Monday, 21 April 2014

Kingdom Death White Speaker [WIP - Skin tones, so far]

For some time now I have been pretty unhappy with the skin tones of miniatures I have painted. I am aware that, on occasion, they lack contrast that make skin pop. To get over this mental block that seems to be hindering my progress as a miniature painter, I decided to paint up a miniature with the main objective of achieving deeper shadows and brighter highlights for the skin tone. 

Kingdom Death White Speaker [WIP - skin tones]

To try and make further progress on the painting realistic skin tones, I had a look at some miniatures in my collection to find one that showed a lot of skin. What I found was a 35-mm scale Kingdom Death resin miniature namely the White Speaker, which I thought would be suitable for my purpose. I had primed this miniature way back when I was still fairly new to the hobby and kinda botched up the prepping stage in my impatience thus resulting in rough looking skin on her arms.  

She was a perfect specimen for more painting time on skin tones, for obvious reasons

For a white Caucasian skin tone, I used mainly Reaper Master Series Paints (MSP) and it was based on a paint recipe formulated by one of my favourite miniature painters i.e. Jennifer Haley (the other favourite being Marike Reimer). I find that my style of painting is rather similar to both painters. But of course, on a scale of 1 to 10 with the latter being the best, both are a perfect 10 while I am at 1, that is I feel about nine whole levels away from these two wonderful painters on a scale of 10.   

Kingdom Death White Speaker - [WIP skin tones, side view from left]

At this stage, I don't necessarily feel that I have completed the skin tones of the Kingdom Death White Speaker. I am still contemplating a further increase in the contrast of her skin tone. Other possible touch ups might include trying to clear up an unfortunate wash ring and perhaps smoothening out the transitions between shadows and mid-tones in certain parts of the skin. As for chalkiness in the highlights, I am afraid that is most likely beyond my skills at the moment.

With armour like that, no male warrior stood a chance against the White Speaker

Light skin tones continues to be a challenge to me as chalkiness is still apparent at very up close - especially the highlights. Lighter colours are often more susceptible to chalky results than darker colours. Based on what I understand, the light skin tones can become chalkier for a number of reasons such as being thinned too much or having paint dry slightly on the brush before application. But on the bright side, the level of chalkiness I get is reducing although I have yet to hit the sweet spot of a perfect smooth porcelain-like skin tone without the benefit of a wash. 

"Is my butt too big?" ... a question many warriors dare not reply

Missing from the photos are the White Speaker's spear and her cloak. Personally, I don't really think the cloak goes well with the miniature. However, I will paint it up later and stick it to the miniature using blue tack to see how it looks before making the final decision on whether to keep the cloak.

Her hair is also nicely sculpted ... question is, will she be a blonde or red head?

Other than painting the Kingdom Death White Speaker's skin tone, I also blocked in the leather (or is it cloth) straps that serve as armour with a Reaper MSP Brown Liner diluted with water. Officially her armour ... and I used that term lightly ... is white in colour though I am toying with the idea of using light blue. Specifically, sky blue would look good if I make her a blonde.

Kingdom Death White Speaker - [WIP skin tones, side view from right]
A very dynamic pose ... and in high heels too

This Kingdom Death miniature saw me taking a short break from a much bigger miniature I am also currently working on, namely Nocturna Models's Le Petit Chaperon. To give you an idea how small the White Speaker is, I took a shot of her next to a paper clip and a Malaysian five sen (cent) coin.

In the grand scheme of things, she does look rather petite

To get myself out of a rut (I have not been improving as well as I hoped), I needed to remind myself of the level to which I aspire to - for example the miniatures that placed first and second in the Best of Show Crystal Brush 2014. To paraphrase a recent battle cry by the captain of a football team I have supported since before my teens - the completion of every miniature I paint is followed by an attitude that it's done and finished. Then it's time to move on to the next miniature and start again. There is a lot of improving I need to do but the fun lies in the journey which I hope will be a long one.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dry taps, moist eyes

Far from being a Hollywood cliche of a Chinese saying, the title of this blog post just about sums up the situation I find myself in with regards to my miniature painting projects and drawing practice sessions (in preparation for future sculpting concept sketches). One good, the other not so good.

Dry taps equals slower progress on miniature painting projects

Dry taps
Despite the onset of the rainy season, the preceding spell of dry weather had lowered water supply levels in dams of water treatment plants to critical levels. This meant water rationing was enforced in the city and dry taps for up to 20 days per month, with supply switched on only one every three days. I tend to use more water than the average painter because I like to keep my water pot clean when painting. All I can do is to store some water that will hopefully get me though the 'dry days'. 

Some 5-litre bottles filled with water to enable painting during dry days

Moist eyes
Meanwhile, I went back to basics for my drawing practise sessions as I had mixed feelings about my previous drawing. Just when I felt I had made progress on the rendering of hair and mouth (to capture a smile) in my drawing, I kinda regressed on the drawing of eyes. In my Portrait Practice #09, the eyes looked flat and spoiled the hard work I had put in on the hair and smile. To try and improve, I practised drawing the eyes of two actresses - one from the past with dark coloured irises and one from the present with more lightly coloured irises. Can you guess who they are? Hints are in the quotes they made in performances that won them their first Oscar Best Actress Awards.

Drawing practise - Dark coloured irises
"What the world needs is a return to sweetness and decency ..."

For this drawing practise session, I made a conscious effort to paint realistic looking eye pupils and irises as well as tried to do a better job of shading areas around the eye lens so that the eyes don't look too flat in a portrait drawing. I also tried to draw more realistic looking eyebrows and eyelashes.

Drawing practise - Light coloured irises
"You might not have experienced the shit I did, but you loved hearing about it didn't you?"

At the moment, I can't seem to get everything right in one single drawing. For my first drawing (eyes from an iconic class act from the past), I managed to get the proportions and shading around the eyes relatively spot on but (there is always a but) I felt the pupils and irises just did not have enough life in them, for want of a better description. In my eye rendering of a more contemporary movie star, I think I nailed the moist and 'live' look of the eyes' pupils and irises but (again with the buts) I got the proportions all wrong. To see who the eyes belong to, please scroll down to the bottom of this post.

So have you guessed who the actresses are? Well, the first is one of my favourite actresses of all time, Audrey Hepburn while the second is the actress that will likely be the subject of my first sculpting project, Jennifer Lawrence. Thanks for reading my latest blog post and here's to wetter days ahead.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Knight Models Logan aka Wolverine [Completed]

First glimpsed in Marvel's 1974 comic The Incredible Hulk #180 and then premiering in a full appearance an issue later (#181), James Howlett aka Logan aka Wolverine has since become a firm favourite for many comic book fans, yours truly included. You just gotta love his leave me the hell alone and go [bleep] yourself attitude. I was pleased to finally get the chance to paint him for my Marvel Universe miniature project. Not sure if I did it justice but I certainly had a lot of fun trying.  

Knight Models Logan aka Wolverine
Those adamantium claws are looking pretty sharp

There was actually a few firsts or sorts for me in the painting of this miniature, chiefly among those are the denim texture, cotton singlet texture, skin tones incorporating veins (more of this later in the post) and also forearm hair. Yup, you read that right ... forearm hair. With more experience under my belt, I felt more confident tackling this hair-raising challenge (groan). For this attempt, I mixed hair colour with the skin tone colour and painted very light strokes on the forearm. It helps to think of forearm hair more in terms of texture rather than individual strands. I also applied skin tone glazes in patches to mute the forearm hair colours - in places where my strokes were a tad too heavy-handed.   
Hugh Jackman's ... errr Logan's forearm hair might be sexy to girls but it was a pain to get right
Knight Models Logan aka Wolverine (back view)

As part of my goal to improve my painting, I diverged from my usual skin tone recipes and added some greens and blues to the mix in order to simulate the existence of green and blue veins under our skin. However, the green and blue hues I added aren't very noticable in the photos partly due to the lighting. Additionally, I tried to apply the shadows, mid-tones and highlights in such a way that hint at a very buff physique ala Hugh Jackman, the actor that plays Wolverine in the movies.

