Category Archives: Watercolor Portrait


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 – 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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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).

Feed Me!

Feed Me! watercolor 11″x7.5″

Portrait challenge 5/30 for my 30/30 Portrait Challenge.

I almost did not do this portrait. I had worked on a two-kitty portrait for two days and thought perhaps that was enough. Just as I prepared to leave the studio for home, I thought, “Okay, just do a quick sketch in preparation for tomorrow’s portrait. So, I put my things down, found a fuzzy source photo of me from a few years ago. My husband does most (actually virtually all) of the cooking for our household. We have a standing joke based on a Simon’s Cat video (Click link for a good laugh). When I’m anticipating dinner, I do the punch line of the video. Ha!

After doing a quick 10-minute sketch, I decided to put down some paint too. I saturated the paper front and back, and then mixed up some paint puddles in my mixing areas. This time I thought I’d try some secondary pigments (Daniel Smith’s Cobalt Blue Violet and Cascade Green), as well as Phthalo Blue, and try to stay to an analogous color scheme.

After drying the paper back to damp, I began with the violet and green, negatively painting around the head and hand. As I moved into the portrait, I decided I wanted skins tones after all, so I switched to Daniel Smith Pyrrol Red, Raw Sienna Light, and Manganese Blue Hue, using a bit of the violet for the darks in the eyes and hair.

I only painted the shadow shapes with coffee strength pigment for the first layer. I thickened the paint a bit for the second layer of value.

I had been videotaping the process. My camera beeped at me, informing me the SD card was full. I figured that was the painting gods telling me to STOP! Keep it a sketch. So I did. “Feed Me!” watercolor sketch on Arches 140 lb cold press paper, 11″x7.5″

Hello New Year!

Cool Little Specs

My first goal for the new year (new decade) is to complete 30 portraits in 30 days. I may do people portraits. I may do “critter” portraits. I am off to a good start with “Cool Little Specs” which is an 8″x8″ watercolor on 140lb cold press Arches paper.

I sketched in some quick guidelines, then wet the paper front and back, dried it off to damp. I tried to paint the shadow shapes. I worked with a black & white photo only.

I have unedited video clips that may turn in to edited video when they grow up? Stay tuned!