Lily-pond (12″ x 12″ oil on canvas)

I painted this one for a specific local show which isn’t until January but I wanted to make sure it would be dry in lots of time for varnishing. All the paintings in the show will be the same format (12″ x 12″) and the same price but all different styles and subjects. I really hope mine appeals to someone …who doesn’t like waterlilies, right?!

Tom wrote a poem for this one about the power of illusions.

Some days I think that I could walk across
the mirror-surface of this lily-pond
stepping on the stones of green and gloss
all my weight supported by the fronds
of floating pads. Their vines are columns, stone
could not provide as much support or strength
as their living sinews, summer-grown
from roots and stems, prodigious in length.
Could I not walk on water, dance on air?
Could I not just this once defy the laws?
Could I not touch the face of one so fair?
Could I not have effect without a cause?
Some days there are illusions that have power
But none so great as one strong lily’s flower.

image (c) 2020 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2020 TJ Radcliffe

evening koi pond …oil painting

Evening Koi Pond (20″ x 20″)

I decided to paint a larger work using the earlier small koi pond paintings as inspiration. As the size of a painting increases, the challenges can become exponentially greater. When paint starts drying, my usual alla prima techniques won’t work and it can be a struggle to keep the brushwork loose and fresh. Still, I hope I captured the feeling of the cool autumn evening watching the drifting willow leaves and lazily swimming fish.
Next time, I will try for the same feeling with a greater economy of brushstrokes!

Here is Tom’s haiku – he always uses just the right number of words 🙂

crooked branches bend
koi following time’s long curve
down straight water paths

image (c) 2018 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2018 TJ Radcliffe


autumn pond…

autumn pond

Another painting from my visit to the Sun Yat-sen Garden in Vancouver. This one focused on the lily pads and reflections from the shore and sky.

Tom’s haiku for this one is …just perfect.

another world waits
through the water’s weathered glass
koi pass bare branches

And if you have a taste to see what this garden looks like …and feels like, check out this short film commissioned by the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Garden Society of Vancouver. Tom wrote the screen play and it really captures the place in a special way.


image (c) 2017 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) TJ Radcliffe


autumn koi …oil painting

Autumn Koi

This small (8″x 8″ oil on canvas) painting is based on a photo I took a couple of weeks ago at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden here in Vancouver. It was a cloudy day but bright so I took advantage of the afternoon to do a little sight-seeing in my still relatively newly adopted city. The koi quietly swimming by while the willow leaves drifted on the surface of the water was a beautiful moment. It is a very picturesque Chinese garden and so there will likely be more paintings to come from my visit.

Tom’s beautiful haiku also captures the moment.

sky falls on water
dry leaves burn in autumn sun
koi pass by below

image (c) 2017 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2017 TJ Radcliffe

curious koi and haiku…

curious koi
curious koi

Another in the series from the last post. Tom’s haiku is clearer in this one since fewer layers were added after the text.

opening their eyes
curious koi might enquire
after the abyss

(c) 2013 TJ Radcliffe

It is hard to see this painting well in a photograph since the texture catches the light. Actually, the painting looks very different under different lighting conditions. The detail below was taken later in the day and shows another feeling… more abyss-like!

the abyss
the abyss

Playing with texture but using a similar palette with metallics to make a visual connection with the previous water lily painting.

image (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer
12″x12″mixed media on panel

On another note, you will find a new link – twig and leaf – in my blog roll. Here’s a recent lovely post.

Have a great week!

two years old!

happy koi

This past week my blog turned two years old! I was in the midst of doing character studies for the new project but here is a little celebratory doodle. One of my most visited posts ever is strangely enough “the meaning of koi” which expounds on said topic – lucky, lucky fish! So I thought they were a suitable doodle topic along with a water lily… just ’cause. Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

UPDATE: Celebratory poem from Tom – thanks!!!

Beneath the water-lily’s flower
Lurk the koi in cooling bower
Where the breadth of sun-bathed pads
Shades the fish from all that’s sad

O happy koi in water clear
Bringing luck to all come near
Such subtle spirit-healing power
Gold beneath the purple flower

Copyright (C) 2011 Tom Radcliffe

image (cc) 2011 Hilary Farmer

surreal koi pond…

surreal koi pond

Sometimes when I start drawing, I really have no idea what it’s going to end up like – this was one of those times! Perhaps I am being subconsciously affected by the strange fact that the most common search that finds my blog is “the meaning of koi”! because of this post from a while back. Go figure. Anyway, it is possible that this scene is in the world of the story being written by Tom in the comments – I am hoping that it is warmer there than our dimension’s Montreal winter for obvious reasons!!

image (cc) 2010 Hilary Farmer

the meaning of koi…


I remember, when I was in China a few years ago, that a vendor in some shop was trying to sell a picture of fish… he insisted that it was special fish. Of course, once you get to know even a little about Chinese culture it becomes clear that no one wants to grace the walls of their home with something which isn’t special or fortuitous in some way – and by that I mean symbolically. Sometimes it is pretty direct and obvious such as a pomegranate meaning fertility because of all the seeds. And sometimes a working knowledge of the Chinese language is required – the item is lucky because it sounds like another lucky thing. This is why, as many people know, the reverse is true for Chinese of the number four – it is a homophone for “die”… not lucky!

So what is so special about the carp, especially the colourful variety which has come to be called in the west by the Japanese name of koi? It is lucky both due to the sound of the words and the symbolism invested in the fish by the culture. In Chinese, the whole name is:
li yu
These characters mean “carp fish” which sounds like “advantage” with “abundance” or “wealth”. As a result this  fish has come to be associated with getting ahead in business. Combine this with the fish’s association with the Buddhist religion where it means perseverance and courage in the face of adversity due to necessary upstream swims and you have a potent combination. Special fish indeed!

Just one more thing – sometimes in images, the fish are combined in curved pairs head to tail alluding to the yin-yang or tai chi symbol. In my image I give a nod to this tradition with the slightly curved fish bodies but the two fish are swimming along side by side.

On a personal note, I may be too busy for the next while to post every week day. I will have to see how it goes but I plan for now a minimum of Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

image (cc) 2009 Hilary Farmer