I have tried to paint horses entirely in acrylics before but it’s always ended badly. I find it extremely difficult to blend acrylics properly, let alone get them to go down smooth. The reason I fell in love with pastel finish work is because both shading and smoothness are pretty inherent in the medium. It’s great.
But pastels are not very good for fixing chips or mistakes in finish work. With my recent rash of restoration cases, I’ve been forced to use acrylics- and, to my delight, to get better at using them.
Four strategies helped me in my endeavor to fix the finish problem or chips on Alpo, Doublet, and Troy Soldier.
First: Have plenty of applicable colors on hand. Any base color that might be a part of your horse’s lovely coat can be relevant. While doing these repairs I was constantly surprised by what colors worked and what didn’t. I was very happy to have all these different colors on hand in these great Ceramcoat bottles. I lucked into these at a garage sale for a pittance, but now that I know their awesomeness I’d be happy to pay full price for them. Besides, these little bottles hold a lot of paint and keep it neat and fresh much better than paint tubes, so they’re a good investment. Having so many easy to use, pre-made horsey colors made color matching much easier- and less wasteful too.
Second: Keep track of what works. I use my handy-dandy notebook to write down what base acrylic colors I’m using on the horses so that I can recreate the mixes- or another useful hue- when I go back for more layers or additional repairs. (When I saw the photo of Alpo below I immediately noted on his page “left front hoof needs filing!”)
Third: Work quickly in small batches, with water and a rag close at hand. Acrylics dry very fast, so it’s important to remove applied paint immediately if it doesn’t match. Happily, wet acrylic is easily removable if you act fast. I brush the offending area with water to liquidate the applied color. Then I soak up the water and pigment with a larger, dry brush, which I wipe clean and dry again on the rag. Depending on how much pigment you are removing, this may take a few repetitions. Be careful not to let it leave a line of color around the edges of the area- you may need to scrub the remaining pigment a bit with the wet brush to pick it up.
Fourth: Blend beyond the repair. The goal of finish restoration is of course to repair the part that’s damaged. But if you only put your acrylic patch there, even the best color matching is going to leave a funny shape. You want to concentrate your pigment on the problem area, but use that same color watered down to blend into the rest of the horse. Alpo had a weird “rain rot” mark in his pastel work, outlined in red below. That’s where most of my pigment went, but I brushed thinner and thinner acrylic over the rest of the purple-outlined area as well to blend the repair into his body.
Speaking of acrylics, here’s Lilah with some of her acrylic detailing mapped in. The orange in her mane and tail is a bit garish, but even with that toned down I think she’ll be quite a stunner.