Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Class Review: Scenic Basing with Seth Amsden

This last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a basing workshop given by Seth Amsden. The aim was to impart Seth's techniques and thought process on how he builds scenic bases, particularly plinths, for the projects he works on. My review here won't do justice to the class, so instead I'm going to dump some of the photos from the class and then just dump all of my random notes here for reference. Let me just comment first that Seth was a great teacher and a remarkable artist. He put a strong emphasis on using reference photos, especially taking pictures of the places where he collects basing materials from.

Photo Dump Section!

Example base from Seth. This one was a great example of a classic scenic base.

Another example. This one started as a chunk of wood. And yes, he painted the wood to make it look like wood.

My base after 3 hours of work. Obviously not primed. I was creating a little scene where someone created a small makeshift foxhole. We'll see if I end up using this for a real project or not. It doesn't look like much here for 3 hours of work, but this is actually a huge leap forward from anything I've done before. I tried to incorporate all the elements and techniques that Seth showed us previously to make sure I had absorbed the understanding.

Seth painting his example base. This was a unique sort of experience to watch. He first primed it black, then did a directional white primer coat to set lighting direction. Then to paint it he dunked the whole thing in water and proceeded to put paint straight from the droppers in a bunch of places. Then he used a fairly large brush (probably a 4 or 5) and washed and blended the paint around. The whole thing stayed wet. The philosophy here is that it creates a color harmony over the larger area and the wet on wet allows the primer coat to show through a bit which automagically creates highlights as well. He used blue-greys on the stones and browns on the earth parts. The net result was sort of a classic Mike McVey 2-step process that goes from base coat to magical highlights and shading in a single step. For me this was a massive "Ah ha!" moment though for painting larger bases like this.

Note Dump Section!
So here's a dump of all the notes I scribbled down. If you're curious for more details, just post a comment and I'll explain in more detail.
  • Yellow Milliput is the best to use for basing due to it's "grit" level.
  • Combine yellow Milliput and Green Stuff (60/40 ratio) as a good working putty for basing. Mix each separately then combine and mix. The green stuff gives it more working time, and the Milliput makes it harder. Adding just a touch of water helps in the whole mixing process too.
  • The above mixture is great for making banners too. Roll out a thin sheet of it and press a cotton t-shirt into it slightly to give it some texture.
  • After mixing the Milliput and Green Stuff, mix in some of the long static grass (the 2" length stuff) into the mix. Then tear off chunks and the grass will stick out of the putty like tiny roots. It also creates a nice natural texture to the putty on the torn edge. I can't express how much of a great tip this was. All of the residual grass sticking out of my project plinth was from that method.
  • To create a nice "receptacle" point for the model that will be added, create a little spot of putty and press the model into it.
  • When using grass tufts, use small scissors to trim them to different heights.
  • "O" scale model railroad stuff is the best scale typically.
  • When using oils, do a quick gloss seal first. Seth uses Future Floor Wax (or an equivalent) for this. The wax has a self-leveling agent that fills in the tiny pores creating a smoother surface for the oils to spread over. After finishing with oils, seal with matte sealer before proceeding since they take a long time to dry.
  • Future Floor is also good for washes since the leveling agent will help drive the wash into the recesses. It also dries really fast so it's great for quick sealing passes or washes in that respect.
  • Future is also handy for thinning inks for the above mentioned reasons.
  • "Inks before washes". I didn't get a chance to ask more about this comment.
  • Partway through the workshop, Seth gave everyone (that was relatively new to airbrushing) a ping pong ball. He said the practice exercise is to put it on a stick and try shading it like a sphere. It's apparently harder than it sounds.
  • Mix dry pigments with oils to create textured effects, like moss.
  • When working with oils, use two brushes: the first is to apply points of paint in the various places, the second clean and dry brush is for working the oil around. Oil paints tend to be fairly transparent and will let the lower layers show through better than acrylics.
  • Use mineral spirits to clean brushes after using oils.
  • Seth swears by Andrea paints.
  • Use tree/bush roots to create branches.
  • For the demo base Seth did and then again for mine, the steps went roughly like this: glue down big rocks. Add putty/grass mixture. Add branches/roots. Stuff in slate pieces, medium rocks, etc. Glue in small rocks/sand mixture.
  • Seth sometimes uses a "glue where it falls" approach. So glue down a big piece of something that can be crumbled, then lay down a layer of glue around it, then use pliers to crush it and let the crushed pieces fall into the glue. Simulates gravity and erosion all at once!

Shopping List Section!
This is just a quick shopping list of things I need to get and add to my hobby arsenal:
  • Slate tile from DIY store - Take it into the back yard with a towel and a hammer and smash it to make little slate chips. Seth's example bases both used these.
  • More glue - Especially superglue. I used a ton of it.
  • Pink Insulation Foam - I should have had this long ago, but finally I have a better reason for it.
  • Brass Etched Jungle Leaves - I bought a small pack at the store when I was there, but I see myself using far more of these in the future.
  • Superglue Accelerator - I've never seen a critical need for this, but Seth's process moved fast in assembling a larger base and there's a definite value in that.
  • Disposable Gloves - Mainly for working with Milliput. I've always hated working with Milliput before but Seth's class has turned me around. But using gloves is clearly mandatory.
  • Oil Paints - I'll probably spend more time practicing with the ones I already have, but I can see myself using these more in the future.
  • Andrea paints - I need to just find these and order some. I keep hearing how great they are.

1 comment:

Derek said...

Wow, some great tips there. I have been thinking about doing some display type bases, and there's some things in this post that have got my creative juices flowing!