View Full Version : watercolor portraits - eyes

04-17-2000, 03:48 PM
I am trying to develop my skills in watercoloring portraits, having a terrible time making eyes look realistic...any suggestions? Thanks!

04-17-2000, 08:38 PM
I'd be interested in a reply to this too. I've done a few, but couldn't tell you how. In the three dog portraits I did, I used gum arabic to make the eyes glisten.

04-17-2000, 09:45 PM
I can only pass on what I do for eyes, and hope it helps. You might want to take a close up look at the eyes on the eagle on my gallery site first. Always I will start with the lightest hue and fill the whole colored area, avoiding the whites of course. There is usually shadow at the top, right under the lid. Whites are never really white, but I often use a grayish blue - depending on the light, and other colors that may reflect.
Tube black is a "no no" for me.... but mixed black works for the center, adding a white hilite ...
Finally,,, let your major eye color blend softly with the lighter areas..never just a solid color. It helps to really examine your own eyes in the mirror and note how the color s mix....
Just passing on my way of doing it...hope it helps y'all...... http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif


04-23-2000, 07:25 AM
well,,,,in oils, i always suggest painting around the iris, since painting THE iris usually ends with a doll-like look. since you can't do this in h2o unless you use a levine/silverman approach, my suggestion is to build the iris from light to dark,,,not painting over the previous light value totally but rather, paint inside it. thus, you get a softer edge on the iris. if you just paint a dark iris straight off, it'll look unaturally doll-like. btw,,,,never paint the whites of the eye, white.....milt

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

04-27-2000, 09:33 PM
I've painted a lot of watercolor portraits, both people and animals, so I have a few suggestions (take as opinion, please). Sometimes when you've painted primarily in watercolor and try portraits for the first time one of the major problems is that you don't have enough darks in your composition to balance the darks of the eyes, so they end up looking strange, like holes in the paper. A lot of watercolor painters paint in a very high key way without really realizing it, particularly if they use Arches paper. The best way to cure this is to add darks to your composition . If you prefer to remain high key, you'll have to reduce the value of the darks of the eyes to the equivalent of whatever your darkest value is in the rest of the composition. Another problem is sometimes that if you're accustomed to painting from photographs, then switch to portraits, you try to render eyes by using contour drawing, which doesn't work very well since human eyes are wet orbs behind and mostly obscured by folds of skin and, since they're alive (one assumes) they don't really stand stock still except in photographs. It's much easier to use volume drawing. This will keep your edges soft and also helps you guide your reflections and shadows since you know you're dealing with what is basically a slightly shiny ball. This is pretty easy to see and do when you use a live model and not easy at all when you use a photographic model. Photographs really don't depict living things very well because they don't show turning-away edges very well. They depict frozen life forms, like the stuffed fauna in the Natural History Museum. If you're not good at thinking your way through form (and who is?), you'll probably have to do a drawing first on sketch paper to use the old skull and orb method of constructing your head and eyes, then transfer the necessary lines to your watercolor paper after you've got it down and simplified.

05-29-2000, 05:36 AM
I'm just an amateur, and never dreamt that I could paint w/c portraits. However when I took up w/c painting after reading everything there was about the subject, I was intrigued by the glazing technique as used in portrat painting. It was the very first thing I tried. I cheated of course - I scanned in some photographs and enlarged them on the computer, then printed them out the size I wanted. The main features were then traced onto tracing paper and transferred onto my w/c paper by first going over the lines on the back with a 4B pencil. This way I had the main shape and features of the face in order to get a good likeness. Many glazes of pale crimson alizarin + burnt sienna mix were then applied to model the face. The results were very impressive - I couldn't believe how easy it had been. I recommend you give it a try.

A word of caution though - some close-up photographs have distortion in the perspective which over emphasises the size of the nose!