Sort of.

comments: 161

So, you know how when yesterday I said that I did the face and completely ruined the painting and then you said no, Alicia, you're just being hard on yourself and I bet it isn't that bad and how bad could it be, and I was like no, really, it's really really really not good you guys













people, I tried to tell you.






It did not go well.






Things I Didn't Realize About Painting:

  1. Acrylic paints dry darker than how they appear on the palette.
  2. Mixing each shade from scratch using white, red, yellow, blue, green, black, and Burnt Sienna is HARD when it comes to skin tones (because each shade you mix dries out before you can use it as the base for the next tone).
  3. Starting with the darkest color and working in was a bad idea.
  4. Especially if the darkest color was maroonish-gray.

After I let out a horrified scream that deafened the dog and caused every cat in the house to jump three feet straight up into the air, I took the painting and went down the street to my favorite little art supply store, Muse. After we all stopped giggling uncomfortably at how scary my painting was, the guys there were SO nice to give me a crash course in Portrait Painting 101 stuff and told me important things like there is a warm side of the face and a cool side (obviously depending on the where the light is falling).


I wound up buying a tube of paint that was called Toning Pinkish Gray or Toning Grayish Pink — basically, a very pale skin tone, and then I mixed everything using that and a little Burnt Siena for the warm a little Ultramarine for the cool. Then I turned the painting upside down, like you guys said, so that I was just looking at shapes of colors and not someone-I-love's face (which I desperately wanted to get "right," etc.).

So this was the second try:


Better. Humanish. I was extremely relieved!!! I called my friend and told her. I don't know what it is about painting that makes me want to talk on the phone. Add that to the list of things I did not know about painting!

I set it about ten feet away from me and looked at it. Even at viewing distance, there was still a little too much contrast. I felt confident, though. I felt like I could do it without freaking. I felt like I wouldn't have to start completely over, I could just tweak. So I replaced one color — I think it was the second lightest — with one that was both a little darker and a little warmer and came up with:


What do you think? Stand back from it a bit and see.

I still have to do the daisy, and the magenta, and the t-shirt. But I think this is sort of going in the right direction now, don't you?


It's FABULOUS! I need to resize my photo before I can download it. But I can't wait to give it a try. Maybe I won't run into the same difficulties with a photo of a dog. Hopefully!

dude, so awesome! i cant believe this is your first painting--i guess i thought with all the crafting you'd know about paint stuff? i dunno. good job though!

Flipping pancakes! What a brilliant turn-around! You must be very proud of yourself!

Really, really nice! And A++++ for perseverance!

Gosh, that sure is an amazing thing. Congrats to you for sticking with it, for not giving up on the process until it felt just right! Inspiring! And so pretty.

I think we've all used that self-tanner! :-) It really turned out fantastic! Way to go and not give up! You deserve a treat! (Isn't that what Clover Meadow gets when she does well?)

I'd frame that if I were you! Great job! I wish I had your kind of patience!

deborah wolff says: October 21, 2009 at 05:27 PM

the first attempt you could always claim was a "warhol" and just go with it. but the consequent images look really lovely.
deb wolff

I admire your sticktoitiveness!! You did a great job. Most people would have given up but you kept at it until you got it right. That's what makes an artist an artist and it shows in everything you do. It also encourages the rest of us. Thanks for sharing.

Alicia! You are hysterically funny! I think the first go-round looks like she's been blissfully draped in chocolate ribbons. Painting is a learning process, and the fixed attempts are gorgeous. Have you ever been to the Museum of Bad Art? There's a whole website of hilarity:

You're far too talented to get in there, but the gallery is great fun!

I think it turned out great Alicia! It takes time to learn how to do things and I think you did an awesome job! :)

LindaSonia says: October 21, 2009 at 05:40 PM

Wow, your second attempt looks great. But I wish you would have taken a picture of what the print looked like before you started painting.

Your photo prints like a paint by number, right? Do you have to put color on the entire thing or are some parts printed in color? How do you know what color goes where? Do you have to reference your original photo?

I need to go to the website and check it out, I suppose, but it looks like it would be fun.


I think they all look very cool, and I'm glad you were brave enough to show them to us. I think the second version does look better, and the final version looks awesome. I don't know anything about painting or portrait painting, so this is a really cool technique to read about as you're doing it. Good for you for keeping on!

Mary Ann/Ca says: October 21, 2009 at 05:56 PM

LOL, well the first one did need a some work but gosh, you learned so much and the final product is wonderful, won't she love it!I am so tempted to try this and I have no painting skills! (Anna cracked me up with the comment about self tanner. I once knew a girl in HS who was orange all the time and that's tough to do in a Chicago suburb!)

I think all your tweaks paid off, it's a really pretty painting. Worthy of a nice spot on your walls. Nice job--and keep doing it, I know you'll get better and better at it. I'm sure we all want to see Clover Meadow next!

When I saw the first one, I honestly thought "What's wrong with it?" But the last one is so much better. I think it's absolutely beautiful!!!

a vast improvement. good for you for sticking with it.

yes. i like all... the first looks like a face that is in a lower light but not the hideous painting I was expecting. I have done far worse to some of my pieces. But I'm glad you were willing to give it another go to get the piece you wanted. thanks for sharing!

Thanks for showing me all the steps both good and bad. Ive always been afraid to paint...but I see that you can redo something that you are not pleased with to make a true work of art. Good for you!

Aren't you glad you didn't crinkle up the painting and toss it? Your niece is going to be thrilled to receive this! I think it is beautiful.

wow, i can't believe how much that third one looks like a photo. It's really lovely!

Sharon Stanley says: October 21, 2009 at 06:58 PM

Does it occur to you at all that you picked probably THE hardest possible thing to "paint" your first time out? A QUILT and a FACE? Come on. A single flower, maybe the requisite tree, but a face??? I think you did a fantastic job, fantastic! How you could do it I know not. I printed a picture of a very old house we have in the country on water color paper and decided to stop there...I'm happy with it just the way it is...yes, I am a chicken! Beautiful work Alicia.

Congrats lady!

Lots of people would have given up, but you made it work! That's really great that the art supply folks were able to lend a hand.

<--I also like the new boxes over here! Very pretty.

Faces are hard, but you did awesome. I always start with Titanium Buff, then work up from there. Also, golden makes fluid acrylics that are very nice to work with.

The first painting looked preety good to me. I am not an artist but my mother was; really good. I have always admired art from being around her. I was thinking well this looks pretty good; I can't see where it is ruined. Then the second one appeared as I scrolled I'm thinking the first one wasn't that bad but this one, it is good...then I kept scrolling...and what should appear but another one that is even better than the first two...if I could keep scrolling you might wind up with an art piece that is better than anything we have seen or ever will see again. Then you could proclaim, OMGICP! (Oh my God, I can paint!) Because you can. :)

Seriously, great job! Very pretty! Glad you could recover. You have inspired many of us to give this a try too.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.