Saturday, March 31, 2012

From the Desk: Color Choices Book Review

Book title: Color Choices
Author:Stephen Quiller

This book came recommended to me by another painter, and I have to say it was definitely worth the read. The intended audience of this book however is not really that close to the miniature painting hobby domain. Now before I continue with this review, I should make clear that I am not very educated on art history and will freely use terms that I may not fully understand. With that disclaimer in mind, I'm aiming to give a review of this (quite good) book from a miniature painter's perspective.

What I learned:

This book is jam packed with information about color, color schemes, and approaches to choosing a palette of colors for a subject. Perhaps the first big lesson was that there are other color wheels out there besides the classic one. The "Quiller Color Wheel" (laid out by Stephen Quiller obviously) has a slightly different arrangement of colors. Without getting into too many details about it, one of the things I found fascinating was the arrangement of colors such that if yellow is at 12:00 on the wheel, a grey scale bar can be put beside the wheel going from white at the top (aligned horizontally with yellow) to black (aligned with purple) and represent the relative brightness of the colors in horizontal alignment with the grey scale.

This book really gave me a stronger eye for the hue of a color. More on that later, but a preview is that I had 2 color wheels on my desk. I had never noticed it before, but the hue of the colors on each of them varied a bit. I have since retired the color wheel that I consider to be less accurate. This "gift" so to speak, from this book, is probably the most valuable lesson I learned.

It also goes over in detail the traditional color schemes: monochromatic, complementary, harmonious, split complimentary, and triadic. Although I knew about all of these before, Quiller goes over them in a bit more detail and talks about strategies in employing them. I found this additional perspective to be fairly interesting.

What I liked:

First, this book gave me motivation to use my own paints (P3 mainly) to experiment with putting together my own reference color wheel. The color value chart on the side of the color wheel is another part I really liked. I'll be doing more posts on that later.

Second, this book got me to experiment more with color. I've got a few swatches of color mixing that I used to get a better handle on how colors mix together.

Third, Quiller does a good job of reinforcing the need to feel one's way through the project. He's a big proponent of connecting with his subject and channeling that feeling of connection to make the production really come alive. I found it to be a good balance between discipline and freedom that he portrays. Subtle and unclear perhaps, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

What I didn't care for:

Straight up, this book is geared towards "2D" artists, and many of the examples are primarily done in an impressionist style with watercolors. This makes it a much more challenging exercise to translate it into miniature painting. The impressionist part is probably less challenge. Watercolors on the other hand behave very differently from acrylics.

Second, the color printing quality was somewhat lacking. Different color wheels presented in the book in different places have different hues. Now whether this was intentional or not I have no idea, but as a student to the book, it was frustrating to say the least.

What I would have liked to have:

Honestly I think this was a good book. It required a bit of heavy mental lifting on my part to really absorb it, but this book inspired me to experiment with my own paints in a way that no other book or class or piece of advice has ever done before. If anything I would have just preferred to have a stronger feeling that the color printing quality was consistent throughout the book.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

RtC: McMore McBain

No pictures tonight cause it's late and I'm tired. But I spent a little more time on McBain. Last night I also took him over for my buddies to look at and give me feedback. I also took along the Gorten I got from DeadDogg, and my WarHog from last year's Kubla competition. The whole idea was to have points of comparison to work with and really put a super critical eye on McBain. The feedback was super helpful. Here's the highlights:
  • Turning the model upside-down revealed some small unpainted places which need cleaning up. There were also unshaded sections of the armor on the under sides.
  • The metal on the sword needs more work. I'm debating throwing just a splash of hue into it somehow.
  • Lots of stuff was good, like the face and the base.
  • As a point of comparison, they had a hard time deciding between Gorten and McBain. There were good points on both models. This comparison was actually super helpful. Things like the face on Gorten is awesome, but almost too dramatic of shading.
  • A visiting "uninitiated" person commented that she liked the WarHog better because it was larger and easier to see what was going on. However an interesting comment revealed that the WarHog also had places that weren't exactly intuitive what was going on. Admittedly, the WarHog had more experimentation going on, whereas McBain is focused on skills I've already practiced a lot.
  • Adding battle damage would ruin the story going on. It's McBain! He's a badass! His armor isn't damaged because he kicks everyone's asses before they get a chance to hurt him.
There was more, but those are some of the key highlights. Doing this sort of no-holds-barred critique is really helpful.

