As a demo for the Drawing the Portrait class that I am currently teaching at Montgomery College Takoma Park campus, I created the picture below of my daughter Jessica Hanks. The face and body are drawn in pencil on a beige/tan matte board and the background is a collage of small snippets of watercolors with black and gold marker. The dress is also a collage using cut pieces of white paper doilies.
One of my favorite artists is Gustav Klimt and this picture tries to somewhat emulate his style. He created marvelous portraits surrounded by gold and gorgeous colorful patterns using Art Nouveau-like shapes. This design uses a collage of watercolor pieces to try and create similar patterns in the background.
I did the portrait of Jessica first, then her dress, and I was somewhat at a loss for what to do in the background. Initially, I filled the background with some horizontal stripes over flat areas of brown rice paper… and it was boring… the figure was much too strong for the bland background and the composition was unbalanced with her shifted so far to the right. So I removed the stripes, left the brown rice paper, and decided to really go for it with a very busy background of watercolors. I had a collection of small interesting pieces of watercolors created as demos for different watercolor techniques that I glued down filling the background. I was initially worried that the background was too strong and was a distraction from the portrait. But it has grown on me and I now like the contrast between the busy background and the portrait… especially the powerful 3D effect of the figure bursting forward out of the picture in front of the background.