For once, this isn’t a cat drawing!
Almost three months ago, I did a watercolor portrait of Toke Talagi, the premier of the little island state Niue, far, far to the east of New Zealand. It’s among the smallest “countries” of the world with 1500 inhabitants. Some time after that, I got an email from the premier himself, asking for the original. Since it’s in one of my sketchbooks, I proposed to him that I do a bigger portrait on regular sheets on paper, and my first “commission” was landed. Arguably, I’m no pro, and watercolor is a tough medium that takes a lot of experience and skill. I have neither, but I’ve made a great effort in painting these, and I really hope he’ll be happy with them. In portraiture, there’s so much that needs to be “just right” in order for the picture to work, so it took me four attempts for me to come up with two portraits that looked enough like him. Click the links below to see attempt one and two
Portrait of Toke Talagi 1
Portrait of Toke Talagi 2
The photo I’ve used as a reference for all 5 can be seen here
I’ll send the photos to Mr. Talagi to hear what he thinks, but I’d like to hear your opinions too. Since I already have done 4 big paintings, I’d prefer to not start over again, but if you have suggestions for slight improvements in these two, I’d like to hear them.
Personally I feel that the top one is a little too rich and over saturated in color, and the other one might be the contrary. They’re both a bit “messy”, but then again, the very first sketch-book painting that I did, and that he liked was much more so. The style is also quite a bit different and the likeness not really there. They’re in A3 sized paper, or 30×42 cm
these were done over several weeks, so you can’t really call them my 470’th and 471’th drawings (paintings) But I’ll just do it anyway 😉
EDIT: I think that the above photographs came out a little weird after editing them in photoshop. I’m just going to throw the raw photo inhere too:
27 thoughts on “Two commissioned portraits of Toke Talagi in watercolor”
Wow, can imagine that this is a huge challenge in watercolor!!! I like them both, but maybe prefer the upper one a tiny bit. Well done, this is great work!!!
Thanks a lot! What do you prefer about the upper one?
When I look at them, I keep thinking that there’s something wrong about the left eye.. I seems to have made the same weird left eye four times, and just can’t figure out it it’s me or if there’s something I’m seeing wrong.
You´re right, the left eye is better in the down picture. I think it´s because the inner corner/angle of the eye is a little too down. It should be same height as the one of the right eye. Actually the upper part of the eyes (the line of the eyelid) is extremely near to the frame of the glasses. I think that´s the problem somehow with the left eye. And maybe that the line if the eyelid isn´t visible? It´s quite dark in the photograph… Hope this helps you a little. I know this problem – the artist itself is too close to his work to see the tiny mistakes. Therefore it´s good to have someone having a “new” look on it… 😊 Anyway, I think this is a great portrait, especially in watercolor!!!
Thanks a lot. I’ll take a close rlook at that
Oh, and what I love better in the upper one: In general the colors. The photograph shows quite “deep” colors and the downer picture is a little pale compared to this… But actually it´s maybe a question of taste – both pictures have their qualities.
I looked at #1 and #2 and your subject’s photo reference……and then at these two – and back again to look at ALL of them several times……mainly because I was studying the blending and strokes you used with the watercoloring……they’re all SO different except they all capture your subject’s face very well – some are more “detailed” maybe….but I think Mr. Talagi will find it difficult to choose just one as the official portrait! I like how you sort of experimented with colors in each of the backgrounds…..I have to tell you though that if this was ME, I’d have a very tough time picking just one!
Thanks a lot for your comments.. I think it’s really difficult as well. I think that the last two I did have the best resemblance, but the first one if probably the best one in terms of detail and use of the watercolor. All that makes it pretty difficult to choose!..
Hi Thomas, well done! My knowledge of portraits is pretty poo but I took a look at all 4 and….thought that occurred to me: have you considered running all 4 by him? I personally think they’re all come in different styles and at the end of the day it’s down to which one he will connect with best (who knows, he may like them all 🙂 ).
Hi thanks 😉 I actually did send him all four to look at. Focusing on the last two I did, but should he prefer the others or all four, It would be completely fine by me 🙂
Especially if it’s all four 😉
I think both paintings are superb and preference just comes down to taste and a question of liking bold or muted tones. It will be interesting to know which the subject prefers. Congratulations on the commission! I think it’s brilliant that the Premier saw your post and liked your work. That’s high praise indeed and I’m sure that’s a source of encouragement too. You’ve really come so very far with your skills since you started this project.
Thanks a lot. Yes I actually thought that someone was making fun of me when I first got his mail, but apparently not! It’s great encouragement indeed.. Maybe I still have some way to go before i feel really confident with portraits, but this has proven to me that it’s not impossible to sell something at some point.. An even great encouragement, though, is all the comments i get, so thanks a lot 🙂
I’ve been looking at them again and I agree with what’s been said here…kind of hard to pick …for instance I agree with you about the top one being oversaturated in colour but then…some people may like this style. I also agree the bottom is the opposite, but again some may like it this way. I personally think #3 and#4 are better representations than attempt 1 but I prefer the eyes of #4 while I like the nose of #3 (light portrait) better. This said there’s a realistic feel to attempt 1 that is nice.
It’s actually no easy thing to pick just one!
It’s exciting that he contacted you and asked for a portrait.
I like the light touch of 1 and 4 best. I too will be interested to see which he prefers. The way we see ourselves is not the same as the way others see us, for one. And I’m always surprised at what people respond to in my own work; it’s definitely not the same as what I like best much of the time.
Thanks. Yes I’m pretty excited about it really! I’m really looking forward to see which ones he picks… I’ll let you all know 🙂
It doesn’t matter what we think, ultimately it will be what he thinks – I’m learning we are our own worst critics of our work. In my line of business, clients like options. Maybe you do show him both and let him choose. He might want the two of them!
We’ll see what he says! 🙂
I personally like the more muted tones of the second painting. However, since Mr. Talagi is the premier of an entire nation, perhaps he would like the other one, for it’s bold/stong style? I think he will have a hard time choosing, actually … all of the paintings have wonderful elements!
Thanks a lot! I’m really starting to look forward to his response! 🙂
Excellent pictures!! I’m overwhelmed. Your work is fantastic. I know nothing about sketching, painting or drawing. However, I know what is pleasing to the eye and colours. I like this gent’s pictures. Good work Thomas.
Thankyou very much!
I like them both. Well done, but the coloring inside the glasses lenses is darker than the face outside the glasses. I know that often happens in photographs because of the reflection and the the lens distortion, but not so much in real life. Also, darkening the jacket on the lighter portrait will add some balance and grounding to the the picture as a whole.
Thanks! That’s something I will try darkening the jacket on the light one and take a look at the eyes behind the glasses!
They are all very good and I like all of them. If I had to choose, I think it would be the colouring of portrait #1 closely followed by the portrait with the bold colours in this post.