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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.

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Art Drawing Faces Gouache Painting Portrait Sktchy Sktchy

Librarian (?) in Gouache with Zorn Palette

Stacy D from Sktchy in Gouache using Zorn Palette, 10x7 inches
Stacy D from Sktchy in Gouache using Zorn Palette, 10×7 inches

I dramatically changed the setting of this portrait from a graffiti-covered wall (photo at bottom) to a library. There was something about her expression and clothing that made me think judgmental librarian, not the hip artist she appears to be in her photo feed on Sktchy. (Not that librarians can’t be hip artists! I was thinking of the mean school librarian who was always shushing us and glaring if we giggled.)

This was the last lesson in Mike Creighton’s Sktchy class on gouache portrait painting and color mixing. This lesson was about the Zorn palette: white, yellow ochre, cadmium red light and black. I’m really enjoying playing with limited palettes and discovering all the varieties of color possible with them.

In my initial sketch below, I hadn’t decided on the background yet.

Stacy D. from Sktchy, initial sketch on Xerox paper
Stacy D. from Sktchy, initial sketch on Xerox paper

When I decided to change the background from the wall in the reference photo below, to a library I did a quick internet search and found the photo below, right, which I used as inspiration.

Reference photo of Stacy D from Sktchy
Reference photo of Stacy D from Sktchy
Internet photo for library photo reference
Internet photo for library photo reference
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Art Art theory Faces Gouache People Portrait Sktchy

Complimentary: All the Colors in Just Two

América GS from Sktchy in just two colors, 10x8 inches on watercolor paper
América GS from Sktchy in just two colors, 10×8 inches on watercolor paper

In the past when I experimented with limited palettes and color schemes I missed the point. I thought the idea was to compose with just the chosen colors, rather than to discover how many different colors could be made by mixing them together. I hadn’t yet discovered the beauty of neutrals made by mixing two very different colors together. For this portrait, the challenge was to use complimentary colors (colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel).

I chose just two pigments: Winsor Newton Cobalt Turquoise Light and M. Graham Cadmium Red Light; basically a blue-green and a red-orange. I focused on making the lights cool and the shadows warm and was thrilled to discover the wonderful range of colors and neutrals I could make with just these two pigments and white.

First pass with color

Of course the colors are nothing like the actual colors in the reference photo (below), another photo I wouldn’t have chosen to paint myself, which removed the investment to capture it perfectly.

Reference photo of America S from Sktchy
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Drawing Faces People Portrait Sktchy Sktchy

Rainbow Hair and a Pretty Pointy Profile Pic

Ioana F from Sktchy, pencil and colored pencil, 10x8 inches
Ioana F from Sktchy, pencil and colored pencil, 10×8 inches

I was inspired to sketch Ioana because of her brilliant hair color (see her photo on Sktchy here) and because a dear friend had to shave her head while undergoing chemo and I was looking for photos of beautiful bald women to share with her. (Ioana also posted photos of herself with a shaved head on Sktchy.) Maybe when my friend finishes her treatment and her hair grows back she’ll dye it shades of pink and orange to celebrate.

Profile sketch from internet photo, pencil, 10x8 inches
Profile sketch from internet photo, pencil, 10×8 inches

This sketch was done to practice profile drawing which I find difficult. She has such an unusual facial structure as you can see in the photo below, but somehow looks beautiful despite the pointy chin and long nose and big ears. She looks nervous about it all in my sketch.

Reference photo from somewhere on the internet
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Art Drawing Faces People Portrait Sktchy

Aleksandra Again and Again

Aleksandra Final Pencil Sketch
Aleksandra Final Sketch, pencil, 10×8″

I worked on making a portrait of Aleksandra over and over for a couple of months (see the terrible work below). I finally surrendered and chose a different photo of her. The drawing above went smoothly and I did it in one afternoon. (Sktchy photo reference for above sketch.)

What originally inspired me to paint her was the bright yellow-green background in this Sktchy photo. But I learned the hard way that selfies shot close up distort the features and shape of the face.

Our eyes and brains automatically correct for things like photo distortion and lighting, but trying to draw exactly what is there from a distorted photo doesn’t work unless you’re ok with a distorted drawing. Sometimes that can make for a fun caricature, but in this case I was trying to capture a complimentary likeness of a pretty woman.

Below are some of the failed attempts. The first colored image is an oil painting with about 15 layers of failed attempts beneath the final failed attempt. The second colored image is a gouache painting that I put too much paint on, tried to wash some off, then gave up because the sketchbook paper was ruined.

Last six attempts including a failed oil painting (top row) and gouache (bottom row).

Below are the really terrible initial drawings.

Early attempts, some with imposed corrections