Monday, 29 February 2016

How-to paint a portrait in watercolours

Of course there are many ways to paint watercolour portraits! The method below is wet-on-dry, fairly simple and works well as you will see from the results...
Start with a good drawing, from a live model or a picture, work and repair until you are completely happy. Rub out the lines you don't need and then trace that picture on your watercolour paper. That way it is your own work, original and no risk of ruining the paper with lots of erasing. Plus you have the least amount of pencil lines, which avoids a 'muddy' painting.
The next step - determine what are the lightest parts in the face. You will leave them unpainted (white) to bring light into your portrait. Very lightly draw the white parts (to make sure you don't forget them)
Make a good amount of the lightest skin colour. NB: it is important to have plenty. You have to mix pigments and if you don't have enough you will have to mix again, with a risk that the colour is not the same, or that the painted parts dry and you get stripes and rims. 
Paint everything, apart from the white, the eyes and the hair. After the lightest colour is dry, rub out the pencil lines around the white.
Next step: make the darkest skintone, the shadow. To see the shadow well, squint! That really helps to determine the darkest parts as a whole. Use a cool colour (warm colours come too much forward). In our example, bluish. (could also be green or purple) Don't be afraid to make that colour dark: a normal shadow is between 40 and 60% darker than the lightest tone, and watercolours get lighter once they dry. Paint on top of the dry, light colour.
After this layer has dried, you are ready for the details. The eyes, nose, mouth and hair. They all have general characteristics that I will post about next time...

How did the Aquarellistas do?
Of course not everybody participated in this exercise, the more advanced group had other portraits in mind and worked on those. I will dedicate a separate post to them...they are coming along exceptionally fine! But the others did such a good job! I am very proud. Look at the results: 
Linda (not finished)

 Celina (Louise needs eyelashes)

 Michelle. Great job, love the shiny hair!

 Andrée (very delicate, hair very well done with the blue and purple tones!)

 Carol did all colours right but noticed too late that the distance between the eyes is too large! 

 Laila had much less time than the others - and noticed too late that there's less space between eye and ear...

Special compliment to Sylvie who forced herself to work with a one-hair brush and did a superjob on that!!

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