My son Levi

Yay, I’ve finished my portrait of my son Levi! I’ve taken some photos along the way and here is my progress from start to finish. I wanted to do a portrait in a similar style to the one I did some months ago of my eldest son Raine. Different colours this time. Levi is 14 years old, he is my quiet boy, he is taller than me already and I am tall so with some years left of growing I am sure he is going to be a very, very tall boy.

So lets begin … The bonus with this particular piece of art is I can share the reference photo because it is mine. This particular photo was from New Years Eve, such a nice pose which is why I chose this one, the downside to this photo is its quite light for shadows which always makes portraits harder, to work with this I utilise photoshop and work from a darker print. Below you can see I’ve drawn over the light photo print reference (left) with graphite pencil for knowing where I need to work my shadows and lines for when I trace it. The right reference shows my rough idea of colour placement. I am using Faber Castell Polychromos for this project, they are nice pencils…


I prefer to trace my subjects to get a more accurate piece of artwork, this saves a lot of heartache at the end, its no fun having a piece that doesn’t look in proportion when you’ve spent so much time making it so to avoid that I just go with a more accurate outline. If I am doing a larger piece I would use the gridding method, but when I can now I utilise a projector. The three picture sequence above shows how I trace my reference to paper.  I use a stylus along with some graphite tracing paper. I trace as much of the reference as I need onto my paper, I’m using Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper. Then I rub it out to make the lines less visible but still enough so I can see where to go.


Then comes the fun stuff!! I begin, always slow at the start trying to get a feel for the artwork and the colours, the watercolour splash effect is easier than the whole face and I want to incorporate some of that splash into the skin tones but not too much, I work all over the place building it bit by bit.


I lay my pencils down light and build them gradually by pressing harder as I go. Levi is such a pale boy and his photo for this piece is hard one!!


Sometimes I blend with odourless turpenoid as I go, this time I’ve decided to wait until I’ve almost finished to smooth it out. I find this process just makes the pencils look a lot better. Below is a short sped-up video of brushing the turpenoid over some of the artwork.

EPSON MFP imageLastly I’ve added some white dots with some acrylic paint, this final photo of the finished artwork above is one I’ve scanned in on the computer which shows the colours and work better than a photograph does. I have 3 children so have one more of this style to create of my daughter, I can then hang all 3 of them on my wall together! Stay tuned for progress on hers…. 😀

Levi in coloured pencil WIP

Currently I am in the process of working on a portrait of my son Levi in coloured pencils. Similar style to the one I completed of my eldest son Raine some months ago. Using shades of red, orange and golden yellow with shades of light and dark blue this time. Levi has approved the colour choices lol. Here is a progress shot ….


Still lots to do, will post more photos when I can get it finished hopefully soon ….

Amazon Parrots

I love to paint so very much, it brings happiness to my soul! Have I said this before? I will say it again and again!! 😀 This time I’ve tackled a painting of a pair of blue fronted amazon parrots. I’ve utilised a photo reference by Aschi who is an amazing photographer, he has so many great references I want to paint!!

Once again I have used my Winsor and Newton watercolour set. I love making up colours as I go along and just muck around with them really, its fun! Progress photos and descriptions are above each photo below, read on …

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First photo – I print out the reference to size, I can’t share the reference unfortunately due to copyright laws but if your wanting to see it for yourself just pop over to Paint My Photo (PMP) website and you can find it there as well as a whole bunch of other great material to paint from.

This painting is on A5, its a good size for me to get it finished especially when I am currently juggling other things. I’ve stuck down my paper to keep it flat during the painting process, if I don’t it will buckle from the water applications. I trace my reference onto my paper with a stylus and some tracing paper, then I rub it out – sounds crazy to rub out what I just did but I don’t want dark reference lines, I just need to see them enough to know where I need to go, I then begin painting.

I have several greens in my palette set but only one of them is the green that seems right for this project so throughout the painting process I make up other shades of green by mixing green with blues and greys. There are so many layers of feathers in these birds – so I am finding out as I go haha, whose idea was it to paint this! 😉 Using a liner brush I paint in the feather lines with grey, and when dry I wash in other colours over the top.


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Photo two – Once each section dries which doesn’t take long I reapply my washes and using the liner and I build up the depth with the feathers. For me I always work up to my darks and retain my lights. My intention with this painting was to have drips of colour coming off the birds, a hit an miss effect rather than having a completed bird so in this photo you can see I am already establishing this idea with my washes. To get the drip effect to work I lift my painting upright and let the watercolour drip down


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Photo three – I continue to build my layers, if I find an area is boggling my brain I move on to another section and go back to it later. Again I approach the second bird the same way, establish the feathers with line work and wash colours over the top. It was around this stage I started to see the birds needed some more yellow throughout to bring the birds out more


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Photo four – I have a piece of paper next to me so I can test my mixes of colour before I apply them to the artwork. I want to be sure I am getting the colours I want. I’ve added more washes to the second bird here and started to develop the hit an miss effect at the base. I am using just a couple of round brushes and a liner for the entire project


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Photo five – More layers and building, I’ve gone back to the first bird and added some more to him too. Adding some line indications to the feathers makes them appear more feathery without going overboard with detail. Second bird has been developed more here


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Photo six – I’ve pulled some blue from the top of the birds to the bottom to balance the colours more and make it more interesting and developed some drips. At first I didn’t know what colour I was going to do the background I thought I’d wait and see what pops up when I get to it. The birds have some ochre in their eyes so decided that’s what I need to use, and I begin washing it in and add some drips too


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Photo seven – The ochre needed something else and immediately I thought some pink to warm it up and it would compliment the other colours. I use my liner to emphasize the drips and other areas of the background effect


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Photo eight – final artwork! My painting needed me to put it down and come back to it again with fresh eyes on a new day, I could then see more things then that I needed to refine, more washes and depth added, I also darkened the pink in the background and blended both the ochre and pink some more. This photo below is a scanned in image with brighter colours than the progress photos above.


