, her atmospheric watercolors perfectly capture a sense of time and place. Through her use of color, textures, and signature brushwork, Keiko’s landscapes and cityscapes beautifully convey both the exotic and the simple scenes of the many places she travels.

Keiko is essentially self-taught, as she started painting following a single drawing class in 2004. A year later, after studying basic drawing and watercolor at a local community school in San Diego, Keiko decided to paint full-time. From then on, she intensely taught herself to be fluent in watercolor painting, just as one would do to master a foreign language. Her subjects include landscape, cityscape, waterscape and interior scenes, which will be demonstrated in the workshop, using representational and impressionistic compositions. Since 2011, Keiko has given more than 100 workshops and numerous live demonstrations around the world.


Q:Did you always know that watercolor is your medium?

When I started making art, I tried watercolor and also other mediums such as acrylic and pastel (I avoided oil because of health concerns). The elusive nature of watercolor intrigued and frustrated me more than the others and I had to understand why it was so difficult to control it. That was my initial reaction and luckily it was more of an attraction than a deterrence to me. The more I worked in watercolor, the more I was convinced that this must be the best medium to express my emotions.

Q:You have been travelling so much, living in Asia, Europe, America. Is there any influence of Japanese culture in your works? Do you feel any cultural connection?

I was born and grew up in Japan, and am now living in the U.S.A. I have traveled extensively all over Europe but never lived there for an extended period of time. No matter where I am, my cultural identity is deeply rooted in Japan and I believe that is reflected in the work I do and in some of the techniques I use.

Q:You paint a lot of architectural objects. Is it your favorite motive?

Architecture is a form of human ingenuity that reveals so much about people’s lifestyles and traditions in each culture. I find it very fascinating. I am not trained as an architect but I do appreciate the beauty it creates and take advantage of its technical aspects somewhat. It gives my paintings a sense of place and a sense of perspective.

Q: Most of your works look almost monochrome. Have you got your favorite colors or color relationships?

I use colors from the wide range of spectrum but I prefer mixing them rather than applying pure colors to my painting. I am particularly fond of mixing colors to create a range of warm and cool grays. When mixed well, they create a beautiful atmosphere and subtle nuances of the mood in my painting.

via: https://artescapesyvr.com/tanabe/



More About Keiko Tanabe


  • American Impressionist Society, Inc.
  • National Watercolor Society, signature member
  • American Watercolor Society, signature member
  • North American Watercolor Artists (NAWA), founding member
  • Laguna Plein Air Painters Association




View a complete list of past exhibitions.

  • 2019
  • 152nd American Watercolor Society Annual International Exhibition, New York City, U.S.A.
  • 10th Annual Signature American Watermedia Exhibition, Fallbrook, California, U.S.A.
  • Salon Dessin Peinture A L’Eau, Paris, France
  • 2018
  • LOCAL COLOR – Invitational Museum Show, California, U.S.A.
  • Premio Biennale Internazionale, Fabriano, Italy
  • National Watercolor Society 98th International Open Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • Watercolor Masters, Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • 151st American Watercolor Society Annual International Exhibition, New York City, U.S.A.
  • 6th Trienal Internacional de la Acuarela, Santa Marta, Colombia
  • 2017
  • Keiko Tanabe Solo Exhibition “Veneto: A Watercolor Journey”, Vicenza, Italy
  • 5th International Watercolor Biennial, Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, France
  • 8th Annual Signature American Watermedia Exhibition, Falbrook, California, U.S.A.
  • 2016
  • CPAP 2016 International Plein Air Challenge Exhibit, Pacific Grove, California, U.S.A.
  • Salon International de l’Aquarelle d’Eckange, Eckange, France
  • 7th Annual Signature American Watemedia Exhibition, Fallbrook, California, U.S.A.
  • Aquarellades, Mons, Belgium
  • 2015
  • Solo Exhibition, Willowbrush Gallery, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
  • 2015 International Watercolour Elite Exhibition, Taiwan
  • Aquarelle Reims Evenement 2015, Reims, France
  • Les Printemps de l’Aquarelle, Libramont, Belgium
  • 6th Annual Signature American Watercolor Exhibition, Fallbrook, California, U.S.A.
  • 2014
  • Solo Exhibition, Art Shop Sanat Galerisi, Alaçati, Turkey
  • World Watermedia Exposition, Bangkok, Thailand
  • International Contemporary Watercolour Exhibition, various cities, China
  • Water Views: XXI Century Landscape Watercolorists, various cities, Italy
  • 2013
  • Shenzhen Watercolor Biennial, China
  • “New Direction” Two-Person Watercolor Exhibition, Tokyo, Japan
  • 4th Annual Signature American Watercolor Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • Les Aquarellades, Mons, Belgium
  • 2013 Juried Biennial, California, U.S.A.
  • 2012
  • Solo Exhibition, Izmir Painting and Sculpture Museum, Izmir, Turkey
  • 2nd Annual Scottsdale Salon of Fine Art, Arizona, U.S.A.
  • 3rd Annual Signature American Watercolor Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • “Stepping Over the Line” (Group Exhibition of the North American Watercolor Artists), Strathmore Mansion, Maryland, U.S.A.
  • 2011
  • National Watercolor Society 2011 91st Annual Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • “Ambiances de France” Solo Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • 3rd Contemporary International Outstanding Watercolor Painters Nomination Exhibition, Hangzhou, China
  • Asian Watercolours 2011, Seoul, Korea
  • II Bienal Iberoamericana de la Acuarela
  • Madrid 2011, Madrid, Spain
  • Taiwan International Watercolor Exhibition Invitational, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 5ème Biennale d’Aquarelle, Brioude, France
  • 12ème Biennale du Salon de l’Aquarelle de Belgique, Namur, Belgium
  • American Watercolor Society 144th Annual International Exhibition, New York City, U.S.A.
  • 2nd Annual Signature American Watercolor Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • 9th Watercolor International Biennial Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
  • 2010
  • 7th International Watercolor Biennial Viña del Mar, Viña del Mar, Chile
  • National Watercolor Society 90th Anniversary Annual Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • II Encuentro de Acuarelistas Hispanoamericanos, Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • Shanghai Zhujiajiao International Watercolour Biennial Exhibition, Shanghai, China
  • 2009
  • 34th Annual Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Exhibition, California, U.S.A.
  • 2008
  • Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour Annual Juried Exhibition, Toronto, Canada
  • American Academy of Equine Art Fall Open Juried Exhibition, Kentucky, U.S.A.
  • Watercolor U.S.A., Missouri, U.S.A.


