Painting a portrait!
Before I did anything, I first used masking fluid to preserve all the highlights so that I could freely apply washes. Masking fluid is essential to attain that watercolor “sparkle”, which makes the medium so exciting. Let the mask air dry, and work on something else.
When the mask is fully dry, I sprayed down the entire sheet of paper to get it nice and wet. From my palette I pulled warm and cool colors and laid them down to freely mix on the paper. This is where color relationships are established. I planned my highlights to be warm and shadows to be on the cooler side here. In the face I used a mix of cadmium scarlet, windsor yellow, and a dash of raw sienna.
Time to establish the darks! Once the paper was bone dry, I wet it down again and layered another wash of color to pick out where my darkest values would be. In this case it was the brow, eyes and beard. I layered in a mix of French Ultramarine Blue and Windsor Red to create a nice soft purple color. The color is quite strong, and sort of steals the vibrancy of the face, so with the paper still wet, I laid in some more scarlet and Windsor Yellow to the spots that would be seeing the most light (cheeks, nose).
Here, I continued to establish the dark values slowly. Its imperative that colors retain their vibrancy so I typically only mix 3 colors tops at a time and let the paper dry COMPLETELY in between washes. It prevents the dreaded “muddy watercolor.”
The cheeks and nose should be kept the warmest. It’s all about patience and letting those washes dry before applying more color. At this point, the light wash that was applied in the beginning was losing its strength against the vibrancy of the face, so was time to put an actual background wash in.
BOOM. Look at that POP. By wetting the paper outside of the face, I could freely lay in Windsor Red and French ultramarine to push the face forward (cool colors recede, warm colors come forward). I pulled the mixture into the beard and hair to keep the image united.
That same mixture of Windsor Red and French Ultramarine allowed me to pick out details in the lips, eyes, hair, etc. The purple against the yellow tones strengthen one another. Still applying color wet on wet, I made sure the tones in the face didn’t get too anemic . I always lay in more drops of color to the places necessary. The green that was made with the overlapping washes of yellow and blue look pretty nice, so I tried to keep that intact.
That same mixture of Windsor Red and French Ultramarine allowed me to pick out details in the lips, eyes, hair, etc. The purple against the yellow tones strengthen one another (yay color theory). Still applying color wet on wet, I made sure the tones in the face didn’t get too anemic . I always lay in more drops of color to the places necessary. The green that was made with the overlapping washes of yellow and blue look pretty nice, so I’ll tried to keep that intact.
Final image! I established the darkest darks and remove the mask for the finish. Here I really went in with more red to liven things up. I removed the mask which was on the tip of the nose, beard and eyebrow to get that full range of values.