Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Painting Figures in Watercolor

If you asked me to draw the figure in charcoal, pastel, or pen and ink I can be pretty loose and free with my style. Posed models, stationary people, or bodies doing a repetitive motion is easy enough to get down on the paper while drawing. Even painting a figure that isn't moving very much is easy enough.

People dancing is another story. In gesture drawing you can get enough lines on the paper to suggest the human form in motion, but more than that, I don't think so. That's where photographs come in handy, for some artists, maybe not me.

When I use a photograph things get dicey. I see way too many details. I can't squint enough to blur the two dimensional scene. With live models my brain decides what to keep and what to eliminate. In the latest watercolor I did of the dancing party I took my reference from that photo and drew the scene with the least amount of detail possible. Then I went in with color. Working like that felt like a coloring book, a cartoon.

Art Instructor (c)2000 Dora Sislian Themelis Watercolor

(c)2000 Dora Sislian Themelis Watercolor

We are Artists Too (c)2000 Dora Sislian Themelis Watercolor

These three paintings are examples of people sitting and standing in pretty much the same position, just enough stillness for me to capture their poses in watercolor paint. I posted about this class, which was my first intro to watercolor painting. It was a horrible class, but I made the best of the situation by painting everyone in it. The instructor didn't like me one bit. I was not going to paint his painting of someone's painting. Enough said. Look up the post if you want to read more about that.

Playing Laouto (c)2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

Gregory (c)2000 Dora Sislian Themelis

These two pieces were done live also. The top is of Son#1 while he was practicing his instrument. The second is Son#2 as he was doing his homework. Both were worked without prior drawing except for the shape of Son#1's head just for proportion. Basically, I sketched in paint. Do these paintings look melancholy to you?

Dance Party (c)2011 Dora Sislian Themelis Watercolor

Here we are back at the dance party painting. I can see the difference between this and the others. How could I have treated this differently without seeking out a dance party to paint at? I didn't try to go at it with just paint and no sketching in pencil. Would that have made the difference? It's still a photograph though, not live.


  1. I like them all, Dora and no melancholy! I never sketch with my paints- good for you!

  2. The live paintings do have a certain zing to them - but that could easily be because you are more comfortable in yourself painting live and that transfers down the brush.
    If part of your head is saying "not sure, not sure" then that too will appear through your brush. Hence you see a difference - and I have written an essay! :)

  3. Hi, Dora,
    Your hard work and results are great. Don't be tough on yourself. Sketching live models takes time to learn it. I've spent years to come to my current level and 'm still learning. I only pick up a "one" interesting fact such as value or movement or colour. Then, quick sketch. Take it easy and just enjoy it.
    Kind regards, Sadami


The Latest Work With Permission

©Dora Sislian Themelis, 11x14 Watercolor, Patmos Sunset Available for purchase The latest work is from another person's photograph...