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).

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