watercolor portrait – hair

today i decided to take the kids by the hair.  because now the problem is the background, and i’m putting off dealing with that to do something less painful.

i did a lot of experimenting with colors on my test sheet.  not really.  i tried out my dark browns to see if any of them were actually burnt umber, but i’m pretty sure i’ve got a bunch of burnt sienna instead.  no matter.  we can darken brown.  brown isn’t actually very dark at all until you put something like black or blue in it.  which i did, putting whatever blacks i had into it, putting ultramarine into it.


i decided to start with the darkest darks, because i put in really light shades of burnt sienna and quinacridone gold on there before, so i’m not starting with white paper, so i can only do so much before it gets muddy, especially being darks.  you don’t often see muddy lights….

i mixed up some rather deep brown and put it on, and then, having tested the various dark mixtures, added lamp black to the brown.  or maybe it’s carbon black.  or maybe even lunar black.  okay, i looked it up.  it granulates like nothing else, so it’s lunar black, which is magnetite.

i couldn’t tell because i had a tube that completely dried out, so i peeled the tube off around the lump of dried paint, and that’s what’s stuck down to my palette.

i love it because of the granulation, which is really magnetic reactions in the wet paint, so cool.  it can be very problematic, however, and can easily detract from the rest of the painting, so you have to be careful with it.  the people at handprint are leery of it.  then i let it sit to dry, and went to do something else for awhile.


then i came back in with basically a lighter version of the brown and black, but this time i used bits of blue, and a tiny bit of burnt sienna.  this was on the lowest one.  for the middle one, i used a bit more red and blue, and less black, and for the top one, well, actually, i’m not thru with that one yet, because i haven’t washed it over with brown  yet.  it’s necessary to get the whole head wet, even the darks i painted before, or else there’ll be bleed lines.  but when you get something that dark wet, you have to be careful, so i basically just dry brushed the darks, just to get a little sheen.


the closeup, taken in different lighting conditions (cuz you can notice that i haven’t touched the red or orange clothing, or the gold carpet.  only the heads.  you can see how particulate the black looks, and how thick and opaque it looks on he left.  this is something that’s hard to control, and you have to do it very wet to get the pigment to disperse properly.  i put brown down rather thickly, and then dab black into it, and some blue.  and the water from the brush flows on with the pigment, and pushes the brown aside, and then you get all these fine patterns.  but it darkens the tone of the brown tremendously, as you can see around the edges where the black didn’t reach.


this closeup, shot outside in the gloom of sunset, isn’t anything like the middle of the day photo, so you can’t see the grain of the paper in this one, and the colors have shifted toward blue.  but you can still see what i’ve done, with the brown and black, and a little bit of blue.  also that i’ve painted with bunt sienna and then lifted out the bald spot on the upper right, using paper to blot the paint back out of it.  that’s because it went dark right away, just by covering the white, and i basically had to come in and blot and sponge, and get wet and blot a little more, just to get the light back.

should have put the highlight in first, instead of trying to come in over base coats and still retain light values.  oh well, live and never learn, that’s my motto.

so that’s today’s work.  tomorrow, since the hair is done and i’m still not ready for the final pass of darks over the bodies, i will finish the faces and start tackling the background.  a host of issues, including how dark, and what color, still have to be answered.

but i’ve decided on the framing.  i’m going to mount it to a panel, painted probably a sage green, a light gray-green.  and then some nice heavy cap moulding from home depot, and i’ll stain or paint that burnt sienna, and make a frame for it.

and then i have to turn to finishing a portrait of my uncle to give to my mom.  i’ve been collaborating on this with jim, and i have to make the final color pass, since he’s done with it.

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