Watercolour Portrait Practice

Changed it up to revisit my application of darker skin tones and this one was pretty tricky. The light hit his face in so many places and it was a challenge to reflect this (no pun intended) as well as add 3 dimensional features to his face. Due to this the layering of colours in his skin tone was different, instead of having major shadows cast on one side of the face I had to capture smaller shadows at strategic points which lead to more layers and a larger colour palette range.

The eyes got me again, way more patience is required when dealing with those features! I kinda have a love-hate relationship with this subject I used, his haircut makes me feel as though his head isn’t proportional. Maybe I should have used my artistic license and given him a readjusted hairdo! Oh well!

Porttrait #10

Watercolour Portrait Practice

I have been slacking off on my portrait practice, so I decided to catch up and be more disciplined. This one was a bit different from my previous portraits in terms of the lighting, I think she looks like she could be in a horror or thriller film!

Capturing the life in the eyes is now my new focus….there’s so much the eyes can tell and with the right capture in my paintings I hope to have them come to life a bit more. This one I was happy I got more of the reflective light captured but some eye studies are definitely on my to do list!Portrait #9

Watercolour Portrait Practice

My most recent portrait felt so much easier to do this time despite not having done one in about a week. My goal to produce three portraits per week was put on hold over the last 2 weeks with me preparing pieces for consideration to the gallery. Needless to say I welcomed the switch to my regularly scheduled programme.

I finished this piece in about 4 hours and I am beginning to realise I really love the shadowy parts of portraits more than anywhere else. I guess it’s the richness and intensity of the colours, knowing that I can use more than one and watch them blend together is pretty satisfying. I also prefer my previous portrait in terms of the application of the layers of colours used as it gave a more of the effect I was looking for in my pieces.

portrait #7

Plein Air Painting Trip

Last Sunday I took a trip to the southern most part of my country with some local Art Society members for a plein air painting trip. We were weary of the weather since the rainy season started and it had been raining all week….but the weather began to look promising Friday and Saturday so we said why not! Then our tour guide cancels and we decided to wing it…like how bad could it be right?

Well we got off to a late start and the added pit stops didn’t help, but it was a good experience. The rain fell on and off throughout our journey but we did have some time to get at.least some sketches in before we had to run for cover.

These are some shots taken of the trip…the map of our journey on the red line and the sketches I managed to do which I finished paint at home.

Watercolour Portrait Practice

Portrait 7Colour palettes in watercolour for skin tones can be an interesting thing. Just the thought of seeing the colours even with the knowledge of colour theory individually compared to when they are applied to your canvas make it sometimes unbelievable that such skin tones are achievable.

It also gave me the idea to keep a log of successful skin tone mixtures like this one in a palette reference book for future portraits. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. For one, I found the entire process went much more quickly than previous portraits. Additionally, my intuition to get the desired skin tone somehow seemed more responsive to picking the right ones. My Facebook has some video of the process where I laid the undertones of the complexion to the final result and it was pretty enjoyable to film. This one took me no more than 6 hours.

Do you keep a reference sheet for your swatches for different skin tones?

Portrait 7


Figure Drawing with Pastels

Practicing the different aspects of art for these paintings I eventually want to produce someday made me stop to assess how much progress I have made to date getting to that ultimate goal. My portrait series continues, however I realised I need to start doing full body studies so that everything falls into place.

Last weekend, I looked through past sketches and it inspired me to do some gesture drawings 30 to 60 seconds long and boy was I rusty! I did them over 2 to 3 days and while there were some I was pleased with, I really need to incorporate that into my practice routine more frequently. After my gesture attempts I decided to do some figure studies not set to a specific time to see if I could accomplish a study or two without the pressure of the clock and to add a little more spice to it, I decided to do this last one in pastels.

Since I have had these pastels for at least 5 years or so, I haven’t recently expanded the range of colours I have available. I have an earth-tone set and a starter kit of basic colours. Compared to watercolours, the ability to blend was a challenge, I missed my indigos and deep purples and my sepia to get the colour exactly the way I wanted.

All in all, it was fun, I will do one of these per week in different mediums I have available to increase my practice. Oh, and side note, the reason for the difference in colours in the pastel in progress and the finished one was that one was a photo was taken in the daylight and the second photo was a scan of the final image.

The last comparison photo was a five year difference and I think one lesson I learned comparing both works was that less is more.


Watercolour Portrait Practice

Continuing to experiment with different skin tones led me to this reference photo that featured bright greenish blue eyes. The shadows weren’t as intense as my previous attempts, but I loved the colours of the light and shadow on her skin so I decided why not.

The features and proportion on this one were easier to execute, but again the lashes and brows require a different tool. How strange is it that I restrict myself to just brushes but it actually just occurred to me while typing this that I could use a dip pen! Bazinga! Needless to say, this will be my next course of action on future portraits to execute the finer features.

girl portrait

Art School vs. Self Taught

In my introductory post on this blog, I mentioned that it was always my dream to go to art school and due to circumstances beyond my control at the age of 16, I didn’t get that opportunity. Over the years I have toyed with the idea, still thinking even back then, that I was too old (HA! in my 20’s), that I should give it up and also that the financial outlay was way too expensive! In my currency, the cost of art schools in the US can get me a substantial down-payment on a house!

But now that I have made the commitment to take my art more seriously, and I am also at a point in my life where my day job does not satisfy me except to provide me with the monetary means to afford art supplies; the thought has emerged again. Do I want to even venture into the formal world of school again after just completing my MBA last year? What was the point of me doing my MBA even though it was on scholarship if I’m back to square 1? How can I justify such a huge expense when I am older and certain other achievement markers have still not been realised – like a family, house and a career I love (the catch 22 of this is quite obvious to me)?

And so I started looking at Art Schools, at articles about self-taught artist and things I could consider, the successful artists who made I despite being self taught and also about why you shouldn’t go to Art School. In the end my heart yearns for knowing and exploring what could have been. While my brain is saying you’ve got this! You’re talented, you just need to dedicate the time and have the discipline to be where you want to be despite being self taught. The articles I came across, also helped make that seem more of a reality.

At the end of the day I would love to come back to this post in a year; my decision having been made and I look back on this happy. Happy because whatever the avenue I chose to be successful based on my definition of success it was the right one.

Have you gone to art school, are considering it or just plain don’t believe in it? If so what did you ultimately do and how did you decide? If you are self taught, how was your journey? If you plan to be self taught, what have you learnt thus far?

Local Nature in Watercolour

Trying to figure out my last piece for submission to my local gallery, got me thinking about what’s on my painting bucket list. For those of you who know what I’m referring to, you know there is something/someone you always wanted to paint, but didn’t have the time or courage. For me, it was getting back to one of my challenges I had as a younger budding artist at high school executing this subject as one of our assignments.

There is this tree we call Bois Cano (pronounced bwah can-no) aka Trumpet Tree or Snakewood Tree which starts off with these huge green leaves and when they wilt and dry, they make these unique forms.


When we practiced shading back in high school, this was usually the subject chosen. Back then my lack of patience got the better of me and I am not sure if i ever completed those assignments. Nevertheless, I decided to use this leaf as one of my subjects and conquer my fear because I am older and wiser so I saw no harm in it.

It took me about a day or less to complete and I really enjoyed the shadowy/darker parts of the piece and how it came to life. there are tiny veins that become more prominent when the leaf dries and I must admit I have a problem when it comes to deciding between capturing as much detail as possible or being looser in my watercolour application….needless to say detail oriented me won the battle and this is the result!

bois kano leaf
Bois Cano Leaf Study 12′ x 16″ in Watercolour

Check out my Facebook page for a video which captured some of the process!