A painting of a black woman in a chemise and a sketchbook page of skintones swatched from watercolor mixes
Figure Drawing,  Sketchbooks,  Traditional Painting

Watercolor Skin Tone Practice

I swatched several different skin tone blends before painting in the figure of my current work in progress, hoping I wouldn’t make the skin too blotchy, as seems the case with most of my watercolor skin tone efforts. Alas… I still overworked the paint and it’s still blotchy. I think I keep trying to treat watercolor like digital painting, and then I push too far and overwork it. Blah. More blending practice is necessary!

Before starting, I watched a “Watercolor Portraits for Beginners” video on YouTube. It helped with picking out some initial tubes of paint: sepia, burnt sienna, and a dark violet. Then I began adding other warmer colors – and eventually mixed my own violet by combining permanent Alizarian crimson with Grecian blue and lamp black.

I would really like to deep-dive in watercolor pigments and understand the qualities and differences of the major colors. A while back I read The Alchemy of Paint, and while it was more about alchemy than painting (mostly mysticism and the philosopher’s stone, 10/10 would recommend the book), it did discuss pigment recipes (albeit medieval times pigments, not modern watercolors). That kind of history appeals to me – I like going down rabbit holes of research, learning how things are put together. ^_^

An open sketchbook showing two pages - one with watercolor swatches of skin tones and one of marker drawings of spheres and cylinders in skintones

The right page above is from December – one of my Christmas gifts from family was an Ohuhu skin tone marker set. I still have some face sketches in the corner to finish, but that shall have to wait for a future post.

Watercolor painting of a black woman with long hair, wearing a chemise and standing in front of decorated Baroque style wall

I’m hoping the top layer of ink outlines helps bring the painting together, especially the details of the face. I’m not quite ready to ink yet – I want to deepen shadows on the chemise just a bit, plus the background shadows/shadow under the figure. I am still tempted to add a layer of colored pencil shading but…no, that might not layer in the way I want, becoming waxy and oddly textured. Maybe I can test on a scrap piece of paper before deciding? I am also so tempted to put shimmery gold paint on the wall’s gold trim and her gold slippers, but it would probably clash with the rest of the painting. I could test that out too…

I’m very happy with how the painting of chemise turned out – I went so much faster, letting the water flow and blend. It helps it’s a bigger surface area – less worry about messing up the shape of the face or hands.

Finished a little earlier tonight – 9pm, yay! Gonna go see if Ricky is up for some Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

‘Til next time!

Listening to: Rocks and Water, Deb Talan
Current mood: calm

I'm an illustrator and web developer honing my skills and learning all I can about drawing, painting, and storytelling through visual art.