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Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Child's Watercolor Portrait Demonstration

Starting with a full-sized sketch, I get aquainted with my subject. I analyze her features, expression and the shapes of the shadows and highlights.

I transfer the sketch to 150# Arches coldpress watercolor paper and lay down the first washes. I used a bright Cobalt blue background knowing that I plan to mute it with opaque white later on.

Step 2 is the trickiest stage for me, finding the shadow shapes and going in dark enough, but not too dark, with the shadows and halftones. Leaving it alone to dry is my biggest challenge. Experience has taught me to walk away and go have lunch!

Step 3 & 4: Determine the darkest darks and lightest lights. I find it impossible to continue a portrait when the eyes look blank so I work on those until I have a likeness. I also found it's best to work in bright colors early on. Bright colors are easy to temper, but dull colors are difficult to brighten in watercolor.

This was the finished portrait initially, but when I photographed it, I found I didn't like the way the painting was divided almost in half by the strong light/dark values.
I reworked the background until it felt more balanced. I will be giving an Artist Talk on Thursday and I will use these images in my slide presentation.
"Lost in Thought", watercolor, 14 x 17"

14 comments:

Robin Maria Pedrero said...

Masterful!

Manon Doyle said...

Beautiful portrait! Thanks for the demo! I worked in watercolor for a couple of years and I drove myself crazy so I switched to acrylics.... lol! Your work is amazing!

Karine said...

Wow! I love seeing it step by step like that. You have great shadow colors. That's something I struggle with. This is beautiful, Peggi.

Anonymous said...

Peggi, Where will you be giving an Artist Talk on Thursday?? Would love to come. Judy V.

redchair said...

Great presentation of your steps and beautiful portrait.
Oddly, I've not worked in watercolor in years. You inspire me to get back into it.
Vikki

Peggi Habets said...

Thanks guys! Judy, the artist talk is for a group of members of a local art group. It is part of their monthly meeting; it is a slide presentation about commissioning and painting a portrait. I'll let you know if I have one coming up that is open to the public. Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...

I keep stopping by here and admiring this portrait in all its stages and feeling envious and forgetting to tell you. So here.

Abby Creek Art said...

Really cool process...I love the initial sketch! That alone is a keeper!

Peggi Habets said...

Thanks 100swallows. And look, no "marching horses" (little inside there, go to http://100swallows.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/leonardo-da-vincis-lost-horse/#comments to read a great post about Leornardo's horse)

Linda, I used to do the sketches on a thin tracing paper so they would be easier to transfer later. Lately I've been using a nice drawing paper and saving them.

Colette Theriault said...

Your watercolors are so expressive and flowing. Beautiful work! Will be watching you.

Colette Theriault said...

I love your watercolor style. So expressive and flowing. Simply beautiful. I will be following you!

Pattie Wall said...

Hi Peggi, thanks for visiting my blog and your nice comment on my "Deep Thought" portrait. I am so pleased that you have some "how tos" especially in WC, of which I am trying to improve. This one is really helpful and I love the step by step to your beautiful watercolor!

laurens.paint.palette said...

Wow.... this is so amazing to watch the progression of this painting! How beautiful- I love your style!

Inspiration By Karen said...

Hi~
You left a very nice comment on my Blog InspirationByKaren.blospot.com and I just wanted to say that your work is amazing also!
Thank you
Karen