And on to the remaining to-do list:
  • More work on the sword *sigh*
  • More work on screws
  • Cleanup around edges of glow areas (grill/sword)
  • Left knee pad needs better highlighting/shading
Honestly, I'm getting close to the point where I need to just seal it and call it done. Or at the very least, set it aside and wait a couple weeks before touching it again. Preferably after working on something else for a bit.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Battle Report: eSeverius vs Strakov

Super quick battle report while I have a break to write it up.

Me: eSeverius, Reckoner, Blessing of Vengeance, Choir (4), TFG (10+UA), Covenant, Vassal, Nicea, Vessel of Judgement
Henry: Strakov, Black Ivan, Torch, Sylys, Black Dragons (6+UA), Koldun Lord, Drakhun, Mortar, eEiryss
Terrain: Random!
Scenario: Random! (Bunkers, no reinforcements)

The battle was pitched the whole way through. On one side of the table the Vessel, TFG, and Nicea faced off against the Black Dragons and Drakhun. In the middle, Torch and Ivan faced off against the Reckoner and Blessing. Although the scenario ended up being the deciding factor (due to a brave choir boy that gave his life to earn the first control point), it was a heavy battle of attrition.

* Severius buffing himself and charging into melee with Ivan to whack Eiryss
* Mortar with Sentry was lobbing many a deadly shot onto the TFG from the corner of a building
* Both casters were below 4 remaining boxes left by the end
* All 4 jacks were functional to the end
* The Covenant parking in a control zone to contest for a long time
* Strakov never got a good opportunity to use his feat

In the end, the assassination run on Severius just barely failed. On all average dice rolls it would have succeeded exactly on damage provided all the attacks hit, but it wasn't meant to be. At that point I was able to easily score a second control point and win the game.

Side notes:
I'm a huge fan of using the random battlefield generator and random SR2012 scenario generator together for casual games. Since I have an iPhone, they are both always available as well. Using both together makes for casual games that are always different. Random terrain is great because the choice to pick sides because valuable and it forces us to think more carefully about how to use the terrain. Random scenarios of course just bring more depth to the game than simple caster kill. All of this together I feel really makes the casual games dramatically more fun and further helps to keep the game fresh.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

RtC: McBain Steps Up to the Plate

So again it's time to document my Road to Competition, and for those of you that already saw the previous posts, you'll know that my first project is getting McBain from my tabletop standard to competition level. Note that for KublaCon with an open judging system, it's not so much "competition" against other people as it is just a judging. I really like this format as well because it encourages more people to enter. It also gives people bars to strive for by having two different levels of judging. I will again be entering the master level and hoping to at least capture a bronze. But, before I get ahead of myself, I need to focus on my entry...

Often times I pick a model and then try to paint it to a high level. But sometimes I discover that a model is a real joy to paint and just go with it. The Legion Shepherd was like that for me, and there have been others. When I started McBain, I didn't expect him to be. I saw him as my last unpainted merc, and an opportunity to close out another faction. But as I worked on him, I found myself spending more and more time on him. I was imagining a grand base for him. I was doing a subtle bit of OSL for the burning end of his cigar. I was very pleased with the results of painting his face. And that last point is what turned the corner for me. So now I find myself happily spending more and more hours tweaking and refining various parts. So each of my subsequent RtC posts on McBain will be about the additional tweaks I've made since last post to bring him to a higher quality level.

Skin - I did a bunch of work on the skin, particularly his arms. I did some more highlighting and shading, and then a couple of glazes of very thinned down GW Ogryn Flesh Wash. This glazing really helps to smooth the blending and especially create a bit more of a translucency to it. I chose the Ogryn Flesh shade because it has a hint of red and to bring out McBain's inner anger. I'm thinking at least 2 more glazes are in order.

Gun grip - I did some additional highlighting on the gun grip. Just some thinned P3 KRH to brighten it up a bit, but not too much to draw attention away. The goal is to keep the face as the brightest part of the entire model, but have other bright areas throughout the model to help draw the eye around a bit.

Lots of black-lining and shadow deepening - Particularly on the sword I did a lot of this, but also in armor creases. This really helped to bring the brighter sections out more without actually making them brighter. I'm always challenged in my own painting style to keep the brightest highlights from being over 75% of white. I fail routinely, and feel like this is one area where getting better at this would really bring me to the next level.

New To-Do List:
  • Bolt on gun grip - Just missed it before
  • Sword re-highlighting
  • Armor screws
  • More armor cleanups
  • Buckles
  • Grill on back (add blue glow?)
  • Smokestack highlights
  • Sword glow
Ok, that's it for tonight. Another update in a few days hopefully.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

From the Desk: Saturday Joys

I love Saturdays where I get to paint. It's such a stress relief after a week of work. Today was pretty good for painting as well. More about the specific progress below. Here though is something very much "from the desk".

