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.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Super Dungeon Explore Fig.5: Hexcast Sorceress

Adding warmer colours to the Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorceress's original cooler colour scheme was a bit of a gamble on my part albeit one in which success was alluded to by my trusty old colour wheel. Initially, it seemed counter intuitive (to me at least) that adding such warm colours to a predominant mix of cool colours would turn out well. But then again, this is something I have experienced before, for example the much used (and loved) orange-blue combo which can be seen on a couple of my miniature painting projects like the Giant Hunter, Victorian Darling and Merida.

Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorceress [Completed]
Adding warm colours to the mix thankfully didn't backfire; in fact I quite like the results
Cool colours of the minaiture comprised her violet hair, turquoise hair beads and purple dress 

No object source lighting (OSL) effects were painted on the Hexcast Sorceress as the magic orb held within the talons of her 'chicken feet' staff was not glowing. I made this creative decision because painting OSL effects on the sorceress would have made her colours looked 'washed out' seeing that the glow emanating from a turquoise globe would have cast a whitish light over the entire miniature. 

Subtle highlights and shadows enabled the shoulder blades to be visible despite a fair skin tone
Back view of the Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorceress
Volume on violet hair was hinted at with fine feathery strokes of shadows and highlights

Having previously completed the Royal Paladin, Ember Mage, Riftling Mage and Deeproot Druid, the number of Super Dungeon Explore hero characters I have painted now stands at five.  That means I have four more hero characters to work on including an alternate form of the Deeproot Druid. Who's up next will depend largely on what colour scheme I'm in the mood to paint.

Side view (right) of the Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorceress
Her 'chicken leg' staff holds a turquoise globe which isn't glowing hence no OSL effects

So far I'm keeping pace with my new hobby schedule that requires me to paint and draw consistently. With free time fairly limited, this means less time with the idiot box. But that's ok as I'm having fun drawing again in addition to my usual miniature painting projects. If all goes well, I should be able to finish my portrait drawing of Leia Organa soon as well as get some basic figure drawing practice in. Over the coming days, I will also have to prep a few new miniatures to ensure that my painting project pipeline doesn't dry up. It's certainly shaping up to be a busy period hobby wise. Good times!

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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Feeling like a kid again in more ways than one

Recently, two simple occurrences made me feel like a kid again. Firstly, was the ending of the latest Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens teaser trailer. I don't care what the fan boys (and girls) say but episodes I through III sucked big time. Seeing Han Solo with Chewie again brought back all those long forgotten memories of me as a five-year old totally enraptured with the Sci-Fi world that George Lucas created. I have high hopes for what director J.J.Abrams will bring to the Star Wars franchise. Notwithstanding his lame 'Vulcan is destroyed timeline' in the last two Trek movies, he actually made Star Trek cool again. I am hoping he can do the same to the Star Wars franchise.   

Line drawing - initial rough outline of Princess Leia Organa
Drawing is approximately 1.1X enlargement of the black and white photo printout

On my12th attempt at portrait drawing using graphite pencils, I was moved to draw the most famous royalty in space i.e. none other than Princess Leia Organa. At this stage of the drawing, I have managed to draw a rough outline of her portrait, followed by extensive work on her hair. The drawing is approximately 1.1-times larger than the black and white photo reference I am using. Next up is the shading of her skin tone which will give me an idea if I need to further darken the shade of her hair.

Drawing of Leia's famous buns, roughly 80% completed
To get a more detailed view of the hair, I used an iPad display of Leia's colour photo

Secondly, the missus got me a brand new set of artist grade coloured pencils - Derwent Coloursoft 72. Why should a set of coloured pencils make me feel like a kid again, you may ask? Well, as a very young kid (a long time ago, in a galaxy where you live) a lot of my 'toys' comprised stationery (as well as second hand books and bootleg music but that's a story for another day). Stationery!!?! Yes, stationery as in paper and writing instruments. That may seem sad but I was actually very happy as back then I drew almost every single day. After all these years, one gift that stuck to my mind was a Staedtler 36 coloured pencil set from my mum. So this new set made me feel like that kid again, one who was in love with art before the public school system wrenched ... nay, beat it out of me.    

