View Full Version : My first attempt at a portrait painting WIP

09-05-2006, 09:50 PM
Hello, all my friends at WC :wave: Well, it has been coming along a while in my head - I've been longing to try a portrait - and then Anita has given me the neccesary prod to learn with this month's different strokes - Funnnily enough I bought some watercolour paper and pencils and had a go at sketching my daughter while we were on holiday.
I'm now working my way through Anita's portraiture class from Dec and this is my underpainting in raw umber on bockingford 21x29mm 300gsm watercolour paper.
I've included a thummbnail f the reference photo - although I have modified it a bit to give more 'life'.
I am trying to keep it all very soft as she is only six.
All you great teachers out there please pop in and give advice if you get any time, thanks:) Ruth

09-05-2006, 10:48 PM
Beautiful beginning, Ruth!

However, 6 or not, she could do with a little more life in the lips. That's what draws me in her photo. I know you don't want to overdo it at this stage, but a touch more value will bring the likeness closer and compliment what you did already with the eyes.

Best wishes!

09-05-2006, 11:09 PM
Thanks, Julie, as soon as I posted - I noticed it needed more darkening - funny how that is - I've overdone her cheek - hopefully will improve with glazing - off to study this now:wave:

09-05-2006, 11:38 PM
Ruth, this is going great!!:clap: :clap: How clever:thumbsup:
And what a beautiful subject:)
I would really love to achieve portrait painting and as you say this months different strokes is a great opportunity.

Good on you. Love it. Can't wait to see the next steps:clap: :clap:

jeff m
09-06-2006, 03:01 AM
Excellent .
Stay light, stay light, stay light.
Yes, put shadows to depict contours but if you get heavy she'll skip a few birthdays.

09-06-2006, 03:03 AM
I've glazed some colour into this - need to wrk on the hair - the likeness is more to when she was a baby - I overlayed the images and see her middle face is too short , face a bit narrow and left eye is too narrow - ummmm - don't know if I can fix any of these things - next time will overlay sketch with photo (used powerpoint where superimposed images can be made increasingly transparent and helps to compare).

As my daughter says - she is a lovely little girl even if we don't know who she is!!!!:lol:

09-06-2006, 03:13 AM
Dahlis - thanks for all those clappies - I am so loving doing this and learning heaps - for the next one!!!
Jeff - thanks for your advice- this is homeopathic painting style!!! - I am pleased with using the paper rather then canvas - I experimented a bit and found that wetting the area I wanted to darken then dropping the colour in controlled the edges better keeping them soft - although I couldn't resist giving her a slight smile as she is a little imp in real life!!!!!

09-06-2006, 03:21 AM
I keep scrolling back and forth from 1st to last post. I really REALLY like the 1st one, the last one theres something about the lips... dont know what, the bottom lip or the color? something ... It definately doesnt look like your first portrait! charming :thumbsup:

09-06-2006, 05:12 AM
Hi Ruth :wave: ....very nice...looks like watercolours....it is acrylics isn't it?:lol:

09-06-2006, 05:33 AM
Got ya Doc - it was the upper lip I changed - closer to ref, but lost the endearing wistful look in the process - agree looks fetching, so I've changed it again - amazing what a mm does to change things.
Last photo taken outside in twilight and this one inside, both without flash and hence hues so diff. neither as yellow or as blue! good lesson on warm vs cool light:lol:

09-06-2006, 05:38 AM
Hi, Carrie, didn't see you there, yes it is acrylics - but used very economically, hahaha. Will now do another sketch and see if can get the mistakes corrected - and use up all the piles of paint left on my pallette!:lol:

09-06-2006, 06:20 AM
Ruth, your terrific drawing of your lovely little girl made a great start to your painting. I am really looking forward to your updates.

Did you gesso the watercolor paper first? I'm curious because I really like the soft effects you are achieving.


09-06-2006, 08:55 AM

09-06-2006, 10:36 AM
As my daughter says - she is a lovely little girl even if we don't know who she is!!!!

This is why gave up portrait painting - would look like photo, but not like that person......



