Friday, 28 February 2014

Portrait Practice #05 - Improving stroke by stroke

With ridiculously warm weather plaguing the peninsula and causing my acrylic paints to dry up super quick even in a wet palette, I decided to continue practicing my portrait drawing instead. These pencil drawings are part of a bigger picture in my miniature hobby in which I hope will lead to the ability to create detailed concept sketches that can be used as blueprints for future miniatures that I want to (learn how to) sculpt. So far, learning to draw again has been a real blast!

My fifth serious attempt at portrait drawing

It is painfully obvious that I have not yet achieved any true resemblance to the reference photos that I am trying to draw. One reason being that my drawing skills are still not up to par but another not so apparent reason is that I am drawing from photos I see on a computer screen. That makes it harder for me to get the correct measurements and proportions for my drawings. Going forward, I plan to print out the photos in black and white to make my work easier and hopefully more accurate. 

Miranda Kerr, former wife of Legolas ... errr Orlando Bloom

But one silver lining is I am slowly coming to grasp with the use of graphite pencils as an art tool. When I look at this portrait of Miranda again after a few months, I will most likely cringe in embarrassment. In fact, I am counting on it for it will mean I have improved my drawing skills. 

Making slow but steady progress on my portrait drawings

This drawing of Miranda Kerr was my incidentally first attempt at shading skin with graphite pencil and blending stumps. Previous efforts were negligible and feeble attempts that look more like line drawings than shadings of varying values of light and dark. To help me get a feel for shading, I did a quick sketch of the interplay between light and shadows on a sphere. I am not very happy with what I achieved in my first try at shading skin with pencils but it's better than leaving it as line drawings.

"Look Peter a ball," said Jane.

One thing's for sure, I will have to revisit my portrait drawings and redo them to determine if I have made any actual progress. Redrawing them after a period of a month or more should give me an idea whether I am improving or not. So it's back to the drawing board for me as more practice lies ahead.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Red Riding Hood or Sansa Stark?

Standing at roughly 90-mm from head-to-toe, the Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon has presented me with a dilemma. I am faced with a choice of whether to paint her as intended in Red Riding Hood colours or carry out a miniature conversion and paint her as Sansa Stark (Game of Thrones).

Of all the Red Riding Hood miniatures in existence, I find the resin scale figure from Nocturna Models to be the most appealing in terms of the way she is sculpted and depicted. It is a reversal from the original fairy tale - of which the first known printed version was titled Le Petit Chaperon Rogue - so in the Nocturna Models version, Red Riding Hood is a grown woman while the wolf has become a pup. Speaking of the traditional way she is viewed, I found a wonderful illustration by Therese Larsson of this fairy tale character and decided to share it by re-posting her picture below.   

Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon (Front view, semi-assembled)
Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon (Back view, semi-assembled)
Little Red Riding Hood as illustrated by Therese Larsson

But such are the fantastic details of the Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon that I can also paint her as Sansa Stark in my re-imagining of a Game of Thrones character. That this figure is not clothed in the traditional court dresses of Westeros is not a problem because [Spoiler Alert Starts] Sansa was at one point disguised as Alayne Stone, the bastard daughter of Lord Petyr Baelish [Spoiler Alert Ends]. It won't be stretching the truth to imagine Lord Littlefinger as wanting to cloth Sansa in a sexy outfit. 

Pendant on Le Petit Chaperon's neck can easily represent the direwolf of House Stark

Although Sansa Stark has only wielded a cheese knife as far as I know (I just started reading Book Four of the George R.R. Martin fantasy series), in my re-imagining of Sansa I would want her to be able to protect herself, and what better way to do it then to arm her with Valyrian steel, more specifically a dagger from House Targaryen. To see if this was possible, I tried to re-model a Khorne Berzerker sword, which had a hilt sculpted like a dragon head, to look like a dagger (see below).   

Re-modelling a Khorne Berzerker sword to become a Valyrian steel dagger

If I were to proceed with the Sansa Stark option, I plan to remove the wolf pup completely and replace the leash on the miniature's hand with the re-modelled Valyrian steel dagger. Since the wolf pup will no longer be on the base, it stands to reason that the base will have to be shortened. In an unintended piece of realism, the awkward way she is holding the dagger would be reminiscence of how the lady-like Sansa Stark would hold a weapon - similar to someone untrained in using a dagger.

Possible conversion of miniature to become Sansa Stark disguised as Alayne Stone

I am still at two minds about which direction I should take the Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon. On one hand, I have always wanted to paint a miniature version of Red Riding Hood. Then again, I believe this model gives me an excellent opportunity to add to my Game of Thrones project. Accchhhh! Both options are appealing so I have to think long and hard before deciding.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Trying my hand at ageing metal

Assuming that an Ork Big Gun is made up of a mishmash of various metals such as steel, iron, brass, copper and bronze, then in order to age the metals I would have to paint in grime, rust and verdigris. That ageing metal even came into consideration was because I decided to complete the two W40K heavy support Ork units - Ork Bug Guns Lobba and Kannon - after having finished the gretchins for a Hulk skin tone test. As I have no solid experience in ageing metal, I tried it out on the Lobba first.

