The other day I was in my studio and I started to get super impatient, waiting for my painting to dry. I’d been working on a face that I really loved and didn’t want to ruin. So I forced myself to stop and take a step away.
Luckily, I always have five or six paintings going on at once. I started adding layers to my least favorite one (knowing that if I already didn’t like it, I’d be less afraid to make a mistake). That way, I can stay in the flow, so I feel more free and playful, especially when I work on my eyes and faces.
Most of my characters begin with the eyes, but they are always the hardest thing to paint. It takes making many mistakes and happy accidents before they even begin to resonate with my soul.
Here are 5 Secrets For Painting Soulful Eyes + Faces:
- I begin with a few colored fingerprints on a solid background. Then add in my eye outline and definition with water-soluble pencil. Then I go back in with more color and a little white paint pen on the sides and at the center to show a light reflection.
- Once this initial layer dries, I add more definition with my water-soluble pencil, then more color, again and again.
- I often find myself setting aside my brushes when I’m painting a face, especially in the first layers, so I can focus on fingerpainting. This keeps me unattached to my character rather than getting into my head and “thinking” the eyes and features should look a certain way or be a certain shape. Yet even after all of these layers, the eyes can sometimes still look too painted on.
- When I feel like my faces or eyes are looking too perfect or too painted on, that’s when I go back in and cover up more of my lines, then add more pencil smudges at the lashes to create softness.
- If I’m really stuck with the eyes, I’ll add an ink mask. I’ll drip a few drops of acrylic ink at the edge of one side of the face, then wipe it right across the eyes like a mask. Often times it’s too thick and I think I’ve ruined everything, but, working quickly before the ink dries, I take a paper towel and blot off some of the ink. Usually this colors the whites and smudges my lines, but that’s the point – to mae it all more loose. I go back in and slowly add more layers – a little pencil for definition and some more paint pen for the whites.
If you’re looking to keep your faces and eyes looking more carefree and organic, try smudging out your lines or letting your initial layers show through to create the illusion of definition. Instead of adding a thick layer of solid color, add a transparent ink or dots of paint pen. Instead of outlining your eyes and penciling in every detail, add a little water to your water-soluble pencil and bleed out your lines.
Learning how to paint over your artwork and paint more fearlessly is a skill you can develop — you’ll learn how in my Serendipity 1 – Develop Your Style online course (which starts January 1st) and Serendipity 2 – Learning to Let Go (which is available as a self-paced course for a limited time).
I hope that all helps to keep you inspired!