09-06-2006, 11:30 AM
Ruth, this is really lovely, and your little girl is gorgeous. She has every right to be thrilled to bits with this. :clap: :clap: :thumbsup:

Val. :wave:

09-06-2006, 01:24 PM
My hat is off to you for this wonderful portrait of your precious daughter!:clap: I think you are doing a fine job!:thumbsup:

09-06-2006, 02:12 PM
absolutley beautiful :)

09-06-2006, 04:47 PM
Thanks Sam, Ginger, Val, Ann and Dreamz, I'm leaving this one here and starting again to see if I can improve -
Ann, I still haven't tried gessoing - a bit unsure on what it is still. Watercolour paper 300gsm - and lots of water - I found that even painting a water brush stroke first and then a paint one for the only sharp edge around the chin helped control and keep it all soft.
Robert - this isn't even right with the photo - am learning how much difference even a tiny angle makes at the corner of mouth etc.

09-06-2006, 05:08 PM
Beautiful child and beautiful work Ruth!

09-06-2006, 05:15 PM
Thanks Ruth, for sharing your portrait work and this info on the paper. I'm looking forward to the next one you paint.


09-06-2006, 11:28 PM
here is my next raw umber tonal study - I've concentrated on getting the proportions correct and you may note the nose is more anatomically correct. We are getting a bit closer - will of course have to wait for dad's opinion:lol:

09-06-2006, 11:57 PM
All I can say about this is:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
AND:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

09-07-2006, 12:17 AM
Ruth, you are doing a bang up job. I think you have a knack for portraits. It's really nice.

09-07-2006, 12:27 AM
Thanks Diane and Bertoli - I'm now checking a greyscale version + picked kids up from school s can check values etc - correct details and will update tonight if get time

09-07-2006, 12:38 AM
I like the tonal study, if it was me Id be afraid to go further, watching with interest here..:thumbsup:

09-07-2006, 12:50 AM
Ruth this is looking FANTASTIC:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

09-07-2006, 06:50 AM
Well, colour has gone on in between feeding and entertaining my kids and the nextdoor neighbours, bonus is I now have another set of photos of another winsome child to do a new portrait. Is this better?? - A little alice in wonderlandish from the hunched shoulders pose- may crosspost in portraits to get a severe report:lol:
Thanks for looking back in Doc, and I hope I've kept you happy:lol:
Silveni - you have already done a portrait!!! I love your gorgeous boy with the cat

09-07-2006, 07:37 AM
You seem to have changed the left shoulder(r 2 the veiwer) it looks wider and sort of shrugged but that face is just precious..

09-07-2006, 08:02 AM
All those years of anatomy study have to stand one in some stead .... actually I think its the photo is cropped closer as paper buckled and is being held straight by a couple of heavy books. lol. Will bur it now for the night under said heavy books.

09-07-2006, 02:55 PM
Your paintings is looking so good Ruth. I love what you are doing. I looked at her bottom lip (right side) and it doesn't appear as full or wide as it looks in the photo. Maybe it is the shape where the lips meet. What do you think?


09-07-2006, 03:48 PM
AWESOME. I'm so impressed. You have such a passion and it is shining through in your work. This is going to be so special Ruth. Can't wait to see it finished. I can't find any critiques really. Just keep it light and you'll have a winner.

Are you still coming to JC's workshop? Booked yet???? I'm dying to know for sure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

09-07-2006, 04:51 PM
I Agree Ruth..Awesome!! I have tried one portrait painting,from a photo of my son...once i had the basic perspective sused i found I didnt use the photo as much and just tried to visualize Liam on the Canvas lol think i was in the zone!!love ya skin tone ya got too,mine turned out pretty pink(was told afterward i could have added some yellow ochre to get better resembullance).Must say i loved the reaction from my boy when he saw it!!And having it hanging here by my comp,it keeps him close when hes not with me.Love ya painting!!and ya Girl looks like a real Sweety,must get around to painting my Girl next :) All the Best ...Bully

09-07-2006, 05:06 PM
Thanks Elaine, Bully and Ann , I can see the prob with the lower lip too Ann, I'm thinking re it as a bit nervous at changing this due to effect it may have if I get it "wronger" There are quite a few other things I am working on to improve - will hopefully get time tonight after work and will give further update -
PS will pm you later Elaine

09-07-2006, 05:40 PM
I'm clapping even louder now :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

Roger Evans
09-07-2006, 11:37 PM
Wow! The very first sketch had me hooked. Looked just terrific and each addition seems to get better and better. What a cutey!

