Wednesday, September 9, 2009

JEAN VANCE, Guest Artist

Joan Miley (Programs) introduced our guest artist, Jean Vance ( Jean is making a second visit to the group, and this time she demonstrated her process of painting traditional watercolor portraits.

Jean noted that you really have to get the “feel” of a person when painting his/her portrait. If you know the person, their personality comes out; however, if you just have a few photographs from family members, you may have to work harder. She has learned to ask to see photos before taking the commission so she doesn’t have to work from poor quality reference materials. She conveyed stories of decades old photos being given to her to paint couples who are now in their 80’s; and dark, out-of-focus snapshots received as the only reference she had before painting the portrait commission.

Jean began today with 3 sketches drawn on 140# paper. She doesn’t use a lot of masking fluid but she did mask out the highlights in the eyes for these portraits. She asked Joan to distribute a list of the colors she uses for different skin colors and hair colors; and an information sheet on the painting process for her portraits.

Jean works by layering/glazing her colors a bit at a time, creating the final value and color only after several layers. Her beginning layer is pale yellow ochre and cadmium red mixed on the palette. She adds colors to that mix to get warmer or cooler colors and shadow colors. She works from the largest shapes to the smallest shapes inside the eyes and mouth.

As she worked on all three portraits, she talked about the need to work carefully when painting the mouth, not leaving the teeth pure white but seeing that there are shadowed areas inside the mouth and darker areas at the edges. The eyes need special attention, too. Don’t leave them pure white but brush over them with a color to tone them down.

The shape of the eyebrows is important to convey the person’s personality, and you don’t want any hard lines in the face, just changes in values and shadows. Don’t overdo the nostrils but use subtle shading there. Also, as you paint in the final layers, be careful not to have too much water in your brush or you will get blossoms you don’t want in the skin areas.

Jean’s favorite watercolor paper is Arches and she uses both 140# and 300#. She normally works wet on dry paper, using a big, juicy puddle of paint on her palette. She said you have to know what you like and what works best for you and stick with it so you can learn how it behaves each time and there are no surprises. So stick with your favorite paint, paper and brushes and learn what to expect from them.

Starting with the skin, hair, eyes, lips, and then the clothing, Jean brings the painting to the same point so she knows whether her values are working or not. She puts in the background before the face is complete, using colors that compliment the face and hair.
Sometimes she uses a vignette to finish off a portrait but whatever way she does it, she finishes the background by working quickly from a large, wet puddle of color on her palette. She doesn’t want to have a halo shape around her portrait and she changes values in the background. She doesn’t add more water to the mix of her colors on her palette unless she wants to have blossoms in the background. She said you want to add interest in the background, but don’t detract from the image.

She worked on refining the features as she finished one of the paintings today. She said the way the shadows lie on the face define the face, and seeing pencil lines in the portrait doesn’t bother her because she considers the pencil lines to be “the hand of the artist” – a big part of the painting.

Jean was most gracious with our fiddling to get the overhead mirror just right and to get a microphone on her after her demonstration began. We thank her for sharing her knowledge, and for demonstrating not one but three portraits.
Critique Session

Jean led the critique session. Six members presented paintings for critique and discussion today.


Jean stayed after the program to share even more information. She shared some of her past portrait commissions to show the variety of styles and techniques.

Administration Reports

Shirley Knollman (President) opened the meeting with this quote:

“Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” James Bryant Connaught

Jane Hittinger (Membership) welcomed one new member, Sue Sessun, and one guest, Allison Kees. Sue recently retired and is getting back to painting after years away from it. She paints in oils, pastels and watercolors. Allison is just beginning her watercolor journey and looks forward to learning more.

Sharon Roeder (Scholarship) said she is sending out a form letter to all Art Teachers and Guidance Counselors in the Greater Cincinnati area high schools in order to make contact with potential scholarship recipients. She has guidelines for participation: the artists must present a letter of recommendation, a CD containing 3 pieces of 2-D art, and they must have a good GPA and be able to attend the May meeting to receive their scholarship check. She will report more as the process continues.

Art Shows and News

Deb Ward reminded us that the Viewpoint show deadline for entries is Monday, September 14th. Deb also mentioned that she is having a one-woman show at FCN Bank in Harrison that will run through September.

Mary Moore announced the Southeastern Indiana Art Guild show at the Lawrenceburg, IN library. The show opens with an artist reception on October 17th from 2-4 pm, and runs through October 24.

Sandy Maudlin’s students will have a show at Sharon Woods from October 3-11. (Many of the GCWS members are students of Sandy.)

Sam Hollingsworth reminded us that he will soon be starting his beginning and intermediate watercolor classes at Baker-Hunt.


We all wished Deb Ward a very Happy Birthday today!! Deb wouldn’t say what year this was but said it was also her Wedding Anniversary today.

Next month we will distribute a sheet for members to write down suggestions for future (2010) programs.

Howard Krauss passed around a Creative Catalyst brochure and asked members to write down titles the GCWS should purchase. (We get a very good discount on any purchases this month only.)

Remaining 2009 Programs/Guest Artists

October – Ken Bowman, of Bowman’s Framing in Ft. Thomas, KY, will be here to discuss how best to mat and frame your watercolor paintings to show them off to the best advantage. Bring in any painting that is unmatted and unframed. After Ken’s talk, we will have our annual “flea market” sale of art supplies, books and videos/DVDs.

November – Judy Anderson returns with something new, bright and bold to share. You can visit Judy’s webpage at .