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WIP: Sarah – Let’s talk about hair

Hi Everyone!

I post my WIP (work-in-progress) tutorials on the artist forum website called Wet Canvas. When I first posted WIP of Sarah, I had a few requests for posting tips on how to do hair on portrait art. So here are some pointers on drawing/painting hair that I posted on Wet Canvas that I would like to share with you.

Hair is just like skin. It acts like a reflective surface. (For the discussion on the skin, click here) Having said that though, we need to be careful not to make the hair look too different from the reality because hair color and texture can be one of the major determining factor in achieving likeness of the subject.

So, while I encourage artists to use not-so-normal colors for the hair, make sure you add enough of the colors you see of the subject in real life to maintain the realism. Once I did a portrait of a baby where the reference photo showed almost blond hair because of the direct sunlight on her head.  I portrayed the hair as blonde, and a few days later I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to see the baby in person.  To my surprise, the baby has reddish brown hair, no where close to the blonde color I had in the piece. I went back to my studio and fixed it, and I am glad I did because otherwise it would not have looked like her.

Here are some basic pointers on the hair: 1) Keep your Colored Pencil super-sharp. 2) Black is essential in doing hair, but do not use black until later. Build the colors, create the complexity and richness, then add black to the darkest area to add a dramatic shading. 3) Your pencil strokes directs the hair length, texture and thickness. For long hair keep your strokes smooth and flowing, starting from the root of the hair and gently releasing the pressure as you go.

And here is a step-by-step on working on darker section of the hair.  Please note that all the colors mentioned here are Prismacolor pencils.

As you may have already seen in my earlier post, here is the current progress, as displayed at the lobby of McKinney Public Library in downtown McKinney, TX.

Thank you for taking a look!

(This blog was originally posted on 1/2/2015)

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