• Inspiration
October 26, 2023

A Spooky Portrait: Digital Art and Watercolor

Outreach Coordinator Cole Morreale has been expressing their creativity through digital art for years, and working at Art Toolkit has inspired them to explore other media again—like watercolors!

By Cole Morreale & The Art Toolkit Team

Portraits of a pointy-eared person on an iPad and in watercolor on a page side by side in purples and greens.

In the spirit of Halloween, Cole Morreale took on a new kind of art challenge! They picked a digital portrait of a spooky elf creature and recreated it with watercolors, embracing this challenge with curiosity and (a little) uncertainty.

From Cole

I stopped drawing after high school — I didn’t have room in my schedule for art classes, so I just let them go and didn’t pick up drawing again until 2018 after playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons with friends.

I knew I liked drawing characters and people and wanted to get better at drawing faces. I also wanted to bring art with me places, and this was before I knew about Art Toolkit, so I purchased an iPad and got to work learning Procreate, a digital art program. I didn’t go to school for art, but I watched a lot of tutorials and found a local art teacher who helped me understand the basics I hadn’t learned in art classes at school. 

After much learning and experimentation, I found a subject I like capturing and a method that’s fun and works for me!

A grid of digital portraits of human-like creatures in purples and reds and whites.
Examples of fantastical portraits by Cole.

These days, I love spending time drawing portraits, so for this challenge, I painted one of my digital portraits in watercolor, and boy, I have to tell you, it was a challenge indeed.

One thing I quickly realized is that tricks that work in digital art definitely do not translate to watercolor! I couldn’t double-tap to undo a stroke if it was wrong! It forced me to be more intentional with my brush and tools. In addition, I usually refine shapes and shadows and work lighter, which is the opposite of what you need to do for watercolor. I struggled with highlights and had to watch many tutorials to understand other ways of approaching this piece. 

A page with light traces of pencil in the shape of a portrait.
Layers of purple on shadow areas on a portrait of a face with a palette on top of it.
Portraits of a pointy-eared person in watercolor in purples and greens
Four snapshots of the watercolor layering process.
Portrait of a pointy-eared person in watercolor in purples and greens

It helped to use scratch paper to experiment with colors before beginning my painting. It was different having to wait for layers to dry instead of clicking on my iPad and adding a new layer to my digital art. When I didn’t mix enough of a color, I had to work quickly to recreate that shade in my palette

Portraits of a pointy-eared person on an iPad and in watercolor on a page side by side in purples and greens
Finished portraits, side by side: digital and watercolor!

It was a fun experiment with painting a spooky Halloween portrait that I had originally created in a different medium. Not bad for a first-time watercolor portrait, I think! Maybe I’ll try this same portrait again next year and see how I improve!

Thank you, Cole, for courageously trying a new medium and playing with watercolor in a new way. To see more of Cole’s art, check out their Instagram.

An artist sites on a rock, dipping a paintbrush in a Pocket Palette.

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