Water Color Demonstration

Step 1
On a taped-down sheet of Arches 140-lb cold-pressed paper, Leveille had loosely sketched the model¹s features, using a 4B graphite pencil, and also positioned some large, dark shapes, such as shadows under the eyebrows, the nose, the chin, and the side of the face. Now, with a kneaded eraser, he lightens the graphite enough that it won’t show up in the final painting. “By flattening the eraser,” he notes, “I can quickly wipe away most of the lines, leaving only the most essential marks as a guide.”
2Step 2
The first wash, a watery mix of cadmium red light, cadmium yellow light, and a touch of alizarin crimson, approximates the general color and value of the light side of the model¹s face. “I¹m not fussy about this application,” Leveille says. “Using my largest brush‹a No. 30 round‹I cover most of the head and a bit of background with it. Since I paint with my support board in a vertical position, I quickly dry the wash with a hair dryer to prevent color from flowing down.” To intensify the colors, the artist continues to build up the big, light areas of the face with glazes, drying each layer before going on to the next.
3Step 3
Concentrating on the big shapes, Leveille begins to block in the darks, including shadows and hair, with a No. 20 round. For shadows under the nose and chin, he uses a purplish mixture of alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and a bit of cadmium red light; for the greenish shadow on the side of the face, alizarin crimson and Hooker’s green light; for the hair, Van Dyke brown with a touch of cadmium red light. “I try to soften many of the hard edges as I apply the darks,” Leveille says. “I accomplish this by touching the edges with a brush loaded with the neighboring light skin color.”
4Step 4
After building up the shapes around the mouth by painting in various halftones, Leveille develops the lips. Describing his method, he says, “I keep the upper lip mainly in shadow by using a dark mixture of alizarin and cadmium red light with a dab of Van Dyke brown. For the lower lip, I apply a warmer blend of the cadmium with a touch of alizarin.” After the lips have dried, the artist creates the dark area between the lips with alizarin crimson and Van Dyke brown. He highlights the lower lip by working the tip of the brush with clean water in a small area, then blotting with a tissue.
5Step 5
“Now I use the same method to shape the nose, always building form through value,” Leveille stresses. “On the shadow side of the nose I apply burnt sienna and Hooker’s green, then use a darker blend of those colors for the nostrils. I made that highlight on the tip of the nose by working the area with a clean wet brush and then blotting it with a clean tissue.” Developing the forms around the eyes, the portraitist works with a No. 10 round, putting in the largest halftone shapes with a mix of lavender tones made of alizarin and ultramarine blue. The light brown of the iris is a blend of Van Dyke brown, cadmium red light, and a little raw sienna.
6Step 6
Here, Leveille concentrates on the darkest shapes: eyes, eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair. “To enliven the eyes,” he explains, “I add Van Dyke brown to the upper part of the iris, leaving the lower section lighter. Notice that the eyebrows vary in value, with the darkest areas near the nose; I use combinations of Van Dyke brown and Hooker¹s green here. Since I¹m into the darks, I develop the hair, using Van Dyke brown with ultramarine blue in the darkest areas and cadmium red light in the lighter areas.”
7Step 7
Waiting this late to apply a background gives the artist a chance to see what color would complement the overall portrait. He decides on a splash of phthalocyanine blue plus yellow ochre. Next, to complete the hair, he uses the drybrush technique. “By having the brush contain more paint than water,” he notes, “the bristles flair, rather than come to a point, which helps me suggest wisps of hair at the outer edges.” He paints the “scrunchy” tied around the braid with cadmium red light, alizarin, and ultramarine blue. For the earrings, the dark part combines Hooker’s green and burnt sienna; the light areas are yellow ochre. Leveille makes the final accents with a razor, to pick out highlights on the earrings and on the eyes.

The completed painting: Renee, 2001, watercolor 22 x 17.