Wednesday, September 14, 2011

how to

'pink messenger #1' ~ watercolors, colored pencil, gouache, oil pastels, casein paint and graphite on old book page - approx. 5" x 7"

paint faces using oil pastels, watercolors, and white gouache

alrighty! i've been wanting to do this for a while... this is a more thorough way of answering the questions that i'm most often asked - how i get the skin to look the way it looks, and how i get watercolors to mix with oil pastels.

i'm going to start by listing the 'ingredients' that i used on pink messenger's face (above), followed by how/where i used them.

1. caran d'ache cream oil pastel - the first layer of 'skin'
2. sennelier brown ochre oil pastel - shading
3. sennelier paynes grey oil pastel - shading
4. m. graham paynes grey gouache - shading and for making the pupils/eyes darker
5. m. graham titanium white gouache - skin
6. daniel smith quinacridone gold watercolor - shading
7. zecchi paynes grey watercolor - shading, the eyes, eyebrows (along with burnt sienna, which i forgot to number!)
8. zecchi vermilion watercolor - cheeks and lips
9. zecchi scarlet watercolor - cheeks and lips
10. yarka golden deep, titian's and claret - cheeks and lips
11. pelikan pale pink opaque watercolor - cheeks, lips, and general shading
12. caran d'ache neo-color II salmon pink - cheeks and lips
13. derwent 8B graphite pencil - drawing the face
14. prismacolor burnt sienna colored pencil - eyelids

you don't have to use these brands, of course; this is just what i use, and the list is ever evolving. the one ingredient that might not be replaceable is the cream caran d'ache oil pastel. its color and consistency are unique.


i'll call the ones on the left the 'soft' brushes, and the ones on the right, well i'll just call them what they are - filberts. you'll see below how i use them, but the basic idea is that you put color down with a soft brush so you don't tempt the layer of paint below to move around. this is really important if you're putting watercolors on gouache or white casein paint - do it with a soft brush. use the filberts to put gouache (or casein paint) on the oil pastel - they're nice and stiff and can push the heavy gouache around.

a little word about colored pencils...

here are jeanette's lips, and you can see the lines of the tuscan red prismacolor pencil i used on them. on pink messenger i used the burnt sienna pencil to draw a line that sort of defines her upper eyelid. i use them wherever they seem like they'll be useful, and they're useful a lot... believe me, jeanette's lips were lacking before i put the colored pencil on there. and i am not shy about using them on oil pastels - unless you have very heavy layer of oil pastels down, you can use colored pencils to shade them beautifully.


the piece of paper on the left was the beginning of pink messenger.... i'm showing it to emphasize the fact that a piece can change a LOT before it's done, and i think the layers and changes that go into a piece are what give it not only depth, but also a kind of 'strength'. this goes for faces too...

originally i was going to use this piece as a jumping off point for writing about how i do the faces, but then i realized that that wouldn't be enough, so below i'll go through a step-by-step using another face. but here you can see pink messenger with just the cream caran d'ache oil pastel smeared around, and a little quinacridone gold watercolor rubbed in on her eyelids. that beautiful pink tip on her nose came through from what was underneath and i was careful throughout the process not to cover it up. : )

before i drew pink messenger in, i covered the entire page with a layer of matte gel medium so i could work without having to worry about picking up the color from below.

just imagine the steps below for pink messenger - i always do the same thing/s over and over until i get what i like.
. . .

i've just put the cream caran d'ache oil pastel on and smeared it around. as you can see, i don't put oil pastel over the lips and eyes, and i also try not to cover up the eyebrow area or the outline of the nose.

then i put a little quinacridone gold watercolor on a soft brush and painted it along the top edge of the face and the outline of the nose.

this is what it looks like once i've smeared the quinacridone gold around. to do that, i dip the tip of my finger in the water cup (that i rinse my brushes in) and then quickly smear the paint around. if it's too dark, i dip my finger again and dilute it, or take a paper towel and wipe some off. for shading, a little goes a long ways.

now i've added some red watercolor to her left cheek and some orange to her right and smeared them both in. also i smudged the pencil (the derwent 8B) around with a blending stump.

still using a soft brush i gave her the beginning of some lips, and with paynes grey watercolor i painted her pupils. i also added some white to her eyes with white gouache. the arrows are pointing to places where i put little dabs of sennelier brown ochre oil pastel.

