The Simple Volume of Hair

October 16, 2020
Quick sketch from 2018—Raspberry Prismacolor and watercolor, with a little white gouache in the background. (I used a filbert.) On Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. Hot Press Watercolor paper. (5 x 7 inches)

Sometimes the best way to capture hair is to look at the volume and capture the large value shapes.

It can be more striking than fussing would be. It can make real the cast shadows because of its suggested substance.

(Have you guessed yet? October is about hair. I get asked about hair all the time. I love sketching hair. Even if you don’t draw portraits of people, thinking about hair will help you draw fur, feathers, even shrubs. Get busy.)

    • Jeanne
    • October 16, 2020

    And don’t forget the pumpkins and gourds!!

    I have a question about illustration projects and acrylic paints. For Halloween, I painted a small scene of a jack-o-lantern and black cat on a gessoed brie box. I had fun designing the simple scene for my 7-year-old neighber girl, but it was stressful painting it with acrylic paints (fluid and tube) and brushes. One wrong move, and the corrections would have been torture. In that case, should I have used acrylic paint pens? Are markers comparable or would the ink not be strong enough for a gessoed surface?

    1. Reply

      Jeanne I haven’t used my Montana Markers (water-based line) on gessoed boxes. (Don’t know what a brie box is unless it’s the box that brie comes in?) They should work just fine on gessoed surfaces though.

      What I don’t understand is your comment about “one wrong move, and the corrections would have been torture.”

      Acrylic is probably the most forgiving paint medium there is, so I’m not sure how you are using it that is giving you these issues.

      The thing about acrylic paint is that it dries waterproof or at least water resistant (depending on brands).

      With all the acrylic paints I’ve used (Golden, Lascaux, Daniel Smith, Liquitex, M. Graham, Blick, and a brand I don’t recall the name of but which was made as a signature brand for Stephen Quiller at one time) all of them have been very easy to use and make corrections. My only problme with any brand after the first 3 on my list is that they were too odiferous for me to work with. The first three have odor, but I can cope with it.)

      With Acrylics you paint, let it dry, and when the layer is dry you simply paint over it with your corrective strokes and because acrylic paint is opaque, the problems are covered, and bingo you’re back in business.

      All the paintings in by Bird a Day series from 2007 were painting with layers of acrylic
      Some like this one had more blending of wet paint on the canvas

      I’m wondering if you’re using too much water in your acrylic paint? Or if you’re using a student or craft grade of paint.

      Fluid acrylics can be a bit more challenging to get opacity with some colors, but again as long as you don’t have a lot of water it shouldn’t be a problem. I haven’t painted large paintings with fluids for 13 years, but here’s a painting of my favorite Canada Goose and it was painted with fluid acrylics and there’s a lot of over painting on it.

      Rule of thumb with acrylics is to use less than 50 percent water to paint mix if you’re using water to dilute your paints. (It’s an adhesion issue after that if you’re working on canvas or wood or just about anything but paper.)

      This portrait of a dog friend Lucky was done with acrylic paint mixed with a little water as needed—you can see I’ve worked over bit

      Most acrylic artists I know use acrylic artist I know use acrylic medium to “dilute” their paint. (Use gloss fluid medium for all your layers until you finish—the other two, matte and statin have opacifiers in them and will muddy up your work if used for early layers. They are best just at the end to give the final surface finish you want, if you don’t want a glossy look.) (All the mediums really smell so I don’t use them that’s why I mention the water ratio thing.)

      I hope these comments are helpful. The only thing that should give you fits when working with acrylics is keeping the paint on your palette moist enough to work, and not forming a skin. I use a Sta-wet palette for that.

      Acrylic painting should be fun, delightful, and stress free. I hope you can give it another go.

      One other thought—brushes. If you are using watercolor rounds and they are very flexible they might not be giving you enough push back. When painting with acrylics I like to use Bristlon Brushes from Silver Brush. The rounds and filberts.

    • Jeanne
    • October 20, 2020

    You’ve given me a lot to think about and work on, Roz. Plus, you shared some paintings I hadn’t seen before (I love the Canada Goose especially with you standing next to it). You’re right, I used some cheaper fluid acrylics as well as some Liquitex tube acrylics. The brushes were very satisfactory with the acrylics which luckily helped me keep control on the details. Finally, I mixed them with water which diluted them even more. But it was a fun little Halloween project to give a 7-year-old neighbor child. With your discussion, I’ll practice with the Liquitex on a portrait of my dog. Thanks a million!

    1. Reply

      I’m sure the child loved the project. Now you have some more thoughts on using acrylics you can try different things with them.

      I don’t have any videos of me working in acrylics but I know there are tons out there on YouTube so you might want to poke around, and if someone’s art in acrylic appeals to you, watching any videos of them working will be eye opening.

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