When I paint, I sometimes end up using my hand as a quick palette. I honestly tried the wet palette a few times. I somewhat liked it, but one of the big drawbacks was the desk space it takes up and thus it just hasn't found its way back into my normal arsenal. So when I need a quick "wet palette", I improvise. I lick the side of my hand and use that. Not exactly a recommended practice, but it works. Why do I do this so much? Well, it's fast, convenient, and most importantly, it's now a habit. The behavior reinforcement that keeps this habit alive is days like today where I got a good amount of painting time in and can look at my hand as a sign of accomplishment. Sort of like a battle scar from a day well earned.

Switching gears... for any of you out there that haven't already tried Citadel's new Liquid Green Stuff product: I definitely recommend trying it out. It's pretty nice for minor gap filling. I've found that applying some with a hobby knife and then using a slightly moist (trashy) brush to smooth things out. I've only used it maybe three times now, but every time I've been happy with the results.

Last up is the progress on McBain. Here you can see him sort of hovering over his mostly-completed base. I haven't fully attached him to the base so that I can finish some last details on the lower half and tidy things up. The razor wire hasn't been glued on either, and will need some painting to properly tarnish its appearance. So far though, McBain has been really entertaining to paint. So much so that I've decided to try taking him from my normal tabletop standard to competition quality. He's going to end up being one of my KublaCon entries this year I think. To that end, I'll start doing RtC posts about the rest of the work on him. For now though, I'm just capturing a quick to-do list of work that needs to be done based on what I've already noticed. Sorry for the boring list that only makes sense to me, but I figured some folks might like to see what sort of things I tackle to go from tabletop to competition.

The McBain To-Do List:
  • Battle damage on armor
  • Left arm cleanup (underneath, join, blending)
  • Bolts
  • Gun (handle highlights, metal cleanup)
  • Sword (glow, smoother metals)
  • Fix cigar OSL
  • Static grass
  • Razor wire

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From the Desk: Random Post #556

More random desk updates! Here's a photo of McBain. He's mostly done except for some touch ups. I also got highly motivated to create a proper base for him (pictured below). For some reason this model turned into one of those projects that I just really felt like going the extra mile on. I'm sort of tempted to take a bunch of time and take him to the next level and use him as an entry for the KublaCon painting competition. Once I get him on a base, I might just do that. We'll see how it goes though.

This is the base I'm putting together for him. It'll eventually be sort of a little reinforced wall piece that he can stand on. Nothing particularly amazing, but enough extra oomph to be deserving of a man with a mustache and cigar.

Other random notes:

Meg Maples did a short write up about color theory on the PP insider recently. I love how color theory is becoming a much more common discussion in the painting community. It used to be more reserved for the serious paint-for-painting-sake folks, but now it's getting more attention.

Also, Ghoul posted on PP forums more about paint toxicity. There's good stuff in that post worth reading if you're still wondering more about the topic.

And I'm done for the night! Time to get a little more work done on this base and then get some sleep.

Monday, March 12, 2012

From the Desk: Color and Light Book Review

Book title: Color and Light
Author: James Gurney

James Gurney (creator of Dinotopia) writes what is arguably one of the best books on color theory. No really, if you don't believe me, check out the reviews and ratings on Amazon! Honestly I really enjoyed this book. It's strikes a great balance between explanation and example. It covers a huge range of topics. And best of all, it's very accessible to non-classically trained painters such as myself (I have a whole 4 college art classes under my belt). As I sit here with the book on my desk while writing this brief review, I'm struck by the fact that there are over a dozen post-its sticking out from pages that I marked for reference. Definitely worth the investment to add to my meager library of art books.

What I learned:
The green problem - Common in nature, but can end up dominating a scene, so some artists have banished it from the palette. I'd never thought about it because miniatures don't tend to have this problem, but paintings of forests can cause havoc for an artist due to the amount of green. Nature's "green" is deceptive in the number of other tonal shades in it.

Proper definitions - It was nice to learn proper definitions for the 3 key qualities of a color. Specifically (and here's my paraphrased versions):
  • Hue - The "color"
  • Value - Measure of brightness on a B/W scale. Also called luminance.
  • Chroma - Perceived strength of a color, as relative from neutrality. Sometimes called saturation. Think of the difference between Khador Red Highlight and Skorne Red as an example of reduced chroma.

