Painting the Hair in Pastel
How do you paint beautiful passages in pastel to accurately and realistically portray hair? Too often I see hair that is painted too loosely and generalized that it no longer resembles hair. Sometimes hair is painted with so much detail that it looks like angel hair pasta. Why work so hard to create beautiful skin tones upon a stunning drawing if you are going to run out of gas when painting the hair?
I like to start the hair with the large shapes. In the beginning, all I need are the 2 values, the light and the dark. Once those 2 values are established, I concentrate on the exact shapes and how the edges are at the borders of those 2 values. In my search for larger groups of hair I don’t get concerned about smaller ones. Getting too detailed too early is a trap and the painting will look broken up without any structure.
The direction of these larger groups of hair is vitally important to gain the gesture or energy of the hair. I try to envision these larger groups of hair as thick ribbon like fabrics. I also used a liner brush and some India ink to paint in the dark accents, this gives a deeper depth to the mid tones of the hair.
Now is the time that I observe and paint the highlights. I notice that highlights in hair often resembles the shimmering sun sparkling on a wavy lake. In hair, the next time you are painting a portrait, I want you to look for these shimmers of highlight. I carefully gauge these highlights with the highlights elsewhere on the model. I make sure they’re not relatively too light or too dark. This will insure that my work has a continuity of light as it cuts across her entire person. Painting hair is a “give and take” and “back and forth” between the lights and the darks and between the highlights and the dark accents.
In Conclusion, break down the hair from its larger shapes to the smaller shapes until it is refined with the perfect amount of detail. I want you to get detailed but only at the very end.