here she is with the brown ochre oil pastel smudged in (with a blending stump and/or my fingers), and some hair. for her hair i used quinacridone gold and burnt sienna watercolor.

that's the end of what i'd call the first layer. of course i could do a lot more shading with oil pastels or watercolors, and sometimes i do. i just do whatever seems like the thing to do...

now i'm gonna put some white gouache on her forehead and nose, and i'm just showing the filbert brush and tube of gouache so you can see that this is what i use. i paint right out of the tube. i just scoop the paint out with the brush and put it on the oil pastel. the firmness of the filbert makes this easy. do not add any water to the gouache - if you do it'll bead up.

here she is with more white gouache on her - i put some on her cheeks, chin, neck and a little more on her forehead. also i gave her some eyebrows with paynes grey and quinacridone gold watercolors, and i added a bit more white to the eye on the left.

at this point i could refine her - finish her lips, work on her eyes, add more shading, etc.,or,

i could put cream oil pastel on most of her face and start a whole new layer. when i get to a place like this it's not easy for me to stop and photograph what i'm doing because i'm in a painting frenzy, lol! but i would definitely keep going - smearing in more watercolors, adding more oil pastel - whatever seemed to be called for.

the reason that i'm not more specific about things like first i paint the eyes, then the mouth, or the number of layers i use, is because i don't have a plan like that. i just paint whatever i know/feel to paint next and keep going 'til it looks right. i follow my intuition, and i feel like everyone can do that...

often i have so many alternating layers of gouache, oil pastels, and/or watercolors down that things start to flake off, and i don't mind that. it can add a lot of interest.

one more thing... i've been asked how i get the skin to look like this, and the answer is easy - i wipe off what i've done. i start with a small area and keep wiping until it seems right. then i go back and paint the eyes in again - or whatever... when you paint on matte gel medium a sort of ghost image remains after you've wiped everything off; this will most likely inform what you want to do next...

if you have any questions please feel free to ask! i'll answer them in the comments section so everyone can see...

(click here to see how the face turned out : )

* * *

“The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good' sense.”

~Pablo Picasso, via



  1. Your explanation is fantastic! I want to try it! Thank you for so many generosity. Hope you have a happy and creative day

  2. How interesting Lynne- not that I will try this--but it is so special--and yes interesting to read your how-and where-
    The : pink messenger" is amazing.

  3. THANK YOU! I love seeing your work in progress, and I totally "get" that as an artist, there are no "steps". BUT, sharing "your" process is so generous and MUCH appreciated. Love the background- could you share a little of how you did that? Also, are you using the gel medium in between each layer? Thanks again.. xo

  4. This was a superb how-to and so generous. Truly a mixed media technique and I was surprised at how many different medias and brands you used.
    Thank you so much for your generosity.

  5. An artist with a generous heart and soul, is someone to be highly respected. You obviously receive many questions as to how you do certain forms of your unique art. That is always flattering, but only a generous soul would share such an in depth tutorial. You are up at the top of the list of artists I admire.......may you continue to bloom and find more ways of expressing yourself artistically and in all areas of your life.

  6. Thank you for taking the time to explain your process.

  7. Wow.......that was an awesome explanation. Thanks you so much for sharing. I love your work

  8. It takes an incredible amount of time to put together a "how I do it" post like this. Thank you for your time and your generosity. Terrific insight into what you do. --Carol Leigh

  9. Zecchi?
    Two new brands I've never heard of!
    Its just a whollop of inspriation to read and see your process.
    the whole post is sterling. and you are pure gold.

  10. This was a neat neat post. I love seeing things come together. Also, as you know how much i admire your work, i'm extra thrilled to know the steps that you take to achieve the effects that you do.

    neat. thank you!


  11. I must say, you are - so lovely, most generous, deeply talented, awe-inspiring, and a most divine muse! -I could go on but after this post I'm heading for the studio!

    XOX ~ Susan

  12. Thanks so much for the insight Lynne. I LOVE it when artist's share their process. I've been a fan of your work since I discovered it and your portraits speak to me on so many levels. I feel like I've met some of them in my real life.

  13. It is interesting to see how you do a face Lynne. Like you I don't always do things in the same way and order, rather do whatever feels right. I have got better at covering up lower layers-I used to be worried that I got to a point and may spoi what I have done by continuing, but now I don't seem t worry about that so much. I have caran'dache water soluble crayons and they are lovely-soft and really blendable and opaque. I love them! I have not tried their oil pastels though.

