Tag Archives: pencil work

The Start of a Roan

I had planned on painting my roan draft stallion using acrylic paint to do hair-by-hair roaning. But after a couple sessions, I really wasn’t satisfied with how it was looking. At the same time, I ran across part one of a nice roaning tutorial by Amanda Brock (Rogue Horse Studio) and Caryn showed me her first roan (done with a similar pastel technique) who was turning out quite nicely.

Caryn's horse (in progress). Can you believe that's her first roan?

Caryn’s horse (in progress). Can you believe that’s her first roan?

Inspired, I washed the acrylic roaning off my resin and started to work on him with pastels and pencil. He already had a sealed blue-grey-brown base coat, and I started in on some white pastel using Amanda’s stippling technique. I also added some hairing detail with colored pencils. I was all ready to start doing some serious hairing with white charcoal when I dropped him on the floor. Sigh.

I was actually pretty lucky- all he lost was an ear. But it took me another few hours of work to get him whole again.

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose's super glue and baking soda technique

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose’s super glue and baking soda technique

After shaping his new ear, it took a few coats of acrylic to get it somewhat matching again. Then finally, using my white charcoal pencil, I started adding individual white hairs.

hale - hair roaning started

It’s crucially important when doing hair-by-hair roaning to a.) keep your pencil very sharp and b.) keep references handy. I’m using multiple hair growth charts (download them here) as well as close up pictures of flanks, armpits, and other tricky areas.

Keeping the pencil sharp enough to draw hairs on a stablemate scale resin requires a lot of sharpening. I used a regular sharpener plus sandpaper. You have to do it almost constantly, and that means you go through a lot of pencil.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

Happily, there’s an art store within walking distance so I was able to pop out one afternoon and buy six more pencils to use.

hale - charcoal pencils 2

I’ve got a whole collection of nubbins now, but I’m done with the first layer of hair detailing.

Even with all the sharpening, it’s basically impossible to get all the little hairs quite right. To keep things from being too stark, I go over each section with a medium-stiffness brush, keeping with the direction of the hair growth. It smudges the drawn hairs slightly and takes off any excess dust, which softens the detailing in a nice, more realistic way. I seal each layer with Dull Cote before moving on to the next. As with pastels, the sealer “pushes back” the color a bit which also helps prevent any stark lines.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

I’ve been finding time to do a bit of work every night, and by today the first layer of hair-by-hair roaning is done. I need to do a bit more blending in some areas, but I’m going to give him a break for a bit so I can come back with a fresh eye. I also might work a bit on his acrylic details so I can better picture how his coat color will look on the finished horse.

I’m still working on a name for him- I’d like to find something from French Brittany, since the Breton breed is from there. It’s an area highly influenced by Welsh and Gaelic language, which is always fun.

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.

Failed experiments, lessons learned.

Tonight’s scene

What didn’t work: outlining dapples with pastel pencils

What did work: using a rubber art eraser to remove the pencil without damaging the original (sealed) pastels coats

What’s next: the next layer of pastels, and dapples detailed with small brushes