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Dawson College Watercolor Demo : Second Annual Poe Trait!

October 23, 2013

In what is becoming an annual tradition, I was recently at Dawson College doing a demo for the Illustration department watercolor class. Thanks to Lucy Trahan for the invite.

Another annual tradition, in honor of Halloween, is my annual PoeTrait. (Ok not every year. Here is my PoeTrait from 2009). I could have sworn I did that last year.

As I was looking for a suitable subject to demo, and it had been awhile since I sketched Mr. Poe – here he is again, this time in watercolor.


I should say, I don’t consider myself a portraitist, in the sense that I prefer to draw my idea of a person, rather than a dead-on likeness. So you’ll forgive some exaggeration in his physiognomy.  I want to capture the barely contained churning thoughts roiling in his stately dome. And that pale sickly complexion that hints at his upcoming descent into the drugs and madness which ended October 7th, 1849, the day of his inadequately explained death.

Here’s the progress between my passes of watercolor. This is step 1, and 2/3 combined. The first stage of the head was handled wet-in-wet for softness, the rest wet-on-dry – to get crisper edges. Darks were laid on only after the paper had fully dried. The hair, and the shadow planes in the face first, then some tiny line work at the end – mostly wrinkles around the eyes.

REF_Poe 01_Poe_Trait_Line_x 02_Poe_Trait_Tea_x 04_Poe_Trait_Honey_x

In the event I’ve piqued an interest, here’s an online resource to read some Poe.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2013 3:04 PM

    Very, very cool! Thank you for posting all the steps – it’s so helpful!

  2. October 23, 2013 4:30 PM

    Thanks, Marc. Your posts are lessons.

  3. Gina B. permalink
    October 23, 2013 5:00 PM

    I’m sure if he’s seeing it, he’s flattered by the depth of your careful interpretation.

  4. Diane permalink
    October 23, 2013 6:37 PM

    Hi Marc. Great demo and explanation. Your teachings of Light to Dark and Large to Small noted here and in the USk Workshop in August are most helpful. Many thanks. Your Poe portrait has so much more ‘feeling’ than the photo. Bravo!

  5. Linda Patton permalink
    October 24, 2013 6:23 PM

    WOW!!!! That was SO amazing. The final painting is very very exciting and thank you for including the process. When I step back, the final portrait has a real zing to it that the semi-final doesn’t quite have but when I go in close I can’t figure out what exactly you did to make the difference. Would love it if you could say a word about that. At any rate, thank you for your very generous art tutoring and for the inspiration of your delicious paintings.

    • October 25, 2013 1:04 AM

      Lol, yes Linda – it is true the last two steps are very close :) it’s all in the tiny dark touches. The best way to see it is to open both images at the same time in separate tabs, and quickly click back and forth between them :)

      Essentially, my final pass is tiny dark touches with a #0 brush. In the case of this high-key image, there are not very many of these :)

      Glad you enjoyed the demo!

      (Edited one year later – somewhere along the way I lost an image file, so this comment doesn’t make any sense at all. There used to be an image between the underpainting and the final stage. Now it appears like a big jump from the lighter tones straight to the dark. I had a middle stop in there. Hmm. Well – this is what we have now, I think you still get the idea!).


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