Sargent Portrait Study

Well if you’re ever feeling over confident about your painting abilities try copying a Sargent portrait. Definitely cut me down to size. I wasn’t attempting a likeness (and definitely didn’t achieve that) but wanted to see how I could do with the skintones. All in all not a bad attempt but will definitely need more work before next week.

Loomis Sketch

I’ve been rooting around for something that really tickles my fancy to get me back into painting again. One of my Christmas presents was Andrew Loomis’ Creative Illustration book which has a lot of top notch painting advice and I highly recommend. One of his example paintings is of the lovely lady above and, as I haven’t done much figure work recently, I thought I’d have a go.

She’s done entirely in a combination of ultramarine and burnt sienna. I wanted to try and combine the granularity and washiness of the watercolor with the subtle range of tones in the flesh and face. Pretty happy with the result although the facial likeness to the original is not that close.

Here are some intermediates:


Started off with a rough pencil drawing and a fairly light wash to put in the main areas of light and dark. I was careful to not leave hard edges where they would draw attention to themselves but also lose edges where the values were similar.


Next I went in with some darks to define the arms and shoulders and the hair around the face. I put some detail in the face but was careful to keep the values light.


Next was putting some detail in the dress, defining some of the folds but leaving other areas quite in distinct. Some subtle shading for the hands but kept them with low value contrast so they don’t detract from the face. The face went in next and was almost a disaster as I was working quite small here.


The final thing and managed to stop before I ruined it. A little more definition in the face and some more interest in the background to frame the face. A little more detail in the hands and a few tweaks to the dress more to aid the composition than anything. Phew!

Self Portrait with the Newton Watercolor Society

Self portrait. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14”x11”

The Newton Watercolor Society has been having zoom meetings where we paint for a couple of hours and then meet up and show what we’ve done. Great fun and it gets me to do things that I don’t usually do.

This week was self portraits. Eeek. Haven’t done one of these since I started painting again so it was going to be interesting. Came out ok – not a great likeness and insanely flattering but there’s some good work in there.

Progress shots:

Drawing and initial washes. Warm in the center and moving out to cool at the edges.

Slightly further along. Struggled a lot with the shadows. The photo could have had stronger side lighting but looking at my side lit face for two hours is not a happy prospect.

The final thing with the photo. After some hairy moments especially with the mouth it came out ok. I should do some more of these definitely. Maybe not self portraits though.

Nighttime Doodling

Noodling on the ipad last night I tested drawing some people from imagination. Tricky but quite satisfying.

Life Class

Life class again last night – this was the last of the session. I thought the session had gone pretty well over all but I didn’t check over my work until this morning. Experience has shown me that how I feel the session went is not necessarily reflected in the result viewed later so I opened the sketch pad warily. But it seems my impressions were right this time. Hooray! I’m really feeling my way round the shapes much more confidently and even the hands and (sometimes) the feet are coming together.

So, as usual, we started with some 2 minute poses :

There’s some very nice stuff in here. I started off a little sketchily (first photo) and I had a few thoughts of ‘how do I do this again?’ but got into my stride quite quickly. Quite happy with these considering they’re only 2 minutes each.

Next a 10 and three 15 minuters.

Even had some time to do some shading on the 15 minute ones. Still having trouble with feet and hands but it’s a world away from where I was a while ago.

Finally 2 twenty minute poses.

Again I was fairly happy with these. Some screwups on the hands and feet but then there usually are. A good nights work.

Finally many thanks to Andrew Cefalu for organizing and monitoring the session and to Lindsey our model.

Back to Reality


Back to watercolor life class at the

.   Full class this time – around ten of us.  I was very happy to be back and had high hopes.    I’m pretty happy with all the efforts here and above is my favorite of the day (10mins).  I’m trying to avoid stating things too precisely and leaving the eye and brain to fill in details.   

Another 10 minute one.  This is on smoother paper which I’m not so happy working with.

A 5 minute one.   

15 minutes.  I know it’s time for a break when I’m happier painting the drapery than the person.

This is my second favorite (15 mins).  The model didn’t have such a big arse in real life.

5  minutes.  This was actually an exercise (mapping the figure) and then I took a few extra minutes to make it a ‘proper’ painting.  Exercises are never paintings until I put something extra on.  Don’t know why.

Harvard Square Sketching Meetup

Yesterday I took the plunge and went along to a sketching meetup group in Harvard Square.  Turnout was a little light – 14 people registered but only 4 of us turned up.  It was a little odd to be honest.  Not a lot of chat and we all sat in Starbucks and sketched the people/surroundings for 90 minutes or so.  Then, mostly without saying anything, everybody left.   When I’m the most garrulous person in the room you know you have some serious introversion on your hands.  Having said that I did really enjoy it and will try a few other meetups.  You can feel a little self conscious on your own sitting around drawing people when they’re only 6 feet away from you.    I’ve been perfecting being able to draw without bobbing my head up and down when looking from subject to paper which is a sure fire way of drawing attention to yourself.     Counterintuitively when you’re in a group it doesn’t seem as intimidating to people.

So onto the drawings.  Was in two minds whether to post these.   As I’ve said countless times before drawing people is hard even when they’re well behaved and keeping still for you.  When they’re in a coffee shop and moving around you have very little time to catch things.  Even when people are sitting reading or studying they shift an awful lot so it’s a challenge to say the least.

Even though the quality is (ahem) variable I’m pretty pleased with these.  There are glimpses of proficiency coming through.

Girl with scarf and boy with hoodie waiting for coffee.   Usually I’m tapping my foot impatiently when people are making coffee.  This evening they seemed to be on triple speed.

Man in glasses and two girls talking.

More girls talking.

Waiting for the coffee.  As I mentioned in my airport post it’s a lot easier drawing people from the back than the front as (unlike my mother) they don’t have eyes in the back of their heads.

Making coffee.

From a point of view of getting a likeness these were my most successful of the night.  You have to be quick to grab the essentials of a face and to know what to look for.  How the nose is angled,  are the eyes wide open or narrow, the brows high or low etc.   And then once you’ve grasped the essentials in your head you then have the harder task of making the pencil recreate them.  Not easy.

That’s enough sketching for now – more painting needed I think.