Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Double Happiness Koi 2012

If you've been visiting the blog, you will see that I have been painting a lot recently.  I'm actually very "into" watercolors right now.  Watercolor is sort of my main medium.  It's what I have painted with pretty much all of my life.  But sometimes, you just get sick of something.  You need a break.  I certainly did.  So I tucked it all away for awhile.

Now it's back in full force, baby, and I'm loving it!

The gallery in town called and requested a koi painting.  I don't know if there was a patron looking for koi paintings, or if the gallery rep just wanted to get a piece in the collection.  But I figured I'd taken a long enough break from the fishies and I needed to get my feet wet again so I went out and bought a frame.  (This is sort of my new motivator.  I buy the frame first, then compose the painting to go into that frame.)

Anyway...  here's a step-by-step on how I paint koi fish.

I start by sketching out some fish.  When I'm good and practiced and in the thick of fish, I can skip this part.  But since I was rusty, I thought it best to pre-sketch.  Then I lay in a loose, wet wash of blues and greens.  There's a touch of burnt umber in there too.  Then I tilt the board this way and that and let all the colors bleed and blend - because that's the fun of watercolor after all.  You let it do some of the work.  When it's mostly settled but still a little wet, I go through with a squirrel hair brush and a paper towel and I lift out the fish bodies.  (The squirrel hair is very absorbent, so it's good for lifting.)

Let that dry completely.  Overnight, preferably.

Now it's time to give the fish a little bit of form.  I tend to use pinks and purples in the shading.  It gives the fish kind of a fleshy look.  I'll lay a few light coats down and then I have to get serious and go darker in some parts.  It's always scary to lay dark colors down on a white fish.  You're brain says, "No, that fish is white, not blue."  But you just have to say, "Shut it, Brain!  This blue is going to give the fish depth in the back and make it look like it's swimming out toward the viewer.  Deal with it!"

And notice how the fins are very faint here.  That's OK because I plan to darken the water below the fish and that will push out the lightness in the fin.  Besides, you don't want the fins to be pure white.  They're thin.  They would have some transparency, showing the blue of the water around them.

This is the fun part; adding the bold colors.  Here's what I do.  I get a brush wet with clear, clean water and I make crosses on the fish.  See, I want some wet parts and some dry parts.  Then I dip the brush into a nice orange and paint the splotches.  Some parts will bleed and have soft edges.  Some parts with have hard edges against the dry paper.  Then I add reds and yellows and let those colors mix together so it's not just flat orange.

When front-fishie is dry, I do the whole thing over with back-fishie.  Underpaint.  Shade.  Then add the black and orange.  I popped in a little yellow in the black there, too.  Just to make it interesting.

At this point I start to really look at the fish to see what's working and what needs refining.  I darkened the water around the fish.  Added details to the fins.  Painted in the eyes.  Lifted scales out of the colors. And added touches of white gouache: highlights, whiskers, fins.  

When it was deemed complete, I added the oriental stamps.  One for my name and one for "double happiness."  And, of course, my signature.  Mat it - boom.  Frame it - boom.  Take it to the gallery.


Happy Wednesday and to all my Jewish friends, I wish you an easy fast.


Tony LaRocca said...

Those are beautiful, I have so much respect for people who can truly paint (as opposed to digital - like me :D )

Angela said...

Those are simply gorgeous. I am working on some koi too-much smaller and using some different techniques. We'll see if they can pass or if they will have to be passed over. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Julie, thanks for sharing your process! My daughter and I both enjoyed reading about and admiring your art.