Friday, September 30, 2011

From the Desk: Lots going on

Once again my desk is a flurry of activity, although it doesn't really feel like much is getting done these days. You can see a general lay of the land here. I've got some close ups of specific things on here below, but a couple things of note that don't have close ups are the reading material on the right and Tarin di la Rivossi who has been sitting primed for multiple months now. The reading material is of special note though. The latest NQ issue (which is pretty interesting) was something I picked up yesterday with Kallus. On top of that is a book about color theory that I've been particularly enjoying.

Here we have Kallus. I picked him up just last night. He's not a particularly complex model, so I'm jumping him ahead in my paint queue. I've already started trimming and assembling him while I work on this post. His stats are pretty interesting to me since he provides a fair amount of troop support. It's something I've been hoping for in Legion for quite some time. Only time will tell if he's decent.

Now this Vlad is quite a bit off the beaten path for my blog. This just so happens to be the special Katrina Relief edition of Vlad from years ago. I'm painting him as a birthday gift for my friend Henry who (I believe) doesn't read my blog. This project is mostly done but I'm waiting for the base to be crafted by my buddy Lance. For this project I tried to match colors as closely as I could to the color scheme Henry is using for his Khador army. I'll be very happy to wrap this project up and give it to Henry for a rather late birthday gift.

Rhyas is pretty much done. She's even sealed. I just need to take proper photos of her. Unfortunately the construction in my house is still going on so I can't set up my photo setup properly. Hopefully in a few more days. I really am getting sick of this situation too. On the plus side, I'm getting that much closer to fully painted for Legion!

Here we have a shoddy picture of stuff that's in various states of assembly. The Rackham dwarf, Bethayne, and Belphagore are all in progress here. I'm having trouble getting much traction with these projects for some reason. Probably because of all the other things going on, but there's certainly the fact that the last project on my desk is...

The Hex Hunters. These are going to take me a while to get all painted. Since painting the prototype, I really haven't made any progress unfortunately.

Well, that's it for now. Once again I'm up late blogging and should be going to sleep. Perhaps this weekend will yield some progress on at least one of these projects!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

From the Desk: Why I Hate Basecoating First

When I paint, I generally tend to complete a section before moving onto the next. Usually I paint skin first, then on to armor, then cloth, and so on until I'm done. However for the Hex Hunters I wanted to do a prototype of the color scheme just to make sure I had it locked in as to what would be what color. Hence, here's the prototype. I didn't paint the metals but it gives me the general picture. I think this will work out pretty well, but it's hard to look at this phase and see how it's going to come together. There's so much shading and highlighting that needs to get done, and when I hold up one of the Blackfrost Shard models (as a reference for the color scheme) it makes for a shocking comparison. In any case, there's 10 more of these guys to paint as well, so I better get crackin!

Monday, September 19, 2011

From the Desk: Mobile Purgatory

This post is sort of a test of the Blogger app for my iPhone, in addition to an actual update from my painting desk. Amazingly my painting purgatory is starting to lift and I'm getting some projects moving.

I've started working on a competition piece: this Rackham dwarf.

I'm also nearly done with Rhyas.

Ok, that's it for tonight. I'm now going to push publish and see how this mobile blogging works.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Painting Purgatory: Picking on my own models

Time to continue with the color theory analysis of my old models. Rather than doing the complete breakdown analysis on all of these, I'm just going to give the lesson learned from each one. Again, not critiquing painting techniques, just color choices.
Right out of the gate I've got a total eyesore. This model is an example of something where I picked out random colors because they looked nice individually. It was very early in my painting, and might be among the first 10 models I painted.
Lesson learned: Don't pick colors individually, but pick out the colors and set them together on my desk together, and stare at them for a couple days before making a final decision.
This is a sample from a whole army of marines I painted in an "Angry Hornet" theme. Now honestly, the scheme is so dead simple it's hard to go wrong. It's predominantly a monochromatic scheme, with just a little bit of other color thrown in. All things considered I can't slam these too much, however... Lesson learned: Black should never be straight black, but rather have some hue to it. Straight black generally doesn't exist in the real world.

