Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Hair by hair painting with Elżbieta Zarzecka

Elżbieta Zarzecka of Metalfish Art is one of the hobby's most sought after painting artists. Ela is best known for her impeccable prepping, exquisite hairing and goregous hair by hair finishwork. It's the latter that is the topic of this post. Thank you, Ela, for sharing some of your secrets with us. I don't believe you when you say it's easy, but I know a lot of people will find this post very helpful.

Hair By Hair Painting

by Elżbieta Zarzecka

I am often asked how I achieve the results I get, so I decided to write a "how to" text offering some tips that may be helpful in painting horses hair by hair.

Gather your tools.

What you will need:

  • A prepped model in basically any stage of painting, depending on what you're planning to do. I will focus on painting hair on white acrylic base.
  • Thin but not very tiny, natural brush. The company doesn't matter. For example, one of my favorite brushes is Kolibri Red Sable 333 2/0. These brushes have a sharp end that leaves a tiny line on the model, but they also have a little bit more hair in the middle. This hold extra paint so that you don't have to have to dip your brush in the paint after every brush stroke. The advantage of natural brushes is that the brush leaves a little more hair than one, and the hair is fine afterwards. It's hard to achieve such an effect with synthetic brushes (although I'm not saying it's impossible). 

  • Acrylic paint, any brand you prefer. It's best to mix the color you need beforehand and keep  it in a small jar. The paint should be diluted to the consistency of milk. 
  • Q-tips and a cup of water to correct mistakes.
  • Paper towels to drain excess paint from the brush.
  • Optionally, a sheet of paper to make the first line (to know if there is the right amount of paint on the brush).

Gather reference pictures.

It can be hard to find the right pictures of horses. While it is easy to find pictures from the side and from the front, it is not so easy to find pictures of places like the underbelly, between the legs, under the armpits and between the ears. One of the best ways is to go to a local stable to look at and take pictures of some of the horses. However, I know that not everyone has the opportunity and time to do this, not to mention the coronavirus issue. I often use Sarah Brabbin's fantastic website which has a rich collection of high resolution photos of horses and their details.

Before you start.

The easiest way to do this is to first mark the whorls and then mark the direction of the hair from and to the whorl. A lot of people have problems with this, so don't paint right away but make a sketch on the model. It is very important to do it with washable paint and to know that the kind of paint you put on the model will come off later during painting (best with q-tips). A safe option would be watercolor but be sure to check if it washes off!

I used acrylic paint on the luxor and later had trouble wiping off what I had drawn, oops!

It is worth taking the time to do this, and if you don't you need to be more careful later. Personally, I recommend spending some time on this step, because it will make the rest of the work go faster.

 Here we go!

It's easy, just requires patience (I recommend having a few nice serials on hand). Steps look like this: 

  • Soak the brush in paint.
  • Drain the excess in a towel.
  • Do a test line on paper (if necessary).
  • Paint lines on a horse.

Here is a video of me doing the hair on Luxor. There is no philosophy here. Once you get the practice you will have fun doing hair.

Other tips that come to mind...

  • If you want to do light grays it is best to start with a light gray color and darken it gradually, then the effect is natural and delicate. Similarly, if you want to do dark colors, do not start with black but use a medium gray.
  • Often hair tends to clump together into little balls. The issue is that the paint on the models does not absorb, so this could mean that you have too much paint on your brush. You can try some transparent medium which will improve the adhesion of paints, e.g. Schmincke Aero Color Grunt.

Luxor is not finished yet so I have  an example on another model of what finished hair looks like.
Thank you again, Ela. I can't wait to see your next hair by hair masterpiece.

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