I love painting children’s portraits in watercolor because each child is unique, and each one presents a new challenge of coloring and personality. In my experience, I’ve found that the key to getting the portrait right is the expression on the child’s face. If I can re-create that expression, I know my effort will be successful.
Through the Eyes of a Child (watercolor, 9-1/2×14-1/2)
I observe my subjects carefullly before beginning a portrait because familiarity with their mannerisms and features?especially the eyes?is important to capturing a sense of who they are. After taking photos and lots of notes about color, I make a contour drawing of my subject in pencil on 300-pound hot-pressed paper, with as much detail as I can get. Then I layer in washes of color, and I try to deal with the subjects and the background simultaneously. I work wet-into-wet, and I lay the colors down quickly, trying not to overwork them, in order to build luminosity.
When painting the subject, I do intensive work on the faces, using plenty of washes for the darker areas and doing the washes for the eyes separately. Overall I concentrate on middle values, usually using two-color combinations. For the child’s body I repeat some of the basic skin tones with an eye toward unity, and I like to edge around the figure to give it unity. In the end, however, it’s those wondrous facial expressions that reveal the special quality that each child possesses.
Loraine Crouch is assistant editor for The Artist’s Magazine.