Friday, July 6, 2012

Shifting Gears: Portrait Painting

Study #2
Lately, I've been working with portrait painting which is something that I've been meaning to do for several years and kept putting it off for one reason or another.  Well, I felt there's no time better than now, because I was becoming frustrated and thus bored with landscape painting.  I just thought it was time to learn something new and different.  Then maybe I'll be able to approach landscapes from a different perspective, pardon the pun. Although at times frustrating, painting portraits have been a fun challenge and the change has done me good, because now when I do think of landscape painting, it's with a fresh excitement.

Charles Reid's books and videos have been a tremendous help to me.  Personally, I think his books and videos are the most concise of all the instruction media I've purchased.  The books I have are:
  •  Portrait Painting in Watercolor (Watson-Guptall pub.)  Had this book for many years - knew it would come in handy some day!
  • The Natural Way to Paint, Rendering the Figure in Water Simply and Beautifully (Watson-Guptall pub.)  Reid has a section on his method of contour drawing in this book.
  • Portraits and Figures in Watercolor (Watson-Guptall pub.)
The Videos I have are:
  • Figurative Watercolours  - I view this one the most often.  Also covers contour drawing.
  • The Figure in Watercolor

Study #1 below is from my first painting session.  I was so frustrated with how 'stiff' my paintings were as a result of how tightly I was painting.  Of course color is a whole other challenge for me too, but that's another post and the side-view didn't help either.  Then I remembered the 1st book mentioned above that I've had for years.  I began reading it and was so inspired, bought the other books and videos I've listed.What I love about videos is that I can watch them over and over again  - can't do that at a workshop, and it's much cheaper!

Study #1

Without going into boring detail, I'll just say that Charles Reid's books and videos were a revelation for me in that here was someone, a famous artist in fact, actually encouraging contour drawing.  His words jumped off the page as I realized sadly, due to my own insecurities, I had given up this way of drawing some years ago, thinking it was a 'naive' way of drawing. This was just the encouragement I needed to find my own comfort zone within the realm of portrait painting and I couldn't wait to give it a try along with Reid's methods.

Study #2 was done using some of Reid's tips and my old way of drawing and measuring, which is similar to Reid's contour drawing.  I was very pleased with the looseness of it.  Now that's not to say I've been pleased with every painting since then.  Of course there are many times when I go right back to square one, some of my paintings are so awful, I just want to tear them to shreds (and I sometimes do) but I at least know that I'm on the track to achieving looser paintings.  Study #3 below was done last week.

Study #3

I also decided to go bigger with my portraits, which has greatly helped me loosen up and also helped with my paint application, as I use medium to large brushes, mostly mops (the ones I already had for landscape painting) plus a few rounds for starting my paintings.  I incorporate Reid's suggestions too, along with all the other tidbits of knowledge and advise we all pick up from our mentors along the way in our art journey.  I would strongly encourage (and no, I don't get any money for this), if your interested in portrait painting to purchase/check out at your local library any of  Charles Reid's books or DVD's to learn his way of contour drawing if you feel the need to loosen up!
Also, you might consider joining a painting group in your community even if just the thought of doing so terrifies you! Believe me, I was in that boat for too long.  Just know that everyone there has at sometime felt the same way.  Actually, if your already in any art groups (if not, try that too!), there will most likely be someone there you already know.  The main thing is to keep going, really the more you go, the better you'll feel about yourself and your paintings, and the more you'll learn.  If you can't join a group, get a mirror and paint yourself, or someone in your family. 
FYI, Ted Nuttall is another portrait watercolorist whose work I enjoy studying.  YouTube has a couple of his videos you can watch, along with a couple on Charles Reid, just do a search on their site.  Have a good one, and stay cool!