Portraits in Watercolor Mar- Apr 2019 Summary
Feel free to print this for your records but don’t distribute them. These words are mine so please respect my work.
Week 5, Final Summary and Comments Apr 6, 2019
First, thank you all for a great class. I learned a lot! I know I will do it again! You have heard it before that teaching is a great motivator to improve. Painting unconsciously alone is one thing, but painting consciously for a class, describing “why did I do that, and how can I explain that?” kept me up at night!
The first day I asked what you wanted to get out of the class, many said to paint children or grandchildren.
We knew that flesh color is difficult, young wrinkles soft skin was difficult, and references photos taken with flash on camera made it difficult . I was very pleased seeing progress throughout the 5 weeks. Flesh is not just some orangy mix. We went through making the color of the back of our hand. This flesh color was accurate but you found it alone looked muddy on the painting. We broke down the 3 primaries and used a light blue to create a monotone painting as the first step. This worked well after you experimented with how dark the blue should be and where it is appropriate and where it is not! Then you added a blend of the yellow over the lighter side, added some red, and then covered the blue over the darks. When that was dry we started sculpting with dryer layers of fresh transparent clean colors. Staying lighter longer, knowing we were going to add more layers as needed. Once you experimented and that was overcome I saw lots of smiles and many good results!!
Thank you for taking time to give me your comments!! It really helps me. If you have additional suggestions for me I would love to hear them.
It sounds like most all of you are interested in a portrait drawing class. Below is the description from my Classes web page. I will let you all know when and where I do it. I know it won’t be before June 2019.
Drawing Portraits in Charcoal.
Start with learning to draw a generic human face then progress to identifying differences which makes each face unique. Through instruction, demonstration and hands on experience, students learn classic formulas and methods to start drawings. Projected images and student’s own photo references are used as subject matter. ALL supplies will be provided the first night with information to aid in choosing supplies for the remainder of classes. It is open to all skill levels.
Portraits in Watercolor, My Lessons Learned ©WilliamWiseArt.com
- Students of this class, these comments are not to be seen as a negative reflection on you but as a journal to help me in the future. I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and inputs. Thank you!
- Students liked the email summary emails. That is good, they took a lot of time to create! I will reuse that information and their comments to improve my next classes.
- I didn’t require students purchase my 3 colors as many other workshop instructors do. I’m not sure if I may change that next time..?? I thought it was better they learn to use the colors they have and are use to. Or if they don’t care I may suggest or provide my colors? Hmmm Some students used opaque and simi-opaque colors (student grade paint). This probably caused muddy flesh colors and frustrating results? Workshops I have attend just say “don’t use them”! But what if that is all they have? Pro paints are expensive….
- Using poor quality paper is always going to be a challenge. If students don’t convince themselves that poor washes and poor blending is the paper’s fault they will think it is their fault and be frustrated!! If I just provide Arches paper without them learning this lesson they may go back to the cheap stuff. I have heard this a lot, “oh I am just practicing on the cheap paper” “Ummm, no you are not practicing!”
- The overwhelming take-away is students liked the class and would want more time to paint.
- Students like demos. Seeing is understanding. I am a visual learner and seeing someone do something is better than hearing or reading it. Hence the appeal to YouTube vs. books. The issue is the balance of time. How much time in lecture, how much time in demos at the expense of them just learning or painting on their own?
- During one-on-one, how much should I point, tell verbally and watch, vs. showing them with their brush? Some I know approve or appreciate that, some may take offense…? Hmmm?
- Having the class in this 3 hr/day x 5 week format has its pros and cons.
- The challenge with doing 3 hr classes is there wasn’t enough time to really get into a painting rhythm. With full day classes there can be the same time in lecture and demo but they would have 4+ hrs to settle in and paint, not 2 or less. We all have attended the typical intense 3-4 day workshops. For me, the downside with those is after the full day I am tired and have no interest in painting at home. Then after 4 continuous days I am over saturated and often forget some of what I learned. In this 5 week format I sensed students had time to think about the lessons over the weeks. Several of them took the time during the week to paint at home. Unfortunately many did not have the time.
- I spent some time on the Tablet apps and other techniques. This is something I need to think about. I will be looking for some assistance from the students on how I should go forward on this. Getting an accurate image/likeness on your paper is VERY important and this could be one 3 hr block alone. How much time do I dedicate to this? It was suppose to be a painting class not a drawing class. Hmmm?
