Monday, 29 January 2018

Suicide Squad Katana [WIP - Soft Black Hair] aka 70 mm Nocturna Models Soum 13 Moons

Black hair is so ubiquitous among East Asians (K-Pop stars excluded) that I find it a somewhat uninteresting hue to paint. Familiarity breeds contempt as they are wont to say. Suicide Squad's Katana is, however, one character that requires black hair so I tried to make the painting of her hair as interesting as possible which meant setting a softer tone for her tresses versus jet black hair.

Suicide Squad Katana (aka Soum 13 Moons) work-in-progress: Soft black hair

To recreate the soft black hair that I wanted for Katana, I actually used every other colour except black ... well almost. The final step did involve the use of a black wash. But prior to that I used a triad of acrylic paints namely Vallejo Model Color German Camouflage Black Brown (70.822), Burnt Umber (70.941) and US Field Drab (70.873). Apart from the black brown for weathering purposes, these are colours I rarely find use for. But for soft black hair, they served their purpose well enough.

Stages of Katana's soft black hair from basecoat (far left) to end result (far right)
Acrylic paints and washes used to recreate soft black hair with the only true black hue being the wash

Initially, Katana's hair looks more light brown than black especially after the first three layers of paint (see above). It all starts with a black brown basecoat followed by increasing highlights of first burnt umber followed by Vallejo's US Field Drab. At the very last step, all the hues were toned-down using a black wash - just enough so that some of the highlights still showed through the wash.

Long lustrous soft black hair against an almost milky white fair skin
Well sculpted hair always makes the painting of it that much easier
Missing, for the moment, from Katana's hair is a ponytail secured by a delicate hairpin

The strongest temptation I had to fight while painting Katana's black hair was to add some highlights back onto her hair after the wash had been applied. Even now as I look at the photos I've the urge to do just that. Maybe right in the end after almost all her colours have been painted in, then only then will I take a second look at her hair to see if it needs additional highlights.

Temptation to add more highlights to Katana's hair is ever present but resisted
Katana's hair was put against a pure black backdrop to see if it had enough contrast within
Katana's facial features isn't finished yet; there's still her eyes, lips as well as various warm /cool hues to add
It's likely Katana will sport a diaphanous white tank top to fully realize details of the sculpture

As a measure of the contrast in Katana's black hair, I took photos of it against a black background. Her hair showed sufficient contrast, at least enough for me to move on with the painting process. The only likely thing I might change on Katana's hair is to add brighter highlights to areas which would naturally catch more light. That isn't as easy as it sounds. It's a balancing act that when tilted the wrong way would essentially change her hair color from soft black to brown.

Viridian green hues on her lower eyelid is one possibility I'm looking at to increase realism
Colour scheme for Katana is a simple one, which makes it difficult to pull off

Other than the dilemma of how much brighter her hair highlights should be, the second thing bugging me is the tips of her hair. Against her fair skin the tips of her look unnaturally thick. It is here more than anywhere else that additional highlights would be most justified. Again, that's something I'll have to relook only after most of her paint job has been completed. Not now. 

Contrast between the tips of Katana's hair and her fair skin seem a tad too dark and may need to be softened
Back view of Katana's soft black hair against a black backdrop
A reddish-brown hue for the leather armour on Katana's right arm seems the most likely choice

As a comparison I also took shots of Katana's hair against a whitish backdrop. In essence, her hair will take on a slightly different hue depending on the background colour as well as lighting. This is an optical illusion which I explained in a blog post two-and-a-half years ago. So as it stands without any further changes, Katana's hair tends to fluctuate between shades of soft black and brown black.   

As expected, Katana's soft black hair looks different against a white background
Japanese-themed motifs are being explored as possible free-hand paintings on her left leg stocking
Once the rest of Katana's paint job is complete, I'll revisit her hair to see if it needs additional highlights

Still missing from Katana's hair is an extremely long ponytail secured by an intricate hairpin. I plan to paint the ponytail/hairpin separately and possibly give both brighter hues for a juxtaposition between them and the rest of Katana's soft black (or is it black brown) hair.

If possible, a Hi no maru (circle of the sun) symbol will adorn the clothing around Katana's left upper arm
Fair as Katana's skin tone may be, it still manages to stand out against a whitish background
As to what colour Katana's Japanese tabi socks will be ... I've no idea for now
Semi-gloss clear coat from a previous work-in-progress has put a healthy shine on her skin
Back view of Katana's soft black hair against a whitish backdrop
Next up for painting is the white clothing on Katana

My apologies if you feel inundated with boring photos of black hair. These blog post picture uploads are as much a form of personal online record keeping as they are a way of sharing my experience in this hobby. Due to Blogger's inherent indexing system, it's easier (and much faster) for me to refer to what I had done in the past via my blog posts than to rummage through tons of saved data in a hard drive. Meanwhile, a lot of experimenting lies ahead as I try my hand at airbrushing as well as hand-brushing lacquer paints. In the meantime, I hope to continue posting project updates and get back into the groove of blogging after a long two week hiatus! With that, I wish you a great week ahead.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Atypical cool weather hits close to the equator

Cool weather isn't unusual in itself. But when it occurs in a city which averages 28°C to 31°C in January then it becomes a problem hobby-wise. Temperatures have plummeted 10°C to a low of 21°C in Kuala Lumpur and to an even lower 16°C in highland areas in the peninsula. To be fair such cool weather has nothing on the harsh winters in most countries. It's just that KLites aren't used to this, at least not me. Even office air-con systems seem much colder as the missus can attest to.

In her office, the missus is feeling the cold as temperatures plummet 10°C 

Why would such cool pleasant weather be a detriment to my hobby activities? Well for one, humidity levels remained high (up to 89% at times) even as temperatures drop. And I became aware of an issue some hobbyists were having when air brushing in cool and humid weather namely increased rate of water accumulation in the air compressor tank. Water vapour mixed with paint is never a good thing. This has scared a noob like me, enough from testing out my new air brush compressor.

