Keiko Tanabe

Capturing Light and Atmosphere in Watercolor

Keiko Tanabe - Biography

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.  In the last 30 years, 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 six books have been completed by 2014.  She's also a sought-after workshop instructor.  Since 2011, she has been invited to and completed successfully more than 80 workshops around the world.  Keiko currently lives in San Diego, California.




   outdoor demo (Brioude, France)                   NAWA exhibition (Maryland, USA)



- National Watercolor Society, signature member 

- American Watercolor Society

- North American Watercolor Artists (NAWA), founding member



- 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 Chealsea Magazine Company Ltd. (March, 2014)

- 水色相依秀灵韵Guangming Daily (January 19, 2014)

- Le Hors Série Aquarelle: Aquarelliste 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)



- Keiko Tanabe's Incredible Watercolour Journey, Flavours Holidays by Lorne Blyth (May 1, 2015)

- Keiko Tanabe's plein air paintings are anything but plain, San Diego CityBeat by Seth Combs (April 14, 2015)

Interview with Watercolor Painter Keiko Tanabe, Yelena Casale's Writing Blog by Yelena Casale (January 23, 2015)

- Keiko Tanabe, Informed Collector, FineArtStudioOnline (February 11, 2014)

- Entrevista a Keiko Tanabe Interview with Keiko Tanabe, Women watercolorists by María José Barrera (July 30, 2013)

- Watercolors from Keiko Tanabe teaching a workshop on the Costa Brava, French Escapade by Jackie Grandchamps (May 13, 2013)

- Keiko Tanabe, acuarelas universales, InSevilla (April 29, 2013)

- Artist of the Month - October 2012 Keiko Tanabe, Artmatch4U (October, 2012)

- Encuentro con Keiko, Acuerelas, Óleos y Técnicas Mixtas by María José Barrera Garrido (July 16, 2012)

 - Artist Keiko Tanabe, FASO Featured Artists by Carrie Turner, FineArtViews (May 14, 2012)

- Keiko Tanabe, A Devoted Art by Cheryl Devoto, TWS (March 18, 2012)

- Gourmet Veggie Tales - Chino's Farm by Keiko Tanabe, Rancho Santa Fe News (February 20, 2012)

 - Keiko Tanabe, Lines and Colors by Charley Parker (September 8, 2011)

- Keiko Tanabe, Informed Collector, FineArtStudioOnline (September 8, 2011)

- 田辺恵子さん、来塾, Jukucho no nikki (Jukucho's Journal) by Kazuo Kasai (August 19, 2011)

- Keiko Tanabe Interview, Art of Watercolors by Sterkhov K. (February 7, 2011)

- Keiko Tanabe Scheduled Workshops, Watercolor Painting by Fernando Pena (February 5, 2011)

- Daily Paintworks Interview, Artists Discuss (Sep-Dec, 2010)

- Watercolor Artist Keiko Tanabe Studio Blog, Artworks of Candor Sudio by Charles Taggart (May 3, 2010)

- Keiko Tanabe, Informed Collector, FineArtStudioOnline (January 28, 2010) 

Keiko Tanabe {Art} (by Janelle Steinberg), {Maison Classique}, J. Steinberg Design (November 19, 2009)

Fine Art Views Daily Newsletter, FineArtStudioOnline (November 5, 2008; Issue #266)

- artcollector, FineArtStudioOnline (October 3, 2008)

- Keiko Tanabe, Informed Collector, FineArtStudioOnline (May 7, 2008) 


RECENT EXHIBITIONS (Selected)  For a complete list of past exhibitions, please click here.



- 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


- 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.


- 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.


- 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


- 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


- 34th Annual Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Exhibition, California, U.S.A.


- 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.


HONORS & AWARDS (Selected)


- 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 

Finalist - Outstanding Watercolor (2010), May 2010 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition 

- Third Place (2010), April 2010 FineArtViews BoldBrush Painting Competition 

Finalist - Outstanding Watercolor (2010), March 2010 FineArtViews Painting Competition 

Finalist - Outstanding Watercolor (2010), December 2009 FineArtViews Painting Competition

- David Gale Memorial award (Second Place) and People's Choice Award (2009), Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Annual Exhibition  

- Da Vinci Paint Award (2009); Atlanta Artists Center Award (2008); Dr. Ph Martin's Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor Award (2006), Georgia Watercolor Society National Exhibition

- Polly Howerton Transparent Watercolor Award (2009), Texas Watercolor Society Annual Exhibition

- Best of Show (2008, 2007, 2006); Best Theme Painting Award (2008); Best of Miniatures (2009, 2007, 2006, 2005),  San Diego Watercolor Society Juried Member Exhibit

- Sam Black Award for Excellence in Transparent Watercolour (2008), Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour Open Juried Art Exhibition

- First Place in the watercolor category (2008), Affaire in the Gardens Art Show, Beverly Hills, California

- Third Place, Travel Show Award (2008); Winsor & Newton Award, Artist & Craftsman Supply Co. Award, Travel Show Award (2006), Kentucky Watercolor Society National Aqueous USA

- North Light Books Award (2008); Cheap Joe's Art Stuff Award (2007), Pittsburgh Watercolor Society Aqueous Open Annual International Exhibition

- Honorable Mention (2008), Louisiana Watercolor Society 38th International Exhibition

- Merit Award (2008), Society of Watercolor Artists 27th Annual Juried Art Exhibition

- Merit Award (2008), Watercolor Art Society - Houston 31st Annual International Exhibition

- Second Place (2007), The Richeson 75: Landscape & Exteriors Competition

- Third Place (2007); Honorable Mention (2005), Wyoming Watercolor Society Annual National Exhibition

- Jack Richeson & Co., Inc. Award (2007), Red River Watercolor Society National Watermedia Exhibition

- Grand Prize (2005); Honorable Mention (2006), Learning & Product Expo Juried Art Show

- Third Place and Vernon Council of the Arts Award (2006), Red River Valley Museum National Juried Art Exhibition

- Robert Reynolds Founder’s Award (2006), Central Coast Watercolor Society Aquarius Pacific Regional Exhibition

- First Place (2007); Second Place (2006, 2005); Honorable Mention (2008), San Diego County Fair Art Show

- First Place (2007), La Jolla Art Association Open Juried Exhibition of Plein-Air Artwork

- Second Place (2007), Southwestern Artists’ Association Annual Juried Art Show

- Juror’s Commendation (2007), Brandon Gallery “Small Treasures” Fine Art Show

- Honorable Mention (2007, 2006), Studio Art & Design Open Juried Watermedia Exhibit

- Third Place (2007, 2006), The Olde Ramona Hotel Gallery Annual Fine Arts Show

- Honorable Mention (2007), San Dieguito Art Guild "Small Image: Annual Southern California Art Show"

- First Place (2006), Carlsbad-Oceanside Art League Annual Open Juried Fine Arts Show

- Certificate of Merit (2007), La Jolla Art Association's Annual San Diego County Awards Show



- Ye Qiangyu Art Museum, Tonglu County, Zhejiang, China

- Zhongyung Art Museum, Guilin, China

- Museu de Arte Contemporânea MAC Bahia, Senhor do Bonfim, Brazil