Thursday, 25 June 2015

A drawing table, early attempt at gesture drawings and the force finally awakens

Working under a tight budget necessitates hunting for deals in places where you wouldn't think to look. Initially, my search took me to obvious locations such as the local malls as well as various Home/Decor/Furniture exhibitions. Results were disheartening as most drafting/drawing tables ranged from a high price of RM1,500 to an even higher RM3,550 (about USD400 to USD950). Then, the missus chanced upon an old stationery shop located almost right smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle. With its heydays sadly long behind it, this shop stocked old-fashioned draughthing instruments that predated the digital revolution. And on the window display was an inclined table on sale for RM500 (roughly USD135). Just like that, my long search was over.  

A drawing table at last ... and a value budget buy to boot
Putting the table to use for the first time ... hopefully this will help me solve proportion issues when drawing portraits

One problem I persistently face is a skewed perspective which results from having to draw on a flat table. Using an inclined table should theoretically negate this issue. Having the paper positioned nearly perpendicular to my line of vision means I get to see and draw things as they are. But this also means I can no longer blame the table if any of my portrait drawings are wrongly proportioned. Oh well, I guess I could always point the finger at global warming. (That's tongue in cheek ... as a huge fan of Sir David Attenborough's work I despair at the ignorance abound on this topic.)

A selection of figure drawing books collected over the years

Early attempts at gesture drawing
In addition, I have started to self teach myself how to draw dynamic figures. Luckily, I have accumulated quite a stack of 'How-To' books on this topic over the years. Some of which include:
(a) Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis (e-book)
(b) Figure Drawing - Design and Invention by Michael Hampton (e-book)
(c) Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm
(d) The Complete Guide: How to Draw and Paint Anatomy by Imagine FX
(e) Incredible Comic Book Women by Tom Nguyen
(f) Drawing Beautiful Women - The Frank Cho Method by Frank Cho
(g) Drawing People - How to Portray the Clothed Figure by Barbara Bradley
(h) Drawing Manga - People and Poses by Ryo Hirata
(i) Colossal Collection of Action Poses by Buddy Scalera

For now, a lot of time is being spent on simple gesture drawings with inspiration drawn mainly from books (b) through (g). My approach is basically to learn the different techniques used to draw figures and assimilate them before breaking out from the existing rules to find my own style or voice.

Currently I find gesture drawing easier if I combine the Industrial Design Method with Michael Hampton's technique
Keeping in mind those S-curves which are essential for a dynamic figure
Trying to capture dynamic gestures of a figure in repose

And the force finally awakens
Meanwhile, after 12 years of trying (although I am guessing that flying toy Tie-fighters over a baby crib and going pew pew pew doesn't really count) I have finally gotten my son to watch the original Star Wars trilogy. And I think he finally gets it. Really gets it ... the Star Wars universe that is. Now he is itching to see the seventh installment of the movie franchise i.e. Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son

My son's exposure to Star Wars is helped by sarcastic force gestures (accompanied by the humming of a Star Wars theme synonymous with Luke Skywalker) from his mom and I whenever he asks us to get him objects that he could very well reach himself. Character building the Tatooine way. With a shared interest in console gaming, my son and I are also excited over the upcoming EA online multiplayer release on the PS4. Thankfully, we have five months to save up for this console game.

Upcoming release of Dice's Star Wars Battlefront has gotten my son and I excited

An onset of the flu has seen my hobby activities seriously curtailed these past week. I can't wait to shake this illness off and resume painting and drawing. Being prevented from doing what you love makes you appreciate it that little bit more. And I will be glad to start doing what I love once again.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Help! A Blogger bug

It's times like these that I am sorely tempted to ditch Blogger and move on to alternative blogging platforms. The latest bug to afflict my blogging experience is an inability to add new blogs to my blogroll. Usually, clicking on the 'Add to List' link provides me with the option to add new blogs to the list. However, now all that happens is part of the screen going blank. Needless to say, this sucks!

Clicking on the 'Add to List' button now results in ...
... a portion of the option screen going blank

So far I have tried the following without any success:
(a) Restart a new blog roll;
(b) Log in to the blog using different browsers, especially Chrome; and
(c) Ensure all browsers are updated.

If any of you have experienced and resolved this Blogger bug, I would appreciate it if your solution could be posted in the comments below. If all else fails, I can only hope this bug will resolve itself over time as have most bugs I encountered when using Blogger. Google bot/god are you listening?

