A Third and Final Attempt

watercolor, 22 x 15 inches
Detail, SP-3
This is much better! But, before I go on, let me say this . . . . .this is definitely NOT about me. It is just a face and the answer to a painting challenge. Finally, it is always about learning. In the three SP’s (self portraits) I made substantial jumps in understanding a few things . . . but am a long way from being good at this.

I handled this portrait in a much different way . . .slowing down still more and thinking about design as well as color. . . .one might even say with more ‘sensitivity.’

Using an old technique (and some old manganese blue pigment) I hadn’t used for some time, I first defined the shadow shapes ( in this case one large shape from the top of the head all the way down the face onto the shoulder and off the page) with a huge brush, put down a granulating manganese blue wash. While it was still wet, I began charging in yellows and various reds and allowing them to run down the page (the painting was at or near 45 degree angle) over the granulating wash. That set the stage for lots of color variation and warm / cool transitions. After that wash was dry, making small glazes over small areas to darken and enhance differences in light and temperature. The eyeglasses are a great example of those sorts of subtlety. The end game was to resolve very subtle value and temperature changes in the light areas. The white shirt, for example was left white until the end, when a clear water wash was painted over much of the painting, but leaving the light on the face completely alone, which softened edges, improved transitions and knocked the white back enough that the whites in the face light ended up as being slightly lighter than the shirt.

That’s a long winded answer to how it was done.

And speaking of ‘done,’ I am soooo done with self portraits.

Oh! I forgot to mention that lump on my head. That’s where my wife smacked me for spending too much time in the studio!! ;-)) (Sure, Mike !! )

21 thoughts on “A Third and Final Attempt”

  1. Let me be the very first to comment on your S.P. Absolutely love the fluid, granulated washes and hues here…that’s what watercolor is all about…at least in my book. I also love the angle of view. This portrait would be an absolute winner for me but gotta tell ya, the previous one with the harder, hot colors and room with it’s quirky tilt turns me on even more!
    Both beautifully executed! Soft and glowing or hot, bold and off balanced? Haven’t heard from Obama yet.

  2. I think you are onto a series here, Mike. Don’t stop now. There are at least 17 more before you quit. These are so much more interesting than most self portraits.

  3. Dave and Myrna. . .I only have one thing to say: “Thanks, but Nuff, already!)

    You two guys have a corner on the SP market . . .that is to say that it is totally YOUR thing! Maybe someday when I don’t have so many other fish to fry. . . . .like the new abstract I am working on.

  4. Thanks for explaining the lump on your head 😉 I agree with Myrna, keep going! Explore adding texture and fiddling with lighting. You’re on to something.

  5. Mike , fun to see your face in paint!….There is usually paint ON my face!…Been catching up on your blog. Love the portraits and how you extract the most learning you can from any given challenge…Great job on “Yellow”!

    Now that you know Photoshop, time to write your book on technique!!??

    Take care Bro!

  6. Mike,

    Thanks again for using the SP to share your knowledge and specific technique/color/value approaches with all of us. It’s really inspiring to see the progress from #1 to #3. I agee with David L that the last one is “soft and glowing”

  7. Mike, I haven’t checked out your blog in about a week. Good stuff! I first saw the SP3 and thought, wow! Mike is doing an SP, something out of your comfort zone. I recognized you right away. Thanks for the explanation of the process.

  8. I’m a gentle watercolourist, really, and the more recent work is beautifully executed. I think I want a little more strength in the shadow, more mystery perhaps.

    That said, contrary to what I might paint myself, I LOVE version two. Fun, strong, cheeky, just personality plus.

    Which of the latter two portraits better reflects the man?

  9. Lucky me; I got to catch up on three of your postings! Congratulations on getting your article accepted! Which magazine?

    Your self-portraits are fun; the compositions look challenging. It seems to me you’ve captured something of your character.

  10. I think the third one is my favorite too. It has a nice un underlying abstract design with it’s that big light shape and then some. And the pose is unusual, too.

    And that close-up clearly shows that you really do need to get out of that studio and shave 😉

  11. Kathy, et al. Nope. No. Nyet. And no thanks.

    Figures, yes. People at work. People at play. People on the move, all yes. Other portraits, possibly. More SP’s? Not unless I become some sort of cranky curmudgeon with nothing else to paint.


  12. Hank . . .the first was a quickie . . . .as anyone can see. The second and third were more deliberate, but on different levels. The last was more about color and color transition than it was about who the face was. . . .or the character therof.

  13. Hey Mike…that’s cool whatya did at the end of your reply to Kay’s comment…looks like a wink and open mouthed smile symbol. I gotta stop this and get back on painting task. But what the hey…gotta wait for my watercolor wash to dry and what better way than to hop onto yer blog.

  14. Captivating? You think so, Holly? The mark of a true artist is to make the repugnant captivating. I am relieved that I achieved success this time.


Join in and comment!