Monthly Archives: January 2020

Spiked – Drawing

Spiked – Final, Graphite 7.5″x11″

Portrait #18 of my 30 x 30 Portrait Challenge, “Spiked” 7.5″ x 11″

This is another preparatory drawing for a watercolor painting (I hope). Events conspired against me today, keeping me away from studio time. Sigh.

First, I did a contour drawing of the shadow shapes. See stage 1.


I shaded in the first level of value to separate the dark from the light. See Stage 2. This is often my favorite stage of the drawing, but I always have a hard time not taking it further.

Stage 2

Stage 3

I began to shadow in the dark darks of the hair and shoulders…

Stage 4

I found myself lost in the drawing, adding all the subtleties of the next layers of value. I try to draw in the same order as I would paint, from light to dark. I want to capture 5 layers of value; highlight, halftone, core shadow, reflected light and cast shadow; just like my teach, John Erickson, told me in college.

After putting the drawing away for a moment, I noticed the shoulders were too small. After that final adjustment, I decided to stop. 56 mins. A good prep for a watercolor painting. Stay tuned!

With a Blue Streak

“With a Blue Streak”

Portrait #17 of my 30 x 30 Portrait Challenge. “With a Blue Streak” 7.5″x11″ graphite.

This is a preparatory drawing for a watercolor painting. I thought I’d post some progress photos.

Stage 1

Stage 2

First I did contour drawing of the shadow shapes. See “Stage 1′. I shaded in the shadow shapes, either on or off, white or light shadow only.

Stage 3

I then brought in smaller, darker shadow shapes. And voila… out pops the image. It never ceases to amaze me how a face shows up on a blank piece of paper.

Between Stage 3 and the final stage, I made some adjustments to the eyes and mouth.

Click on images for a larger view in a new tab. Next up painting. Stay tuned to find out about that blue streak?


Portrait #16 of my 30×30 Portrait Challenge. And today is the 16th! Right on track.


Live Model! I really enjoy painting from a live model. I am a member of the Portrait Society of Reno. Each Wednesday morning from 9 am to noon, they organize for a live model at Nevada Fine Art, 1301 S. Virginia Street in mid-town Reno. All the painters (all media) pay a $10 model fee. The amazing Kay Genasci brings refreshments and sets up the model. If you’re anywhere near, come on along and join in the fun! Live sessions really do challenge our drawing skills, as there is no way to trace… Authentic!

Contour Drawing

I wanted to have a monumental view of the model, so I decided to sit down for this one, which is rare for me, as I usually paint standing. I started with the contour drawing for the first 20-minute pose.

I had been looking at the portraits of Pam Wenger (I think out of PA) the day before. She paints lovely portraits, full of personality and random shadows color. I love her skin tones. Some day I may have to take one of her workshops. Check out her website,

I started with the hair and background. I used Cobalt Blue Violet and Transparent Pyrrol Orange (Daniel Smith) as well as some Ultramarine Blue (Holbein) for a good colorful brown tone for her dark hair. I was intrigued with the red tones in the light, so I let the orange be more prevalent in the light areas. To turn the form, I shifted to the violet and blue tones for the shadows at the crown. I used the cobalt blue-violet and Quinacridone Red for the background.

Painting (Stage 1) Draft

Once moving on to the skin tones, I went in first with a layer of Pyrrol Transparent Orange and Raw Sienna Light, my brownish yellow and orange. I then added some greenish shade using a combination of Sap and Cascade Green (Daniel Smith). To give the painting an overall harmony, I brought in some of the violet to the shadow areas around the eyes and under the jaw, and touched in some of the green to the sweater and turtleneck, as well. I did bring in some Pyrrol Red in the eye sockets, nose, and mouth. I find I use Pyrrol Red on nearly every portrait, whether I intend to or not. It is a nice warm (but not too warm) semi-transparent pigment. I added some of the quin rose and cobalt blue-violet mix to the ends of the hair under her chin.

I was pleased with the painting, especially the likeness. I think I will adjust the shadows on the far shoulder, to let that recede rather than come forward. Then I will call ‘er done.

Thank you, Liz, for being a fantastic model, sitting like a statue. I think I saw you blink twice, though.

All Smiles Now – Painting

All Smiles Now

Portrait #15 of my 30 x 30 Portrait Challenge. “All Smiles Now” watercolor 11″x7.5″ on Arches 140lb cold press watercolor paper.


If you saw my last post, you saw my value study. During the painting process, I tried to only refer to the drawing, rather than the source photo. I played around with some different pigment options before beginning the painting. I wanted the colors to be softer than some previous portraits I have done for this challenge. I settled on the combination on the bottom (see Swatches image); Quinacridone Red and Coral, Raw Sienna Light, and Manganese Blue Hue.