- I briefly covered how to make fingers, arms and other features come toward you and go away. Seeing that the chin is in front of the jaw, the jaw is in from of the cheek, etc. Also the details of the eyes and other facial features. This was not covered nearly enough. If I can’t cover it adequately do I not cover it at all?? Attending my Portrait Drawing in Charcoal Class first could be a prerequisite or as at least a recommendation. Then people would better recognize these subtleties when using a reference that doesn’t have adequate detail. Hmmm? Again I struggled with it not being a drawing class, it was a painting class….
- No one wrote that they wanted a shorter class… Most, as usual want longer. Maybe I will consider next time a 4 or 4.5 hr class with a ½hr lunch break..?? Hmmm?? I think going over 5 weeks might be a long time to commit…
- Some gave 4s (good) on lecture which might mean they would like shorter lectures, more time to paint resulting in less information. Or they learn better by seeing so less time on slides and move that time to show them in demo examples. I really don’t know which from my question. I need to work on what info to include and what to hold back. Should this be an Intermediate #1 class and then have an Intermediate #2 class? I provided WAY more information than I have ever received from the $500 Pro portrait classes I have attended! Maybe that is the problem! KISS.
Week 4 Summary ©WilliamWiseArt.com
Good work last week!
We use lifting to lift highlights back. When I paint faces I know/plan on being able to lift through all the layers to get soft highlights. It is almost like lifting is painting with white….
- I did that with hair, cheeks, and noses. Also if you have reflected light on the jaw or side of the face. This can be done at the end BUT Go slowly and lightly!!! When you have a lot of paint on the surface it is easy to over lift. If you do – THAT’S BAD- you will need to go back in and darken the area. This is hard to match the layers of color you had!
- “Lifting” is with a soft brush to tweak or modify a painting.
- Scrubbing is done with a stiffer brush. Scrubbing should be done knowing that the surface sizing will be somewhat damaged and paint will react differently on that area. If done at the end and you want a white area, (jewelry, eye glints, etc.) damaging the sizing doesn’t matter!
- Flesh isn’t just some orange mix. See attached for examples of what my flesh was and is today. (who knows what it will be tomorrow)
- Look for those pointy end shapes in hair and draw them darker. You could shade in those shapes with darker pencil as a guide because you know they will be dark in the end.
- Leave hairs on the forehead and cheeks until the end when the flesh is done. If you paint them in too soon they will look “liney”. We want them to be light and fine. See attached.
- When you do your initial drawing of hair over the face, be VERY light with pencil knowing that you will not be able to erase those lines in the end! Draw them in lightly at the end as a guide when you are ready to paint them.
- Repeat with me, Stay Lighter Longer! ; Get In Get Out, Don’t Overwork (over blend); Water moves to thirsty;
- When softening edges use a drier brush than you think, you can always add water if needed. Too much water and BLOOOOOOOOM!
- See the guide to drawing a face. We didn’t go into detail on drawing faces. But I wanted to clarify some measurements. Notice closely the eye placement and the measurements from the brow line.
My plan this week is to do a second wash on that other face of mine to review this “stay lighter longer” mantra.
I also have several paintings that need finishing touches. Darkening backgrounds, doing beaded washes, lifts, etc.
I ordered “ink Inkjet Transparency Film” from Amazon. 20 for $18.41
I will sell you a sheet for $1 if it comes in.
Week 3 Summary ©WilliamWiseArt.com
I saw several of you having frustration about colors getting muddy and others with colors not reading as flesh.
For those of you who don’t have white palettes, I recommend you bring some white surface to mix on. You can even use white styrofoam plates. Here is an example. https://www.michaels.com/search?q=Artists%20Loft%E2%84%A2%20Rectangular%20Plastic%20Palette When mixing something as unique as flesh you need to see your colors and not guess. Now when I say that, I have showed you flesh can be pretty much any color. But the bottom line with flesh is it must be fresh, clean and not muddy!
HOW you ask? Mix blue with red, mix blue with yellow, but don’t have some damp orange on your paper and mix blue with it. If you want that space darker, just LET IT DRY, Then put the blue on it (or violet), a separate clean layer! Summary: Don’t mix two primaries with the third.
If this is striking home for you, consider going back to painting 6” tall (keep them big) practice heads or making little color wheels as a warm up. Get your confidence back with your choice of colors and creating fresh clean color.
