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Art Oil Painting Watercolor

Farewell Oil Painting; Hello Watercolor, My Old Friend

Strawberries, Cheerios and Milk, 20×21″, watercolor 2013

The watercolor paintings in this post are from 10-20 years ago. I haven’t been posting new work for several months because I got stuck working on one oil painting portrait. I struggled with it, overworking, reworking, starting over, rinse and repeat. There’s something about being able to endlessly work on an oil painting that triggers my perfectionism, and not in a good way.

Pink Rose, 2003, Watercolor, 16×12″

Watercolor and gouache have natural stopping points. You have to pause to let the paint and paper dry. You can’t keep painting layer on layer endlessly or you have a muddy mess. You either call it done or you start over.

Sister City Parade, Watercolor, 22×30″, 2001
(An actual parade going down the street in my neighborhood
when I was moving in 22 years ago)

I also became sensitive to solvents. I stopped using Gamsol while painting but even the smell of drying oil paint without solvents made me feel icky. Just using a little Gamsol for brush and palette cleaning left me with the taste of metal in my mouth and a headache, both signs of chemical sensitivity. I already have funky lungs so that was it. Bye-bye oils.

Ruth Bancroft Gardens Old Barn, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
Ruth Bancroft Gardens Old Barn, ink & watercolor, 5×8″ 2013, SOLD

I’ve always preferred the look of watercolors to oil paintings anyway. In fact the only paintings I have hanging in my home are watercolors. I thought I would go through a grieving period but it’s been a couple months and I’ve felt only relief and excitement.

Sleeping Neighbor, Watercolor 30×22″, 2009, SOLD

I have thousands of dollars worth of oil paint, oil brushes, canvases, panels and oil paper that I will sell at some point. In the meantime, I’m finding it thrilling to watch water and color flow on paper again.

Sold. Michelle’s Rose, Watercolor, 2015 (SOLD)
(Painted as a demo in a watercolor class I was teaching)
Categories
Art Faces Gouache People Portrait Sktchy Sktchy Watercolor

Is She Sleepy, Bored or Annoyed?

Sleepy Asian Girl, Gouache on paper, 10 x 7 inches
Sleepy Asian Girl, Gouache on paper, 10 x 7 inches

This was one of those rare and wonderful painting experiences where the sketch (below) came together by magic, and I liked it enough to not even check it against the reference photo for accuracy. I didn’t care if it was perfect. The painting just flowed and it was super fun to see and paint all the different colors and textures.

Sleepy Asian Girl Sketch, 10x8 inches, graphite on Xerox paper
Sleepy Asian Girl Sketch, 10×8 inches, graphite on Xerox paper

I kept pondering her story while I worked on the portrait. I had all kinds of ideas but settled on a bone-tired factory or sewing shop worker. Then I did a Google image search of the reference photo (below), which was supplied by a Sktchy artist for her class demo and for us to paint from.

Reference photo

The image search took me down a looooong rabbit hole that led to a match for the photo. It turns out the model is a Japanese artist named Serena Motola. Maybe she was just bored and annoyed to be modeling when she wanted to be painting?

Categories
Art Drawing Faces Gouache Painting People Portrait Sktchy Sktchy

Nate W. in Grey Hoodie

Nate Washington in a grey hoodie, painted in gouache.
Nate Washington in gouache on paper, 10 x 7.5”

Nate Washington (IG link) is a comedian and podcaster who shared his reference photo for this portrait on Sktchy, here. (Except Sktchy app is now called “Museum”)

Karl Staub (IG link), the teacher who used Nate’s photo for his demo did a very graphic, poster-like rendering (see below). I was tempted to do that too, but decided to just continue with my own style instead.

Nate Washington in a grey hoodie, sketched in pencil.
Nate W. in pencil, 10×7.5

Above is my original sketch for the portrait. I had fun finding the planes on his face and clothes. Below is a screenshot for the 30 Faces/30 Days – Watercolor & Gouache class on Sktchy displaying the teacher’s work.

This was supposed to be a 30 portraits in 30 days class, but I think I’m now on month three instead. That’s because since last December I started working out every morning, doing indoor cycling, rowing and running classes plus daily core classes and alternating days of weights, yoga, Pilates, and Barre and two hikes a week with friends. I paint in the afternoon.

I’m getting stronger and fitter and having fun. But it’s always a challenge to find balance between all the things that make up a good life. I’m very fortunate and grateful for the luxury of the choices I get to make.

Categories
Art

From Head Scarf to Siberia: Portraits in Gouache

Woman with Headscarf, gouache, 10x8"
Woman with Headscarf, gouache, 10×8″

Look how beautiful her teeth are! I think I spent more time on her teeth than anything else and actually, it was fun. The photo reference below is from the 30 days in Gouache and Watercolor series on Sktchy. I didn’t like the warm color scheme or the teacher’s approach (Instagram link) so I went about it my own way, changing the background color and choosing a limited palette as you can see in the color samples above.

Below is my initial sketch and the reference photo.

Preliminary Sketch
Reference photo

Before I tackled the portrait above, I tried and failed repeatedly on the portrait below.

Failed portrait of Siberian woman, gouache, approx 10x8"
Siberian woman, gouache, approx 10×8″

I tried to follow along with the young, talented Siberian artist teaching the class whose painting technique (Instagram link) I loved. I think the problem was the flat lighting on the subject, which I find much harder to draw and paint than when there are shadows that create or delineate structure.

Here are two preliminary sketches and the reference photo. I didn’t get the head angle right in Sketch #1 so I started over.

Sketch #2
Sketch #1
Reference Photo

Categories
Art Drawing Faces Gouache Painting People Portrait Sktchy Sktchy

Forest Bather in Gouache

Bennett P from Sktchy in Gouache, 10×7 inches

I really enjoyed painting this calm, pleasant young man amidst the trees, seemingly bathing in the cool forest light. You can see his original photo reference on Sktchy here.

I started with a pencil sketch on copy paper. Then to check my drawing, I compared my sketch to the photo by scanning my sketch into Procreate with the original photo. On a new layer I traced the photo with a red line and layered that over the sketch (see below). Using the red lines as a reference, I corrected my original sketch on paper, transferred the sketch to watercolor paper and then painted.

Bennett’s reference photo was part of the Sktchy “30 days in Watercolor and Gouache” class taught by Mike Creighton, one of my favorite Sktchy teachers. I thought it would be interesting to share his painting; such a different feel from mine!

Mike Creighton’s gouache painting

He used a limited palette and did a lot of mark making with his brush. I know the idea of the Sktchy classes is to try to mimic the teachers in order to learn a variety of different approaches and techniques, but I almost always end up taking what I like and then going my own way.