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Painting outside of my comfort zone

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Last week I must have been feeling extremely ambitious, when I decided to paint not only a portrait in watercolor, but a portrait of my husband and I! It was a fun photo of us at the beach and I thought – why not? I think I thought with the hat and sunglasses it would be easy. lol!

Things went along smoothly until I got to the faces, where I encountered a struggle similar to painting my “beach girl’s” face. Both faces were partly in shadow and no matter what I did, the skin looked blotchy and unnatural. I realized that, quite simply, I lack the “know how” to paint the highlights and shadows on a face while maintaining the smooth look of skin.

Despite this, I still think I did a decent job. Towards the end, I relied heavily on watercolor pencil, to add in the shading. But the main reason I feel good about this project is that I identified what training I need. Not only that, but I found a book that will help me in this area. I’m very excited to follow along with the step-by-step demonstrations in this book, “Realistic Watercolor Portraits: How to Paint a Variety of Ages and Skin Tones,” by Suzanna Winton.

Here were my steps:
I started sketching in a light watercolor pencil, because I figured I could erase any lines I wanted to. Then I added in the color – except for the faces.
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Once I started adding paint to the faces, things got blotchy and funny looking.
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I went back and forth with paint and pencil trying to get the right shading and trying to get it to look smooth.
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TV Sketching

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Can you guess what show I had on when I sketched this? lol. Last night I plopped on the couch with my sketchbook and starting flicking around. When I found something or someone I wanted to sketch, I paused the TV. (Don’t you love that you can pause live TV?) I sketched for as long as I needed/wanted. The sketch above was the last one of the night and I think best. Here are the other sketches:
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