Julia Kay’s Portrait Party: Portrait in Gouache

Portrait of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye's Portrait Party, gouache in XL WC Moleskine, 9x6.5"

Portrait for Julia Kaye’s Portrait Party, gouache in XL WC Moleskine, 9×6.5″

When I learned that Julia Kay’s Portrait Party (Facebook) (Flickr) was coming to SF in March for a weekend of live portrait party events I signed up. My goal for 2015 is to develop my portrait drawing and painting skills and this seemed a perfect way to get started, along with the excellent 4-hour figure/portrait drawing/painting class I’m taking at my local community college.

Since I’ve been experimenting and teaching myself to paint with  gouache (more about that soon, with reviews of paint and brushes for gouache). I thought it would be a perfect medium for my first Portrait Party attempt. One thing that I know about gouache but am not yet accustomed to, is that it dries significantly darker than it looks on the palette (unlike watercolor which dries lighter). That explains the very vibrant tones in the portrait above compared to the original photo (which I don’t have permission to post here)! Below is the original sketch that I painted over in my X-large Watercolor Moleskine.

Sketch of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye's Portrait Party, graphite, 9x6.5"

Sketch of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye’s Portrait Party, graphite, 9×6.5″

Meet Morton Skullman

Morton Skullman the Man Skull, oil on panel, 12x9"

Morton Skullman the Man Skull study, oil on panel, 12×9″

I painted my skull model, whom I call Mortie Skullman, to kick off my painting for 2015 since my plan for this year is to focus on portraits, mostly of people (but also of dogs of course, my favorite subject). The process I followed for this study was based on the approach David Jon Kassan takes on his online skull painting video, “Premier Coup” (only $1.95 to rent for 1 week). It was fun painting along with him, taking inspiration from the thoughts he shared as he worked.

The process starts by drawing and blocking in with PanPastels using Sofft Tools and then moves on to oil paints. You can paint over PanPastels without need for drying time or fixative and they can be completely erased with any eraser, making them ideal for underpainting.

Below is the setup and most of the painting sessions in progress. Read More

End of Journal Self Portrait

End of Journal Self Portrait, graphite, 8x5"

End of Journal Self Portrait with New Glasses, graphite, 8×5″ 11/2014

I’ve been doing more oil painting than sketching lately so it’s taken longer than usual to fill my journal and get to the last page that I always save for a self-portrait (above). It’s interesting how each sketch in the collection below shows a progression upwards in age and (occasionally) in skill and how only bits of them resemble me at all. Also interesting how many of them were done on days I was feeling grumpy and/or tired (probably wisely choosing to sketch myself instead of working on something that “mattered” when I felt that way).

Below is a little gallery of self-portrait end-of-journal sketches since 2009. You can click on any image to see it larger, if you must.

Random Little Moleskine Sketches


Here are some random sketches from hikes and walks with my dog, sitting in meetings, a movie shown in a library and at the dog park. These are all in my pocket Moleskine that I carry with me all the time. Hover over images to read captions or click on them to see them larger.

Sketchcrawl #44, UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Center Street Entrance, ink and watercolor, 5x8 in

UC Berkeley Center Street Entrance, ink and watercolor, 5×8 in

I had a great time at Sketchcrawl 44 on the University of California, Berkeley campus. I missed the starting meet up at 11:00 because I stopped at the entrance to do the sketch above (and to be honest, because I arrived an hour late due to my seeming inability to get out of the house on time in the morning no matter how hard I try). Most of the students are gone for the summer but there were hundreds of visitors from all over the world and families doing campus tours with their high school students and large groups of teens in summer programs on campus.

UC Berkeley Sather Tower Campanile, ink and watercolor 8x5 in

UC Berkeley Sather Tower Campanile, ink and watercolor 8×5 in

At lunchtime I met up with Cathy and some other sketchers, and had lunch sitting on white chairs set up for a wedding in front of the Faculty Club. Then I sketched at our meet up spot, Sather Tower, aka “the Campanile,” a tall clock tower in the center of campus. I rode the elevator up to the top and was going to sketch the panoramic view when I noticed someone looking up at the huge bells just over my head. I would have totally missed that sight (until the bells sounded excruciatingly loudly at 2:00 as I was drawing the one bell above). I skipped drawing the panorama since it took so long to understand and draw the bell. Then I took the slow elevator back down and sketched the tower. I only got the top 3/4 in the sketch on the right so added the base with a statue and stairs on the left.

Gary Amaro, Pete Scully and Me

Gary Amaro, Pete Scully and Me

At our 3:00 meet up time I was delighted to spot my friends and fellow Urban Sketchers Pete Scully and Gary Amaro. It was such a treat to see them again and get a chance to look through their amazing sketchbooks. I told Pete I wish I could live in the world he draws. I so love the light and depth and detail in his sketches! Gary’s gouache and ink sketch of a campus building is really gorgeous in person.

Living Room with 2 Rolls of Shredded Paper Towels

Living Room with 2 Rolls of Shredded Paper Towels (my couch isn’t really that yellow…ick)

I’ve missed going out sketching all the time like I used to. 2014 so far has been the year of the dog. Unfortunately, having been rescued from the streets of Taiwan, Millie is not fond of urban environments, making urban sketching with her rather difficult. She shivers and shakes on busy streets so much that her teeth chatter. Even though she did get into trouble while I was out (see above) in the hour before the dog sitter came to take her to the park, I’ve really enjoyed the time I spend with her and she’s becoming a great studio dog (see below).

Studio Pup Millie

Studio Pup Millie

Sketching North Berkeley with Carole Baker

Carol holding my Earthly Goods sketch

Carol holding my Earthly Goods sketch

Carole Baker is an amazing painter in remote northern Alaska who I’ve known through our blogs and correspondence for years. When she was in Berkeley for a visit we met in North Berkeley to sketch. Above is a photo of my wonky sketch (held by Carole so that I could photograph it) of Earthly Goods, the store on one corner of Vine and Shattuck.

Carol holding her sketch of the corner of Shattuck and Vine

Carol holding her sketch of the corner of Shattuck and Vine

We sat on the same bench but looked in opposite directions. Here is Carole and her sketch of the produce market on the opposite corner of Shattuck and Vine.

I was so inspired by Carole and her art on the beautiful greeting cards she gave me as a gift. You can see Carole’s art on her blog Carole Baker’s Art Journal.

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