Most people's NaMoPaiMo goals are limited to painting, but not Meghan Namaste. In addition to completing her model, she also vowed to write two tutorials on finishwork. The first was published earlier this month, and she she completes her mission with today's excellent post on white markings. Thank you and congratulations, Meghan. You are a blogging winner. Now go finish your horse!
Oh, I Would Paint 500 Layers and I Would Paint 500 More: Demystifying White Markings
by Meghan Namaste
Full disclosure: white markings are one of my least favorite things to paint. I was never a “color inside the lines” kid, so outlining and painting countless layers of white and trying to keep it smooth and even feels too much like the industrial kind of painting that I despise. I usually have lots of mess-ups with paint going outside the lines, and little paint goobers and hairs seem magnetically attracted to the white areas. But while I will probably never “like” painting white markings, it doesn’t cause me the stress and anxiety that it used to.
What Not To Do
As a teen and a fledgling painter, I was a raging perfectionist. I would pick out all the teeny, tiny flaws and never see anything good in what I did. My “rock bottom” was when I was working on a horse that I would eventually name “Monk”, after the obsessive-compulsive detective from the TV series. He was a black leopard Appaloosa Rasam resin, and I was obsessed with keeping his white areas flaw-free, because in my mind if he didn’t turn out “perfect”, he wouldn’t stand a chance in the show ring. Well, once I got to the show with my imperfect horse, I saw a lot of other imperfect horses. I realized that I wasn’t alone in my struggle to get smooth, flawless white markings, and that I needed to strive for excellence instead of perfection. I’ll always keep Monk, the reminder of my rock bottom, the horse that taught me a valuable lesson: loosen up, buttercup.
Bob Ross Knows Best
I break white markings down into 3 steps: blocking in the pattern, endless white layers, and detailing. All 3 can be nerve-wracking for different reasons, but blocking in the pattern used to really trip me up. I’ve never had issues recreating a color from a reference photo, but for some reason I struggled translating patterns from the reference to my model. I tried so hard, but it never looked enough like the picture to suit me, and I’d get frustrated. Then I watched an episode of The Joy Of Painting with Bob Ross, and it totally changed my technique for the better. Something about the way he created trees out of little squiggles with a fan brush resonated with me, along with his calm, quiet demeanor. I thought “I can use these techniques on a model!” I had a fan brush (I’d never used it), and I picked it up and started making those little lines and squiggles, and it worked! The pattern wasn’t exact, but it was actually much closer than when I’d tried to painstakingly recreate it, and it looked much more natural.
Here’s the thing. Patterns and markings on horses have a certain organic, random flow to them. Tensing up and trying to recreate a pattern perfectly will only mess you up and lead to unsatisfying results. I’m not suggesting you can just fling paint at a model and it will land where it needs to, but if you’re struggling with recreating a pattern, try loosening up a bit. Try different brushes (especially the little fan brush. No, seriously, get yourself a little fan brush) and learn what effects each brush can produce. There are times when you need a steady hand (like when trying to stay in the lines), and times when you need to just let the brush do its thing.
Another thing I like to do is to block the pattern in during my base layer. Instead of pasteling the whole horse, I will only apply pastels where the body color will be showing through. It makes for a very time-consuming first layer, but it really cuts down on work once you get to the white layers phase, and I just find it easier to transfer a pattern from the reference to the model this way, and I find the white markings end up looking softer and more natural.
On a model that has a lot of roaning, like my NaMoPaiMo horse, I like to add the roaning before I do all the white layers, because some of the white layers will go over the roaning in certain places to soften and enhance it. I take a small, fine-tipped detail brush with a very small amount of paint on it, and do the hair by hair roaning. If I get some hairing that doesn’t turn out, I will smear/blot it with my finger and then go right back over the smudge with a fresh round of hairs. This creates random roany patches, which add character and dimension to the coat.
I will do hairing around some of the marking edges, but not all of them. I leave some smooth, and I do a little crinkle effect on some, depending on how my brush is behaving, and how I feel the overall picture should look. If I do need to get rid of a mistake (say I went outside the lines) I keep a “mistake eraser” brush nearby at all times. Get it a little damp, pull the paint away from the area, and wipe clean (I have to do this a lot when I paint - again, I never colored in the lines as a kid).
When painting white layers over roaning, it’s best to use the last residue of paint on your brush after painting a layer on the main markings. You want to go over the roaning with a very thin, very minimal layer of paint, because you never want to cover up all that hard work. I only add white layers over parts of the roaning, never over all of it, because some of it is very subtle and I want it to stay that way. Generally the closer to the main white areas, the more white layers I will do over the roaning. On my NaMoPaiMo horse, I have done white layers over the roaning on his sides,
up near his back...
and the top of his rump. The other roany areas have been left alone.
With this horse, I alternated a lot between white layers and detailing. It was helpful to break up the monotony, as well as giving my eyes a break. White markings are certainly never “fun”, but they don’t have to be stressful. Every time I paint a pinto, I swear I’m just going to do solids and striped things from now on, because they are just too tedious. Then I see another gorgeous, unique pinto pattern, and next thing I know I’m right back to doing endless white layers all over again.