View Full Version : Aunt Elaine - WIP

10-23-2010, 04:26 PM
I'm working on another portrait, this time one of my favorite aunt. She was quite a character, very warm, caring and outgoing. I want to do her justice despite my being a novice in portraiture. So, I decided to ask for help along the way. I've completed the basic drawing and would like feedback on it before I put paint to paper.

First, here's the photo I'm working from:

As you can see it's sepia toned and I plan to use color on my painting.

Here is my drawing:

I've darkened the image of the drawing so you can see my very light pencil lines. I used a 1/2 inch grid to draw this, so I hope it's accurate enough to begin painting. What do you think? Are there any areas I need to work on or change before painting?

Thank you in advance for your help!

10-23-2010, 04:55 PM
Hi Judy

i have used photoshop and layered the drawing on top of the photo so you can see where the mistakes are.

Hope this helps


This is what I do to see any errors both when i'm drawing and painting.

I have centred it on the eyes you have drawn, I would focus on lifting the mouth up a bit and making the ear a bit smaller.

10-23-2010, 04:57 PM
Ona, thank you so much for this. This is so very helpful! I've just got to learn how to do these transparent layers with my Photoshop Elements.

10-23-2010, 10:58 PM
Ona, I finally figured out how I got so far off with the mouth and the ear. I was using a fine grid, about 1/2 inch on 11 x 14 paper, and I miscounted the grid for placement of the bottom end of the ear and then based the other placements on that one. I'm so glad you caught it. Now I can go back in and make the correction. Whew! What a save! I think I'll stick to the 1 inch grid from now on.

BTW I went back and looked at your WIP on Denis's portrait to see how you did the transparent layer and so far it doesn't look like I can do it with Elements 6 for Mac. There used to be tutorials available for this edition but they have expired and I cannot find anything on it in the Help Section. Frustrating! It does help to see the drawing and the reference next to one another on screen. I'll use that and double checking the grids to make sure I'm accurate on future projects. Thanks again for your help. It has been invaluable!

10-24-2010, 03:32 AM
Judy, I think you create an overlay layer, import your sketch into it then alter the transparency with the slider.


10-24-2010, 06:24 AM
Hi Judy. I think you've been given good advice so far so I will not butt in. Just make sure that when you start your painting, that you observe your reference very closely, especially in the eyes. Can't wait to see. Jan

10-24-2010, 06:36 AM
Hi Judy,
You are off to a terrific start, especially with Ona's help on adjusting the drawing.

I agree with Jan. Your Aunt's eyes are so striking in color, they really grab the viewer's attention, so they need to be pretty accurate.

I'll be following along as you begin to add color to this painting. :D


10-24-2010, 09:21 AM
Hi Judy

i have used photoshop and layered the drawing on top of the photo so you can see where the mistakes are.

Hope this helps


This is what I do to see any errors both when i'm drawing and painting.

I have centred it on the eyes you have drawn, I would focus on lifting the mouth up a bit and making the ear a bit smaller.

Doug, How did you get the transparency in the drawing layer? Jan

10-24-2010, 09:31 AM
On the Layers menu choose transparent mode for the new layer and the number on the right can be adjusted to vary the transparency. I have Photoshop Elements 2.0 and I usually use Paintshop Pro 9.

I am sure there are more efficient ways, have you checked the online tutorials? (http://www.photoshoproadmap.com/Photoshop-tutorials/Photoshop-Elements-tutorials/Most-popular/1/) or here. (http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/pselementstutorials/Tutorials_for_Essential_Techniques_in_Photoshop_Elements.htm)


10-24-2010, 09:49 AM
Thanks Doug. I have Painter ix and haven't figured out how to do this. It's a very useful tool. Jan

10-24-2010, 06:29 PM
Thank you Doug, Jan and Sylvia for your comments and encouragement. You're absolutely right about the eyes being so important to the image. I've been reading what Ellen says about painting eyes in her Demo before I begin painting.

