My intention was to take a few days off after arting for 31 days straight. That was until I saw this lovely watercolor workshop over on Skillshare (which is well worth the money if you ask me). It’s called Watercolor Sketching Your Life, and it’s 21 prompts (only one of which I get per day) for the first 21 days of November. The first one was self portrait. I’d only ever tried a self portrait (or a portrait at all) once. I signed up for what I thought was a basic art class at UNO back in the day, only to discover that I was the only student never to have taken an art class (I took a semester of sculpture in high school, but that doesn’t count for these purposes). The first assignment was a self portrait, and I was so disheartened to see how well everyone else did it (had likely been instructed to do it in high school) that I dropped the class. I should have stuck with it, but at that point I guess I didn’t understand that I probably would have gotten an A for improvement if I worked hard enough. Anyway, I took an undergrad drawing class for non-majors while I was in grad school at LSUS and had a much better experience (I also had a better experience there than I have in library school at LSU, but that’s another story). That class, though, only covered inanimate objects and only one class about perspective. I learned enough to draw what I see, though not to shade it properly and especially not to paint it. Fast forward to about a month ago when I decided that I needed a hobby and settled on painting – in acrylics because I’m pretty sure that’s the most forgiving medium. I did some tutorials on YouTube (check out The Art Sherpa!) but then somehow decided that my medium of choice is watercolor. I think my favorite thing about it is that it’s so portable. Acrylics and oils are an Ordeal if you try to paint outside a studio, but watercolors are compact. That, and I just like them more than acrylics.

Anyway, here we are. I wasn’t planning on posting anything from this workshop, but I made this painting my Facebook profile picture, so I guess I will. That, and I’ve formed a habit after a month of posting every day. I’m really happy with it. I know it’s not realistic, but I don’t know how to paint people realistically, though I know I can learn. I think I like drawing and painting so much because they’re skills, not just talent. You can learn how to do these things if you try.

So here’s the whole painting:

The most significant thing I learned is how to paint a reasonable approximation of my own skin tone. Surprisingly, it’s a combination of cadmium red, permanent rose, yellow ochre, and cerulean blue. Sounds weird, I know, but you see what it produces. That’s pretty close to my version of super pale. Here’s where you should look if you want to learn to paint skin tones.

I chose to paint myself in sugar skull makeup for a couple reasons: it happens to be Dia de los Muertos, but I also knew that I can’t paint a realistic face. Before Palmer and I were married, we went to a Dia de los Muertos party(? something?) at minicine?, and Palmer painted my face. I used that and a photo of me choosing glasses frames for reference. Also this random YouTube tutorial on painting sugar skulls. All told, I think I did a good job, despite that little bit on my right cheek that happened because I wasn’t paying attention to where the wet paint was. Live and learn, yes?

This is also my first venture in an actual sketchbook. I got one for what became Artober but decided that I wasn’t ready to commit to a book I couldn’t just tear pages out of, so I didn’t use it. This time, I’m using it. If I don’t like an attempt, that’s okay. It’ll stay. I guess it helps that I’ll have to finish one whole painting a day. I’m hoping that this self-portrait will be as difficult as they come because my goal is to spend less time on them. The real goal, I guess, is to sketch in ink, which I didn’t do here. This portrait wads painted after obsessive pencil sketching. I guess it only took an hour or so.