These pieces form part of a long term project exploring fine detail line art and cultural symbolism in elements of the natural world.

Koi fish have a long history in Chinese and Japanese cultures. Over time they developed symbolic meanings attached to their characters, the directions in which they swim and their colours and they became quite popular in Japanese tattoo art.


The first phase of this project was a style exploration inspired by simple black tattoo line art. My love for precision organically pulled me towards a more delicate approach, incorporating stippling techniques for depth and shade that create detail, depth and form reminiscent of the microscopy illustrations I would create for my biology and zoology classes in high school and university. The overall effect is balanced and grounded, yet dynamic in flow.

In the second phase of this project, the two koi swimming in opposite directions incorporate the Chinese philosophical concept of dualism: yin and yang. One fish swims upstream, struggling against the current yet not giving up and gaining the strength to overcome while the other swims downstream, unable to conquer obstacles or having already done so and being carried by the flow.

Pairing the koi with flowers of Valeriana officinalis, which represent strength and readiness, completes the composition and offers s suggestion of the qualities needed to be embodied to handle and best navigate the flow of yin and yang energy.

Adding a warmed parchment wash both ages and anchors the illustration.