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.

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!

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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