Monday, November 7, 2011

How a Watercolor Portrait Comes Together

Step by Step..
New blog post by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt.

Most recently complete portrait, View full portfolio
My portraits of children are owned and cherished by parents throughout New York. My usual practice is to spend time getting to know the family I am going to paint, studying them, taking as many as hundred photographs. Back in the quiet and seclusion of my own studio I paint the finished portrait working from a photo picked with consultation of the parents and my remembered impressions.

Starts with a great photograph! (family photography by Schulman)
When I am commissioned for a portrait I recommend that the subjects wear white for the photo shoot as this leads to a classic portrait that will not be dated. The white reflects light beautifully onto the faces and the figures clothing does not compete with each other.

Outdoor light is always the most flattering, but I can creatively use a combination of window light as well as photographic lamps if weather does not permit an outdoor photo shoot. When I return to my studio, I study the photographs, making adjustments in photoshop. Here is the photograph chosen by the parents that will be used as a reference for the portrait. I uploaded all the photos to a private online viewing area and sometimes the family will choose to purchase photos as gifts in addition to the watercolor portrait.Sometimes it is  necessary to use a combination of photos and when circumstances require, I can work from a photograph provided by the client; however, photographs I take myself are the ideal. 

A Pencil Drawing of the Portrait for the client to review
After the photo is selected I begin a pencil drawing directly onto the watercolor paper. Sometimes a likeness will emerge with the drawing but I don't expect a full likeness until the magic of color is used. I like the clients to see the drawing before I begin painting just to make sure all their needs have been communicated to me.

At this stage the fun begins. I add a wash of either yellow ochre with a touch of scarlet lake or cadmium red with a touch of yellow for the skin tones. I add these colors to the background and adjacent clothing for harmony.





Shadows are defined with a wash of gray I mix myself and the background is established.

I continue to adjust values throughout the painting as I go.

Once I establish all the darks, I decide to lift watercolor paint to reveal white and highlights.

The added white adds light to the painting and I decide to push this further.

Finally, a glowing portrait that is ready to be presented to the client!
Although I prefer to take photos and be in control of the entire project from start to finish I will work from your photos of young children. Baby and toddlers make excellent models for watercolor portraits. You can get an online deal on a baby portrait from my etsy store. For a fully commissioned portrait including photographs, please see my website for more information.
Holiday Card card
Holiday Card with watercolor portrait by schulmanart
available for customization at zazzle