A brand new set of artist grade coloured pencils courtesy of the missus

I guess my attempts at drawing again is an unconscious bid at recapturing my youth (Freud eat your heart out!). But this time around, I am setting a very high target of achieving a quality work that is sellable. No, no really, please stop laughing. I am a firm believer of the idiom If Anything Is Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Well. While producing such a high quality work may (or may not) be beyond me, I am sure as hell going to enjoy every moment of my journey trying to get there. Now excuse me while I go draw ... and paint, that too. We mustn't forget about the miniatures now, must we my precious? FourEyedMonster was last seen scrambling towards Mount Doom with a light sabre and a tricoder. He will return upon successful completion of his latest quest to paint the Hexcast Sorceress.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

SDE Hexcast Sorceress [WIP - Skin Tone and Dress]

With my desire to draw temporarily sated, I turned my attention back to the Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorceress board game piece which until now only had her hair completed. During this latest stage of the sorceress's paint work, progress was made on her skin tone and dress.

Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorcress, work-in-progress on her skin tone and dress

Her skin tone achieved using a mixture of Reaper Master Series Golden Skin and the various rosy skin tones from the same paint range i.e. Rosy Shadow, Rosy Skin and Rosy Highlight. In addition, Bright Skin Highlight was applied on the brightest points of her skin such as the nose and shoulder blades. My choice of colours was purely an experimental one as I wanted to see how the skin would turn out using combinations of the said paints. I had in mind an oriental-celtic hybrid skin tone.  

Gold trims on the Hexcast Sorceress's dress helps make the purple 'pop'
Care was taken to highlight her shoulder blades on her back
Dark purple-orange/yellow-peachy pink colour combo on her dress somewhat complements her violet hair

Unsatisfied with the dress's original colour scheme, I decided to liven things up a bit by adding some warm colours to the mix. Two main changes I made were to add some orange/yellow to what I presume are the dress's embroidery bits and a peachy pink hue to the loincloth. I felt that both made the dress look more appealing (or less dull if your cup is half empty) to the discerning eye. 

You can (almost) never fail with a purple-gold combo for clothing
In keeping with the anime chibi look, contrasts in colour on the Hexcast Sorceress have been intentionally kept understated. I maintained just enough contrast to hint at hair volume, clothing folds and certain anatomical key-points such as shoulder blades and nose. In my opinion, overdoing the contrast in colours would have spoiled the anime chibi look of this miniature. She isn't far from finished now, with her eyes, mouth, staff and base left to paint. At this point in time, I am just trying to get into a consistent 'hobby groove' of paint, draw, paint, draw, paint ... well, you get the idea.      


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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Portrait Practice #11 on Shailene Woodley (as Tris)

Getting an accurate likeness takes a lot of work, more so for someone trying to self-teach himself portrait drawing. On that count, I guess I failed miserably. After a long lay off from drawing, I forgot lessons learned and ignored proportion issues early in this practice session as I got caught up in the excitement of putting graphite on paper again. In my hunger to get badly needed practice under my belt, I was also too obsessed with finishing the piece quickly and paid the price. All in all, it took me roughly three days to complete the portrait while a slower approach would have served me better.   

Portrait Practice #11 - Shailene Woodley (as Tris Prior)

One of the key reasons my portrait drawing's proportions tend to be a bit off-kilter is the fact that I'm drawing with my eyes at an angle of roughly 45 degrees to the paper. It would be ideal to have the paper perpendicular to my line of sight, and this is achievable via the use of a mobile drawing board or a table that has multiple viewing angles. Unfortunately, neither are affordable options. But this is an old grip of mine and I probably sound like a broken record. Currently, the only option available to me is to get better at optical indexing (a fancy schmancy way of saying measuring proportions).

A camera shot of my portrait drawing of Tris Prior

On the bright side, any practice is good for a beginner like me. I'll gladly take any improvements I make regardless how inconsistent they may be. Sometimes I seem to take one step forward and two steps back (e.g. draw the hair well but fumble on the nose and mouth) while on good days I make progress without any regression. What keeps me going is the believe it will all come good eventually. I adhere to the school of taught that says if you are passionate and persistent enough about something then you will get better at it. In other words, artists are taught NOT born, well most of 'em anyway.