Skin tones with the addition of green and blue hues

Due to the way Logan's forehead was sculpted and the downward angle of his head, the left eye was covered partly in shadows in most of the photos. To get a better view of Logan's eyes, I took a photo from a slightly different angle (see below). I was feeling a bit 'out of it' when painting Logan's eyes, so they are definitely not one of my better works. Might still revisit them to paint the pupils smaller but for now I am too lazy to make any changes. Moreover they actually look way more decent up close in real life as opposed to the magnified photo of a DSLR macro lens shot. Just saying, that's all. 

A different angle of Logan's face, which has a better view of the eyes

Logan's hair was painted black although on occasion I thought they looked more brownish than black in the movies while the claws were given just a black wash and highlighted to simulate sharp blades. Adamantium - in the movies - to me has a very simple clean look to them and as such I felt that it needed only a black wash and did not require additional washes such as blue or purple.

Denim jeans goes best with a white top
Biceps, triceps ... all buffed up like Hugh Jackman

All in all I am pretty contended with the results. If push comes to shove, I guess I could do further work on the white singlet, the borders between the skin and singlet, the eyes and yet more contrast to the skin. But being a minimalist (call me Mr. IKEA why don't you) I always try not to overpaint.

Belt buckle isn't entirely accurate as the original is supposed to be yellowish-orange like gold
Knight Models Logan (Front view)

360 view of Knight Model's Logan aka Wolverine
For a 360 degree view of the Knight Model Logan 1/28th scale miniature, please check out the video below. For other videos, do check out my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures. Be sure to choose the high definition (HD) option when viewing the YouTube videos for maximum quality.

Thanks for following my progress on Logan, the second piece in my Marvel Universe miniature painting project. Have yourself a good weekend, and may your brushes always be pointy.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Capturing a smile for Portrait Pratice #09 and some clay sculpting tools at last

Capturing a smile was first and foremost in my mind when attempting my latest portrait pencil drawing. The next two objectives was improving my skin tone shading as well as getting hair to look darker and messier. Sticking to the theme of drawing what could be my potential sculpting subjects, I again drew (pun unintended) inspiration from The Hunger Games 'Girl on Fire' scene. Specifically, I used a photo reference of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) responding to a comment made by the Hunger Games talk show host, Caesar Flickerman as played by actor Stanely Tucci. 

Portrait Practice #09 - Capturing a smile (Sculpting concept sketches - Girl on Fire series)
Reference photo used in my latest portrait drawing practice -  a scene from The Hunger Games

While I have been trying out charocal pencils and willow charcoal sticks in my practice sessions invloving just the drawing of hair, I do not yet feel comfortable enough in their usage to apply them in my latest portrait practice session. As such, this latest portrait drawing was completed using graphite pencils only. In order to get the hair to look darker, I incorporated the use of a Staedler 8B pencil which had very good matte black qualities. To try and simulate realistic hair, I also drew random wisps of hair and paid close attention to how the flocks of hair interacted with one another.

Not entirely an accurate likeness as I compensated for heavy shadows on the face

Once when referring to a Games Workshop 'Eavy Metal miniature painting guide in an old White Dwarf magazine, I came across advice which made mention of how a slightest change in highlights can determine a miniature's facial expression. To be honest, I never truly grasp the relevance of this advice until I started drawing portraits using just tonal values. That in essence is what makes getting a likeness in portrait drawings so difficult for me. Getting a shading slightly off for a facial feature and the portrait ends up looking like the sister of the subject matter or turn what was suppose to be a radiant smile into an uncomfortable grimace - in other words, close but no cigar! 

