Turning a Snapshot into a Watercolor, Part 1


I started two new commissions recently. A dad approached me to create a painting of each of his young daughters for his wife’s . After searching through lots and lots of photos of their sweet little girls (ages 1 and 4), he sent me about a dozen. I found this one that spoke to me and decided to split up the images to create two separate pieces that could be showcased together.


Once I have been commissioned and have a photo from which to work, I often zoom in on the complicated parts (like these hands) and edit the photo to be black and white, so I can see the shapes, lights, and darks. I don’t want to be distracted by color or by thinking too much. Looking at the photo (in black and white helps me to draw and paint it better.

Once I have sketched out what I think I’ll paint, I send that sketch (or sketches) to get the collector for their approval. Sometimes they have me change something, like in the baby’s sketch he thought her legs weren’t chubby enough, so I added more fat there. The study of the older girl’s hands helped with getting that sketch right. Here are the approved sketches I created of both girls.


In the next step, I look at the colors for the painting. I look at skin tone as one of the most important colors I use. Here is a video where I am mixing colors to find the right tone for these little girls. In the upper left corner, you see a blend of cadmium red and yellow ochre. The bottom left corner is cobalt blue. I think the middle right side of this grid has some colors I might use for their skin.   

Stay tuned to the next part of the commission process. Find out how I receive the inspiration necessary for each piece and see how I finish these pieces. Subscribe to my updates to get my blog updates sent directly to your inbox.