Watercolor Portrait Demonstration

About Sandrine Pelissier

I grew up in France but have been living in Canada for the last 12 years, I am currently located in North Vancouver and work from a studio on Pemberton Avenue.

Watercolor is my medium of choice because of the unique way it allows me to render light. The transparency of this medium can make it look like the painting is lit from behind and the light is shining through the paper In my portraits, I like to tell stories about the people around me. I am very interested in childhood fantasy or fairy tales (I wish it would snow Flowers, Hair Balloon, Georgia, the Spanish dress and the Eclectus Parrot). I also like to induce a dialogue with the viewer in some paintings dealing more with introspection and mood (Mixed, In the studio).

Those portraits are not about likeness or knowing the people that are being painted, as I see my models as actors in a movie, they are the faces that will allow me to tell a story or to show emotions. Those faces are a source of endless fascination and I find the subtlety that can be achieved with watercolor well suited to the complexity of the human face.

My technique involves the accumulation of many transparent layers of watercolor. Then I like to incorporate mixed media in the background, work sometimes with some contouring. I also sometimes like to add some drawing on top of the painting or some graphic elements…

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Art Prints

I wish it would snow flowers selected for Splash 13 : Alternative Approaches – Watercolor Portrait Demonstration

(Click Images for Larger Views)

I was very happy to learn that my watercolor and mixed media painting : I wish it would snow Flowers was selected for the #13 of this great collection.

I found some pictures that show some of the process I used to paint this watercolor.

This is the picture I used as a reference, I modified in on paint shop pro to remove the background. I would love to work from life but unfortunately it is difficult to find that kind of time with children 🙂

This is my drawing, the paper is Arches cold process. I am using some liquid frisket to reserve the white in some part of the hat and the tiny highlight in the eyes.

This is my first layers of yellow, mainly with Yellow ocher for painting the face.

On the background I used Cadmium Yellow.

Here I start to add the red, I use black and white pictures of split colors channel to do so, see post here for details

Here I start adding some blue, I am careful to have a “light hand” with blue as it can quickly overpower the other colors.

Adding other colors to adjust. I mixed some gouache with blue watercolor on the background. I try to show some texture on purpose on the background as well. I also leave some backruns on purpose in some dark areas of the hat.

Here is a closeup of the face.

I work on the background with watercolor pencils dipped in water.

The finished watercolor portrait painting.


  1. bud says

    i also am a wash artist,,,i can appreciate this portrait and ur work,,extremely excellent in my opinion,,,impressive is an understatement,,,thanks for sharing ur work and ur instruction.

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