Daniel Radcliffe


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I made this portrait of Daniel Radcliffe from a black and white copy. I made up the colors using my usual palette for skin tones and Walnut ink for the hair.

My procedure for portraits is based on simplification. Drawing is not what you draw but what you leave out. I begin with a very accurate ink drawing. If the features are somehow hard to get I start with pencil first, but Radcliffe has a very distinct face that is somehow easy to do. The likeness is pretty much attained by an exaggeration of the eyebrows and getting the eyes right. The jawline is also key in this case.

As in anything, things come out better when you are in familiar territory, your usual palette, your best paper, and your favorite brushes. I particularly feel at home and use no other paper for all my work than the Stillman and Birn brand, because it absorbs washes beautifully without warping. The heavy stock is just perfect for watercolor. This Portrait was done on the Beta Series on a 9×12 notebook, Natural white, Rough Surface, Extra Heavy Weight, 180lb. When I use only Ink I usually go for the smooth surface of the Heavy Stock Zeta Series. The Beta has the extra tooth that holds the water runs better.

All my sketches are done with my favorite fine point fountain pen.

When I do portraits I try to create a rhythm of contrasts so your eye jumps from dark spot to dark spot back and forth keeping the interest in the portrait in a circular motion. The warms and cools also play a part in that rhythm. Since in this portrait most of the real state is warm, the cooling factor is the blue eyes. Eyes are the feature that we feel mostly attracted to in a face, so a very bold blue in that focal point compensates for all the warmth that is around. This cool color finds then a visual connection with another cooling color, the greenish blue of the shirt, between those two I feel I accomplished a balance and the portrait feels right. The shading in the face is done using about three layers of watercolor, allowing the first layer to dry completely.

Depending on the light source direction I start my first wash with The main skin tone. then I add the first pass of dark brown and follow with the lighter and darker skin tones once the first layer is dry. The cooling touches are at the end. The coloring process is about 15 min, The drawing part takes about 25-30 min

I included my palette here with my regular colors that are both for landscapes and portraits. I have a special spot for skin colors as you can see, my darks and lights and my neutrals

Here the list:

Alizarin Crimson,Cad Red Light, Orange Yellow, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ocher, Cad Yellow Pale Hue, Pelylene green, Sap Green, French Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Violet, Lamp Black (Lamp black is opaque and highly staining, it makes the darks really dark as opposed to the Ivory black that is a warm semitransparent black that blends better with other pigments, I personally prefer more opacity)

Gouaches: White, Beige, Pale Peach, Flesh and Jaune Brilliant (Main skin color)

On regard to brushes I always use natural hair as it holds more pigment.

Here below are some short clips that show the normal speed in which I usually work as in watercolor you pretty much work with the flow and must be a rather quick application and in every layer pass, more and more specific in small spots/areas to create contrast.

Wedding at Martha’s Vineyard, MA


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On Sep 26, Saturday was the wedding we were hired to sketch at Martha’s Vineyard. It was quite an experience to have so many moving subjects and trying to chase-a-sketch! We managed to get a few done and some were colored afterwards. We got about a dozen done each of us in 4hrs.

I chose Stillman and Birn Zeta series notebooks for this, The hard stock takes the watercolor beautiful without warping. I used Koi watercolors, they are a little volatile but it is good to have scans so I can reprint them in their original color saturation.

The bride, young actress Julianna Gill (from Friday the 13) here with her little nephew and Dave Franco with fiance Allison Brie (from Madmen) are here in these sketches.

We didn’t realized who they were until a while later which helped in the sense of not being star struck while drawing!
It was quite stressful to try to sketch in so little time as many sketches as possible but I did learned a lot. On the next gig, if we have another one like this, I think I will apply watercolor off site if i have to work this fast because running with a wet tray and brushes, while holding a sketchbook a pen and a water container just… Doesn’t work!
Some sketches were very… “Accidental” *_* like the color one here, that sky is a bad spill… my tray fell over the sketch.
My friend Mia said that this was a gig that could break the most confident speedy sketcher! And yes when I saw my works I wanted to cry :I but I worked on them at home a little more, adding watercolor touches here and there. Some of them I didn’t have time to add color.

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Latest portrait Sketches


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11012065_951165904935124_3476144564064591375_nIt’s been a while since I did some watercolor portraits, so I decided to add some new to my portfolio. As usual I use Stillman and Birn notebooks in this case the the Zeta Series.

I usually work pretty fast on these, as spontaineity is key to maintain a loose efect on line and strokes.

I probably spend more time on selecting my limited palette and color composition than I do creating the strokes.

A good base drawing doesn’t need much as it sustains itself, but color excess can ruin even the best sketch

I was more happy with Dan’s portrait from all three

Urban Sketchers Boston Meetups


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#Instagram #UrbanSketchers #UrbanSketchersBoston
The Pilot fountain pen calligraphy Purera with a converter for noodler’s bulletproof ink. Very happy about it ! It doesn’t clog and a very smooth line! Here with the last two meetups sketching the Boston Garden and Fanueil Hall. Views from above are challenging as the perspective of the human scales don’t have the horizon line reference,so pretty much going by eye and by buildings proportion to scale them.

Urban Sketchers Boston

Urban Sketchers Boston

Tutorial on a 20 min sketch


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I gave a workshop yesterday and prepared some handouts on my 20 min technique for urban renderings. Here below, is the process from beginning to end including the color wash.

There was a great attendance, I am quite happy. I presented using a sequence of panels and the second half of the time was to put all this to practice by the local Urban Sketchers Boston. It’s been two years and our group is growing. We are about 415 members to date and Christ Tritt and I run it every weekend, planning meetups and researching the local architecture to give an insight on the site prior to visit. Now with great weather, we can do more plein air workshops like this.

This demos were done in a 9″x12″ Stillman and Birn Zeta series notebook heavy stock for mixed media. The linework was done with a Lamy Safari EF. Some of the black brush strokes in the values study were done with a multiliner brush pen.

I wanted a support that could be smooth enough for fine linework, heavy ink brush strokes and take a few layered watercolor washes, so I decided to use the mixed media notebook.

One of the things I wanted to emphasize is the drying time between the watercolor wash layers. When you are working on a fast sketch, the wash has to be light so it can dry faster, most important, the base layer, as it covers about 80% of the paper (I do leave a lot of white untouched areas in the peripherals of the sketch to allow it to “breath” visually)

First layer is the lightest value of the local colors on every area, the subsequent layer is massing the main shadows, the third layer is the smaller darker areas, and the fourth layer is the accents that will enhance key areas to give it depth and good contrast.

I concentrate most of the pigment toward the horizon line and toward the center of the paper. I create interest in the focal point/area during the prior ink drawing process by  doing more detail and making it visually heavy in those areas keeping the rest of the drawing very loose.


Four Layers Fist Pass Step by step A contour line exercise adding values study

Sketchpad Project -Mini Drawings


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This collection of mini drawings are 4″ x 3 1/2″ and part of a big accordion-like sketchbook with 31 squares.

Here are three more of the collection, recently made with Urban Sketchers Boston site visits

First image is one of the gallery rooms at the Museum of Natural History at Harvard; second image is a well know site, Acord Street In Boston, MA;  the last one is an interior at the Tower building at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

These were done with a Lamy Safari EF, the paper feels like Fabriano with texture, not sure what paper is as I was given this little sketchbook as a gift and it was hand made by my friend Di Metcalf who runs an art store in Cape Town SA

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