I gave up--at least for now--on trying to learn how to do the transparent layer in Photoshop. I did check out your tutorial links Doug and even though they aren't specifically about Essentials for Mac, they do offer good help that I hope will point me in the right direction when I can give it more time.

Instead I resorted to the old fashioned way, using paper and ink. Since I already do my drawing on tracing paper, I printed out the reference image in a 11 x 14 size and laid my tracing paper drawing over it to make sure of my corrections. Using tracing paper for the original drawing makes it easier to transfer to wc paper and I can avoid having to draw the grid on my drawing by laying the tracing paper over a sheet of sketch paper with the grid on it. I'm hoping to begin painting in the next few days.

Thanks again everyone for all your help. I'll post my progress as I go along, but I'm not a fast painter.

10-25-2010, 05:59 PM
There is some valuable advice here Judy ... and you are so tenacious and this will be a thread to watch :thumbsup: She is a clear strong looking woman!

10-25-2010, 09:47 PM

Really looking forward to seeing this develop. Please list your wash mixes as you go. Thx.


10-26-2010, 01:18 AM
I'll be watching Judy. She looks lovely and I am drawn to her eyes and mouth. Gotta love those hair-do's. Can't wait to see you finish this one..........Lenore

10-27-2010, 03:45 PM
Thanks Annie, Tom and Lenore for stopping by.

This is the first day I've had time to do much painting and I've reached a point where I need to stop, regroup and wait a bit before going ahead, so I thought I'd post my progress so far. First, Tom, as per your request, here are most of the mixes I'll be using. I've found that doing a kind of index like this helps keep me focused. I have most of these mixes all ready to go in a set of plastic muffin cups.


I'm using primarily gouache with some transparent watercolors as well.

Gulp, it takes a bit of courage to post my first progress picture because it's at one of the many ugly stages my paintings seem to go through. Ta Da, here it is.

As you can see, I have some pencil lines to erase after this is thoroughly dry and before I proceed. I don't know if you can tell yet, but are there any problems you can see? Thanks!

10-27-2010, 04:21 PM
The skin tones are lovely.

Remember, we all paint watercolors, so we know about those early stages of a painting. Thanks for biting the bullet and posting your first steps. :D


10-27-2010, 05:29 PM
No gulps at all Judy. This is looking fabulous!

10-27-2010, 07:56 PM
She's looking absolutely beautiful, Judyth! Your drawing looks terrific... your skin tones are good... you're well on your way!

10-27-2010, 09:09 PM
Yes, she's looking good, Judy! Thanks for posting your mixes, I am thinking of my grandmother and how to get to a colour version. I was going to do a sepia monochrome, but your bravery has inspired me.

I have been snowed under with deadlines, and am just reading all the posts I have missed......I'll comment specifically tomorrow, brain not functioning well right now!

10-28-2010, 09:39 AM
Following your threas - there are a few of these I would like to try - when I get the nerve. Thanks for dipping your toe in first.

10-29-2010, 04:38 PM
Thank you Sylvia, Annie, Char, Lynn and Hayward for your encouragement. I truly appreciate it!!!

I'm at another pause point. I've done the first wash on the blouse and have semi-finalized the face and features. I know I have work to do on the eyebrows, the hair of course, and perhaps more, but I want to get your feedback as I let the painting rest.


I confess there is something about the alignment of the features that's bothering me so I want your opinion. Thanks!

10-29-2010, 05:43 PM
I am quite interested in what you are doing. A study that would make me delve into old photos.
Maybe the upper lip should be thinner and the nose a bit smaller on our left side? She seems to look younger in your study at this point in the work.
Will follow with interest.

10-29-2010, 08:11 PM
Hi Judyth... you'll need to soften those hard lines on all her features... and you've widened her face, especially at the lower jaw level... in doing this, you also eliminated her jowls... and I don't know if you wanted to include the dark circles under her eyes, but they do add character and determination to her gaze...