[EDIT: This problem has been solved thanks to DWolve]

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Female Mage on Stairs [WIP - Dress]

Despite an initial reluctance to start work on Dark Sword's Female Mage on Stairs largely due to a less than adequate primer coat applied during my early days in the hobby, in the end I couldn't resist giving it a go anyway. Other than some lost details (such as buttons) on the upper portion of her dress and potential roughness showing up on her skin, I believe I can still make it work ... somehow.

Dark Sword Miniatures' Female Mage on Stairs, work-in-progress on her dress
Dress colour scheme is a mixture of pastel pink, peach and orange
A semi-botched primer coat means it'll be an uphill battle all the way when painting the mage

Early progress on the Female Mage on Stairs centred on achieving suitable contrast as well as smooth transitions on her dress's light pastel colour scheme. I would like to believe that my understanding of colours and acrylic paint techniques have improved up to a point where I could do both. But credit is also largely due to the well sculpted dress which made the overall process easier.

Beautifully sculpted clothing complements the ...
... equally well sculpted hair
Her hair will be painted to either contrast the orange sash or complement the pink dress 

Going forward, I am tempted to go off at a tangent with regards to her overall colour scheme. To give you a hint about what I mean, the mage's hair will be painted to either complement the pink dress (status quo) or to contrast the orange sash (the tangent I am referring to). Both are appealing choices and for the moment I am at a lost as to which path I should take ... perhaps the road less travelled.  

The many folds in her dress made achieving contrast on a light pastel colour scheme that much easier
Achieving a contrast and smooth transitions for the mage's dress was a key priority at this stage
Going forward, there is a likelihood her overall colour scheme could go off at a tangent 

Coming in only two separate parts, the Female Mage on Stairs was easy to assemble and looks deceptively easy to paint. It's anything but. Painting 28-mm figures from the Dark Sword Miniatures line never fails to be a challenge and it's proving no different for the mage. While the bad primer coat isn't helping, it's the very simplicity of the miniature that makes it difficult to paint well and create a 'wow' factor if you will. But since I always find myself improving, however slightly, when working at such a small scale, it's a challenge worth taking. That I get to paint her in Asian skin tones is icing in the cake as I haven't had much opportunity to do so in my miniature projects. Best I get to it then.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Wood Elf Goddess v.1 [Completed]

Finishing the fair-skinned version of Dark Sword Miniature's Wood Elf Goddess was a long time coming. This is an interesting piece because I started the project at a much lower skill level than when I finished, having taken nearly a year of stop start work to complete her paint job (painting parts of her in between months of not working on her at all). Over the course of her time on the paint table, I have reworked her hair three times, adjusted the purple hue on her arm and leg bindings four times, carefully lined and relined areas between her skin and dress, among others. And while there are things I can improve on, I decided it was right to finally call time on this project and move on.  

Dark Sword Miniature's Wood Elf Goddess completed, at least the fair-skinned version

One thing I am most proud of is the results on the Wood Elf's skin tone which I achieved using a Marike Reimer paint recipe. Following close behind would be her hair which I felt had sufficient contrast to denote volume. Another reason it took so long for me to complete the Wood Elf Goddess was because I had been putting off painting the her metal tiara and necklace (I know right? Metal on a Wood Elf? That's just wrong but heck, let's just say she is a trailblazer in fantasy fashion). Work on her jewellery only began after many hours spent on improving my technique of painting metal.

Colour scheme was inspired (but not restricted) by DC's Poison Ivy
Her eyes took me hours to do, but it's not truly complete due to lack of highlights
Oh dear, the macro shot has revealed a small spot on her left thigh that needs to be cleaned up

Colour scheme for the Wood Elf Goddess was inspired by DC Comic's Poison Ivy. However, I added two more colours to the mix namely purple and yellow to add more variety to the scheme. Initially, everything fell apart with the addition of purple to the colour scheme. After a lot of head scratching, I lightened the purple to a pastel shade and layered on a thin wash of brownish green. That allowed the purple to blend in better with the yellow, orange and greens for an earthy yet divine-like quality.

S-curves on the Wood Elf Goddess make her pose a dynamic one
Back view of the Dark Sword Miniatures Wood Elf Goddess (Avatar Form)
With all that glorious hair, she looks like a eco-diva

If there is one unsatisfactory thing I would pick on is that her eyes lack highlights as well as colour. To accomplish both I would need to work under a magnifying lamp and have steady hand control. My main struggle is with the former which I am still trying to get to grips with. As for the latter, I have learned to cope with my coffee-infused unsteadiness so it's not an issue here. In short, I can't paint highlights and colours on the eyes of a tiny 28-mm scale miniature, at least not consistently.  

