Friday, 30 April 2010

Portrait of Beth

Title: Beth.
Painted on Cotman 140lb/300gsm, not, acid free.
image © frank Bingley 2010.

Last night I thought that I would try my hand at a portrait, having seen some gorgeous work on the Internet. I know what your thinking - yes you look at some lovely watercolours and they spur you on to get out your paints and have a go yourself, only to end up dissapointed at your own dismal attempt! Well anyway, I had a go.

Beth is my daughter-in-law's sister's daughter. I took the original photo earlier this month at one of my grandson's 1st birthday party. Printing the image out A4 size gave me a better chance of getting the proportions right. Starting with a very minimal sketch, I really struggled to get a good likeness even though the proportions seemed correct. This I followed with an 07 pigment liner pen, using the pencil lines as a guide, then erasing the pencil marks. Using water colours, I started with applying the first wash over her face, adding more layers of colour and different shades to bring out the form. Next came the lips followed by the eyes. Not until the whole face was finished did I start on the her dress, hat and then lastly background.

Though I am fairly pleased with the work, and have learnt much in the process, it isn't as spontaneous as I had hoped, largely due to the fact that I used too strong a colour for the first wash. Beth has a very pale complextion, with beautiful rose tint to her cheeks, and I got the thing a little too dark, which made her appear older in the painting (she is 3+). The likeness isn't great, and I think another try would see me drawing her a little smaller to get the lovely hat in and more of her arms, blouse and dress. The image you see here is A3, but as my scanner is A4, you are missing some of the surrounding detail.


This quick little sketch of a freesia sprig may look fairly ordinary but, look closer. The colours used here are made from the actual freesia blooms themselves. I ground down the yellow and purple parts of the flower head and pressed my brush into the pulp to get the colours. A leaf was used for the green, but wasn't really strong enough. The yellow on the other hand turned out quite strong. I have no idea though how long the colour will last!

image:Freesia sprig, painted with colour from the catual bloom.


  1. I imagine Frank that you have seen Crystal Cook's blog? She is amazing isn't she! I think this is a great attempt! What a beautiful child! I love the skin tones you have used and the lovely highlights on her face. Which colours did you mix to get that? I have only ever done acrylic portraits which are easier because if you make a mistake you can simply paint over it. I have yet to try water colour - I'm not even sure I would be brave enough! If you do try another one and I hope you do, maybe try using the background to shape the face and subtle tones to shape the features such as the nose etc - rather than pen? This is not a criticism; please don't think that - just an observation. And what a great idea to use an actual flower to paint a flower! I bet the sketch smells delightful!

  2. Wonderful portrait Frank, well done. 'People' are one thing I back away from with my painting. I am useless at them, especially faces. However, it occurs to me that I'm not going to get any better at them by NOT doing them and you've inspired me to have-a-go. Lovely portrait - like everything about it.

    BTW, I scan my A3's on my A4 scanner by scanning in 2 halves and then joining them together using PaintShop Pro (or similar).

  3. Sandra, for Beth's skin tone I used permanent rose with a touch of cadmium yellow and a hint of ultramarine for the base, then more ultramarine for shadows.
    Yes, I do follow Crystal Cooks's blog - her work is so good, but the inspiration for this one came from Jennifer Lawson's blog. She is absolutely amazing at portraits and I love her style using ink outline. Beth has too much of a smooth face for the technique really, so your suggestion not to use pen would probably have worked better on this one.
    And by the way, I am just off to smell that freesia!

  4. John, wow, have I inspired you to have a go at portraits? Will that be before or after the bellis!
    I've tried your method of scanning in two halves before, but they always turn out to be slightly different tone or I can never match the bloomin' halves up!

  5. Hi Frank! I think this is a really lovely portrait. You've done a nice job. And the colors in the hat are fantastic. Very cool use of the flower in the last piece too.

    And thanks Sandra! :):)

  6. That hat was really fun to do Crystal, and quick too. I will have another go at this one sometime in the future, but I will make sure I have a really good likeness at the pencil stage before going ahead with the paint, to do justice to Beth's very pretty little face.