  14. Have just tried a face using this way of layering the materials-half way through-fun fun!

  15. my dear indie grrrl...

    what i remember about the background isn't much, lol! after i drew what you see in the pic of the early stages of the piece, i turned the piece upside down, sideways, etc. to see where i might possibly go with it. obviously the horse's head got covered up while i kept the little face and brought out the bee (that you can barely see penciled in). i remember that i covered up a lot of stuff with white casein paint and put down a different color on top of it. with a soft brush you can paint right over white casein paint and the casein paint will stay in place. the deep purple is daniel smith imperial purple watercolor right out of the tube. i think the splotch of dark pink just to the right of her neck is daniel smith rhodonite genuine, again, right out of the tube. all of the color is either watercolor or gouache, with possibly some oil pastels or colored pencil thrown in. all of the white in the background is white casein paint. i usually use the white gouache on the face and the white casein on the backgrounds - mainly because casein is a lot cheaper than gouache, but also because you can paint on casein without disturbing it a lot easier than you can on gouache.

    i did not put any gel medium on the page until i knew that i wanted to draw the face on there; i wanted to be able to work from there on out without having to worry about either messing up what i already had going, or having the colors from the background come up into what i was doing.

    i usually only put gel medium on the page at the very beginning, and that's it. but this time i did add another layer.

    i let the paint dry completely and then brushed the gel medium on. the first pass of gel medium over the paint will not smear it, but if you go back to cover an area after you've already gone over it once, it's probably going to smear a little...


  16. Absolutely brilliant you are!! Thank you so much! I love wiping the paint of my paintings such wonderful way to feel free to play. X

  17. Thank you for sharing your techniques - so generous of you! I love your work and how all of your layers come together to create such beautiful faces! I'm just learning and playing with my watercolors and love knowing I can mix in some oil pastels and other fun things in with them! Thank you!

  18. Thank you so very much for that! I'll be referring often to it :-)

  19. How generous of you to share all your steps Lynne. It's fascinating to watch your pieces develop. And the final result is gorgeous!

  20. Lynne, im a long time fan, see u on google reader an just love your work, its from the gut and not a compilation of other artists work, so to me u are a true artist ,cause only true artists share without profit......thank u

    hugz bev langby

  21. It would be fun to see a video of your hands making these wonderful expressive paintings. Please consider that !!

  22. Lynne---Have you seen this artist's work? Check it out. I think that you will be impressed if you have not.

  23. Amazing.

    What a feat of endurance...

    This post must have taken you absolutly hours. It is wonderful. I loved it.

    Thank you for your generosity.

  24. Oh, Lynne, you have an on-line class here!!!! Wonderful explanation of your process. It really made my morning bright. I am looking forward to burying myself in this process one day soon. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Me and my belly are much better today! Had whole day at work yesterday without getting faint. good. ;-)

  25. Lynne, what can I add, it's all been said! I do want to mention how I enjoyed reading your contribution to the book The Artist Unique. I really share many of your thoughts and especially liked how you finished with " I've found that no matter what I'm doing, the next step will appear-as long as I'm paying attention." So very true! Count me among your followers!

  26. Dear sweet Lynne, you are a gem! How generous of you to share your process in such detail. I love how you are like a great chef, adding a pinch of this and a pinch of that, until your portraits are perfect.

  27. The word has been used a few time, Sweetie ! I think this post was generous - generous with the techniques involved in your process, generous with your creative spirit and generous of your time to put it all together. Wow. Thank you for sharing how your beings come to be.
    Love ya!

  28. squeeeeee! Love this tutorial Lynne! Thanks bunches for sharing your unique technique:)

  29. You are so generous to share all this information. The time it must have taken to post all of this! Thank you. Glad I stumbled onto your blog.


  30. Another MERCI for this beauty!
    Please can you share 1 thought or 2 on the Zecchi watercolors?
    Say, compared to Daniel Smith?
    Merci encore!

  31. gosh lynne. overwhelming generous and gratiful. thank you for sharing. your work has such depth, both from your technique and from within you as well. thank you again.

  32. hello Lynne,
    I loved every bit of your post. so awesome to 'watch' imagine you creating. I love the outcome, your style is wonderful. lovely evening to you.

  33. i always think it is such a very different process to create and write about the creating while doing it. it's tricky. i think it brings in a whole different side of the brain. i enjoyed very much sitting next to you and watching your work like this. i always am happy when i have stopped by. xo!

