two fishIf the past is prologue, if past behaviors predict future ones, what shall we say about choices we make?  Certainly some of a person’s personality is like a plot of land.  Put there by an invisible nature, shaped by what kinds of weather and forces, against what winds and tides, unknown and unstudied until we begin to question ourselves. I don’t wish to sound narcissistic.  I simply allude to the fact that we can wonder about what we do and why we do it.  The mind is a place.  Dreams are the thoughts that roamed when someone was not even aware of having motives.

Why’d I do that?  I recall the day. My father, then living, full of vigor, was outdoors too, his trestles set in the yard under the boughs of the maple trees, ready for mechanic work. In my mind I see him now, him ever curious, turning to watch me as I began, his face shaded by the brim of a straw hat he always wore.  I had bought two fish at the grocery store — a unique extravagance.  I had bought them only so that I might draw them.

Why fish?

I have made so many pictures since around the year 2000 of koi that they have become a sub-category in my art.  Did these two fish predicate the koi?  I find it intriguing to reflect back on all kinds of other paintings or drawings I’ve done of fish.  Of course I loved Winslow Homer. He nudged me in fishy direction.

Winslow Homer, watercolor


Now I seem to have a real fetish going.  I made my drawing a very long time ago, long before I knew that fish would be a staple of my artistic diet.  I can remember vividly that I purchased the fish from the Giant Food grocery store. I unwrapped them from the stiff white butcher paper, and set them up outside in the open air.  I had colored a sheet of drawing paper by hand in advance using ground up pastel mixed with diluted Elmer’s glue which I brushed over the surface and let to dry.  I made the drawing using pencil, Chinese sumi ink and touches of watercolor.

Needless to say that while they were fresh for drawing; after the session, they were not so fresh for eating.  They are immortalized here.  Does it seem like they’re looking at you?  It sure seemed like they were looking at me, somewhat accusingly at that.

Did two fish foretell these guys below?

So what are you doing right now that predicts tomorrow?

DSC_1002 (2)


13 thoughts on “the fish that foretell

  1. I love your fish and I have been wondering and thinking about why I love to paint the river, what is it? I can’t seem to get enough of that river, almost any body of water but the Yuba river is a passion. Sure, I love trees, I love birds but do I even paint birds? I will often tear up when I see and hear them. Hmm…..I think that you paint your fish so well and with feeling because of that resounding need and your fetish drives you on. Why? and why the river for me? Oh I wished that I can get the answer but do we really need an answer? I truly feel that the best paintings of subject matter is by an admirer, or “lover” if you may. I could go on and on but I would be turning into a blithering idiot. lol Do you ever have prints made of your work?

  2. I’ve been perusing your blog today and it’s got me wondering if I should get some plein air equipment. I have a long “to do” list already, but I’m thinking about it ….

    I think that the fishies have some kind of significance — perhaps psychological, but I’ve no idea what it might be. I find it interesting to speculate about, though. Like trying to analyze a dream …

    I haven’t made prints of the images. Have thought about it but I need to get them professionally photographed to make that really work. I know a place. So it’s kind of on the “to do” list as well. Or perhaps “wish list” …

  3. oh I understand….”wish list/do list” and “someday” lists all too well. Oh….I hope you do plein air and go about it to fit what you want and like. A lot of people make plein air out to be a project or a thing that one does. To me it is a contemplative, joyful and playful adventure. I find that I can pack my watercolor stuff to be no heavier than a heavy tote that you take to go to the beach. I am trying to wean myself from not carrying my painting water when I know there is a source. It is an insecurity….what if….let’s say, I can’t reach my water source or….I decide to paint away from the river. Anyway, I hope you do get into the plein air tradition or at least enough to see what it is all about. Do your research and simplify as much as you can, you will be happier for it.

  4. Well, I’ve been looking at easels today (online) and find one that seems designed for pastel and that’s what I’d want to use. My biggest hesitation is about time. I have plenty of work in my studio to keep me busy, and — oh this sounds goofy — but while you can do plein air anywhere … I could set up in the city, for instance, in any of its pretty neighborhoods — I would want to do natural scenes, I think. Actually even in Washington DC that’s not impossible. There are places where it might look like you’re out in integer nature, places within an easy drive. At certain times of day. At other times of day, to get to these pleasant places involves one in a sort of insane craziness of traffic. And I’m so lazy, so love my quiet life that I ask myself “do I really want to trudge over to the GW Parkway scenic overlook? What happens when rush hour arrives?” It could take forever to get back home. It’s all of 15 miles away. But fifteen miles can seem like a whole new circle in Dante’s Inferno sometimes ….

    You’re right, though, there are ways of doing things and I should not be such a wuss. You’ve inspired me, Margaret ….

  5. Hey, I have been to Washington DC and I know what you mean about the traffic….wow… reminded me of the crazy driving in San Francisco. I understand totally! I bet you could find a park or two near you, if you narrow down your view, even if you had a tree or two, that would be a natural depiction. Oh, how about an Asian spots in town? or going to Arlington? I know the Mall is probably crazy busy, I remember that one….hordes of people milling about. I bet you could find a nook or two somewhere. I have been hitting my spots early. I am hoping to get to my location tomorrow before 6 am, I hope….fingers crossed. Well, I am glad that I inspired you because you inspire me! I am going to do my research and purchase my oil pastels next month 🙂 all because of you!

  6. Dakota pastels has the easel I’m referencing and they have information about oil pastels at their site. Conforms to what my artist friend was saying and my own experiences. You might find better prices somewhere else (?), or have your on favorite vendors, but I though you might find the info helpful.

    There are, as you say, lots of places in DC that are nooks of one sort or another. I might go to Capitol Hill. We take walks there a lot because it’s near by and some of the gardens are really lovely, certain scenes, etc.

    And a tree is a tree even in the city, as you say.

  7. exactly…..just takes getting your feet wet and on that train of thinking. I’ll check that out at Dakota art pastels, they are my favorite until I discovered Dick Blick.

  8. That top drawing/painting is stunningly beautiful. What is the size? Is it done on watercolour paper? What was the sequence of doing it? So many questions.
    Regarding your love of fish paintings, and also looking at Margaret’s comment above, perhaps both of you, like me, are identified with the last lines of the movie “A River Runs Through It”, when Robert Redford says: “I am haunted by water…”

  9. thank you for your kind thoughts, fruitfuldark. The full sheet is about 16 x 12 inches, as I recall, and the fish are about life size, maybe slightly smaller. I don’t remember it as watercolor paper, but it was a sturdy paper — some kind of drawing paper I think. It’s so long ago that I don’t remember much about making it — only that I drew in pencil and used sumi to strengthen the drawing and some white to heighten. The paper color provided so much of the middle tone.

    I’m really glad you like it. I made it about thirty years ago.

    I’ve never seen the Redford film. Sounds like something I should see!

  10. so, the fish have been around for quite a time 🙂 I have been gardening and hope to garden some more in the future – I want to have nice plants to look at when I feel down, and I want to look after them and talk to them, so that they feel special 🙂 in return.

  11. Wow, 30 years ago! I think Robert Redford directed that move. Brad Pitt was the main attraction. Worthwhile seeing – all about trout fishing.

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