I've been commissioned to create a few watercolor portraits. "You mean it actually needs to look like the person"! Panic mode, insecurity mode, worry mode, over achiever mode Judy has walked into the studio ;)
So... I have an idea, let's let that "mode" have at it, let her run rampant and paint. Get it all out and then get onto the real painting. Think it will work?
Here's her tight, panicked portrait that looks nothing like how I paint...wait for it, it's funny...
It somewhat resembles the subjects, but oh my, panic mode Judy needs to have a glass of wine and chill the heck out. Maybe if we ignore her she'll go away ;)
La de da, da de da, lalalala de da.
Is she gone yet? I think the coast is clear.
Now let's get to work shall we :)
A double portrait of two adorable brothers, sons of a family friend. I have my reference photo. A good photo, nice and clear, but a little soft in the light source department. I really like a strong one sided light source. It creates great shadows that help define characteristics. It helps, especially when trying to capture a likeness of somebody I've never met.
I start with a sketch, free handed. Many artists will trace the photo. I admit that is a great way to achieve a picture perfect likeness, but there is something about the loose artists drawing hand that adds life to a work that often times is missing in a traced piece.
That being said, creating the sketch free hand involves more time and some erasing to get the features correct. One wrong move and panic mode Judy will be wandering back thru the studio again.
Hey, did somebody mention wine...
Washes of pigment go on. I try to paint the shadows first, this sets the light scale for me. I know now what to leave white, (a.k.a leave the white un-painted paper). Watercolor, for me, is more about knowing what not to paint vs. what to paint. That's a hard thing to learn. Overworking a piece is something I constantly struggle with and think perhaps I always will. Here comes that pesky perfectionist Judy, quick somebody distract her! "Hey Judy, I think there's a sock drawer downstairs that needs organizing"...
That worked, she's happily arranging downstairs ;)
More washes, more layers, a few details...
I'm pleased at this point. I like the simple background and think I've achieved a fresh looseness while maintaining a likeness.
Some decisions need to be made here...do I add another color for the clothing or keep it white? How far do I push the hair? Are there any structural changes that need to happen? A good time to walk away, think and see if perfectionist Judy has finished that sock drawer. I think there are some dirty dishes that need her attention in the kitchen sink ;)
I've decided to keep the shirts white. I think this will give an overall crisp feel to the painting. The hair will be loosely painted with some areas getting a bit of detail.
Insecure Judy has been sent outside to think about her attitude and how she can change it...in case you all were wondering where she was today, insert evil laugh ;)
Boom! Hair! Wow makes a difference doesn't it.
Aaaaannnd some details. Fussing a bit with the mouths, with the eyes, adding a little darkness to bring out features. "Worry Judy, please go away. Really, it's fine, it's going to be o.k.". Whew that was close, she actually picked up a brush. Brushes down everyone! Yes you too over achiever mode, it's finished.
"Is it done? I don't know? Do you think it's done" cry's panic mode Judy. "why did we paint this in the first place", says insecure mode Judy, "there are so many more talented artists out there". "I hope they like it" pipes in worry mode Judy. "You missed a spot," perfectionist Judy loudly declares as she stares at me waving the paint brush. I just shake my head, smile and quietly clean my brushes to prepare for the next job.