GUEST ARTIST: “Watercolor Portraits” by Jenny Granberry

My name is Jenny Granberry and I’m a watercolor artist in Austin, Texas. Throughout my life, I’ve never not been making art. I started drawing as a small child and, as I grew older, my interests never turned anywhere else. I started off painting in acrylics, but in college I discovered watercolor and painting clicked with me in a way that it hadn’t before.

For my BFA exhibition in 2011, I created a series of larger than life portraits that embodied my anxiety about graduating and entering the “real world”. Emotionally driven figure and portrait work has been a consistent element in my work to this day.

In 2014, I saw that Golden had produced a line of watercolors called QoR. I had always been a bit of a fangirl for their acrylics and was excited to see what Golden could do for watercolor. I remember being immediately impressed by the intense colors that jumped across the paper creating smooth and vivid washes – this totally made up for the fact that I was unemployed at the time and should not have been making extra art supply purchases!

Fast forward through many paintings to 2017, when I was given the opportunity to join Golden’s Working Artist Program. Basically what this means is that I got to nerd out about paint and share what I’ve learned with others though workshops and lectures. So where before I saw that QoR has an excellent color payout, now I know that its because it uses a unique binder called Aquazol that allows more pigment to be packed into every drop of paint.

I’ve also had fun trying out QoR’s various grounds for a unique surface to paint on. Light dimensional ground is my favorite. It creates this light spongey surface where the paint lays down in a way that has a slightly different but satisfying look and feel.

You can even alter the color of your watercolor grounds by adding acrylic paint. Using Light Dimensional Ground I created a black surface and then painted a moth on top using white watercolor.


When I’m not teaching or experimenting with paint for a workshop, I’m working on my figure paintings. My typical process starts with some idea that’s been incubating in my brain for a while. I might have notes, rough sketches or inspiration photos that I can pull together for a photoshoot that I will base my painting on. I oftentimes usually use myself, friends and family for models so that I have a deeper connection with the artwork.

Once I’ve taken reference photos, I might tinker with them a bit in Photoshop before transferring them to a sheet of Arches 300lb watercolor paper. I prefer using a heavier paper so that it can handle many layers of thin washes that create luminous skin tones. My go-to palette is mostly transparent colors and I generally am drawn to warm tones. Quinacridone Red, Transparent Pyrrole Orange, Quinacridone Violet and Ultramarine are my most used colors for skin tone.

I like when I can add a prop or fun clothes to a painting so I have an excuse to pull out some of my less used colors; some of my favorites being: Cobalt Teal, Green Gold, Pyrrole Red Medium, and Cobalt blue.

Painting is such a normal part of my day to day life that sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have found something that brings me so much joy. Even the struggle of creating just pushes me to try harder to improve my work. Having studio time is something that I treasure, but beyond that, being part of a community and a tradition of art making is so rewarding.

I love meeting my fellow creatives and seeing all the cool stuff being made. It is something special that we all decided to challenge ourselves and better the world by creating something new and beautiful.

Jenny Granberry

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9 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Watercolor Portraits” by Jenny Granberry

  1. Awesome portraits, and I love the humour in most of them. I also like the more conceptual takes on the human figure. Thank you for the skin tone video. Must be the most sought after topic in watercolour!

  2. Your work is simply amazing, Jenny! Thank you for the videos, they’re very helpful. I’ve done the subscribing, following and all the jazz. I’m looking forward to more of your reviews, tutorials and fabulous art!

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