Koi Storming

koi canson oil pastel 1

One advantage of drawing quickly is that you tend instinctively to aim for general effects, to reach for the first shapes that catch your notice and, of course, if you draw quickly and impulsively enough, you may succeed in avoiding the unfortunate tendency one sometimes has of constantly second guessing the decisions.

I suppose the same principle ought to work for other things, for the first drafts of writing, even for the proposal of solutions to ordinary life problems — or, indeed, isn’t that what we mean by the term “brainstorming.”

First drawing today is a study for a larger work.  I made this drawing using oil pastels on an approximately 20 by 25 inch sheet on Canson pastel paper, working in the cool light of early morning.

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Koi understanding and understanding Koi

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My desire to achieve a better understanding continues.  I am redrawing the koi, going one fish at a time, and I’ve decided to build a pond in this fashion, fish by fish.

You’d think that a “perfectionist” would finish each drawing but in seeking koi understanding I discover that parts of the image reel me in more than others. Who is doing the fishing here?

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My fishies mesmerize me.  I draw only so much of a fish and then I move on. I haven’t a clue what I’m after. I feel a tug on the line, pull, discover there’s a fish there, toss him into the bucket, and toss the line out again.  It’s like that.

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It’s kind of a wavey, ripplely, floaty blur.  I sit there fish-eyed.  The room’s the bucket. The room is full of fish.

fish face

I have no idea what I’m doing.  But something is happening.  And there’s an awful lot of fish around here.  As to the one that got away ….

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None of them gets away!  Indeed, some of them just get bigger and bigger!

My fishies mesmerize me.

The Koi in Winter

koi detail

I have been making tons of drawings, but I have found little time lately for photography so the drawings have been piling up around the studio, and the poor blog has been languishing.  It would help if the sun would shine in the Washington DC region, but the sun has been most fickle.  We have been experiencing a succession of days of grey, dismal weather.  Perfect for someone who writes a Gothic novel!  It’s not so convenient for a plucky koi artist.

But Mother Nature must be respected.  What else are you gonna do?

Koi Hatchings

I don’t know if I ever posted a version of this picture before.  I had finished all but the top right-hand corner before I set it aside.  Only recently did I rediscover and finish it.  This drawing measures 18 x 24 inches so the gesture of the marks falls in between the small and the huge koi drawings.

I fell in love with hatching a long time ago.  Not only is hatching a beautiful way to make gradations of light and dark, but it is physically and mentally assorbing to do.  Perhaps it holds the same hypnotic charm as knitting.  You can carry a drawing like this around and do this “knitting” wherever you happen to be since so much of its character resides in the repetition of the little hatch marks.

I used to have qualms about colored pencils.  Colored pencils were supposedly an inferior medium, not suited to serious art.  But my child-like nature (I love all art toys) along with the natural seductiveness of the medium itself lured me.  It helped that I needed a safe medium to use when my daughter was a crawler.

My love affair with colored pencils began during my daughter’s infancy, but years of using the pencils has confirmed in me a sense that they are as “serious” as you want them to be.  Pshaw!  Or as frivolous!

Earlier this week I made a copy after Cezanne’s “Still Life with Apples and Peaches” in ball point pen that is similarly filled with hatchings.  The technique common to both drawings makes these sister drawings even though the subjects are quite different.

In each instance the technique means that you have to create a surface that has its own raison d’etre.  The blues of this passage of interwoven pencil lines, and the texture of the pen marks each have to make sense on their own — apart from what they portray.

Dance of the Koi

The koi live in a pond and never go anywhere.  For “Saturday night out” the koi just swim around and visit all their usual friends.  Yet the permutations of koi patterning seem endless.  They are always arranging themselves into new and lively forms.

They are like a dance company that has a gazillion imaginative ideas.  Indeed, show me the choreographer who can match the impressive spectacles of the wonderful koi.

always the koi

I never quite realize how happily working on the koi pictures gets my whole brain humming along   They are large drawings, and a great part of the thrill of working on them comes from their size.  I can hone in on a “small” part of the picture — which is really the size of a “regular” drawing.  And yet I can also move through the picture, taking in its large possibilities.

The process of bringing the picture into being is gradual.  It happens in steps of quiet transformation.  It provides steady work too.  And it’s always good to have something to do.

Koi Singing

If the koi could sing, I think the fellow on the left would be singing opera.  He’s singing loud.  Not a crooning, mellow Frank Sinatra, no. He’s bellowing for attention.

The koi sing for their supper.  And I think that little guy is hungry.

Before the Koi was the Fish Whistle

Actually I think it’s a whale — it’s a whistle in the shape of a whale.   And if I ever locate it, I’m going to paint it again.  File that under “house-keeping” and add another tick to the long “to do” list. 

I made this painting a long time ago.  I had set up the still life aiming to compose large sections of bright color that didn’t necessarily go together.  My goal was to harmonize colors that were not coordinated, that were color uncoordinated.  I figured that if I got the life-likeness of the things, the harmony that they get from simply existing in the same light and atmosphere might be caught.  It’s a bit of Cezanne’s philosophy only I didn’t know it back then.

Meanwhile, I was painting something that swims in the water and swishes its tail though technically does not represent a fish.  I don’t really see the harm, however, in calling a whale a fish when it is so fish-like.  Anyway, this was proto-koi — an early whispering of the theme that has since occupied much of my thought. 

For the record the whistle is shaped like a whale, but is not designed for calling a whale.  One could try it, though, and see if having whistled on it, a whale comes.  If I ever locate the whale whistle again, after I paint it, I might try this other idea too.  And I’ll be sure and let everyone know if it fetches me a whale.