I saturated the paper front and back. While the paper soaked, I mixed up my pigment piles, plus a violet mix with the rose and manganese. I dried the paper back to damp, but wet the shadow areas again, so I could drop the colors in and let them swim around together, without worrying about the colors floating in the drier paper. Damp paper will hold a soft edge. On dry paper, the edges dry too hard for my liking, especially for a little girl subject.

I put down a thin layer of blue in the eye sockets, under the nose and mouth to start, then applied rose, coral, and raw sienna next to the blue to let them mix on the paper. I then gently caressed the colors together.

I left the highlights in the eye dry, so they would stay white. Not the “whites of the eye,” though. just the highlight that crosses the iris and pupil. The “whites” are actually quite dark, sort of gray tones. I like to have a blue base for the eye socket and the teeth. When I’m painting a big smile, I avoid yellow anywhere near the teeth because it makes them look decayed.

I slowly built up the value layers, being careful to soften all the transitions while the paint was wet. I only wanted hard edges around the eyes and mouth. For the hair, I used mostly raw sienna, with purple shadows. I did have to bring in some Cobalt Blue Violet in order to create the darks in the mouth and eyes. The manganese blue is too high value to achieve the darks.

I’m not sure the painting is complete yet. As I look at it, I may make a few adjustments. But then sometimes we have to be brave enough to quit when it’s 80% done, to avoid that overworked look? I’ll sleep on it. Stay tuned. Compare to value study drawing. Does it look like the same little girl? I did use my drawing to trace up the contours for the painting. Click on images for a larger view.

All Smiles Now – Drawing

All Smiles Now – Watercolor, 11″x7.5″

All Smiles Now – Drawing

All Smiles Now

Portrait #15 for 30 x 30 Challenge.

Keeping on with the challenge, my friend in California is doing the sketchy version of the portrait challenge. She wrote a blog post about doing teeth which made me realize I hadn’t attempted an open-mouth smile portrait in some time. So what’s a challenge without “a challenge”, eh? I agree teeth are hard to pull off, even in a drawing.

But this cutie patootie Tay smile is hard to resist.

During the photoshoot, It did take a bit of coaxing to find the smiles, but once we did, there was no hiding the “happy girl” bubbles. Tay, I have received my kitty cards now, so tell your mom you need to visit again?

I like the diagonal presentation, do you?  I am pondering a choice of colors.. I want to keep them soft and fresh. I will go review some paintings by my good friend, Janet Rogers. Maybe I will find my inspiration. I want lovely violet shadows and pink cheeks, so I’m thinking a Quinacridone Rose and Manganese Blue are in order, perhaps some Raw Sienna Light. I’ll have to ‘speriment. As always, Stay Tuned!

That Tickle Smile – Drawing

That Tickle Smile

Portraits 14 & 15 for my 30 x 30 Portrait Challenge.

I drew this value study in preparation for my next painting while watching Outlander on Netflix, so no video for the drawing process. I tried to remember to take process photos with my iPad, which also held the source photo. My friend, Breanne and her daughter Tay came earlier in the week for a “headshot” photoshoot. Tay started out shy with big wide eyes and a somber expression. Mom started giving her a little back tickle and out came the smiles.

The source photo is actually a little blurry. Sometimes I prefer slightly blurry photos. It helps keep me loose and general, rather than focused on the detail.

Drawing Stage 1

I started with ovals to set up the broad placement for the heads and Tay’s hand. I liked the diagonal composition to create a sense of movement. Mom’s gaze toward her daughter acts as a line back to Tay’s delightful face, the focal point.

After sketching in some contour lines, I began shading on the girl, her figure, moving to mom’s face, then the darks between them. I adjusted the size of mom’s head thinking it was too small and far away. Fortunately, I realized it early on, before “major surgery” as required.

Drawing Stage 2

Between Stage 3 and 4 I adjusted the mom’s far eye and added some more shading on the child’s hair, back and shoulders.

After putting it away overnight, I may make some adjustments to the girl’s hand, mom’s nose, and mom’s hairline?

Next up, painting! Stay tuned!

Update: First attempt at painting? Not so much. I’ll try again today.

That Tickle Smile

The Painting – Serious Golf Buddies

Series Golf Buddies

Serious Golf Buddies portraits 10, 11, 12 & 13 continue for my 30 x 30 Portrait Challenge.

After completing the value study drawing, I traced up the contour edges to 140lb Arches cold press watercolor paper. I like to refer to the drawing study as the “first date” with a painting. This is where I learn about my subject. Knowing my subject well allows me to be freer in the painting process.

Having said that, I did not notice the flaws before going into the painting. The main subject’s shoulders were too narrow, and the shadow cast by the nose was too dark compared to the shadow cast by the hat.

Serious Golf Buddies (Drawing)

In my first draft of the painting, I made the same mistakes, plus a few more. When one is in the middle of a painting, much like writing, one does not see the flaws. I find it is important to put away the painting for a time, place it at least across the room and look at it with fresh eyes. I call it staring time.

