Begin by planning ahead. What do you want the outcome to look like? You don’t have to be clairvoyant; even though the lines are blurred or imperfect, don’t worry since they’re just parts of the blueprint, the zeroth layer. Most people believe that having a good foundation ensures good results. Indeed, knowing what outcome you want to see entails good planning. However, things don’t always go perfectly along the way.
In watercolor painting, the rule is to begin with yellow or light colors. Apply just enough tint in areas you think are hit by light or need light. In fact, you can coat the entire face of your portrait in yellow. Even though the skin looks hepatitic, be optimistic. Always begin with yellow. Watercolor, especially that which is diluted in paint, is transparent. With the yellow layer, you can still see the blueprint.
Next, apply darker hues. Use less water and combine colors with black. Sometimes, a bigger portion is concealed in shadows. As such, darker areas take up more space and become more noticeable like a single black dot in a white piece of A3 paper. You cover the yellow and paint a hostile color like charred skin or exposed muscles. The picture looks chaotic. Your blueprint fades, you lose track of your plans. When you keep applying paint without the image getting completely dry, sometimes you unwittingly change your blueprint and smear dark colors over areas supposed to remain light. When this happens, you have to stop letting the darker tones bleed over yellow areas. Let it dry.
At this point, the portrait is very frustrating to look at because the face looks swollen. You have to look at the remaining yellow areas and some darker portions as the new foundations of a fresh blueprint. This time you have to be deliberate where you apply the darker and denser paints. To add depth, try to recall your original blueprint and where the paint must fall. Regardless, some lines are part of your original plan, others are new yet better additions.
Do not be afraid how your painting looks close up. Let it dry before editing. Step back and look at the bigger picture. When you are disappointed with hard lines, soak the brush in water and smother the hard edges. Errors are not permanent.
During the watercolor painting workshop I attended, one participant asked “When do you know it’s done?” When is a watercolor painting finished?
Always before it is completely done.
The painting has to be viewed from a distance. The bigger picture holds the finished image. Each portion up close may not make much sense or may not be appreciated by spectators, but each patch of paper testifies to the criticism you overcame and the difficulties you got through. Some errors you completely erase, others contribute to making the image interesting.
The painting is almost done, hang it already.