  34. first of all, i want to thank everyone for their positive and kind response to this post- thank you!! to everyone whose e-mail addy i don't have, please know that i appreciate your taking the time to leave your thoughts even though i can't write you to tell you...

    franswazz, to answer your question about zecchi vs., say, daniel smith... well, first of all the zecchi are dry and in half pans, so there's that (for those of you that don't know, daniel smith comes in tubes). beyond that, the zecchi is what my heart really sings to - it's so densely pigmented. i have been using those half pans (above) regularily for a year now - some colors almost every day - and i haven't used half of the pan yet. they're made in italy using pigment, gum arabic, and honey, that's it. they are just sweet, sweet paints. i have just given a list to a friend who is once again in italy, and she is going to pick some new colors up for me, as well as get 'backups' for the ones i already know and love.

    i do love daniel smith for their quinacridone colors, though... i am a quinacridone addict, ha! and also i just tried out the most gorgeous brown i've ever seen on the sample card i recently got from them - sicklerite. that is for sure on my wish list.

    back to zecchi... they now have an english version of their website ( and they are also taking paypal. so it seems like it will be relatively easy to buy them in the U.S. and other countries.


  35. Thanks so much Lynne. Though I'm not in a painting phase I absorb all I can and hope I remember when I do get back into painting. Over the years in between carving I have used and loved oil pastels and acrylics.

  36. Thanks so very much for taking the time and the energy for this post. It is fascinating to see the number of steps and the specific ingredients that go into creating your one of a kind faces. I am definitely bookmarking this post.

  37. Great post Lynne!! Although I never paint the ladies, I love your palette and tools....I am alway happy when I see youbart even though I have not been coming in to comment. Xo

  38. Tell me more about those brushes. What brands? Purchased where? I'm a bit of a brush nut....always looking for the perfect one!

  39. Holy Moly! you hit a zinger with this one ... exceptionally well done!

    cyber smiles across the miles - xx

  40. I've just arrived here from Zorana's blog to this lovely tutorial! You're very good to stop the painting frenzy and to record it. This must have taken a lot of self control! Lovely work.:)
    Jess xx

  41. hi paula...

    the ones on the left are daniel smith travel brushes (, and the ones on the right are robert simmons ('simply simmons' on the side of the brush) from michaels. the size of the daniel smith brushes is 3 and 4, and the size of the filberts is 6 and 10. i am also a brush nut. : )


  42. thank-you for sharing your process - I going to try it today on some faces!

  43. Lynne, thank you so much for all this detail! I know how involved this must have been and time consuming, but BOY is it helpful! The techniques are going to be groovy for many projects!

    Have I told you lately that you ROCK?!


  44. Your work is fantastic. Just found you via Pinterest. It is wonderful to read and see how you create your beautiful art. This gives me inspiration to try using these materials. Thanks so much

  45. This is awesome! Thanks so much for being so generous. It is wonderful to see your creative process.

  46. Lynne, thank you for taking the time to share your wonderful process! I loved seeing how your layers come together to produce your unique work - thank you thank you thank you!

  47. Thankyou so much for generosity. It's lovely to see your artistic process unfolding. ox

  48. Your process is incredible. I am not that crazy about acrylics so seeing what you do with the products you use which I love has me very excited!! I love watercolor but never used casein paint but I am going to try it now.I have looked at every post on your blog because I really love your work and your process. Thank you so much. Please do an online class. I would love to learn more from you.

  49. OK I thought I left a message/comment maybe I left it on the wrong post, that has happened to me before. I am so and I don't even have a word I can't say like or love it isn't right.
    It is hard to quit looking and being facinated by the look and the beauty of each piece.
    Thank you for the written tutorial, I have had a great time doing the layers with, paint, pastels, ink, crayon and watercolors as well as watercolor pencils.

    so beautiful in an unordinary way.

  50. I have a question on painting on muslin. Do you treat the fabric with anything before you paint on it? I was looking at some of your older posts and I loved the art on the muslin.

  51. kate, i hope you check here so you can see the answer to this! i'm unable to e-mail you!

    if you look on the sidebar, under tutorials, you'll see a link to a muslin journal page tutorial. that's what i do...


