watercolor portraits

Some last portrait efforts for Inktober

My background in watercolor painting delayed the fascination with pens and inks, which has emerged dramatically this month in my sideways efforts to draw along with others participating in the Inktober challenges.

Diamine Silver Fox ink, Noodlers Red-Black ink and white gouache on beige toned paper

In another set of portraits here I am practicing techniques with a range of materials, exaggerating sometimes, refining others. All the subjects/muses are shared freely on the Museum app (Sktchy) where you can also find online workshops. The above muse was offered by Mad lab Studio. Must have been a wig, and what a chizzeled face with great shadow shapes! – the necessary ingredient for portrait work.

Silver Fox ink, fountain pen and gel pen, white gouache on beige toned paper

When you start with a picture like this one was of Nic Rez, it practically paints itself. My favorite – the light bouncing off the lashes.

Silver Fox ink, white gouache, watercolor on gray toned paper

Nathan Mussig reminded me of my Norwegian and Scottish forebears!

Pocket Brush pen, watercolor, gouache on gray toned paper

Inspired by a long time favorite portrait artist of mine, Roz Stendahl, I put my pencil aside and went right in with the pocket brush pen and the blackest of inks! What I sacrificed in accuracy I gained back in enjoyment and expression. Good to remind myself, after all, it’s more important to me to make a picture that speaks with authority and some kind of humanity than one that gets all the features in the right place. How easy that is to forget. I told myself to keep going with the direct-to-brush-pen technique, but I must have either chickened out yet again or forgotten. . .

Sailor Fude pen, watercolor, gouache on gray toned paper

. . .because when I got back to portrait-ing a few days later, I did a careful pencil drawing of this fellow Chris Jones, and decided to practice using the Sailor Fude fountain pen, which many of my urban sketch friends use so masterfully and I have found difficult to maneuver at best. I embraced my clutziness with the pen, but the real discovery here was the strange framing of black lines around the face and the zipper bizarreness. It looks almost like a mask on a stick, so you do a double take. Gotta try that with another portrait some time. . .if I remember.

Loving Gouache on Toned Paper

Catching up on posting some more recent portraits here before I head off for house hunting in Washington on Saturday! I’m taking my toned paper sketchbooks with me to continue Portrait Art for Sanity Sake 

gouache on black toned paper, Stillman and Birn NOVA Trio sketchbook

I never pursued oil painting due to the smell, which I loved but couldn’t tolerate. But gouache is similar to oil in many ways, the viscosity and opacity, so it’s a great way for a watermedia artist to play around with challenging new techniques. While I’m painting with it, it tends to feel wrong, due to so many years now working with transparent pigments, but by the end I’m usually happy I tried.

gouache on black toned paper

Pretty intense looking guy, huh. Pure soul in those eyes. I’m getting these wonderful poses courtesy of members of the Sktchy app who are artists sharing pictures of themselves or others for the purpose of creative portraiture. The most recent 30faces30days challenge/course is finished but there are always new courses coming up, if you want to check it out.

watercolor on grey toned paper finished with w/c pencil

My efforts at this pose were a reminder that, when you’re painting children, you need a lighter hand. This girl is at least five years younger than my portrait! Something to practice. . .

w/c and white gouache on grey toned paper

It would be hard to go back to painting on white paper! So I ordered another NOVA trio book to take on my trip.

When I come back in about a month, the garden will look different, so I’m taking new pictures every day of the garden as it explodes into blooms, each one of which is occupied by a butterfly at least once each day.

a busy spring palette!

Andrew here, holding a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, drying its wings after newly emerging from its chrysalid. Now they are fluttering in dizzy mating pairs and laying eggs in the vine. I hope to see legions of those munching polka dotted caterpillars before we’re gone! 

and more faces. . .

Here’s my latest efforts with a favorite subject. . .FACES! Starting with a couple characters sketched from August Sander’s photography collection, capturing an era.

watercolor graphite on heavy weight drawing paper

It was probably a lucky accident that I chose to paint this picture with a cake of watercolor graphite. It’s so gritty, just like any war. I doubt this officer had just emerged from a battle when the picture was taken, but the gritty portrait makes it seem so.

 

sumi ink on heavy drawing paper

Such an earthy workman, this varnisher. I exaggerated his big wooden clogs to celebrate his groundedness. (might have overdone it!)

 

watercolor on beige toned paper

This woman was so lovely in that delicate way of some redheads, and I struggled terribly trying to get the eyes and nose right, measuring and remeasuring, and still the features had a life of their own. And she became a different person. Perhaps someone else I once knew?

 

watercolor and pastel pencil on gray toned paper

I just noticed the heart I painted on her cheek! No doubt making up for how frustrated I got with this one.

 

pen, watercolor, gouache on gray toned paper

This one is all about the smile. One of these people who I would love to meet, full of humor and delight.

If you’re a watercolor or gouache artist or want to learn, you might want to join me for the next month of 30faces30days in Sktchy Art School

where you’ll have a different teacher doing demos every day all month!

More 30 Faces 30 Days

I do love faces! And Sktchy is doing another 30faces30days challenge/course, this time 30 teachers demo-ing pencil drawing portraits. Not really my thing, so I’m doing a parallel play thing, painting the poses that are chosen.

watercolor, pen, pastel pencil on gray toned paper

A difficult pose, this one, chosen for that very fact. The human countenance is so rubber. It swells and shrinks in different gyrations of expression. 

A theatrical pose. One imagines an actor on stage in a tense scene of morbid anticipation.

white gouache and white gel pen on black toned paper

I loved the challenge of painting the white and light values rather than the dark. It’s the kind of reverse thinking that tickles new brain cells.

Pet Portraits

I’ve been busy doing some commissioned pet portraits lately, working from pictures provided by the owner. I used to be able to take the picture myself and pose the pet with appropriate lighting. But with Covid I haven’t been making “home visits” so the portraits are a bit more of a challenge.

The main challenge is to get the eyes right so you can see that doggie love manifest. And yes, this one has one blue and one gold eye!

One of my favorite pets to paint is a llama. The eyes are so outrageously large and the long hair is just too gorgeous.

And yes, this is the puppy version of the first dog, already showing signs of great intelligence.

FaCeS

I have been an art store junky for many, many years. And so I am quite well equipped to tackle new materials whenever the fancy seizes me. I recently purchased a Stillman + Birn’s Nova Series toned paper sketchbook with beige, black and gray pages. 

I’ve been loving the beige paper for my portraits, after a long run of doing them on the gray, with pen, watercolor and a few touches of pastel pencil. The Sktchy app supplies me with the most wonderful subjects, which they call “muses”. Like this adorable guy Zel.

But in order to break into the black paper section of the sketchbook, I got out my gouache paints with the pastel pencils.

This may be the dawn of the up-in-your-face faces! All my fine watercolor skills flew out the window. How liberating. Gotta do more of these.

Meanwhile my in-person model is available and I’m taking advantage, in yet another, more familiar style of watercolor-what-you-can-before-it-moves.

We actually had breathable air today and a sun we could see and even a blue sky!

Meet Bonnie

Bonnie

Bonnie fell and broke her hip recently (months after I did the above portrait story), a day before holding that yard sale she’d been looking forward to.  She spent some more time in the hospital following hip surgery, but was managing on her own with crutches and with plenty of pain. I stopped by to drop off a print of her portrait, and she insisted on showing me her apartment. So I donned my mask and took a quick peek.

I’m not sure what I expected, but every square inch of space in her one bedroom apartment had been turned into a museum of her collections:  Disney characters, salt and pepper shakers, chimes, vintage lunch boxes, tea sets, dolls, dragons and wizards, and her own sculptures incorporating her many finds – all neatly arranged to tantalize the eye wherever it might land.

This is what I love about many of my friends who have been homeless. It’s that spirit of making the best of what one has, and not letting set-backs get one down. As I was leaving I ran into another participant at The Living Room, who was having her own issues with pain from walking after surgery. She was there to provide the ride for Bonnie to a doctor’s appt. People who know what it’s like to need help are always the first to offer it.

Meet Nickalena

In November 2018 when I approached The Living Room with my proposal to sketch stories of the activities and people there, the staff was enthusiastic and welcoming. But when I showed up with my sketch materials, it was like the first day at a new school, where you don’t know if anyone will want to talk to you, and you may have to eat lunch alone! (an experience I remember from a childhood of moving around the country, sometimes in the middle of the school year)

In general people who have been homeless are accustomed to being “invisible” in public, so they don’t necessarily make eye contact. And I am surprisingly shy about approaching people uninvited. I wondered why any of them would want to talk to me, or let me sketch them anyway. But I knew it was up to me to break the ice. I had a card made that introduced myself as an artist who was there to draw stories. I would stand in line, get a hot lunch tray, and sit next to someone to eat. Little by little I became known, and mostly it just got easier to approach people as I realized that what I had to offer was not just a sketch of them, but my genuine interest in anything they wanted to tell me about their lives.

That led to co-leading an art and meditation group there, and eventually to this portrait story project. Nickalena fascinated me in so many ways, like her story of devoting herself to homeless kids, becoming an artist and writing a book while on the streets. When I asked if I could read her poetry, she recited some to me, and it was delightful!

 

Nickalena

If you haven’t seen my exhibit of the portrait stories : This is My Story: Women and Homelessness, you can view it now on the Santa Rosa Arts website.

And visit The Living Room to find out more about what they’re doing now and how you could help.

Not Procreated

This month’s #30faces30days challenge on Sktchy is also a course in Procreate-ing portraits. Although it looks like a lot of fun to draw with an iPad, and certainly makes correcting mistakes a lot easier, as well as ease of switching media, I have steadfastly resisted the trend. I won’t bore you with my reasons, but it has to do with already spending way too much time on computers, what with reading the news and answering email and so much more.  Also I just love the feel of a real brush and paper. Are you bored yet?

So I just tune into the photos each day and paint the ones that intrigue, on beige toned paper with pen and watercolor and some pastel pencil. As I’ve said before, there’s so much variety in source pictures, like Baby Kohler here.

day19

At the risk of sound very weird. . .as I was working on this portrait I could almost feel the warmth of that little body on mine, and I kept getting a whiff of that unmistakable sweet sour scent of mother’s milk which I haven’t smelled (not being a grandmother yet) for about 26 years. That’s how up close and personal this remarkable image was!

day20

And then along came Mike with his kinky/curly locks, and I couldn’t resist making him gorgeous. I hope he doesn’t mind. My prerogative, as the artist, after all.

day21

This pose was a nice change, good practice for when I’m out sketching on location again. . . some day.

day23

Only a slight exaggeration of the the photo. Love that hot pink hair!

day24

And then, the prettiest black lady . . .with an ice cream sundae of hair piled high.

Variety is the spice

A variety of faces, that’s what I enjoy about the Sktchy app. Young, old, men, women, racial differences, attitudes and expressions. . .variety is the spice. And what great practice! I fuss over each portrait until I get bored and stop before I’m really finished, which means before I’ve totally lost it!

day4

Sticking with the gray toned paper here, drawing in pen, painting with watercolor and finishing off with a bit of white gel pen, pastel pencil or gouache. The paper buckles from the wet watercolor and makes it hard to photograph evenly.

day7

I just didn’t have a good strategy to paint the very dark skin and didn’t want to ruin it, so I stopped!

day8 I loved the drawing and the hair, but messed up on the shadows, making them too purple. Argh.

day10

That glorious hair was a lot of work and I wasn’t happy til I got out the blue violent gouache.

day13

Another handsome young man and this time I didn’t make the black skin too dark!

day14

Now that I’m starting to get the hang of painting dark skin I’ve forgotten how to do light skin! Luckily the 30faces30days challenge is still going!