I only learned about Wenzel Hablik a couple weeks ago. His painting is on the cover of a book my daughter has been reading. Soon after I happened upon a video in French about an exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay called “Beyond the Stars. The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky” and there was a curator standing in front of his painting, talking about it.
I had no idea it was so huge! My painting is pretty big too. Mine above, his below.
Indeed, he’s got something in common with a lot of things I have painted but I’d never heard of him until very recently. It’s always fun to discover things like this — things I love that I didn’t know I loved until now. More of mine below.
Stars, water and kois have a lot in common!
The more things change, the more they stay the same — a good saying for artists who are practicing in the way that Degas advised them to do: “you must redo the same thing ten times, a hundred times.”
I made this little koi pastel above so that I could be often practicing the colors and positions of the koi fishes. It measures about 12 1/2 x 11 inches. It’s practice for a painting measuring 40 x 60 inches.
These are guppies for the big pond.
I have redrawn this motif again and again. Sometimes it transforms.
Simonides of Cleos is reputed to be the first to discover that a seating pattern helps you remember things. I was using his method to remember where my koi were in the latest koi picture. I was making an idle drawing while sitting through a slightly tedious lecture and used the time to review the painting I had been working on the night prior.
Strangely enough I had quite a difficult time accounting for all the fish graphically, by remembering their shapes. And so it was the “seating pattern” at last the filled in some of the blanks. I didn’t get them all, but I got most.
The Convergence shows a group of koi racing across the surface from left to right. When The Convergence hangs together with Racing Koi (below) as pendants, the koi fishes seem to be racing toward each other. In The Convergence brilliantly orange-colored fishes predominate and their complementary color contrasts brightly with the serene blue of the water. The fishes’ forms are modeled and dimensional. Some of their features are clear, and one senses the round slippery, firm shapes of the powerfully moving fish as they push through the water, as they companionably shove into each other. Koi are “brocaded carp,” specially bred fish noted for their beautiful color patterns and strong hues. In this picture the brightest colored fishes have accidentally gathered together, filling the center with vivid red-orange. A linear energy runs throughout their movements. Dark reflections in the water create lines that also parallel the strong contours of the kois’ bodies with energy that is vibrant and yet somehow soothing.
Converging Koi is a pastel painted on Canson Touch Mi-Teintes paper measuring 28.75 x 20.75 inches.
The companion picture Racing Koi, featured in the last post, is below.
Bach made thirty variations
of his aria for his Goldberg Variations. I haven’t made that many variations on any of my koi motifs yet. That’s an awful lot of fish to draw. But I do redo the same fishes again and again because I’m Degas’s dutiful student and he told me, “il faut refaire la même chose dix fois, cents fois.” Okay, maybe he wasn’t talking to me. But still I take these things to heart. So, I redo my koi — maybe ten times — not yet thirty — and goodness knows, Monsieur Degas, not one hundred times!
Watercolor at the top, then colored pencil, then dry pastel (a detail, below), and crayon (also a detail, below that).
What can I say? I need one of these:
In my own way …
Seeing other artists’ watercolors
puts me into a watercolor mood — that and the late springtime heat. I would love to dive into the pond with the koi. I’d also love to paint in watercolor again. I need to clean the studio (again). The watercolor palette is buried somewhere under the pile of things. I need an archeologist to help me excavate!
Here’s a detail.
These are more things that I found by visiting my facebook page to hunt down the owl. See, what you find when you go looking for an owl!
This pastel is almost ready for the frame. Once it receives its several light coats of pastel fixative, off to the frame shop it goes. After framing it will join its companion painting so that they can be pendants.
Once both works are framed, the fish can swim toward each other.
It’s always seemed to me, when looking at the works of the old masters, that the parts of their paintings, as you get close to see them, are as enchanting as the entirety of their paintings and that the structure of the small details echoes the organization of the whole. A certain logic governs throughout the image and that logic scales so that the same thought process is carried through pretty much wherever you look.
I want that quality in my paintings. Moreover, thinking about it in this way gives me ideas about how to finish a painting. After all, what if I take some portion and pretend that it’s now the whole image. It gives everything a new relationship to everything else. Imagine a grid overlaying the whole painting and inside that grid are smaller paintings, each one needing attention.
But this grid isn’t static. It’s not as though I really drew a regular, mathematical grid over the painting, rather — imagine a grid that moves, that changes its scale depending upon where you’re looking. And for all the shapes and forms contained in that grid at whatever juncture, there’s a new painting — one that needs to make sense in all its parts. The part becomes a whole that has in its turn smaller parts.
This is more of an ideal than a specific practice. After all my problem is procrastination. My imaginary grid turns one painting potentially into many miniature paintings. That would seem to multiply the problem rather than solve it. So I don’t take my analogy literally.
But I do look at the painting as needing to make sense all over, in the large scale and in the small.
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?
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.
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.
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 ….
None of them gets away! Indeed, some of them just get bigger and bigger!
My fishies mesmerize me.
I rose early and began my koi scribbling. The kinds of lines that the ball point pen makes are more various than I’d ever have guessed. It turns out to be a capacious and sensitive instrument. I refer to the very cheap Bic Cristal pen that you buy in a pack of ten. Here’s an advantage of the modern era. Wouldn’t Rubens be jealous?
Not only is the instrument subtle and supple. But the reference photo reveals so many possibilities to me. I repeat these motifs again and again and find them endlessly fascinating.
These are my scales that I play on my pen in the morning making koi songs.