A very old Ork Big Gun, of the Lobba variety
I love the colour scheme that a combination of rust, grime and verdigris makes
One wonders if this Lobba would blow up if used

In hindsight, after re-looking at natural occurrences of verdigris, I should have painted the effect more evenly on the copper/brass/bronze plate covering the top of the Lobba. I was torn between a good natural covering of verdigris versus letting enough bronze/copper/brass show through the verdigris to make the metal visible without having to closely scrutinise the Lobba. Meanwhile, I tried not to go overboard with the rust and grime as the Lobba is still supposed to be in working condition.

Aged Ork Big Gun (Lobba) - side view, right
Rust is minimal on wheels and steel encasing artillery bore to show Lobba is still in working condition
Aged Ork Big Gun (Lobba) - front view

I went for a combination of rust, grime and verdigris mainly because I simply love how the overall colour scheme looks like, namely the combination of orange, turquoise and brown colours. In my opinion, such a colour scheme gives the metal more 'character' as it were.  

All this Lobba is missing are its gretchin handlers
Aged Ork Big Gun (Lobba) - side view, left

All the effects were painted using a combination of Citadel technical and dry paints which I got purely as an impulse buy when out window shopping in a local mall with the family. As I forgot to take some 'before ageing' photos of the Lobba, I had to compare it to another Ork Big Gun - the Kannon - which is at the 'new metal' stage but soon to be aged as well.

Comparison between aged and new metal
Ork Big Gun on the right - the Kannon- awaits the ageing treatment
It is tempting to leave the Kannon unaged but that would be uncharacteristic of an ork weapon

So next up for these ork heavy support units will be to paint ageing effects on the Kannon. They have proved to be a nice little diversion from my main Game of Thrones and Marvel Universe projects but more importantly the Ork Big Guns have allowed me to practice painting metals. Until my next blog post, thank you for reading, and as always stay well and happy. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. [Completed as Ser Gregor of House Clegane]

Working on miniatures of a larger scale than your average gaming variety - the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C figure stands at roughly 70-mm from head to toe (base excluded) - has been a real help in my quest to be a better miniature painter. It lets me concentrate on improving basic painting techniques without the added worry of working within the confines of a small surface area. You are also less likely to get away with painting errors that are harder to notice in a smaller miniature, so you inevitably have to 'up your game' as it were. An added bonus is larger models have fantastic details. 

Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. painted as Ser Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain
Closeup of some blood splatter on Ser Gregor's chest area

With regard to the blood effects, there were two things I could have been done differently. I shoulda coulda woulda painted slightly less blood on the front of the sword and added more blood splatter to the chest area of Ser Gregor's tunic. But blood effects, in my opinion, is one area where two painters looking at the same miniature will have largely differing opinions. It's more of a personal preference and as such there is no real right answer as to how much blood effects a miniature should have. 

Washes played a prominent role in giving the metals more depth

Ser Gregor's back is largely devoid of any blood effects save for the blood dripping from the sword onto the top of his cloak. After all, one shouldn't expect to be able to land any cheap blows to the back of The Mountain now would they? Though that didn't stop a low slash to his calf (see below). 

Bleeding wound on left calf is one of many small cuts endured by Ser Gregor

One of my weaknesses is painting metal. But at least this time around I didn't completely mess up the metals on the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. miniature. For Ser Gregor, I relied quite heavily on paint washes to give the metal a more realistic look. It can be improved upon but I am happy with the results nonetheless. It helped that the priming process came out better than usual for this miniature.

House Clegane heraldry on the shield was painted freehand

After gaining valuable experience in the freehand painting of heraldry designs on some Bretonnian Knights paint job conversions (for House Lannister, House Clegane and House Baratheon), I found it so much easier to paint the heraldry designs on a larger scale. This was one case where working on smaller miniatures helped me on my larger scale projects. There are no blood splatter on the shield as I envisioned Ser Gregor would have had his shield to the side when he cut at his enemy instead of hiding behind the shield while he swung the death blow. So blood splatter on tunic = none on shield.

Greyish-blue and yellow is one of my favourite colour combinations

Ser Gregor's official colour scheme is yellow tunic atop greyish metal but for this miniature, I used a greyish-blue colour to complement the traditional House Clegane yellow. This is one of my favourite combinations because I find the colours play off each other extremely well and is pleasing to the eye.

