Valerie Ann Chua Workshop: Portrait Master Class


Beautiful lighting at the studio.


(Source: Valerie Ann Chua’s tumblr)

Ms. Valerie Ann Chua is a self-taught, Manila-based illustrator and painter who has done several commercial and personal works. Her masterpieces and brand has always caught my attention, especially since it gives of an aura of something subtle, gentle and feminine. She dominantly uses soft colors and draws elegant children and women, that you can say gives of a crossbreed feel between something surreal and Asian.

Luckily, last April 26, I was able to partake one of her Watercolor Workshop Series, the Portrait Master Class. It involved a 3-hour workshop with the artist herself, Ms. Valerie. She basically taught the basic facial anatomy, how to draw specific references from actual photo references and how to apply them to actual painting.

That day, I arrived 30 minutes earlier to make sure I don’t miss out on some details. Though I felt tired and sick because of my weird loss voice x seasickness, I knew I had to go to meet the artist herself and as well learn. At 8:30 or so, I was luckily welcomed by her with a smile, wearing a pastel pink see-through tasseled blouse and comfy leggings and Ipanema slippers (yes I’m so observant). At 9 am sharp, we started the session.


First off, we talked about the materials. It is one of the factors in creating great art. For the workshop, we used Canson Montval, 300 gsm paper. It’s creamy texture yet sturdy paper allows paint to suspend and allows users to clean or pick-up excess paint. We also used the cheapest, student grade, semi-moist pans Prang 16’s. She also checked our brushes whether they were in good condition or not. Also, she suggested a good cheap brand, Reeves, and noted more artist grade brands. (The one that I used that was in my stash was Talens.) She told us how to determine whether our brushes were still good : we were told to dip it in water and to bend it towards the handle/shaft and if it flicks back, then it’s okay. If not, better buy a new one. But usually a normal brush lasts for a year, with frequent use.

Second, we followed her as she drew the basic anatomy, part by part. We started off with a basic circle, cut in half, located the eyes by the partitions noted that in between was another “eye” and so on. Another note is that these guidelines would be most helpful or would be of maximum use especially in animation or so. But if you would be leaning towards the finer art, then practicing the eye and the usage of minimal guidelines is the way to go.

Above was a picture on how to properly emulate the reference photo and painting and we had some short hair tutorial afterwards.


Some corrections and notes that we had to remember…


The painting part, yay!


Work in progress…


We are getting there…

We also had tips on layering.

First, we must start from lighter to the darkest parts. Second, Wash the largest portion of the paper to be painted, with the basic light color. Third, to determine lighting through layering, make sure you make block areas to be dense to create dimensions. Afterwards, you can smooth some of the lines to make it blend. Fourth, never let the white parts be painted with nothing or pure white. Fifth, same with the hair, allow layering rather than the usual strand by strand painting.

And here’s a list you’d want to take note of:

sclera combination/off-white parts: flesh + 1 part blue + 1 part black

flesh: 1 part red + 1 part yellow + white

Iris= blue +brown

But still, it really depends on your photo reference, but those are the standards ^^ (^__^)


This is what I came up with (forgive the crappy layering o.o)


Picture with Ms. Valerie

In a nutshell, I really learned a lot and realized that the structured style isn’t my style (but nonetheless have to learn it). I guess I have to work on those layers! I have so much to learn and I’ m happy. It’s been 2 years with my love, watercolor. I’m really maximizing my time this summer before I set off to the busy world of college o.o.

But most of all, I’m happy to meet one of the local artists I look up to.

I think I should send her few questions I wasn’t able to ask since I was mute. Haha.

Until next time!

*hides under the bed and watches the S02, EP. 2 of Orphan Black*

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