You're coming... portraits are hard... the smallest thing can alter a likeness...

10-29-2010, 09:28 PM
Hi Judy. No advice right now but I'm watching. I do like the skin tone so far. Looking good...............Lenore

10-29-2010, 09:48 PM

Maybe the upper lip should be thinner and the nose a bit smaller on our left side? She seems to look younger in your study at this point in the work.
Will follow with interest.

Susanne has hit on a couple of points I had notices too. I agree with her comments here.

I also think you have made her face a bit broader than it is. If you look at her face shape geometrically, I think it is more of a rectangle rather than an oval as you have it.

It might be good to put in a bit of tone for her hair before trying to do much more with her skin or facial features. That large expanse of white above the skin color makes it hard to judge values very accurately. ;)


10-30-2010, 08:51 AM
Pardon me while I slap my forehead! Duh!!! :D

I'm always amazed at what I cannot see initially but seems very obvious once it's pointed out to me. Thank you so much Suzanne, Char, Lenore and Sylvia for seeing what I hadn't seen before and for pointing it out to me! I do appreciate it! I've been looking at my painting and reference upside down as well as side by side and the shape of her face just didn't register as that much different, but it definitely is. After I read your comments I looked at them side by side on my screen and it jumped out at me. Thanks!!!

I'll work on making corrections and put a wash over the hair before I go any further. I'll also print out your comments to have nearby while I work.

Laura D
11-01-2010, 02:14 PM
This is coming along really nicely Violetta. I agree with Char about the "outline" quality... softening them will help a lot. the reason the features' placement looks off to you is the base of the nose is at a different angle than the eyes and lips... it tilts down towards the right and should tilt upwards slightly.

Lightening the sides of the eyebrows will help tremendously too... they will "turn the corner" and the solid shape will read more as hair. Also, there is a lot of hair covering the left ear, obscuring it. I think you'll be able to lift out the ear's details to fix that.

There are a couple of shapes that giving attention to will help at this stage... where the left edge of the barrel of her mouth meets the bottom of the cheek, leading down into the neck. In the photo it's an elongated diamond shape with a blunt bottom edge. There is no line through it. Reproducing that shape and its graduated shading will improve the feel of skin as well as give a more accurate rendition of the jaw line.

The second shape is between her left ear and cheek, running down into the neck. Nailing that shape will keep her face from looking too wide.

There are other smaller shapes that you will find as you progress. I like to get the larger shapes in lightly first to get the proportions and angle s right first then add in the smaller ones as the painting gets more detailed.

Your values are still at the light stage and I'm sure you'll adjust them as you progress. Squint, squint, squint! Looking forward to watching what comes next. :D

11-01-2010, 06:48 PM
gosh i dont look for a couple of days and wow!! what progress you have made. I dont think i have anything to add from the good advice you already have, softening the lines will help a lot. I suppose when i paint a face i try not to think of lips, nose etc as being separate things. The eyes yes, buth the rest is just a continuation of light and shade and tonal values. This thought might help.


11-02-2010, 01:20 PM
Thank you Laura and Ona for your very helpful comments. You have both given me good advice along with all the good advice I've already received. Now to put it into action.

I've been working on the hair and the shadow shapes on the darker side of the face and then I'll move on to softening outlines, etc. Seeing shapes rather than features is especially difficult for me with portraits, but I think I'm making progress. It seems that when I first look at a reference or my painting, I see the major shapes, the major outlines. Then when I keep looking or come back and look again and again, the details begin to come into focus, something like a photo must look as it develops in the developing fluid.

Thanks for helping my process of seeing develop more quickly!!!

11-02-2010, 01:58 PM
Judyth, something that helped me immensely was participating in the Posterized Portrait classes... I learned so much about the planes and shapes of facial features by simplifying the elements...

