California Girl

California GirlWithout a doubt, “California Girl” is the most ambitious watercolor project I’ve undertaken to date. It’s also a painting with a very special meaning for me. This “California Girl” is our daughter, Liz.

Several years ago, she met and married a man from San Diego. After their marriage, they lived in Missouri, but last year, as autumn approached, they agreed they didn’t want to go through another frigid Midwestern winter. So, they packed up and headed for sunny southern California. I know she misses her family, but I also know she’s happy where she is.

Recently she sent us a video clip of her strolling along the beach. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to paint this image of her with her sunglasses, hat, and her long hair loose in the breeze. I loved the colors.

The images of her on the beach seemed to capture her true spirit. Even though she was born and raised in the Midwest, I think she’s probably always been a “California Girl” at heart.

This is the first of several watercolors I hope to make from scenes in the video she sent. I’m planning to give this to her as a little surprise.

LOL…forget the “surprise” part. I wanted to save a copy on my computer so I would have it for this blog post. So I sent it to myself via Facebook. I was sure my privacy was set for “Only me”. Nope. It wasn’t. A notification message quickly popped up from Liz saying, “Mom, is this me?”

She agreed to act surprised when she gets the picture. Hey, I tried!

It was a fun challenge for me, and as always, I learned a lot while doing this painting. I’m not satisfied with the sunglasses…I tried to get a “transparent” look, but it didn’t turn out like I’d hoped. The “shadowed” ribs on the hat came out far too orange, and while I tried using a “stippling technique” to suggest the weave of the hat, the effect was somewhat diminished after the paint dried.

On a positive note, I do like the pale blue sky and the sand in the background. The shadow on her face from the floppy hat looks good, and I got the colors of the zig-zag brown and white scarf about right as they fade in the sunlight at her shoulder.

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to keep on painting. Watercolor is tricky, but I’m learning. I’m enjoying it, too, and “California Girl” will soon be on the way to San Diego.

45 Comments

  1. How ambitious are you, jumping into a watercolor portrait? Wow! You’re doing great! I’m so glad she recognized herself, that must have given you an awesome feeling! Mine has always wanted to move to CA too. Definitely keep going, Judith; you have talent! I’m enjoying watching your progress.

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    1. Thanks, Laura. I just got home from my errands — made a stop at Hobby Lobby and picked up some Arches paper to try. Got a soap-making kit, too. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I can’t tell you how much your kind words and encouragement mean to me. I’m enjoying watercolor more and more each day.

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      1. I’m still using “student grade” paints, too, so that will be my next investment. What brands do you use and/or recommend? I’ve been reading and researching but haven’t made any decisions about what I want to try. My plan is to choose a good brand, and buy tubes of the three primary colors in a similar temperature and then go from there. Any suggestions?

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      2. M Graham times 1000. Better paint and less money. Blick has great prices. But IMO the next thing after paper should be a good sable brush. Isabey makes a great one at an affordable (but not inexpensive) price. Blick, again, great price and you can return anything you buy for up to one year, even if opened. No one else I know of offers that. I do NOT recommend Winsor Newton paint. I find it crazy expensive, especially at places like Michael’s (cheaper at Blick, but then so is everything) and not as vibrant. IMO. You’ll get a different opinion about each of these things from everyone you ask. I would say please try Graham before WN. From Blick, you don’t like? Return. At least you won’t be raked over the coals with the price tag with Graham. It’s not “cheap” but it’s much less. I do not recommend Cotman either long term but to start, it’s not a bad choice IMO. Good for when you’re learning. Once again just my .02.

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      3. Your “two cents” is worth a lot more than that to me. Thank you so much for sharing your opinions. I hear so much about Winsor & Newton, that was what I thought I’d try. I’ve only recently become acquainted with M Graham watercolors — I’ve been doing a lot of research — and I’ll definitely do more reading about the brand. Another I’ve heard mentioned often is Daniel Smith…I think I’ve got it right. Do you have any experience with it? I’m going to go browse a bit online and look at the M Graham watercolors. Thank you so much!

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      4. Yes I hear great things about Daniel Smith. I am ordering one of their colors today. I only have one color of theirs and it’s indeed vibrant but I didn’t like the color. I called Blick, they said don’t bother returning it and credited me anyhow. Can’t say enough about them. If you’re really interested in the straight scoop on paint, check out handprint.com. They test them all (I think), or close to it anyhow. Charlie at Doodlewash also started with WN and another blogger and I converted him to M Graham. He actually went to art school so his opinion really matters to me – plus, he’s a wonderful human being. I hope this helps.

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      5. I’ve been to handprint.com. It’s one of the sites where I’ve been researching. Just looked at M Graham watercolors, and I think I want to buy a few just for starters. I’ll look at Creative Coldsnow — our main KC area art supply — and I’ll check out Blick and Cheap Joe. I’m going to read a little more about Daniel Smith watercolors, too. The difficult part is in choosing which colors to start with!

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      6. Oh, well for that I would think about non-staining pigments, which would be easier to lift in the event of an error. If I had done all of my homework, I’d know them off the top of my head but if you go to the M Graham website (or DS, any of them) and you click on a color, it’ll tell you all of the properties of that particular paint.

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      7. I have tons of Graham paints and could email you photos of swatches but may not be better than the screen in terms of skewing to real vs digital color image. Maybe try and get a warm and cool version of each primary color.

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      1. Possibly? I find myself looking at things and thinking about brush strokes and color. Maybe that’s all part of the brain seeing things a little differently?

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    1. Thank you, Jodi. I picked up some Arches 140 lb. paper today and will use it for my next “California” painting. I have a few other projects in the works first but hope to get started on it soon. I’m really looking forward to using the better-quality paper.

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    1. Thank you, Margaret. I loved doing the painting. I worked very slowly on it, and that helped me develop a little more patience with watercolor. I’m looking forward to doing more paintings…in fact, I have one underway now. I’m taking my time with it, too, and I hope to have it ready to show in a few days.

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    1. When I first started learning to draw, I thought I wanted to do trees and flowers. It turns out that what I most enjoy is doing portraits and figure drawing. There is so much character in the human face, and so much expressiveness in the body. It’s thrilling when I can capture even a bit of it. Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Jade. They mean a lot.

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