Like to like to share what I’ve discovered on my painting journey. My painting style can best be described as naturalistic realism. Lots of my paintings include people in a pensive or thought provoking pose. A part of the feeling of reality is due to the way I exploit my watercolor. I am capable of create paintings where the viewer of the painting can become lost contained in the world throughout the frame.
I am often asked how one can paint specific things. One of the most asked questions pertains to painting hair. In this text I’ll share with you ways I paint black or brown hair in watercolor.
I believe that the key to creating paintings that give an impression of ‘reality’ and ‘presence’ is underwashing. I will tell you the way I do it – using black hair as an example:
First of all take note of where the highlights are. With black hair the highlights are sometimes blue. With dark brown hair, the highlights could be straw-coloured or yellow/orange.
Now establish and tone these highlight areas with the highlight color you see within the hair of your model or in your reference photograph. Remember to maintain these highlights light and ensure you do not over-paint them. They may give the impression of shiny healthy hair. (You can fine-tune the highlight color at the tip of the painting if you should.)
Remember to let your paper become bone dry before you start painting the next underwash.
Now you need to determine a richness of color that may lay beneath your black hues. This is completed by creating a glow. There are numerous reasons for this – too many to jot down here. You will have to trust me on this one: everywhere you see dark blacks or browns, it is advisable to paint in a transparent yellow underlayer. Depending on the depth of the darkness – sometimes I paint three washes of transparent yellow to build up a good depth of color. Now you are ready to paint your black/dark brown hair.
Depending on the color temperature and source of the light, black hair can often be a mix of Thalo blue, Thalo green, Alizarin crimson and a tiny touch of Indian Yellow. Vary these mixes and do brush-out practices so you may see the huge array of hues you can achieve with them.
Brown hair may be a mix of Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Translucent Orange and Thalo Blue. Now use the appropriate mix where you see it in your model.
A tip: I only use Schmincke hues as they are transparent and finely ground which makes them ideal for building fine washes of color that give a 3 dimensional reality to a painting. Transparency is important because it helps you avoid mud. Mixing ‘mud’ is always a trap for young players! Happy painting!