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Playing Koi During Quarantine

April 10, 2020

[ Playing Koi, 11×14″ Watercolor – SOLD! ]

So, I went back to my Koi fish from a few days ago, and painted him with some of his brothers.

This sketch looks like there’s a lot of accidental color bleeding – but really that’s not the case.

I painted each fish individually, one at a time. It was quite organized actually.

I start each fish by wetting its body and fins with clear water, let it pause just a moment to be not-sopping-wet – then touch the fish with an intense color – letting it flood into the fish silhouette.

(You might remember this is called ‘charging-in’).

Same with the floating leaves. Just touch some strong pigment to the wet-shape.

I like to touch the nose of the fish, or the tips of the leaf, so the color flows from the edge, towards the center.

Sometimes I’d do that twice. (To get a darker color). Like the yellow fish with the orange nose. (Upper right)

Or I’d touch, leave a gap, and touch again, like the red fish with the white bands. (upper left).

Then, after my fish are fully dried, (it’s just orange fish on white paper at this point) – I wet AROUND the fish with clear water – inverting the wet shape – and painted in the dark background with bold strokes of indigo.

When that scary dark paint touches paper, I don’t have to worry about carefully painting around the fish – because I already did that with clear water. I just touch my water and the dark indigo goes where I want. This is a kind of ‘safety first’ approach :)

If you mess up the cutting in with indigo, that’s bad. But If you start with clear water and mess up – you can just let it dry and start again.

I admit it’s a little tricky to see the wet area – you have to look for the wet shine. Sometimes slanting your lighting helps see your invisible-outline.

Any effect of the fishes’ color bleeding into the background was created by dropping Pyrrol Orange into the wet Indigo. Making it look like the wet-touched-wet – but that never happened. There were no accidental bleeds – it just looks like it :)

Fun hey? By letting the water control the flow, you get all the creativity and spontaneity of watercolor – but you keep it under control so you’re happy with the accidents!

Oh and, Iif you want to try this at home (maybe with your kids) – Here’s an older example that’s much easier to draw :)


3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2020 6:52 PM

    Lovely paintings – thanks for the lesson, great tips.

  2. April 11, 2020 3:25 PM

    I haven’t painted wet in wet like this for a long time but I can’t wait to try it again now! Thank you for the tips and LOVE the painting!

  3. Janet M Catmull permalink
    April 11, 2020 9:38 PM

    Nice! I only wish you posted this 6 months ago, before I painted my brother’s koi pond. It was HARD! I had to make three tries, and even then I wasn’t very happy with the result. I painted the water first, leaving blank spaces for the koi fish. I think your method is much more reasonable and successful! ;-)

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