Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Portrait Watercolor Process

Hello Everyone, seems about the right time for a semi annual blog about my painting process.  This time around I will discuss my most recent portrait painting and some background on my influences and where I've developed some of my techniques. 

So first I'll go over my influences. I have a great many artistic influences but when it comes to watercolor there only a select few I've followed over the years.  Charles Reid is one, especially for his use of color and his brush controlI've tried to emulate his loose and expressive style but honestly, that is still a work in progress.  Another great influence in terms of color theory is the great Jim Ames.  I've posted info about his book on color theory in the past and I still highly recommend everyone checks it out for tips on how to build beautiful values.  David Mack is another artist whose work I've appreciated over the years, especially his mix of realism and abstract.  There are a great many other artists that I've picked up books and tips from over years and I've borrowed from all of them in one way or another to create my own style.... which i prefer to think as a loose technique with hints of photo realism. 

The painting in this post was a recent commission for a baby portrait.  When I'm working on portraits I prefer to use photo reference to help capture the essence of my model.  Here is the original photo-
  She's a darling, right?  After playing around with some sketches I cropped out the areas I felt unnecessary and focused on her wonderful eyes and smile. basically this area-
I want the focal point of the painting to be her eyes, nose and mouth so that will have the most detail.  I loved the contrast of red/pink and green so I wanted to build a loose wash surrounding her in the back ground and really focus on building on the shapes and forms for her face.  So I started by using a 2h pencil and mapped out the drawing on 140lb cold press paper.  I prefer Arches for my watercolor paper but Fabriano is very good as well.  For best results don't go below 140 lb.  The paper fiber will either fail or warp terribly. 

The drawing process is always the longest portion of portrait painting for me because I want to get it right, there's no point in doing a portrait if I can't capture the subject... Plus. I'm just an insanely slow drawer... draftsman?  Whatever the correct term, I'm slow.  I use several methods usually free hand for expressive purposes but for this one i used a loose grid system to capture as an exact of a likeness as I could.  

I then built my palette.  I only used 3 brushes on this one, all Winsor & Newton brand, a #10 round for the majority of the painting,  a flat, mostly for clean edges, and a #4 round for fine detail.  Here are the colors I used as well (all Winsor & Newton paints and a John Pike palette, they are the best)-
cad yellow light, yellow ochre, raw umber, permanent rose, cad red, hookers green, permanent magenta, sepia, cerulean blue, indigo
I start by blocking in basic shadows and shape of the face, very lightly because I may need to keep adding and changing color during the process.  Her her skin tone it was a mix of the yellow ochre, raw umber, perm rose and cad red with hints of the hookers green.
I continue to build the form and features of the face working on the edges and building on the shadows cast.  I kept building the green for the areas flowing away from the viewer and building the warm reds and magenta for the areas that i really wanted to emphasize in the foreground, particularly the cheeks and nose while still keeping some paper white for the extreme highlights on her nose and cheeks. (I really like the look of rosy cheeks and noses)

After this point I started to work very quickly.

Soooo, I unfortunately forgot to take some photos of the next steps.  I built the background washes and then worked on blocking in and creating the loose details for the flower band in her hair.  The band was extremely detailed but I just roughed in the shapes to show some texture and some of the finer details of the flower itself.  However, I did not want the flower to be the focal point, so i used some restraint and left it fairly loose in detail.  After finishing the flower I then focused on the shape of the hair,  I used a warm dark value, a mix of sepia, cad red and small amount of indigo for the darkest shadows.  From there I used the small round to build all the details into the painting.  The last area I worked on was the shirt, which was just building the shapes of the folds by emphasizing the different values of color in the shadows.

After all that, here is the final product-

I hope this helps for any one starting out and hopefully here soon i will get a tripod and actually starting filming this so I wont miss any steps.

Until next time,


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