Friday, November 5, 2021

"Sabrina in the Breeze" (watercolor on paper; 10" x 8")


"Sabrina in the Breeze" (watercolor; 10" x 8")

I decided to blog about my online Zoom classes with the Art League in Alexandria, VA. This is what we did in the seventh week of the fall term, 2021 in my "Watercolor Portraits" class.
This week's lesson was about painting a child's portrait. First, I talked about how a child's head develops from birth until he or she reaches the young adult stage. The following images are from Burne Hogarth's "Drawing the Human Head". The adult ratio of cranial mass and facial mass is 2:1; the newborn ratio is 3 1/2:1! As a child grows the facial mass (from brow to chin) develops faster than the cranial mass (from brow to nape) until the child reaches the mature level by 14-15.

I've also shared my drawings and paintings of children to illustrate the following points:

Everything is crowded in the facial mass at birth; the neck is very short and thin. The first thing we notice is that they have huge eyes, because the eye openings are too small for the adult-sized eyeballs. That's why if you paint the subject's eyes too big, suddenly the subject looks like a child. You paint the child with too long and thick a neck, you have a football player instead of a child! Children's noses are not yet fully developed; very young children have hardly any chins. Overall, their features are soft and round with baby fat. They do have, however, all the bones and muscles, so our job as portrait painters is to look hard for the plane changes while rendering their wrinkle-free faces with as much soft edges as possible.

Child head development I

Child head development II

Child head development II

For the reference of the project, I chose the picture of my daughter taken at the age of nine. Her head is tilted although it's full-on. Her hair is blowing in the breeze creating interesting shadow patterns in the face while obscuring some features. The lighting was the full-sun natural light in northern California, hence a lot of blues bouncing about in the face and white T shirt.

Reference for "Sabrina in the Breeze"

I am not going to narrate the full painting process as you will be working on your own project. I started with the wet-on-wet gradated blue wash for the background, pulling the blues into the hair, then proceeded with painting the hat, face, hair, and the shirt. My skin tones colors were as I have explained last week; however, I didn't use any permanent sap green.

Lots of cadmium red, a little Winsor lemon in the sunny area, some permanent rose (due to the cool sky blue), a lot of cobalt blue (I even used some French ultramarine blue along with permanent alizarin crimson for the shadows; in retrospect, I should have avoided this granulating paint; instead, I could have used cobalt blue with brown madder). Many layers went in to get at the right values. Don't paint your darks as dark as you see in the photo!

As many people have brown hair, I talked about the browns. Please refer to the image below. I don't generally use the usual brown paints shown here, either in the hair or for the African-American skin tones as they tend to get muddy-looking. Browns in the shadow become near black; browns in the light are almost yellow (the bleaching effect of the warm sun) or light blue (the reflection of the sky). Experimentation is the thing!

Brown swatches

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