Koi Paintings

The Koi works all focus on the interplay between the ripples in moving water, the fish forms swimming through these, and the impact these have on any reflections or leaves on the water’s surface.


The ever changing patterns created by moving water have long fascinated me. Whenever I watched flowing water and the procession of ripples which appeared to be the same, but were always subtly changing, I could not imagine how I could capture this to my satisfaction as an artist. This was before I encountered Suminagashi marbling.

Centuries ago the Japanese invented a clever yet simple way to represent these flowing patterns. By dropping ink onto the surface of the water and gently fanning, the ink will slowly move in concentric circles forming ripples. These are captured by dropping a piece of paper onto the water’s surface, then lifting it off to reveal a print which has fixed a moment in time.

This was exactly what I was looking for. I particularly relish the unpredictability and limited control the artist has when making a Sumi print — I feel that the moving water creates these prints, far more than I do. I use this process as the starting point for all my Koi watercolour paintings. The painted Koi must move in harmony with these patterns which form the main structural element of each composition. The fish will swim within them or through them on their own paths thus creating new ripples of their own.

The leaves and the areas of gold leaf representing reflections, will be added last to the works as their positions will be dictated by the position of ripples on the water’s surface.

The Koi oil paintings explore the deeper rich colours possible with this media, which I was looking for to represent the wide variety of colour patterns found within the Koi family. For these works I use canvases or wooden panels as supports.