MAYS WORK IN PROGRESS: The Prelude
THE FIGUREMENTORS TEAM has been particularly busy this month, so what exactly have we been doing? May sees us adding a new team member, Kyle Kolbe, who has already written an extremely informative article on the science behind the paints we work with. There are some other great pieces in the works, so definitely keep an eye out for his future contributions! In the meantime, here’s a look at what we’ve been working on over the past month or so and an introduction from Kyle.
JASON ‘REDRUM’ MARTIN
Well this month has been a roller-coaster for me personally , my mum had an heart attack, I had a major surgery on my spine, I decided to tackle my depression head on and I set up a group for those Artists with mental health issues and I created another group that is aimed at inspiring the community to go beyond just painting a figure and to study and consider what makes a project a piece of Art. Outside of the blog I have also finished my Celtic Warrior and I have written an article about my Mushroom Shaman for next month’s Soldatini!
The Celt was a really challenging piece for me, there did not seem to be a natural flow to painting it, probably because I planned it so poorly. I constantly had to revisit stages to correct painting that I had damaged or defaced some way or another and I wished I had not attached any accessories to the figure, which would have meant I would have been able to paint chequers to the trousers and thus add additional visual interest to the figure. I wanted to achieve an interest in the painting despite only using green tones for the garments.
With that decision made I also chose to incorporate various different techniques to create multiple textures, the woolen weave on the cloak, soft trousers and the leather. I used the metallic paints from DarkStar Miniatures which I really like, they went on smooth, no pooling and covered well, needing just the tiniest amount of water for thinning. To offer contrast I painted a reddish skin, to suggest he was exposed to the hot weather and was “sunburnt”, indeed he was painted with red hair so as to further suggest this idea.
I have also started a fully armoured knight as a project with the super talented, historical painter Sergey Popovichenko. Both the figure Sergey paints as well as the knight I will paint will become gifts for each other but will also become the new boxarts for Tin Berlin. I will show my progress in next month’s round up and as you can see I have been a most busy boy!
THE FIGUREMENTORS TEAM invited me to join on a permanent basis after writing a couple of articles as a guest author and I am super excited about joining! All right to begin with I’ll look a little backwards. Here are at first my latest 3 pieces. The two ladies were made in the end of march to bring to Duke of Bavaria and the brute with the gun I painted a couple of days ago, a gaming piece.
Together these are very telling of how I work in my hobby. I always go in ebbs and flows. In between big high profile showcase pieces, I really need to make something recreational, relaxing and easy. On the other hand such game pieces have always been a playground for me where I can experiment with new techniques and generally learn new stuff without pressure. In that way I tend to always swing like a pendulum between big demanding projects and smaller easier ones.
Lately the two has started to mix a little because I have adopted a more uncompromising style in my showpainting where some of the challenge lies in finishing fast and cutting off unnecessary obsessiveness that tends to make even the smallest miniature take forever to finish. Of course some models are so large and so detailed that they take a long time to finish no matter what, but even there a certain practical approach can help speed things up.
Ragnar here is also quite recent. He is one of my new historical miniatures, something I will do a lot more in the future. I started last year to make historical miniatures in earnest, I find them very satisfying. This one is also a prime example of my recent experimenting with alternative light situations and moods as well as an example of a showpiece done in only a few days, no frills but everything works together and he gets a strong warm/cold contrast going with nothing to disturb that.
Going to shows like Monte san Savino, Scale Model Challenge and Duke of Bavaria have exposed me to a lot of historical miniatures and the artists painting them. People have had a tendency to think there is a big difference between historical and fantasy artists. Some people have even been snobs about it, thinking of it as two completely different groups of people that can’t mix… nothing could be further from the truth! Meeting the others is really rewarding and inspiring and we can all learn so much from each other and I have never met an artist not willing to share his experience or respect that of others. We are all one group of artists.
Here is an older one my Moonman from 2012. Finalist at Golden Demon Uk that year. “Moonman Moonman, Tamper with time he should never, now lost he is forever”. For a long time I considered this my best piece. I am very proud of this one and it is without a doubt the very best I could make at the time. The figure itself is built up from many different bits with a lot of scratch built details added like the ying/yang clock on his chest.
The base is also scratch built, the tree sculpted on top of a wire frame and the clockwork made out of gears, plasticard and copper foil. I think the biggest difference in me as an artist between then and now is that I am a lot better at finding easy solutions to problems and do not find a build like this as difficult as I did then, freeing up a lot of resources for creativity instead of finding the challenge in the build itself. Of course builds like this are always challenging, just not as much now as they were then.
And now my big project for may! I have just started work on this Lord of Change I am to compete at Golden Demon on May 28th. It is a bit of a desperate thing, I am not sure at all if I can finish it on time, it is a very large and intricate model with tons of details. The thing is that I have been particularly ill most of April and most of that period I could not bear to paint or build at all. The little windows I had when I could work I did not have the energy for a project like this, so I worked gaming miniatures until I was well enough to work on a big and daunting project like this.
In that way I lost 3 weeks of working time on this one! Bringing me down to roughly one month to complete this project. My work ethos of no frills, no compromises and finish fast will be put to the ultimate test and I am ready to forgive myself if I can not make it on time. I did not get sick on purpose!
It is now basecoated and ready for a big airbrush session tomorrow putting down the main colour areas and the basics of the lighting. It is in many sub-assemblies, that is something I do not normally do, I always assemble my figures as much as possible before paint, so I can work on it as a whole. That is just not possible on this one, the surfaces are too large and with many areas and details obscuring each other and preventing reach with the brush. I’ve plunged in at the deep end here, wish me luck!
THE FIGUREMENTORS TEAM grew even further when I was asked to join, not only to write articles and grow the brand even further but to also offer my support and know how in an area that currently we are keeping secret, stay tuned over the coming months for the HOT NEWS! I began my journey as a miniature figure painter with a box of fantasy themed (heavy Tolkien) miniatures intended for Dungeons and Dragons and a few Testors enamel paints from the local drug store when I was age 8 or 9, so 1981-ish. I found the small scale and primitive detail seduced me beyond what the mail away toy soldiers, Legos, and action figures offered at the time. I sat for hours with my tongue out painting the figures in my dad’s garage. The dwarf, orc, and Gandalfesque wizard survived from that time though not with all their paint.
A few years later, now in my mid-teens, I amazingly found Citadel miniatures at a local toy store in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington, USA. Around the same time I started buying White Dwarf magazine and following its painting doctrine of washes and dry brushing and metallics. The Citadel Fantasy crew pictured never hit the tabletop as RPG minis, I just painted them for fun and as a creative outlet.
Skip ahead to a few years ago, past high school, moving to Chicago, Illinois, USA for Art School, working in comic and game shops, meeting my wife, working in offices supporting digital and print production, starting our family, moving to the suburbs, and trying to share the rich worlds of pop nerdom with my kids, when I found Super Dungeon Explore, the chibi dungeon crawl board games with loads of miniatures.
The game’s excellent art direction and perfect mix of anime and fantasy miniatures seduced me once again and I couldn’t resist refreshing my supply of paints, brushes, and glue to tackle the large collection of miniatures included in the box. The figures remain challenging despite their cartoonish looks. They present many different surfaces and textures including human and monster flesh, fur, crystals, metallics.
When I went to buy paints, I developed an aversion to the hobby store brands and instead gravitated toward art store brands like Golden, Liquitex, and Windsor & Newton (after a failed affair with craft store paints). I researched paint chemistry to better understand the materials I was using and to find the holy grail of an acrylic wet blend, this journey continues but usually ends in heartbreak.
Still struggling to find my way with acrylics, I reread an out of print figure modelling book by Sheperd Paine. I remembered initially buying the book back in the nineties to help me with my action figure customisations and fuel my ambition to sculpt. I may have skipped the painting section of the book. Now, I read every word with the hunger of a life long student. The late, great Mr. Paine surveyed all painting media but zeroed in on oil paints, proclaiming they are the easiest paint to blend on your figures (I would soon agree).
At my first Adepticon (a wargaming convention in Illinois that hosts Crystal Brush), I picked up a Wrath of Kings resin mini and found it the perfect subject for my first venture into oil painting. In just hours, I had stellar results when compared to my acrylic blending disasters. That experience fixed me onto the oil painting path and the search for worthy figures. Through trial and error and lots of research, I have built a robust palette of oil colours I can trust. I crafted the terrain piece of a fallen statue head of the titular King from a plastic Halloween skull, some sheet cork and acrylic ink washes and chalk pastel ground to powder and fixed with white spirit.
I invested in a few game systems and their miniatures including Malifaux and Infinity, both lines with beautiful and interesting characters to paint. Malifaux’s art generally follows a muted palette and many of their characters can be painted with a limited palette of just yellow ochre, cadmium red, titanium white, and ivory black. I painted and based Ama No Zako (the red demon) for a painting class contest and lost. I entered the Executioner into an online contest and lost. I’m still finishing up Mr. Grieves and scratch built a doorway for his base since he’s a bouncer character, no contest for him.
Corvus Belli’s Infinity miniatures appeal to me because they really resemble small scale GI Joes, one of my childhood obsessions. They also make the best sci-fi figure canvases for painting fine detail. While difficult at this scale, I still will paint my Infinity characters with oils. I’m still finishing most of my Infinity armies including those pictured, still works in progress, always a challenge. Infinity is the only mini game I currently play.
For about the last year, I lost interest in buying figures centred around games and instead sought out great sculptors and figures based on some of my favourite fantasy artists like Tony DiTerlizzi, Paul Bonner, and Adrian Smith to name a few. I buy figures with a story in mind. How can I extend their aura into a larger environment? How can I tell their story? Reveal their truth.
A powerful piece of art can inspire me to add a dimension to make something new. Paul Bonner’s cover to the Rakham Cadwallon Player’s Guide drove me to recreate a background slice of the city for a diorama for Paul Bonner’s Zombicide Black Plague Artist box figure. With such a strong antagonist, I found an equally strong adventurer sneaking under the bridge in Dark Sword Miniature’s Tony DiTerlizzi series Hans the Loner. The diorama also serves as a real example of how you can use dynamic symmetry to plan and correct your composition, the subject of one of my forthcoming figurementors article. Based on a sketch of the original painting’s topology and cropped properly according to my symmetry view finder, I built the main structure out of pink insulation foam layered three high, then faced the sides with styrene sheet.
I added details with balsa wood, plaster stones, textured styrene sheet, silk pins. I cut out the facing on the front stair rubble and the side rubble with a rotary tool router bit that chews through plastic, it made a mess, but was fast. I coated all the delicate plaster and soft wood with matte Mod Podge to seal everything. I added the sign post to the back of the bridge, it’s cobbled together from a Warhammer 40k lamp post, chain, and scribed styrene sheet. The sign will display the same crest as on the ogre’s shoulder pad, black and yellow colour blocking with a red chameleon silhouette. I still need to fill all gaps and sculpt some stone and barrels with Apoxie putty. Then some sanding and another coat of Mod Podge followed by painting and finally grass tufts and some water effects in the sewer flow. This is a very challenging project for me and calls upon all my experience to accomplish. In other words, loads of fun.
While hanging out painting at Adepticon, I made good progress on two Red Box Games figures: the Keeper and Jotunn. I wanted to study different skin tones, one of dark pigmentation and one of necrotic flesh. I based Jotunn on a removable plinth topper with Apoxie rocks, bark, twigs, and a prehistoric mammal skull as set dressing. I pulled the colours of the Keeper’s robes from a Massive Darkness wizard design. I still need to finish Jotunn’s clothes and accessories and finish the base. I haven’t decided whether to give the keeper a glowing magic ball causing an OSL effect.
Some projects I think on for a long time before I come up with a concept and a composition with all the actors and props necessary to set the scene. Nuts Planet’s Red Riding Hood needs to command a pack of dire wolves progressing through an ancient forest’s Holloway. I plan to use the large wood cutoff as a base that will feature Hood emerging from the forest with wolves among the trees behind. The scene will have a forced perspective with some wolves cropped, maybe just the head poking through the trees.
Super Dungeon Explore’s Deeproot Wolf Rider is based on Studio Ghibli’s anime, Mononoke Hime (I own the Japanese import laserdisc to tell you what a fan I am). I quartered an aquarium stump and will sculpt the little forest sprites. I’m not sure I can fit everything on the size plinth pictured. I don’t play Age of Sigmar, but I couldn’t resist this great sculpt of the Orruk Megaboss, I based him on a rocky pile of cork, ballast, and a sacrificed Dark Age resin monster. I completely assembled him, so I have no idea how I’m going to reach his caged face, I’ll have to use some masking to protect surrounding areas. The AKIRA Kaneda on bike is one of my first vignettes that I struggle to get back to. I performed many acrylic experiments on the red of the bike and I think I need to just jump into oils on it.
I have more 75mm large figures to build and paint and base to tell their story, and a very special bust. Stay tuned.
DAVID ‘BAILEY’ POWELL
It’s been a busy month. After our last WIP post, I was rushing to finish off the Officer of the Dragoons in time for our local show (more on that in a sec). I really wanted to give the base for this guy the time and care it deserved… however that added quite a bit of extra work for me to complete the piece! Each stone in the column had to be painted, added gradients to the flat surfaces and edge highlights. I painted them using several different grey mixes to add some realistic variation as well. Once that was done, the rest of the base went pretty quickly. I still needed to add the Dragoon’s sword, but since the tip would be rest on the ground, I wanted to wait until I was ready to fix him to the base. Just a little more painting and it was finished just in the time for the show, phew!
As for the show, my local figure modeling group, the Southern California Area Historical Miniature Society or SCAHMS, puts on an annual show in Los Angeles. It’s a modest sized show, no where near as big as the main European shows or even other US shows like MFCA, MMSI, etc. Yet it’s the primary art style show out west, so we draw a decent sized crowd and get a lot of wonderfully painted entries. Despite the name of the group, fantasy and sci-fi figures are welcome. In fact, two years ago Damon Drescher’s fantasy display won best in show. So, despite the group’s historical origins, all subjects are welcome and appreciated.
In addition to the display area, they normally offer a seminar/presentation around lunch time. This year the club asked me to do the presentation. So I revamped my Saxon article and turned it into a seminar. I got some good feedback from the attendees, so I think many of them found it informative. At the award ceremony, I was shocked and honoured to receive the club’s Masters Award. This was something given in recognition of someone’s overall work (entries in the show over multiple years, not just this year’s figures) and their contributions to the club and hobby in general. I still feel like a newbie, I’ve only been with the club for 3 years, so I really didn’t expect this. Definitely a great ending to a great show!
Well, with the SCAHMS show and the Dragoon behind me, it was time to change gears and switch from a historical subject to a fantasy one. As part of the Ouroborus Tales kickstarter, I’d agreed to write a painting journal as one of their stretch goals. I’d received the figures last month, so I wanted to get started on the piece for this project as soon as I finished with the SCAHMS show.
Tim had asked me to paint the Orc Brave, one of the two figures from the kickstarter. Unfortunately the painting journal will be exclusive for the project backers. However, I can still share some of my process (just not the whole thing; got to leave a few secrets for the journal!). The last orc I’d worked on was Redghar from Black Sailors. For him I went with a black-green look. On this piece I wanted to return to a more traditional green orc skin.
However, I wanted it to still be interesting. So I mixed a basic green with teal (roughly 50/50). This shifted it a bit more towards a blue-green, but kept it a bit more on the green side of that spectrum. At this point, I’ve focused on the head and neck of the orc and only sketched in some shadows on the rest of the body. To break up all the green, I’m going for a two tone look with an off-white underside to make him look a bit more primitive and animistic. In addition, there will be more color variation on various parts of the figure. I already shifted the colour for the nose, lips, and eyelids.
I’ll be adding more on the knees, elbows, and knuckles too. He’s got some veins sculpted in, so I imagine I’ll shift those more towards blue too. Since this guys is almost all skin, with just a covering around his waist and one bracer, I wanted to avoid just doing the same boring green everywhere. Alternatively I could have covered him in tattoos or warpaint, but I decided colour variation in the skin was the way I wanted to go.
April has been a slow month, I’ve had painter’s block for a big part of it but during this last week, it has started getting better. I usually hit the wall to some degree after I finish a miniature.
My current main project is an Orc shaman and it’s becoming a very interesting project for myself because a while back I decided to buy a small collection of traditional acrylic paint and this Orc is the first miniature that I’m painting with them. The only other paint used was for the base layer of his skin. The reasoning behind partially switching over to those paints is to force me to get a better understanding of colour theory.
As you can see in the photo, I’ve tried a couple of different skin colours, ranging from reddish flesh to a greenish yellow palette before I finally settled for purple with quite a lot of blue in it. I didn’t want to paint him green as it wouldn’t work well with the swamp/forest base I’m making for him.
I’ve made good progress on the base but there’s still a lot to do before I call it done and I’m not entirely happy with how it looks so I might end up creating a new one.
For my basing I like to use as much natural elements as I can, which I get from the forest or one of my parent’s back yard. For this particular base, everything besides two tufts of grass, the long grass and the resin doll that came with the miniature, have been collected outside and I got the base itself cut by my father from his forest.
That is it from the team this time around, happy painting, peace, hugs and inspiration to you (Ed).