The eyes have it

Painting is not all flow and happy splashing. There’s a fair amount of angst as well. Tears. Ranting. Tantrums sometimes ensue.

Especially when, after hours of work, the painting looks like this:

beginning of baby painting
Early photo of baby painting

I start to get a little nervous. Happy Baby now looks like  Zombie Baby (my apologies to babies and zombies everywhere.) But as someone once said, painting is an act of controlled panic.

My portrait teacher, Rob Anderson, taught me to put the eyes into a portrait last, or at least later, so that they don’t distract you from the rest of the face. I generally try to abide by that; I find that as I work on the surrounding face, I sometimes have to redraw the eyes a bit. But there comes a point when the lack of eyes is more distracting than not having eyes.

Even after more work and adding eyes, this painting still disturbs. My blood pressure and frustration level are rising.

beginning of baby painting
Beginning of painting, with eyes added

But when I finally put in the eyes, the painting began to lose some of the creep factor. But not all. I’m really getting worried that time, my most precious resource, has been frittered on a loser painting. I’m babbling and ranting at this point.

My fiddler, the best coach I have, said, “be quiet and forge ahead. If it’s ruined now, you’re not going to make it worse.”

So, after a few more hours of painting and public radio, my blood cortisol level has gone down as the painting begins to take shape.

baby painting
Noah
Unfinished watercolor on Arches #300 hot press
© Margaret Sloan 2014

There are still some things I’m unhappy about, like the yellow I just added to the face (the yellow is exaggerated by the photo, but not by much), but I’m not so worried about that. A cooler color layered transparently over that bright yellow will soften it, and the brightness will glow through the coolness.

Next: Finishing up.

5 thoughts on “The eyes have it

  1. I really enjoyed your tutorial. I especially admire the happy facial expression your brushes created. As a viewer I see a baby’s soft joyful face. As an artist I related to your angst over the process. Watercolors are so difficult because you can’t go back and correct. Thank you for sharing your insights and ability to forge ahead!

  2. Sorry for the repeat comments. My internet is acting up today 😦 Please feel free to delete these last 3 comments (won’t allow me to do it on my end). Love your work and enjoy reading your blog 🙂

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