The Making of "Being Koi"

I create artwork that highlights the calming effect of nature to lower stress, increase happiness and bring a sense of joy and connection to other people. 

 
Being Koi is one such piece of art. I have always been drawn to the beauty and grace of these fish as they glide through the water with their gorgous, almost feathery fins swirling along. I find them mesmerizing. When I am at my most anxious, watching them can calm me in a way few other things can. 
 

Being Koi, © 2013
Mixed Media on Wood,
8" x 48" x 2"

Praise for Being Koi:
 
"I feel Joy and Happiness from your art. Relaxed and happy from the fish. 
Your art improved my life by having me stop and 
remember life is full of joy; 
you just have to stop and look for it." - Nickie, Colorado

 
"I immediately felt relaxed and in a better mood." - Sharon, Texas
 
"I love this piece. It's very soothing and uses great colors. I like the unique shape. I've always loved your fish. You did something similar to this in stained glass that I loved. I could see this in multiples as well."
- Heidi, Pennsylvania

 
"I love asian symbols/arts so I really like this. Its very peaceful to me." 
- Tracy, Hawaii

 
"I so love the koi. The colors. The flow. It's lovely." - Ricki, Colorado
 
"I love your work Jenny! It has great detail, perspective, light. It's obviously professional. I like the whimsy and expert technique." 
Bernadette, Colorado

 

The Process of creating this mixed media artwork is described below:
 
 
1. The first step in almost everything I do is to research. I referenced photos and illustrations of koi and lilies in order to become more familiar with my subject matter.
 
 
 
2Next, I drew simple sketches to determine the overall composition of the artwork.
 
 
 
3. I drew the fish, lilipads and flowers by hand on plain paper to get the general shape. Details came later.
 
 
 
4. Then I cut them out to create pattern pieces.
 
 
 
5. I work on lightweight, wooden "canvases" that I build myself. Here, I have taped my pattern pieces onto the wooden canvas to determine where each element would reside.
 
 
 
6. Because I like my images to wrap around the surface, I had to adjust my shapes to make it look realistic, and tape the pattern pieces around the edges.
 
 
 
7. I traced around these pattern pieces with pencil. I was lucky to have another wooden canvas of the same size to transfer them onto - it's super important to keep things organized when you're working with so many little pieces.
 
 
 
8. I experimented with stains on a scrap peice of wood before applying them to my artwork.
 
 
 
9. Then I proceeded to stain the water areas blue. I like to layer up my colors. A green glaze covered the water area later.
 
 
 
10. I used a transclucent green stain where the lilipads would be placed. Next, I used orange water-soluble oil paint to cover the areas that would be the fish, and white for the water lilies.
 
 
 
11. Standard brown wood stain worked well to give a natural looking shadow.
 
 
 
12. Next it was time for the art paper. I traced around my pattern pieces, making modifications as needed, and cut out beautiful papers for the upper layers.
 
 

13. As I mentioned, this is a subject matter I have long been interested in. Years ago I worked in Stained Glass. The design process is similar in that I'm still starting with a pattern I drew myself. I was able to pull out my old Stained Glass pattern that I drew years ago, and repurpose it for the water lilies.
 
 
 
14. I referenced the Stained Glass Pattern to fit the lily petals together like a puzzle.
 
 
 
15. I cut out each individual scale for the three fish. For one of the fish, I even painted the round side of each piece of paper with a shimmery paint (see detail in next photo).
 
 
 
16. I glued down each individual scale. I later glued the dorsal fins down right on top of the scales, creating even more texture.
Here you can see something else that I failed to get a photo of in action: I used a wood burining tool to burn the edges of the water lily papers. This gave them a more natural look.
 
 
 
17. I put a coat of Modge Podge over the entire peice to give it a uniform low-gloss finish. Then I used the water-solutble oil paints to add details. The black dotted ouline areas are a nod to traditional Japanese block prints. I like to reference a familiar art technique when I can, while still using my own process.