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.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Girl on Fire: Portrait Practice #08 and finding the right Katniss Everdeen pose to sculpt

Every movie has its own iconic scene which embeds itself into our psyche and simply screams out to be replayed again and again, especially for fans. For me, the Girl on Fire segment from The Hunger Games movie is that scene ... so much so that I plan to use it to find the perfect pose for my first sculpting project, codenamed ... duh ... Girl on Fire. So with that in mind, my eighth portrait practice drawing is one of Katniss Everdeen in a moment from that scene. I like this particular Katniss pose because it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's ... must be the hairstyle.     

Portrait Practice #08 - Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Jennifer Lawrence in the Girl on Fire scene

By using better quality drawing paper - Daler Rowney A3 Graduate Sketchbook 160 g/square metre - I was able to get slightly smoother graphite blends for the skin tone. But being my own worst critic and a perfectionist of OCD proportions, I am still not entirely happy with my drawing. I am not making much progress on the drawing of hair and the facial proportions of my portrait drawing still suck (from what I suspect is a result from not having my eye parallel to the paper when I draw).  

Pencil Drawing vs Black and White Photo

Based on a quick rewatching of the Girl on Fire scene, there are two possible subject matters I can based my sculpture on. First is a bust of one of the character's more emotive portrayals during the scene while the other is a complete head-to-toe figure of Katniss Everdeen while she is in mid-twirl and with the lower fringes of her dress on fire. Both are technically beyond the skill-level of a beginner sculptor but maybe beginner's luck can see me avoid a major failure. That's me doing a Grand Moff Tarkin impersonation ... and then we will crush the rebellion with one swift stroke (Dum-dum-dum Dum-dee-dum Dum-dee-dum) ... we all know how well that notion turned out.   

Katniss attending the talk-show interview for the Hunger Games participants
My favourite part of the Girl on Fire scene from the first Hunger Games movie

Anyway, I might be putting the cart before the horse as I still have yet to get some reading done on the sculpting process or even gotten all the supplies I need to actually start sculpting. But without any inspiration to sculpt, the book will likely remain unread and supplies unsourced, so getting inspired is just as important. That's what I keep telling myself as I procrastinate on learning how to sculpt. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon [WIP-Le Chiot]

Despite taps running dry occasionally eventhough the area where I live has not been earmarked for water rationing during this mini-drought, water supply has thankfully not been disrupted to the extent where I cannot paint. Nonetheless, to conserve water I didn't really do much painting and worked on something simple such as the pet dog of the Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon resin model kit.

Le Chiot - Red Riding Hood's adorable pet dog 
Fur was painted with the Siberian Husky as reference

I wasn't too sure as to the type of puppy that accompanied Le Petit Chaperon. But it looked a lot like a Siberian Husky puppy to me, which kinda makes sense because they are wolf-like in appreance. Red Riding Hood ... Wolf ... get it? My version of the puppy is sort of a composite of all the types of Siberian Huskies that you can see in the photo below - a grey plus yellowish brown colour scheme.   

Fur colour was a composite of various different Siberian Huskies

One cool thing about the Siberian Husky puppy is its blue eyes. I am glad I managed to successfully paint in the blue irises on which the black pupils rest. Good practice for Le Petit Chaperon herself. 

Small regular paint strokes were used to simulate fine fur
For portions containing white fur, some grey were added to create depth

Because the fur was not really sculpted on the puppy's body, I proceeded to paint the fur using small regular strokes to simulate fine fur. I was really happy with the results as it gave the fur more depth. Colours that I used to paint the fur (including ears) comprised various mixes of Citadel Acrylic Paint such as Ceramite White, Chaos Black, Codex Grey, Fortress Grey, Khemri Brown, Kommando Khaki, Bleached Bone, Desert Yellow, Dark Flesh and Dwarf Flesh.

Paws might need further paint work 
Fun fact - an upward arching tail indicates that this is a dog and not a wolf

Apart from the fur and eyes, painting for the rest of the puppy was fairly straightforward - leather for the dog leash/collar and a gold medallion. Initally I painted the medallion in silver but that didn't work as it did not really stand out against the puppy's white fur.   