Even from the side, the Wood Elf Goddess looks dynamic
Wood Elf Goddess is currently my favourite Dark Sword figure
A small scale Wood Elf Goddess equals a really tough (but rewarding) painting challenge


360 view of the Dark Sword Miniatures Wood Elf Goddess
To view the fair-skinned Wood Elf Goddess in 360 degrees, please click on the YouTube video below. For videos of other selected miniatures I have painted, please visit my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures. Please choose high definition (HD) for the best video viewing option.



If you were not following my blog earlier, you might be wondering why is this Wood Elf Goddess tagged as Version 1 (v.1). Well, it stands to reason then there is a Version 2 (v.2) which I plan to work on. In fact, I have completed her skin tone (dark as opposed to fair-skinned) at roughly the same time as this version. But that's all I have done so far and work on the second version has yet to continue. For now, I plan to work on other projects first as well as spend more time drawing. Both should keep me well occupied until inspiration provides me with the colour scheme to go with a dark skin tone. 


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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Replenishing my project pipeline [2Q 2015]

It kinda crept up on me that the number of miniatures left to paint had been slowly dwindling since the fourth quarter [4Q] of last year. This has been due to a fairly busy period in terms of hours spent on the hobby, especially in the previous two quarters 4Q 2014 and 1Q 2015. For someone who paints miniatures one at a time as well as rotates among his projects while in mid-progress, this is about as busy as it gets. To add to my project pipeline, I assembled three more miniatures - one small, two big.

Two women and an evil bloke, new additions to my project pipeline

Beautiful doesn't even begin the describe the latest Nocturna Models 70-mm (1:28 scale) resin miniature. My self studies on figure drawing made me appreciate even more just how well this resin figurine was conceived and sculpted. It easily makes my Top Five all-time favourite miniatures, at least for the time being. She is prevented from topping the list because I don't really fancy the weapons that she is carrying on both hands. But both does naturally fit the dynamics of her pose. 

Nocturna Models Battle Chick, assembled and unprimed
It's great to see a female figure that doesn't have over-sized boobs for once
To my eyes, the Battle Chick has predominantly Asian features and will be painted as such

Assembling Loki from Knight Models (another figure at 1:28 scale) was more of a challenge that I had first anticipated. Due to some miscalculations on my part, Loki's left foot ended up dangling in mid-air after he was glued to his throne. This necessitated the use of Green Stuff which I sculpted to resemble his rocky throne so that his foot had something to rest on. So boys and girls, the lesson that needs to be re-learned here is the importance of dry fitting. Never underestimate it like I did in this case. I also used the extra putty left over to plug (or rather sculpted to resemble clothing) some gaps between Loki's arm joints. Most gluing contact points comprised the Super Glue-Pure Baking Soda combo to ensure strong bonds, especially on the plastic sprue behind Loki that was added to stabilise the miniature's centre of gravity. More on Loki's assembly issues were posted on my other blog.

Knight Models Loki, assembled and unprimed
Back view of Loki, with extra support from a piece of plastic sprue

Finally I dug up another Dark Sword miniature I had in storage - this one already primed, badly I might add as I was still new to the hobby - that is the Female Mage on Stairs sculpted by Patrick Keith. Together with the Battle Chick, the Female Mage will allow me to hone my skills on painting Asian skin tones as well as to try painting eyes to resemble slightly slanted almond-like shapes. Most if not all miniatures are sculpted with Caucasian features but both the Battle Chick and Female Mage have Asian-like features which I believe can, with some careful painting, made to look oriental. 

Dark Sword's Female Mage on Stairs, assembled and primed
Many folds of clothing would provided some practice on blending and layering
Female mage's features also has that Asian look

As much as I hate assembling miniatures, I never fail to get excited at the anticipation of putting colours on the freshly prepped figures. I guess it makes up for the hemming and hawing I go through before the first pieces are even glued together and the whole piece is eventually primed. Speaking of which, both Loki and the Battle Chick have yet to be primed. For once, this isn't due to my procrastination but rather constant rain which has ramped up humidity to very high levels. Priming will have to wait for more sunny days ... better safe than sorry, although the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer has worked before under humid conditions. After all, patience is always key in this hobby.

