A Mother’s Prayer

11 January 2014

Blog post

Guess what? The toughest part of this painting is the title! Funny titles came to head before I even started it, “Ave Maria”, “Prayers”. “Amen”….. Nah! Way to religious!

The painting itself speaks volumes, don’t need to double it…. right?? So, I think, while sketching, my mom’s hands, and she’s always praying, for us, so voila, that’s it! A mother’s prayer! O.K., done!



This reference photo was taken using my Tab when my dad was hospitalised, the same day when I took the reference picture “To have and to hold…” You can see him at the background. It took me quite sometime to decide to paint this as the pain of missing him is still raw.

After completing “Mr. Macho”, I came back to this. Well, I told myself, just do it. And I did! Glad I did!

This time around, no grid method as I think, I don’t need to be as accurate as the photo, as long as the hands and fingers looked human, I’ll be fine. So, it went on as a free hand sketch, oh boy, I tell you, not easy to freehand!

Never mind, get the outline done first then I’ll adjust. For this portrait, I’d used daler rowney canford black paper, it’s sized at 11.7″ x 16.5″inch (297 x 420mm) 90lbs/150gsm. Faber Castell polychromos coloured pencils (my favourite).

Thank goodness for Alan Woollett, a colour pencil artist from the UK, recommended the Tombow Mono Zero mechanical eraser from Japan. It’s a delight using it, it cleans well and won’t hurt the paper. So, you can guess, a lot of erasing (freehand!!!).

The main part of this painting was the flesh colours. I need to get the right colours before I go into details. But as usual, before I can get to that, my hand automatically went into detailings mode (can’t help it).





As we are Asians, base colour must be yellow(burnt ochre) not pure flesh pink. Yeah, it looks yucky with that colour. After all  that yellow stuff, I applied the flesh pink. Because it’s a black background, the layering must be neat and the pencils tip must be sharp so that it fills up the tooth of the paper (the textures). It has to go on gently or risked boring a hole on it.

As you can see, there’s lots and lots of layering on this, a bit of whites, cream, darker pink here and there, couldn’t recall  but I know, many many colours to achieve the Asians flesh tones.

After what I think was good, I started on the wrinkles/folds detailing. Now that’s a tedious work! I’m glad I’ve used the Tab instead of a print out. That way, I could enlarge the smaller parts and not squint my eyes to look at it (Thank goodness for technologies).

Painting on the details had to be light handed, the colours must be subtle yet define. It really is the shadowing that make it pop out instead of the lines and of course, the highlight.


After all the detailing are done (for the time being). I studied on how to bring out the hands. I don’t want this portrait to just look like a anatomy drawing. It should have some mysteriousness, like it emerges from the dark with a certain glow on it. And before I did that, I sit a distance away from the painting and stare at it (yes, really stare!!) Hey, I don’t like the hands’ colour, to pale. Oh great, now what????

Never mind, try going over it with that “burnt ochre” and well well well, now it looks human. I told myself to be brave and put down the darker and heavier colours, so there you go!! The hands pop out!!! I was very happy with the outcome.


Now it’s the rosary beads time. To tell the truth, I was afraid of that because it’s a crystal beads and it has cuts on it, not just plain round beads. And not to mentioned the chains…..


So, I have to finish the painting, right? Well, deep breath, and here’s goes, whatever the outcome, I’ll accept it. And blimey! It’s easier than I thought, easier than doing the skin tones. I did it within 3 hours and I’m satisfied. A surprised for me!

And by the way, just so you know, this rosary was done by my late dad, Francis Kow. So this portrait is very meaningful to me because I still have him in this painting.

May his soul rest in peace, AMEN!

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