  • George James Award (2019), National Watercolor Society Members Exhibition
  • First Place (2019), Best of Plein Air, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association 15th Annual Juried Plein Air Art Show
  • Multiple Merchandise Awards (2018), San Diego Watercolor Society 38th International Exhibition
  • Best of Show (2018), San Diego Watercolor Society Annual Plein-Air Exhibition
  • Outstanding Watercolor (2018) September 2018 BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Silver Award, Art in the Open International Plein-Air Painting Exhibition, Wexford, Ireland, 2018
  • Outstanding Watercolor (2017) December 2017 BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Award of Excellence (2018), 2nd International Watercolor Biennial, Pakistan
  • Outstanding Watercolor (2017), May 2017 BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • M. Graham and Co. Award (2016), San Diego Watercolor Society 36th International Exhibition
  • Award (2016), International Watercolor Society Pakistan
  • Charles & Helen Tillotson Award (2016), 7th Signature American Watermedia Exhibition
  • Outstanding Watercolor (2015), April 2015 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Joan Roche Memorial Award (2015), 6th Signature American Watermedia Exhibition
  • SDWS Signature Member’s Cash Award & Instructors’ Cash Award (2014), San Diego Watercolor Society 34th International Exhibition
  • Premio del Público (2014), II Exposición Internacional de Acuarela y Pintura al Agua 2014
  • Finalist (2013), November 2013 BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Honorable Mention (2013), Watermedia Showcase Competition, Watercolor Artist Magazine
  • People’s Choice Award (2013), 2013 Cannon Art Gallery Juried Biennial
  • Finalist (2012), April 2012 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Finalist (2012), February 2012 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Benbrook Family Award & People’s Choice Award (2011), San Diego Watercolor Society 31st International Exhibition
  • Finalist
  • Outstanding Watercolor (2011), July 2011 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Finalist
  • Outstanding Watercolor (2011), June 2011 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition
  • Joan Roche Memorial Award (2011), 2011 Signature American Watercolor Exhibition
  • Merwin Altfeld Memorial Award (2010), National Watercolor Society 90th Annual Exhibition
  • Edward & Gail Rogers Award (2010), San Diego Watercolor Society 30th International Exhibition
  • Finalist (2010), 27th Annual Art Competition, The Artist’s Magazine
  • First Place (2010), Il Encuentro de Acuarelistas Hispanoamericanos, Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • First Place (2010), Spa Velia Art Gallery First Juried Art Exhibition
  • Third Place (2010), April 2010 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition

    • New Mexico Watercolor Society, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.
    • S.L.O. Orleat, France
    • Ming Gallery, Suzhou, China
    • Ye Qiangyu Art Museum, Tonglu County, Zhejiang, China
    • Zhongyung Art Museum, Guilin, China
    • Museu de Arte Contemporânea MAC Bahia, Senhor do Bonfim, Brazil