Another reminder is “Stay Light, LONGER”.
In the later stages of the painting let the paint dry between layers. If you are using thin paint it won’t take long to dry. Imagine you are laying down some color over dry paint. “Ahhh looks nice, now just another daub of this other color, ahh, nice, oh, now just a bit darker….” What has been happening in that time? All the dry layers of paint under the wet paint start to rehydrate. So now you are mixing fresh color with old color! Instead, use your soft brush as a gentle mop and don’t disturb the dry layers below. GET IN GET OUT!
Man, that is so easy to say… Good luck!
Week 2 Summary ©WilliamWiseArt.com
Observation: Better to error on a layer of “thin blue” until you get a better feel about how dark the end value will be. Thin and transparent is what we are after. Not dark, muddy and overworked. (that is so easy to type…)
Review: First paint a light under painting layer of manganese or equal. This is creating a pale monotone looking painting. Don’t put it everywhere! Don’t put it on any part of the face that is light! Just on the dark value areas. Let that dry. Next, paint what I effectively am calling the traditional first wash. (You haven’t put any blue on the light areas of the face!) Lay down a thin layer of the yellow on the sunny side + adding some damp mix of red. As you take this yellowy-orangy-redish color over to the blue areas the blue should START to make a darker fleshy color. We aren’t done so don’t get too heavy on this step!!!!!! Once you have enough to warm up the face and establish the “local color” you need to stop and let that dry! DON’T Rush! Move on to the cloths or background or somewhere else.. The risk of going on is getting too heavy, too dark and too overworked too soon. Now on dry paper we can slow down. Look for the contours and add tiny bits of our fleshy mix to build up the values. We are now modeling the face, like with little gobs of clay. On fair skin and the babies you may only need one more layer to form the shape. I haven’t demoed that yet. We will add more on the sides of the face and under the neck and in shadows, but go VERY SLOW on the front of the face.
Observation: I saw better mixes of the yellow + Red on top of the blue. Keep mixing these colors on the paper by daubing them onto the damp paper. Too wet and it will just overmix. Don’t just use one mix of orange. Keep the pure colors separate on your palette and drag the two together to get a constant changing blend. Remember when we made a flesh color that matches your hand? Don’t mix a puddle of that and use it on your face. Yuck, mud! Use those three colors separately on your face and let them mix. You should still see some blue come through and probably some pure yellow and red. That is interesting flesh!!!
https://www.williamwiseart.com/musicians/ Here are some of my examples. Look close at the blue and lumps of color on the guy with the mandolin and the gal with the fiddle. Look at their face and hands. I feel blotches are interesting! The final thin patches of color will be added at about the 80% done mark.
What is a good size for portraits? I say 11×14”. That frames to 16×20. However, a quarter sheet of watercolor paper (22×30”) results in an 11×15” sheet. If you are going to buy a stock mat and frame you need to ensure the mat opening you buy is 10.5” x 13.5”, which is a common opening. If you custom frame that doesn’t matter.
People will think a smaller portrait is easier. “Oh I don’t need a very big painting” Believe me, bigger is better for you! Details in the face are WAY easier if the face is the size of your hand! The down side is the cost of framing an 11×14 painting is, as you may know, about $80-$120.
Types of paper I prefer.
Hot Press, cold press vs. rough. Hot pressed was made on a smooth drum. It is very smooth. I’ve used it but I personally can’t speak confidently to the difference or the pros or cons, yet.
Rough is not pressed at all when it is made and is rough..! Lots of texture to collect granulating paint or for other techniques or results I don’t use…
Cold Pressed is the most common and you know the feel.
My #1paper and the most common, is Arches, Cold press, 140# 300gsm, Bright White. I showed you the difference between Bright White and Natural, it’s not much. If you Search the phrase “Arches bought out by Canson” you will read some comments about how Arches quality is slipping. I haven’t noticed that yet but I am aware of it…
Buying bulk: There is not a break in price if you buy 5 or 10 or 25 sheets at most on-line stores. And stores seem to fix their prices somewhere about $5.60ish/ sheet. Buy lots and you won’t feel as bad using GOOD paper!!!!!!! Hobby Lobby has this paper for $9. Use a 40% off coupon and it brings it down near the online prices. (Mar 2019)
My #2 right now seems to be Cheap Joes Kilimanjaro paper. Cold press, 140#, either brightness. A bit cheaper and seems to work the same. One good thing/reason to buy this is their blocks are larger than Arches and cheaper! They have a 12″x16” block. That is what you saw me painting on (natural brightness). Better for framing in 11×14. Because it is bigger it gives you a bit more wiggle room with the mat.
