Floral portrait

Happy Friday. I hope your week has been going well. As well as possible. 🙂 We are, in Chicago, plunged into a good few inches of snow. It came down in a blizzard last Monday & Tuesday; it is so much snow that we spotted a near 6 foot snowman in our neighborhood!

In all this Winter, I cannot help but dream, a little bit, of floral things and the return of Spring.

Last month, I decided to try another (self?) portrait of sorts — something to bring up the botanical things in my mind and set them under a full moon in that late-dusk time of day so conducive to colours and their imagination.

I chose to work in gouache/acrylic for the saturated pigment, and pencils for texture. When working with gouache, I like to use Scotch tape to create a frame around my work. It helps me to bound my space and design (and lifting the tape off at the end to see a straight edge is neat).

Some thoughts on mixing paints + pigments

The skill I wanted to practice with this painting was mixing pigments. I discovered that you can layer pencils to produce interesting things! I also learned that objects that are “conceptually” green need not always show up as green. But the main lesson learned: gouache can be mixed with acrylic, since they are both water-based. I have a tube of Winsor & Newton acrylic in Titanium White, and have been using it to lighten my gouache. The resulting paint shows up really smooth and opaque with great coverage. It’s a very forgiving and layerable paint that allowed me to repaint areas of the face over many times as I was figuring the picture out.

Note that mixing gouache with acrylic does change paint texture: once dried, the gouache-acrylic hybrid isn’t as matte as gouache alone; it has a slight sheen and shine compared to the velvet-y light-eating surface of gouache. I’m ok with that, but have heard that shine is less conducive to producing good scans for reprints (so there’s that to consider). For now, my acrylic-gouache hybrid is saving me the trouble of running to the art store, as I go through those tiny tubes fast.

After about 4 days of relaxed-pace work, the portrait was done.

This portrait reminds me of the good things in store. We are, after all, only 2 months away from Spring.

Wherever you are, I hope that you are finding some solace in the beauty of Winter. For now, the flowers are living in my dreams, but a little green is on its way.

Until next time. 🌺

Painting timeline (for reference, by day)

  1. Pencils + composition
  2. Gouache (background + portrait)
  3. More gouache and pencils (mid-ground)
  4. Last of the gouache details, fussing, then declaring done

Film… and stuff

site angel 1

Just a pink ink portrait of a fellow, taken from a film still.  In the shot, the character in question is standing beside Serge Gainsbourg.  The name of the film escapes me.

This is perhaps why I decided to turn the fellow into a film nerd.  He would never have forgotten the name of the film. I imagine he may be like the friend you might already have—the one who embodies all IMDB-knowledge.  When you ask him or her if they liked the movie that you just saw together, they might say “I did and I didn’t.”  They collect Bergman biographies and musty-smelling film theory paperbacks.  You gave him/her something from the Criterion Collection for their birthday.  They endlessly tease you for your squeamish refusal to watch Oldboy, but they know your taste in movies to a T and are ever-ready to interrupt their Netflix queue for you because you haven’t yet seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  Such is the discerning and judicious love of the film nerd friend…

Two faces


Two faces today.  I got the idea for the second while perusing a pair of jeans at a thrift shop.  “Dear Darlin” started playing in the background and, finding myself more and more susceptible to pop music of late, I went home to google the singer…  Maybe this is a sign of age, but my musical immune system isn’t what it was during my critical and selective youth.  These days, music comes in through the ears–while doing groceries, or walking down the street, or in a cafe–and tends to stay where it ends up, looping through my head at the strangest moments.

The first face was an exercise in feathering–a technique common to comics for making gradations from dark to light.  Any tips and tricks out there on how to actually feather with a brush?  I’ve been practicing for many months, and am beginning to think that the manual dexterity required to do it is beyond human.

Materials-wise, lots of ink under ink here.  I discovered that mixing my green with my red  produced… purpleDoes this not defy the long-standing principles of colour theory?  Oh, the strange and secret properties of ink and it’s magical chemistry…

Once upon a picture day…

Dad portrait 1

…in a Hong Kong elementary school…

When I came to Switzerland, I took some photos of my parents with me.  This one is among my favourite photographs of my father—taken when he must have been roughly 13.  I imagine  him sitting for the picture under a reflective umbrella in a stuffy gymnasium full of excited and chatty children, all wearing their pressed 1960s school uniforms.  In the photograph, like in this pencil + ink portrait, he is looking slightly away and off to the side.  I imagine a goofy classmate standing in the picture-taking queue making silly faces, and I interpret this side-long glance as my father’s best attempt at holding a pokerface.  This photograph is also perhaps the first time (never to be repeated?) I have seen him wearing a skinny tie.

Just some reflections for  the back-to-school season.  Happy September, kids!