Pat Weaver: Colors of Koi with Watercolors


I’ve always been fascinated by the graceful rhythm of the Koi fish. Their patterns are so varied and the darks are brilliant against the bright oranges, yellows and reds. Four different photographs established the composition for this painting. I used a #4b pencil to draw the Koi and to establish a nice swirling pattern, which continuously moves the eye in a circle.



Step 1
After drawing the Koi, I started applying a mixture of Aureolin and Quinacridone Rose to the first Koi, alternating between yellow orange, orange, red orange and red, leaving white paper. I then introduced Ultramarine Blue, about a #5 value and alternating the Ultramarine Blue by adding Quinacridone Rose for a violet, then a red violet.



Step 2 – Size
Repeat the yellow orange, orange, red orange and red on the next three fish. I also included a little Quinacridone Gold on these fish. Be sure to leave plenty of white paper at this stage. The fifth Koi is painted a little different. I introduced Aureolin, then a mix of Aureolin/Phthalo Green which made a yellow green right into the orange mixture, then applied Quinacridone Gold.

color-of-koi-3Step 3
All of the darks that are on every Koi are made with a mixture of Quinacridone Rose and Phthalo Green, which makes a wonderful black. I use less water for darker mixtures and more water to pigment for lighter tones. I also introduced more Ultramarine Blue into the fish. When the Ultramarine Blue is introduced into the red orange, it produces a grayish color, which is calming to all the exciting color on the fish. I added more red mixture to the gold fish at the top as well as introducing a little black here and there.

color-of-koi-4Step 4
This is where I pushed the blacks on the fish darker, accented the reds more. The background is painted Ultramarine Blue and sometimes I introduced Phthalo Green into the Ultramarine Blue. The blue/green water is complimentary to the orange/red Koi. I used lots of pigment/water to put in the water around the fish. I don’t use frisket to mask the white paper, I just paint around the whites. While the background is still wet, I pulled some of the wetness of the background over the fish, losing some edges and softening their fins, pushing them under the water. I also introduced touches of red and orange/red into the water while it was wet. I like moving the orange/red of the fish into the water and the blue of the water into the fish.

The big Koi to the right is the most important fish, so I left more detail and white paper on this one. I used a little bit of White gouache to accent here and there on the Koi’s fins and tails.

This is a fun exercise and shouldn’t take more than an hour or so to paint. That includes the drawing by the way. So jump right in there, maybe you’ll paint it even better. Practice and perseverance is the key to success, so be sure to spend time everyday drawing and painting.

The palette is limited, only using the following DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine Watercolors:
Quinacridone Rose
Quinacridone Gold
Ultramarine Blue
Phthalo Green