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Old 01-18-2003, 03:53 AM   #1
Sonja Craen Sonja Craen is offline
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Location: Belgium, Wommelgem
Posts: 7
Portrait WIP




P r e f a c e.

At the request of your moderator, Karin Wells,I would like to charm you with a small watercolor portrait of a nice little girl. I wish I could unveil the secret and a trick for a successful portrait but this is not the case.

My way of painting is a result of looking, analyzing and rendering during years of practice, and starting over again and again. I started as an oil painter doing fine work, and then slowly switched over to watercoloring, always searching and trying to get a more direct and spontaneous rendering on paper. My aim is to transfer as much as possible with very little means.

If you should wish to see more of my works and read about my workshops and/or shows, please visit my site at http://users.pandora.be/sonjacraen. I also would gracefully appreciate a note in my guestbook or an email.
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Old 01-20-2003, 12:51 PM   #2
Sonja Craen Sonja Craen is offline
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Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Belgium, Wommelgem
Posts: 7
The preliminary sketch

The preliminary sketch for the watercolor portrait:

I try to make an elementary sketch without details, the larger planes and forms caught by a soft line, and observing closely the line where eyes, nose and mouth will have to be defined. Each time I find a point I explore both horizontal and vertical according points for reference such as the corner of the eye, side of the nose or where to start an ear. Where can we find all these points in respect to each other?

Compare the found planes to each other, control them constantly and if your drawing is right it will seem as if all the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle come together.
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Old 01-20-2003, 12:54 PM   #3
Sonja Craen Sonja Craen is offline
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Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Belgium, Wommelgem
Posts: 7
The set-up

Don't stop too long on details as yet, it would only seduce you to make a filled-in drawing instead of a spontaneous watercolor.

To illustrate: a print of the horizontal and vertical reference points.

Align: The set-up

Once my set-up is finished and I feel happy about it, I remain conscious of the fact that these are only helping lines which do not stop me from continuing to work outside these lines when I want to correct by painting.

Before I start to paint, I squint my eyes and try to find where I can catch the light, thus simplifying the different shadow values into one whole plane. At this stage, I am not considering the details of shadows just yet.

Choose a point that especially attracts you to start off with, anywhere. From there on, you work around the WHOLE watercolor painting. Try as much as possible to reach the depth of your final result from the start. Any value put down correctly from the start diminishes the risk of failing by having to put another layer over your painting. If the girl has blushing cheeks, make them blush from the start. Then continue from her cheeks, over the nose, softening the contours to the point where the light flesh occurs. Pull the color over to the forehead, again saving the light where you can see it. Then return as quick as possible to the other side of the nose, and connect the forehead with the cheeks; save the lighted part underneath the nose, not forgetting to soften the contours against the light when needed.

Then continue under the nose, taking the lower parts of the lips to the beginning of the throat, and always remember to save the light. Small color variations, some red, a little bit of blue for the shadow and, maybe here and there, some carmine or burnt sienna. Always control the amount of water, all the time. Continue again and pull the color down to the neck, saving light and adding shadow parts at the same time.

In the same manner, add the first layer to the hair, taking into account the shadow, but leaving the light-caught parts untouched. After the hair, switch as soon as possible to the color of the background. Always try with two colors that comply with each other, and let them somewhat bleed together. Or you can liven them up with an extra touch.

Whilst still in the initial stage, don't be afraid to let things happen; touches of paint you've put on can do a work of their own. Work rapidly - don't stay too long in one place, correct only when you're sure that it will be for the better; otherwise, you wait until you've worked all over.

Sometimes, however, you can soften some parts by lifting out and then leaving your work alone for some time. You have to take into account that watercolors become lighter whilst they dry.
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Old 01-20-2003, 12:59 PM   #4
Sonja Craen Sonja Craen is offline
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Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Belgium, Wommelgem
Posts: 7
The colors

The most important thing and the biggest problem with watercolors is the amount of water you used. Other important factors include the kind and weight of paper, the weather, etc.

Personally, I never work without my paper kitchen roll next to me. I push the tip of the brush onto the paper towel in order to obtain the right amount of water for the part I want to paint. You only obtain this result by practicing again and again. Hard, but worth it.

The colors

This portrait is simple as to the use of color. The skintone is yellow ochre and cadmium light red. Use less paint and more water for the lightest parts, and less water and more paint for the deeper values. The shadow on the nose is obtained by adding burnt sienna.

As to the hair, again yellow ochre with a dash of burnt sienna, with more water. The part of the hair that is darker was obtained with a small quantity of purple, together with the skin colors. The background consists of watery yellow ochre with cerulean blue, and diagonally, a touch of purple.

The initial wash is ready now, but I don't wait for it to dry but continue as soon as possible, so the surface is neither too wetnor too dry. I then check the general image and compare. I look at the shadow and the transitions, and continue just as I began, from the point that needs to be worked on. The result of the final wash is that many parts are left untouched.

It is absolutely not my intention to paint over the whole portrait. If you do this, it means that you didn't use enough color the first time.

I now paint the color of the eyes and the eyelids, and add some color to the upper lip, somewhat darker, and let this color run over the shadow part of the upper lip towards the nose. The corners of the mouth are accentuated and pulled over towards the cheeks. I darken the left and the right side of the hair where it is necessary. I accentuate the purple part in the background, adding also a streak of orange over the darkened part of the hair in order to accentuate the color.
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Old 01-20-2003, 01:00 PM   #5
Sonja Craen Sonja Craen is offline
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Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Belgium, Wommelgem
Posts: 7
Align the portrait

All this time when painting I use my brush differently: at one time using the tip and at another time pushing it flat, depending on the strokes. It's painting and drawing at the same time.

I soften or lift-out where necessary but in no case everywhere. Lots of brushstrokes remain, giving a stronger effect to the work.

Now I have been working around the painting for the second time and try to look at it very critically, and think about what still has to be done. I refuse to render everything I see and try to capture the essence. I add some shadow under the ear with a dash of blue, to show the feeling that the curl hanging over the face is a loose one.

At this stage I see nothing essential to be corrected and decide to stop, in order to prevent myself from fidgeting. I think trying out is a good expression for painting a watercolor.

This is my way of working. Maybe it is not the easiest one but definitely heavenly fascinating.

Very sincere greetings, and I hope you will have a go at it. Don't be afraid, jump in and keep it loose. If it doesn't work the first time, it will the next one.

P.S. The original portrait is 5O x 6O cms, framed and painted on Arches Torchon.
 
Old 01-20-2003, 01:02 PM   #6
Sonja Craen Sonja Craen is offline
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Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Belgium, Wommelgem
Posts: 7
The portrait

I'll also send a close-up.
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Old 01-20-2003, 01:04 PM   #7
Sonja Craen Sonja Craen is offline
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Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Belgium, Wommelgem
Posts: 7
Close-up

Here you can see things a little better.
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