Enjoyed working on this small watercolor portrait, because this media is even more transparent, and requires more layers, than the acrylic paints I've been working with.
People who want home portraits tell me whether they'd like them painted in oils, acrylics or watercolors. I start many of my oil paintings with acrylics, because oils can go over the top and the acrylics dry faster, which makes it easier to get the initial drawing, composition and values (lights and darks) down on the canvas quickly.
Once upon a time, I preferred painting in oils. I liked mixing the colors I wanted on the palette with wet paint and the opacity of it. But when I started laying in my compositions with acrylics, I started to appreciate their transparency and the ability to build and mix color through layering like you do with watercolors. My mentor describes painting with watercolor like laying down layer after layer of transparent color film -- we build value and hue by painting an area over and over again, overlaying paint layer after paint layer. If it's the same hue, the color gets stronger. If it's a complementary hue, the color gets duller and grayer. And if it's blue over yellow, my eye sees the green that results.
I haven't painted in pure watercolors for a few months, so I enjoyed its increased transparency compared to acrylics. For a painting like this, I have to draw on the paper first, so I know in advance where all the paint should go, kind of like paint by number.
I think this is why I prefer acrylics: I feel more free to experiment with paint on the fly, knowing it is opaque enough that I can cover it up and rework it if I change my mind.
But in this case, I realized I've gotten lazy by being able to make the darks as dark as I want right away with acrylics, rather than having to build them up gradually over the course of several sessions, like I did with this watercolor. I attached three photos here to show that progression from when I started to the finished piece.