Dynamic Swimmers

advancing swimmersZig-zagging, radiating reflections announce the movement of the koi that swim in lazy formation toward the spectator. The calm quietude of the koi contrasts with the reflections created by their wake. They are dynamic in effect even when their actions are measured and smooth. The waves the koi make as they swim through the pond travel far from the fish ensemble. Their waves announce them to distant places and telegraph their presence to distant shores, saying, “The koi were here.”

Where the koi assemble, coming toward the spectator, passages of warm yellow, orange and red mix with pale luminescent silvery blue and mild violet tones in the level water. They swim in our direction and those jagged reflections begin to fall far behind them.

Dynamic Swimmers is drawn using Neocolors on Nideggen paper and measures 38 x 25.5 inches.

Shimmering Crowd

Each substance has its own peculiar beauties.

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Crayons are a medium that produce a particularly soft effect, accessible through a careful hatching technique.  The fish can seem suspended in a truly restful moment of easy floating in this picture in part because of the silkiness of the crayon marks themselves.  Parallel lines weave together like strands in a tapestry making gentle gradations of color, like undulations of wave that fuse contour and form. From this shimmering quality of light, the picture takes its name.

Shimmering Crowd   Caran d’Ache Neocolors on Nideggen paper, 38 x 25.5 inches

Koi Silk

 

Kois are wonderful animals.

bright fishes

They are lively, gregarious fish.  They are beautiful, graceful and swift swimmers. I often seek a parallel expression when I’m drawing and painting the koi.  I want the drawing to represent the qualities of the fish themselves.  The drawing should be direct and swift-seeming. Sometimes that directness is best achieved through the most obvious means.  Sometimes I draw the fish quickly and boldly so that the gestures of drawing can echo the movements of the swimmers and the water that flows around them. Hatch marks (parallel lines used to create passages of color and tone in drawing) help to further convey a sense of things moving, and calligraphic gestures of line also evoke motion and urgency. This drawing is one where the sense of swift movement — even more than of form — becomes the subject of the picture.  One partly submerged fish is so blurred that his forms are broken into a broad abstract shape and the blur takes on a loveliness of its own. Some pictures of animals focus on their anatomy, but in my koi pictures I have sought the relationship between the fish and the water and the ways that they fuse visually.

Koi Silk is painted using oil pastel on Nideggen paper and measures 38 x 25.5 inches.

Dark and Light Spaces

Dark and light are elemental.

koi swimming in light and darkness

Large fishes swim out of the dark recesses of the pond toward the light. The closest fish is near in size to the actual living fishes.  When the koi are near enough to touch, they look like this.

Light and dark are elemental — day and night, sleep and wakefulness, insight and confusion, known and unknown.  This picture has two separate sides, one dark, one light.  On the left side where the pond is dark, the white fish with orange patches stands out keenly. On the right side where the water is lighter, where pale blues colored like morning abide, the textures become almost silky. Whenever a picture separates into left and right, I look for possible correspondences in thought since our brains have left and right sides that perceive things differently. Sometimes the hints of different orders of perception will manifest themselves visually in a picture with “right” and “left.”

They do blend together also.  The fishes clump together. The alternate states blend together too.  Sometimes knowledge and mystery are all mixed up like fishes.

The fishes are more particular in depiction than in some other pictures of the koi.  You see into the fishes’ sympathetic eyes, can see their conspicuous whiskers. Some of the fishes’ bodies gleam with reflections of light when their wet skin meets air as they momentarily rise to the surface.

Like left and right, like dark and light, the fish rise to the surface or else swim beneath it unseen.  Like thoughts the fishes swim sometimes into places where they become visible.  Like thoughts, too, they are good metaphors for all the things that we don’t know about ourselves.  When they slip beneath the water, their disappearance is like the unraveling of a dream.

