Princess Arezo

Two summers ago I painted a portrait of a man in New York City. This painting caught the attention of a father who desired to have his daughter's portrait done by me. He told me that he has tried to find someone to accurately paint his daughter, Arezo, many times, but has thrown away the attempts because they were a poor likeness of her. 

This year she turned sixteen and her family held a party in her honor. This watercolor was based on a photograph from that celebration. It was painted with love for Arezo, and her family.

I chose just four colors for this painting - Aureolin (transparent yellow), Alizarin Crimson (cool red), Windsor Blue red shade (cool blue), and Brown Madder (warm brown). Each of these are Windsor & Newton professional grade pigment. I scaled her and then did a drawing from a photograph, as I have never met this young lady. Then I worked from light to dark on her face, shoulder and hair. I tried to keep the colors on her face warm and clear, while the color for the background was mixed to be more grayed and cooler, establishing depth.

You can see I continued to darken values in her hair, using warm and cool tones so that the highlights in her curls were preserved.

This, below, is a detail of the photograph above. I really had a good time "putting her make-up on" - the last time I put on someone's make-up besides my own was when I did make-up for a theater production of "Annie Get Your Gun", many years ago. I enjoyed playing with the colors, making her lips shine, dramatizing her eyelashes, etc! She was wearing a silver necklace and that shine was very difficult to try to portray with paint.

Now came her very beautiful and ornate dress. I mixed a bit of yellow with the red, making it more of an orange-red in places, and adding some purple hues too, being careful to preserve the jewels sewn onto the gown, which were painted before the dress, actually.

She began to take shape. This stage of the painting is always fun and also a bit tense, because I can easily ruin hours of work if not very careful. I always try to paint when I'm well-rested and keep distractions to a minimum...much of this painting was actually done outdoors in the sunshine, which made for great lighting and a much better tan, too! =)

It was fun to paint her tiara - the jewels in it shone quite a lot and so using a rainbow of colors helped achieve that effect. 

A friend of mine worked on this photo for me a little bit, righting her position - I like it!

Final stage, adding the imperatively important dark values in her hair, glazing her skin in places to even the tone and strengthen it. Adjusting values at the end of a painting is very important and the brush must have just the right amount of water - not too much, not too little. It is easy to scrub a "hole" in the previous layers of paint if the ratio is not correct.

Her dad said, after I delivered the painting, "It is not 100%, but it's close" and then he laughed. Since he knows her best, I was glad and relieved.

Arezo is so beautiful and this was a really fun portrait to paint! Capturing a specific person's character is very different from painting an animal. While it is a great challenge, I like it very much and hope to do more portraits in the near future!

Your painting friend,


P.S. It is my longtime habit to add a scripture reference to each of my paintings. Because Arezo resembled a princess to me, I chose verses from Psalm 45. When I read these to her dad, he told me, "She calls herself, 'Princess'"! And so, it is the perfect passage!

16x19 watercolor
 August 2011

"The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king's palace."   ~ Psalm 45:13-15

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