Keiko Tanabe art tutor at Dalvaro Art Retreat

 Keiko Tanabe

Artist, author, instructor, juror.

Born: Kyoto, Japan

From Keiko.

“Watercolor painting is a language I have learned to speak to tell my stories of who we are and how we live. It is a creative tool to capture the simple truth in our everyday lives that may be overlooked but still pulls my heartstrings. I use it as a vehicle to communicate my artistic vision on the pleasures of life and the ingenuity of human beings. I travel a lot and paint with enthusiasm to celebrate the beauty we all share at this time on this planet.”
“When I am true to my inspiration, my brushstrokes sometimes surprise me by exposing something of my inner spirit I was not even aware of.”
“I used to lay down several layers in order to increase the intensity of values. But in doing that, I could lose freshness. Now I mix my darks first thing, and put in the accurate tonal value of the darks right away. My goal is to finish with fewer brushstrokes.”
“What is important, is not what we capture in our photograph, but what inspired us to take that photo in the first place. With this in mind, we can let our imagination lead us so our creativity won’t become a prisoner of a photograph.”

The Color in all my paintings:
I use the color cobalt turquoise in every piece I create and I always sign my name with it.
In fact, many of my collectors and followers have come to associate this color with me.
It’s such a unique color, and I use it in every possible way in my designs: weak and strong, large and small, mixed and alone.
I also think that this color reflects who I am, speaking to my quiet determination to work through and overcome all the obstacles that lie on the journey ahead.
I am not an expert on the meanings of colors but apparently “Turquoise represents open communication from and between the heart and the spoken word. Being the mid color between the extremes of red and violet, turquoise is the color of balance, for the emotions, thoughts and speech. Turquoise is calming yet invigorating, restoring depleted energies. Turquoise has the ability to tune into its own needs and find the way to success”.


Keiko Tanabe 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 travelled 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, fuelled 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.

Professional Affiliations

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


Aire Agua Tierra Fuego (by Maria José Barrera), Parramon Paidotribo (2019)
Going Gray (by Keiko Tanabe), Watercolor Artist, F+W Media, Inc. (February 2019)
The Four Elements of Watercolor (by Courtney Jordan), Artists Magazine (December 2018)
J’aime le plein air (by Keiko Tanabe), L’Art de L’Aquarelle Hors-Serie No. 2, Diverti Editions (October 2018)
Check out five bucket-list inspiration venues (by Anne Hevener), Watercolor Artist (October 2018)
Keiko Tanabe on Kyoto. Destin Asian. (August 2018)
A World View (by Kelly Kane). Plein Air Magazine, Streamline Publishing, Inc. (July 2018)
Tips to paint successful landscapes, Art of Watercolour, Diverti Editions, 31st Issue (2018)
Close to Home (by John A. Parks), Watercolor Artist, F+W Media, Inc. (June, 2017)
Painting Urban and Cityscapes (by Hashim Akib), Crowood Press Ltd. (2017)
Splash 18: Value / Light & Dark, North Light Books (2017)
Keiko Tanabe Simplicity First and Foremost (By Laurent Benoist), Art of Watercolour, Diverti Editions, 25th Issue (2016)
Besatt av Akvarell by Stefan Gadnell (2016)
Build Your Following on Facebook, Professional Artist Magazine, Turnstile Publishing Company (October/November, 2015)
Immagini dell’Acqua Grande manifestazione all’Acquario Civico di Milano per i primi 40 anni dell’AIA ( by Michelangelo Canzi), L’ACQUERELLO, Associazione Italiana Acquerellisti (January 2015)
Brushing Up (by Beth Williams), Watercolor Artist, F+W Media, Inc. (October, 2014)
Talking Techniques with Keiko Tanabe, Artists & Illustrators, The Chelsea Magazine Company Ltd. (March, 2014)
水色相依秀灵韵, Guangming Daily (January 19, 2014)
Le Hors Série Aquarelle: Aquarellist globe-trotteuse, Pratique des Arts (December, 2013)
Le Hors Série: Tour du Monde de L’Aquarelle Portfolio Asie et Australie, Pratique des Arts (November, 2012)
透明水彩の作品とレッスン (Transparent watercolor works and lessons), Graphicsha (November, 2012)
Awash in Watercolor
Meet 10 artists who capture the world in a demanding medium, Southwest Art (April, 2012)
The American Artist Series (by Gail. M. Weber), Exploring TOSCA, (Winter, 2012)
Artist’s Impression Keiko Tanabe, Destinasian Magazine, (December, 2011)
Artists Raise $30,000 Online for Japanese Tsunami Survivors (by Byron Kerman), Professional Artist, Volume 25, Number 6 (July/August, 2011)
Keiko Tanabe, San Diego Talent Magazine, Issue 4 (May, 2011)
The Way of the World (by Ann Emmert Abbott), Watercolor Artist, F+W Media, Inc. (December, 2010)
Minimal Means, Maximum Impact (by John A. Parks), American Artist/Watercolor, Interweave Press (summer, 2009)
Splash 11: New Directions, North Light Books (June, 2010)
Splash 10: Passionate Brushstrokes, North Light Books (May, 2008)
Del Mar Times Arts & Culture, Del Mar Times (May 16, 2008)
Prism, San Diego Watercolor Society (March, 2008)

Media coverage on line (with links)

Using Composition to Tell Your Story, American Watercolor Weekly (February 26, 2019)
Interview with Artist Keiko Tanabe, Creative Catalyst (February 18, 2019)  
How Keiko Tanabe Paints Trees in Her Watercolor Landscapes, Creative Catalyst (January 31, 2019) 
What Colors Make Gray, Artists Network (2018) 
Perfect Foursome, Artist Network (2018) 
A Chat with Keiko Tanabe, American Watercolor Weekly by Kelly Kane (September 18, 2018) 
PleinAir Art Podcast Episode 91: Keiko Tanabe by Eric Rhoads, PleinAir Magazine (September 4, 2018) 
A Journey to Watercolor, American Watercolor Weekly by Kelly Kane (August 14, 2018) 
The color I can’t live without, American Watercolor Weekly by Kelly Kane (April 10, 2018) 
Art & Life with Keiko Tanabe, SD Voyager (April 2018) 
Keiko Tanabe, Art Trails San Diego by Lin Holzinger (February, 2017) 
Artist: Keiko Tanabe by Heather Greenwood (October 17, 2015)  Aquarelle Reims Evenement – ARE, Arches (October 13, 2015) 
Capturing the Essence of Japan, Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State by Katie Bethge (May 15, 2015)