Original photo of drawing, shown here against a high contrast adjustment made using MS Picture Manager

Without access to a scanner for this drawing, I had to settle for the next best thing which was taking a photo of my drawing using a DSLR camera. Due to the A3 size of my drawing pad, placing the drawing in my usual photography set up is sadly not possible. So without the help of lighting from my IKEA lamps, I relied solely on daylight as my light source to mixed results. On most occasions, the photos I take of my drawings usually end up looking too dark thus negating the contrast in tonal values I had shaded. I made corrective adjustments using the Microsoft Picture Manager program.  

Looking back at my first portrait drawing versus the level I am at currently

As the saying goes, the proof is in the eating of the pudding, so I referenced my latest portrait drawing against the first one I did late last year to see if I had improved at all. I guess it's safe to say that I am making some progress although there is definitely still a lot I can do better. 

Finally, some clay sculpting tools

Pro Art 14-piece clay tool set with case
Inside the set is a mixture of metal and wooden tools

On the sculpting front, I got a very good deal for a clay tool set from Amazon. Although there are still materials I need for a proper figure sculpting project such as armature wire, I do have the basic stuff which would allow me to try sculpting a head or face. That is a good place as any to start my journey into sculpting as I would love to sculpt a bust in the future anyway. But I am getting ahead of myself ... first I need to find out what each tool is used for. Either that or just wing it and see what I come up with. Who said playing with plasticine in kindergarten decades ago wouldn't amount to anything. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Knight Models Logan [WIP - Base and Clothing]

What was supposed to be easy progress on Knight Models Logan miniature instead served up one of the hardest challenges I have faced as a miniature painter. I had inexplicably - against my usual practice - painted the white singlet without using a photo reference. After patting myself on the back for a job well done in getting smooth whites for the singlet, I then stared in open-mouthed horror as I realised the white singlet actually has a lined-texture to it. An uber facepalm moment for sure.

Knight Models Logan - WIP base and clothing
Wolverine's white singlet which was used as reference for painting

Starting from zero again, I was then perplexed by how to get a white singlet to show texture. In the end, I settled for a hint of the texture. To achieve that, I painted fine lines of light grey on the white singlet and then layered on a very thin wash of white to mute the overall effect. Admittedly, the end-result isn't as good as it should be but at least it wasn't a total failure. In fact, I had actually painted in a random mixture of blue, purple and black washes for the singlet's shadows but it all came to naught as my efforts in painting the texture caused the shadows to look largely greyish in the end.

Base completed with drybrushing and also some grass glued on
Shadows on the white singlet were kept subtle
Back view of Knight Models Logan (WIP Base & Clothing)

Both Logan's belt and shoes were painted to simulate leather - light brown leather for the former and dark brown leather for the latter. Meanwhile, work on the base was also very stratightforward and invloved some simple drybrushing followed by the gluing of some patches of grass.

Much work lies ahead - Logan's skin, face, hair and claws
Belt was painted to depict light brown leather with shoes as dark brown leather

At this stage, there have been no 'special effects' such as blood or dirt painted on the clothing. But I am still undecided as to whether to even paint such effects as I kinda like how a pristine Logan looks ala The Wolverine movie posters. Next up will be the most difficult phase of the Knight Models Logan miniature, the painting of his skin, face and hair. So please stay tuned for that. Peace out.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Messing about with hair and some clay for sculpting

A pause in my portrait drawing practice sessions was in order as I decided to go back to basics and try to rectify some things I wasn't too happy about. Chief among my shortcomings was the inability to draw hair well so that was what I focussed on, for starters. Having gotten some valuable advice from Michael Awdry (of the 28mm Victorian Warfare fame) on using willow charcoal as a foundation of sorts, I was intrigued by the few charcoal pencils I had and how it could be used to draw hair. Until I can get my hands on some willow charcoal sticks, I decided to try out my charcoal pencils instead. 

Hair drawing practice using both charcoal and graphite pencils

Less attention was paid to proportions while I concentrated on getting the texture of hair right (see pictures above and below). As I was experimenting without really knowing what I was doing - reason being I didn't find any good online material on drawing hair using a combination of graphite and charcoal pencils - the results were ambiguous at best. I am pretty sure I wasn't using the pencil combo correctly. Hopefully, I can get hold of some willow charcoal sticks soon and try out the method suggested by Michael, who was right in pointing out that charcoal pencils tend to scratch the paper.  