Gamut Mapping - Another useful tool for selecting a specific palette of colors to work with. Create a triangle and only work within that triangle. Good for limiting the brightness of a palette and keeping harmony. "Pre-mixing" a palette for a miniature painter would be just picking out the paints and staying with just those. I'm definitely going to give this a try I think.

What I liked:
It's a very well organized book. Everything is accessible to the untrained provided they have at least worked with color a bit. The reference photos and paintings are very well chosen. And best of all, it covers probably 90% of what I had questions about.

What I didn't care for:
This book has a fair amount of focus on the traditional canvas painter. No doubt there's plenty of useful stuff for the miniature painter in here as well, and obviously miniature (or any "3D" painting) is not nearly as common. However much of the content about how light "works" is in relation to rendering in 2D which is not so helpful. Honestly this is a pretty small gripe against the book all things considered.

What I would have liked to have:
Some more discussion about texture would have been very helpful. There's a little, but obviously an exhaustive dive into rendering texture to a painting would be a pretty huge task.

And that's that! Hopefully you've found this review somewhat helpful. There's plenty of other reviews out there for this book, but I tried to bring more of a miniatures painter's view to it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gatorman Posse

My Gators are now more than just a prototype model! The first unit is completed. I have to say it's a little odd to finish a unit before a Warlock, but actually this is huge progress. As a group these guys look pretty cool. These 5 guys actually make up over half of my initial 15pt force so I'm well on my way now.

Crunching my way through these wasn't too rough actually except for carving out the time to actually paint. This last week has been pretty rough with work travel. I really wish there was an easy way to bring a painting kit on a plane, but I'm not going to risk doing that. So for now I'm stuck with whatever time I can squeak out at home. Now that I've got this squad done, I'm really itching to finish up Calaban and the Wrastler so I can put them on the table to try out.

So before I jot down random notes about paints I used for these, I just want to share my good/bad about these:
* As a group they look good, but individually they definitely appear speed painted.
* Using different colored ties on each staff worked out as a clear but subtle way to distinguish them.
* Creating a lot of contrast between elements (such as very dark shading around skulls) is not my normal style, but worked out pretty well.
* Adding just a touch of turquoise ink to the Liquitex was an improvement on the water effect.

Aaaannnnd that's it! I'll leave you with random semi-intelligible notes about paints used.

Skin: Same as Bull Snapper, but a couple extra random coats on individual models to differentiate them a little.
Back plates: MWH wash -> Moldy Ochre wash -> streak with thinned Umbral Umber -> streak with thinned Bloodstone -> Jack Bone wash (repeatedly)

Monday, March 05, 2012

From the Desk: Stuck

Once again I find myself posting about the lack of completion of projects. Oh there's plenty of progress, but nothing completed. I'm leaving tomorrow for another work trip which is going to further cut into any movement toward completion for a couple more days as well. But, in the mean time, here's a few updates. First is McBain, who is coming along nicely. I had originally intended to just speed paint him, but McBain demands more attention than that. So he's getting a fair amount of painting attention actually. The face turned out quite well which has me really energized to do a good job all over. I also need to get crackin on an appropriate base for him.

Next is my Gator Posse. These guys are getting close. I needed a way to distinguish them so I used different colors on each of their spears. Speaking of those colors, I decided to incorporate a "Mardi Gras" motif into them by using purple, yellow and green for any sort of decorative colors. The odd-gator-out in this case got red. I like these colors together with the albino theme so far and I hope it'll work out well in the longer term.

This somewhat unintelligible shot is of the blank bases for my Gators. I bought a bunch of blank round-lipped bases from Secret Weapon Miniatures, drilled holes in them, and stuck magnets in them. This way I can still magnetize them for easy transport, but don't have to do it after I've finished the model. I managed to add a magnet to the Bull Snapper after the fact by doing some very careful drilling and sticking a magnet in. I had originally not intended to, but it just really struck me as dangerous to try transporting around a bunch of loose angry gators.

And finally, a random shot. I find myself emptying a lot of paint pots lately. Some of these are being replaced by design because they are old. Others are actually getting emptied. And still a few others were an experiment. 2 of these were part of that experiment. I got some empty dropper bottles and transferred some P3 black and white paint into them, as well as making some neutral gray from a 50/50 mix of P3 black and white. Doing this was tedious, but has already turned out to be quite valuable. I think I might do a few more of these for specifically useful colors.

Well, time to finish packing and perhaps get a little painting in before I go.