I have always been a big Ray Charles fan and when I was an art student at The Ohio State University I saw him live at a theater in downtown Columbus Ohio. I found a portrait of him on an old CD cover and that was my reference for this watercolor portrait. It was painted on yupo paper and, if you haven't tried it, you might find it interesting. It is not actually paper but rather a sheet of plastic resembling paper. Because it is plastic the paint never soaks in but dries on top of the surface. This means that anything you don't like you can wipe right off with a damp cloth. The interesting part is when you go back into an area that you have painted your brush is lifting out the earlier paint while you are applying new paint. As you can imagine, this takes some getting used to and can be very frustrating. An advantage of this yupo is the colors don't absorb into the paper so they remain very rich.
For this portrait, I wanted to capture the smokey atmosphere of an old jazz club and the unusual stage lighting. For the dark background, I painted perylene green around the microphone and then switched to ultramarine blue and mineral violet as the colors surrounded his head and blended with his hair. Pure cerulean blue is the color between his face and the microphone. It was fun using different oranges, yellows, reds and violets for his skin tones. The highlights on his sunglasses and his teeth are pure white paper so they had to be painted around very carefully. Controlling hard and soft edges is very difficult for me on yupo and yet some of my favorite passages are where I let the wet paint do whatever it wanted. Here and there you can see little dots of white paper where the paint didn't take and I decided to leave these because I like the sparkle effect. If you enjoy experimenting with different materials, try painting on a piece of yupo paper and let me know what you think. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton