Beauty and the Beast – the PRELUDE
The following article is a little different to what we have tried before, both Arnau and David are good friends and worked simultaneously on this large kit and the following is an insight into them and their methods. We hope you will find their different versions of Savage Beauty and thoughts on their work interesting and perhaps even inspiring.
David: Arnau is a painter from Spain that symbolises for me strong colour scheme and intricate work. His interpretations always have a brushwork that gives a lot of viewing pleasure and that can catch the attention for more than a few seconds. I’ve seen him try many new things with success and it is that strive for learning that inspires me. Non-metal metal has no secrets for him and second light sources are natural things in his pieces. His latest works on historical are interesting as we can see his style take a new turn and probably an evolution to come in fantasy too.
Arnau and I have known each other for quite some time now and our exchanges helped me on my road of painting. Sometimes just getting to know another painter, getting his respect and talk about the little things in life can help in the painting. He did give me painting tips, but tips about the process were in the end more useful.
Arnau: I met David a while ago and he is one of those painters that keep pushing his skills and knowledge no matter what and we met because of this in fact. He always seeks the strong spots on people and learn from it and his own strengths are the expressivity and a pictorial style quite developed. When we talk we always try to keep the motive of the painting in way of expression and fun, you know, do what you want to do no matter what.
In one of these talks we realized that we were going to paint the same piece, the Savage Beauty on Sabertooth from Black sun miniatures. It is one of those pieces that you don’t need to paint to enjoy as it is wonderful in all aspects but it is very large and can be quite challenging.
We thought that we could do something with that experience, and here we are. Jason gave us this opportinuty to do more than just a paintjob but also a write-up.
THE PRELUDE TO PAINTING
David: Savage Beauty sculpted by Joaquin Palacios for BlackSun Miniatures was a first for me in terms of quality. I never had the occasion to own and paint such a beautiful and large sculpture. With few pieces assembled the ideas were bubbling. Too many ideas were in fact a problem on this model.
Sergio Calvo finished his incredible boxart right on time before I would start the model, which is very useful to see a master’s idea come to life. The amount of definition on his piece is astounding; we can distinguish high definition on all the surfaces even from afar in pictures. This set a goal for me, to aim for a high definition that could be seen by many eyes and from afar and same for camera. His tiger execution is also notable, which pushed me toward another kind of big cat. Arnau also finished his version first in quite a short time. A real machine at work, but he told me he really worked one area by one and completed stuff thus avoiding doubts midway. Anyway he’s telling you the story. He also went for the tiger version but in a different way, still very high defined but very colourful and saturated. This really threw the tiger idea out of the way for me. I was thinking about a black panther at that moment in a night scene. The second goal was to try to have an interesting vision and version among those two inspirational painters
Arnau: I started first with some directions from the owner of the piece who is is a collector. I didn’t want to look at Sergio’s version because his painting style is so strong and perfectly executed that I was sure it would influence my version. With this first huge piece I wanted to exercise and develop my skills. We discussed with David about the colour schemes, and he was thinking at that moment in a cold, selvatic. I decided later having this in mind.
How could I approach a project like this?
Usually I sketch all the figure and then work separately every zone to give it the final detailed finish but in this case it was a bit different.
At first I didn’t know the scheme I wanted so I Googled types of animals and artworks to find a pattern or group of colors that suited the sculpture. Finally, I chose the “normal” tiger. His colours are very bright and saturated like I love and his pattern is awesome especially upon the head, the most important part of the sabertooth.
Once I decided the scheme I wanted to try it, because even if you have the most amazing imagination of all times you will never be able to imagine 100% how something looks, so better try.
First, I coloured the entire fur to see which colour I would use and then work to finally see the textures, lights and shadows.
David: As soon as I finished assembling I let idea flew and tried some conversions on her in the same night. A sword seemed a bit weird to me unless she’s throwing it because with the size of that cat she won’t ever use it! I then converted a spear with a tip large enough for NMM. A normal everyday branch was used to keep in the feral look and it allowed me to give a nice diagonal line to the piece. I decided to have a go at a bow, bending a branch and tying some fine roots at the end which added some visual lines around the character. The roots proved too irregular to give a nice tight bowstring so it was switched for fishing line which is quite easy to work with. A few arrows were made out of metal wire and paper imbibed in glue to give them hardness that I cut into feather patterns. I then added some hands around the head tied with roots to really add visual focus around the face but I kept in mind to paint them not too bright to not steal visual focus from face.
As I let the imagination run the idea was pretty quick to settle. She was going to look very feral with an almost prehistoric feel, but with NMM because fantasy is this awesome. I had no fixed plan for painting and decided to tackle a lot of basecoats first to give me a general impression of the model. I almost didn’t use airbrush, only 5% that messed some things up and had to repair. First was the fur, which was painted in the same manner as I would have painted an animal on a canvas, with a lot of layers of strokes to give deepness and feel of fur. Joaquin did a wonderful job there on his fur making it barely textured, ideal to any type of painting. This set the tone, lots of texture but not as strong colour saturation as Arnau. I decided to keep the primaries, the first colors we recognise and strongest for the character to add focus to her but a lot of colors from the yellow family were used all along the painting. I forced myself into working with green which I don’t do by reflex and tied it along the yellow for the details and the eye to glide along the pieces.
