Tag Archives: flea bites

Pencil work: flea bites and roaning

Inspired by my lovely new collection display and a post about flea bites on Fallen Leaves, today’s post highlights two horses that are nearly finished and who have both been detailed using colored pencils.

First is “Nettie Perle,” a Pebbles Arabian mare in flea bitten grey. I adore this mold and was very lucky to be able to trade for one, since they are pretty expensive even as bodies. After prepping and using white primer, I shaded her with white, grey, and black pastels. After those layers were sealed I did several layers of fine ticked flea bites using a Derwent colored pencil. I am very pleased with the results. Now I just need to do facial details, hooves, chestnuts, etc. and she’ll be finished.

Horse number two is the Peter Stone Chips pony, another awesome and hard-to-find-cheap mold. I searched for one as she is the perfect portrait of a mare that long ago taught me to canter, Diamond.

Diamond circa 1998 with a foal

Diamond was a POA broodmare and summer camp horse with the most unusual coloring- her official color was blue roan with leopard spots. I actually had a custom done of her (on the Trad. POA mold) when I collected horses as a kid, but I was never really happy with how she turned out.

To create Diamond’s roaned and leopard coat, I used black and white pencils (both Derwents and pastel pencil) to make hair marks over a pastel base coat of her blue-grey-white coloring. I’ve done several layers of roaning in both black and white, including both hair marks and larger spots- you couldn’t really tell on her where roaning ended and appaloosa spots began, so that’s the look I’m going for.

As with Nettie Perle, I’m very pleased with how this penciling technique has worked out. Diamond is also at the stage where she only really needs last details such as chestnuts, hooves, eyes, and face detailing to be done.

Tips for working with pencils:

  • Follow hair growth charts – a horse’s coat is full of interested whirls and curls and you want to make sure to capture this correctly with any hair detailing. I have posted hair growth charts in a gallery here.
  • Go slowly – this is not something to rush! I like to watch TV while I work so that I am not overly focused on the pencil work but relaxed and methodical.
  • Seal between layers – the best effects are going to come from multiple layers of “hair” just like a real horse. Seal between layers to avoid messing up previous work.
  • Sharpen the pencil often – no matter what scale you are working on, hairs are tiny! Keep a sharpener handy and don’t let your marks get too wide and blunt.
  • Vary your strokes – for both roaning and flea bites, varying the number of “hairs” in different areas will create a more realistic pattern. You don’t want uniformity in the coat, just consistence. Especially with flea bites, the concentration of red hairs varies a lot (notice on Perle above some thicker patches of pencil lines near her withers, flank, and barrel).
  • Experiment to find the right pencil – I use Derwents and pastel pencils, but there are lots of options out there and there is certainly no right answer. One brand I’ve heard good reviews of repeatedly, but never tried, is Prismacolor Verithin. I use Derwents mainly because that’s what I already had when I started doing models, and they work well for me.