Here's a group shot of several of these guys. I painted quite a few, and a variety of space marines as well. In a big group, they look pretty striking.
Although more colorful, this Terminator is still pretty good. The same problem with the black exists with the white.
Lesson learned: Just like black, keep pure while usage very minimal.
So again, a monochromatic scheme that works ok. Here's the interesting expansion though: The hair (purple) makes a color bridge between the blade/mask (blue) and the armor (red). Now it's not a perfect bridge, but it does somewhat work.
Lesson learned: Color "bridges" can help tie a model's scheme together, but the bridging color needs to be a careful choice.

This Jain Zar model on the otherhand was an interesting example of how I started doing some edge highlighting. The color problem of course is that pink isn't a good highlight color for red usually. There are other problems given the spattering of random colors, but I think that should be obvious by now.
This model represents the first significant attempt I made at freehand work. Needless to say, I didn't do much more of this for a very long time. Honestly, this model is just a complete train wreck of color. Now normally a Harlequin is a pretty colorful character, which can make them tricky to paint. One trick I heard was to set up a triadic color palette (3 colors fairly equidistant on the color wheel) and use that as the core of the color scheme, with variations on that theme as needed. Honestly though, I find Harlequins to be an enormous challenge.
Lesson Learned: Schemes with a lot of different colors are really hard to pull off. Sticking with fewer colors is easier to plan.
This Imperial Assassin is a good example of when I started trying to do more of the GW-style highlighting, with bright highlights on all the edges. One thing that worked well here actually was using yellow to lighten and highlight the green armor rather than adding white. It provides a warmer feel to contrast the cooler green tone.
Lesson Learned: Don't use white to lighten a color for highlighting, since it usually makes the color look chalky.
Ok, it's 9pm and I'm running out of steam on this post, so let's speed things up. Pink, purple and black was a good core set of colors. They work well together. However the grey highlights for the black armor was the first mistake. The green gun was a second (although lesser) mistake. Grey highlights tend to dull down and distract the eyes from the otherwise harmonious scheme. Using a purple or even blue highlight for the black armor plates would have created a much better look overall. And the green gun? Well, never opt to paint metal items with non-metal colors just to be cute. Color conveys a lot about what type of material is present (as discussed previously).
Lesson Learned: Highlighting and shading of black can bring in even more color to a scheme and help tie the overall look together.
Again with the green? And now I threw in brown too?!?! Ok, this one is even quicker.
Lesson Learned: I made some very questionable choices in college. Must have been all the drinking that affected my decision making.
And here I close out the post with something really special. Again, a total train wreck of color. Primary colors all around. It's a mess. But, there's a reason I included this one. This was the first model that I used a drybrushing technique on. I was at my LGS and someone demonstrated it for me. That day I learned the value of painting with others. Practice takes you some of the way, but learning techniques firsthand from other people can really make a huge difference.
Lesson Learned: Always try to paint with other people!
Well, that rounds out a thoroughly long and boring post. Thanks to anyone who actually stuck it out this long. I promise to only do one more of these posts at most. I should note that although I'm still going to be doing more Painting Purgatory posts, I have actually been able to put brush to model in the last week and am making some progress. However my house situation is still pretty confined so I'm not likely to get anything based on finished for a couple more weeks. So there's more color theory, desk action, and purgatory to come.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Painting Purgatory: a Flashback and a Resource

Right about now you're probably looking at this photo and wondering what's going on. Although clearly no match for my current painting skills, this model was indeed painted by me. It's from about 18 years ago when I was in college (yes, I've been painting that long). However, I'm not posting it as a part of a nostalgic flashback. Instead, I'm going to drag out a bunch of my old models for review as a part of an exercise on color theory. I should note that my intent in these reviews is mainly for color use and not for painting techniques or skills, although I will probably add a little historical commentary just for fun. So let's get started with this Greater Daemon of Slaanesh!

