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Tag Archives: friendship

  finished painting

I am teaching a watercolor portrait class this session.  I have not limited the subject matter to painting people, alone. We try to discover shape and value and line and color in relationship to what suits our desire for personal expression through portraiture of people and/or animals.  The above portrait was painted from a pure desire to reach in and paint how I wanted to depict the image from all that I have learned on my journey with watercolor.  This portrait is of a friend of mine who agreed to allow me to photograph her for this painting.   I thank her for this opportunity.

The following are my steps in approaching the painting above:

I drew the portrait with a simple line drawing. I paid  particular attention to the foreshortening of  the forearms.  I used the acrylic crosshairs, mentioned in the previous post, to see this better. I then placed my board and painting on an easel at about 45 degrees and painted large washes over the entire painting and carved out the light, creating a pathway.

In this step, I worked on painting skin tones using combinations of reds and yellows. I don’t think I was as concerned about the actual color of the skin as I was with working out some of the values and carving into the large white shapes I had left like the fingers on the hand in the foreground, the tone of the chest area, the shadowed face and the shadows around the upper and lower right arm. I began to play with applying colors for her hair.

This step was the most informative for me.  I think that is because the background helps me to set the tone of the foreground figure. I always try to paint the background in the middle  of rendering the portrait because it affects the overall outcome. If I wait too long and finish the portrait, first, I get frustrated with the changes that the background creates with the figure.  In otherwords, what I am looking for is to tie my background to the foreground. I always use colors from a background in the foreground.  This makes this stage rather lengthy and I often experiment with color mixes on a scrap sheet of the same watercolor paper I’ve chosen for the portrait.  I knew I wanted this to look like august and used some oranges and yellows to create my greens. I also used mixtures of red and blue to create the darks in the trees.

This step was fun in that I had a specific challenge to get her face dark enough to appear in shadow. I had to capture a subtle highlight in tiny areas like the brow over the eye, a spot on cheek, upper lip and chin.  I started by laying in light shadow washes of blue. That didn’t go so well but helped me to visualise the highlights. I had to soften these blue washes by dabbing at them with a crumpled kleenex until I had them the way I wanted them. I had lost some of the rosey look of her nose and cheek and lips so I brought that back with a mixture of reds and yellows. Next to the damp rosey washes I painted in light washes of yellows and dabbed at them with a kleenex. It felt as though I was painting with my brush and shaping with my hand. I do this often in a painting. The other shapes I worked on was to define the blouse. I shadowed  the wrinkles.  I paid careful attention to the right sleeve that pressed against her skin. That shadow was very warm so I used some red and yellow there. I furthur described her hair, attempting to get the large shadow shapes.

In the final stage,  I needed to tie everything together.  It is often a time when I can capture subtle detail and add some more of my individual expression. The detail came in the form of painting the ring and the watch and defining some of the strands of her hair in the shadowed area. I deepened the shadows on her forearms and hand so they read well with the rest of her. I also included wet splashes of blue on her forearms and the top of her head to indicate some of the flickering shadows from leaves that played on her form. I used the reds and blues from the trees to paint in the tabletop.

The entire painting was painted on an easel set at a 45 degree angle.

This is a painting I have spent the better part of my evenings painting for the last three weeks. It is from a picture that Carol’s husband, Matt, sent me.  Carol’s blog is here.

I have been fascinated with “all things” New York. I have never been there so am inquisitive about how things are done amidst all that concrete and tall buildings.  I have asked numerous questions and both Matt and Carol have been kind and patient enough to answer them. Like shoveling snow? Carol sent me pictures of front end loaders loading the white stuff onto trucks and toting it off!

Matt’s team, above, is an NYPD  Apprehension Team.  I have learned that these men are trained in many different skills. All the gear they wear weighs beyond what I’d be able to carry for any length of time. Having learned a little about what they do and  their training, has given me a new insight on the special kind of person it takes to fill their shoes. Thanks Matt for letting me try to paint you guys and post it on my blog! 🙂

Initially I was going to paint them as an abstract but got carried away when I did the drawing below:

Told you I got carried away! 🙂

I began by liquid frisketing all little white areas that I wanted to save on some of their patches and the metal door. I painted the shadow shapes on the faces, the light areas of the surrounding truck, the helmets and then the blues. I wanted to set the blues down because the grays of the vests looked like a challenge and I knew they were a lighter value.

Next came the vests. This was the most tedious part of the painting.I didn’twant them to appear flat, so I mixed the grays on the paper instead of the palette.  I used varying shades of red, yellow and blue for the majority of the gray that you see and would occasionally drop in a light wash of green or violet.

By the time I reached this stage I put the finishing touches on by detailing the faces, painting the tools and removing the frisket to end up with the painting at the top of the post.

This is the most challenging painting I have ever attempted. I chose it because it was different and I didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the subject material. I have painted one or two people before but not a grouping. It was largely composed of grays and I also wanted to challenge myself with creating grays.

     Tracey                                                 Leslie
        Tracey                                                  Leslie
    Tracey                                                    Leslie
If you ever get the opportunity, paint with a friend. Years ago, Tracey and I began to get together and paint outdoors from life and indoors from reference photos. We learned together and laughed a lot about mistakes or hard challenges. I remember one day when we drove around the entire time and never found anything we wanted to paint or draw but came home with some great reference photos. I find that I learn a lot just from watching others draw and paint. We are always amazed by the differences in our work even though we are painting the same subject. I have posted several of the things Tracey and I have painted above. You can click on them if you would like to view them larger. Tracey’s blog can be found here.  Tracey does incredible paintings and drawings of local Indiana landscapes and buildings. Recently, she has expressed an interest in learning to draw and paint animals so I am lucky enough to share that journey with her.
I have also added a Student Page to my pages above. I did this because some of you have expressed an interest through your comments and e-mails in viewing them. Thank-you to my students for giving me permission to photograph and post your work.


This is Timber who suffered an unfortunate fate and was one of my daughter’s beloved pets. I painted this picture shortly after he passed. He spent his last year on three legs but got around really well. He is pictured here in a March snow. I tried to portray melting snow under where his heart would be with large washes of prussian blue and permanent rose around the edges and some salt for special effects. Because he left her shortly after this, I painted in the footprints wet-in-wet leading off the left side. I tried for the angle of his head to appear as though he was looking toward my daughter like he always did. It was as though he was there to be her best friend. Sometimes I think it’s so hard to say something that is bigger than life with paint, but it’s always worth a try.