Monday, August 15, 2011

can one "fix" a watercolor painting?

sophie and sollie

the subject(s) for this next project are our grandkids sophie and sollie who live in portland, oregon. needless to say,we don't get to see them often enough. this photo is from their christmas card from 2010. i thought it would make a good painting/portrait. i used a 16"X20" piece of fabriano artistico 140# cold press extra white paper. as i usually do i drew the faces on a sketchbook page and transferred the image to the paper using a large window as the light source. here is the initial effort with the drawing and an initial wash. i used a 1" flat sable brush, cadmium red light and cadmium yellow pale (with a touch of cerulean blue) for the flesh tones, and a variety of colors for the surrounding background and clothing. i let this dry thoroughly (no hint of coolness to the back of the hand) before starting in with the features.
for the features i started with sophie's nose applying the same flesh colors in a darker value for the shadow under the nose with a # 6 round kolinsky sable brush. after rinsing the brush and giving it a good shake i drew the paint up and over the top of the nose following more or less the shadow shapes depicted in the photo. a touch of cerulean blue was put under the nose and drawn up into the underplane shadow to complete the is "nose" step. the same colors for the shadow under the upper lid of the eye were painted with the same brush. before that dried i put in the upper portions of the iris with cobalt blue allowing some of the shadow color to bleed into the blue to dull it a bit. i released the iris into the lower lid for a tie-in below the eye and to form the shadow on the underside of the bottom of the socket. the important shape for the deep medial end of the socket was painted in next with a mixture of the same colors with the cadmium yellow swapped out for raw sienna and drawn out laterally over the upper lid. it was released into a bit of the dark background/hair to get a soft edge in shadow. the eye brow was added wet-in-wet with burnt sienna and umber. this whole time i was watching the iris watch and when it lost its sheen i added the pupil wet-in-wet with a dash of ultramarine blue right out of the tube. i tried to paint around the highlight at each step, but lost it a little near the end. i can scrape it out with a pointed knife after this step has dried. that was all i did at this setting.

to foreshadow the coming events i will say that i was unhappy with the proportions and placement of sollie's features to the extent that i lost the likeness. when i realized that, i decided to try correcting it. i had never tried a correction of this magnitude in watercolor before and i know the common wisdom is that it, "can't be done." as you will see it can to varying degrees of success. you can be the judge. until later.


  1. Bob, you have to lose it to find it. Keep building. I think it looks great, would love to see the finished painting.

    1. hi, crystal. i just saw (actually by accident) your comment from this post of a couple of years ago. thanks for visiting and commenting. i agree with your statement. i believe errors are almost always opportunities and, believe me, i have a lot of experience in that regard! alas, i never finished it. sorry.