View Full Version : Why

10-05-2011, 03:30 PM
cant I paint like Mary Herbert? :crying:


I saw her paintings at a recent exhibition and they are even better IRL, she has a real softness about how she renders the horses hair but I cant work out how she does it :confused:
Is it about pastel technique? can anybody help me please?:confused:

Im fairly accurate now in pastel and Im getting my colours better but I just cant work out whats missing and why I am not creating the hair effects that I want. :o

10-05-2011, 03:43 PM
Looking at them, you're right - it's pastel technique. I opened the link and noticed that she softens the edges around the horse hair. Lost and found edges can do a lot to soften it up without losing that sense of realism.

The rest is careful observation to create the horse hair texture - the loose irregular strands are placed as accents. In reality hair isn't a perfect swooping curve unless it's groomed. There's small clumps that go out of true, even get rumpled or bent. She includes those wisps.

Look for irregularities, tangles, odd shapes in the mane. Every one of her horses has some clumps that go the wrong way or get bent or tangled.

I'd suggest doing some studies of horse hair, maybe even life studies. Instead of a complete painting, try a series of studies that focus mostly on the hair. Small studies in a series can improve observation. Just fill your sketchbook with manes for a while till it starts to look the way you want it to.

I'm the same way. I'll look at someone's paintings and think "How does she DO that?" and worry at that puzzle for a long time till I get it.

Even if you do little doodles of horse heads with hair, that may help. It did for my cat sketches.

10-05-2011, 04:15 PM
Robert, thank you, you are so generous with sharing your knowledge and insights :grouphug:

Barbara WC
10-05-2011, 04:25 PM

I agree with everything Robert wrote. Very helpful, especially lost and found edges, and accent placement.

One question: what pastels are you using? It looks like to me that Mary might be using a very soft pastel for the top layers, probably not a pencil or hard pastel.

10-05-2011, 04:32 PM
Thank you Barbara,
I already checked what Mary uses :lol: shes using the same pencils as me so I cant even blame the equipment :o
She has some videos on youtube but they are so fast its hard to tell what shes doing. :(

10-05-2011, 04:35 PM
She is amazing, isn't she? Watching her videos is what inspired me to buy my first set of pastel pencils and paper. I tried one painting and got discouraged, and now I am busy working in graphite again. Still, it is a goal of mine to learn how to use them!

Your work is beautiful by the way, I really enjoyed looking at your website!

10-05-2011, 04:39 PM
Thanks Wrock, you are very kind!

Her work is really something IRL, her use and rendering of light and shadow in particular is beautiful. :heart:

10-05-2011, 04:48 PM
cant I paint like Mary Herbert? :crying:

Because you're not Mary Herbert :confused: I don't mean to sound flippant here :)

Keep working towards being the best you can be and you will be as good.....but not the same :thumbsup:

10-05-2011, 05:03 PM
I was just looking at your site again, you're most recent one "QT" really is very nice, I think you will get there sooner than you think! QT has a beautiful depth to the coat, that is a tough angle but you manage to make it look easy and the horse really comes off the paper nicely, it's not flat at all! I wish I could achieve half of what you can do! Can I ask how you got started with pastels? Did you go to school/lessons? are there any books or anything you could recommend that might re-inspire me to give them a try again?

10-05-2011, 06:06 PM
Lol ! Ruthie! thank you for the vote of confidence :eek: I guess its about personal style too but I like Marys :lol:
I looked at a hundred or so paintings of horses at the gallery and whilst many were superb Marys really stood out for me.

Thanks Wrock :) I need to get another pic of that to post up here actually, I only just finished it, took a pic and then saw some stuff I wanted to change :rolleyes: :lol:

I know very little, what I do know was all learnt from the lovely people on here :heart:
I learnt my graphite technique on the D&S board and also through Mike Sibleys excellent book-definitely reccomend that if you are working in graphite.

