Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kadie Redux

On the last day of the Angelhart workshop, I decided that I would apply the techniques to my Kadie portrait -- the first portrait I had ever painted, which I finished in the spring of 2009.

Well, let's just say that what I did at the workshop doesn't merit sharing. I got the shadow areas too opaque too quickly, and tossed the painting as a false start.

So when I got home, I decided to start again.

Here are the early stages of the painting. The original painting was a more traditional head-and-shoulders image and included her left hand as she was holding it up (I think she was in the process of waving goodbye when I snapped the reference photo). For this exercise, I cropped to just her face. I never liked how her hand came out in the original. It was badly drawn and out of proportion to her face.

The face washes are mostly built with quin gold, quin coral and perinone orange, all pigments that Angelhart heavily relies on for building skin tones.

These are pigments from Daniel Smith, which first I worried about because I thought they were so much more expensive. Turns out, when you compare the same-size tube, they're not any more expensive than Winsor & Newton. It's just that W&N offers pigments in 5 ml tubes, so instinctively you think that paying $13.44 for a 15 ml tube of Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue is terrible. In fact, the 14 ml tube of W&N Cobalt Blue costs more -- $15.72 (priced at

Here I am still building up skin tones and adding darks to help me gauge values.

And here's pretty much where I am right now. I've done a bit more work since this image was taken, but it's been nearly two weeks since I last touched any of my brushes. I hope to get back into the groove a little bit this weekend. I've got a lot to do on her hair (which is very different than the approach I took with the original), and I think I've got to lighten some areas around her face.

I'm really struggling with trying to make colors bold enough to be seen from across a room, but also work when seen from only a short distance. I guess that's where working on large pieces is a benefit. You can eliminate the "close-up" view from the equation because you can only process the image from a distance.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Angelhart workshop

Days and days after the close of the workshop, and I finally get around to talking about what a wonderful experience it was!

Jane Paul Angelhart, whose work can be seen at, led our 11-person class through a couple of demonstration portraits, stressing color mixing, glazing, and "mapping" -- what she terms the facial details you draw with your brush directly on the paper.

In essence, she explains, she goes about portraits in reverse. Most of the time, watercolorists are instructed to lay down large washes at the start, work from light to dark, and develop the details later in the work.

For portraits, however, Jane argues for going into the details at the onset, particularly in the areas of the eyes, nose and mouth. Her method, she believes, allows her to capture the subject's likeness at an early stage, giving her the confidence to apply those larger washes.

Her glazing techniques also use those initial detailed areas as "roadmaps." They don't disappear under a light skin-tone wash, so they help guide her through the development of the facial structure as she builds up layers of glowing colors.

Her palette is also a point she stresses. Most of the colors are from Daniel Smith, and nearly all are transparent. As Jane puts it, muddy colors make mud. (Her website includes a link to her complete palette if you'd like to learn more. Look under the "DVD" link and click on her palette at the bottom of that page.)

I didn't get all the the pigments prior to the class, but I got the basics, and Jane was more than willing to share a squirt of her paints to help us see how she achieves such glowing colors. I've already built a wish list to pick up some more of the paints sometime soon.

Here's an example of one of the structured demos Jane provided:

These small works (about 7x10 inches) are not in perfect sequence because they are live demo pieces Jane works on during her classes, but they show that progression of mapping features first, then adding some darks to help gauge values.

Jane also advocates for mixing colors on the paper rather than on the palette, laying pigments next to one another and letting them blend. Controlling the amount of water in the brush matters immensely in this sort of paint application, so she regularly blots her brush with a terrycloth towel to avoid unexpected backruns, etc.

Jane also cautions that too many blues and purples applied too early can deaden skin tones. She applies bright reds and oranges, along with greens as a neutral tone, and only later goes into the cool blues and purples.

The avoidance of blues and purples was the issue that hampered me most. I so badly wanted to dive into some cobalt blue when perplexed by a shadow area. But, as you can see above, Jane has depicted beautiful shadows and highlights across the young girl's face without resorting to those kind of color choices.

Here, several class participants look over our versions of Jane's demo. For a group generally inexperienced with portraiture, we had many positive outcomes with this demo! Click on the photo to see a larger version of the image. My version is to the far right, sans hair and background.

Here's a closer view of where I got on this demo. I was being very meticulous on layering light washes of color to achieve the right effect, so I didn't make a lot of progress.

The last day of the workshop, Jane encouraged us to bring in our own materials -- whether a failed painting from the past, a photograph, etc. I decided I would try my Kadie portrait again.

You may remember Kadie. I completed her early in 2009, and she was my first attempt at a portrait. I was very proud of her at the time, but now I'm not so happy with her given all the new ideas I have on glazing, shadow colors, etc. (To see my work-in-progress discussions of Kadie, search for the "Kadie"blog post label in the list to the left.)

Kadie 2.0 is nearly half finished. I'll post images of her progress soon.

And here is Jane Paul Angelhart! At the end of a busy last day, Jane went over the displayed works with everyone (mine is behind her head -- look for the bright green sunglasses). She encouraged everyone to keep painting, and also encouraged us to stay in touch with one another.

As I said, it was a wonderful workshop, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Jane.