Saturday, March 7, 2015

Three Little Fishies

I started out just calling this painting "Koi", but the longer I worked on it the personality of the three fish took over the painting so the title "Three Little Fishies" came to be.

Not to sound like a broken record, but, be sure to check your drawing and make sure the entire pattern is there.  A question I get quite a bit is where to start painting. I usually start on the right hand side, I'm right handed, so by beginning there I'm not dragging my hand and arm across the painting smearing paint or wiping off my drawing.  Left handed people would do well to start on the right side.

Because there were so many elements, (fish, leaves, flowers, water) I wanted to do a little bit of each to work out my color palette.

Start the leaves by covering the leaf with a coat of light Sap Green, lots of water little pigment. As it is drying add more Sap Green where you want dark, into the dark also add some Paynes Gray. In other areas drop in some Quin. Gold or Yellow Ocher, add in some Cad Red and cad yellow and in some leaves even put in come Cobalt Blue.  When I say "drop" in a color, I mean just that, don't use a brush stroke, just dab the color into a wet area and let the water blend the colors. Try to make the leaves different looking, some will have more of a color than another. If part of a leaf overlaps another leaf the top leaf will be be lighter where it overlaps and
the underneath leaf will be darker. If a leaf has a turn up that will be more of a brown to it is green and red with perhaps a touch of yellow. When a leaf is almost dry you can take a clean damp brush to wipe out some color for highlights.

While doing the leaves put the yellow centers in the flowers, using your darkest yellow.

Koi, like the fuchsia, come in many colors and combinations of colors. I chose to do all three in the same color, that way they are all equal and none stands out, they are part of the pattern. I used Cad. Red and Cad. Yellow to make a bright
orange. First the eyes are painted Paynes Gray and the inside of the mouth, when dry a coat of watered down orange over the whole fish, while still wet add more of the orange, less diluted. In the darker areas add pure Cad. Red, for the darker shaded areas use Paynes Gray. If you want some lighter area after you have all the paint on, use a damp clean brush to pull up some of the color. Some of the darkness on the fish that you see was put on when I painted in the water. If there is any question in your mind about putting down a color, don't. You can always add more shadows when the rest of the color on the painting is put in. It is surprising how the
addition of a new color can change a color that is already down.

When all the leaves are painted it's time to move on to the flowers. The dark yellow centers should be dry by now, using the same orange as the fish, put in some small strokes around  some of the stamens.  I used a very watered down Paynes Gray to put in the shadows on the petals of the flowers. Like the previous water lily, work on one petal at a time so you keep some white areas on each petal. When all the gray shadows are in place. I used a watered down Hansa Yellow on
some of the petals. You can do the inside of a
petal or the outside, try not to do both. On the two flowers in the upper left, I also added a bit of pink, Alizarin Crimson. 

For now leave the flowers and start on the water. I started on the left side by the two flowers. Here I used Cobalt Blue, Paynes Gray, and Antwerp Blue. First putting down a layer of Cobalt, then dropping in the gray close to the objects. Let the water move the pigment, the layering of the color will give you wonderful water movement. The very highest waterlily is the only flower that is actually sitting in the water. So while the
paint is still damp, pull out the reflection of the
white petals in the water. Move around the top of the painting coming down on the right side with the Cobalt Blue. Don't try to paint all the area and then go back to add the dark. Do a small bit of the cobalt and while still wet keep adding gray to get a darker blue. To give distance, the farther away the water the darker the water. As we come forward a lighter blue base with arcing strokes  give the appearance of ripples from the water being broken by the fish. Here again you want to get some dark shadows underneath the leaves. If you can, leave a hairline of white paper between dark water and leaf.
Okay now this is a bit scary. Take the lightest blue of the water and brush it over the fins of the the two front fish. Leave some bits of the original orange showing through.

At this point looking at three fish with their mouths open, I figured there should be some food  for them.  I made a dark brown and painted little pellets near the fish. While still damp I used a damp brush to take out a bit of a highlight out of each pellet, then when dry I used some Antwerp Blue at the base of each pellet for shadow.

I still wanted to put some grasses in along the bottom of the painting. There are several different ways of doing that. You can use your quarter inch flat and carefully pull out the paint where you want to put in the grass, time consuming and not always satisfactory. You could have used a resist before painting the rest of the painting. Leaves nice clean lines to fill in with new color. Or you could use gouche mixed with watercolor and paint over the watercolor already laid in. Gouche is opaque watercolor, it always reminds me of tempera paint in texture.
I used the last method, exchanging the white gouche for gesso.

Gesso is used to prime canvases for oil or acrylic paint, but I have also found that it works well for priming watercolor paper for certain projects AND for mixing with watercolor for an opaque color to use over other colors. The gesso dries very quickly so once the color has been mixed in quickly stoke the grasses in, overlapping and bending some leaves of grass. I mixed several different colors of green, adding either yellow or blue.

Now you want to look at the whole painting see if there is any place that needs a darker shadow or a highlight that needs pulling out. Sometimes it can take days to see if there are changes or additions that you want to make or you will see it right away. Looking at your painting upside down or in a mirror will also show you if anything else needs to be done.
Here is the piece, I'm not sure if this one is finished or not,  I see some areas that I might want to do some more work to, but for the most part I am happy with the results. I hope you are happy with your painting and ready to move on to your next challenge.

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