Fresh Green(crop) by Kunihiko Shibano

While I was away I received a painting I ordered from artist Kunihiko Shibano. My friend Nick Taransky gifted me Mr. Shibano’s book, Anglers, and offered to translate this short interview with Mr Shibano from his home in Suginami, Japan. I absolutely love Mr. Shibano’s work, so much so that it inspired me to give painting a try!

Mr. Shibano has been fly fishing for over 50 years and has been painting over 30. For the last 30 years he’s been a regular writer and painter for the Japanese “Fly Fisher” magazine.

How long have you been painting? Who inspired you? Why watercolors vs oil or acrylic?

I have been painting for 30 years. Obviously even before I doodled with water color in outdoor life. And 30 years ago, a monthly fly fishing magazine “Fly Fisher” asked me to write a fishing essay with painting. So I began to paint every month and it continues until now. This opportunity gave me the motivation to paint seriously.

Maybe all grand masters inspired me. Not only water color painters but also oil painters or abstract painters like Gauguin, Turner, Picasso, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Zao Wou-ki, Edward Hopper and so on ….

I am often in nature for fishing, climbing, birds watching and the tools for water color painting are easy to carry. That is the first reason. But anyway, I love paper, brush and water. Water for fishing, water for painting.

How did you learn to paint?

Self-education. Discovering new things is very interesting and a joy for me. Mixing two colors makes another color and adding a third color makes another color. It is very enjoyable to discover and it is fun to find by oneself. I did not lose this joy by learning with a teacher.

In most of your paintings you have a lone angler. Is fishing alone how you prefer to fish, just you, nature and the trout?

Solitude without loneliness calms you and sharpen your eyes to see more clearly the universe and human being’s activities.

Your style seems to my very limited knowledge to be very ‘loose’ and impressionistic, like a jazz musician improvising. Do you start with a detailed idea in your mind of the finished painting or does it develop naturally/organically as you put brush to paper and just let your talents, experience and paint flow?

Because painting is not copy of that you see. It is the result of a composition of elements- those you see or those you remember or those you imagine.

Sometime I remember of the smells of snow wind and I try to express this cold wind by color, line and mass. Another time, a color comes in my mind for the first idea, blue for example. I begin to paint with blue without thinking about the next step like you take a step forward on an adventure. Next, I’m thinking what color is the best choice to juxtapose beside blue. Maybe orange. Ok, I put orange beside the blue and I begin to have a image of a river under the summer sun. The creation continues like this. Sometime it goes well, sometime you finish to tear your paper in two. You have to have a good luck for painting like fishing.

What is most rewarding to you about painting? About fly fishing?

Painting, fly fishing, climbing are my ways to experience my life and are the proof of that I live.

Thank you Mr. Shibano!-jdw

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