Thursday, 3 September 2015

Babydoll Eyes and Hair [WIP on Portrait Practice #14, drawing blonde hair and eyes with heavy eyelashes]

Babydoll is the protagonist in Sucker Punch, a movie that I like very much despite it being almost universally panned by critics. While it may not have been the director's intention, the story theme that resonated with me most was the fact reality is to a certain extent determined by our own mind. Also Emily Browning played an unforgettably sad character that I have always wanted to portray in drawing. As an added bonus, this piece allowed me to try my hand at drawing light blonde hair.

Baby Doll Portrait Drawing, work-in-progress on blonde hair and eyes
An inclined table is helping me get better proportions when drawing

To source a suitable photo reference of Babydoll, I used the art book of Sucker Punch which had photos of scenes from the movie as well as some concept art. Babydoll's most iconic look is that of her in a sexified Japanese school girl costume. Hence I'm using that look for her portrait drawing.

Sucker Punch film art book
Reference photo of Baby Doll used in Portrait Practice #14

Proper makeup be it eyeliners or mascara coupled with a pair of heavy fake eyelashes (or eyelash extensions) is one way to make one's eyes look bigger. This is evident in Emily's makeup which transforms her into the Babydoll character. To draw heavy lashes and not make it look too fake, I also used other photos (not shown) to view how they interacted with her eyes from different angles e.g. three quarter view, side view, etc. It gave me a better idea how to blend the lashes into her eyelids.

Heavy eyelashes maketh the eyes ... at least in the case of Baby Doll
Emily Browning, before a pair of heavy fake eyelashes/eyelash extensions (left) and after (right)

Another new challenge in this latest Portrait Practice piece was drawing light blonde hair. It's much easier to draw dark as opposed to light hair. To achieve the texture of light blonde hair, I used a higher ratio of hard graphite pencils (2H, H, HB, 2B) as well as a combination of a do-it-yourself (DIY) template containing cutouts of hair-like strands and an electrical eraser to lift graphite out via the template. The latter process simulates strands of blonde hair as can be seen in the photo below.

Drawing the texture of blond hair using graphite pencils, a DIY template and erasers
Cutting out templates of hair strands on a blank transparency

Drawing always comes as a welcome relief in between painting projects. It helps me avoid burnout from painting. But drawing is something I love doing anyway so it's a fun hobby regardless. There are still a few things I need to tackle before Babydoll's portrait is complete. Chief among them is her trademark big pouting lips. Other items my to-do-list include shading of her skin, parts of her dress (the collars in particular) and the rest of her blonde hair. One mistake I constantly make is to increase the pace of my drawing as I near the end. Not anymore. This time I plan to finish at the same pace as I started. If it results in a better end product, progress will be made. That's good enough for me.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Princess Merida [Completed]

Princess Merida of clan DunBroch is one of my favourite animated movie characters. Her willingness to challenge societal norms and not accept a situation as what everybody else says it should be, is hugely refreshing. Though Brave can be trivialised as a movie about a teenager's rebellion against her parents, I believe there is a deeper meaning to the story if you choose to see it. Voices asking why not is often shushed by the status quo's believe one should not to question what one cannot understand while deceitfully side stepping the fact we cannot understand if we do not question. What draws me to Merida is her bravery to ask why not, something most people don't do often enough.

Princess Merida of clan DunBroch

Being a freebie from a local Tesco in-store promotion, Princess Merida's original paint job had flat colours which didn't realise the figurine's potential. Although the sculpture was not entirely true to the character as she is seen in the movie, I still felt there was enough in it to make a repaint worthwhile.

Before and After the repaint process for Princess Merida (front view)
Before and After the repaint process for Princess Merida (back view)

Although the dress sculpture actually calls for a teal dress with yellow trimmings, I adopted a light turquoise (bordering on light sky blue) hue with gold trimmings instead as seen on another dress she had worn in the movie. To me, the latter combination had more oomph, all things considered.

There are those who say ...
... fate is something beyond our command.
That destiny ...
... is not our own, ...
... but I know better.
Our fate lives within us,...
you only have to be ...
... brave enough to see it.

