LifeBook 2013: Painting Over a Picture

Hello all,

I dropped back into Life Book this week, and I’m glad I did. This week we learned a simple way to paint a face that you can use in an art journal or collage or basically however you would like: painting over a photograph.

When I was younger I used to draw fairly realistic faces all the time. It was sort of an obsession. As I have gotten older I have found more joy in randomness, and I definitely lean towards a more abstract approach. But there are times when I think adding a human element to some of my work would definitely enhance it.

Basically with this method, you choose a photo (I used print outs from the Web, but magazine photos would work too) modge podge or gel medium it down on some heavy paper (I used 140 lb watercolor paper) and then apply a layer of gesso thinned with water. You want to be able to see the basic outlines of your image through the gesso. Once the gesso is dry, you have your “canvas”. I used a combination of Neocolor water soluble crayons, water color pens, and water soluble pencils to create both paintings.

I made both of my photos (one is of my celebrity crush. Eeep! How embarrassing…) black and white before printing because I thought it made the images clearer underneath the gesso. Also, I didn’t want any of the original colors in the photos to influence my choices. I wanted an unrealistic realistic look if that makes any sense at all. I added some scribbled writing to both backgrounds just for fun.

I’m reasonably happy with both paintings. I think. Although I can’t stop messing with them. Maybe I’m not happy. Somebody stop me!




To make these I played with: print outs of photos, watercolor paper, pencil, Neocolor crayons, water soluble pencils and markers, gel medium, sakura gelly roll pens.



  1. Wow! I love these paintings πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks AJ! They were a lot of fun to do, and if I have time tonight I’m going to prep a few more so that I can paint over them during the week πŸ™‚

  2. Yes stop stop, they’re amazing! I loooove the colours you’ve used Michelle!

    1. Thanks, Bec! I did actually stop. Haven’t touched them since I posted πŸ™‚



    1. Thank you so much Francine!

  4. I often need someone to help me stop as well…fine line between ocd and passion…oh well…at least we’re having a good time

  5. I particularly like the colours from the red haired girl, her skin is gorgeous! I also enjoyed very much this week class!
    Nice work, Simone

  6. Awesome technique! I love how they turned out!

  7. Fantastic! What a great technique – must give it a try.

  8. I can’t get over watching your creativity just pour out!!! So glad you started this blog xo we need to get together sooner than later…still hoping for the craft night soon!

    1. Awww, thanks Tyler! I would love, love, love to do a craft night soon πŸ™‚

  9. […] the technique outlined in my earlier post, I did a few more faces. I have been calling these “cheat” paintings because the paint […]

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