I don't know if this will help you, but the shapes are more clearly evident when they are different colours... and your values become easier to see and understand... In this example, I really saturated the colour, so that your values are exaggerated... but easy to see...


With every portrait you do, it really does get easier Judyth... ((()))

11-02-2010, 04:10 PM
Thank you Char for the posterized image. I've done these before but always in black and white. I can see that using color and exaggerating really helps see the shapes and shadows. Thanks!!!

I've had some time yesterday and today to work on this painting and I'm ready to let it rest before proceeding further. I think I'm in the homestretch but it's not finished yet. Let's see what you all think. Oh yes, I've used some artistic license in interpreting the hair style. It may be a bit more up to date and softer but I think still in line with her personality.


Thanks again for all your help everyone who has commented and made suggestions along the way!

11-02-2010, 05:44 PM
Hi Judy. Your coming along beautifully on your painting. Is this W/C or Gouache? I would still like to see more shadow in the eye area. Well here, look at them side by side.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Nov-2010/114956-102127-Aunt_Elaine_2_cropped_resized_sm.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Nov-2010/114956-102127-Aunt_Elaine_Progress_3_resized_sm.jpg

Maybe a little more down turn in the eyebrow and a more gradual fall of the jowl down into the neck without the distinct line. Just tiny fixes, lol, yea listen to who's talking.

My only nit is my eye keeps going to the light circle in her ear, so maybe tone that down a bit. I do think you kept her looking the same age as in the photo. Your doing great and I admire you for sticking with it.......Lenore

11-03-2010, 05:05 PM
Thank you Lenore for your excellent observations and suggestions. I've been busy the last couple days and haven't gotten to paint but I hope to work on her tomorrow. I want to take into consideration your observations as well as Char's posterized image. You're absolutely right about that bit of white on her ear; I can't believe I didn't notice it before because now it just jumps out at me.

I want to adjust some values and soften some edges, as well as generally go over the entire painting before considering background. I'm thinking of a mixed gray background. Any ideas?

I'm using mostly gouache but with the addition of some watercolor. The eyes are totally watercolor and I'm using caput mortum in some of the shadows, especially around the eyes.

11-03-2010, 05:36 PM
You are doing a very nice job of colorizing the black and white photo.

Her eyes are so lovely. One thing you might do is put a very pale wash of a blue over the white part of the eye. Look at the photo and you will see that the white is shaded, not white. You are painting what you know, not what you are seeing here. ;)

The shading on her face has made the shape much more true to the reference. :D


11-03-2010, 06:25 PM
Judy I think the soft gray you are showing looks good. After looking at her again, I think the bottom part of the eye socket is a little straighter than you have it. Not a real squint, but to me her eyes have an intense look. Notice the light area of the lower eye socket also. Might want to add a highlight to her lower lip. Keep going all is good.............Lenore

11-06-2010, 04:15 PM
I've taken into consideration the great advice I've received here and I think I'm 90-99% finished. There are a couple highlights I want to emphasize but before I do that, I want to see if I've missed anything.


I'm not 100% satisfied with her nose but short of scrubbing it out and starting over, I think I'll leave it for now. The posterized color picture really helped with shadows. I'm a bit afraid to do much more for fear I'll lose what I have, especially without getting your great feedback. is there anything I've missed?
Thank you for your help!

Granny R
11-06-2010, 04:24 PM
You've done an amazing job of this, I think portraits are very hard. The one thing I've noticed that she doesn't have any eyelashes. I wonder if a hint of that would soften the look somewhat.. I don't know. /wonder what others think?

11-06-2010, 04:28 PM
It is really looking much more like her photo reference now, especially the shape of the face.

Check the shadowing on the hair, it is much darker in tone especially behind the ear and on the right side of her face (looking at her on the screen). I know you've given her a more modern hair style, but there would still be places where it is shadowed or deeper due to the lighting hitting her face. ;)