Tuesday 23 April 2013


This week I really enjoyed working through the Easy Watercolour Portraits tutorial suggested by Kristin Dudish at Tutorial Tryouts every Tuesday.  It was fun from beginning to end, and I was very happy with the results.

As it happens, my watercolour portraits also fit right into Jenn's theme for Artist's Play Room for 'Heads and Shoulders', and I have added an extra image at the end specially for APR - a different type of 'Heads and Shoulders' image. 

It took me all morning to find a photograph to use for the tutorial because I spent almost the whole morning looking through the photo boxes for a picture matching the type Elise recommended, and only a moment to choose one when I saw it.  Still, it made an enjoyable and nostalgic morning.

This is a school photo of my daughter, Carol, when she was 8 years old (46 years ago), and apart from the fact that it is a lovely image, the balance of light and shadow is just right for the technique.

Elise gave instructions for using PicMonkey, but it proved very simple in Photoshop.  I scanned the photo into Photoshop and used the Posterise filter, with a reduction on the darker/lighter scale, to make a posterised copy, as in the middle photo.

I then used the Trace Edges filter, as in the third picture on the line-up of three above. I printed the posterised and traced images, but decided that although I liked the effect of Trace Edges, I would trace the outline from the posterised version with tracing paper, as instructed in the tutorial.

As you can see, I simplified the right side a little to make the image clearer, and produced my outline tracing in pencil.  I used a simpler method than the tutorial suggested for transferring my tracing onto watercolour paper.

I turned the page of tracing over and re-drew exactly on the traced lines, as we did when we were children.  Then I flipped the paper back over to the front side and drew over the lines again onto the watercolour paper for the preparatory image.  Doing it this way meant that I was able to repeat the process and use the same tracing for all four of the paintings.

When I looked at the pencil lines on the watercolour paper, I felt they were rather dark, and I erased the traced lines until they were just barely visible.  At least that's what I did on all the others, but forgot to do this for the gold one, as you can see if you look closely.  I think it is worth erasing until there is just a faint outline to guide you.

The gold painting is quite nice, but it's just not the colour I associate with Carol - blue and turquoise seem to be her colours.

One of the things that is really annoying about getting older is the fact that I get a shaky hand, and I think you can see the effect of that on this dark blue version.  I did the whole tutorial in one day, so I was also getting rather tired.   The line around the chin on this one is rather too dark, but I'm pleased with the result.  It's amazing how such a simple approach and speedy painting can produce such a realistic image.

One of the reasons I use Inktense watercolour pencils so much these days is that it helps me to avoid the shaky-hand syndrome.  I wanted to try another painting, and decided I would see how it came out with Pitt artist pen and Inktense pencils.

I'm really pleased with the result, gentle and tender, just right to portray a gentle and tender person.

This has been my favourite tutorial so far, and I'm sure I shall use the technique again.


Finally an extra 'Head and Shoulders' image for Artist's Play Room.  This is a small sketch in my sketchbook for a painting I am doing - it's been put on one side for quite a while because I was having difficulty with part of it.  Hopefully I will get down to finishing it one day.

I heard a programme on the radio about THE LONG MARCH, an event near the end of WW2.  It affected me so much that I sat down straight away and drew this coloured pencil sketch, with the intention of working it up into a painting.

If you like the idea of making a watercolour portrait, I really do recommend this tutorial.  It meant a lot to me because I was painting the portraits of Carol.  At the moment she is not very well at all, as I wrote about her in my post The Bravest Person I Know a few weeks ago.

Thank you Karen for suggesting the tutorial, and to Elise for her generosity in sharing the technique.


  1. Hi Jez - lovely portraits of your daughter - and I look forward to seeing your finished long march painting

    FYI here is a tutorial I found a while back for doing a similar watercolour portrait - but with masking fluid. I prefer the end result of this method and have used it a couple of times with pleasing results:


    1. Thanks, Sarah, I appreciate a comment from you so much. I'll have a look at the masking fluid blog-post, and will have a go at that - and pass the info on to Kristin.
      Now I'll try and get down to finishing my draft and nearly completed artwork for the Artful Readers Club. Thank goodness it was a book I enjoyed this time! Looking forward to seeing yours.

  2. Lovely portraits! What a fun tutorial to try. I may have to give it a go. The one in the comment above in sounds interesting too. Your interpretation of this week's APR theme is very moving. I already had tears forming when I clicked on your post about Carol. She sounds like a magnificent person and I'm so sorry she's not doing well right now. Hugs and prayers for your family.

    1. Thank you Cat, I appreciate your thoughts. As for the tutorial it was fun to try, and I have just made a card for my granddaughter with the collaged version, so it is also practical.

  3. How fascinating to read how you made these portraits and how well each one has turned out.

  4. I can definitely see why you liked this tutorial - your results are great!
    I think they are even better knowing that it is Carol... Beautiful!
    I am sorry to hear she's not doing well - I continue to keep her (and your family) in my thoughts and prayers.


    1. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers Kristen, so much appreciated.

  5. Oh I love these paintings so much!! I've know a few Carols in my day including a cousin, and they all suit their name...as does your daughter!! Very pretty little girl. I prefer the blue one with the shaky hand because the texture on the shoulders is so cool it gives the painting wonderful depth and makes it pop ....so don't fret you seem to be intuitively overcoming these (what you might feel is a shortcoming) to produce a beautiful product!! Over all I love the Warhol presentation you used! This combo of colors is fabulous!!

    I admire your tenacity doing the step by step on the tutorial!! It seems like a lot of work!! Well worth it though. I look forward to the completion of your other painting!

    Prayers for dear Carol and your family as they watch over her.

    Hugs Giggles

    1. Thank you dear Giggles, your words always mean a lot to me.

  6. I've always loved that photograph of Carol - and doesn't Heather look just like her when you see Carol as a girl! For once I can say 'lovely work' - you know me, I find much of your paintings too disturbing, even if expertly created.

  7. I've done it! I've done it! Haven't scanned or uploaded yet but I finally took part. I love what you've all been doing with this one. That image where all 4 of the paintings are together is like an Andy Warhol inspired piece. Gorgeous and so much more so for who it is.

  8. gorgeous! I really want to try this.

  9. Beautiful work, I love the shaky blue one the best! My prayers are with your daughter.

  10. Such lovely pictures of your daughter Jez. A very touching tribute in the long March. Much love to you and your family.

  11. Jez,
    I love the pictures of your daughter. Photoshop is on my list of things to learn soon.

  12. What a sweet picture of your daughter and the versions are so pretty.
    I also love your sketch of the long march. I think it captures it well.

  13. These turned out beautifully! Love the description of the process. Haven't tried photoshop yet - looks like a very useful and fun programme!

  14. I really love this technique! You've done a fabulous job. :) Totally awesome!

  15. I spent too long looking for the right photo that I got overwhelmed, but I am done now. Not nearly as fantastic as yours came out, but so much fun and definitely something I want to explore more.

    They look fantastic grouped together as well. A fantastic photo and much more meaningful that it is your daughter. I loved this as well, once I got started!!

  16. Love that you did the same photo four times - great job! I'll bet you miss your daughter being that young - time sure flies, doesn't it?!!

  17. Great results from the tutorial, really like this technique, your portraits look wonderful!


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