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Tags >> figure

blacksmith watercolor painting

12×16″, watercolor with touches of gesso on Arches CP 140lb. I’m done and I’m glad I haven’t overworked it. But I keep thinking that the background on the right should be darker. What do you think?

For comparison, here is what it looked like before gesso touch-ups: That post also has a link to the reference photos that I uploaded to WetCanvas reference library. Please feel free to use them for your projects :)

In case anyone was wondering what happened to me, I am quite well and keeping up with the Portrait A Day project. I am also a mom of a 14-month old boy, who takes a little too much time per pound of weight :) I have about 6-7 posts worth of material (including some watercolor book reviews) that I will try to post soon. Stay tuned!




Originally posted on October 28, 2010 at

This is pretty much a continuation of the previous post. I worked on two paintings at the same time, and it was a very interesting learning experience. Here are the progress pictures of the 9×12 almost three-quarter figure portrait of a lady in Icelandic national costume.

As usual, I started with sketches. This one was only one sketch that I altered many times trying to decide on the background (the reference photo, taken in a studio, has a very boring tan-beige-taupe-bleh background). On a totally irrational impulse, I made the background red. Maybe as a response to the boredom of the background in the photo?

Mark's Icelandic Mom - red

Mark's Icelandic Mom - gold, direct light

Mark's Icelandic Mom - gold diffused light

Well, this was the “fire” part of The Land of Fire and Ice, and most people I consulted (including those of you who so kindly left a comment to my post about it) felt that the figure disappeared in the intense red and/or gold background. So I tried the “ice” side of it, together with a mossy-medowy green:

watercolor portrait

watercolor potrait

watercolor portrait

And we finally settled on the background above, a hint at the glaciers and the grasses. On to the drawing:

(and no, I don’t like masking.. or doing details in general. I like splashing paint.)

And the completed painting:

watercolor portrait

In addition to learning a couple more things about working small in watercolor (hands were hard!) and spending hours figuring stuff out with an anatomy book (granted, I love doing that), I expanded my knowledge about Iceland beyond Bjork and volcanoes :) a little.

Question: how do you change a large area in a watercolor painting (like the background in those sketches) without painful scrubbing out and washing off?

Answer: Cover it with acrylic gesso and paint on top!(that’s what I did) Or use gouache. Or acrylics. Or pastels :)




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