She wears a red bandana

She wears a red bandana

Second quick watercolor sketch from Charles Reid book. This one was harder because first I got in trouble with my drawing and had to start over. Then my pigments wouldn’t give me as dark of a mark as I wanted. So I went over some areas again to build value and it shows.

Another new happening for me – for this sketch I dispensed with my porcelain palette and its individual wells and used a white dinner plate instead. I made dabs of strong pigment and let them mix mud-pie style on my plate. It was great! When I needed sienna-umber 50-50 mix I would pick it up from the middle between the dabs. When I wanted my mix to be more red I moved closer to the center of burnt sienna dab. When I wanted my color tinted I would pull some ultramarine in the center. Very convenient – all color and value gradations where right there on my dinner plate. It took 2 hours to paint her, but it would probably take much longer if I would mixed my colors in the wells each one separate from the other.

5” x 4” (13 x 10 cm) on Arches Cold Press, Cotman pan paints


13 thoughts on “She wears a red bandana

  1. You are so brave working on portraiture like you do. Good that you are trying out a large dinner plate for mixing. I like the color you came up with for the skin. Remember that you can also drop water into areas you want to be lighter and it will push your pigment back if it is still damp. That sometimes offers some happy accidents that you can make decisions on. You rock as well as you are doing!

    • And you are one of my most enthusiastic supporters, Leslie! Thank you for watching, commenting and offering advice. I was always intrigued by the idea of using butcher’s tray or the like for mixing, without the confines of individual wells. But wasn’t brave enough to try before. I am glad I did, I like it. My problem here wasn’t making the colors lighter, I couldn’t get them dark enough. It is hard to get pure condensed pigment out of a pan without diluting it with too much water. That’s where tube paints would be useful.

  2. Recently, I have been thinking about trying the approach you used. Now I am really anxious to get out a dinner plate and give it a try. My palette has 4 large areas and they always look like a mingled mess an yway. I have to clean the sections when I finish a painting (for my sanity – neat freak!) but I have always wondered if I would be better off to leave the best of the palette “mingles”. Anyway very nice work…and very brave.


    • You should try it, Linda – it’s fun! I liked how the mingled colors gave me unexpected and lively combinations, I just cannot see how I would have gotten those using compartmentalized pigments. This was a great discovery!

      The only thing to keep in mind is whether you planing to use condensed pigments, a consistency of cream or melted butter, or watery washes. The dinner plate will obviously not work for runny washes. Have your usual palette with wells ready, you can always change back to it if free-flowing pigments will not obey. A control freak myself, I know how you feel :). Thank you for your comment and have fun!

    • Thank you, Tristan! I don’t know where you are in your studies of portraiture, but if you are a beginner like I am, I want to recommend Charles Reid’s book Watercolor Solutions. This portrait sketch and the previous one, Saint Nick, are step-by-step demos in this books. They are explained so well, that I was able to understand and paint them as well as you see here. The title of the book is somewhat misleading, it is discusses portrait and figure painting only. Click the link and you can see sample pages on

  3. Great job Alex! I cant get enough of portraits in watercolors. I love the vibrant portraits of Charles Reid but I find it extremely difficult to adopt his style of painting. I guess you can paint like that with experience.

    • Thank you, Raji! I like Charles Reid’s style too, but it isn’t my style. Still for some reason I find his book remarkably easy to follow, which is probably due to his talent as a teacher. I think it is useful for me as a beginner to try different styles and see how each one sits with me. I don’t know where I am going to end up style wise, but I am sure drops of paint and mess Charles Reid’s style isn’t it. But I love his free approach to color and hope to keep that.

  4. great job on the portraits! you are brave, I’ve tried them a few times and they are scary!

    One of my art teachers uses small styrofoam plates as palettes. We use them over and over. Sometimes when we make a large puddle of paint and dont’ use it all it dries up, but then we can rewet it and voila! We have the paint back. These plates can also be washed down so they can be used over and over.

    also, for next hanukkah, you may want to drop hints for some tube paints. I like them better, but that is my personal preference. you may not, but I’m sure you would have fun comparing the two.

    • No-no-no!!! I can’t wait until next Hanukkah! The tube paints are going to be here much MUCH sooner!!!

      And Carol – thank you for your nice comment about my portraits! These two turned out looking like people, it seems. No-one was more surprised than me, LOL! I’ve read about Styrofoam plates for palettes in one of my instruction books too. I only have yellow ones in the house right now, but will likely be getting white ones soon. I find that I align household purchases with my watercolor needs: Viva paper towels, tissue without lotion, and now white picnic plates. I need to find one of those small Windex bottles for spraying paint that Nita Engle is talking about in her book.

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