Pencil drawing (hair not messy enough) versus reference photo used for this practice session

I am very glad I decided to learn how to draw concept sketches for my future sculpting projects as it is helping me understand how the human figure is portrayed accurately through art, which can only help when I start sculpting. Speaking of which, my baby steps in the sculpting process continues with the purchase of some polymer clay namely SuperSculpey and SuperSculpey Living Doll. In addition, I bought some cheap house-brand aluminium foil to be used in the sculpting process later.

Some SuperSculpey clay as well as aluminium foil for the sculpting process

I don't have any proper clay sculpting tools on hand yet but I am hoping to sort that out before the end of next month. In the meantime, my drawing and painting will keep me plenty occupied. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Knight Models Logan [WIP - Denim jeans]

Depending on how you approach the Knight Models Logan 1/28th scale model kit - either as a beginner painter or one with some experience under his or her belt - this fantastically detailed metal miniature puts up its own unique challenges. If you are new to miniature painting, then the limited colour pallette required - blue, white, flesh tones, silver metallic, and black - should make things less complicated as a first project. But if you are an experienced miniature painter, then this is actually a very difficult figure to paint well due to its simplicity. Confused? Please read on to see what I mean.

Knight Models Logan, work-in-progress on his denim jeans

If you were using Logan as one of your first projects as miniature painter, then a simple basecoat of blue for the jeans, white for the singlet, flesh colours for the hands and face, black for the hair, shoes and perhaps the base, metallic silver for the blades and military tag and then tying it all up with some washes should give you a fairly decent result. However, if like me you have had some projects under your belt and are seeking to improve your skills, then it becomes a whole different ball game.   

Trial and error gave me the overall denim colour that I wanted

By the very nature of its simplicity, the Knight Models Logan metal miniature can only stand out if the painting process takes into consideration the various textures - be it denim jeans, leather shoes, cotton singlet, flesh with prominent veins, etc - is accurately depicted. The simple colour scheme will inevitably force one's eye to pay that little bit more attention to these textures and how well they are painted. So for the miniature to really 'pop', the jeans, singlet and skin tones in particular have to look ultra realistic - something easier said than done as it always hardest to paint the simple things well. 

Best angle in which to view the painted texture on the denim jeans

Interestingly enough, my preoccupation with texture for this miniature stems partly from my experiences when drawing concept sketches for my sculpting projects. When drawing, I am particularly vexed time and again on how to depict a texture by use of just pencils and tonal values. It has made me approach miniature painting in a whole new way. When I look at surfaces to paint, I now no longer look purely at colours but also textures in order to achieve the next level of realism. 

Shadows and highlights were subtly painted to prevent them overpowering the denim texture
Back view of Logan's denim jeans
Creases on the jeans were a bit of a challenge to paint

First up for the Knight Models Logan miniature was to paint Logan's jeans so that it accurately portrays the texture of denim. Online materials for denim texture are abundant making it easy for me to compile my favourites into a composite photo (see below) to serve as a reference point when painting the jeans. In a nutshell, I tried using some cross-hatching paint strokes to mimic the texture.

Case study of various denim textures I sought to replicate

Before painting began proper for this minaiture, I was fortunate enough to achieve a smooth primer coat this time around. If you have been following my progress as a miniature painter, you would know that on occasion I have encountered fairly rough primer coats. I am not sure if the extremely hot and dry weather that the city has been experiencing has had a hand in this because I assume such heat would remove some humidity from the atmosphere and improve the priming process.

Finally a good primer coat

Anyway, thanks for following my progress on the latest miniature in my Marvel Universe project. I hope to get more work done on Logan over the coming weeks, along with other projects on my work table which includes among others Red Riding Hood, a knight from a noble house in Westeros, possibly some W40K stuff as well as more concept sketches for my sculpting project.
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