The Yin and Yang of Painting Portraits

Portrait Sketches


Most of the time I am painting landscapes from Canada and my travels.  The last couple of  weeks I have been focusing on watercolour portrait sketches as a way to practice accuracy.  I find doing these sketch book studies a lot of fun and at the same time challenging.  I think for the style of art that I do that drawing is foundational and always will be.  I believe it is really important to develop the spatial drawing skills that just comes from practice and close observation.

The Yin and Yang of painting portraits is for me a way of describing the relationship between accuracy to form and detail and at the same time keeping the pictures loose and allowing for the organic nature of watercolour.  I have heard it said of painting portraits that  “the soul is in the details”.  With that in mind I usually put more detail into the face and specifically the eyes.  While I am working carefully on the details of the face I am at the same time putting in loose washes in other parts of the picture.  It is a challenge to be loose and accurate at the same time. At the end of the day I am making a piece of art and so I am hoping to convey a little of the spirit of the person.

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