Something to watch for with portraits: Pupil placement has to be dead on or it changes everything. Compare the pupils of your last piece to the reference photo and you'll notice that the pupils of the photo are actually a bit higher, which changes both the trajectory of her look as well as the "character" that defines her eyes and makes them unique. Also, watch for the negative spaces of white around the eye. It is tempting to "balance" the whites evenly because we don't want to make our subjects cross eyed or wall-eyed but, in truth, we all are to some degree or another. No one has perfectly balanced eyes and the convergence we see when our subject is looking at something close is a natural part of their appearance. If you treat each eye independently and are faithful to how how each eye is targeting seperately, together they will read as "correct" even if they, seperately, seem like they are looking left or right of center.

For your first portrait, though, this is outstanding work. Far and away better than my first stab at painting a face or anything, for that matter.:thumbsup:


09-08-2006, 07:12 AM
I have bravely changed her lips - improving symmetry and width - IMO she looks a little sad - any suggestions on this?
Thanks Roger for your invaluable advice re pupils - I have altered the left iris as this was too small and adjusted the whites of the eyes - but not sure I can change the pupils
Lots of other tweaks as well -
This is taken late at night so photo not the best sorry.
:clap: :clap: to everyone who has encouraged me on this one - WC is such a great support - thankyou:wave:

09-08-2006, 07:49 AM
Oh Ruth, you are doing such a terrific job and you are the one to be applauded. I do like the lips much more with the adjustments you made. The eyes have such clearness/clarity, lovely work there. What has really impressed me the most though is the transluscence of the skin, the way you blended.


09-08-2006, 09:38 AM
I remember that look... usually follwed by little miss know it alls shake of the head:lol: coming along spectacularly!

Roger Evans
09-08-2006, 09:50 AM
I have bravely changed her lips - improving symmetry and width - IMO she looks a little sad - any suggestions on this?
Actually, I don't think she looks sad. I think you got her expression pretty much dead on. But the painting has fairly even lighting; almost like an overcast day. This is more pleasing to children's and women's skin but the original photo is bright and sunny, which leaves a more positive impression. Your painting has captured her look but not the look of the lighting, which is always an important emotional part of the picture. I think the only reason you feel she looks sad is because you are aware of the look of the original photo but new viewers of the painting won't have that as a comparison. They will only see the painting. I personally think the painting looks just terrific but you might try taking this latest photo of the painting into Photoshop and play with the dodging and burning tool to lighten and darken areas of her face for more modeling. See if that trial run helps clarify your concerns before making any changes. You may find that it is just fine "as is".

Thanks Roger for your invaluable advice re pupils - I have altered the left iris as this was too small and adjusted the whites of the eyes - but not sure I can change the pupils

I think the eyes are just right now. The left eye of the painting was the bugger and you have expanded the whites out to the left which changed the eye's targeting. Now she looks like she's look at the viewer and not just sort of day dreaming in an unfocused way. Great job. What a beautiful picture.


09-08-2006, 02:43 PM
Beautiful finish Ruth.....she's lovely..:thumbsup: :clap: :clap:

09-08-2006, 06:20 PM
Ann, thanks for traveling along with me - it's funny how you concentrate on getting one thing right and miss the obvious - in trying to keep the lip shading soft I kept moving down into the lower lip area - I corrected it a stroke per hour type of ensuring I wasn't heavy handed!
Doc - yep - sounds like you know her alright - muuuum with a sigh is the other
Roger thanks for your 'eye' - I couldn't understand that dreamy look, but yep correcting the position of the iris brought her gaze to the viewer.
Thanks for the advice regarding lights and shadows - the photo of the painting has lost some of the light and you are right - because when I look at the painting she doesn't look sad - it's on the computer screen
Carrie - thanks for those clappies
Dahlis Marie - I think I left you out earlier - you are a mighty encourager my girl.
This is now closed - I have started the sketch on my next one!!!! argh!!!

09-13-2006, 03:56 PM
Ruth I have been so busy and not managed to get on the PC much lately. I had to go find this one. The finish here is amazing especially since it's your first portrait. She looks to be a very thoughtful little girl with much on her mind. You're knocking everyones socks off girl.

09-13-2006, 04:55 PM
Elaine, looking forward to seeing what has been keeping you busy - thanks for your positive comments - it is a blast and a bit too addictive - I am painting between buttering the toast for the family!!!!

09-13-2006, 07:44 PM
I don't know how you do this but I love it:clap: :clap: :clap: