Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Koi Mermaid by Jill Johansen

I happened upon this image while browsing fantasy art, and just found it to be simply beautiful. The curvilinear lines of the central figure are exquisitely playful and lead one’s eye throughout the whole image. I really like how the mermaid is actually outlined in black, gives the image a “stained glass” kind of feel. The color palette suites the illustration perfectly. The highly saturated orange of the mermaid is just lovely contrasted against the green lily pads. The neutral brown/gray background makes the colors pop, but also fits the theme. I also liked the visual balance of the elements in the piece. All four corners are filled with some kind of detail, and I like how that frames the central figure. Jill Johansen has a great eye for detail as well. Each koi fish a delicately illustrated and each koi is uniquely posed. The lily pads are well placed, and although there are many of them, they don’t make the piece feel cluttered. Jill’s execution of the translucency of the water is subtle, but beautifully done. You can tell the water is rippling without losing clarity in the details.

I look forward to finding more of Jill Johansen’s illustrations.


  1. I was just scrolling along on the blog and I just happened on this image. It is interesting that you point out how Jill forms almost a frame around her piece with the different pond elements. With the frame it gives the piece almost the feeling of a portrait with the mermaid being framed in.

  2. I really like this piece as well. It has a lot of Japanese symbolism, from the koi fish body of the mermaid where according to Japanese legend, if a koi succeeded in climbing the falls at a point called Dragon Gate on the Yellow River, it would be transformed into a dragon. Based on that legend, it became a symbol of worldly aspiration and advancement.

    More generally, the Japanese associate koi (also known as carp) with perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose. Because of its strength and determination to overcome obstacles, it stands for courage and the ability to attain high goals.

    It also shows some Chinese sysmology with the koi body and the hair create a yin yang which in Chinese philosophy the two fundamental principles, one negative, dark, passive, cold, wet, and feminine (yin) and the other (yang) positive, bright, active, dry, hot and masculine. The interactions and balance of these forces in people and nature influence their behavior and fate.

  3. It is interesting to see something that is traditionally a Japanese-only thing (the myths and legends related to the koi fish) mixed together so well with something from the Western world (our myths and legends about mermaids/sirens). The colors work very well and give a nice mix of warm and cool colors.