Proportion issues meant an accurate likeness was not achieved in this practice piece

Divergent Book Trilogy Review
My interest in drawing the portrait of Miss Woodley came about after reading the Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. In the first two movie adaptations of the series - Divergent and Insurgent, she portrays the role of Beatrice (Tris) Prior who is the story's main protagonist. As I understand it, the use of First Person Present Tense as the narrative voice in Young Adult novels seems to be all the rage at the moment. But for someone who is used to reading in the traditional (and more widespread) Third Person Past Tense narrative voice, the books took a bit of getting used to. Overall, I felt the book had an interesting dystopian take on an old science fiction theme of [spoiler alert] human genetic engineering. And for what it's worth, I didn't expect the ending in the final book Allegiant.   

Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth

That being said, I felt that the trilogy started stronger than it ended. I also didn't really buy into the whole romance between the two main characters. Then again, with me being neither a spring chicken nor the intended target demographic, I shouldn't be surprised to feel this way. I would give the trilogy a three-and-a-half out of five stars on account of fairly strong character development as well as a reasonably unique view on a subject matter that has been tackled before by Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction writers. While not a classic, this series is still worth a read. So go read it!  

Friday, 24 April 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hot Toys 1/6th Scale Collectible Figures Exhibition

Before watching the latest Avengers movie Age of Ultron, I managed to catch the Malaysian leg of the Age of Ultron Hot Toys Exhibition Asia Tour. What with it being the last day of the exhibition and that day falling on a Sunday, the figurines display area was unsurprisingly crowded with jostling onlookers. Combined with rather bad lighting on some of the display cases, the task of taking macro shots of the collectible figures sometimes bordered on the impossible. On occasion I even had some nonchalant bystanders stand in front of my camera lens while I was in the midst of framing my shot. So in the end, I made do with fewer shots on the more detailed figures from the Hot Toys collection.

Hot Toys 1/6th Scale Collectible Figure - Black Widow
Hot Toys figures have a reputation for realistic faces, Black Widow was no exception
Black Widow is one of my favourite Hot Toys figures, superseded only by Babydoll (Sucker Punch)  

For me at least, the two main attractions were the Hot Toys 1/6th scale Avengers collectible figures and the life-sized Iron Man Hulkbuster armour (see last photo on this post). I have always been a huge fan of the figures produced by Hot Toys. Not only is the amount of detail found in each doll .... errr 'action' figure ... amazing, their faces also look very realistic and extremely life-like.      

Hot Toys 1/6th Scale Collectible Figure - Captain America
Clothing details on the Captain America figure were very impressive

My favourite of the lot is the Black Widow but even she is not my all-time favourite from the Hot Toys collection. That honour belongs to their Sucker Punch Baby Doll figure (click here to see her).

Hot Toys 1/6th Scale Collectible Figure - Iron Man Mark XLIII
Tony Stark's 43rd armour suit in all its shining glory
Hot Toys 1/6th Scale Collectible Figure - Warmachine Mark II
Hot Toys 1/6th Scale Collectible Figure - Tony Stark in battle-damaged armour

Equally impressive was the Iron Man Hulkbuster Armour. Built roughly in life-sized scale, it towered nearly two stories high. Slipping into this beast during rush hour traffic would be a dream come true. 

A life-sized Hulkbuster armour ... I need me one of these for sure

I'm looking forward to seeing Age of Ultron soon although I am pretty sure all the good tickets for this weekend would have sold out by now. If that's the case, then hopefully the missus and I can catch a screening of this latest Avengers movie next week. Until next time, enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Graphite-free for way too long & WIP Shailene Woodley portrait drawing practice with pencils

My, how time flies. I was caught unawares by how long it has been since I last picked up a pencil and drew - more than nine months to be exact. For someone trying to improve his meager drawing skills, three-quarters of a year is just too long a period to be without any form of practice with graphite on paper. This oversight needs to be rectified if I'm to have any hope of being half decent at drawing.   

