Multiple studies

I’ve been known to paint a single image many times, trying to “get it right.” (The painting “Trim the Velvet” I painted at least 12 times before I was happy with the results.)

I’ve been working an image of a friend’s wife for a year. It’s eluded me, partly because the original photograph was taken with the sun overhead. A no-no; yes, I’m aware of that. But her eyelashes cast a shadow on her cheek, delicate and curved. Her hair was wisping in a light breeze. Her name is Margaret (yes, my name too!), which, according to coffee cup research, means “pearl of the sea.” The photo, although taken on the front steps of a local church, somehow made me think of the ocean, so I decided to place her on a beach.

This first painting was a color sketch, to play around with the palette and composition. The sketch looks fresh, with nice, clear colors (my favorite part is the blue and green in the shadowed side of her face) and easy brush strokes, but it was just a very quick drawing.

watercolor painting
Sketch for “Margaret”
Watercolor on paper


This is the second version, a small painting: only 8.5″ x 11″. Whatever it was that had caught my attention eluded me in this painting, although in retrospect, I like the placement of the horizon the best in this version.

watercolor painting
Margaret 1
8.5″ x 11″ Watercolor on Arches #300
© Margaret Sloan 2014


This is the current painting, larger, with more finish. From the beginning the drawing was off, asI didn’t take a lot of time with it. (I grabbed it off the drawing board to take to Open Studios so I could paint while I hung out in my booth.) That little bit of wonkiness in the drawing magnified to large proportions when I started adding paint, and I had to repaint the eyes—a couple times—before they looked like eyes that belonged together on the same face. (Lots of gentle scrubbing with an ancient Series Seven sable removed the eyes.) Note to self: Nail the drawing before applying paint.

Watercolor Painting
Margaret M.
11″ x 14″ Watercolor on Arches 300#
© Margaret Sloan 2014

I think I’ll let this last one sit in the flat file for a while, then take it out and see what can be done. Or I might repaint it again someday!


I’m interested to know what you think. Let me know in the comments field.

4 thoughts on “Multiple studies

  1. I love to see the different variations. I really like the second one because of the vivid colors.

  2. I agree the second painting is really bright and cheery. It sings the beach! I like the lighter background because she comes forward more. I really like your placement of bright colors next to each other in some of the shadows in the second one too. Portraits are so difficult and you do it so well.

    1. Thanks Heather. Your response is really helpful. When I see them together like this, I can see that the second version rings more true-the horizon is placed properly, and the values are better thought out.

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