It seems like forever since I last created a base from scratch and painted it. But this time, I didn't let the little fact that I wasn't any good at bases deter me. I needed the green grass to bring out Merida's turquoise dress and fiery red hair. So I kept it simple: took a broken piece of cork, layered on some browns to mimic soil layers, and glued on some grass as well as stones. Not much but enough.   

A base for Merida - the green grass forms one of the three major colours of this piece
Freehand embroidery on Merida's dress fringes was retouched to smoothen out some rough spots
In hindsight, transition between the middle and lower soil layers is too stark ... meh, it'll have to do

Princess Merida has been an extremely fun project. Funny how the best things in life are free. I leave you with this wonderful quote by George Bernard Shaw whose play Pygmalion was adapted into My Fair Lady, a movie dear to my heart. His quote? My apologies for I digressed. Here it is: You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'


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Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ork Painboy [WIP - Bosspole, Medical Cylinder, Shoulder Armour, Back Strap and Scalpel]

Verdigris, rust and grime were the go-to effects for this particular painting session on the Ork Painboy. But most of all, this session gave me the chance to practice recreating a chipped paint effect. Use of a Kolinsky Sable brush was critical to the 'chipped paint process' which was applied to the bosspole and medical cylinder. Critical because it involves painting different layers into ever smaller areas while leaving some of the previous layers showing. A rewarding technique if it turns out right.   

Ork Painboy's Bosspole depicting the Bad Moons Clan colours
Chipped paint, verdigris, rust and grime ... because the ork's worth it

One obstacle I had to overcome was my perennial reluctance to dirty up an existing paint job. Many a times have I hesitated at the last minute and left a miniature looking incongruous; an undecided half clean half dirty look. An extremely silly habit that has taken a lot of effort to break. Even then, the grime (perhaps it's more of a dirty stain) that I applied using a wash was fairly muted. I remain torn between wanting the colours to show through and wanting to have a realistic dirtied-up look.  

Before being grimed (left) ... after being grimed (right)

Effects on the metal bits such as verdigris on the bronze spanner symbol as well as rust on the rhombus shaped 'teeth' and shoulder pads were done using Citadel technical paints. Note, however, the rough texture on the spanner which was a result of a very old pot of dried out metallic paint. I've had that pot since my first days in the miniature painting hobby many years ago. I guess the time has come to throw that away and get a new metallic basecoat paint for smoother results in the future.

Turquoise was the medical cylinder's colour of choice ... chipped paint and all
Medical cylinder is held tenuously to the ork's back by a small strip of cloth
Scalpel holds a brand new blade unlike the badly rusted metal of the shoulder armour

Choosing turquoise for the medical cylinder on the Ork Painboy's back was an easy choice mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, turquoise fits in seamlessly to the existing colour scheme. Secondly, turquoise seems to be a fairly popular colour for medical scrubs. Since the Painboy is technically a doctor, it made sense to use it for his medical cylinder. Every colour in a project has its raison d'être

Overall shot of the work-in-progress so far
There is one more main colour to be added to the overall colour scheme

With so many small details to paint my sanity can only be kept if I focused carefully on a few bits at a time. That might make for an overly long-drawn miniature project but I'm hoping it will be worth it in the end. At the very least it will help develop my patience during the painting process. Or I could just be kidding myself and looking for excuses to paint at a snail's pace. Either way, it'll still be fun!

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Ork Painboy [WIP - Skin, eyes and pants] & An Ode to the Gods of Chaos

Neglected and gathering dust, the Warhammer 40K miniatures in my collection remind me of the toys in Toy Story, only worse .... much worse. Some lie primed and abandoned, others half assembled without even a primer coat and yet more lie NIB (new in the box). Sick of the situation, I've decided I had better start doing something about it. So as a new beginning, the Ork Painboy is now back on the painting table while I'm gathering ideas on colour schemes to use for my ode to the gods of Chaos.   

Ork Painboy work-in-progress on its head: skin and eyes
Skin colour limited to Citadel Orkhide Shade, Knorloc Green, Gretchin Green ...
... and a wash of Citadel Athonian Camoshade to tie them all together

For the Ork Painboy, I will be painting it from the inside out. Essentially what this means is painting will start from the deeper niches of the miniature to the outer layers and from the central axis (torso and legs) towards the outer limbs (both arms and their respective implements). And to keep from being overwhelmed by the Painboy's many small details, they will be painted one section at a time.  