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Sunday, 31 May 2015

My first Big Bad Box Sale

If you are either a bibliophile or bookworm (or even both) in Malaysia, you would definitely have heard of the annual Big Bad Wolf Book Sale and may have been to one of these events yourself. Since its inception in 2009, I have always wanted attend this self proclaimed World's Biggest Book Sale but something always came up at the last minute to scupper any well laid plans. This year, I still harbour hopes of making it to the year end sale but until then I made do with another smaller scale Big Bad Wolf event i.e. The Big Bad Box Sale 2015 which is being held at MINES 2 in Selangor.  

Big Bad Box Sale 2015
My loot from this year's event at MINES 2, Seri Kembangan, Selangor

For those of you who might be unaware of the Big Bad Box Sale, the event is premised on getting a box and filling it up with as many books as you can. Rather than bore you with details, the intimate mechanics can be seen in the graphics below which I adapted from their Facebook and web site.


Having gotten there early to avoid the crowd, my family and I proceeded to browse the selection of books available for this year's sale. Initially, we were most unimpressed with the stuff on display but after some careful browsing we started to spot some gems among the mass of books. So in the end, we decided to get a RM99.90 (roughly USD27 at the moment) box which is nearly 300 cubic metres in size. As this was our first time at the Big Bad Box Sale, we perhaps didn't manage to fit as many books in the box as we could. Nonetheless, we did get enough to make the whole trip worthwhile.

My book loot 1.0 ... the soft covers
My book loot 2.0 ... the hard covers

Some books were worse for wear while a quite a few were dated but overall we were reasonably happy with our loot from The Big Bad Box Sale 2015. Personally, I was pleased to get my hands on the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2013 (an older version but still a great value find), Terry Pratchett's Nation, historical nonfiction books on Boadicea, Joan of Arc and Catherine the Great as well as a Neil Gaiman's Fortunately, the Milk, among others. Getting a total of 30 books for the price of a new hardcover book is definitely a life saver during times when the family budget seems ever smaller.  

My son's stash ... with a Neil Gaiman book slipped in by me

Books from my favourite genre which is Science Fiction/Fantasy was pitifully few and far between, . Hopefully, the year end Big Bad Wolf Book Sale will have better books all round. Something to look forward to when trying stretch the ever depreciating ringgit as far as we possibly can. So much reading to fit in among the many hobby projects and so little time. I had better get started then.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Portrait Practice #12 on Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia

Drawn to the accompaniment of John Williams' superb film score - my favourites being Binary Sunset and Princess Leia's Theme from A New Hope, and The Imperial March from Empire Strikes Back (songs of the son, daughter and father) - this latest portrait practice piece took roughly five days of intermittent work to complete. Similar to miniature painting, the more time you spent slowly building up layers the better your end result will be. So in this regard I'm still a ways off from putting in the requisite hours in order to get smooth graphite blends (or tonal gradations) on paper.

Portrait Practice #12 on Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa

For my 12th attempt at drawing a portrait with graphite pencils, I was most pleased with how the mouth and hair turned out. In addition, I managed to get closer to the correct facial proportions of my subject matter than I've ever managed before in past drawings. These positives I gladly take as any improvement, however small, that I achieve serves as a huge inspiration to continue drawing.  

Portrait drawing of Princess Leia using graphite pencils
Reference photo used for my 12th attempt at portrait drawing

Nonetheless, I had some misgivings about how her eyebrows and skin tone turned out. The former's shape was slightly off and also could have been a bit thicker while the latter turned out somewhat blotchy. Contrary to her hair in which I carefully build up volume by slowly and patiently applying increasingly darker tapered strokes, I had instead sped up work on her skin tone by blending with tissue before a sufficiently gradual gradient in tonal values was put down. Inconsistencies in time spent on different areas of the portrait remains a weakness which is easier to diagnose than cure.   

Side by side comparison between Princess Leia's reference photo and drawing

If an appropriate photo reference can be sourced, next up will be a portrait of a South Korean actress that was born in the same year as me. It will nice to draw someone my age for a change although she looks better in her 40s than I did in my 20s. Meanwhile, the number of ready-to-paint miniatures in my project pipeline is rapidly dwindling; more so with the recent completion of The Hulk (Knight Models), Zombie Hunter (Ax Faction) and Hexcast Sorceress (Super Dungeon Explore). That means a lot of miniature prep work is in store for me. Hopefully I can still get some drawing done on the side.

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