Friday, April 30, 2010

Catching Up: Playing Koi

The pond is turning out so well, it called for a single koi to be seen rising from the murky depths to the water surface. Behold the Koi of Enlightenment. These underwater shots knock me out!

I had in mind to make a koi that looked like Chinese Joss prayer papers, all bright oranges and shiny gold. I meant this to be quick but it became intense yet incredibly useful. It was such a total blast making a puppet with carved foam that it got me hopped up to make most of the supporting puppets this way. (More on them as these posts roll out.)

Using that toy fish, that was in my mouth in earlier test shots, I snipped out a fish shape from a scrap of upholstery foam. Slit it open to insert and secure a simple twisted wire armature for fishy tail swishing. Here's where it all get ingenious by accident. I used the right-sized mesh nylon tuile applied with heavy gel gloss medium all over which looked for all the world like fish scales when painted. After my cat's eye paint failed to give the illuminated effect I wanted (post on that later) I gold-leafed his top-half (the eye was covered in gold leaf here, but his real eye underneath (see photo below) was made from gluing an acrylic halfdome onto a piece of real joss paper gold giving a most effective illusion of illumination in them)

This is where it got fun. I started hitting the scales with the orange paints and chalks, lightly over-brushing with white for definition. I could have/should have left him there. He looked cool and pretty. But oh no, I had to try new things and go too far. Heck, it's all a new thing, how could I know how far too-far was?

In any case I dropped tiny beads of clear glazes onto each of his scales which gave him a lumpy grotesque look rather than mystical. I then toned all that down with (of course) walnut ink which made it now no longer pretty, even when I tried brightening him back up and filling in his surface terrain with layers of clear medium until it was flush. I added matte medium to real orange feathers for his fins, fishy moustache, and tail. I could have worked his tail further to get that great graceful billow koi tail often have but I'd learned my lesson. In some cases, good enough is great.

Hey, what do you know? This is the Koi of Enlightenment after all! I discovered the technique I'll want to use to create the main character Kyra the mermaid's aqua blue tail now!


  1. This is great! Horray to all the progress!

    Hell, and it's contagious! Today I was procrastinating a lot but now I'm going to hide in the studio to achieve my own milestones... ;)

  2. Hooray for Jessica! Go get it done, girl! Right on!

    I've got so much more to post but I better get some sleep.

  3. So great to see you making so much progress! I am again really impressed with the underwater look you achieved. And while the koi did look nice with the white, I really don't think it looks as bad as you seem to think now... certainly not grotesque! I was pretty fascinated by the close up with the beads of glaze on it... mystical in a different way, I think.

  4. Thank you, Jodi! I love the way he looks underwater especially. And parts of him work up close, thanks for liking it. The mermaid will take the best from this experience.



  6. Shelly, amazing! Yes, I would say you did use just the perfect nylon mesh for scales! I love the gold leaf and the scales. Perfect.


  7. Man Lady!

    You are Rockin it bigtime!!!


  8. Thanks so much Jody!

    Dude, that sounds great from you Justin, thanks!

  9. Ha ha... thanks!!!

  10. Anonymous11:10 AM

    How far is too far? That is so often my question! You, my dear, may think you've gone too far with something, but you never give up, you always manage to bring it back around to perfection. How do you do it?

  11. The koi is stunning! Saw it in person yesterday and am inspired to do the Mimizard using the same process. Shelley rocks! I am just continually more and more thrilled to be part of this amazing project.

  12. :)

    Thanks, Ms. Peggy! I'm having an absolute blast of pleasure making these things! Learning. Learning. Discovering new techniques to me as I go along.

    Heard this great quote yesterday from a book that Creativity is making unusual connections. Tat says it as well as anything I've heard. Wait til you see the latex maché!

    Hi Cirelle! It's a good thing you like all this on account of me NEEDING YOU so much!! You rock. Can't wait for our next steps with your Mimizard puppet. Let's make time for that this Friday.

    Can't wait to show folks the sculpt you made! You're first character puppet!!! Vaowow W00t!

  13. Nice goldy-scaley-fishiness there Shelley! Nice to see you get in on the sea creature fun - I reckon that's One Fish To Rule Them All!

  14. You never cease to amaze me Shelley! I think the coi is just wonderful...looks so real, and those scales!
    Oh! I forgot to tell you I am about to plant the wildflower seeds you sent me. Can't wait to see what surprises come up.

  15. Thanks, Nick! It was so much fun making a fish as well! I looked at your Piano Tuna a lot for scientific accuracy!

    Thanks Marcie HON! Oh yay on the seeds!

  16. m_) what an amazing armature goldy-glassy-glossy fish you got this time, Shelly-shalla!!

    kudos to Shell, this is definitely turning out so beatifullish.

  17. The puppet progress is so intriguing.
    Looking at these photos is a little bit like looking at all the pictures friends are posting on Facebook of their newborn babies... only these don't all look like Winston Churchill!

    Sending my best,

  18. Thank'ya, Dan!

    HA! funny, Karima! It is a bit of a show-and-tell dynamic here!

  19. Nice job, I especially love the feathers-for-fins, looks excellent!!!

  20. Thank Ubbies, I made the fins hinge on a length of wire so they are animatable. I sandwiched two matte medium brushed feathers onto an end of the wire, bent it, and secured the other end deep into the foam body. Looks swell from both sides.

  21. (^ koi . gots about 36 of them now: 9 adult and boy they spawned up a chunk last summer.

    (^ I almost feel it time to share some art Ive done based on staring at them from above

  22. Please do share, Brian! You are the real Koi master with your tending that large a school!

  23. (^ note. koi is big and short for goldfish. carp. all same species. my largest (started as "feeder fish" 27 cents or around that) are now around 6 inches. so really big goldfish: not quite koi but getting there.
    (^carp? that would be when they reach mature salmon size. SERIOUS koi would be 2 to 3 foot long minimum..
    I'd need a 8 foot deep swimming pool to get em to grow fast.
    its the depth that does it.

  24. Completely fascinateing and helpful, Brian. Thank you!

    Having their growth depend on the depth of their pond makes the metaphor even more on point!


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