Baby, I’m a Star

In the last post, I confided my inability to complete even one successful painting – out of the three I started during the portrait session with Father Jogues.  The picture that got posted had been salvaged in “post-production”.  That was two weeks ago.

Last week, even scaled-back ambitions couldn’t render a satisfactory outcome.  I attempted only one painting, and it was a disaster.

Yesterday, I arrived at the studio with trepidation and low expectations.  The reverse-side of the paper from last week would serve as the foundation for whatever new disappointments awaited.  The cheapest watercolor set I own was prepared for painting.  To cap it all off, I lost the coin toss this evening.  So, instead of greeting guests *in* the studio – and setting up my own supplies at the same time – I had the job of opening the building’s front security door as the artists arrived.

That meant, by the time I was able to come back upstairs and get set up, it was already time for the model’s first break.  I had missed out on one of the four 20-minute pose segments!

But sometimes, adversity is the catalyst for success.

The model was the same one as last week, but the results couldn’t have been more different:



“Hey!  Look me over.  Tell me do you like what you see?”

Her name is Star, and the jubilant tone of the Prince song, “Baby I’m a Star” from the Purple Rain soundtrack fits my mood perfectly, looking at this riot of color.

I started with a quick sketch, which offered a surprising degree of difficulty in getting the proportions right.  But one should *never* proceed with a piece until this design phase is absolutely solid.  You can’t fix bad drawing with fancy colors or special effects.

Once I had gained confidence in my grasp of the figure, I charged into the darkest areas first.  Using a brush veritably loaded with true black.  Typically, watercolors are done light to dark, but this reverse method seems to suit me much better.  It begins to establish the full range of values of the piece right off the bat (the dark vs. the white of the paper), and prevents me from overworking things.

Next, I started blending in some midtones; the orange-brown and the purples.  Finally, the lightest yellow ochre midtone was laid in.  Then it was time to get a little more detailed, and do some blending.  Eventually, I added gobs of red, blue and purple to the blacks to give them some life, and added a green reflected light on the left side of Star’s face.  That could be my favorite part.

This one works because it confident and neither sloppy nor fussy.

But my fussiest piece to date is finally done, and ready for posting.  And in this case, the attention to detail has paid off.  Please join me in a day or two for… “The Next Move” !

This entry was published on November 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm. It’s filed under Bold Color, Portraits, The Artistic Process, Watercolors and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “Baby, I’m a Star

  1. Excellent! Really strong with lotos of expression and interest.

  2. Your portraits in watercolor are gorgeous – nice work.

  3. Yes, very good, Gabriel. The odd thing is, I didn’t even notice the green on her face until you mentioned it! It works well.

    • That’s the funny thing about reflected light: like a good special effect in a movie, you don’t really notice it until you watch the “making of…”.

      Reflected light is fun because it often helps bridge the starkness of the deep shadow of the foreground object with the object or background behind.

  4. Baby, she is a Star. The model is gorgeous. Your painting is gorgeous. I love the touches of yellow ochre and purple. And the addition of aqua on the left is perfect!

    • The specificity of your feedback is appreciated. The yellow ochre in this painting was ‘sweetened’ a little by mixing it with a very warm peach color. The color set I was using was very quirky.

      It’s good that you like the aqua: this was another case of me running the gamut of the color wheel. The background was really white, with the merest suggestions of blue or green in the shadows, but I took that hint and ran…

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