Watercolor Portrait Sketches

Watercolor portrait sketches by Michele Clamp

Watercolor portrait sketches are something I haven’t done in a while. A lot of other watercolor painting but very rarely faces. Portrait painting takes the difficulties of watercolor to another level. Getting the facial features right, the skin color, how the light reflects off the planes of the face – everything needs to be right. And that doesn’t even touch on how hard it is to get a good likeness.

Portraits over zoom are great!

Today was the life session courtesy of the Newton Watercolor Society. We had our wonderful model Andrea who I think I’ve painted before at a Charles Reid workshop. I was pleasantly surprised how successful it was to paint at home from the screen image. Almost made me forget I wasn’t actually in front of the model. Of course there are differences. You have one point of view (although everybody has the same view which is nice) and the camera does odd things with the exposure and the color. But on the whole I got a lot out of it.

My Portrait Skills need some work

Now you may be wondering from my portrait results where the other two models were. Actually these three faces are all of the same person. I’ve managed to not only paint people who look nothing like each other but also are of completely different ages and indeed gender. Obviously need a little practice here.

The Process

I was working on Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press paper and worked entirely with burnt sienna. Using a round brush I initially washed in the main values leaving the paper white for the light parts of the face. Initally I just put shadow in the eye areas and around the mouth and left any details until later. We only had a time of 15 minutes per portrait so things had to go fast. This meant any detailed treatment of the eyes or hair had to be skipped over. I worked wet in wet mostly – partly due to time and partly to not end up with any hard edges. It was extremely enjoyable and the time just whizzed by. On the whole I’m pretty happy although I obviously need to work on doing more observation of those fine feature distinctions.