For being alive – in color

For being alive II

For being alive is now complete in watercolor. I am somewhat disappointed with the end result – I did not succeed in creating a sense of aliveness to the extent I imagined and planned. But I learned a lot in the process, so I am calling it a study. It is done in limited palette (pyrrol red, red oxide, ultramarine, cobalt blue, new gamboge and sepia). During a critique session in class I realized that my composition crop is working against the image, my background is not strong enough to bring forth my idea, and skin colors lost their variety of blues and violets somewhere in the process. On a positive side I am pleased with the 3D effect I was able to achieve, her expression and the lines of her body.

10″ x 14″ (25 x 36 cm) watercolor on paper


21 thoughts on “For being alive – in color

    • Thanks, Ryan! Her skin did come out OK, this glazing technique really works for skin. If I had more time before my trip I would put more blues and violets into the shadows, but alas… I have no time. She is indeed beautiful! I was so glad to find a model reference that is not pencil thin, so tired of those…

  1. This is excellent! It’s good that you’re thinking of ways to improve the background but the figure really is very well executed – she’s very 3D, real and perfectly proportioned. Great work!

    • Good to meet you, Caroline! And thank you for your kind words! I went to your blog as well, you are doing beautiful work. I will certainly be visiting more.

    • Thanks, Alonso! I am happy you noticed the separation of the figure from the background. I was working to make that happen and wasn’t sure I managed. Your comment made me feel good about it.

  2. This is beautiful, Alex. I love the skin tone you have achieved and the figure is very three dimensional. I had the same feeling with my mother with child on her shoulders one I posted on mother’s day. …and I think it was a cropping issue. Regardless, this is beautiful!

    • Thank you, Leslie! Yes, the composition here is off. I am not sure how it happened though. I put the composition together on a computer, several ones in fact, printed them out to assess, and selected the one that I liked, it seemed to work at the time. However it is not right in the painting. I am thinking that a stronger, more defined background would have pulled it together. I don’t have time to work on it now – my plane departs in just a few hours. I don’t know if I will feel like working on it again when I get back. Will see…

  3. She is gorgeous. Like everyone else, I love the skin tones, love the figure. Like you, I’m not sold on the background. Not sure of the answer, because you don’t want her to disappear into it, and the contrast you’ve achieved is great–still, it needs something different. You’ll figure it out. It’s a great achievement. I haven’t tried painting portraits/figures in color–hope I do a quarter this well when I do.

  4. She is pretty, i really like the skin tone and how you manage to make the skin shine. She does look 3D to me. Great job

    • I think she is indeed very pretty as well. Although opinions vary, several people (artists and not) disliked her body shape and thought it was not worthy portraying in a painting. I like that she is so full and curvy, not anorexic like most models in references – a welcome change. I masked the highlights to preserve my whites and create that shine on her skin – it worked :D!

      • I have to jump in here with you and Francis, sorry. My favorite figures are those that are different from what the norm is for beautiful. There is beauty to be captured in ALL people. That has made all the difference when I draw or paint a figure. This woman is beautiful because she IS, don’t you think? Artists that only care about a certain form or look, other than what is in front of them are only fooling themselves out of wonderful explorations!

        • Finally got myself situated on the other side of the world and can answer comments :). It is quite alright to jump in – a discussion is great! I am with you, Leslie. There is beauty to be found everywhere, if we look with an empathetic eye. Closed mind closes the eye shut. An artist I know recently posted a drawing of nude – middle age or more, extra weight on her, gravity effects on her – and yet totally comfortable in her body. And as a result she was so beautiful!

    • Thank you, Carol! I am really pretty pleased with it, don’t want to put it down too much. There are issues of course, it is still rather a student work. But for a first work in figure it is rather well executed. And I learned a lot. So all is well :)!

  5. Gradually working a little bigger, I see!

    The subject and the way you painted the skin tones are great, she looks really curvy and natural. I saw some of the commentsn above and I’ll agree – this model is pretty much perfectly shaped, an ideal artistic subject, IMO.

    As far as the background is concerned, I think your criticism is right on the money: it needs to be stronger. As it is, the figure seems kind of separate from it, sort of like she’s standing in front of a mural. I almost never use a background more complicated than a gradiant, though, so I’m hardly an expert. 😀

    • Thanks, Kirk (or Sam 🙂 )! I did work bigger this time, but not big enough! With current size the face ended up being too small, and I had a hard time with features and details. Had to generalize it more than I hoped for, and at the same time didn’t quite know how to do that. I am on the other side of the pond right now, visiting family. Will be back in a couple of weeks and will see then what I can do about the background.

  6. I absolutely LOVE this piece! I love the contrast between her skin and the pale background! It gives such a delicacy to you painting, and to her, who is of a strong toned beauty. I love the colors behind her. Don’t change that !
    I understand you feel that something is not right… could it be that the lines of the bed behind her do not meet. My left brain says “that’s because it is a pillow” but my right brain says “these two lines should meet behind her”??? I am totally moved by this as it is… a very strong piece.

    • Thank you, napabelle! Very nice to meet you! I hear what you are saying about the “horizon” of the bed. My daughter mentioned the same thing. I tried to do something about it, but am too new and unsure with watercolor to brave drastic changes. I went to your blog as well, your watercolors are loose and lively! I really like them, will be visiting more now that I met you!

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