In David Lobenberg's California Vibe workshop, you
will learn watercolor portraiture that goes beyond the
norm with super expressive paint applications and
wildly intense colors.
This will be accomplished by:
1. learning how to take dramatic, stylistic
photographs with a camera, smart phone, or computer pad
2. learning a simple technique to trace contour
outlines from your photographs that can be easily
transferred to any size of watercolor paper
3. learning to economically and with minimal brush strokes, render head structure and facial features
4. working with a minimal color palette and the
four basic water/pigment consistencies to render strong value contrasts, subtle tints, and intense hues
5. painting 1/8 sheet (5 ½ by 7 ½ inch) “pochades”
(a French word for a small painting), to quickly
explore both paint application techniques and expressive color combinations.
6. using your pochade(s) as a guide to paint your
final California Vibe, beyond-the-norm, portrait(s)
Depending on the duration of the workshop (a
minimum of three to a maximum of five days), these six successive steps will be mastered and practiced.
Towards the end of the period, you’ll have the
wherewith-all to follow your own path towards California
Vibe watercolor portraiture!
California Vibe Watercolor Portraiture Supply list
Student or professional grade (I highly recommend
using professional watercolors) tube watercolor paint such as
Schminke, Holbein, Winsor Newton, Da Vinci, etc.
Gray (Winsor Newton preferably)
• Red: a
bright lipstick red such as Opera (I LOVE this color!) or Permanent Rose
or Crimson Red
Yellow and or Cad.Yellow Light (also Azo and Bismuth yellows are some killer translucent, warm yellows that I
like but not totally necessary if you just want to stick with the
Blue (or Peacock Blue)
• plus any
other bright colors that you would want to throw into this mix!
• A #12 or
#16 round watercolor brush that comes to a beautiful, tapered point. I suggest a combination natural and
Don't go too cheap!...this size brush is a real
workhorse, and is the one you will paint with the most.
• A small #
6 round watercolor brush.
• A 1/4
inch, flat watercolor brush.
• A Hake
brush or 3 to 4 inch flat watercolor brush (any other brushes that you’d like to throw into the mix will be
• A soft
pencil (can simply be a
soft Ticonderoga office pencil).
• About 4
sheets of 140lb (22 by 30
inches). Arches (or any other Professional grade – I like Fabriano and Arches
extra white) cold press watercolor paper (NOT cold press rough!). We
will be mostly painting on one eight (5 ½ x 7 ½ inches) and
quarter sheets (11 by 15 inches). We can cut them (I’ll show you my
easy method) at the workshop.
• A good
size rectangular plastic
palette with paint wells
around the outside and a good size mixing area in the inside.
The palette should measure about 10 by16 inches. There are
various manufactures of these palettes, but they are all
around this size and configuration.
• Half to
one-inch wide 3M blue
painter’s tape or
masking tape that can keep out water but will not harm the
watercolor paper when pulled off.
• One box
of Original Mr. Clean
Magic Erasers (all
white). I will have some extra ones if you have difficulty procuring
these. This product can be found in the cleaning section of most
supermarkets or at Home Depot or other hardware stores that have
• One 11 by
14 inch or so tracing
• A roll of
absorbent kitchen paper
towels, absorbent cloth
or sponge to soak up extra water on the brush.
to hold about a liter or so of water. I LOVE the Mijello brand two liter bucket. You can find them online
or at most major art supply stores.
drawing pencils. This is
a set of twelve colored pencils. If you want to add a few more colors, you
Bring these colored ones:
• a warm
red like Scarlet Red
• a cool
red like Crimson Red
• a basic
warm yellow like Canary
• a basic
grass green like True
lavender like Lavender
• a blue
like True Blue 903
• a purple
like Purple 931
• a dark
brown like Dark Brown
• a warm
brown like Sienna
• a white
like White 938
• a black
• We will
be tracing with the use of windows and daylight, but you can also use carbon
paper. I suggest Saral
brand black carbon paper. It comes in a roll.
do this AND
THE DO this”
WHEN TAKING YOUR CALIFORNIA VIBE
WATERCOLOR REFERNCE PHOTOGRAPHS.
One of the keys for painting a successful California
Vibe Watercolor Portrait™ is
to have a very dramatic Portrait reference photo to work from. Here are two
photographs that represent the DON’T
do this and
the DO this.
I used my smart phone to take them. The photo on the left was
taken in a flat, non-dramatic lighting situation and with a time-
worn “Say cheese” pose. As well, the composition is
This all adds up to a big, fat DON’T
The second photo has very dramatic shading across the face and an
expressive pose with an imposing in-your-face attitude. This all
works as a strong California Vibe DO
photograph. Please repeat after me and write on the blackboard
one hundred times: “I need to take eye-grabbing DO
photographs from the get go, before I apply paint
Here’s a tip: Make
a black and white photocopy of your subject. Why? Because as you paint, you are not
affected by natural colors and are free to invent an
expressive palette of California Vibe colors.
PRELIMINARY STEPS FOR A
VIBE WATERCOLOR PAINTING
1. Tape a sheet of see-through tracing paper or
vellum over your reference photograph (a minimum size photograph of
8 by 10 inches or larger).
2. With a soft office pencil, trace head,
features, and shadow areas. Don’t over do the tracing . . . rely on
your eyeballs to see the more subtle details during the painting
3. Reduce or enlarge the tracing in a plain paper
copy machine. Make two copies each: two for your thumbnail study
size and two for your 11 x15 inch final painting size. Your
subject should fill most of the painting area on your 140 lb.
cold press professional-grade, watercolor paper 11 X 7 1/2
(inch oriented vertically) thumbnail sheet and the 11 by 15 inch
(oriented vertically) final quarter sheet. Use a commercial
copy service that can print on large sheets of 11 by 17 inch
paper to make copies that will be large enough to fill up most
of the quarter sheet. Concentrate and focus your composition on
the subject’s head. Some of the head and hair can
bleed off the sides of the paper if you want to get in real
close to the face.
This is optional, of course.
4. Take one of the plain paper copies and tape it
to a window during daylight hours (if you have a light table,
you can work at night as well).
5. Tape your quarter sheet of watercolor paper on
top, and with a soft office pencil, trace out the subject (you
will be able to easily see the tracing right through the
Press on the pencil hard enough to easily see the
lines but try not to make your tracing lines too dark.
6. On the second plain paper copy, use your pencil
to shade in the face. This shading study will help familiarize
your self with the value pattern across the face of the subject
and will act as a painting guide.
7. With your photographic reference, plain paper
pencil shading study, and final tracing on the quarter sheet,
you are now ready to create a California Vibe portrait!
This is an example of a tracing from a California
Vibe photo that has been shaded with a soft office pencil. This serves
as a way to familiarize yourself with the value pattern on the
face as well as serving as a “blueprint”, if you will, for the your