Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 3: Watercolor Portrait Workshop with Mary Helen Wallace

On day 3 I came with the goal to move on and try a different portrait then I had done the past 2 days. I choose to do an elderly gentleman with a sparkle in his eye. I felt I could learn skin tone, hair and glasses with this portrait.

Mary Helen's demo was on background and tips. She even gave us a hand out called Mary Helen's List. The list is random, but full of great advice.

  • Dark behind light brings light forward
  • When in doubt, bleed off
  • Neutrals bring out the best in brights
  • Cross the color wheel to get neutrals
  • Value is the most important part in composition
  • Paint what you know, or research
  • Your painting is only as good as your drawing
  • Balance your painting and counter balance it with color, value, shape, direction, volume and moxie (i.e. guts)
  • Use uneven numbers in subject matter
  • Layer as little as possible
  • Don't over stir your colors
  • Simplify!
  • Don't fear extremes. EXPLORE!
  • Try to paint EVERYDAY!
  • Have a private place (even if it is a closet) to always have your painting gear ready
  • Try wet on wet paper
  • Try new colors
  • Try large flat brushes
  • Never put your subject dead center
  • Use 2H pencil to draft your painting, but draw lightly
  • Use a sot eraser (white plastic) to take away all un-necessary lines
  • Explore - think outside of the box
  • Really look at your environment both near and far
  • Turn your painting upside down and look at your composition
So using my list I got to work and was amazed that I got the portrait almost finished. I have never worked so fast on any painting to date!

My gentleman does not look stylized. I feel that his face has the feel of curves and skin tone is appropriate. Hair look like hair. The glasses are a little wonky, but you can tell they are on his face. The background is interesting. I am very happy on how the painting has turned out.

Now to apply everything I learned and do them on my own :)


The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.” 
Alberto Giacometti 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day 2: Watercolor Portrait Workshop with Mary Helen Wallace

On day 2 of this workshop I decided to play a little. I told Mary Helen that I wanted to loosen up and she said, "Then do it." So I took the pre drawn child and lady with glasses and went to work. On both I put the original picture away and tried to paint their faces from memory. I felt by doing this it would keep me from being "stylized", as I was told on day 1. That worked about 5 minutes. The paintings were somewhat looser, but still had some hard lines. It was a good exercise for me.

Then Mary Helen gave a demo on how to do hair and background. She chose from memory a blond haired girl. While painting Mary Helen talked about:

  • How blond hair is not just yellow, but that blond hair is created with  greens and reds. 
  • How to utilize positive and negative shapes to create flowing and fly away hair which created movement. 
  • About the more you mix on the palette you will lose the sparkle of the paint and transparency. 
  • Too many layers can muddy or dull you colors. 
  • Let your colors mix on the painting, sometimes using a tender touch.
  • Dark behind light brings light forward.
  • Warm light into cool light makes interest.
  • Value puts together a balanced painting.
So back at my seat I took out a drawing of my first day model
and tried to re-do her.

This attempt, I feel, went much better. After playing in the morning and watching Mary Helen's demo, I think I loosened up and the colors blended better and softer on her face. The hands, not so much. I do feel I have taken away the techniques on working wetter and how to bleed off to keep areas lighter and softer. Mary Helen showed us on day 1 where to place light in the eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth to create the illusion of 3D on the 2D painting. This shows on my models lips, nose and forehead.


“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” ~Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 1: Watercolor Portrait Workshop with Mary Helen Wallace

I recently went to a 3 day workshop by Mary Helen Wallace on portraiture in watercolor. Mary Helen is an inspiration and I learned many tips from her. 

On day 1, Mary Helen began the workshop going over the the importance of having a good drawing to begin any painting. She stressed the use of a 2H pencil to draft your painting and draw lightly and use a soft eraser (white plastic or kneeded) to take away any unnecessary lines.

Mary helen went over the facial features as she drew each one. She explained how the eye sits in the socket; the cartilage in your nose, the philtrum and nostrils; the flesh and angles of the cheekbones and jaw line; the upper and lower lip; the chin and the ear. As Mary Helen spoke of each part she touched them then drew them. Then Mary Helen sent us to our spots to create/finish our drawings we brought with us. 

At this point I will tell you that my motive for taking this workshop was to 1) learn to become a little looser in my technique 2) skin-tones 3) gender differences and 4) age differences when painting a portrait 5) and watercolor painting tips. By having an agenda I was not concerned to have a finished painting. All my "models" were pictures from magazines or my photo gallery. I had them pre drawn before the classes began. 

In the afternoon Mary Helen went over the color wheel using her palette. Her palette consists mostly of Winsor Newton watercolor paints (Perm Rose, Windsor Blue (Red), Cad Orange, Cad Red, Cad Lemon, Sap Green, Brown Madder, Cerulean Blue, New Gamboge) and Grumbacher (Thalo Yellow Green)

Mary Helen says that all the colors that you need can be made from this list. I choose the model of color to begin my first portrait. I soon learned that Mary Helen's palette worked well for this model. I used mostly Brown Madder, Permanent Rose, New Gamboge and Winsor Blue (Red Shade) to create the faces rich honey tones.                                                                                             
I admit that I was having a hard time blending the tones and keeping the flow soft.  Mary Helen said my style for this portrait was stylized. 
Stylized, which means:
Adj.1.stylized - using artistic forms and conventions to create effects; not natural or spontaneous; "a stylized mode of theater production"
artificialunreal - contrived by art rather than nature; "artificial flowers"; "artificial flavoring"; "an artificial diamond"; "artificial fibers"; "artificial sweeteners"


"When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile."


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