Sousahne Mayes: Watercolor and Gouache Waterscapes

Published on Dec. 4th 2012

There’s nothing coy about the magnificent koi paintings created by watercolor and gouache painter, Sousahne Mayes.

She says, “While I love working on portraits, my passion is koi. There is an energy I draw upon that comes through my paintings when I work with koi. I seek to paint the rare moments of beauty, the rich vibrant colors in the koi themselves. To capture the patterns of light and shadow dancing through the waters—it is harmony, a spiritual wonder.”

Although Sousahne works from her home studio in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, much of her inspiration comes from the studying she did with gouache Master Xiaogang Zhu of China. Throughout her 10 years working exclusively with these two mediums, Sousahne has found that the rich color of gouache blends effortlessly with watercolor, offsetting its subtle, transparent characteristics.

A meet-and-greet among fish busily commences in the upper left corner of Yin and Yang, seen below. Even though the fish stir up nearby water, the small ripples created from their inattention come to a screeching halt in the opposite corner of the painting, where smooth waters prevail.


This painting reveals an equal balance between the bright, colorful koi splashing up water and the surrounding dark depths of water. While every koi’s stripes or splotches of color are perfectly detailed and clear, what lies beneath the inky water surrounding them will forever remain a mystery—one that the yellow fish bravely leaving its secure circle of friends might soon solve.

Sousahne’s next painting, Flamingos, instantly reminds me of an old Hawaiian shirt my dad used to have and stirs up wonderful daydreams of remote tropical paradises.


These gorgeous birds, hungry and carefree, don’t even recognize they stand out, quite literally, like a sore thumb with their bright pink plumes and wiry, stilted legs. Reeds disappear into darkness behind the birds and even the surrounding sand and vegetation vanish in a dusty blue puddle at the flamingos’ webbed feet.

This beautiful painting more than redeems the graceful elegance of the flamingo from the standard plastic bird we often see sticking out of somebody’s front yard!

Being unable to see more than a few feet ahead in this sea foam green water gives me an eerie, apprehensive feeling. The koi must feel the same way, choosing to seek refuge Through the Reeds.


Richly vibrant, purple lilies and paper thin, orange lily pads hide the fish from any predators watching diligently from above. The colorful flowers provide comfort in their beauty in such a strange, muted green habitat rife with sediment and moss. Meanwhile, ribbons of reeds sway restlessly in the mild current, embracing and pulling the koi deeper into their midst, and out of harm’s way.

Something you’ll notice about Sousahne’s paintings is that each one is more tranquil than the last. Discover your inner zen by checking out her entire portfolio online.

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