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  • Writer's pictureANDROS

Behind the Brush: My Watercolor Portrait Process

Unveiling the Techniques, Materials, and Artistic Insights Behind Captivating Watercolor Portraits

Hello, I'm Andros Karr, and I'm thrilled to share with you my watercolor portrait process. In this blog, I'll be taking you behind the brush, revealing my techniques, materials, and some tips and tricks that you can apply to your own paintings. I'll also be embedding a few videos to showcase my process in action.

Choosing Your Subject

The first step in creating a captivating watercolor portrait is choosing your subject. For me, the most intriguing aspect of the model was her gaze. The viewer's perspective is below eye level, which is not typical for a portrait. This gives her a power position that contrasts with her innocent and vulnerable gaze. But what truly drew me in were her eyes - deep, intense, and magnetic.

Materials and Technique

For this demonstration, I used a traditional approach for watercolor, working from light to dark. I began with a Hake brush to apply a transparent wash for the background, using a very light value. The water to pigment consistency was similar to tea, and I ensured the paper was completely dry before applying the wash.

The materials I used included yellow ochre, transparent oxide red, and Paynes gray pigments, cold press watercolor paper, a Hake brush, and synthetic mongoose brushes. Before the first wash dried, I applied a second wash on the portions of the subject that I wanted to highlight - in this case, the face, hair, and shoulders. I kept my strokes loose and free, in a painterly approach.

Working the Values

It's crucial for the first layers to keep the value light but dark enough to allow you to pull the lights later on. After letting the previous layer dry completely, I switched to the synthetic brushes to start working the initial medium values. I alternated between brushes to fade some of the hard edges and make the portrait smoother in certain areas, careful not to blend all the edges to achieve a more expressionistic look.

I then started working the initial dark values with a thicker mix, using a water/pigment consistency similar to milk. I constantly controlled the mix on my brush by drying it on the paper cloth so the brush marks remained on the painting.

The Eyes - The Focal Point

The eyes are the most important element of the painting, as they are the focal point. They have the remarkable ability to captivate and engage the viewer at a profound emotional level. It is through the eyes that an artist can convey the deepest of thoughts, feelings, and narratives, allowing for an intimate connection between the artwork and its observer.

Final Touches

For the final highlights in the eyes, forehead, and chin, I used white Gouache paint, straight from the tube, and used clean water to blend them in. I also used a clean brush and water to pull out some highlights on the hair, and continued to refine some of the darker details. Lastly, I erased some of the pencil lines, making sure many were left on the painting as a mark of the artist’s hand.

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