I am currently working on my largest full-page watercolor that I started in my friend's garden with a gorgeous model. It is a 16" x 20" Aquaboard, and the first time that I am really doing a full environment in watercolor.
American Artist's Watercolor Magazine, Spring 2010, which had an article on How to Paint Portraits.
There were several artist interviews in the issue, all with different watercolor artists focusing on a variety of subject matter. I picked up different techniques and hints from each interview, some I found helpful, others not so much for my style. For example, I am not a good planner - I don't think I could layer the way some of the watercolor painters do - the whole surface in a yellow, then red, then blue.
What I did find most liberating was the fact that each artist was willing to share how they achieved what they wanted to achieve - even if it meant changing the perception of what you SHOULD do with watercolors. One artist shared that she projected the images onto the surface instead of drawing them free hand. She is a self-taught artist, and utilizing a projector is what gets her to the point where she can do what she loves, and that's paint. (I have never used a projector or tracing technique of any kind...I want control over everything from the start! Shifts in scale and angles are all up to me right from the beginning)
Another article talked about the effective use of Gouache to create hi-lights. This was very important for me to read, particularly because of the garden piece. I was having the most frustrating time trying to re-create the beautiful blues and purples on her slip dress. I was determined to stick with just transparent watercolor, and I was not having any luck. For some reason, reading that another artist was having the same struggle and used gouache to accomplish what he was trying to achieve, that freed me up to do the same.
A progress shot before I started adding gouache. You can see that there is a lot of color in the slip, but it's not capturing the same kind of light as in the photo.
I hope that whatever media you are experimenting with, you find a good balance between following the "rules" or traditional methods, while also maintaining a willingness to experiment and do whatever it takes to make your piece successful.