Saunders Waterford is not that common and from my experience and minimal testing is just fine. The price is more than Arches. Because these few seem to work the same and cost the same I don’t care to spend too much time experimenting. I did buy a sample pack from Cheap Joe’s #SP16 $25.50 for 16- 11×15 sheets.
That sample pack is how I found out that I personally don’t care for Fabriano Artistico. It is more common and is relatively cheap. Some like it, I do not!
You will see in a week or so I will “lift” paint to finish a painting and do hair and fabric. I use lifting as part of my painting process. Lifting is not just to correct a mistake! Fabriano paper doesn’t seem to lift very well. Also when you do a wash the paint soaks in and stick quickly. Things don’t blend well. I’m sure those who like it will disagree with me… I may change my mind…
DON’T EVER USE Strathmore 300 for watercolor! I don’t have experience with the 400 or others from Strathmore, but don’t waste your money or TIME on these or other non-cotton papers.
I think I made the point once before in class (I know I did…), Don’t use cheap paper! You will become frustrated and blame yourself for poor results and it is (probably) not you, IT IS THE PAPER! But if you think you can practice techniques with cheap paper you really need to prove it to yourselves. Get some Arches or equal and your favorite cheap stuff and do that exercise we did on different papers making the color wheel with the three primary color. You will see the difference! Note: not all cotton papers are good papers! Nuff said.
I mentioned for sketching with light washes I like Canson’s XL Mixed Media paper. Blue cover. Don’t expect to do any real lifting. The surface will breakdown. As of now I haven’t tried their watercolor paper. It might be good for sketching?
Sizing: In the process of making the paper manufactures use what is called sizing. With good paper they add it to the mix, cheap papers they put it on the surface. Sizing controls the paint on the surface. Good paper has the right amount, cheap paper does not. If you over lift or scrub, or over fuss with the paint on the surface you will remover the sizing and paint will soak in unevenly. That spot will look dull and overworked!
We discussed Professional and Student grade paint. In order of importance of success with our painting, Paper is by far #1, your brush is #2 and the paint is distant #3rd. You can still paint wonderful paintings with student paint. I said what makes it cheap is it has fillers, hence it has less pigment and the results are more opaque, and chalky. I want my portraits to be bright and clean. If you look at the paint on your palette and it looks dull it will look dull on your paper! Check out Office Depot, they have a paint set for less than $3 For 8 colors, Prang brand. (Yarka is good too). The brush in these kids sets is not a good brush, but for three bucks… (but play with this on good paper)
Erasers for your paper. See the separate article on my recommendations and favorite erasers. Blu tack and the Moo.
Here are two fairly long videos of examples of the blue under painting start. Cha Yeon is amazing. His style is a little too photo realistic for me.
Week 1 Summary ©WilliamWiseArt.com
We covered how to make Flesh out of the 3 primaries. I used Windsor yellow deep, Scarlet Lake, and Manganese. You can experiment with other similar colors.
We started doing the light blue under painting to create a fresher flesh.
Observations and Comments:
- The darker the blue under painting the darker the orange mix has to be to overcome it resulting in darker flesh. Light flesh, less blue! Stay lighter longer!
- Some had issues with being too wet and to blendy. The first yellow wash can be about a 10 wetness to wet the whole face, the next red has to be like a 5 or less or it will over blend. We want it firm and controllable. This will be less of a problem when the face is large. Little faces are much harder to control the wetness!
Please have some faces drawn up. There could be a couple on one page. Make them like 6+” or so. Not too small (bigger is much easier and more practical). I don’t want you to paint this soon on something that took you a lot of time and effort to draw. You can draw them now if you wish but we will paint them later. These early ones are for you to get the hang of the color and the process not finished results. Or in other words, to make mistakes on!
For your subject matter to do these exercises on consider an image with some soft shadows. NOT on camera flash photo!! Way too flat and Way too hard to paint, anytime. We want the face to have some lines so we get some harder edges (cheeks, noses, lips, etc.) to blend. I know several of you want to do sweet little baby faces with not one wrinkle or line on their face. Wait on them. They are way harder than a gnarly blues singer!