This is a drawing I did to begin a watercolor portrait of my youngest daughter LAST SUMMER. I had these wonderful photos of her taken in winter when she came downstairs early one morning with curlers in her hair. She curled up in a chair opposite me, and chatted away while the sun came up and streamed in on her through my studio window. I had made a pastel and a half-finished charcoal from this batch of photos. Towards the end of summer, I wanted to do a version in watercolor, got this far, and abandoned it. I came across this, and one other abandoned drawing in a multi-media sketchbook I had been working in last summer. I must have closed the book and put it away, because the two drawings are the last things in the book, with many pages left unused. Remember that “fear” I’ve been talking about? Hmmm…I have a hunch it was in full swing after making the drawings and I succombed to it.
So, brandishing my trusty #10 round paintbrush and palette, I tackled it last week. It is interesting to note, that I have done the previous four (or so) portraits with a similar approach: starting with a drawing of the light and dark shapes. It functions like a MAP for me, a guide as to where the value shapes will be in the portrait. This weekend, I came across some wonderful watercolor portraits by an artist named Janet Rogers. I also found a FREE downloadable mini-book written by her, titled 23 Free Watercolor Lessons for Portrait Painting. In it, she says NOT to do this detailed a drawing before painting. Oh well. I enjoy the drawing as part of the process for now, and perhaps I can work towards having less and less mapped out beforehand. But for now, I’ll stick with this kind of approach…it actually frees me to concentrate on color and paint quality, without having to worry or be so exact with where the shapes are. Here’s what I ended up with:
There is much that I like about this portrait. And there are things I am learning:
1. I need to make the shapes of light in the face a bit softer without the sharp corners. Rounding these shapes will help contribute to the soft roundedness of her face, even though the light was strong and defined. I can still achieve the strong light with not-so-sharp corners.
2. I need to continue comparing values one to another throughout the painting. I thought I had finished this portrait, when, just before photographing it, I saw that the shapes of light in the face and the eyeballs were the exact same white as in the bunny she is holding. The photograph showed the lightest value to be the top of the bunny’s head, and not that I want to be a slave to the photo, but it was true that the light hit the bunny MORE than the side of her face, so it needed to be toned down a smidge. This improved the light quality a great deal and kept the whites of her eyes from looking like they were glowing…much better!
3. I need to consider whether or not I want to make the multi-color shadow near her left eye a more uniform color (ie. less variety of colors) or just paint them together more smoothly. Seems a bit patchy here, like maybe she got socked in the eye. Don’t want that, but I like how it echoes the multi-color areas in the hair and pillow to her left. Hmmm…
It’s great to be learning these things, to be considering them. I’m sure there are a multitude of things I’m not even aware that I need to be considering. But for now, this is enough to absorb! I only hope I can utilize what I’m learning from each of these into the next portrait…