View Full Version : Portrait of Susan's son

06-07-2007, 08:55 PM
As usual, I don't know what to think of this but I'm trying to do a nice portrait to give as a surpirse gift to my friend. I had an itsy bitsy photo to work from. The dioxazine purple made some nice neutrals with raw unmber, nables yellow and transparent orange. Any input to make it better is appreciated. Is the orange glow behind the head too much?

Susan's Son
gouache, 8 x 10

Old Tex
06-09-2007, 09:30 AM
Nice one here, Selene! The orange doesn't bother me personally. Adds some life to it. I would like to see a bit more color in the skin tones. He's just a tad washed out to my eye. It's always difficult to work from a very small photo, and snapshots, especially with a flash, will wash out that skin color. It will also make shadows and outlines where you don't want them. Great job on the jacket, but I'd soften the edges around the hood and the straps. Kind of like you did around the head. The face and head are the important part of a portrait, so you don't want the clothing to pull your eye away from it.

And I commend you greatly on the mouth. I don't paint teeth well, so I tend to avoid toothy smiles. You've nailed it.

Great job!

06-09-2007, 12:27 PM
Very nice portrait, Seleeni. For me, the background works very well. I like the expression you've got on his face--very natural. You did a wonderful job on his clothing, as well. Only thing that bothers me a bit is his hairline. My suggestion would be to add a few wisps of hair here and there, as the line is too even, especially around his left (viewer's right) sideburn. It almost looks (to me, anyway) like it's not attached to his face (mind you, this is just one person's opinion :) ). Overall, a very nice piece.

06-09-2007, 03:45 PM
I agree - great job with the face and the likeness! I like the colors, too. A few suggestions:

1) may just be the photo, but it looks pretty grey in the shadows on his face. I think this is what Ralph mentioned - add more color. I read on one of the portrait tutorials on WetCanvas that face shadows work best using very warm colors. I don't know if that applies to every portrait, but you might give it a try in photoshop.
2) his irises look a bit big, especially with the small pupils.
3) the composition isn't very captivating. The portrait of your mom had a wonderful composition. In this one, his eyes are right in the middle. It might help to crop off a bit of the background at the top?

All of those are small things. Overall this is a very good portrait! I love your brushwork. I bet your friend will love it.


06-09-2007, 07:44 PM
Ralph, Eileen, and Meg,

Thanks. Great suggestions. I thought I was done with this but now I've learned better than to rip the tape off too soon. More work to be done. This is such a good way to learn and improve my skills.

maggie latham
06-10-2007, 07:46 AM


I really like it. I love the background and the composition. You really do have your own style. Be careful how much you change on your paintings when in your opinion you think they are finished.

I t might be better to understand what could be changed and to paint another one. Sometimes you are the best judge about your own work. The more you paint the more it will all come together. Your friend will love this! I would if I were that friend.



06-11-2007, 02:17 PM
Thanks Maggie.

That's really great advice and something I've been thinking about, especially when there are very different opinions about a painting. I believe I will get more clear about my own style as I develop. At this point, I consider myself in my own "art school" with lots to learn. And to learn, I have to take a breath and plunge in to try something new even when I'm afraid it might totally blow the piece. Which is what I did here. I tried all the suggestions from Ralph, Meg, and Eileen. I cropped it alittle off center this time but to still fit in a standard mat. It took a lot of very thin layers of gouache and watercolor to deepen the skin tones-- a lot of time. The scan is also better. I think it works! Though I'm not sure about the hair.

Maggie, I'm glad you answered because I want to ask you some questions about the brushes you use. I'm finding that the nice synthetic brushes work fine for the first couple layers of mainly transparent watercolor. Then they seem to firm and too pointy and start lifting paint. I end up using an old cheap Kolinsky #5 round for detail but I'd like a better brush and also need a bigger brush for washes. So....You mentioned that you use the Isabey squirrel mop brushes. Is this it?

Not really in my budget but I do have a birthday coming!
What size do you use the most? Do they have any snap? Do you use the point much? Would these compare?


Do you ever use large flat brushes for washes?

I'm very appreciative of all the help I'm getting here. And I really like that this Gouache channel is so small. I don't feel like I get lost in a bunch of activity. I'm getting to know the artists here and you are a really nice group. I made this site my homepage.

Susan's Sonhttp://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/11-Jun-2007/91995-Susans_Son_72.jpg

maggie latham
06-11-2007, 03:42 PM
Dear Selene,

Yes, these are the brushes I use at the moment. They hold A LOT of water and are great for washes. The point is nice too. You have to have a light touch with these, and I should reiterate, that I use a lot of watercolor rather that all gouache in my paintings, and my washes start out very abstract. A really good brush for wash is the Robert Simmons Sky Flow brush.....also expensive, but very smooth.
There is a wonderful watercolor painter called David Taylor (he has a book and a video/cd out) Heís Australian I think. He uses these mop brushes and does some wonderfully loose and tight work with them.
I would hate to advise you to buy them incase you donít like them and they are expensive! I buy my brushes from Dakota Brushes (part of Dakota Pastels ~ a wonderful pastel supplies only web site) online and they have the best prices on these and many other brushes, and used to only charge a tiny amount for shipping.
For me, I found my paintings changed when I made the commitment to paint often. I try to paint everyday even if some days itís only for half an hour. The only way to learn about what you can do with the paint is by lots of doing.



06-11-2007, 05:53 PM

I agree, you can't take everyone's advice all the time! Part of the learning process is learning how to give yourself advice. I still have a long way to go with that, but this forum really helps!

I love how you altered his skin color. The hairline looks great, too. The first one was good, but this version just comes alive! Excellent job!


06-15-2007, 02:08 PM
Maggie, thanks so much for info on brushes. Since I'm still exploring my style, it's probably a good idea to wait and see what develops. I end up working with glazes in a rather drybrush way towards the end of a painting. But that could change.

Meg-your encouragement is greatly appreciated.

Old Tex
06-18-2007, 09:49 PM
Selene, I think Maggie's been at this longer than most of us, and I know she is very committed to excellence in her work. Her advice is always going to be mature and sound. I have to admit that while I soak up the advice and suggestions I get on a specific piece, I usually try to file it into my "how to" memory bank (along with an example or two), and apply it to future pieces. I also have had to recognize that if I'm ever going to paint like "me" (whatever that turns out to be), I have had to stop trying to "force" a style or a look. It's way too early for that. So while I study the work of many, many painters, I'm trying to focus on composition and execution, and just seeing what I can do with the paint. Those things are a big enough challenge. Style will evolve from just doing.