Saturday, 16 February 2013

Be Happy...

Finally got round to completing this one just before Xmas. Had a few suggestions for titles from friends, but loved Kevin Fowler's  suggestion best of all, thanks Kev...

  In answer to some of the questions I've been asked about how I paint portraits. I finally remembered to take a few photos along the way when I started this one a few weeks ago, so i'll try to explain as I go.....

     I painted this as I fancied a change from painting children and couldn't resist this photo of Steve Evans, with so much thanks to him for sharing this. The pure joy on this woman's face kept me smiling all the way through it.

I usually start with a very rough sketch to get the feel of the person, sometimes little sketches of the features, then another, hopefully more accurate drawing on the watercolour paper. I can never emphasize enough the importance of drawing as a way of getting to know your subject, especially so in portrait work. It also helps with getting features placed properly. It doesn't matter if a petal is a bit out of place on a flower, but it does matter if an eye is.

On this occasion though I went with the initial drawing. I knew where I needed to change bits, but being able to do this when painting becomes easier with practice. I don't worry too much on the likeness as this isn't a commission, and i'm always more interested in capturing their soul...     

The iris on the right eye as we look at it is a little larger than it should be, and slightly off shape, but that doesn't matter, I can bring that back in when painting. You can change this before if you feel more comfortable doing that, but I don't like to erase on the paper too much if I can help it. This is also where the practice of drawing features comes in, your knowledge of them allows you to not have to do that. I'm still far from an expert at drawing portraits, but a couple of years ago I couldn't have done it to this level, well not so quickly anyway, and a couple of years before that it wouldn't even have look human, so practice, practice, practice...The drawing is done in a very soft pencil and I do erase some guide lines and soften any heavy ones. 
Next I painted some areas with water, then put in the first wash of colours. If you want to see how I do this, pop over to YouTube and watch my video.  As the first was was drying I started in some areas with the nextwash. I don't tend to paint in any sort of order, just what takes my interest at the time. Often I just from one place to another, maybe because one is dry enough or even still wet enough to work on, other times purely  as I see something I want to capture, a colour I want to get down. Because I paint this in this way of what inspires me I also don't tend to go with painting in tones, light mid then darks, I really do jump about. I believe if you go with heart when painting it takes on a whole new level.
     I carry on in this way painting areas of colour as I see them. No rigid technique, softening edges here and there as I feel it needs them. I tend to get to a stage where I'm unsure if it needs more, this is the time to stop. Youwill see it so differently once you've walked away and left it for a few hours. You've been painting different parts, concentrating in areas so you don't see the painting as a whole. And as we know watercolour dries lighter, this can give us a whole different look sometimes.  There are some things you cannot be taught, it's purely a love for what you do which comes from the heart and good old fashioned practice. I think to paint in this way you really have to let go, be prepared for some things not too work, it's the only way you will learn what does. 

I may need to do this painting again as there seems to be something on the paper. Top right it has gone bobbly for some reason.. Not sure why as the paint was laid straight on,  no scrubbing, lifting etc, so I'm putting this down to a fault in the paper. I may just try and wet it, then lay some kitchen towel on it to see if I can soak up the bits. If not it's back to the easel for this one and fingers crossed I can capture some of the things I really liked in this one.               

This is one of those paintings that makes you smile when you look at it, you can't help it, it was also a pleasure to paint.
Steve Evans captures so much in his photos and I hope I do the same when I paint them.


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