Monday, April 12, 2010

Portrait Class

I attended a watercolor portrait class this past weekend in the Shenandoah Valley.

Sponsored by VECCA (Valley Educational Center for the Creative Arts), the class was taught by Janet Wright. She said this was the second time she had taught a portrait class (the first being with the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society, based in Harrisonburg, Va.) For this being only her second time, I thought Janet did a wonderful job, and I learned quite a bit about mixing colors for portraits in a very short time.

Here is Janet working on a painting during the demo portion of the class. In the background are some of her paintings that she brought as examples of her work.

Here are two more examples of Janet Wright's work (sorry about the reflections from the overhead lights). I'm really partial to the portrait on the left because I love the loose background, and I love the challenge she posed for herself in completing the piece. The painting is done using only three colors, a blue, red and yellow, which are visible at the top in the flowing background. All of the colors are mixed from that triad.

I'm working on a painting of my nephew Zack as a result of the class. Prior to the class, Janet asked us to complete a sketch of our subject and transfer it to our watercolor paper.

In addition to my outline sketch, I also worked on a value drawing before the class met. It's still not finished, but it's close. I'll post it when it's done.

The class began with a discussion of everyone's sketches, and tips for approaching some of the difficult areas. Then Janet began work on a painting while we all gathered around and watched. I paid close attention to how she mixed her flesh tones, and how she blended the paint around the face of her subject. Everyone nearly gasped at the intensity of her first washes, but she emphasized that being bold is essential. Tentative washes lead to tentative paintings.

After she finished her demo, we all went back to our own drawings, and tried to emulate what Janet had done. I know I struggled at the onset, but after being convinced I had ruined my painting within the first few strokes, I got into something of a rhythm and made some good progress.

I didn't finish a lot of detail in the painting of Zack during the class, but I think it was a good start, and I'm amazed at some of the colors to this point. Janet said she bases her palette on the palette of Jane Paul Angelhart, which is made up of many bright quincridones and other bright, transparent pigments. To see some of Angelhart's work, see her Web site:

Here's where I am to this point:

Now, let me also say a few words about the group that hosted the class: VECCA is a nonprofit organization that has been working to provide arts education and art opportunities for several years. Based in Woodstock, Va., many of the organization's classes are held at the Old Edinburg School in Edinburg, Va.

To see VECCA's Web site, including more classes and workshops planned over the summer, click here.

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