A wonderfully sculpted cloak that made painting it a pleasure

Paint work for the base was fairly straightforward. Comprising primarily of dry brushing with various shades of grey and some black and brown washes, the only 'special effect' I attempted was some patches of green mold on the stone work. Meanwhile, there was a broken spear tip lying on the ground that had the usual aged metal look with both grime and some rust painted onto it.

Painting the cloak and tunic allowed me to practice wet blending and layering

360 view of Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. as Ser Gregor Clegane
For a 360 degree view of Ser Gregor Clegane which was painted using the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. resin miniature, please check out the video below. Unfortunately, the video lost a great deal of quality and did not really capture the colours as accurately as the photos above mainly due to the basic video editing software I was using - Microsoft Movie Maker. For videos of other miniatures that I painted, please check out my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures.

Painted using the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. miniature, Ser Gregor Clegane is one of my best works so far. Of course, that's definitely not saying much when compared to some excellent miniature painters out there in the blogoshpere (in sporting terms ... I am not yet fit to lace their boots), but it's still a huge personal satisfaction to see myself improve ever so slowly over time. Hopefully I can continue to grow as a miniature painter and get up to that next skill level.

Friday, 14 February 2014

A wildling and the next noble house of Westeros [WIP]

While I try to figure out a realistic way to paint blood splatter on Ser Gregor Clegane - a Nocturna Models paint job conversion I am currently working on - I kept the momentum going on my Game of Thrones project by working on two new paint job conversions namely Ygritte using an Ax Faction's Giant Hunter and a knight of another noble house of Westeros using a Bretonnian knight.

Ygritte, a free folk of Westeros as played by Rose Leslie

As I didn't quite like the official Dark Sword Miniatures sculpted figure of Ygritte and also owing to a very tight personal budget, I had a look at the existing miniatures in my collection and settled for the Ax Faction Giant Hunter aka Raen of Rannoch as my Ygritte. Granted Raen didn't have what would constitute standard wildling weaponry and clothing, but she had other compelling similarities. For one, Raen was clothed partly in furs and had long wavy hair. She also stands on an icy base which had a footprint of a giant, mythical creatures that form part of the wildling army.    

Paint job conversion of Ax Faction's Giant Hunter into Ygritte (WIP, front)

I was tempted to remodel the sword to look like Jon Snow's Longclaw but had a change of heart at the last minute as I liked the unique look of the Ax Faction sword. So now, it's a prize sword she took off a brother in black. As for Raen's skimpy clothes, well if Ygritte can frolic in the snow with Jon ...

Paint job conversion of Ax Faction's Giant Hunter into Ygritte (WIP, back)

Lack of proper snow-like basing material substitute meant I had to paint the snow as it is sculpted on the base. Not sure what I can do paint-wise to improve on the snowy look as using washes on a white paint layer can quickly ruin it, which I discovered to my dismay in the first few attempts.

Snow on base was painted partly by referencing this picture
Base of Ax Faction's Giant Hunter (WIP)

Meanwhile, I have decided on the next noble house of Westeros to paint. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then you will be able to easily tell which house by looking at the pictures below. Can you guess which noble house it's going to be?

Can you guess which noble house is next?
If you are a fan of the Game of Thrones books, this is a huge giveaway

Well that's it for this blog post. Now I have to get back to figuring out Ser Gregor's blood splatter!

Monday, 10 February 2014

House Baratheon Knight & Warhorse [Renly Faction]

Getting to the finish line with knight number three in my Game of Thrones project tuned out to be slower than expected due to the lunar new year holidays. Spending precious family time took precedence over all painting projects but fortunately I still managed to at least finish the House Baratheon Knight and Warhorse in the colours of the youngest Baratheon brother, Renly.

Knight of House Baratheon, or even Renly himself

This particular Bretonnian Knight conversion can serve either as a simple knight in the army of House Baratheon (under Renly's colours) or as Renly Baratheon himself.

All House Baratheon heraldry designs were painted freehand

Greens that I am used to working with are those of the ork or gretchin skin variety hence I was relatively 'green' (groan) and inexperienced painting with Citadel colours such as Dark Angel Green, Snot Green and Scorpion Green. My blending techniques also leave much to be desired as I continuously fall into the trap of impatience and still tend to hurry up the blending process.

Minor conversion done to the scabbard whose sword hilt was removed

I also did a little mini-conversion in which the sword hilt in the scabbard on the knight's left thigh was removed to add believability to the overall look of the miniature because you might have noticed that the knight has a sword drawn on his right hand. Little details such as this can sometimes make or break a miniature. It wouldn't look right to have a sword sheathed on the scabbard in this case.

Front and back view of the House Baratheon Knight and Warhorse

To add depth to the metals, I tried using a black followed by blue wash on the armour; a purplish wash on the chains and a wash comprising a mixture of black, purple and flesh colours on the sword.