Even my 'spray priming' goggles are fogging up quickly due to the cold and humid weather

In fact, the air conditioning in my room has started to leak as water vapour condenses more readily in the cold thus reinforcing my reluctance to start air brushing any time soon. That, of course, is not a good excuse for the 'hobby inertia'. Most of my projects still require the good old-fashioned hand brush painting techniques. And if push comes to shove I could 'easily' just focus on non-paint work like assembling. So hopefully I can get something done before week is over as I come to terms with wet and cold conditions in a tropical environment ... messed up global climate indeed.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Nendoroid Belle (Beauty and the Beast) - Unboxing and Review

It's still lazy days as the new year slowly crawls into its second week. Hobby/art projects lay ignored as the inertia build up over the holiday period refuses to release its hold on me. This languid pace is deceptive though as I know it won't be long before time starts to pass me by. Soon I'll be staring 2019 in the face and wondering why barely a dent was made on an ever increasing stash of miniatures and model kits. So it's ironic I'm starting 2018 with a review of a new kit but it's special in that it was a gift to the missus from my son and me. I present to you Nendoroid Belle from Good Smile Company.

Good Smile Company's Nendoroid Series #755: Belle (from Disney's Beauty and the Beast)
Front angled view of the still-in-the-box Nendoroid Belle
Back angled view of the still-in-the-box Nendoroid Belle
Photos at the back of the box show off Belle's many possible poses
Belle is figure #755 in the series but as I write this the latest Nendoroid comes in at #802  
Box-art for Nendoroid Belle was well thought out and looked nice

This is no ordinary anime figure. Made from ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), figurines from the Nendoroid series come with interchangeable parts which allow them to be posed in different ways with alternative expressions. Design-wise Nendoroids resemble chibi-style characters i.e. a super deformed art style that pairs a large head with a smaller body. In Belle's case, there are three primary points of articulation - her head/neck and both arms. And when combined with her various parts, there are a lot of cute poses you could do with Belle.

Encased in firm plastic packaging, Belle and her accessories were adequately protected from damage
Getting the Beast in colored 2D form wasn't ideal but certainly better than nothing
Instructions for assembly are included but aren't really needed
Belle with her interchangeable parts and accessories

One thing that leapt out of the box at me was how truly gorgeous Belle's colours were, especially her hair. Of course as miniature painters we can generally always find a way to improve on a paint job. Specifically, Belle's gown would've looked much better with some tonal variation to its yellow hues. But I wasn't the least bit tempted to repaint Nendoroid Belle as I found her colours to be excellent straight out of the box. Moreover as a collector item she is best preserved in her original colours.    

Staring off to the distance, Belles dreams of a night of ballroom dancing
Belle's hair is gorgeously coloured with subtle variations in the brown hues to denote volume
Chip (left) and Mrs. Potts (right) are the only characters to accompany Belle in 3D form
Purplish hues on Mrs. Potts and Chip contrast well against Belle's yellow gown

Getting Belle into her different poses and facial expressions was easy and intuitive. Although she came with a set of instructions, it wasn't really needed at all. I did notice a spare neck joint was provided so ostensibly that joint will break if rough handled. While the parts feel strong with enough flexibility in them to withstand repeated handling, it wouldn't hurt to treat the parts with care as you assemble and disassemble them to fix Belle in her myriad of poses.   

Nendoroid Belle comes with two different facial expressions
Belle's arms, head and parts of her dress can be detached

What would a Belle figurine be without that famous ballroom scene. Unfortunately that would require a Nendoroid Beast figurine and one doesn't exist to the best of my knowledge. There is, however, a 2D colored printout of Beast on a clear sheet included as an accessory. While not exactly an ideal way of recreating that iconic ballroom scene, the clear sheet version of Beast did do enough for some pretty nice camera shots to be taken. Three dimensional characters that Good Smile Company did include together with Belle were Mrs. Potts and Chip. Both cute and good choices! 

Tale as old as time ...
... song as old as rhyme ...
... Beauty and the Beast
Sugary sweet as Belle should be

And wait there's more! Two wonderful little accessories provide Belle with even more posing possibilities. These are her vanity hand mirror as well as the enchanted rose and its 'glass' container. Shown below are just some of my favourite shots although the interchangeability and articulation of her head and arms means there are many ways you could go about posing her with the accessories.

Now who could Belle be looking at through her little vanity mirror ...
... well, it's Belle's beau the Beast of course
The Enchanted Rose is encased in a clear plastic part which looks good enough to pass off as glass  
Belle can also be posed to hold on to the Enchanted Rose

Also included in the set was a plastic base for displaying Belle. I can see how this base would be extremely useful if the Nendoroid figure had small deformed legs and couldn't stand on its own (as most seemingly are). Belle is unique in that her ballroom gown becomes a base by itself and she can stand perfectly well without any aid from the said plastic base.

While the stand is sturdy and of good quality, I never did find a use for it when posing Belle
Packaging artwork does double duty and can be used as the background during photography
A Disney princess isn't complete unless she is next to a castle

Belle is my wife's favourite Disney Princess. So it was a no-brainer to get this figurine the moment I laid eyes on it. Would I get another Nendoroid seeing how much the missus loved this one? Yes! I already have one in mind (of a super-heroine character) but I can't reveal it as yet because most online sites have stopped taking pre-orders for this particular future release. Remember Lady Inertia? Well, she's bearing down on me even as I finish this post. Must .. get ... hold ... of ... a brush ... and ... some paints. Must ... hey whaddya know, the latest episode of Big Bang Theory is on TV now.

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