Sometimes working on large projects takes patience and time to look back at what you did the night before. It helps give you insight and see if it’s going the way you planned.
There are also a lot of people who love to see the different stages of a piece of work so they know how it was done. Well, *Tah Dah* my secrets are revealed…
Stage One- The Idea
Firstly, I wanted to note what kind of fish I want in the piece as well as the structure of the ‘shoals’. There will be different layers of fish in their separate groups. I want the fish to shoal in the following manner:
- Cold water and Pond fish
- Freshwater Tropical fish
- Brackish water River fish
- Saltwater Marine fish
The idea behind the work is based on the fact that all these fish have to live in the ocean and sometimes side by side on coral reefs, much like people on earth. Every fish represents a different person. All these fish are unique like the people on this planet. Eventually I would like a quote in the center of the piece to tie this idea all together.
Researching and resources are vital at this stage as if the idea starts off wrong then the whole piece will be too. I want the fish to look realistic but not so much like ‘fish dictionary.’ I want them to each have their own personality as well as bringing an array of colour. The library and the internet are the main resources that I am currently using. However, the most important resource that I have is my two aquariums at home. It’s important to paint from life as much as I can to get a sense of the fish’s movement, texture and behavior.
Stage Two- What Materials?
Excuse the poor quality photograph here, it was taken on a mobile phone.
So, after spying the perfect canvas (in one of my favourite art shops in Liverpool) I needed to figure out how to get this mega canvas home (on public transport may I add!) The entire canvas measures 60 inches high and 48 inches wide. I am about the same height as this canvas, which is the biggest I have ever painted on! I get some strange looks on the train, not to mention nearly being blown away with the canvas acting as a sail.
Deciding on the paint wasn’t too much trouble. Originally I was thinking Oil but it stunk too much of, ironically fish. So, I will be using good quality acrylic paint.
Stage Three- The Dreaded White Background
So, I’ll let you in on a little secret…. almost every artist I know dreads staring at the white abyss of the blank canvas. Even if they plan, plan, plan they will most probably feel a bit of nerves starting such a large piece. I am no exception, although I love working bigger. It makes me feel more free and expressive.
Originally I was going to pencil in everything but that would take way too long and make it all less fun as well.
Stage Four- Background Boredom
After countless minutes of mixing paint, I am going in… (sponge in hand) This eager enthusiasm soon wears off after the first layer when my hand is aching. I used a sponge to get that natural looking water blend (as well as covering more surface area in one go)
Stage Five- Big fish, little fish, paintbrush box
I want to try and paint the bigger fish first so that I can position the smaller fish around them. They can be used as a focus point to balance out the entire piece. For example, I want a nice flow of big then small not a big group of small fish squished into a corner somewhere.
Stage Six- My own touch
When painting in the fish I wanted to incorporate every species that I have personally kept as a nice touch to the work. I have loved each fish that has graced my aquarium waters and dedicate this work to all of them, past and present.
At this point in the project I have moved house with the piece, which is why the photographs are in a different area.
I am still unsure what I will do with the work when it is finished. I will most likely have it up in the house to enjoy for a while and maybe sell it in the future to an aquarium such as the Blue Planet where I shark dived in 2011. Such an amazing place, love it!
Stage Seven- Inspiration right in my front room
Taking inspiration from watching my two freshwater aquariums with Blue Acara, Jacob my Clown Loach Binks and Black Ghost knifefish, Klaus. I have the best subjects to paint from and need to study the way in which they move to gain a realistic interpretation.