This is my latest portrait. For some time I have been collecting interesting photographs , mostly from the weekend colour magazines. This is from one such photograph.
`Robbie' 16" x 12" Waterford 140lb (300gsm) Not
I first made a careful drawing using an 07 2B mechanical pencil. I try and get the features in the right place and the right size, often using a mechanical aid like a steel ruler or my brass variscaler. I refuse to wear a hair shirt and try and do it without aids. There was a recent article in The Artist magazine describing the growth of Atelier-type drawing schools where the emphasis is on super realism. In it the use of plumb lines to ensure accuracy was described. My understanding is that the old masters used all sorts of drawing aids. Generally I don't get it right first time and have to make some changes. When I haven't got things quite right out comes the eraser. I stress I don't aim for a super realistic image but it is nice if the subject is recognisable.
With that completed out comes the paint. I spray the paint with water from a small spray bottle about 20 to 30 minutes prior to painting, that is if I remember to do so - not always the case. As seen in the top image I used a combination of Cadmium Red Pale, Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna, mostly the red with only small amounts of yellow. Cerulean is used for emphasis and to darken where necessary. Colours mostly mixed on the paper. I have been trying to be less precise and going for a`cruder' approach than in some of my earlier work. With this in mind I studied the portraits in Charles Reid's last book `Watercolour Solutions' and also viewed his painting of the man in his latest `Figurative Watercolour' DVD. Attempting to follow CR's teaching I did not leave an abrupt line between the face and hairline in the initial wash, but strayed beyond as this would be covered when the hair was painted. I realise by now I should know these things off by heart but unfortunately regression can set in all too easily.
The hair was painted using various dilutions of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna - lighter/darker as required. There is some Raw Umber in there and I added white gouache when fully dry, quite thickly in places. For the white I have been trying Galeria Titanium White and also Vallejo Acrylic Titanium White Gouache as an alternative to the standard white gouache. This is something I've seen Yvonne Harry do but so far have not reached a final conclusion which is best for me.
I re wetted areas of the face and added both Cadmium Red and Cerulean to get stronger tones. The very last thing on the face was to add small white highlights on the pupils. His jacket and shirt are mixtures of Ultramarine, Cerulean and Ivory Black.
My usual brushes, the Da Vinci 44 No2 and Isabey Nos 4, 6 and 8, the small retractables used for detailing the eyes. If you wish to paint portraits in the general manner of Charles Reid then I recommend his last book `Watercolour Solutions' and the DVD `Figurative Watercolours'. You don't have to copy him exactly - very difficult in any event - and he himself says you shouldn't try.