Front and back view of the Siberian Husky puppy

Work on Le Petit Chaperon herself hasn't started yet because of the uncertain water supply to my house. Hopefully with cloud seeding resulting in some late evening showers means that the intermittent dry water taps will not turn into full-fledged water rationing. I can only hope.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Portrait Practice #07 and a first step in sculpting

Hot, hazy and dry just about sums up the weather in the city at the moment. In such stifling conditions, I found it much easier to draw than to paint. So it was game on for my seventh portrait drawing practice piece. It is based on a photo of Katniss Everdeen (as played by Jennifer Lawrence) that I saw on a magazine cover promoting the first movie of The Hunger Games quadrilogy.

Portrait Practice #07 - Katniss Everdeen

For this piece, I tried to concentrate on shading i.e. using extreme light and dark values to form the facial features. I wasn't too happy with the results as the shading was still patchy in places. So either my technique is wrong or I am doing it correcttly but need more practice. That being said, I was pretty pleased with how the eyes turned out as they seemed to make the drawing more lifelike. 

Hunger Games promo photo of Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence)

Perhaps one thing I could have done to make the drawing have more depth was to shade the area around her head with matte black. But leaving the surrounding area unshaded was an easy decision to make as I have no idea how to make the border bewtween a matte black background and the head appear seamless. In the end, I lightened the shading throught the portrait drawing to compensate.  

Comparison between a slightly scaled up drawing versus the black and white reference photo

As I have mentioned before, my portrait drawings are part of the overall sculpting process namely the initial concept sketches that are to serve as a blueprint of sorts for my future sculpts. This being the case, I felt that I needed to make a proper start in sculpting per se hence I will be immersing myself in a book by Katherine Dewey titled Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay (see photo below).

My journey into sculpting begins with this book

Why polymer clay and not other sculpting materials? Well, although I was tempted to use some self-hardening materials available on the market, I didn't want to work under a time-limit when sculpting. It would probably take me days just to get any particular part of a sculpture looking half-decent so to have a sculpting material that hardened in a few hours may result in, for example, a face sculpt that looks like a horses's ass. We wouldn't want that happening now would we? 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Ax Faction Giant Hunter [Completed as Ygritte]

Overall, I am very pleased with how the colour scheme turned out in this paint job conversion of Ax Faction's Giant Hunter (or Raen of Rannoch) in which she was painted as Ygritte, a character in Game of Thrones. But on the other hand, I was disappointed because I did not do this beautifully sculpted resin miniature justice. It was a case of one step forward two steps back in my progress as a miniature painter.

Ax Faction Giant Hunter aka Raen of Rannoch, painted as Ygritte

One small achievement that delighted me was Ygritte's mane, which I felt was my best effort yet in painting red hair. It certainly helped that the Ax Faction Giant Hunter has one of the best sculpted hair that I have seen on miniatures of this scale. Against that personal milestone, I wasn't too pleased with my paint job on the skin because it was chalky in places (partly due to bad priming). Additionally, I didn't a very good job of simulating green veins under the skin which I tried to do by using a very thinned out green wash.    

Side view (left), Ax Faction Giant Hunter - can you spot my painting error?

I didn't really appreciate how detailed this Ax Faction miniature was until I started painting it. In hindsight, I should have been more careful during the priming process as a badly done primer coat can wreak havoc when trying to paint such detailed designs on a miniature later. But the more miniatures I prime (in lighter colours such as white and grey) the more I guess I will understand how weather and spray distance can affect the smoothness of the primer coat. This gives me hope for better primer coats in the future.

Helm on the ground was nearly painted black (as in the Night Watch) but ended up as above instead
Her beautifully sculpted hair was really fun to paint
Cloak was painted in pretty drab colours to make the hair stand out more

There was nothing much going on in the base as I didn't know how to make snow 'exciting'. All I could think of to do was to paint it as a smooth white layer with bluish shades for the shadows.

Side view (right), Ax Faction Giant Hunter aka Raen of Rannoch aka Ygritte
Oranges of Ygritte's hair went surprisingly well with her greyish-blue clothing
Skin tones on her face came out rougher than I intended it too

To give you an idea of how small this miniature is, I took a photograph of her as compared to the smallest coin in the Malaysian currency. Bottom of the based to the top of her head measures at roughly 38-mm.

Raen of Rannoch (aka Giant Hunter) painted as Ygritte, and measured against a five sen coin

360 view of Ax Faction's Giant Hunter painted as Ygritte
For a 360 degree view of the Ax Faction Giant Hunter aka Raen of Rannoch, please check out the video of the miniature below. For other videos, check out my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures.

