Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Tim at Breakfast -- portrait sketch


Step #1
I've been experimenting recently with watercolor sketches of portraits and figures using old photographs as references. Some of my subjects sat for these photos more than 100 years ago, although I've also found it enjoyable (and challenging) to work from more recent family pictures. Many of these were shot in B&W, so choosing a color palette that would reflect the mood of the original photo is always interesting.
Step #2
Reference photo
Today's portrait sketch is of my son, and I used a photo taken when he was about four years old. It is slightly out of focus, and the shadow contrast is quite pronounced. I recall that my son was acting moody that day, and it was this slightly dreamy moodiness that I hoped to capture in my watercolor portrait.
I began with a light pencil sketch, then added a wash of Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber. The eyes are done with Cobalt Blue and French Ultramarine. (Step #1) I added successive layers of wash, using a slightly darker tone to suggest shadows along the left side of the face. The mouth was emphasized with a pale wash of Quinacridone Scarlet  and the eyes received more details with Sepia and French Ultramarine. (Step #2) The hair is done with Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna, and the shirt details are Cobalt Blue. (Step #3)
Step #3
In the final version of this sketch (below) the pensive look on my sons's face is emphasized, and the contrast between figure and background, by combining French Ultramarine and Sepia along the left edge of the face. I used this same combination to add depth to other shadows as well. This entire sketch took about 30 minutes to complete.
"Tim at Breakfast"
watercolor   9" x 7" 

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