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Reflections of an Expatriate Artist

Rshah-Studio / Artists Creating Art  / Reflections of an Expatriate Artist

Reflections of an Expatriate Artist

Just a couple weeks ago, I sat in our apartment in Tokyo watching the moving company pack up the remnants of life in Japan.  We are onto our next expatriate assignment to Singapore via the USA.   My family has spent 7 to 8 years here.  It’s been a wonderful adventure and I look forward to our next one.


This was my first time as an expatriate.  My children and I followed my husband’s career to Japan.  With a combination of anxiety, excitement and not knowing where the adventure would lead us – we made the move.  I left my career at a Fortune 500 company in Healthcare Strategic Analytics & Marketing and “made a plunge”.


Coming to Japan presented me with the unique opportunity to explore my passions.  I had always wanted to devote more time to the arts.  With my husband’s job secure in his assimilation to Japan and its culture; I decided to leave my 20-year career and take art classes – however I could.  I thought it’s the perfect time to explore my hobbies, photography and drawing.  I was accepted into the Art Program at Temple University’s Tokyo campus – but decided to forego the structured program for one that would allow me greater flexibility as a mom and trailing spouse. I buried myself in Temple’s Continuing Education and other studio classes involving photography, drawing and painting – up to 5 days per week…  and instead of intensely pursuing photography – I fell in love with Painting.  Still, I enjoy taking photos of people and landscapes; and combine it with my love for painting.


I have been blessed with great teachers and mentors.  The detailed instruction regarding technique along with the encouragement and enthusiasm as I learned the “Art” has offered me my pathway.  I hesitate to use the word success because I am only as good as my next painting; I have much to improve upon and look forward to consistent development and training as I learn to work with new materials and improve technique.

One of the first things I learned in drawing is how to shade – portraiture was the best way to do this effectively.




A painting I did in Portraiture class – We had to find stock photos of elderly people so we could practice painting values, lights and darks. I enjoyed this class and hope to learn more portraiture in the coming years.






Mohan, the White Tiger. Oil on Canvas. When I visited Singapore’s Zoo, I was entranced with the white tigers. My mom loves them, and so this was a gift to her. It was a challenge for me at the time – it combined what I learned in drawing/rendering and oil painting/color theory





The Boy Oil on Canvas My younger son at the age of 4, looking out at Waikiki Beach



I love making special birthday card paintings for my friends.  This is Japanese Nihonga on Bamboo Watercolor Paper



A painting from my Japanese Nihonga class where it’s common to “copy” the Masters in order to learn proper technique; so this is not my composition.




On vacations I enjoyed landscape photography – with some photos being the foundation for future paintings in different media


The Golden Pavilion in Nihonga (Japanese Watercolor/sumi-e)



The Golden Pavilion
Oil & Gold Leaf on Canvas


And here we are – 7 years later – on our way to another expatriate assignment.  I will miss Japan and the friends we’ve made here.  I am grateful as this is the place where my art career was born.  It’s been a journey – I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful teachers and mentors – and the support of family and friends.


I’ve been fortunate to count small successes from my time in Japan.  Signing on with the Kitano Alley Gallery in Kobe, participating in group and solo shows and having artworks accepted as part of prominent Japanese Art Associations that sponsor exhibits of new talent in National Museums in Tokyo.  It is these acceptances that I am most proud of; and most humbled with.  Living in a community where English is not a first language has made it difficult to really involve myself in the “art world” of Tokyo.  (I found Japanese a difficult language to learn, and in the end – I prioritized my Art).  These associations are also juried by professionals who know nothing about me personally; are experts in Art and who see thousands of pieces of Artwork.  They don’t know my history, they don’t know I am an expat.  All they know is my name is foreign and here is my painting.  So, it feels really good to have pieces chosen – and I humbly hope I can continue to be selected as my Art evolves.


I will continue my development in Singapore – exploring new techniques, colors and horizons.  I am looking forward to it, and I hope you will continue to follow me as I embark on new artistic adventures.


I leave you with some of my successes here in Tokyo – thank you to my amazing senseis, Carolyn Dong (Drawing and Oil), Suiko & Shoko Ohta (Japanese Watercolor), Nancy Reyner (Acrylics), Temple University Tokyo Campus (Photography, Japanese Art and Art History) and Royi Akavia (Director of the Kitano Alley Gallery in Kobe, Japan).  The Artwork below is also a tribute to them and their teachings.


Water Lillies – Acrylic & 23kt Gold Leaf on Wood. Accepted for the 32nd Exhibition of Japanese Nature at the Ueno No Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. August, 2019





Earth & Sky II. Acrylic on Wood Panel. 49th Annual Genyouten Exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Nov 2018. Special Mention: Kusukabe Paints

Grotto of Water Lillies. Acrylic on Wood Panel. 49th Annual Genyouten Exhbition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Nov 2018












Earth & Sky. Acrylic on Wood Panel. 82nd Annual Shinseisaku Exhbition at the National Art Center in Tokyo Sep-Oct 2018


My next blog, I will return to the Part II – Inspirations from India – with 3 spring shows and moving, this had to fall to the side, unfortunately.


Until then



  • Suraja Kishore
    June 27, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    I think the fact that you grew uour artist within you through not so structured program is seemingly your strength and originality. All the best and hope to see new culture influencing your art and in process enriching you further

  • Patricia Stewart
    June 27, 2019 at 10:15 am

    So humble and so rich in talent. Bless you and your family, on the next leg of your adventures Rahj. Trish x

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