This painting is for sale on HolleyRyanArt

Also available on Merchandise – apparel, cases and skins, home décor, wall art, bags and stationery

Thanks for reading my blog on this painting, I love sharing my art and hope my explanations on how I go about things makes some sense, hopefully it helps with your art processes or even inspires you!


‘Tia’ Progress

Previously I have shared a blog with the beginnings of ‘Tia’, an acrylic painting on canvas panel. Here is some photo updates of more progress…


I’ve tackled some of her top hand, flower and the feathers. I’ve even thrown in some swirls by her hand to get the feel for what colour I want to go with and how I might want the swirls to look. Not sold on this yet but will leave it there while I think about it and keep on moving. I like the idea of a classic look with some vintage colours, there is a lot of colour in the background so want to keep other colours simpler to balance the entire painting. The feathers are subtle and I quite like that, the rose I am still working on but I know I want it to be white. Her dress will be mostly white with shades of colour to bring it out so I’ve laid down a coat of white to build on as I go and painted her beaded necklace.

First layers are down on her arm, skin tone browns with some paynes grey mixed through for cool shadows and also some rose pink for warmth, I also add some yellow tones too. Years ago when I first started portrait painting I learnt to add cool colours for the shadows, some artists use greens, I really like to use deep blues.

t7 Top hand isn’t done here yet but I’ve moved on anyway, I’m not totally done with her face yet either, I will come back to that later on. Some more building is done here on her arm, paint dries quick so continuing to use my clear painting medium to help with the blending. I am wanting a realistic look but I also like the idea of seeing the brushstrokes.

Her dress has see through lace by her elbow so have put the first layer of light skin tone down. I’ve decided to go with purple tones throughout her white dress to compliment the background colours – some of this colour is on her shoulder straps.

t8She is developing more now, more layering of purples on her dress and deeper tones added to her skin beneath the dress. Her arm is looking better but I will need to adjust tones on her face yet – but later.

I could leave her without any swirls in the background, I’ve been considering this but it just seems like it needs it to complete the overall image I had in my head. Swirls and more will be added soon…. 😀

Striped Beanie and Pom Pom

It was time to try and make a pom pom, I’ve seen those awesome fluffy ones and in fact have a cool black one on my keyring – makes it alot easier to find my keys! Recently I made a striped grey and blue sparkly beanie and I wanted to attach one of those fluffy pom poms. Unfortunately I couldn’t source one quick enough so instead found a pattern on how to make a similar one (on

This particular pom pom is made with fluffy yarn and not just normal yarn, its made in rounds and filled with stuffing before sewing it onto the beanie.


The yarn I used is called Moroka and boy what a nightmare it is to crochet with, you cannot see your stitches!! Instead you have to go by feel, half way through pictured above, it looks like a birds nest!! My first attempt was a failure, but I had another go and I still had trouble but in the end I got a pom pom that was round – no perfect – but round lol.


Hooray!! Then I sewed it onto my beanie, wish you could see the sparkles in both the grey and the blue, shame the photograph loses that …


I showed my daughter and she has claimed the beanie, she’s still wearing it at this very moment!!! I have a couple of handmade beanies available for sale in a variety of colours, you can check them out on HolleyRyanArt


Clydesdale Watercolour

Years ago I worked for a horse magazine in the art department. Part of my job was to set adverts and I always loved that part of the job. I am not actually a horse person as such but did enjoy the whole aspect of getting great horsey photos to play with in design. My favourite breed of horse would have to be the Friesians, black beauty’s with their free flowing manes and their long haired hooves. I do admire great photos of beautiful horses and any animal, I love to paint all kinds.

I came across just one such picture of a handsome Clydesdale and just jumped straight in to paint him. I love it when I get in those moods when I am feeling inspired and just go with it. Photo reference I used is from Ainslie Gilles-Patel, she takes beautiful photos of horses and is in fact a very talented horse artist.

I’ve taken some photos along the way to share, pictured below. At the start I stumble a bit trying to get a beginning, I often start with eyes because they are a focal point on any portrait. Making colours with my watercolour set is fun, I love mixing a bit of this and that, test the colour on spare paper and when I’m happy just lay it down. I don’t like hard edges much so tend to blot my paintings with tissues to soften or just blend well with my brush as I go.


First layers are always light, I prefer to layer and build up depth rather than lay solid colour. I often come across other colours I never saw at the start of the painting and add these as I go.


I fiddle a lot, whenever I try and loosen up and do a loose painting I end up reworking it and smoothing sections, I can’t help but play around and fix things, so this is the artist I am.

The above photo shows my set up, using Winsor and Newton Cotman set, I love this set! I have 45 colours to play with. I’ve taped down my edges on my paper to keep my paper flat, when applying water the paper will buckle a little or lift as such, the tape keeps it more secure and it dries flatter. I’m just using masking tape, should invest in some painters tape instead really.

Above is the final artwork with a drippy purple and apricot background. On A5 hot press 300gsm so nice and thick and smooth. Just a small painting, but the amount of hours I put into any painting does vary depending on how much detail is needed and how good the reference photo is. This particular painting took me 5 hours to do over a couple of days. I will be uploading this design soon to merchandise like mugs, cushions etc at Redbubble. If your interested in buying this painting please inbox me, will be for sale soon on HolleyRyanArt