Focus: Whenever I look at a model with a critical first eye, I tend to be super conscious about where my eyes go. In the case of this daemon, they are immediately drawn to the boots. Why? They are really bright. The horns somewhat pull the eyes back up, but it's still not enough to balance things out. I also notice that it takes a long time before my eyes even pick out the face of the model, despite its size.

Story: Next, after noticing where my eyes go, I pay attention to the general tone and emotion of the model. In this case, it seems dark and quiet. Why? Well, for one thing, it's really dark blue. Not just that, but there isn't enough variation in color to draw out the dramatic elements of the model. Color choices can play such a critical role in helping "tell the story" of the figure. Nothing about my color choices here really help tell a story. The darkness of the skin causes his face and outstretched hand to become indistinct, and that's really where the story of this model starts.

Readability: Now, I look at the color choices to see if they make sense for the material they are representing and whether they help my eyes to pick out the details. For this daemon, I'm 0 for 3. Dark blue skin, although amusing and potentially appropriate for a "chaos daemon", doesn't make a lot of sense. The brown for the boots on the other hand does work, since most leather is some shade of brown. But then there's all those green bits. Are they leather? Armor? Who knows! The green color choice makes it not only harder for the eye to pick out, but harder for the brain to "read" what it is. The dark blue skin, dark green and dark aqua claw all just seems to blend together. This makes the readability quite poor.

Harmony: Lastly I look at the overall harmony of colors. Now sometimes i'll want clashing colors on purpose, but that's an outlying case. Normally I want colors that all play well together. It helps all of the above things I've talked about. In this case my report card arrives with an F. Blue skin and yellow-brown boots? Ouch! And what's with that pinkish-purple badge on his chest? Must be first price in the ugly contest. Ok, all kidding aside, if you break out all these colors and toss them on a color wheel, the whole thing looks pretty chaotic. Don't be fooled either! Dark colors help obscure a conflicting palette, but it's still there.

So that's a general overview of how I approach color for my painting now. I'm no expert though, as even my recent painting shows. But these 4 aspects form the building blocks of my color theory now. I'm going to post more of my older models, but I'll skip this level of analysis. I started with this model not just for its age, but for it's complete failure in all 4 areas.

One last thing before I sign off for the night. I was reading various forums and came across this really great 4-part series on photographing miniatures. I've posted on this before, but for those of you looking for more good examples of setting up a way to photograph your work, this article has lots of good information and uses pretty minimal materials to accomplish it (other than the camera).

Monday, September 05, 2011

Painting Purgatory: Color, Emotion, and Technology?

Let's take a few steps to the left today. A friend of mine sent me a link the other day to an amusing little web gadget called The Color Of. Now since you've already sprinted off to the link, tried it out a few times, and then finally come back to my blog (I hope) I'll explain why I wanted to share this. There's lots of information about color theory out there. It explores color in terms of psychology and physics, using sound principles to help artists understand how to use it effectively. This tool however does something almost opposite of that.

The Color Of basically harvests our collective social consciousness from the internet, takes a random sample, and fabricates a "color" swatch for you from whatever word you want. I use the word "color" liberally here since the output is really an image that has many colors in it, but you can think of it as a swatch of colors all mashed up. The process is pretty straightforward and the simplicity of this little widget is remarkable. I wouldn't classify this as a scientific tool by any stretch. Think of it as inspiration rather than a logical process.

So what good is this to miniature painters? Well, think of it as sort of an inspiration engine. Trying to figure out what sort of colors to use when painting your angry troll? Type it in! Guessing at what would give a sense of dignity to a pirate? Enter those keywords! The tool really is pretty limitless in that respect. Now you may get odd results obviously since it is highly random and can pull in images that arguably have nothing to do with what you typed in. However that vast randomness can work to your advantage. Try typing in "cygnar", "lefthanded", "extra large" or even "green" and you'll get something interesting out. You can even click on individual pictures that it found if you want. You can also save the produced image for reference.

Well, that's your daily dose of random color theory for today. But before I go, one last tip. If you produce a swatch and want to examine the colors in it in more detail, you can always throw it into the Kuler tool which I posted about last year. Enjoy!