Descanso Koi

At the end of a great weekend, with everyone safely back home, or en route, I took a few minutes to paint these koi from a photo reference. In real life, they don’t hold still very well. This study will help me draw them when I encounter them again in the gardens.

These koi are from Mulberry Pond at Descanso, where they swim lazily all day in an idyllic setting. The pond got a total makeover this year, complete with a waterfall and other deluxe features like a special ledge that the koi can hide under if herons or raccoons come around. One of the days we were there we saw many small koi, less than an inch long, swimming in the water, proving that the koi are reproducing. Sadly, they will be eaten by the larger fish. If not, the pond would probably become overrun. I would have liked to have saved one of the small fry but I’d probably get caught for poaching. And I’ve never poached anything but a salmon.

This quick sketch is watercolor and colored pencil in my large size Moleskine cachet journal. Now, back to work for me.


  1. Lin
    July 5, 2006

    LOVELY, Karen!!! I love whatever you paint from these gardens!

  2. Sioux
    July 5, 2006

    The koi are beautiful, Karen. We have a Japanese garden close where the koi are plentiful and beautiful. If it wasn’t 100 in the shade, I would go there to paint.

  3. Don
    July 5, 2006

    Poached Koi…..eeeeeewwww! :-)
    Nicely sketched Karen.

  4. melissa w
    July 6, 2006

    I like how even when sketching quickly, every stroke is deliberate. You make it look so easy!

  5. melissa w
    July 6, 2006

    Ack! I got cut off. Anyway, the shadows are a great example of pulling out the essence. Wonderful little gem.

  6. Jana Bouc
    July 6, 2006

    You captured their koi-ness and did a great job realistically showing where they are in water, with the shadow below them and the water above. Descanso seems a lot like Blake Gardens here in the Bay Area.

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