Well, here they swim — keenly seen and fully visible. Some fishes, it’s true, are more blurred and veiled by water that passes over them. The random partial views of animals form signposts, contribute to the theme running through the story that is the life you live, presenting the metaphor that an invisible director offered in this real life movie so that hints and clues can sparkle and gleam, like reflections of deeper meaning and poetic connection.  By randomness some things — fishes in this case! — are seen and other things are hidden or are visible only in part.  One sorts out a life puzzle without instruction. Or are the directions there too, also hidden in metaphors?

“Light and Dark Spaces” measures 19 x 24 inches and is drawn with dry pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes textured paper.

Celestial Koi

The fishes live in water and time. 

celestial koi 54 x 40 smaller

We live in air and time with our feet on the ground. Yet through watching the koi one can imagine the life of floating. And admittedly some experiences of time do seem like floating.

Koi fishes float in a field of pale blue, swimming and turning in every direction.  Here is a picture about floating, about drifting in freedom and peaceful serenity. Many of the fishes are orange-colored, contrasting brightly with the predominant blue, like beats in a music where the blue is the silence. The perspective is ambiguous.  One seems to see the fishes at the top as if looking at the water’s surface: they seem to swim on a plane that is oblique to our angle of vision.  But the fishes in the middle of the picture swim straight before us  — as though we see them from inside the water.

Looking up and down changes perspectives…

The celestial koi are angel-like in their elegant energy.  They rise and fall like leaves falling from a tree, like petals falling from flowers, like birds startled and scattered that fly off in all directions. The curves of their swimmer’s paths sets them free in equilibrium and energy.

Celestial Koi is a very large picture composed using two sheets of sanded pastel paper. Overall it measures 54 x 40 inches.

 

 

The Convergence

DSC_0987 (2)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.

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Racing Koi

The fish rush a point just off center.

fast swim

See them gathered in a converging crowd of fish motion. The impression of rapid swimming and lightening quickness is characteristic because the koi are swift swimmers. In truth kois can be quick or lazy but all their interactions are choreographed like a ballet, fulsome and energetic yet focused.

When the fish swim time feels fluid.  Bright colors flash across the moving water. Rich and blue like the sky it reflects, the water offers you serenity.  You can watch with delight.  Some of the fishes are white and gleaming — their colors are bright and sharp across the surface — red and orange, shades of orange, some colors warm and deeper than others, mixtures of orange and red and pale yellow the color of butter, they cluster and demark a place where energy coalesces. Soft shades of blue like silk frame highlights where the light striking the water shines brightest.  Dark reflections create linear energy that echoes the strong contrasting contours of fishes’ bodies.  As the fish push toward the center and gather there, some appear in clearness with personalities and agency.  Others are blurred with movement. Those whiz past in mystery.

Racing Koi  is a pastel painted on Canson Touch Mi-Teintes paper measuring 28.75 x 20.75 inches

random notebook

Looking for a notebook to draw in, I found this one whose contents I post below.  I thought it would be fun to reproduce a notebook, at random, just as is.  This notebook is 11 x 14 inches, Strathmore 400 series drawing paper, 24 sheets, medium texture, 80lb.  The drawings are posted in the order in which they occur.

In almost all the drawings, I used the whole sheet.

1

2

3

4a

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

Most of the drawings are made using oil pastel. One is colored pencil. The last drawing above, the sea shell, looks like it’s made using a special drawing pencil whose name escapes me.

Some of the drawings are studies for paintings.  Some were made on the go, made while I was waiting for someone.  Some are experiments, trying out an idea or a new motif (as with the transparent jar head).

I like to draw.  I can guarantee you — regarding all these drawings — I was having fun.

 

different media & variations on a theme

Bach made thirty variations

fish watercolor

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!

fish colored pencil

Watercolor at the top, then colored pencil, then dry pastel (a detail, below), and crayon (also a detail, below that).

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What can I say?  I need one of these:

I'd rather be fishing

In my own way …

watercolor & me

Seeing other artists’ watercolors

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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.

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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!