  52. Lynne, I am IN LOVE with your faces! I'm currently taking a e-course with Katie Kendrick and I am fighting to get a face to look good, and to see yours is certainly an inspiration! Thank you for your work and your kindness to share your secrets with the rest of us!

  53. I picked up a few of the supplies you listed that I didn't have - now I need to experiment, but something is holding me back, so I have all the things I need in a neat little box just waiting - and a few old book pages to work on. I love that you share this information with us, giving us permission to try your approach - you are one with generosity of spirit! Thank you.

  54. Hi Lynne - thanks for much for the tutorial. It's a mixed blessing, I think, because now I'm going to be inflicting my painted face attempts on my friends, family and blog readers.
    You're up here in N CA someplace aren't you? Why don't you have a workshop? I'll certainly come!

  55. Thanks so much for sharing your technique!
    Your art is beautiful!
    I've read up above that you apply gel medium
    at the beginning. Is that before you start the face?
    Do you also add it as a fininishing touch or just leave it as it is.
    Than you for your time !

  56. lynne, you are so beautiful! it shines through in all you do..

  57. i came here via another blogger who pointed this tutorial.
    you are so amazing talented and generous thank you so much for teaching us and sharing this so generously, i have a book that i love and you will love it too "girls in cheap paper"
    i have some of these materials i am so going to try it with your permission
    thank you so much again!

  58. Thank you so much for sharing your technique. I just finished a face today that was inspired by your tutorial. I didn't use all of your same supplies as I just didn't have them all but the inspiration you gave shined through. thanks!

  59. Just found your Beautiful Art via pinterest! Wonderful tutorial. Thanks so much for sharing.

  60. I've just found your lovely blog today. What beautiful art and you are so generous. I'll be back.

  61. Thank you for your generous tutorial. I have been an admirer of your art for some time now (I'm a lurker!)and have often wondered how you got the soft ethereal look on the faces. This tutorial helps demystify some of it.

  62. hi Lynne!
    I took this tutorial to heart and gave your method a try. It is the post Earth Angel if you would care to see. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I enjoyed trying it so very much!

  63. Great tutorial! I love seeing the process! Your work is wonderful!

  64. Thank you, dear Lynne, for showing your work in detail. I love your faces, your art is so very special and fine. Until yet, I had have no idea, how to work faces with letters in the background. Also your mixed media technique. It is a new experience for me, to mix all this colors. But I can see, how beautiful it works, when a artist began to work.
    Sendign greetings!

  65. Fabulous inspiring tutorial....
    Thank you for sharing all your talent for this process!!

    Absolutely stunning work!

    Hugs Giggles

  66. What a wonderful tutorial - thank you! And what a fun opportunity to see so much of your gorgeous art.

  67. Thank you for this tutorial, dear Lynne. To work with Gouache is a new land for me and I am glad to see this in your tut. Wonderful inspiration!

  68. I truly appreciate your tutorial and showing exactly what you used to create this beauty. Thanks a billion!

  69. I truly appreciate your tutorial and showing exactly what you used to create this beauty. Thanks a billion!

  70. Hello! Thank you for your how to paint faces tutorial. I learned a lot about oil pastel and watercolor working together. I still need a lot of practice with the gouache. I found the tutorial on the free Art Instruction Blog. I shared it with my closed group Facebook class Word Play. Lynne Whipple suggested I make sure that I have your OK to share this. I was under the assumption that it was a free tutorial and I hope I am right. If it is not OK to share this I will take it off immediately. I just posted it last evening. Again thank you!
    I have enjoyed seeing your artwork for years and am now just trying to figure out how to draw much less paint. This may be proof of you can teach an old dog new tricks. You have a true talent. I loved how thorough your tutorial was but it allows for others to explore and continue learning on their own. Your layering is amazing.
    Let me know if it's OK to share. I think for now I will take it off just to make sure until I hear from you that it is safe to put back up.
    Thanks for your time and sharing.

  71. hi laura,

    i couldn't reply to your email, so i'll reply here!

    yes, it's fine to share the tutorial wherever you like... i wanna spread the painting love. : )



  72. Lynne, this amazing tutorial has me inspired to someday be able to paint like I've always dreamed of. In the mean time, I'll keep learning and working at it, one baby step at a time. Thank you for so generously sharing your gift!

  73. Just so amazing! I have to try this! I'll let you know if I work up the nerve! Xx Rae

  74. I agree. You are very talented and generous! Thanks a lot!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. thank you, and you're welcome... : )



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.