I recently completed a small series of koi paintings that always interest me for the opportunity to push color and explore compositional design. This was one of a couple of studio pieces compiled from a series of images I took at the Mission in San Juan Capistrano when their lily pond was in bloom. The above painting “In Circles” is 16x12 in size and I chose the vertical format for a different feel.
The fun thing about these paintings was that this scene is entirely invented. I used multiple photos with different elements and placed them compositionally where I wanted them. This provides many possibilities and is a nice change to all the plein air work I do. So, for this one, I chose to play up the circular elements, since everything is a circle in these scenes. I began by sketching in the lilies and started working them in an arc on the left side of the painting. I made sure to overlap some here and there for variety and also used the little V-shaped stem areas to direct your eye. I placed the main lily flower in the upper “golden” third quadrant as a focal statement. I then drew in the large black koi in the bottom right to curve you back into the lily pads. I also enjoy the fact that you don’t see this fish upon first glance or from a distance, once you get up to the painting, this koi becomes apparent. The other two koi were placed to complete the swimming circle. These two were just invented from memory. Next were the water reflections. The blue of the sky was to be my main weight at the bottom, then I wanted to create a greenish brown foliage reflection to diagonally come down the right side and create a complimentary arc there that opposes the lilies. All the vertical reflections were added to break up the circles. And lastly planned was the water ripple to complete the theme.
The painting basically painted itself. I just tried to keep everything simple in the beginning and added detail towards the end. I pumped up the foreground color for extra drama and made sure to gray out the lilies as they receded in space. I was conscious of my edges to give focus where needed, soft in the distance and harder in front. Lastly were a couple of small color splashes for little bits of matter that are always floating on the surface. I used this for my secondary eye movement.
Sometimes it feels good not to be such a square. Enjoy!