In The Works – Koi
November 2015

In The Works - Virtue

December 2015

A calligraphy sample on Pinterest inspired me to do this little project.  Theirs was done on white paper and, thus, was very bright and glowing.  I worked on black paper with colored pencils, but I'm pleased with the outcome.

I started out with the idea of using the word 'Virtue' only.  I felt it could stand by itself if done in a stately manner.  Tell me what you think...

I took some time to lay it out on white paper; then did a heavy outline; coated the back with graphite; then transferred it onto my black paper (it was difficult to see the minimal lines on the dark paper).

In The Works

Realizing that my rendering on black paper would not be as dramatic as that done on white paper, I had to accentuate the contrasts to make it look more 3-dimensional.  Here you will see that I took sequential photos of each additional letter.

Like many of you, I’ve seen these beautifully strange fish, both in large exhibits and personal ponds.  Some of them have been so peculiarly bred as to have the most extreme physical characteristics: bulging eyes, super, flowing fins and more.  Recently, a fellow photographer from Hawaii shared a photo of several that caught my eye and my artistic mind. 

Using that photo as a reference, I altered the composition: there was another fish on the bottom of this little grouping.  To me, it confused the layout by making them all visually run together.  Therefore, I designed my layout so that the eye would flow from the three lower fish to the top one.  Would you have handled it any differently?
I believe the first area to which the eye is attracted is the center of the gold fish.  It is there that its neighbors’ fins touch it and unifies them.  From there, the significant contrast and movement in the bottom, left orange and white fish starts the journey up and through the three to the ‘leader’ at top.
Due to the perpendicular position of that left fish to the strongest light source, the highlights on its back make it the most 3D, or solid of the fish.  The far right specimen also has some feeling of solidness, but not as much.  To me, they appear to all be on one single plain or depth.  So they share the same amount of light.

The gold fish has such flowing extremities that it gets somewhat lost as they fade into the dark abyss below.  I rendered all three so that their unified movement goes from bottom left and flows upward, meeting the leader at his lower belly.  His form continues that movement counterclockwise to his head and the little glimmer in his eye.  Do you agree?
Rendering color on dark paper requires a somewhat heavy hand and preplanning of the desired strength of coloration.  It’s far easier to go from light to dark.  If I were to apply the orange colors first and then decide to lighten them with a lighter hue (or white) it is almost impossible, or gets muddy.  Utilizing the pure color (without dilution with lighter or white) first gives strength. 

Please note that each fish has color reflected from of its neighbor on its respective side.  There are reflected golden colors on almost the entire side of the right fish, and less noticeable reflections of gold on the left.  Likewise, the golden has some subdued white and orange on its sides from its companions.

One thing that I have come to love to incorporate into my drawings and paintings are lost lines.  Notice that there is no real ‘bottom’ to the leader’s lower form except those ‘suggested’ by the slight reflections of the two approaching fish and just behind its own side fin.  This is also true of its lower mouth.  Were it not for some light being reflected upward, its mouth would have no rational form.  There is also a bit of this lost line concept in the left fish’s lower body, just behind its back, side fin and small bottom fin.  Did you notice before I mentioned it?

Working from black to white and lighter colors is always a challenge for me.  But I love the depth and contrast realized if done right.  This piece, 9” X 12” is for sale.


Materials and suggestions:  On white paper, almost any colored pencils will render vivid colors.  Not so when working on black paper.  The medium has to have a very opaque quality that allows the color to stand out on the surface of the paper without loss of color integrity. 

A few years back, I was admiring another artist’s colored pencil on black paper and read his comments.  He firmly stated that the best results could only be realized using Prismacolor pencils and Canson Mi Tientes pastel paper.  Apparently its tooth (surface roughness) contributes to the ability to hold the colors. 

This little piece was rendered with the Prismacolors but on Strathmore ArtAgain paper.  Had I rendered it on the Canson paper, I think the lighter colors (especially the whites) might have been more vivid.  But I’m satisfied with the outcome and will not redo it.  I will, however, use that paper if I render more of these little ‘fishies.’

Let me know if this helps in your studies and what your experiences are.


​Customer's framing!

Just after lunch on Friday past, a dear art friend called me with a request. She had a friend on the Peninsula who had just lost their first child at birth. They were heartbroken, and my friend wanted to do something special for them.

She timidly asked if I had time to do a calligraphy name card. (She is sensitive to other's lives and didn't want to infringe or take advantage of our friendship.) I explained that being a single artist gives me a wide-open schedule.

She gave me the details of the family and the card she wanted. I was moved.

At first I thought of having the baby's name in a very soft and flowing script. Then I thought that the name should look regal and strong. I penned it in Old English. I added a drop shadow beneath the name to make it 'feel' stronger. The phrase she gave would be what would look soft in a cursive font below it. 

She also wanted a cherubim or baby-angel somewhere on the card. I did some research online and found a stone carving that I really liked. In PhotoShop I turned the baby to face left instead of right; made some modifications to make it look 3D.

I penciled it next to the name and worked to have it interact with the name; rendered more detail; outlined the image in a thin black line; and added color, keeping it soft in value.  A way of adding depth is to lay a little blue behind everything making it look like sky.

I matted it in black, but my friend will redo it in a more personal color for the family.

I sent a phone shot of the finished image to her Friday evening. She was delighted. We'll meet sometime today and she will deliver it to them this week. 

Mike Dirle

If I were to do this again, I think I'd open up the spacing just a tad for easier reading.  But, I still like the feel of it.

Fine Art & Photography

Baby name card

In The Works - Henry

December 2015