APPLYING THE COLOUR SCHEME
Arnau: When the colouring was done I still wanted to try and see how I wanted the fur, the stripes and the transition with the white zones, so there was quite a few questions without answer. What’s the process then? Try it in a small zone and see how it works.
As you can see I worked on this small part of the tiger like if I was about to finish it, almost all the brushwork was done.
When I have this and I’m happy with it (you can try whatever and take the time you need), this is an important step you need to be happy with the colour, the pattern etc. once you do the entire cat you will not want to come back to this stage.
On this large piece it is really important to prepare your path and when you are sure and have all the questions answered, then you can really paint and rush if you want to.
David: The idea with colours
I used a lot of tertiaries all around the model. Those are colours created by the mix of more than two colors. This means a lot of colours, anything except Yellow, Blue, Red, Green, Purple and Orange. Browns are all part of that family and are colours that will fit anything and not take much focus and are quite neutral. When you dessaturate something you also remove a bit of the natural focus from colours. With this in mind, it was easy to just mix over all my colors, taking a bit of the base coat of one and adding it into the other one and so on. The objective was to have a lot of those neutral and close tone all around. If all is kept neutral then it is the areas with the most light and the primary colors that will catch our eye, the focus.
At the very very end of the paintjob I used pure colours around the face of the character, pure red on the laces on top of her head, blue lines on the skull and her hair are fully saturated yellow.
Once you have all this, the big centre of attention is made, so you need to work all the remaining things to push the important elements and already done part. For example, if you paint the elephant horns too bright it will draw all the attention to them instead of the face and fur, but if you keep the lights low and all the things in colours that match what has been done, you got it.
When all this is done and the tiger is almost finished we still have the rider to do even if it seems insignificant but it is a full 75mm and it need to match the tiger colour. The same here as the horns, we need to complement not to separate. How we do this, using colours that have a huge amount of red, orange, brown etc. Here we can push the saturation and brightness because we want her to shine, she is the main character of the scene, despite the tiger which is a lot more eye catching. She is in a very dominant position and if we play with her eyes and look we can make her even more confident.
See her pose, her look, we are nothing to her, she eats people like us for breakfast. All around the face is Green-ish blue-ish. Why? Because it makes her face a lot more visible, more contrasted between the complementary, and because these complementaries are a lot less intense than the face so it is the one area that really pops.
David: The painting challenges
I started rather fast with big brushes and basecoats all around which was a good thing in term of time used, but a bad thing in terms of settling the ideas. Too many possibilities were still open in the middle and at the end of the painting which really slowed me down at some point as I tried many experiments. Her hair was supposed to be white for a long time, and her leather straps on her body changed colours a few times. The base was repainted at least 5 times in different styles until I found the right colour that was pleasing my eye and balanced. Halfway through Arnau told me a good tip as he is very used at painting high end models: finish things!! I had to quit having ideas and just finish things one by one, and settle on some ideas. As I kept this in mind the miniature was tackled much faster, it was like domino. Like a good book I wish it would’ve lasted a bit longer but it did allow me to present it in time to a show.
The model was extremely inspiring and is for sure a milestone for me. I like big pieces and big scale and will try more. The many surfaces sculpted allowed me a lot of freedom in the brush stroke and to work in different patterns each material. I also had the occasion to use many different sizes of brushes and use a lot my bad brushes (my favourites) to save the good ones for the very end. I like when there is a lot of visual elements or “sound” as I call it sometimes and I think I did well on that one. I had a lot of control over myself on the visual element and kept the balance in mind. I almost felt like painting the coal make-up and the scars were too much in the face but in the end I think it helped the feral overall look and gave her a scary look. It was also another chance for me to experiment NMM and it forces me to learn and understand new things which I love. It will help me in my TMM in my next painting and now I can’t wait to do more NMM. All in all I am very proud of this painting that I did to my tastes and I think I managed to tackle my two goals.
Exchanging all along with Arnau was a great way to learn, I would redo it anytime. Of course it may be hard not to be influenced but at the same time it was part of the experience. The results speaks for themselves I think as we both did our own styles.
I really enjoyed this one on one painting process with David, we were talking through the entire process and hear other painter opinions is one of the best things you can do while painting something that complex and large.
Also, analysing both painting styles and strategies at the end, can help you understand yourself and your own painting. This is a clear example, David’s version is much more realistic, colours feel real and has this historical touch he always produces. Mine is more comic-ish, a bit more exaggerated. I am really embracing this style but after that I tried some historical style in classic Pegaso figures to see how my brushstrokes fit it.
After a project like this I always feel exhausted as it is very demanding to paint these huge figures because you never see the ending, you want to see it but there is always work to do, and when your work is with the brush, you are used to see quick results and a lot of figures each month, but one of this kind can take an extended length of time. By the way, the feeling after something like this is awesome, unique.
PS: I had the amazing opportunity to bring this piece to the Scale Model Challenge in Eindhoven and I awarded a gold in master fantasy paint, i am so honoured and so happy, I struggled with that piece, but was worth it.
Thanks for reading, we hope you found it interesting!