Saturday, February 21, 2009

Watercolor – 2009 Portraits and Figures

I know it has been awhile since I have up-dated this Blog. A lot has happened over the past few months.

I have been concentrating on improving my life drawing skills. To draw a face or figure accurately in 20 to 40 minutes and place some watercolor washes on it is a challenge. Several times a week I attend a life drawing session. This is not a class but an opportunity for the artist to hone his or her skills at drawing quickly and accurately. You can’t fudge the human face or figure too much! Also, our local Starbucks coffee shop provides interesting faces to draw quickly in stealth.

Faces have always fascinated me. In today’s fast changing world, my portrait clients do not have time to sit for hours while I paint their portrait. To accommodate this fast paced society, I schedule a digital photo shoot on a sunny day. Not only does it give me a chance to get to know the person better, but it provides me the opportunity to observe facial planes that the digital camera may not show well.

This is a recent portrait:

Art friends have asked me different questions on how I approach painting the various features of the portrait in watercolor. The one question that comes up most often is hair. So, I have decided to post a short demonstration of how I paint hair.

As most of you know, white in transparent watercolor is the white of the paper. First, with careful observation of the highlight in a subject’s hair and the underlying scalp and face, we can tone it with a pale representation of those lights. Pale yellows, pinks, and blues and some white can be seen. Most often we paint from light values/tones to dark, this will be the under painting or base of the hair. I let it dry very thoroughly.

Next I use Winsor & Newton art masking Fluid. It is like a liquid rubber cement. Looking at the highlights again in the reference, I mask off the highlights with a synthetic rigger brush, rinsing in water quite often to avoid clogging up the brush. After the mask is dry, strokes of dark hair color is applied following the flow of the hair, changing the color/value/tone as I go quickly. I let it dry very thoroughly and the remove the mask.

Now it is time to paint in the abstract darks, tone some of the highlight areas where I have removed the mask from the paper and scrub with a very small scrub brush to take out some of the hard edges.

More darks abstract shapes are painted in here and there and finer dark hairs are painted with a rigger brush. Lighter hairs are darkened on the shadow side of the hair. I do not paint too many this way, just enough to make it sparkle.

And a detail view:

Recent life drawing with wash: