Thursday 4 September 2014

Voluminosity, killing colours and the crap guesthouse - a story of non metallic metals with Alfonso Giraldes.

So the weekend of 30/31st August was my date of destiny, the days i spent some time with Banshee (Alfonso Giraldes). My painting life has been on and off for six years and despite some awards there has been something missing, a spark, an ingredient or possibly an encounter that would push my painting or at least my knowledge and understanding to the next level.

I am always submersing myself within the hobby to learn and become a better painter but i feel that my progress is rather erratic to say the least. I paint well when i am happy and confident and that is usually when i am painting in my comfort zone and as such i don't really enjoy trying new things, even though i am aware that that is exactly what i need to do to improve. Having met and been inspired by Alfonso, that is exactly what i intend to do over the next period of my painting life.

I only now wish I had attended Alfonso's workshop on colour theory previously, perhaps i will pester him for his kowledge over the coming months. This workshop was on NMM, a technique i have always been too scared to experiment with, but Alfonso gave us so much more. If I was to be asked "can i now paint NMM", the answer would still be no, however, I am now armed with the knowledge of the technique to practice. Other than the knowledge and insight that i gained, it was witnessing first hand Banshee's innate understanding of colour theory and his organic approach to painting which blew my mind and has inspired me to be more free and expressive with my own painting. As much as his painting style seems accomplished with organic brush strokes and bravery, it only evolved this way once he had perfected his technique, supported by his knowledge of colour theory, light and volumes. 

So, let me tell you a little bit about Day 1. Once we had all arrived (me doing so an hour and a half early, don't ask) at Inner Sanctum and John (Founder of The weekend Workshop) and the rest of the guys arrived and we all made our introductions and set about setting up our workstations. Once we were all settled, Alfonso was straight in with some hard core theory and putting the frighteners on us straight away by announcing that "achieving a 3D technique is very difficult even on a three dimensional miniature when trying  nmm as you are trying to achieve an optical illusion", that is imitating how light reacts upon different volumes, it is all about the technique and not necessarily the range of colours you use.

Before choosing your midtone colour for the effect, Alfonso mentioned the importance of colour theory and the contrast achieved through warm and cold tones (for eg yellow is relatively warm whereas blue is colder). So choosing your midtone colour would depend upon the atmosphere, location, effects etc that you wish to portray with your miniature. So you choose your mid tone colour for the overall effect and feeling and then work on contrast whether it be high or low, which i will discuss a little bit later. I was told that Gold NMM can be a bit more limiting with the range of tones that can be successfully used, compared to Metal NMM (tones of grey). This is mostly because gold tones are very saturated and "yellowy", either side of the midtone and the gold colour is almost fleshy in colour or too brown, so would either not look metallic at all or would be heading towards a bronze or brass tone.

A gold midtone that is too "yellowy" can be modofied by cooling the colour, by adding a cold colour such as blue or by using a complimentary colour, a colour that sits opposite on the colour wheel ie purple. Your midtone and subsequent colours will also be influenced by the colour of your basecoat. 

If using a black basecoat, there is no point using thin, translucent layer of colour to highlight, so your paint should be thicker to cover the darker basecoat underneath to highlight and you will need fewer layers to apply your shadows. Black basecoats are particularly useful when the miniature and it's scene are of a dark or gritty atmosphere. In contrast to this, a white basecoat would mean using several, very dilute, translucent layers of paint. As such a grey basecoat is regularly seen as the ideal compromise as your highlights can be achieved with reasonably dilute layers and the same applies for the shadows too. 

Darker midtones however will result in starker transitions or in other words, the progression to the dark tones will be much shorter and conversely a lighter midtone will require more transitions to the shadows. These transitions will also be influenced by the type of surface or volume and whether the material is of a matt or shiny nature.

By now , my brain was starting to hurt, I can't lie.

Any colour grey can be used for the silver but as already mentioned, gold is more limiting, as the tone must retain a yellow hue for the effect to be believable, however, too much yellow and the effect can become artificial looking, with particular regard to the brightness. If you think about how we perceive colours in real life, there seems to be a "grey filter" over what we see and as such we should try to replicate this to prevent our colour schemes becoming too artificial.

Metallics generally have colder tones but varying hues and nuances can make the effect visually more interesting. Alfonso even showed how it was possible using a "flesh" midtone, he explaned that the red in the mix needed to be countered (killing the colour in an epic duel of saturated verses unsaturated colours ;)) for instance with green to desaturate the colour and make more grey.

Another consideration is the various shapes or volumes that constitute the various armour plates or planes of weapons and whether the metal would be of a shiny or matt nature, as i alluded to earlier. Shiny metals have a brighter midtone and sharp transitions whereas matt metals begin with a duller midtone accompanied with gradual transitions.

Alfonso went to great lengths, showing us with visuals and quizzing us, how light interacts with various types of surfaces. For instance, a straight plane would receive the same level of light along it's whole surface, unless it was partially shaded of course, whereas a non reflective material with no side plane would result in the light diffusing across the surface. 

More complex behaviours such as reflections (if you are painting a shiny metallic effect) will create multiple gradients from light, midtone and shade across the surface. In addition,more reflective surfaces can be implied by adding stronger contrast at the planes. 

After our brains had been fried with all this information and we had chosen five midtones of Gold NMM and Silver NMM, Alfonso showed us which of the tones we had chose would work and which wouldn't and why. Then it was down to applying some paint to our minis.

First day down and terry and I were just about to find out how shocking our Guesthouse truly was, a camp bed, rowdy guests, unhygienic bathroom, a shower with no temperature control believe me, the list goes on but i can't be arsed getting worked up about it, suffice to say I won't be visiting it again. So a quick shower and me and my roomie turned up suitably late in a stylish fashion for our meal at Chiquito's and headed straight for the bar. Having put the world to rights over a steak and several pints, the laughs and stories soon started circulating round our table. Would Banshee take his drink to the toilets or was Mr Volomir telling porkies about Spanish people? The drink stayed on the table during all toilet visits, apparently he trusted us mahawawawa! 

Then it was time to move onto the pub for more drinks and footie conversations, Alfonso is just as passionate about his Atletico as John and I are about our clubs, there was a lot of banter and giggles and over the course of the night, the group dwindled down to the last of us hardcore hobbyists, although a few driks became a few too many for Terry, bless him he even took his shoes off and curled up with John on the sofa after this photo was taken.

Then it was back to the Guesthouse, an altercation between Alfonso and a group of noisy "guests", Terry being eaten by his camp bed, me thinking i  had lost my wallet and finally falling asleep at 3.30, with my headphones in because Terry is a snorer. What a day!!

Day Two started within the fugue of last nights alcohol and i thought my hayfever was kicking in, but as the day wore on and i started to get a temperature and a bad headache, it became apparent i was coming down with some sort of virus. I struggled through several hours of theory and attempts at painting NMM but it was getting harder and harder to concentrate or even motivate myself and with a heavy heart i called it a day, a couple hours early to catch the train back home. I still had time to buy Alfonso's bust he sculpted for his classes and workshops and pestered him for some advice on my two current projects, my ogre and Morko bust. I was glad i asked as he turned it into a 15 minute lesson for the whole group encompassing a little more colour theory. Despite the noise from the kids that attend the venue to play their damn card games and the guesthouse i had an amazing weekend, met one of the true greats, made friends and along the way learned a thing or two as well. Happy painting!!

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Basing Alchemy with the Bruddhas

I guess by now, most people within the painting community will be aware of the work Michael Bartels is doing with The Painting Buddha project, with the aim of helping us all become better painters. The people involved are all very talented artists and as such there is something for everybody no matter the current painting level you have achieved.

This first part in the Basing Alchemy series focuses on Earth, with almost 50 tutorial chapters across 3 discs, covering subjects such as vegetation and pigments, colour contrast and referencing and sketching, Matt Cexwish and Ben Komets, guide the viewer through building and painting gaming and hidden insert bases and stunning show bases.

So having watched the first two discs before deciding to do a review, all I can say is the standard of Matt's gaming bases are in themselves pretty damn impressive and it was very interesting and informative to see a scenic base built up using the plasticard walls as I have never done that myself.

The production quality is great and the menu system is easy to use with very clear and distinct chapter points, allowing you to watch what you want when you want.

So without giving too much away here are some of my thoughts.

On Disc 3, Ben talks us through the construction and painting of a show base, that is, a scenic base with display or competition in mind. He shows us the importance of identifying and studying details in your references eg the different tones of colour, volumes and vegetation types with emphasis on the theme or atmosphere of the miniature and it's surroundings.

Some very interesting techniques are shown, including his "lazy" way of constructing the sides of his base using a dice box, constructing the volumes of his scenic base with varying thicknesses of cork board. With constant reminders to refer to your references, dry fitting natural elements and carefully choosing what looks right, the base quickly takes shape.

The viewers angle of Ben as he works is great, you don't miss a trick, the dialogue and explanations are regular nuggets of inspiration that make you think "wow, I would never had thought of that!!".

In addition, to the techniques that the Bruddhas teach you, there is another underlying message that they conveyed to me; to be inspired by real life and to have the confidence of experimenting with my colours and base building projects and not to be afraid of making mistakes on the way.

I don't want to talk you through the various techniques, as the guys do it so much better in the DVD, but suffice to say that the series of DVD's they are producing far surpasses anything else that's currently on the market, in my honest opinion.

Join the Bruddha hood and become a better painter today!!

Friday 1 August 2014

My little review of BrokenToad miniature series brushes.

So, BrokenToad apparently believe it's possible to "have high quality hobby products at affordable prices". Ever since I realised our great hobby was about so much more than citadel paints and Gamesworkshop miniatures, I always followed the mantra of buy the most expensive hobby products you can afford. For the last year or so I have exclusively used Windsor & Newton series 7 brushes and find them far superior to anything I had used before. I usually paint with three different sizes of brush; 0,1 and 2, prices ranging between £12 - 15 a piece. This represents a significant investment. Is it possible for one of the little fish (or toad) to produce and sell brushes on par with the big hitters, considering the price range of these brushes is only £4 - 4.50 per unit? Let's find out!!

The BrokenToad Miniature Series brushes are currently available in four sizes; 2,1,0 and 3/0. They arrived with bristle protectors with each brush in a sealed plastic sleeve along with a nice card overlay with some very useful care instructions for eg i did not know that by keeping the protectors on and storing them point down would prevent one off and paint pigment from gathering within the ferrule. Learn something new every day!  It's been long established that Kolinsky sable hair is the best for artist brushes and these brushes don't disappoint on that front. When I used them this evening, blaring out some punk music and working on my barbarian dude I was surprised at how good they are. The belly of the brush head holds ample paint and the finely tapered point allows for precise and smooth painting. Another important factor is the "snap". This terms refers to the natural reaction of the hair bristles following a brush stroke; for miniature painting it is important that the bristles snap back into their natural position and to a fine point, ready for the next stroke. The "snap" with these brushes is on par with my old trusty 7's.

In addition to the quality of the brushes I am also impressed with their manfacture.

 As an Ecologist, it is a nice surprise to hear that the hair of the brushes is ethically sourced and the varnished Birch wood handles come from sustainable forestry. I took the plunge, expecting in some ways to be disappointed, but I am honestly, pleasantly surprised. 

So to summarise, price is a no brainer being a third of the price of even the cheapest W&N series 7 brushes, the quality is excellent, Eco friendly, great service (ordered yesterday and arrived today) and you will be supporting one of the small guys. They can be purchased here in the UK from Artisan Quarters. BrokenToad get a big thumbs up for me but don't take my word for it, take a chance, you won't be disappointed!!

Sunday 27 April 2014

A painting challenge

So, after having been friends with James Griffiths of Infamy Miniatures on facebook for a while and meeting him in person at Salute in April 2014, it was quite a surprise when he suggested we join forces for a painting challenge. So rather than letting me blah blah on about this and that, here's a poster explaining everything and links to my fb page and the page for Infamy too.

Infamy Miniatures

Saturday 8 March 2014

How I painted my Ogre skin!

Over the course of painting an ogre, i had been consistently asked how i painted the skin, so I finally decided to put a step by step together for everybody that may be interested and hope that it may be useful to some people.

Firstly i need to mention my good Polish friend Adam Halon who some of you may know as Loler from the Brush Brothers, who helped me with some techniques and tips during a skype painting session I had with him a few weeks ago.

First of all I applied my base colour which was Cadian Flesh, with a touch of white and a very small tip of black. The black changes the hue of the skin colour a little making it less human like. Previously, I would start applying shades and prior to my highlights and then use the mid tones to smooth transitions and tidy up my highlights. However, I always struggle with contrast and making my highlights bold, so this time i decided to start with the highlights and really push them and make them as bold as possible. In the first photo you can see where i have started applying zentithal lighting by adding vallejo Ivory to the base mix.

I also painted the muscle groups one at a time, constantly thinking about where the light would fall the most, so basically you want most of the light at the very top of the muscle and the least at the very lowest part of the muscle. Don't be fooled into just painting lighter shades immediately along edges of muscles as this will produce a confusing looking mini with no obvious vocal point. Having applied some lights to the first muscle on the upper arm i moved across the shoulders as shown in picture two, which gives you an idea of the contrast achieved with this first highlight.

This first highlight was then worked across all the back and shoulders and along his arms. I broke each section up as I went but that was just a personal preference. More layers of the Ivory paint were added to the mix as I went along, with each additional application of this highlight mix i focused on the upper parts, slowly reducing the amount of highlight as i move closer to the light source.

In some places as I was moving along I decided to start adding some shades and midtones just so as to help me decide where to keep applying the highlights. I found this important, because to get optimum contrast your brightest highlight needs to be applied immediately next to a shade. To further accentuate the contrast on the skin, i introduced warm/cold contrasts. So for instance red was added to the base colour for midtones (warmth) and a solid blue was added to the base for the shades. The very deepest shades had a little touch of black added to the blue and base mix. When applying the midtones and shades, the paint is more heavily diluted than when i apply the highlights. You want to be painting glazes at this stage and build up the colour tones with several applications, if the paint is too thick you will merely be applying a dark colour and covering up your work to date.

In this picture you can see the start of the midtones being applied, down the spine and coming from underneath the muscles and up to the highlighted surface. It is important to move the paint with the direction of your brush strokes, so for midtones, your brush should start near the base colour of the flesh and be worked towards the shades as you would when shading too, the opposite is necessary when applying your highlights.
I continue building up the various skin tones as described above and start putting in the shades. At this point it is just about reapplying the same paint mixes and techniques as previously described, always pushing your lights and smoothing the midtones and very carefully working the shades into the deepest recesses. You can then always go back and apply even more highlights by adding gradual amounts of Ivory to the base colour. Along the tops of muscles and along the neck, shoulders and prominent lines of the head i have used diluted pure Ivory.

 I have included this picture to show you the finished levels of contrast but also how the next component of the mini must also work with that which you have just finished. I have lots of cold tones in the flesh of my ogre so went for warm and worn leather for his pants, his boots will be black and his armour and weapons will be cold steel again to compliment his warm leathers. :D

I hope this article may be of use to some people, I use to always ask people what colours they used, but this isn't important, what is however is how the colours you choose interact with each other and create an interesting composition and aesthetic on the miniature. So I now find myself telling people that which I have been told many times, buy a colour wheel and practice, practice and practice.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Fulgrim on CMON

Ok so the Fulgrim miniature by ForgeWorld that i recently completed is now on CMON. It took about 150 hours to paint, there are so many small elements to this miniature that makes it quite a challenge. I enjoyed and hated painting this in equal amounts but i am quite happy with how it turned out. If you have the time, it would be awesome if you could vote on Fulgrim, heres the link:

Thanks a lot.
Happy Painting!!

Friday 20 December 2013

For his honour ......

So my second project is up on Putty and Paint, so please if you want to see the pictures or are members yourselves, maybe you could vote and comment.

Here's the link straight to Fulgrim (Primarch of the Emperors Children)

Cheers guys and Happy Painting!!!