Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

As I’ve started painting more portraits for families, the reaction I didn’t expect has come from the children themselves.

Originally I was just thinking of the moms. Moms like myself, who would love to have their children’s portrait painted and on display in their home. But what has moved me the most is seeing how it affects the children.

Here is my favorite quote ever from a 5-year old when she saw her portrait:

“I love it so much my heart is bursting out like a star!”

And from a 4-year old, when she saw my portrait of herself in her pink tutu and Spiderman leg warmers:

“My favorite part is how strong and pretty I am!”

At my live-painting event last month, two five-year olds watched me paint, their faces in genuine awe. I’m so grateful for the mom who took this photo, so I could see how they were watching.

Having a portrait painted of your children is the ultimate gift for them. Creating these paintings are my gift to you. Together, we are telling your children: We see you. You are beautiful. Who you are, right now, is perfect.

Ever since I was a child I have loved drawing children. But it was often about more than the figure. What I’ve always been passionate about is making art that tells the stories of our lives.

I am keenly aware that the details in our busy days ultimately shape our memories. The polka-dot bookbag my eldest chose for her first day of kindergarten. The hilarious fashion choices my two-year old made just to go to the supermarket with me.

Like you, photographs fill my hard drives. But I often found myself, late at night at the kitchen table, drawing details from the day that I didn’t want to forget. I discovered that taking a brush to paper was the most intimate way I could express my love for my children, my awe of who they are becoming, and how proud of them I am.

Love, Naava is my way of doing that for you. I call my paintings heirloom portraits, because not only do I insist on working with luxurious art materials, I am certain these portraits will be kept in your family for generations.

As a trained artist, I will capture their little curls just so, and their crooked smiles just right. But what I really want is for you to see these portraits as your child’s story. The smudges on the paper, the delicate pencil renderings, the rainbow of colors in their fashion choices — I bring all of it together to capture the beauty and magic of their unique childhood.

Let’s work together to capture your child in their very own heirloom portrait. Reach out and show me which photos of them you love, and I’ll help you pick the perfect one to turn into a painting.

Until then, click here to read more beautiful sentiments from kids and parents who love their own portraits.

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How I turn a sketch into a finished watercolor

When I'm working on a new illustration, the first thing I do is draw a rough sketch of the figures and the layout. For this drawing I used a photograph of mine as a reference. It helps me get the right perspective. My favorite pencil is a 6B because it flows so smoothly on the paper. My favorite paper is Strathmore Hot Press watercolor paper. I like that it has a smooth finish, which makes it easier to scan into Photoshop without added texture.

The next step is adding details. I figure out character expressions, clothing patterns, and environmental details. I use my super skinny Tombow eraser to remove some sketchy lines and start establishing a cleaner look.

Then I add watercolor. For professional use I like Schmincke and Winsor & Newton. I obsessed for months about what brand I liked, and then finally realized it didn't matter. It's all about how you use color to tell your story. If you pay attention on Instagram, you'll see a lot of top artists use very inexpensive watercolor sets. But that doesn't diminish the quality of their work.

Expensive and not-so expensive watercolor palettes.

Expensive and not-so expensive watercolor palettes.

Finally I scan my drawings into Photoshop and clean up unnecessary smudges with Levels. I scan my favorite drawings at 300dpi in case I want to create prints of them down the line.

Let me know if you have any other questions about my process and favorite materials.