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Layering Color to Model Form in Watercolor Portraits | Watercolor Demo

Layering Color to Model Form in Watercolor Portraits | Watercolor Demo

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Patricia Guzmán‘s watercolor portraits celebrate the indigenous people of Mexico that defy stereotype and shine a light on the displaced, disappeared and forgotten.

Follow along with this step-by-step demonstration of her painting, Forgotten, below, and read more about her bold watercolor portraits in the October 2016 issue of Watercolor Artist (now available in print here and as a download here).

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Guzmán starts with a 5×7-inch thumbnail sketch to explore tonal values and the interaction of abstract shapes.


The white parts of the women’s bandannas’ patterns are preserved with masking fluid so that the first layers of paint can be washed on. These initial layers are very light and are added wet-into- wet to keep them soft. The artist continues adding layers of color, going from light to dark.


The artist adds more layers to model the shapes into three- dimensional forms, then removes the masking fluid by rubbing it off with her fingers. The white patterning of the main character’s headscarf is unified with the light modeling of the bandanna and the shape of the head underneath to heighten the sense of realism.


To add color to the adjacent figures, Guzmán first layers washes wet-into-wet, then deepens various colors by adding washes over dry areas. Final detail layers are added using a drybrush technique.


Referring to the values she established in the initial step as a compositional guide, she continues to deepen colors throughout the painting to model form. She applies cool, atmospheric tonal washes to the background figures to unify them and keep them in the distance. Middle and near figures are rendered in finer detail using a drybrush technique so that they appear to come forward.


To create the white of the mist, Guzmán applies acrylic titanium white using an airbrush. Once the white dries, she airbrushes thin layers of cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, burnt umber, sepia and Payne’s gray to intensify the sensation of the haze in Forgotten.

Watch the video: Beginner Watercolor tips and technique to get familiar with layering process (July 2022).


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