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Monday, January 26, 2009

Hithergreen self portraits in watercolor

Most of my students tried their hands at self portraits today. Some had never painted a portrait of any kind, let alone one of themselves. I managed to get quick shots of about half of their paintings. There will be more next week. Portraits can be intimidating, but they all did a good job, at their own skill levels.

This one is a creative take on a self portrait--not what she looks like, but what she does. Mary R. is a woodcarver.

Mary C.'s source was a photograph in which her head was slightly tilted upward. She decided to paint herself with a level gaze instead and did a good job of correcting for the change in the angle of the features. The pupils are a bit larger than necessary, but otherwise, the likeness is good. I like the way she drybrushed the dress. The skin tones are very nice, too.


Karen's contrast between translucent skin and dark hair is very effective here. The richness of the paint in the hair doesn't show here.Not to mention her gorgeous green eyes. She lifted a bit of the green she first applied, which let a little more light into her eyes. I love the free brushwork in the background. The blue and sienna colors look good behind her head.


Jane painted someone else's portrait instead of herself and did it well. She has good proportions in the head and face. I like the downward-looking pose. The bangs of the hair are beautifully painted with rich color and bold strokes. I also like the color of the skin and subtle shading. This might need a little more modeling on the neck.


Carol has a great sense of humor and is very creative. Her drawing at left is a mirror drawing that is very detailed. She had foreshortened the hat too much because of the angle of the mirror, but that is corrected here. On the right she painted her portrait in wild colors, starting with a lime green for the shadows.

Pat has a good start on her self portrait, considering that her source is a rather small picture that doesn't have good lighting on her features to show the planes of her face. It isn't finished yet, though, so she can still build up the shadow areas and bring out her features.

Pat photographed herself and put the images on her computer. Then, she painted her features from the computer screen in a monochromatic scheme, as a drawing instead of a painting. The likeness is very good.

Linda's self portrait was taken from a photograph she had taken in the 1970s. What a pretty girl! Now she's a pretty woman and you can see the resemblance. She did an excellent job with the proportions.

Tom's self portrait was probably the best likeness in the class. He really nailed his appearance and captured a lifelike image of himself. He began his painting before class with pale washes of ochre and in a short time had the image down. Then he enriched the washes and shadows and detailed the shirt to finish up. Good job on the glasses, too. Well done!


Nancy's first freehand attempt isn't a convincing portrait, but when she applied herself to measuring proportions, she did a great job. Her drawing for the second portrait is very good and I hope she'll paint that one, too, after having the practice with observation and painting techniques in the other two.

Ron painted his caricature with Picasso-like distortions that he created in Photoshop from a photograph using the "skew" command. As weird as it is, it actually resembles him--and he's a good-looking guy! I like the low-intensity colors he used in his clothing. He's also doing a normal self portrait based on a drawing he made of himself.


Patsy's experience was interesting. She began her self portrait at home using a mirror. She attempted to finish her drawing in class with a small purse mirror. That was a challenge, but the real problem began when she tried to paint and discovered that the overhead lights in the classroom didn't show the facial planes. She will work on it at home with better lighting. The likeness isn't there yet, but it's coming.

How about a round of applause for Hithergreen Center's Exploring Watercolor Class?

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