the kois in pastel

Back in September, the koi were everywhere.

studio 2 (3)

The one on the easel has been pulled from storage and will make the trip to the framer soon.  Hopefully soon.  It needs an application of fixative for which I need to be able to go outdoors, and anyone in the Washington DC area can tell you that we’ve had an unprecedented season of rain.  I have contemplated building an ark.

Last fall I made a lot of koi drawings in pastel.  Other drawings are visible around the sides of the easel. I loved that long session of painting with pastel and am eager to resume using the medium again. Even though many of my life class drawings were made with pastel, I don’t think of those as being the same as these koi drawings since the kois were made on sanded paper.  The sanded surface allows for options that the plain paper doesn’t.  They are both wonderful, though — now I’m feeling guilty.  All art supplies are wonderful, each in their own ways.  But maybe it’s also the control I can exert while working in my own studio that isn’t possible in a life class. Most of my pastel palette had to stay home when I did the life class drawings.

Plus I like working large.  In my studio I was working about as large as is practicable (unless I get a bigger studio).  The largest work (seen behind the easel on its side above, and on the easel in the photo below) was made by taping together two large sheets of sanded paper. When the paper is large, the fish seem more real.  They begin to approach life size.  Kois can get big!

studio 4 (2)

The board that the paper is attached to is 40 x 6o inches.  But the biggest of the fishes (excluding the ones that got away) are on individual sheets of the large sanded paper.  I put two sheets on a board and would cover up the one on the bottom whenever I worked on the top one to prevent pastel dust from falling upon it. They stay on these boards in storage until they’re ready to be framed.

101_0087 koi tower

During winter with the space being so close I have avoided the big pastel binge, but with the weather improving I long to return to pastel again in a big way.  Need to find these guys a home, and then probably the next up will be flowers.


Do’s and Don’ts

You’d be surprised to what degree artists still tell themselves “you cannot do this” and “you cannot do that” notwithstanding the anything goes atmosphere of the art establishment.  So it’s always important to stay grounded in human nature, one’s own nature and that of the world.

The only things you can’t do are the things that you really can’t do.  For instance, let’s say you want to draw like Ingres.  The “modern” side of the art world says, “you can’t! it’s already been done!”  The reality aspect of the task says “you can’t” because you’ve tried and have discovered that it’s really hard to draw like Ingres drew.

Here’s an Ingrist-aspirant moment in my notebook in the form of a very linear drawing of my own foot — and people think that I’m only about koi!

If you want to draw like Ingres, perhaps you persist despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune because your desire is strong.  If luck is with you, and your desire is plucky enough, you won’t draw exactly like Ingres (because he was a unique individual) but perchance there comes a day that you draw very precisely.  And you wake to the possession of a strong skill so that afterwards you can draw with great confidence and penetration.

If that happens, you have such a marvelous challenge ahead: you must learn then to draw like you.  It’s like waking up in the morning as a child and seeing that the world is there.  What will you do with it?

Moral of the story, do not heed the do’s and don’ts!

The Water’s Surface

Spent another day painting koi.  One of the challenges of these paintings is what to do with largish areas of canvas that are just blue — as in the detail above of the painting-of-the-moment..  I have been thinking with the brush in hand, but I also make drawings in which I experiment with different shades of blue set side by side.  Or I try to figure out how to create some facsimile of the dimension of the water itself. 

It’s more “thinking about” than achieving “success” at this point, but it goes to show how any motif can take you deeper and deeper into the question of how we perceive our perceptions.

After painting, I stopped by the koi pond to see the guys.  They all say “hi.”  They’ll be very happy if I can make them famous. They think they’re worth it.

It was quite hot and muggy in Washington DC today (our typical mid-summer weather), but I had a quiet pool of blue water to stare at so I was vicariously cool as can be.  Still have a long ways to go with this painting, propped outside the studio door at my secret, fortified bunker studio in the heart of the Nation’s capital, many days to go during which I will sit beside my koi pond in thought.

Falling into the Koi Pond


I’ve been painting and drawing koi again.  I have so many paintings and drawings around me, I almost feel as though I have the koi pond in my studio.  Drawing the water, the fish and the reflections is mesmerizing.  And with no pun intended, I must say that so far I only skim the surface of this koi pond.  The relationships between water, light and the passage of time, the movement of the fish in their fish world, these are weighty matters that I cannot penetrate in my pictures just yet.  But I contemplate it daily. 

I’ve gone fishing.