Stag horns on the helmet suited to subject matter to a tee

As with the previous two knights (House Lannister and House Clegane) in my Game of Thrones painting project, this miniature gave me the chance to practise freehand painting - in particular the heraldry designs of House Baratheon in Renly's colours. Nearly all the designs were of a whole stag rearing on its hind legs with the exception of one - a stag head - on the front left of the horse.

Metals on the miniature have a variety of washes on them to add some depth

Next up will be a knight from a Game of Thrones royal house whose strength comes solely from its location in Westero as it seems to lack any strong characters, at least so far as I have read which is somewhere past the mid-way mark of Book Three of the series written by George R.R. Martin.

From this angle, the knight seems to look as if he is a tad too big for the horse

360 view of the House Baratheon Knight in Renly's colours
For a 360 degree view of the House Baratheon knight and warhorse, please check out the video of the miniature below. For other videos, check out my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures.

I hope I can get my painting projects back on track after this short lunar new year holiday period. After all, it's tough to get back on the hobby horse (groan again) after a period of relative inactivity.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Logan assembled and more work on Hulk's skin tone

As I try out different skin tones for The Hulk, I decided to proceed with my Marvel Universe painting project by completing the assembly of the Knight Models Logan white metal miniature.The pose adopted by this miniature closely resembles Logan as seen in the movie titled 'The Wolverine'.

Knight Models Logan, fully assembled

Assembly of this metal miniature was relatively easy except for the claws on Logan's hands. The thin blade's small surface area made gluing them to the hands a challenge. But that was solved by using a combination of sodium bicarbonate and super glue, a topic I touched upon in an earlier post

Logan's pose seems to be based on the movie 'The Wolverine'

After being attached, the joints of some parts needed to be filled in with green stuff to smooth out the flesh sculpture. It wouldn't do to have any gaping holes that would break the illusion of real flesh.

Using green stuff to helped smooth out the flesh sculpture

Figuring out the colour scheme for Logan is a no-brainer as he should be clad in a white singlet and jeans which are either the traditional blue or maybe in black or dark grey colours. But it's the simple colour schemes that are the most difficult to paint because the very nature of its simplicity makes any painting errors more painfully obvious to the naked eye. Moreover, it's tough to make simple colour schemes look interesting. But as Barney Stinson would say ... 'Challenge Accepted'. After all, isn't failure only a six-letter word? Sticks and stones, and all that jazz.    

Cool pose on Logan's right arm as it's in mid-motion

Meanwhile, I have managed to get some work done on the remaining two gretchins to try and get as close as possible to The Hulk skin tone as seen in the Sideshow Collectibles figure. For these two gretchins, I went with a highlight that incorporated a very light flesh colour. Additionally, the gretchins were finished off with a very diluted wash comprising dirty green/flesh mixture. Both the gretchins' pants looked rather flat so I might repaint them if I decide to complete the whole 'Ork Heavy Support' set which would entail painting two Big Gunz - one for each pair of Gretchins. 

Hulk skin tone experiment on Ork Gretchins continues
Grime and verdigris on the shell means it will likely explode in the Big Gunz
Not much contrast work was done on the pants as both minis were skin tone practice pieces
Skin tone on the left figure was smoother because it was prepared with a black undercoat vs white on the right

Resulting colours were still a little too green but the highlights were much closer to the Sideshow Collectibles Hulk figure. This means if I wish to paint skin tone in a similar vein to the Sideshow Collectibles figure, I will have to use the current highlight as a mid-tone and look for a brighter shade for the final highlights. But the increased chalkiness that comes with adding pale flesh-like colours into the final highlights might require me to compromise and settle for a greener skin tone overall.

Sideshow Collectibles Hulk skin tone versus my Gretchin test skin tone

If you look closely enough, a comparison to my earlier gretchin test subjects (located on the extreme right and left of the foursome below) will show you that the latest two gretchins I painted sport a much lighter/paler shade of green. Effects are reasonably subtle but it's there. 

Ork Gretchins stand ready to man the Big Gunz
Gretchins on the extreme left and right are from an earlier Hulk skin tone experiment

As I dabble with assembling Logan and practising Hulk's skin tone, I am also close to finishing the paint jobs of Ser Gregor Clegane and a knight from House Baratheon (Renly version) in my Game of Thrones project. Once completed, I will be able to start on a knight from a yet to be decided Westeros House as well as a paint job conversion of an Ax Faction miniature into a wilding. Additionally, work will begin on a beautiful Nocturna Models miniature called Le Petit Chaperon i.e. either paint her as Red Riding Hood or convert her into Marvel's Black Widow, who is after all the master of disguises. On top of all that, I hope to start painting some W40K stuff again. Phew ... do stay tuned!
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