As always, thank you for checking out my latest work and for taking the time to read my blog. May you have a good week ahead, stay well and be happy.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Portrait Practice #06 - Working on proportions

As I plan to make Katniss Everdeen the subject of my first attempt at sculpting, I guess it stands to reason that I first try to draw a likeness of Jennifer Lawrence, the actress playing the Hunger Games character. One of the key things I am still struggling with is getting the proportion or scale of a drawing correct. The fact that I draw flat on the table rather at an angle could be a contributing factor.

Trying to draw a portrait of Jennifer Lawrence in the correct proportions 

My latest drawing is based on a general photo of Jennifer Lawrence that I found online and not of her in character as Katniss Everdeen. For this practice session, I used a black and white printout of a JPEG file as reference for my portrait drawing (as opposed to my previous drawings which were based off a computer screen). Doing it this way allowed me to get better measurements for my drawings. Another thing that may help would be to use a proper drawing table which is angled parallel to my eyes. Unfortunately, since I don't have the funds for it, a normal table will have to do.

Photo of Jennifer Lawrence used as reference for my drawing

Yet another possibility as to the not-so-perfectly proportioned/scaled drawing is that my application of the light and dark values (shading) lacks enough depth. I need to add deeper blacks to the darkest areas of a drawing and shade the rest accordingly. But before I do that I might need to get drawing papers of a better quality. The ones I am working with are not very good.  

Comparison between the drawing and a black & white photo

To better see how close I came to drawing an accurate portrait of Jennifer Lawrence, I placed the drawing side by side with a black and white photo. I came pretty close this time but not near enough to where I want to be. Additionally, I also did a comparison between what a photograph of my drawing looks like versus a image obtained using a scanner. I feel the photograph more accurately represents the drawing I made although I will need to find a way to make the photograph brighter. I took the camera shot late at night under dim fluorescent lighting so that could have been factor.

Digital image of a drawing using a DSLR camera versus scanner

Who would have thought that drawing could be so much fun ... hard (for me) ... but incredibly fun. Learning to draw portraits also provides me with valuable knowledge on facial features which I hope can be of use when I start sculpting. For now, all I can do is to put up better drawings (and less cringe-worthy ones) in future blog posts. One portrait at a time towards my own Mona Lisa.  

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Ax Faction Giant Hunter [WIP-Clothing and Weapons]

Use of Ax Faction's Giant Hunter (or Raen of Rannoch) as a proxy for Ygritte in my Game of Thrones project by means of a paint job conversion is at the early stages with work 'close to completion' for the sword while progress on her clothing is at about 70% to 80%. In a recurring theme, I didn't get a smooth enough primer coating for this highly detailed 30 plus-mm scale miniature, a setback that I hope won't return to haunt me when I start painting her hair, skin and face.

Ax Faction Giant Hunter, an early work-in-progress (WIP)

I based this Ax Faction miniature's overall colour scheme on Ygritte's winter fur clothing as seen in the Game of Thrones HBO TV series. It comprises largely of greys, blues and browns - all pretty drab stuff actually. I am hoping that such a dull coloured clothing will be a good contrast to the rosy skin tone and red hair that I will be painting on the Giant Hunter aka Raen of Rannoch aka Ygritte.

Using a 'Ygritte colour scheme' for Raen of Rannoch aka Giant Hunter

In general, I might need to add more light greyish-blues to the clothing but the final decision on this will be dependent on how the current darker shades will look on the rosy skin tone I have planned for her. Sadly I just realised that all my hard work at creating a smooth colour transition between the shadows and highlights on Ygritte's buttocks area (see last photo below) will be for nought as I forgot that the cloak will generally cover up almost the entire area ... 'face-palm dumb self'.

Colour scheme comprises greys, blues and browns
Weapon is fairly at an advanced stage of completion
All my hard work on Ygritte's behind will soon be for naught

That's about all for this short update on Ygritte. Further work on her skin and hair will depend largely on weather conditions. With haze and drought-like conditions resulting in some places in the city being put under water rationing, conditions are not too ideal for painting. But is has been raining a bit these past two days so things are looking up for my water-hungry miniature painting projects.
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