Friday, October 15, 2021

"Emelia Rigl in Sepia" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")

I decided to blog about my online Zoom classes with the Art League School. This is what we did in the second week of the fall term for my "Watercolor Portraits" class. We worked on a sepia value study of "Emelia Rigl," who was a New York stage actress in the 1870's. Below is the reference photo for the project.

The first order of the day was do a demo of a three-quarter female portrait drawing, using "Emelia Rigle" as the reference. My drawing below doesn't quite look like her, but hey, you get the idea. (There is too much information to give you a short summary, so please watch the recording to get to the bottom of the business!) At the bottom is the demo drawing.

Then we started the main lesson of the day. We used only burnt sienna (my favorite is Daniel Smith) and cobalt blue. In the value scales, the value 1 is the white of the paper (highlights). The value 7 is as dark as it gets with the mixture of these two colors. The value 9 is black (for the pupils). The high-key paintings crowd around highlights and mid tones; the low-key paintings lack highlights and crowd around mid tones and darks. We won't be using nine values; you can do a convincing portrait with five or six values.

I first painted the background with the mid-tone wash (slightly bluer on the left side). After drying it thoroughly, I started with the lightest wash, covering the entire area of the subject, except the lightest parts (highlights, including the catchlight of her left eye). Don't make this layer too dark and please make it more brown than blue!

In between layers, dry the paper thoroughly. We are glazing, so paper should be bone dry. At each stage, I mixed a slightly darker batch by adding a little more of each paint; mix more than you think necessary. The skin tones are four layers. By the fifth layer, I got everything done, except the pupils, for which you can use black. The hair and black ribbons are the next darkest.

Below is my sample painting. We did an exit poll on which version you like better: the demo or the sample. We all liked the first one (demo); it's punchier! 

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