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Watercolor Portraits on Gesso

October 26, 2007

I guess I really don’t like to make things easy on myself. I love doing portraits, but I find them very challenging. And this week I’ve been working on a couple done in watercolor on paper coated with gesso. I had posted this one of my husband a few posts back, an simply tightened it up and added the background.

Miraculously, it came together sort of easily – maybe because it was my third try from that particular reference photo, and it is a face I know pretty well by now…

So, I got a little overconfident, and tried to do another one. this is from a photo taken of a caviste (wine merchant) in Provence whom we like a lot. Whenever we go on vacation with friends we seem to get to know the local caviste – and we’ve been gong to this part of Provence for years now. I found this one extremely difficult – something about the tilt of the head and the mouth still aren’t quite right, but it’s almost right. I went back in with pencil, and then water soluble pencil, because I couldn’t get the pigment to stick everywhere on the gesso. Fighting with this subject has worn me out for now, but maybe I’ll try another one in a day or two.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2007 6:50 pm

    Casey,
    I am really impressed with your portraits – even if they have been a challenge for you. What does your husband think of his?

  2. October 26, 2007 7:14 pm

    These are wonderful. (And, your husband is adorable!)

    I prefer portraits, but I’m drawing anything and everything to improve my skills. One thing I’ve noticed in photographs is that many times facial features are skewed, and if you are drawing from a photograph, you will notice that sometimes the feature placements and angles cannot be true. If I’m drawing a tilted head, there’s a mental fight because I want to straighten the tilt. Photographs for magazine covers and ads are often Photoshopped to correct the skew. One example is that eyes seem to be at an impossible alignment, so one eye (usually the far one) is shifted.

  3. October 27, 2007 2:18 am

    gosh Casey, these are just so wonderful!!!!!

  4. October 27, 2007 6:59 am

    Great work Casey…the background on M. ‘s portrtait makes it “complete” and I love the other portrait- you’ve captured such nice expression in his eyes and around his mouth! And I love your colours…gives me the impression of “old” colours, which I alwasy love!
    Ronell

  5. October 27, 2007 10:46 am

    Thank you all!
    Shirley, Michel actually likes this because it really does look like him.
    Jenny, thanks for the insightful comment. I Had never thought about the way photos distort a face, but it’s true that it sometimes seems next to impossible to draw from a photograph, while in drawing from life the experience is completely different.

  6. October 27, 2007 10:52 am

    These are terrific, Casey! The top one looks very Cezannesque. I’ll bet Michel is pleased. If your portrait is any indication, he has a very sweet nature. And as for the eyes in a portrait—they are so hard to get aligned right when drawing from life, too, even with lots of experience. I recently saw a major Ingres show in Paris and I was startled to notice that in many of his portraits, the eyes were ‘off’ to the extent that the subjects looked as though they had slight cases of ‘wandering eye.’ Larry Rivers used to deliberately smudge through one eye in his portraits so he wouldn’t have to deal with this problem!

  7. October 27, 2007 12:07 pm

    I really love “The Cavist”, beautiful colours and a very sensitive perception of the subject. This portrait has soul, and it is so much more important than any technical perfection!
    By the way: where in Provence?

  8. October 27, 2007 12:08 pm

    And I forgot to say: I love the header of your blog, absolutly wonderful!

  9. October 28, 2007 11:51 am

    I really like them both, great character and such a loose, confident approach.

  10. October 28, 2007 12:22 pm

    Casey, I think your use of mixed media is stunning. Wonderful portraits and such a classy, painterly style. I’m making an awful mess of a watercolour at the moment. Forcing myself to finish it and then I’ll gesso it over and try your technique.

  11. October 28, 2007 2:50 pm

    I find it scary to go in and add things to a piece I’m happy with. You’ve done that so beautifully with the portrait of your husband. And the caviste looks wonderful. You’ve captured a lovely smile. may i ask what size they are?

  12. sandyzeb permalink
    October 28, 2007 8:56 pm

    Gosh…I love them both. Great job!!

    sandy

    also at

    http://dustyducktales.blogspot.com

  13. November 4, 2007 7:59 pm

    These both look extremely accomplished! I love the sense of light in the one of your husband. I also like the mark-making of the pencils in the bottom portrait. I envy you this ability – portraits are so difficult!

  14. November 21, 2007 12:16 am

    Wonderful portraits! Well done, indeed!

  15. stilletaeterin permalink
    December 2, 2007 8:13 am

    both portraits are beautiful! love the colors.

  16. December 13, 2007 6:57 pm

    The top portrait especially is very atmospheric. Fantastic.

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