Then I came over onto this board and read quite a lot and pestered everybody with questions :D

My first pastel was a fail as I used the wrong paper-too smooth, and my softest pastels as a base :rolleyes:
But my second was the Bravio one which I almost ditched early on but then discovered I could keep going over my mistakes as it was sanded paper. :D

The biggest thing for me so far has been finding the right paper for me, that makes a big difference, the rest Im still trying to figure out.

10-05-2011, 06:11 PM
Hey, Wrock,
I just looked up your profile and I remember now that drawing you did of the arab, it was beautiful :heart:

So what happens when you try in pastels ? as you can clearly do horses in graphite.

10-05-2011, 06:49 PM
Well I don't even know where to start! I think one of my biggest problems is I have trouble choosing the right colours for the horse's skin and coat - they end up looking fake. Are there certain colours you always go to when painting each colour coat? And I can't figure out how to get the contours of the horse to come forward properly (the area surrounding the eye is probably the hardest for me) so it ends up looking flat and unrealistic. How do you paint a shadow or a highlight in colour??? I just feel completely out of my depth! Graphite to me is so easy, I'm lost when it comes to colour :(

10-05-2011, 06:54 PM
Sorry I probably sound silly, here I am having such trouble with what is probably so simple to everyone else here! :(

10-05-2011, 07:07 PM
Ah ok, thats what I still find hardest too, especially when you have white hairs in dark shadow as my brain sees white hairs in shadow :lol:

Ref the actual coat colours, I print out a large copy of the ref and stare at it and try and pick out all the colours I can see, I do this with a scrap piece of the paper Im going to work on and choose my pencils and sticks by trying to colour match each shade.
Im sure that people who have been doing it a long time just know what colours to pick and Im getting to know more too but that is how I start off.
So I then end up with all my selected colours in bowls next to me, usually about 20 or 30 colours altogether as I want 'possibles' aswell as colours change with layering.

Sounds a bit long winded and like I say Im sure once I get used to it it will be easier but it doesnt actually take that long.
Its a good idea to try layering on the scrap paper too so you get an idea of how the colours will layer.

Contours are light and shade so the concept is the same as graphite in that the shapes are the same and the contrast needs to be as it would in B/W also, only the colour changes.

Which depends on the original coat colour and also the light source.

There is a useful little book which somebody on here reccomended to me which may help get you started actually, its :

And you certainly dont sound silly to me, I scratched my head for days trying to figure out what colour a white horse was in deep shade :rolleyes::lol:

10-05-2011, 07:20 PM
Thanks so much for the help! I really appreciate it :)

Again, your work is beautiful!


the drover's dog
10-05-2011, 09:22 PM
Jennifer, you don't sound silly at all. Never be afraid to ask questions.

Sarah, have you ever thought about contacting Mary Hubbard and asking her to explain her method for doing horses coats? Explain your dilemma. Perhaps she prepared lecture notes at some time and might have them on hand. I know if I was a noted animal portraitist and somebody contacted me with links to their work, I'd check it out and if they were hopeless, probably refer them to some book. If somebody like you contacted me and and said you'd watched all the videos but they went too fast. Then I checked you website and I saw you had such promise, I might feel the need to act as mentor and help. She might even have a Step-by-step demo published somewhere that she could point you towards.

Sometimes it pays to be a bit cheeky and after all, she can always tell you to go and take a hike or just not answer an email if she doesn't have the time or inclination.

Give it a try. Nothing to lose except your dignity!

There is a terrific book on painting animals in acrylics which I think would help you too with pastels. It will give you a better idea about the layering of colours involved to create realistic fur. It's been out of print for ages but has just been re-released. It's by Rod Lawrence and called Painting Wildlife Step by Step. Fabulous book. There are a lot of birds in it, but also furry creatures. The section on painting eyes is alone worth the cost of the book. Lots of wildlife and animal painting books out there, but this is the only one I've found invaluable. I didn't always just paint landscapes you know!


10-06-2011, 12:10 AM

From a very quick glance at your website it seems like you are doing well. If I remember correctly, you are also fairly new to pastels. Well, I hate to say it, but it takes time. Art is not something that can be learned quickly.

Robert has made a very good observation that reinforces something I learned only a couple years ago when I heard an experienced artist make the following comment: "What separates the top artists from the rest of us is how they handle edges."

