I knew the minute I saw the Edward S Curtis print of Wolf Robe that I wanted to paint a picture of him. This is the sixth in the series of Edward S Curtis photographs that I’ve watercolored so this has become a project in its own right.
Wolf Robe was a member of the Southern Cheyenne tribe and the Curtis Photograph from which I painted this was taken in 1909.
I did two different detailed sketches of Wolf Robe before attempting the painting because I’ve learned that I need to do a detailed sketch of the subject before attempting the watercolor.
Here are the two sketches:
I have the goal of spending several hours a day sketching for an entire year to see how much I can improve. This takes a lot of discipline and I find that I sometimes get in a rut. One rut I was in was drawing too many men’s faces. So I recently switched it up and have been drawing a lot more women’s faces.
These are couple that I did just from general internet searches for pictures that I could draw.
Most of these sketches I’m doing 2 per page: on 8 1/2 by 11 inch sketch pads.
So the pages look like this:
Drawing and painting portraits is a very unforgiving endeavor. If you have the slightest detail wrong it won’t look like the person you’re drawing.
Sometimes, I find it invigorating to take a break from that discipline and just sketch abstract things.
This is one I did a couple weeks ago. Just for fun.
Here is a watercolor I did of Walt Disney. I added the Mickey Mouse hat on my own i.e. it wasn’t in the photograph of Walt that I used to capture him.
It would be hard to imagine anyone who had more entertainment impact on children growing up in the past 60 years than Walt Disney. His movies were the most special entertainment treat we had growing up in the baby boom generation and they continue to delight children of all ages the world over to this day.
My favorite Walt Disney quote is: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”.
Here is another in the series of watercolors based on Edward S Curtis’ early 20th Century black and white photographs of Native Americans. This one is of Bird Rattle, a Piegan (Blackfoot).
I know from reading the Edward Curtis Biography that his first trip outside of Washington State to photograph Native Americans was to the Blackfoot reservation in Montana. I’m not sure if this one was from that trip or if it was taken later.
I worked hard to capture the intensity of Bird Rattle’s piercing gaze, which was common in a lot of the photographs from the collection – these proud people had an astonishing intensity in their gaze – almost like they were looking into you.
All my successful Watercolor portraits now follow an established pattern.
1 – Do a few thumbnail sketches. Each one that I do looks more and more like the subject.
2 – Do a detailed sketch like the one I did of Bird Rattle for this project
3- Draw a rough sketch on the watercolor paper until you KNOW it looks like the subject. If the rough sketch is “off”, don’t start the watercolor because painting it won’t fix a bad sketch/outline.
4- Paint the watercolor using both the original photograph AND the detailed sketch as references for tone, light reflection, and shapes, facial features, hair, and clothing.
Here’s an example of how I’m doing a couple of sketches per page on 8.5×11 inch sketch paper. I draw the basic frame size first, then do the sketches.
When I’m done with the sketch, I fill in a bit larger frame around the sketch as you can see I’ve done here.
Here’s a sketch I did of a very young Myrna Loy. This was her playing a gypsy in the 1929 movie “The Squall”.
Myrna Loy was born in Radersburg, Montana, not far from my birthplace in Montana. She was a very classy lady and one of the great stars of early film.
I found this picture from a general internet search for interesting faces. The photograph was a black and white and leant itself to a sketch very readily.
This woman has kind eyes and the sketch was done very quickly. I’ve started doing sketches like this in little boxes I draw on half a piece of 8.5 x 11 inch sketch paper so I can do two facial sketches per page.
Here’s a simple pen and ink / watercolor of Lewis Hine.
There’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of Lewis Hine – even though he was one of the most influential photographers of the first half of the 20th Century.
His photographs of children and their working conditions in the first part of the 1900s so shocked the nation that congress passed laws against child labor that got kids out of coal mines and mills and into school.
He was a great example of the positive influence that a single artist can have on the world.