38.5 cm x 45.5 cm; watercolour on rice paper, 2015

Blog Post 6

Before I tried to paint carps, I spent long hours observing how they moved– swimming and feeding in so many ponds, videos, photos, paintings, figurines, and carvings. So far, I’ve only done three carp paintings. My first was a lone, black carp and it was swimming alone. That’s why I named it Darthus Vaderus. My second carp painting, a colourful one, is shown above–the contentedly feeding Three Lucky Carps. Then, for my third carp painting, I painted a group of nine feeding carps–Fullness. Really, it takes a lot of time and patience to finish a painting composition about carps. So,  I got lost in painting my favourite flowers and birds again. But, I’m sure I’ll challenge myself again and paint more carps.

Here are some general tips on how I painted the Three Lucky Carps:

  • Sequence of painting: carps; water ripples; water plants; and flower-blue wash.
  • Use a thin, pointed brush to outline with light ink the top views of the  carps.
  •  Paint each carp with graceful bends of body and tail. Fins should be painted in different paddling positions through water.
  • Each carp’s position should complement all other positions. This is to convey  fluid and harmonious movements as the carps swim and eat together.
  • Paint the scales as criss-crossed lines on the body. Lines should curve to make rounded bodies. Dry.
  • Color the carps–first:  red and white; second: red, black, and white; and third: white with a yellow tinge. At this point, the scales should appear blurry under the applied colours.
  • Use thick poster white for the water waves. The head and upper body part of each carp should appear above the water as it reaches for the duckweeds; the rest of the body should appear underwater.
  •  Water plants should be in various shades of green. Dip the tip of the brush in flower-blue to have gradations of dark-to-light green colours as you paint the leaves.

To colour the first carp:

  • Mix vermillion and carmine. Load a large white brush with the mix, then dip its tip with carmine. Dry.
  • Use white poster colour for the abdomen. Dry.
  • Emphasize the scales, using white poster colour to paint the dots. Note: Start the dots from the head part, leaving the sides for the poster white area.

To colour the second carp:

  • Colour the red and the black spots. Dry.
  • Emphasize the scales with white poster dots. Dry.

To colour the third carp:

  • Paint white poster all over the carp. When still damp, paint and blend the rattan yellow tinge along the carp’s body length.

To colour the fins:

  • Use light vermillion. Then, dip the brush tip into white poster colour.
  • Use poster white colour to put a ‘shine’ on the wider edges of the fins.

To wash the light flower-blue water ripples:

  • Use a large, white brush.
  • Start the ripples from the mouth of one of the carps. Alternate light and dark ripples. Use light flower-blue and green.
  • There should be no ripples at the top part of the painting because that space represents the sky.
  • You can use a hair blower to dry the wash. Leave damp some portions at the foreground to paint the water plants.

To paint the duckweeds:

  • Use a medium white brush to add duckweeds on top of the water ripples.
  • Load a large white brush with a mix of rattan yellow  and green . Then, dip its  tip into flower-blue.
  • Tips of the heart-shaped duckweeds should be dark. The brush strokes should be ‘from out-to-in’.
  • Paint swaying light flower-blue Hydrilla or Cabomba on the foreground.

Oh, before I end this post, let me show you   my first carp–Darthus Vaderus:


For me, painting carps poses a different kind of painting challenge, a different kind of ‘high’. That’s why before this year is over, I’m sure I’ll paint more carps. It’s sheer joyto paint such beautiful creatures and give them as Christmas gifts to friends–with bragging rights, of course.





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