Painting a mouse portrait
by Alan F. Beck
Las Meninas (The maids of honor)
One of the infantas, Margaret Theresa, the eldest daughter of the new Queen.
by Diego Velázquez c. 1656,

Diego Velázquez
(1599 – 1660) Spanish painter, the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary baroque period, important as a portrait artist. He created scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners.
"Las Mouseninas"
Water Color, 4" x 6"
Based on Las Meninas
by Diego Velázquez c. 1656
After deciding what to paint I do research on the painting. In this case I centered on the central figure of the little girl. I also research the artist , history, composition, color pallet and try to get into his head. Using my computer, I layout and compose the painting to fit my standard mouse size painting of 4" x 6". Using one of my many mouse head pictures I have on file I compose it on the figure and use this as my paintng reference.

Note: the white outline on the reference indicates where the frame opening is so I don't accindentally crop out an important feature.

When I'm satisfied with the layout and size, I tape down the paper and transfer a pencil outline to the water color paper. (Arches 140 lb. hot press) This is done by rubbing a pencil on the backside of a print out of my reference and tracing the outline shapes on to the paper.
I wet the paper with water and let it dry. This stretches the paper and surface. Using water colors, I start laying in the background, working back to front.

I've eliminated two of the figures in the original painting to simplify the composition.

I sometimes play music, in this case renaissance dance music, to get in the mood of the piece while painting.

I start laying in the head starting with the eyes. The eyes are dark in a mouse and this helps me establish my values as I progress through the painting.

Like painting a human portrait, I try to capture the personality of the subject in the original painting but as a mouse.

I start working down the painting. Blocking in shapes and folds in the dress. I also started on the right arm putting in the folds and details.
Here I've completed the top of the dress, the left arm and both hands. Adding ruffles, folds and buttons. I've also started putting folds in the top of the skirt.
I've worked down the rest of the dress working wet on wet then adding details. I scrumbled in tone to indicate embroidery work in the dress.

After looking at the painting the next day, I decided to darken the background by glazing a light mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt umber to bring out the figure more from the background.
Here is the final water color painting with a gray mat.
I do this to see how the work might look when it is framed.

"Las Mouseninas"
Water Color, 4" x 6"

All original artwork on this site is copyright by Alan F. Beck. Unauthorized use of images is forbidden. If you wish to use any images, please e-mail me for permission . To purchase original art or prints, please e-mail for details.