Work-in-Progress (WIP) for Portrait Practice #11 - Shailene Woodley

Because it has been a while since my last portrait drawing, I guess it will take sometime for me to get up to speed ... at least to the skill level that I was last at. Hopefully, I can then build some momentum in my attempt to learn figure drawing which is a whole different kettle of fish altogether. For now, both portrait and figure drawing with pencils (and eventually pen) is in my drawing hobby to-do-list.

All my portrait drawings start with basic line art to block in major shapes of the face
To get back into the groove of drawing, I started with some practice
Feeling comfortable with a pencil again, I proceeded to draw the portrait itself 
 
At this stage of the drawing, the shading on her face as well as around the eyes are still in a state of flux. Moreover, I have yet to pencil in her mouth and nose hence the 'peekaboo' WIP photo. And knowing myself, I will most likely go back to her hair to try and improve it in anyway that I can.

Peekaboo ... a closeup of my WIP drawing from a more 'head-on' angle

It feels good to be drawing again. And there is definitely no shortage of interesting personalities to draw. My current portrait drawing is of Shailene Woodley who plays Tris in the movies Divergent and Insurgent. You may also recognise her from her lead role as Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars. I seem to be drawn to (pun unintended) strong-willed female characters so it comes as no surprise that I also plan to draw Contance Wu who plays super-mom Jessica Huang in the new TV series Fresh Off the Boat. Until my next post, here are some words from Mama Huang which I can relate to ... You know what gives me nightmares. Our bank account. Stephen King should publish my chequebook.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A new title for my blog

After weeks of agonising over what to rename my blog, I finally settled on something simple and straightforward i.e. Art and Musings of a Miniature Hobbyist. It's definitely a mouthful but it will have to do for now as I couldn't for the life of me come up with anything catchy or clever. However, it's more relevant to what I currently blog about. With the passage of time, I have grown in this hobby and now paint miniatures of all sizes from various product lines. Moreover, I've taken more than a passing interest in drawing and plan to slowly develop my skills in both portrait and figure drawing. And if in the future I start learning to sculpt miniatures myself, the new blog title remains applicable. 


URL for this blog remains the same (foureyed-monster.blogspot.com) with only the title changing. Hopefully, you will still join me as I seek to master the art of drawing as well as miniature painting.

Friday, 10 April 2015

SDE Hexcast Sorceress [WIP - Hair] & Seeking inspiration for a new blog name and banner

Following the rather dark and gloomy miniature piece I completed in my last post, I felt an urge to paint a 'brighter and happier' subject matter. So on cue to satisfy my wish is a Super Dungeon Explore heroine board game piece, my fifth in this anime chibi figure series i.e. the Hexcast Sorceress.    

Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorceress, work-in-progress on her hair
Light violet hair contrasts with orange pony holder and turquoise hair beads
Fine strokes with the brush to give her hair some volume
Hexcast Sorceress have a slightly different colour scheme than the original

This time around, I plan to slightly alter the character's original colour scheme (shown below). What I hope to do is add some peachy pink as well as yellowish orange hues to the predominantly purple, violet, turquoise and gold mix. Although the orange pony holder currently looks too warm and a tad out of place in the Hexcast Sorceress's violet hair accessorized with turquoise beads, I expect it to blend into the overall colour scheme when the golds and light peachy pink colours come into play.  

Hexcast Sorceress, colour scheme as per game cart art
Super Dungeon Explore Hexcast Sorceress, work-in-progress (hair, top view)

Seeking inspiration for a new blog name and banner ...
Back in 2011, I started this blog to document my journey into the world of miniatures, especially those from the Warhammer 40,000 universe with an eye towards tabletop-gaming with my painted pieces. But since then, I have become fascinated solely by the art aspect of this hobby and had started painting miniatures from a wider variety of sources. Also, my renewed fascination with art in general as evidenced by my early attempts at portrait drawing means that my current blog name and banner graphic is no longer representative of what my posts are about. So it's back to the drawing board, awaiting inspiration for a new blog name and banner. Until then, have yourself a great weekend! 

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