Friday, 3 August 2012


I have made several attempts to produce good paintings of my grandchildren with so far mixed results. Several good artists say children are the most difficult to paint and they certainly aren't easy. I have already produced two paintings of Evie and she proudly displays them in her bedroom, but the deafening silence from both parents and grandmother makes me think they aren't that impressed. In mitigation I am trying to paint a `Charles Reid' type of interpretation where absolute realism is not the aim but this is what most people like to see. Another problem with painting children, at least to me, is making them look older than they actually are.

This was my guide photograph

Evie 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb (300gm) not

I don't put this up as a definitive effort by any means. I think slow improvement is visible compared to the others. She thinks it great by the way but then she would! I followed CR's advice in stressing one eye over the other. I have messed around with the left side and could have done it better initially. 

I first made a careful pencil drawing using an 07 mechanical Pentel. For the skin tones I used Cadmium Red with a little Yellow Ochre. Where I wished to darken I added Cerulean or Cobalt Blue Deep. I concentrated on the eyes then the nose and mouth using slightly darker colour, where necessary stressing the inner eye. There is some Hookers Green (Graham) in the corners. When completely dry I added more colour - for instance on the right facing cheek. I also did this with the lips. I tried to do the eyes very carefully in order to maintain a good resemblance. Evie recognized herself immediately. 

 The colours in the eyes included very diluted Raw Umber. The hair is essentially Ultramarine Blue and some Burnt Sienna, stressing the blue. Evie has very dark - almost black - hair. I used Cadmium Orange for the clothing to compliment the blue.

Brushes used were the Rosemary series 33 Size 12 and also the Rosemary (ABS) Kolinsky mop Size1. The Isabey size 6 also featured.  


Anns Art said...

I think you captured Evie's expression really well, but at the end of the day it comes down to how we personally, as an artist, feel about a painting doesn't it.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Ann. I quite like this one but realise their is still room for improvement.

Sharon Whitley said...

I have the same problem with drawing and painting children - I always seem to make them look older than they actually are - the children themselves love this of course but not necessarily the parents!! I had the same deafening silence from my brother and sister in law when I did a drawing of my nephew - they said it was 'nice' - not really the sort of adjective you want used for something you've slaved over for hours lol!!! I will carry on regardless though and keep trying!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Sharon. I think the thing is that most people, including the relatives, probably want something that looks like a photograph and I don't want to do that, even if I were capable (which I'm not). I'm about 80% happy with what I did the problem is the missing 20%! Still I will try again (and again and again (grin).

Mick Carney said...

Lots to like about this Peter. I think the key thing to improving the 'likeness' of this lies in the shape of the mouth which doesn't reflect what is in the photo.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Mick. I think I see what you say. I can probably alter the mouth slightly. It needs alteration at each corner and extended slightly.

artist said...

Your grand daughter is a cutie.

I think that you have her nose too flat and her eyes too light. Her ears have disappeared.

I love painting people and especially children.

Mary Whyte and Roberta Carter Clark are two of the many wonderful portrait artists - not in the style of Charles Reid - but then who is?

Sorry I sound so harsh.

Peter Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Ward said...

Hmm you are critical artist still this is better than unearned praise. I'm not too precious about it and can take criticism.

I'll have a look at what you've said as I've already been told the lips aren't right by my friend Mick. I knew it was flawed and was in two minds about posting but I operate a warts and all policy rather than being very selective.

As for Mary Whyte and Roberta Carter Clarke I do know them and indeed they are fine artists BUT they don't paint in a way I wish to emulate. I am an unashamed Charles Reid fan and try to do it more like him. As he says mistakes are part of it. You may not agree (obviously you don't - grin).

artist said...

I love Charles Reid's style and took many classes (6 years worth) from one of his students to try and paint like him but at the end of the day I found that I needed to paint like myself. I would have taken from Charles Reid himself but at the time my daughters were babies and I couldn't afford him.

I think that the portrait that you have done of your grand daughter is great. You have a wonderful way with watercolor. I just don't feel you caught her likeness.

I have painted for 30 years in watercolor and no one will give me what I consider a good critique. Everyone is also so worried about hurting my feelings. I never meant to hurt your feelings.

You can find my work in Flickr user name Delilah37

Peter Ward said...

You didn't hurt my feelings Delilah (?) (well just a little bit - smile). I can take criticism and one of the problems even with someone like Charles Reid is he pulls his punches in critiques. I have heard of artists who have sent their students off in tears, mainly the female ones but I haven't come across any. Unless you know what you do wrong you'll never improve.
Actually this doesn't alter what you said, but one of the problems on here is that for some reason Google changes the image from 4" x 3" (originally 16" x 12") to 4" x 4" so in portraits the depth and width are distorted compared to the original. I've not been able yet to find a way of compensating for this.

The two artists you highlighted are primarily (or were in the case of Roberta Carter Clark) portrait artists I think. Charles Reid has a wide subject range and others that I like, Fealing Lin, Cao-Bei-an, Janet Rogers (not certain about her), Xien Win Min are all artists who paint portraits amongst a wide portfolio of other work. None of them are very realistic or even approaching it but I love their approach.

Please keep commenting when you have something to say - I welcome and value comments.

artist said...

I agree with you that unless you know what wrong you can't improve. I have seen students in tears in workshops that I have attended and attributed it to always getting raves about their painting from the friends they paint with.

I have been painting since age 9 - in oil then acrylic in college. It wasn't until I was 31 that I started working in watercolor. I love this medium and even though I have been painting a long time I feel that I've just begun to know how I really want to paint. The painter from Uruguay - Castagnet and Zbukvic are painters that I am in awe of.


Yvonne Harry said...

With regard to the format of the painting when posted, Peter. I think it is really important to start with a square format. There is plenty of spare paper top and bottom for you to crop the painting down to square to start with and then when it is published it will remain the same format. The difficulty arises when you have a landscape etc with no spare to crop. It is then a bit mopre difficult to produce a square starting point, but it is possible as we have already discussed.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Yvonne.I'm still struggling to get this right.