Colours inspired by a certain great noble house of Westeros
Bright orange PVC pants, the kind only an Ork can pull off

To prevent the Warhammer 40K projects from getting stale, a slightly different approach had to be taken especially towards colour schemes. Previously, I would assiduously research the White Dwarf magazines and respective army codices to get the colours exactly right. Well, no more. Priority would lie in creating (hopefully) pleasant colour combinations. Some leeway will be given to at least getting the clan or chapter emblems correct. But in the end it will be as it should be, all about the colours. Why else would the Ork Painboy suddenly sport a garish and supremely bright orange PVC pants.

An Ode to the Gods of Chaos   

Chaos Space Marines soon to be dedicated to (from left) Nurgle, Slaanesh,Tzeentch and Khorne
All the miniatures are from the Dark Vengeance starter set

If colours are the whole point then the Chaos Gods have a whole kaleidoscope of them. From the sickly greens of Nurgle to angry reds of Khorne and mysterious blues of Tzeentch as well as sadistic purples of Slaanesh. That's going to be difficult but fun. There is that. To make this possible, four Chaos Space Marines from the Dark Vengeance set will be used. Only time will tell if attempts to kick start my Warhammer 40K project will take hold. Four chaos marines and an ork will be the first step.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Red Dragon [Completed sans base]

Finally ... an iconic fantasy piece is now part of my personal collection. Painting a red dragon was a non-negotiable item in my must-paint-checklist. If I ever were to visit a hypothetical museum display of all things fantasy, you can be sure that uppermost in my mind would be where is that red dragon?  

A mythical selfie ... even dragons are jumping into the social media bandwagon

Initially, I was sorely tempted to paint a less cliched mythical beast, say perhaps a chameleon dragon with hues ranging from green to purple. Apprehension had clouded my thoughts as to how I could ever pull off a colour scheme that was overwhelmingly dominated by a single hue. So for inspiration I looked towards Larry Elmore, a fantasy artist whose works graced the covers of many a book in the genre (Dragonlance as well as Dungeons & Dragons to name a few) that I had read as a child.       

Red Dragon [Completed sans base]
Light ochre, beige, white, purple and pink were used to contrast the reds
Red, red and more red

Using Larry Elmore's dragon illustrations as the foundation to work from, I also referenced more contemporary takes such as the movie version of Smaug as well as mother nature's Scleropages legendrei (super red arowana) and Naja pallida (red spitting cobra). Placed into a melting pot of ideas, these references then gave rise to the colours I used to contrast the dominant red scheme. Some more noticeable than others, they consist of light ochre, pink, purple, beige, white and yellow. 

For a slime-like effect, a light coat of gloss varnish was applied to the tongue
Wings were painted with near yellow highlights to make them stand out from the rest of the dragon

There is a good reason why this piece doesn't have a base yet. And it's not the usual 'I suck at bases' excuse. The existing oval base will eventually be discarded for a larger and more elaborate base once I have thought of a suitable diorama. Moreover, the antagonist (or protagonist depending on your view) for the dragon remains undetermined. While the Kingdom Death Pinup Savior was an early favourite for the role, she is no longer suitable because her paint job is simply not up to par. It's likely another Kingdom Death girl will take her place, either one that has been or has yet to be painted.

One of the more dynamic viewing angles
Side view facing away from the dragon
Dragon sits atop a soon to be discarded bare-bones oval base

If there is one thing I might consider doing differently, it would be to paint the dragon's wing membranes to a hue as light as its underbelly. But in the end I loved the classic look better. 

Top view of the dragon in which light effectively catches the brighter highlights on both wings

One of the marks of a great artist is that he or she inspires others to mimic and improve upon their work. Larry Elmore does all that and more. This dragon is as much for myself as it is an ode to Mr. Elmore whose works sucked me into the world of fantasy. Don't judge a book by a cover they say. Meh! Dragons on the cover opened the door to a wonderful world of fantasy and I'm the better for it.


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