Thursday, February 12, 2009


Final Stage   Watercolor on paper   22x30"

Every Sunday morning I attend an uninstructed  three hour, two session figure painting workshop.

As all artists who paint the figure longer than 20 minutes know, taped-off poses vary slightly after each break, especially hands; and that's OK... after all, its "Life" Drawing. But in this particular pose both hands were always oddly foreshortened and very difficult to do. I'm now sort of OK with the model's left hand, but was never satisfied with her right hand. There was always something wrong with it and my artist wife Stephanie finally fingered the problem (no pun :-)) - it was the thumb. I've corrected it now and the rest of this post shows how.


I give credit for the following correction techniques to my friend Sue Tregay. Her book MASTER DISASTER is a definitive volume for rescuing problematic watercolors. I highly recommend it to all aspiring watercolorists. Materials: Postal tape, bristle brush, rag and pastel pencils.

1. The thumb was placed too high and was too small.

2. I lightly redraw with white pastel pencil and place the tape over it.

3. Carefully cut the tape (exacto blade) and scrub away the paint with wet bristle brush 

4. After I pulled the tape I felt the thumb was still too short.

5. After blow-drying, I re-draw a longer thumb and re-tape over it again.

6. Again, following the new pastel outline, gently cut the tape.

7. After scrubbing, pull the tape and blow-dry.

8. Now I repaint the thumb.

Sargent said "a portrait is a painting where there is a little something wrong with the mouth". I expect I'll never be completely satisfied either but at least the thumb isn't a focal point.