My Creative Process Behind my Latest Vignette – Regrowth

Regrowth – the PRELUDE

I bought the Selvambi miniature from Aradia last october, I think. I really like the sculpt by Olivier Bouchet, it is very much alive I think. The tiny Sprite like creature has a certain animalistic vitality to it, her face resembles that of a fox and a deer at the same time, as well as hooves for feet. I think it is quite a feat to include these animal features, yet still keep her fairly human. At the same time Selvambi has a distinct female vulnerability to her. This duality in the sculpt spoke a lot to me, it certainly ticked my boxes and I knew I needed to make something special out of her, the idea of Regrowth began to take shape.

I cleaned and assembled the miniature sometime in the winter, then set her aside and sort of waited for the right idea to materialise. It happened, like it very often happens in this hobby, other new and shiny toys showed up, other new, interesting and important projects were to be built and painted. She Got a little left behind, but I did not forget her.

A CONCEPT TAKES SHAPE

When I went to Duke of Bavaria in April, I cleaned my slate and got ready for a new project. When I walked around at the show and felt genuinely inspired by all the lovely miniatures there, I thought about my Selvambi miniature again. I thought she would be a good project to get to grips with, when I got home after the show, Regrowth came to mind again. I originally thought to present her as a little sprite in between large flowers, maybe even present her as being actually 30mm tall. Not a bad idea, it would work really well with all her natural vitality, but I didn’t really feel it. I went to the Aradia stand in the vendor’s area to look at their official box art for inspiration.

They also had another painted example of the figure, I took some photos for memory and inspiration. Both paint jobs chose the sprite approach, which is by far the most natural choice. Then it hit me, instead of presenting her as a tiny creature, I could turn her into something more powerful. A spirit of nature. This would fit in with another concept I was thinking about. The environment has always and will always be a big issue with me. I always feel bad about how mankind destroys what is given, killing animals for no reason, polluting our planet until there is no nature left. I’ve always wanted to tackle such issues in my miniature art, with a spirit of nature I had something to work with – Regrowth.

Instead of just making the usual polluted, dead sci-fi wasteland, I thought I could show nature coming back after mankind. The Selvambi figure is both strong and feral, yet at the same time she is feminine and fragile, a quite good allegory for nature. At the same I could use a rusty, paint peeling of, damaged old car to symbolise mankind, it is both a symbol of modern society, Industry and something distinctly masculine as opposed to Selvambi’s femininity.

Regrowth

The Spirit of nature

CONSTRUCTION

I found me a toy car, just a cheap one from a super market. I went for one in scale 1/35, which fits with 54mm figures. By choosing a slightly too large car, my figure would scale as somewhat smaller than a human, so she wouldn’t just be a girl with antlers, but something else entirely. In that way she would be big enough to depict some power, but at the same time a bit delicate and in no way all-powerful, growing back nature is a fragile and virgin thing, the force of nature would be strong but still vulnerable.

I cut the car in two using a model saw, at an angle. Then I cut a wooden block in the corresponding angle, so the car would fit. I broke off the wheels of the car and pushed them up, to show that the suspension would be ruined and the car would just rest directly on the ground, everything underneath collapsed. I glued the car in place and filed the edges, so it was reasonably flush with the wooden block, that would serve as a plinth. I filled in the gaps with milliput, that would be earth partially burying the car. Then I glued on as much vegetation as I could. There were various photo etched leaves, different tufts, turf, static grass, Mininatur foliage and a few twigs to serve as trees growing through the car. There were a few places where the ground was visible between plants, I glued a little soil on these spots, to give the ground some texture.

That was about it, more foliage would follow as painting progressed. I left the figure off, for easier painting.

PAINTING AND WEATHERING THE CAR WRECK

In order to tell the story right, it was all important to weather the car a lot, it had to look like something, that had been lying in the forest for years and years, nature would be growing back over it, in time obliterating it entirely.

After an undercoat of black and a blast of white from above, I was ready to paint. I started with the car on the base, in that way I could make a mess with my airbrush all over without ruining anything. As the car was to be painted and weathered in several layers, I think the airbrush was the ideal tool for the job, so my layers of paint could be as thin as possible. By painting most of the base first, I would also have the scene ready for my figure and therefore, paint everything in a more homogenous way.

I airbrushed the car in different rust tones, concentrating the lighter ones on the top and gradually going darker towards the bottom, thus I created a zenithal light situation. I also went a little lighter at the middle of the hood, where Selvambi would stand, so she would get a kind of spotlight. I applied a different red-brown colour all over the wreck with a sponge, to give it a little texture. When all this was dry, I airbrushed it with a gloss varnish, this is important in order to protect the under lying paint and to make the paint on top peel off easier when I use chipping fluid. I covered it with two thick layers of AK Interactive Worn Effects chipping fluid. This works exactly like hairspray.

Once the chipping fluid was dry I sprayed the car with a duck egg green colour, that is the aircraft equivalent of mint green. I shaded this with a Vallejo Air Camo Dark Green, this nuance has a coldness to it, that matches the duck egg green, making it a match for the shadows. I highlighted it with a little white added to the duck egg green. I rarely measure how much of each colour I use in a mix, I go by eye and gut feeling, I find that sufficient and if it gets a little imprecise from time to time, it usually just serves to add more life to a piece.

Regrowth

Note the streaky finish of the car wreck and the bird droppings

Now it was time to activate the chipping fluid. It works as a water-soluble fixative, in between the layers of paint. I wetted the surface (a little at a time) with lukewarm water, let it sit and work a moment, then rubbed it gently with a brush and the green paint would crack and come off. I would also scratch it in specific places with a toothpick. You have to do this patiently and gently or else you lose control and all the paint just comes off. When I was satisfied with an area, I moved on to the next, so I kept working in a small area at a time. Once I was satisfied with all of it, I let it dry, then matt varnish, to seal the surface, this is very important to protect the chipped paint, as it is very fragile and you risk wearing much of it off if you don’t varnish it.

In order to create a stronger definition, I highlighted many of the lower edges of the peeled off areas with a very thin line duck egg green mixed with white and the upper edge with black mixed with burnt umber.

At around this point I started to block in the skin colour on the figure, I mixed a skin tone with Vallejo Air Medium olive. I decided to go for a very strong colour harmony where this olive-green would be mixed into everything to act as an overall mood colour. To achieve this on the car wreck, I glazed it with the Medium Olive, so it would be present in the rust as well. To tie everything together and make it look more faded, I glazed with a bit of turquoise and other greens as well.

I applied some AK Interactive Rust Streaks, Streaking Grime and Winter Streaking Grime to show how rain water runs down the wrecked car. I found the right direction that water would flow, it was all angled after how the car sat on the base, then dragged the streaks down in the direction of water flow. The Rust and Streaking grime are brown and orangish and the Winter Streaking grime has a dirty grey-green colour.

After the streaks had dried (allow for a lot of drying time, as they are enamels) I glazed it again with a bit of the Medium Olive, just to keep everything together.

PAINTING THE PLANTS

To begin with I painted the small visible bits of ground in a Burnt Umber from Vallejo Model Color mixed with Medium Olive. I highlighted it by adding some off white to the mix. The lower plants and grasses got some pure Medium Olive.

The twigs, serving as trees growing through the car got the burned umber/Medium Olive mix with a little grey added.

Now was the time to paint leaves and make a verdant, lush green spring/ early summer vibe. I squeezed out some Schmincke Phtallo Green and some Cadmium yellow artists acrylics on my wet palette. These paints are creamy, voluminous and rich way beyond ordinary hobby paints, these would introduce the power of nature to my piece. I started with the Phtallo Green with some Vallejo Model Air Medium Olive mixed in and just smeared it all over leaves and plants everywhere with a large brush. Then I gradually mixed in more and more yellow and highlighted the plants going wet in wet. I kept pushing this colour with more and more yellow just slapping it on the still wet paint underneath. In the end, it was just a little bit of pure yellow. Some areas got a little too bright, they just got a little more green followed by a new highlight, so they would fit. This is a very organic and expressive way of working, it is not very smooth, but it really brings nature to life. On the other hand, the rough wet in wet thick paint in all the plant life surrounding my miniature would make a contrast with the precise smoothness of the figure itself, kind of like how a camera lens or the eye itself works to bring focus to what you see.

PAINTING THE FIGURE

Now was the time to get into the painting of Selvambi, the spirit of nature herself. As mentioned earlier I had blocked in her skin tone, a mix of GW Cadian Fleshtone and Vallejo Model Air Medium Olive. I shaded her by adding first more of the Medium Olive and after that I added a little black for the deep shadows. I highlighted the skin by adding GW Elf flesh to the mix, then P3 Menoth White Base and lastly Titanium White. I glazed it all with the Medium Olive to tie it all together, then I added the last few spot highlights with Titanium White and then painted on an animal like spotted pattern on her belly and thigh in pure Medium Olive. See how that Medium Olive colour goes again everywhere both on the figure and the base? That is what such a mood colour does and if done persistently enough, it creates a harmonious colour scheme that really sets the mood of the whole scene and ties everything together.

The loincloth was painted in a mix of P3 Umbral Umber and Medium Olive. This was shaded with black added to the mix and highlighted with P3 Menoth White Base added to the mix.

Regrowth

Selvambi the Spirit of Nature, taking her own back after mankind

The leaf like bit of clothing on Selvambi’s left shoulder and breasts was painted in Medium Olive, shaded with a little black added and highlighted by adding Menoth White Base to it.The skull at her belt was Menoth White Base and Medium Olive and shaded with Army Painter Soft Tone and Strong tone.

Antlers in a dark brown with Medium Olive, shadows in black and small, sharp white highlights to make them seem shiny.

The shield was painted like her body in flesh tones with Medium Olive mixed in, black added to the mix for shadows and Menoth White Base for the highlights.

Her hair both on the hooves and her head was painted in Phtallo Green, black and a little Medium Olive, just for good measure. Hair was highlighted with Phtallo Green mixed with a little Medium Olive and finally pure white to make it shine.

The tip of the spear painted with GW Leadbelcher mixed with Medium Olive, shaded by adding black to the mix and highlighted by adding Vallejo Model Air Silver to the mix and finally pure silver at edges and small points of reflection. I glazed the mid tones with GW Athonian Camo Shade and glazed the whole thing over with a very thin Medium Olive.

I painted her eyes yellow and made slitted pupils, animal like eyes, almost like those of a lizard.

I made some final adjustments, freehand painted an armband on her right arm. I went over many of her shaded areas with Strong Tone to soften everything up, push contrast and further tie everything together. A little extra highlights here and there, final details, final small reflections of silver on the spear and then done.

A LITTLE EXTRA FOLIAGE

Of course I dry fitted my figure to the base several times during the process to see how everything went together. The trees in the car needed some foliage to frame everything in and to look fresh and not old and withered. I did that late in the process, to keep access to paint everything else. Now I glued a lot of Mininatur foliage to the trees and while I was at it I added more plant life to the rest of the base.

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I painted the new leaves and plants with my Phtallo Green, Medium Olive and Cadmium Yellow. For the foliage on the trees I thinned the paint down to be more gentle when applying it, to not ruin the leaves and push them off, those things are quite fragile. The underside of the foliage in the trees got a little green mixed with black as shading. The last stage of yellow and a tiny bit of green was not thinned down, just gently applied in small clumps, to keep the expression consistent with the rest of the plants.

I glued many small clumps of turf on the car, as moss growing all over it. Those were painted in Phtallo Green, Medium Olive and Cadmium Yellow. Afterwards a bit of green and turquoise glazes on the car and up over the moss to tie them together.

I added some fungus growing all over the front and right side of the car, this place must be moist and old… I made the fungus out of tobacco. This is a trick I’ve learned from Massive Voodoo, you take the kind of tobacco used for finger rolling cigarettes, like the dutch heavy tobacco for instance a brand like Samson. I think several types of pipe tobacco can be used as well, but I am not an expert. In these tobaccos there are these flat pieces, a little like small branches cut in slices. These have a nice natural look to them and you can glue them horizontally to the area in groups and series and they will look like these fungi that grow from the sides of tree trunks. A little drybrush with Menoth White Base, a wash of Strong tone and a glaze of the ever-present Medium Olive and my fungus was done!

Regrowth

The Tobacco fungus

FINISHING TOUCHES

Now my little Selvambi could finally be glued to her base. A few more touch ups and a glaze or two with Medium Olive and Strong Tone and everything came together. To add a little more life to the scene I found a couple of small animals in my bits box and added them between the plants. I painted a bunch of white spots on the car wreck as bird droppings, such seemingly random details really help bring a scene to life. At the very last, after I painted the plinth black, I painted this yellow-green ooze down the sides. It was really just a repetition of the Medium Olive, Phtallo Green and Cadmium Yellow of most of the plants. This ooze helps frame everything and integrate the plinth with what is upon it. Above all it is an extra splash of colour.

I held my little vignette at arm’s length, turned it around, it was done! It had been an intense and rewarding short time of painting and I think it all came together really well.

Regrowth

an extra splash of colour

Thanks for reading, I hope it was inspiring and maybe delivered a trick or two.

-Kristian

Kristian Simonsen

Award winning miniatures painter and modeler. An avid reader of fantasy, SciFi, art and history, this reflects more and more on my painting. I occasionally teach painting and modeling to people and I am here to do just that as well.

 

 

 

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