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.

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.

John Sulston Portrait

Portrait of John Sulston.  Watercolor by Michele Clamp.  14″x11″ on Saunders Waterford 200lb CP.

It was so sad to hear of John Sulston’s passing earlier this year.   In my previous life I had the pleasure of working under his leadership on the Human Genome Project in Cambridge UK.   His scientific vision,  ethics, and leadership are unparalleled.   He is greatly missed.

Having said that I really didn’t want to screw up his portrait.   I haven’t done a portrait in a long time and this was really hit and miss.   First of all you need to get a likeness.  This means concentrating on observation skills for shapes and angles.    Banish from your mind things like ‘now we do the eyes, now we do the nose’  and just get the relationship of the shapes exactly as you see them.   When I’d finished the drawing I definitely wasn’t confident :


The beard was throwing me off a little but I couldn’t see anything obviously out of whack so it was time to go in with the paint.

First washes – some warmth in the face fading out to cool near the hairline.  Very Charles Reid this bit.


Next to start on more details.   First the eyes, being careful to not paint them in outline but place pieces of color where I could see them.   Then onto the nose and mouth.  The mouth was the trickiest bit – John had a very distinctive mouth that had a lot of humour and kindness in it.   Combined with the beard (oh that beard gave me all sorts of trouble) this could be make or break.


But the Gods were smiling on me and the likeness appeared out of the mist.   At this point I did a test and showed James asking ‘Guess who this is!’.    Thankfully he guessed right and also gave very good advice to not do too much more to it.

It was very good advice which I promptly ignored.  Thankfully I put the brushes down before doing too much damage and I’m very pleased with the final thing.

Digital Doodlings – Day 23 of 30 in 30

Adobe Sketch,  Procreate, and Artrage tests

I’ve had good intentions to do more digital drawing for a few years now.   Every now and then I open up the (many) ipad drawing apps I have and take them for a spin.   Up to now I’ve been pretty underwhelmed.   The response and the feel of stylus on screen just isn’t the same as pencil or brush on paper.  Brush ‘painting’ especially is frustrating.  There isn’t a way to replicate the fine point of a sable brush and the marks all end up splodgy.

Now I know that many people do fantastic work using similar setups.  I frankly haven’t persevered enough to get over the learning curve of interface quirks and adapt to the will of the technology.   So I was quite surprised this time round that I wasn’t as frustrated as I have been before.   Whether this is due to app improvements or the fact that I’ve been drawing and painting much more regularly than before I don’t know. 

 I definitely noticed with all three apps that the pressure sensitivity was much much better than I remember.   With Artrage in particular I could lightly sketch with the Apple pencil and really get something that felt like drawing with pastel or charcoal.    

Brush painting was better but, as a watercolor painter who likes to use the full range of a sable brush,  I couldn’t come close to using the same technique.  But for drawing I was encouraged enough to put the pencil on charge for another go.

Portrait – Day 13 of 30 in 30


It was the end of the work day and I put down the keyboard and quickly dashed this one off.    I had some decent paper but only a waterbrush and my small portable watercolor pans.   Even so it had to be done.

The first washes.  I was very glad of the good Arches paper I had as this made it much easier.

The final thing.   Not too bad given the circumstances.

Of Paints and Waterbrushes


So I had wandered into ArtBeat on Mass Ave with the intention of buying some 0.5 mm leads for my mechanical pencil.    However I seem to have exited with a set of Kuretake paints and a new waterbrush.  I know that John Lovett had played with these before so I knew good results were possible but then I’m no John Lovett.

Some swatches in the moleskine.  The pigments came out nice and rich which bode well.    At the last minute I decided to use the waterbrush to see how that worked with the paint and whether they would make a good traveling kit.   I’ve struggled with waterbrushes in the past as I either get too much or too little pigment on them.  They also tend to leak blobs of water when you least expect it which makes things interesting.   But it was worth a try.

Charles Reid Workshop 2015 – Day 4 Painting 2


As I’m Speedy Gonzales now I spent the last hour doing another model (also called Gina).   I’m pretty happy all round today – having a blast!    Kie who was sitting next to me gave me some good advice about putting more color into the face which worked well.   To be honest I could have gone even stronger.   Must remember that next week.