Thinking about White Hair on Toned Paper

August 31, 2022

There’s nothing finished in this study of a man with white hair and a beard. It’s me noodling around experimenting with how to get the values of white hair on toned paper.

I’m working in a handbound journal made with Zerkall Nideggen (it has a lovely fiber fleck of texture throughout). I guess paper nostalgia must be my theme for the week because I just realized as I was typing that this paper has been discontinued. (I have a couple more books of it held back from book binding sessions for later use so you’ll still see me draw and paint on it in the future.)

I started this sketch with a Pentel brush pen with pigmented ink. That allows me to paint over the lines. I’m using watercolor here with little water when I want it to be more opaque. And when I’m making visual notes of where I want the highlights on the face to go I’m adding a bit of white gouache into my yellow, red, and blue paints. I don’t usually like to get so “chalky,” but my real thought here was to go after what I could find as “vocabulary” for painting this beard. 

It’s a fun exploration to do this because your brain will remember this the next time you have a white-haired subject, or whatever type of interest the subject of your choice had.

I find these types of journal pages the most fun. I can see from my note that I videotaped the session. Funny how things change: normally I wouldn’t have used just a study for one of my Patreon videos, but when I look at this and remember my thoughts on the day I want to go and watch the video and see if I commented at all about process between the coughing bouts.

I hope today brings you a chance to experiment and learn some new visual vocabulary!

    • Paul
    • August 31, 2022

    Why do you say there is nothing finished here??? To me, this study stands strong and proud as is!!! Love the contrast achieved here👍. Hard to tell from the scan but it looks like there may not be any of the plain (unpainted) paper showing through on the face? The white hair and beard look full of volume👍. Would you be better off working with gouache only as opposed to white gouache and thick watercolour, on toned paper? How do you decide between watercolour applied “opaquely” vs. gouache?

    1. Reply

      Paul I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I think of this as unfinished because there aren’t areas of complete finish anywhere, which is something I typically have. I remember stopping work on this and thinking it was enough because to do more finish would involve much more blending etc. So maybe this is just another way to work and my eyes were NOT used to it yet. When it came up in the file resorting I remember thinking I liked the beard way more than I did on the day.

      There are unpainted paper patches in the center of the forehead above the nose and to our right at the side of the nose.

      I’ll say more about this question either in a post or in today’s Drawing Practice check-in webinar. Basically I like to use bits of color under white so I can pull it up as desired, it seems to take less reworking that way than putting it on top and blending. It’s just something you sort of work up how you like to do things, and I was sort of saying to myself treat this like a cloud but without as much white on the finish. I treat watercolor like gouache, but just not adding as much water, so for me there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two when I want to work opaquely. But I’ll try to amplify that in the webinar or a post later. (I remember also what bothered me initially when I stoped work on this was that the eyes aren’t as finished as I usually do. They are very ice blue, it’s like I was channeling white walkers or something!

    • Nanette
    • September 2, 2022

    Your portraits are delightful. Always waiting to see what you come up with next time

    1. Reply

      Thanks so much Nanette. I hope that things are going well with you and you’re getting lots of sketching done.

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