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Want Your Model to Be a Roan? Here's How!

Text and photos by Jennifer Danza

With its mix of hair colors, one of the most interesting coat patterns is roan. To get the pattern just right, start with a striking image for reference. Using an image helps with color application and it serves as a map for layering hairs later on in the process. 

Start with a white primed horse. 

Primed horse
Primed horse

 

Pick an area of the horse such as the tail or hind legs to hold while applying the pastel layers. First, shave down some grey colored chalk pastels. 

Shave down chalk pastels to a fine dust.
Shave down chalk pastels to a fine dust.

 

CAUTION: Wear a dust mask when shaving or applying pastel dust!

The dust will contain some large specks. Break those specks down and make sure your dust is completely crushed. Take a dry brush and dip it into the grey dust. Apply this dry dust directly to the entire body of the horse, even if your reference image shows a chestnut head and leg markings.

Shave down chalk pastels to a fine dust.
Apply grey dust to entire horse.

 

After applying the layer of pastel dust, adhere the dust using a glossy fixative such as Krylon Crystal Clear glossy fixative. When this fixative dries, apply a matte fixative such as Testors matte fixative and wait for the entire piece to dry thoroughly. The matte fixative will give the horse "tooth" and allow further color application.

Once the piece is dry, apply more layers of the grey pastel dust to the model. Apply the same grey. You'll notice the color getting richer and deeper. Feel free to add a bit of black in order to darker areas along the top line or to define some muscles. Adhere this layer using the same fixative technique as before.

Next, shave some light brown pastel chalk and begin to apply this color to the head and legs.

Add brown to legs and head.
Add brown to legs and head.

 

At this point, you'll need to really study your reference. Where does the chestnut color start and stop on the real horse? Apply the pastel color in just these areas. 

Follow reference while adding brown and apply color slowly.
Follow reference while adding brown and apply color slowly

 

Does the color get darker? Adjust the color as you go along to represent what you see in the reference. 

Color should be rich and deep before acrylic work starts.
Color should be rich and deep before acrylic work starts.

 

Apply the fixatives to adhere this layer of color.

Adhere dust with glossy and matte fixatives.
Adhere dust with glossy and matte fixatives.

 

After the body color has been achieved, set the pastels aside and apply one last coat of matte fixative to prepare the model for hairing. Hairing is time consuming, but it is a detail that is worth the effort. Successful hairing begins with retarding your white acrylics. In order to slow down the acrylic drying time you'll need to mix glazing medium in with your acrylic. This process will give you about 15 extra minutes of working time. Take equal amounts of acrylic and glazing medium and mix them together. 

Glazing mixture is a 50-50% ratio.
Glazing mixture is a 50-50% ratio.

 

You'll use this mixture for your hair.
Before applying the acrylic mixture add a thin layer of pure glazing medium to the area you will hair. 

Prep surface with a thin coat of glazing medium.
Prep surface with a thin coat of glazing medium.

 

This will give your canvas a smooth surface and your brush will glide nicely when adding the hair. Start at the very top of the neck and work downward applying the 50-50 mixture. 

Add acrylics.
Add acrylics.

 

Be sure to follow your reference. You'll want the hairs to flow in the correct direction.

Follow reference when adding hair to the body.
Follow reference when adding hair to the body.

 

After the hairing is complete, bring out the color and work on facial details. 

Add details in face.
Add details in face.

 

Then, paint the hooves, eyes and the tail or holding spot.

Bring out details in the rest of the horse.
Bring out details in the rest of the horse.

 

Give the horse one last spray with fixatives for protection and enjoy your brand new roan!

The finished horse.
The finished horse.

 

Headshot of the finished horse.
Headshot of the finished horse.

 

HOT TIP: Have an old beat up brush lying around? It works better than a fresh brush for applying hairs.

 

Supply List:

Model horse
Sandable white Primer
Set of Chalk Pastels
3M Dust Mask
Krylon Crystal Clear Fixative
Testors Matte Fixative
Brushes
Acrylic Paints
Liquitex Glazing Medium

 

To learn more about Jennifer Danza and her artwork, please visit www.jenndanza.com!

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