Serious Golf Buddies (Draft)

I edited the first draft to make those few adjustments. After wetting the paper front and back, I mixed up piles of Cobalt Blue Violet, Pyrrol Red, Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Quinacridone Red, and Raw Sienna Light (all by Daniel Smith); Keeping to a broad analogous color harmony scheme.

I painted in value layers, starting with the background to carve out the main shapes of the figures. I moved into the distant figures, keeping them in lighter tones, with cool shadows and warm light. I increased the pigment strength for the main figure to intensity the colors and darken the values. Now I’m calling ‘er done. And it makes me chuckle.

Serious Golf Buddies (Final)

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Serious Golf Buddies

Serious Golf Buddies

Portraits #10, #11, #12, & #13 of my 30 x30 Portrait Challenge.

A friend texted me a photo of himself with his golf buddies. It cracked me up. I had not done my portrait for the day, due to classes and other responsibilities. So here it is, my portrait x 4 offering for the day – just a graphite 7.5″x 11″ drawing on 90lb student grade watercolor paper. it may turn into a painting tomorrow, but I’ll need to transfer the drawing to thicker better paper first? And as I look at it here, I see a few drawing tweaks are in order. I’m pleased though that I was able to put 4 faces on one piece of paper in under an hour!

Violet Shadows

Violet Shadows

Portrait # 8 Day 8 of my 30/30 Portrait Challenge.  “Violet Shadows” watercolor on 140lb Arches Cold Press paper, 11″x7.5″. Click on the image for a larger view.

Since I did a graphite drawing value understudy in my last painting, this time I decided to begin this portrait completely the opposite without ANY pre-drawing. Yikes!

I had taken some great photos of this gentleman in my temporary  “headshot” photo set up the day before. I really enjoy creating dramatic, contrasting light. I placed the model with diffused lights behind and to his left, and a bright reflective light to his right.

For the painting, I saturated the paper front and back. While the paper was soaking I mixed up piles of paint in my mixing areas. I decided to limit myself to an analogous color Harmony scheme, using two violet pigments, Rose of Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue Violet, and Quinacridone Red (all by Daniel Smith).

I dried the paper back to damp, then painted the shadow shapes, “drawing” shapes with my brush, starting with coffee strength pigment and working to creamy-strength for the final details.

I found it quite a challenge to get the proportions right without the benefit of a pencil and an eraser. I had made a major error on the far eye placement that couldn’t be fixed, so I had to adjust the nearer eye, plus the nose, back of the head, ear, and mouth proportions to accommodate the mistake – Major surgery! I had also made the neck too thin. I’ll have to review the video to see how I did it because I have no idea how I pulled it off. Ha!

I quite liked the challenge and really enjoy the resulting portrait. I will plan to do several more portraits without a pre-drawing.

Last July I participated in a Facegroup group challenge where it was suggested we paint wet-into-wet and “direct” (meaning no pre-drawing) for a 30/30 challenge. The Facebook group dedicated to direct painting does a challenge every month, I think. The link to the group is

Today I went to the Portrait Society of Reno’s live model session. I had intended to try my hand at another direct painting, but I went off without my brushes. Sigh. I only had a tiny little plein air kit brush about the size of a large sewing needle. Grrr!  I was reminded of why I loathe tiny brushes. My artist friend, Kay, loaned me her big brush, but by then I had created a great big mess with that teeny tiny brush. I’ll not share portrait #9. I’ll just know it’s done <smile>. Next week I will try again, but… better packing and planning are in order. I truly enjoyed seeing all my portrait painting buddies, though, as I had not been for quite some time.

Isn’t She Lovely Too?

Isn’t She Lovely Too

Portrait #7? Day 7 of my 30/30 Portrait Challenge. Yesterday I drew a portrait of my friend. Today I painted over the drawing. In art school, we often had to paint a grisaille tonal painting, then glaze over it with color. I have seen painting done with graphite watercolor pigment before. Why not try painting over my graphite drawing? I would only have to glaze the color with one value becaus the value is already there, right?

Isn’t She Lovely? Graphite

I saturated the paper front and back, then dried it back to damp. I used Cobalt Blue Violet, New Gamboge, and Quinacridone Red (all by Daniel Smith).  I kept the pigment strength on the face mostly to coffee. In the hair, I mixed in creamy strength violet, red and yellow. Some of the graphite dissolved a bit, but what remains creates some fun shadows and texture. I quite like it. “Isn’t She Lovely Too” watercolor on 140 lb cold press, 11″x7.5″.

Compare to graphite drawing. (Click on images for a larger view).

Is it fair to count these as two portraits? I had a discussion with “The Rule Maker” person. We decided we weren’t sure, so we painted another…just to be on the safe side (Stay tuned for next blog post).