Monday Art: First watercolor portrait

A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep, and I started planning out my table for the second FabMo show in October. While I was thinking about yoga mat totes, quilted bags, and hair ornaments, it occurred to me that it would be fun to incorporate watercolors into the display somehow… and my brain offered up a vision of cardboard cutouts with painted portraits “wearing” the adornments. Hmm, I thought, this may actually work, but how? The wheels kept on turning, and this afternoon I decided to see what I could do. (My display planning is a bit premature, maybe, since the actual ornaments haven’t yet been made…)


from Saveur magazine

For my model, I chose a photo of a Taiwanese girl that I’d saved from an issue of Saveur. Cute girl, cute photo, no? Once I started drawing her I realized the girl was much younger than I’d initially thought, but oh well; the photo was meant to serve mostly as a jumping-off point. I wasn’t trying to get a perfect likeness.

[As an aside, I’ve amassed an extremely large collection of magazines for decoupaging, and these have served me well for drawing practice too. I maintain a fat file of clipped photos of animals, buildings, people in motion, men, women, and children. When it comes to people, I particularly look for images of non-models/celebrities. I don’t want to do my figure and portrait practice from a group that’s distinctive for its conformity to social ideals of bone structure, skin tone, hair texture, eye shape, and so forth. Also, models (in ads and editorials) tend to have been massively retouched, and I don’t want to train my eye to that aesthetic either.]

Pencil sketch

Sorry, it’s hard to see!

I made a quick pencil sketch of this girl, then began mixing colors. At first I’d thought it would be difficult to get a skin tone, but last week’s color-mixing chart helped me out, and the colors proved the least of my worries. I like my ability to make sharp-edged lines with brushes, and I’m still delighted with brushes’ ability to cover large swaths of paper (as opposed to markers), but I have much to learn. Subtle shading still presents a problem, as it does with markers, and I lack experience in discerning how much water to pick up on the brush at any given moment. My brushstrokes were often too dry or too wet.

First watercolor portrait

Finished portrait

All things considered, though, I don’t think it’s a bad first attempt at all. The earring and the lace trim were an afterthought, but I like how the opaque, pen-like details work with the more transparent other parts of the portrait. My drawing practice stands me in good stead as far as proportions and things go; I’m building my painting skills on a decent foundation. I’m looking forward to experimenting more, and I am really looking forward to starting my watercolor class at the RAC in September.

As for using such portraits as display props for the FabMo show, I think they’ll work nicely! I tried out today’s portrait with a fabulous feathered ornament from Chrystalyn, and I love how they look together.

Portrait with hair ornament


If you saw a little grouping of these portraits standing up together on a table at a craft fair, wouldn’t you go over to take a look? I know I would!

Tomorrow I plan to cross the bay for some Beaux-Arts beauty and a walk by the water! And I won’t forget my camera this time! See you then!