Art Oil Painting Painting People Portrait Watercolor

Sadie and the Swim Trophy

This was the portrait that led to my abandoning oil painting and returning to watercolor. Along with the final watercolor portrait of Sadie, the post includes the aborted oil paintings, the drawing, and the reference photo.

Sadie and the swim trophy, watercolor
Sadie and the 2021 Swim Trophy, watercolor, 10”x7.5”

My granddaughter Sadie loves to swim (and play soccer, basketball and read books, too). At the end of the season, after winning many races and awards, to fundraise for her team she swims lap after lap and people pledge $ per lap.

Reference photo

Trying to paint Sadie from this photo led to me giving up on oils and going back to watercolor. As was my way with oils, I tried repeatedly, persistently (obsessively?) but couldn’t make it work. This watercolor isn’t perfect, but it captures the joy of the moment and that makes me happy.

Failed oil paintings
Abandoned Oil Paintings, 9×12”
L-R: Start of painting #2; unfinished painting #2; unfinished painting #1

With watercolor I’m able to paint to a certain point and then happily call it done. Watercolor doesn’t allow you to keep fiddling forever like oil does.

Final drawing for the portrait painting
Final drawing for the painting (after many corrections)

I again used a limited palette because it’s fun to see what I can do with only 3 colors. This time it was DS Hansa Yellow Medium, WN Permanent Alizarin and WN Cobalt Blue.

Limited palette color wheel of primary triad
Test of Limited Palette Primary Triad using DS Hansa Yellow Medium, WN Cobalt Blue and Alizarin Permanent

I used to think it was really weird that artists limited their palettes. I thought one needed every possible color in order to capture color exactly. But now I prefer the harmony a limited palette provides and don’t really care about capturing exactly the colors in real life. I’m not trying to be a photocopier.

13 replies on “Sadie and the Swim Trophy”

…it is fitting that a swimming trophy gets commemorated by a watercolour (smile) — and what your portrait again confirms is how the medium brings a brightness and freshness and immediacy which the others can’t compete with. The photograph itself is of a captured moment of elation; and your watercolour retains that spontaneity and sparkle.

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Oh! I didn’t even think of that punny connection. That’s great! Thank you so much for your very kind words. That means a lot coming from you. I so admire your beautiful watercolors!

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PS I tried to leave a comment on a painting on your blog but found myself in an endless loop of wordpress wanting me to login to my account, which I was already logged in to. I tried several times but if it didn’t come through, just know I think your paintings are really exceptional and so evocative they make me want to be there.

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I love this! You definitely captured her joy!!  But I also love the last two oils you did of her. 💜


div dir=”ltr”>Thank you,




Thank Nickie. When I pulled them out to post them I was surprised to find they weren’t as bad as I remembered them. But the process of painting them was grueling and not enjoyable past the first optimistic start.


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