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Fish and Crabs with William Ho - April 14th, 2007

Capturing the dynamics of the subject is what is important to William Ho. His shows at the United Nations, the House of Commons and the Varley Art Gallery are typically filled with vivid, expressive paintings. William's workshop on fish and crabs began with a single stroke to capture the movement of a fish.

Contemplating stroke for fish

Using only sumi-e ink, William's opening stroke captured the back and tail of the fish.

First stroke from head to tail

A second stroke added a fin and the outline of the belly.

Adding fin and underside

Similarly, a second fish, crossing behind the first was added.

Composition with second fish

In his third fish, William began to create a composition of a school of fish.

Third fish

The first three fish were shown an different angles, capturing the flexibility of the fish. The fourth fish had an interesting perspective, as if the viewer were looking directly down at it.

William Ho studies pattern of picture with fish

As with the other fish, it was done in a bold stroke with minimal additional strokes. 

Adding another fish directly below viewer

William turned to a second painting where he demonstrated the strokes and structure of a fish.

William Ho creates a second painting of fish

Using a finer brush, he outlined the structure that workshop participants should keep in mind when working on a fish. William emphasized the line from the head to the tail that we must keep in mind when we paint the fish.

Structure of fish demonstrated

William then discussed the art of capturing the essence of a fish in a few strokes. How do we paint such fish ourselves? Practice, practice, practice. William Ho puts it this way. Painting is 90% practice and 10% genius.

Discussion of the structure of a fish by William Ho

This close-up picture shows the dynamic quality of the fish William created for the workshop. William Ho's fish are not completely detailed, but they capture the essence of the school of fish. Notice also the composition of the fish. How each one contributes to the overall painting.

Completed fish

At this point, the class began their work on fish with William emphasizing the motion and dynamics of fish.

Helping participant capture essence of fish

William Ho is an internationally-known artist and his paintings and philosophy have been captured in some of Toronto's daily newspapers. William has founded a charity, Hope for the Future, to raise funds for AIDS victims, particularly children in China.

Story of William Ho in Toronto daily paper

Adrienne Arvidson read an article in the workshop that included William Ho's artistic and philosophic beliefs.

Reading artist's statement and involvment with charity

The second part of the workshop turned to the crab. William often contemplates the painting before putting any ink on the paper.

Returning for the crab

William began by creating the body in two strokes that placed the brush flat on the paper.

Crab body first

Then came the legs in straight strokes.

Crab legs

The legs were extended to include the smaller parts of the legs. Three strokes create each leg.

Crab legs completed

The claws and eyes were added last. Again in bold, simple stokes with little added rework.

Claws and eyes

A second crab was added to the composition.

Second crab in different position for composition

William followed a similar process adding legs and then the claws.

Details of crabs added

William reminded the workshop participants to focus on the dynamics and crab-like essence of these sea creatures, similar to the fish.

More crab details

This close-up demonstrates the almost-alive crabs that William paints. Notice that the legs are not symmetrically arranged. This irregularity makes each crab distinct and more realistic.

Close-up of crabs

As with the fish, William demonstrated the structure of the crab once more before we returned to our own painting.

Structure of crab

This close up shows the structure of a crab.

Close-up of structure for crab and fish

William helped us with some of the finer points of creating crabs that seem to crawl about on the paper.

Helping participant with painting of crab

This workshop participant couldn't paint enough crabs.

Participant works on crabs

We left William Ho's workshop with more than just knowing how to paint fish and crabs, but how to paint vivid, expressive fish and crabs and arrange them effectively in a composition. You can find links to William Ho's web site and charity in our links section.