Up until I heard that - despite having been an artist for over 25 years or so - I never understood how important edges are and the many different ways to to treat them. A few years of study and I think I have a good grasp now!

The same could be said (in my case) with understanding color, or understanding contrast, etc. It takes time to learn about them all.

Now, obviously, you have already begun the journey and are quite advanced in many aspects of drawing and painting. But I do think your edges are something that you might want to study and advance to the next level.

As for painting like someone else - Ruth has hit the nail on the head. People will want your paintings because they connect with YOUR style. People who want a painting that looks like a Mary Herbert will buy Mary''s paintings! When you try to paint like someone else, you can never be as good as them. You can only be the 2nd best painter who paints like Mary. But you will be the best painter who paints like Sarah Fox!


10-06-2011, 03:56 AM
Thank you so much Dale and Don!

Dale, I got my courage up and sent Mary an email yesterday after pondering it for the last couple of weeks :D
I wanted to contact her anyway just to say how much I loved her work, so I also posed the question, as you say she can only say no.
Thank you for such kind comments and I shall look up that book straight away, I have a few art books now but not yet one that really gives me what I need for the pastel work the way Mike Sibleys does with graphite. :thumbsup:

Don, you know the thing about our aspirations trying to catch up with our techniques? well triple that for me, I always want everything yesterday :rolleyes: :lol:

Yes Im very new to pastels, Ive done only 6 in total and I admit to being pleased with them enough to love the medium :heart: but Im also aware there is something lacking, or somethings as you say. :o

10-06-2011, 10:02 AM
Don, Ive been thinking about the edges thing all day and I dont understand it :o
Which edges? and what do you do with them? :confused:
Do you mean how you merge one area into another? or each hair into the next? or something else entirely?

Thank you.:)

10-06-2011, 10:32 AM
Don, Ive been thinking about the edges thing all day and I dont understand it :o
Which edges? and what do you do with them? :confused:
Do you mean how you merge one area into another? or each hair into the next? or something else entirely?

Thank you.:)

I can't say I fully understand the concept but this is what think I do understand. Any time you have a change in color or value you have an edge. The best paintings have a variety of edges, soft, hard, lost, etc.

And as an example of what you can do with edges. Hard edges provide more contrast and attract the eye more so you'll want to have hard edges at your focal point. Use lost or soft edges to keep the eye from lingering too long on an area. A combination of hard and edges can help direct the eye through the painting.


Kathryn Wilson
10-06-2011, 11:14 AM
Perhaps it would help if you explained your process, so that we can understand the differences between your art and Mary's art. Do you do an underpainting? Do you layer? Do you use hard pastels first and then soft pastels? Do you mainly use pencils?

It's hard to help if we don't know your working methods.

10-06-2011, 12:08 PM
Thanks David,
So would a soft edge be blended and a lost edge more so?

Thanks Kathryn, reading Marys info and watching her vids tells me that we both use the same paper, both layer, neither of us underpaint, both use the same pencils although she seems to use only pencils whereas I do sometimes also use sticks.
Both put our strokes down in the hair direction and both use light finger blending throughout.
I just feel Im missing something of the softness of the hair textures so perhaps it is to do with those edges.
Although highlights can be hard aswell as I want to blend lightly to soften the hairs but its difficult to keep the vibrancy.

10-06-2011, 12:25 PM
Thanks David,
So would a soft edge be blended and a lost edge more so?

That's how I understand it. For lost edges think about a figure against a dark background. Where the form turns toward the shadow side that whole edge just disappears into the background. For example, you might not actually see the back edge of the neck, it just gets lost in the shadow and background.


10-06-2011, 12:32 PM
Sarah thanks so much for starting this thread you certainly have a way of getting such great info, from our mutual friends here on W.C. I wish I could comment but can only soak it all up. Your thirst for knowledge and the desire to improve is so commendable :clap: :clap: :clap:

10-06-2011, 01:15 PM
Oh thats a great explanation thanks David, I can visualise that :thumbsup:

Thanks David :wave: