Sunday, 26 June 2016

Quick Update: Judging at Attack-X, Upcoming Banshee Masterclass, and New SableandSpray Email Address

Hi Guys,

Spring has just ended, and it's been a crazy busy time for me.  Very little in the way of actual painting (unless you count working on walls and furniture at home), but I've been intently following many events in the miniature painting world (thanks to various Facebook groups, blogs, and websites... many thanks to anyone who works on these things and updates for all the rest of us who can only live vicariously through you).

Oh, and Pinterest.  Holy crap, Pinterest is addictive... if you're not on Pinterest, you should try it.  It's a really rich mine of inspiring pics, on just about any topic (look me up when you get on.  My account is "Kelly Kim", and I'm the Asian guy doing his best "The Thinker" pose... with the thousands of geek-themed pics).

I do have a few upcoming events of my own though.  I thought I'd do up a quick post to let you know what they are, and then hope to go into more detail on them in some blog posts to come.

First of all, I've been asked to help revamp and run the 2016 Attack-X miniature painting competition, held in Kamloops on September 9-11th.  Attack-X is a very successful gaming convention, and one of the events held there was called the "Sage Brush" painting competition.

This year, myself and Jillian Walker are organizing the new version of the event, called "The Sable Shield".  We will have rules and regulations and further details posted to the Attack-X website and Facebook group soon, but if you want to get a head start on the competition, you should know that we will have four categories: Single model, Unit / Group, Large model, and Small Scale (15mm and under).

It will also be an Open format, instead of the traditional podium award system.  That means that there is no limit to the number of awards... you win so long as the entries meet the standard of quality for each level (Gold, Silver, Bronze... more thoughts on the Open format in an upcoming blog post).  In addition to that, we will also have four trophies for "Best in Category" (one for each category, naturally), and the "Best of Show" award... otherwise known as the "Sable Shield" (which I understand will be a nice shield, perfect for putting on display in your hobby room or man / woman cave).

Check out the Attack-X website for more details.  And "Like" the Facebook group as well for regular updates.  I'll also be posting more details on this blog.

In addition to running and judging the painting competition, Jillian and I will also be the judges for the painting scores in the gaming tournaments.  We'll be walking around the gaming tables with clipboards in hand, trying not to get in anyone's way while the action is going on.  However, we will be asking gamers to point out their favourite conversions and paintjobs, to make sure we recognize all the effort that went into your armies.  For the most part, the more work you put into your army before the event, the better your score... talent and skill does help, but painting scores are more about rewarding time and effort than anything else.  News Flash: bare metal and visible primer won't impress anyone.

We have some fantastic support for this event, but are always happy to have more sponsors.  Feel free to contact Nathan Bosa (the Attack-X event organizer) or myself if you are interested in being part of this awesome con.

In October and November, the legendary Alphonso "Banshee" Giraldes is coming to North America for a cross-Canada tour.  Banshee is one of the most influential artists in miniature painting, and has been teaching Masterclass painting courses for some time now.  Our own Canadian legend, Mathieu Fontaine, is organizing the tour, and bringing Banshee all the way from Spain.

Vancouver's date is set for November 12th and 13th  (UPDATE: Dates for Vancouver have been changed to October 15th and 16th), and I've registered to attend.  Seeing as Mathieu (who has won more painting awards than any other Canadian) has said himself that he has much to learn from Banshee, I figured that this was an opportunity I couldn't miss.  The other stops are in Montreal, Calgary (thanks to Dallas Madill, the Alberta Godfather of mini painting), and Winnipeg.  Not sure why Toronto didn't organize a class... considering that they host a respectable painting competition called "Sword and Brush", you would think that they had a healthy mini painting community there.

I just don't get Torontonians sometimes... who else would vote in a mayor like Rob Ford (a man who makes Donald Trump seem "normal") multiple times?

Contact Mathieu Fontaine if you want to sign up.  Seriously... how often do you get a chance to be taught by one of the great European artists?  If you live in North America, the answer is "not damn often".

The last bit of news to share with you guys is that I finally got off my butt and created an email address for Sable and Spray.  If you would like to contact me, email and I will get back to you.  If things are busy, it may take a little while, but I will respond.

Unless you're a Nigerian Prince in need of a bank account.  Or you are offering penis extensions and cheap meds.  Doubly so if you are a Nigerian Prince offering penis extensions and cheap meds.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Gaming Rooms, Hobby Dens, Home Studios, and Man-Caves : A Few Thoughts and Pics for Inspiration

I've been giving a lot of thought to game / hobby rooms and man-caves lately.  As a quick blog post, I've pulled a bunch of pics off the Net and pasted them below, along with some initial impressions and ideas (NOTE: I apologize in advance for any peculiarities of format of this article... I did some cutting and pasting of text and images, and for some reason Blogger got really really confused by this):

Link to original source page.

This is a FANTASTIC game room.  Stylishly adorned (although maybe not to my wife's tastes), plenty of hidden storage under the gaming tables, lots of light, places to put down a few drinks and ranks of casualties along the wall mounted shelves... this is gorgeous setup.  This is what every gamer's basement should aspire to.  Hopefully this gamer's hobby and painting area is just as nicely done.

Link to original source page.

Speaking of model train rooms, this hobby room obviously belongs to a train enthusiast.  I like the used of cabinets and wall mounted shelves for storage.  The pics and maps on the walls are also a great touch... it's nice to have visual inspiration on hand.  While not an elegant setup (by design magazine standards, which is what some spouses and in-laws base their "good taste" on), it's actually quite tidy and organized.

These are the types of hobby rooms that might meet with spouse approval.  Especially if her hobby is drinking wine and collecting antique long guns.

Those are some beautiful cabinets.  The way the lighting is set up, and the professional design and layout... this screams money.  It's like a wonderful private museum for when the rich Illuminati get together on weekends.  I would LOVE to see something like this, but geared towards the gamer / mini-painter / hobbyist.  I dunno... anyone got any pics of George R.R. Martin's private mini collection?

Link to original source page.

Speaking of classy... this is a pretty nice display of reproduction fantasy swords and staves.  Most of them look like the United Cutlery line of Lord of the Rings swords, but some of them I don't recognize (but they still probably have plenty of meaning to the owner).  Again, tastefully done, although I'd probably keep them behind glass myself... I can see my 7 year old taking a few down and hacking up my man-cave while playing with them.

Love it though.  A great example of how geekery can be done tastefully.

Link to original source page.

This, unfortunately, is more common amongst geeks.  This is Adam Savage's (of Mythbusters fame) collection of movie props and reproduction pieces.  To a diehard geek, this collection is absolutely gobsmacking awesome.  To anyone else though, it looks like the cluttered set of the TV show, "Hoarders".  To be fair, he's got enough stuff in this one room to fill a multi-level museum.  It would be hard to imagine how else this could be artfully displayed in such a space.  As it is, I'd be worried that if I tried playing pool here, I'd accidentally smack and set off the Rocketeer's jet backpack, a la "The Empire Strikes Back" ("Boba Fett?  Where?").

This wall of display cabinets are done pretty nicely as well.  Probably not TOO expensive to do, either.  I understand that there are inexpensive glass doors sold for the IKEA “BILLY” bookcase line that would do the trick.  Add a tiny bit of weatherstripping around the edges of the doors, and it’d be dustproof too.

Plenty of gamers would have something more like this setup.  Plenty of eye-candy on display for the gamer, but for non-gaming guests, it may look like a confusing mess (although from up close, you can tell that it’s actually pretty tidy and organized).  From a design standpoint, I would probably try and have a bookcase and display case that were pretty close in dimension and scale.  Similarly, I would prefer to have them in the same colour if possible.  This would make for a more seamless transition visually, and make it easier for your eye to read.
The colours of the shelving units are also something to consider.  The white is nice in a small room because it recedes into the light coloured walls nicely, and visually opens up the space.  However, I do like black too, because the colours of the models pop better against it, and black has a nice museum-quality to it that acts like a nice picture frame.  The only drawback to black is that it shows dust easily, and it visually occupies a lot of space.

Having both units with such dissimilar footprints and overall dimensions breaks the flow of the room quite a bit too.  What I would have liked to see instead of that puny (in comparison to the glass door cabinet) bookcase is another cabinet with the exact same dimensions, but perhaps with opaque doors instead of glass ones.  This would allow you to cram all sorts of modelling supplies and unsightly mess, and still have a clean streamlined appearance in the room.  That being said, I’ve also seen many books artfully displayed in glass door bookcases too… something about the doors frame the books nicely, so opaque isn’t the only way to go.

I guess the big thing is that the beautiful fully painted minis should be the focus of everyone’s attention, not the boxes of unassembled models and bottles of flock.  If the supplies were in covered cabinets, then they would not be competing for attention with the gorgeous paintjobs.

Now THIS is gaming and display done very well.  Museum style display cabinets in the back, with a clean, classy gaming table before it, with plenty of room to walk all the way around it.  If I was to nitpick, this room might benefit from some nicely framed art and decorative items on the walls as well (the space above the alcove is just screaming for a horizontally displayed sword, or a movie prop fantasy tavern sign), but I can’t really say much else about it.

Hmmm… could THIS pic be of the same room, only taken from the other end of the table? :
A very cool hobby area setup.  You’ve got nicely laid out and organized paint racks, little tiny drawers for bits and small tools, a photography setup at the far right, and a computer for picture processing and surfing for reference photos on the far left.  Larger tools and hobby supplies probably stored in the drawers underneath it all too.

The one thing is that I normally prefer to have my work space in a separate area.  To me, they are like garages and artist studios.  They are naturally very cluttered, messy areas.  You wouldn’t want a mechanic’s garage and the supercar sales showroom occupying the same space, as one is a messy workspace, and the other is a pristine display.  Similarly, you wouldn’t want to entertain high society guests in the same room where wine is being pressed… it’s hard to feel classy about drinking fine wine when there’s someone stomping barefoot on grapes right next to you.

However, in the context of everything being all part of one “man-cave”, it works regardless.

Not quite as classy as the previous example, but probably almost just as functional.  This is still a man-cave I could definitely live with.  Great work space with great lighting and tools easily at hand.  Although without any space underneath the work surface, there’s no room to tuck your knees in so that you can get right up and cozy with your minis and paints.  That can lead to serious back pain as you crouch far forward in your chair to work.

The gaming table looks interesting.  It’s almost as if the varnished brown wood top is set atop of a regular dining table.  It would have to be anchored down somehow to prevent tipping over, if that’s the case.

This is an interesting one.  My first instinct would be to replace all the bookcases with closed door cabinets so that your eye would be free to focus on the nice gaming table.  However, unlike hobby supplies, I think books are beautiful things.

However, books can also be visually chaotic and cluttered looking, unless organized and displayed properly.  There are plenty of pics of private libraries online that illustrate this idea… many libraries are sumptuous and inviting, whereas others look like rat nests.
The way to improve this room would be to replace all the bookcases with the same kind… not necessarily identical to one another, but at least thematically and dimensionally the same family.

This is better.  The cabinets against the far wall are visually related and sympathetic in dimension and appearance.  The table is a good size as well, and can be worked around easily.  I might have added some doors to the shelves of both the cabinets and the table though, just to clean up the look of the room and refocus the viewer’s attention to the game in play and at the armies in the cases.  A few art pieces on the walls above the glass cabinets would be a nice touch, and I would move the sword to the column between them.  Also, the room could use better lighting.

My wife hates valances above windows and doors, so those would have to go.  She does have a point… the era of the pleated valance has come and gone.
Love the big AT-AT.  Damn, that’s nice.

One question I would love answered is whether or not the short bookcases holding up the gaming table have wheels on them.  It would be interesting to have a table you could break down between games... put the terrain and models away, put the green table top against the wall or in a closet, and then wheel the supporting bookcases back against the walls to open the space up again.  Hmmm…

I have the same idea about this game table.  Take the table top off and store it somewhere, and then push the “legs” back against the wall to be regular old bookcases again.

My only concern would be whether or not the table is very stable when set up.  Perhaps you’d have to have to incorporate some way of clamping the tabletop down to the cases, so that it doesn’t tip off when you lean on one end, or bump into the table.

Another simple, attractive, and functional gaming table.  More artwork on the walls would be nice though  (you guys should see a theme in my personal tastes by now).  This room looks a little stark, and art would make it a bit more interesting and inviting.

If the last room was a bit bare and cold, this one is a bit too busy.  Not the same hobby as us, but I like this pic in terms of it being a good example of someone showing off their passion like we gamers / mini-painters like to do.  This guy definitely put some thought and consideration into planning out this room, but then crammed it to overflowing with sports memorabilia.  It’s really hard on the eyes, and can use a little bit of negative space just to open it up a tiny bit.

Now this is a seriously neat and tidy work space.  Yeesh… mine certainly doesn’t look like this.  I really like it, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t see myself keeping it so neat and tidy over time.  It’s inspiring though.  Lots of lighting, a combination of closed and open storage, lots of open table space to work, and even the colours and dimensions look harmonious.

They say that a cluttered work space can be stressful to work in.  If that’s the case, then this room would be like zen meditation.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough for one blog post.  I’m pretty sure I could keep going on and on for days by pulling up more and more pictures off of Google and Pinterest.  For now, I’ll just end this article with this pic of a really cool hidden door that would be the ultimate finishing touch for any man-cave. 

Really now… what would be cooler than a “Scooby-Doo” style hidden door to your hobby room?  There are a million reasons to have something like this.  Where would I even start?

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Final Pics : Warhammer 40K Space Marine Salamanders Fire Raptor

Fire Raptor is now finished, and already kicking butt in the hands of my friend.  Below are some quick pics I took with my iPhone shortly before shipping it out to him.

The overall shot.  I really like the lines on this model... something about it reminds me of the old Lamborghini Countach (I think I spelled that right...) that I lusted after as a kid.  All sorts of sharp edges... not at all like the modern day super sports cars that are all rounded and bulbous.

The pic below is the 3/4 front angle.  Again, sorry about the crappy pics... they were quickly taken at home, under less than ideal lighting, with my iPhone 5.  Since I didn't know when I'd see this model in person again (my buddy lives a few towns over from me), I thought it prudent to some pics in case I needed to use them as a reference later.

Top view below.  Note the use of some colour modulation, and minor superficial battle damage, primarily directed at the front leading edges.  A little bit of freehand work as well, but because of time constraints, I couldn't go as far as I would have liked.

These little ball turrets were neat.  Since they were assembled before painting, I was a little afraid that there would be complications when painting it, but it turned out fine.

After painting the cockpit canopy a few different colours, I went back and decided to do it up in black.  Simple, understated, and it gave it a little bit of the negative space it needed from all the green.

A look at the tail end of the gunship.  Notice that I concentrated the colour modulation highlights towards the front of the aircraft.  This is to give the viewer the impression of movement, and to draw their eye to the leading areas as a focal point.

I also hit the engine exhausts with some Tamiya Smoke and a tiny bit of Tamiya Flat Black, through the airbrush.  It gave it the impression of scorching.

Another view of the weathering on the leading edge of the wing (which would presumably be taking all sorts of minor impacts from flying through explosions and clouds of debris), scratches on the engine intake, and the ball turret.

This last pic is a size comparison between the massive Fire Raptor, and a much smaller Land Speeder.

Speaking of comparisons, check out this link to a post I wrote back in 2012.  There's a pic of a Salamanders dreadnaught I painted some time in the mid 90s, and some observations on how mini painting has really changed since then.  It's worth a read.

Anyway, off to bed now.  It's Mother's Day tomorrow, and I expect I'll be busy.  Funny how moms want everyone to spend the whole day with them on their day, but dads just want a full day to themselves and their own hobbies instead, eh?

Hope you enjoyed the pics, and my rambling musings on them.  As always, questions, comments, and light hearted insults always welcome.  ;)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Work in Progress : Warhammer 40K Salamanders Fire Raptor Gunship

I realize I haven't posted anything regarding my own painting for some time now.  In fact, I haven't posted much of ANYTHING lately, but "Works in Progress" posts have been especially lacking on Sable and Spray.

Just to prove that I haven't completely abandoned painting minis myself, here are a few pics of one project that's currently on my painting desk, a Warhammer 40K Forgeworld Salamanders Fire Raptor Gunship:

Now this is a pretty sizeable kit.  Not Titan sized, mind you, but still much bigger than most vehicle kits I get to work on.  For a vehicle kit junkie like myself, that makes it extremely enjoyable to paint.

Best of all, it came all pre-assembled.  I'm doing this up as a commission paintjob for a friend of mine, and he prepped, cleaned, assembled, and primered the model himself.  That is a huge project unto itself, as Forgeworld resin kits are very labour-intensive.  Many parts come warped, and need to be gently bent back into shape with the application of a little heat (blow dryers or with warm water).  Others have horrible casting issues, and practically need to be re-sculpted by the modeller.  There are often fitting issues, air bubbles, and other nasty problems that also need to be fixed before painting.  Parts also often need to be degreased thoroughly, otherwise the residual mold release coating will reject paint and primer.  In short, Forgeworld kits are a labour of love, and an exercise in extreme patience.

I am VERY thankful that I got to skip that step.

Matthew did a fantastic job of putting this model together.  Yes, there are still some mold lines here and there, and ample evidence that there was judicious use of an exacto knife on parts.  But nothing I can't compensate for with some well placed weathering and painted on battle scars, which will only add to the realism.  On the whole, the model was built very well, and there are no loose pieces looking like they will break away any time soon.

Knowing that I was going to paint this for his Salamanders Space Marine army, I picked up some Vallejo Model Air paints from my local hobby shop.  I wanted to be able to do as much work as I could with the airbrush, and purchasing the Model Air paints meant that I wouldn't have to mess around with paint thinners and mixing quite as much as I normally do with standard model paints.

The two above pics show the amount of work I was able to do with just the airbrush.  Now, airbrushing isn't quite as much of a time saver as some would think.  With a standard sable brush, there is no time spent masking off areas in case of overspray.  There is also a minimum amount of time spent cleaning your tools.  You don't have to mess around with respirators to make sure you don't inhale a bunch of atomized paint and thinners.  Generally, I don't use the airbrush unless I can help it.  I much prefer blending paints by hand.  Yes, it takes longer to do the shading and highlighting if you want the same quality of smooth transitions, but when you add in the prep work and cleaning, it's often faster and less stressful to just do the work by good old fashioned sable brush.  However, in this case we're talking about a good amount of green real estate, so it was worth it.

Notice that the paper towel below the model is decorated with plenty of different shades of green.  One of the big differences with airbrushes is the lack of feedback from the tool.  You can see how the paint looks in the cup, but that's not necessarily how the paint will look coming out of the tip.  Test spraying onto another surface not only gives you a better sense of what's going to happen on the model (before you apply to the model), but it also preps your fingers to better understand what amount of pressure you need to apply, and how far back you need to pull, in order to get the result you want.

Another thing to consider is that not everything needs to get masked.  Sometimes when I'm painting near the final edge of something, simply turning the model at a sharp angle to the airbrush means that any overspray won't hit other parts of the model.  Any time you can get away without masking, is a huge time saver.

Now, while this was a good start, I still have a long way to go with the green areas.  That's when I put away the airbrush, and pick up the sable brush.

I'm now working up some blended highlights with my trusty Kolinsky sable brushes.  I'm working in some P3 Thrall Green (the bottle can be seen in the bottom left of the pic), which is a bone linen beige colour, with just a tiny hint of green in it.  That makes it ideal for highlighting the green armour plates.  You can tell that it's already starting to bring out the detail better, and simulates how the light would reflect off a "real life sized" assault gunship.  I'll also need to go in there with the shading to accentuate the contrasts a bit more later.

Have a look how I'm trying to place the shadows of one armour plate right next to the highlights of the next.  This technique / approach is called, "colour modulation", and it maximizes contrast and visual interest.  While heavily stylized (and not entirely realistic), it's a necessary approach to a model that you intend to weather later.  Weathering tends to flatten out contrast quite a bit, and so you absolutely need to exaggerate contrasts ahead of time in order to compensate for this.

The plan is to blend some more shading in, in order to deepen the contrasts.  I will also add a little bit of edge highlighting in order to simulate how light likes to catch on the hard edges of large plates.  This is a nice touch when used in conjunction with a decent blending job and nice gradated highlights and shading... NOT when overdone and used all alone (as I described in this past article).

One thing I did find interesting was how the P3 Thrall Green acted on my wet palette.  While primarily beige in colour, that little touch of green had a tendency to separate as the paint got saturated with water.  Thin it too much and then turn your back on it for awhile, and the green would break free and "float" to the surface.

That's the watered down Thrall Green on the top right, full strength Thrall Green on top left.  The Vallejo Model Air paint in green is to the bottom left, and mixes of the two are in the centre and bottom right.

By the way, paints that are pre-thinned to work in airbrushes (such as the Vallejo Model Air line) are a bit harder to work with on the palette and with a standard sable brush.  They start off rather runny, and have no real body to work with.  They seem to be a lot like a glaze in consistency, only powerfully pigmented.  I could see two-brush blending them straight from a dry palette, but using them on a wet palette was a constant challenge in controlling their consistency.

Speaking of brush blending, I'm alternating between Mathieu Fontaine's "push-pull" method of blending, and Meg Maple's "two brush blending".  I have been fortunate enough to attend both their classes, and those were two amazing techniques I took away with me.  With them, I have been able to slowly improve my blending to the point where I can work them into airbrushed transitions without too much notice.

Lots more to do, and that's only for the green areas.  After that, I've still got to do the glass canopy, the metal areas, some freehand work, and plenty of weathering.  If I'm really a sucker for punishment, I may even paint all those rivets...

As always, comments, questions, and criticisms are always welcome.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Quick Tip : Use Zip Ties to Keep Your Tools From Rolling Off the Table

Lately, I've been reading a LOT of home renovation books and magazines, as we have finally managed to purchase a house.  It's an older one (built in the mid '50s... if you are European, go ahead and laugh.  To us North Americans, 60+ years for a house is OLD), so there's lots of renos to do.

Anyway, I came across this neat little tip in an issue of Family Handyman magazine:

After reading this, I had one of those moments of, "Holy crap!  How did I NOT think of this before?"

After posting this up on the Vancouver Miniature Painters and the Eavier Metal Facebook pages, I had hundreds of "likes", and numerous comments saying pretty much the same thing.

I can see this working for plenty of miniature related tools, from exacto knives, to sculpting tools, to paint brushes, etc.  Basically anything that is barrel shaped and tends to roll if set down on a sloped surface.

I probably would use the smallest zip ties I could get my hands on though.  Larger ties would add more weight (not much, but still...), which may affect the balance of the tool somewhat.  It wouldn't be a big deal after awhile, but initially you would have to become accustomed to the shift in the balance point.

Anyway, worth a try for anyone who's ever been annoyed by rolling tools.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

TMM (True Metallic Metallics) vs NMM (Non Metallic Metallics) : Which Do I Like Better?

Coke versus Pepsi.  Ford versus Chevy.  Metal versus Punk.  These are the eternal debates of our time.  And now TMM versus NMM ranks right up there with the rest of them, at least for Miniature Painters.

First of all, what the heck is "TMM" and "NMM"?

"TMM" is short for "True Metallic Metallics", and in miniature painting, it's the use of metallic paints to represent metallic surfaces.  Most "metal" paints have a bit of colour pigment in the body of the paint, but also have ultra fine flecks of metal suspended in them as well, in order to give the paint its metallic shine or sheen.  The better the quality of paint, the more finely ground the metallic flake, which makes for a smoother appearance when dry (conversely, cheaper paints have course grind flakes, which makes them much rougher in appearance, almost pebbly).

"NMM" is short for "Non Metallic Metallics", which refers to the technique of simulating shine without actually using shiny paint.  The paints used are often matte finish, but by utilizing maximum contrast and a few other mind games to trick the eye, the viewer reads the painted miniature as "ooh... shiny".  There are no metallic flakes or pigments, but we are somehow given the strong impression of a metallic surface.

Up until the 21st Century, there was no debate.  We pretty much all used metallic pigmented paint.  I personally have fond memories of such classic GW staples as "Boltgun Metal", Chainmail", and Mithril Silver".  There were also metallic paints in bronze and gold as well, and even ones in rusty, weathered tones.

Application was very straightforward and simple.  Most of the time, we applied a dark or mid tone of metallic paint, gave it a ink wash for shading, and then highlighted with a brighter version of the base coat.  If you wanted to use a cruder, quicker method, you would simply drybrush over a black undercoat in successively brighter layers of metallic paints.  If you wanted to really take your time for a more polished look, you would thin out your metallic paints a bit on a palette, and gradually build up smooth transitions of blended metallics (just as you would with a non-metallic paints on a non-metallic area).

Classic GW 'Eavy Metal paintjob from the end of the 20th century.  This is what we all aspired to paint like.

Metallic paints had / have different painting characteristics to non-metallic paints.  They tended to dry very smooth and slick, so ink washes worked exceptionally well on them.  A rough slap dash of black wash of the right consistency would run right into the crevices of the model's detail in a very predictable manner.  But the drawback of metallic paints is that if you thinned out your paint too much, the body of the paint would quickly loose cohesion and you'd get very patchy results when it finally dried.

When light falls on a model painted with metallic paints, it reflects off the metallic pigments, and thus you have a realistic shine.  The manner in which ambient light hit the surface created the majority of the contrast our eyes and brains needed in order to read it as metal.  Straightforward and simple.  We didn't even call it "TMM" at the time, as it was pretty much the only way to paint metal areas (and "TMM" as we know it today is actually something very different to what I've just described... which I'll explain in a little bit).

So, life with metallics was good, right?  Well, we all thought so, until an upstart rogue French miniatures company came along and upset the balance of the Force.

Classic Rackham / Confrontation paintjob.  While the NMM looks a little flat by today's standards, it was mind blowing at the time.

Rackham had a miniatures game called, "Confrontation", and produced some of the most beautiful miniatures we'd ever seen up to that point (in my opinion, some sculpts still stand as some of the best... ever).  The proportions were different to what we'd seen up until then (no oversized hands and feet, and blades and wrists and ankles were not made chunkier to withstand the rigours of gaming like GW did at the time).  Stylistically, the sculpts were more akin to something in between Asian anime / manga and euro comic book art too.  And the miniatures had an almost ethereal flow to them... even though the models were static, the way the clothes draped and wrapped around the subjects gave the viewer the strong impression that the model was in caught in motion.

But what really blew our minds was the radically different approach to painting that the Rackham studio painters used.  It was as if they had no prior experience with traditional miniature painting methods, and instead took conventional and heavily stylized 2d canvas and comic book art techniques and training to the 3d models.  They really looked like the cover art of all the fantasy games and novels that had come before, especially when viewed in the pages of a magazine or on a computer screen.

Google "Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell" if you ever need a NMM reference.  Their 2D art features it in spades.

"NMM", or "Non Metallic Metallic" was the biggest challenge to traditional miniature painting.  I have no idea of how that term was even coined, or who was primarily responsible for coming up with it.  All I know is that the seemingly ridiculously contrary term gained immediate traction.  Seriously... calling something "Non Metallic Metallic" is like calling a veggie burger a "Non Meat Meat Patty".  It's not a particularly well thought out or elegant definition, yet it somehow gets the message across.

Still, as a snobby former English Lit student, I'd like to beat the guy who came up with "NMM".  Seriously buddy, WTF?

I'm not going to turn this article into a NMM tutorial, as there are plenty of those online, in print, on DVD, and on Youtube.  What I can do is define what it is (see above), and generally how it works.

The difference between NMM and simply painting something grey or brown (steel or gold / bronze) is maximizing contrast to simulate light reflection.  And precise and thoughtful placement of where your highlights and shades go is key. 

Maximizing contrast is the "easy" part, in a sense.  Any part painted in NMM will have pure matt black (or at least very close to it) as the lowest point of it's spectrum of colour, and pure white (or at least very close to it) as it's highest zenith.  Really the hardest part is being able to cram in every mid-tone inbetween, blending as smoothly as humanly possible to ensure no chunky transitions.

Where you place your highlights and shades is also a big part of maximizing contrast.  Every black point has to contact a white point.  Black against white are polar opposites, so your eyes read the contact between them as a sharp contrast.  So, instead of highlighting the peak of a bevelled sword dark to light, and then light to dark once you go over the edge of it, you would go dark to light, and then as soon as you cross the peak of the bevel, you'd go dark to light again so that the light part contacts the dark whenever possible.

Pic pulled off the Tutofig website. Fantastic example of how dark is carefully placed in direct contrast with light, and how smooth blending is key.

The painter can then add interest in the areas between the extremes.  While you may do various tones of grey to simulate steel, and tones of brown to yellow to simulate gold or bronze, you can also add subtle glazes of other colours too.  Blue works well when glazed into the shades of NMM steel, for example, as it simulates the blued effect of some metals.  If you're truly ambitious, you can glaze in a similar colour to the areas surrounding and facing the metal areas, to simulate the metallic surface's reflective properties (the "mirror finish|, so to speak).  If you really want to go '80s airbrush mural art style, you can even work on developing your "SENMM" (Sky Earth Non Metallic Metallic) where you simulate a chrome mirror finish, and the surrounding earth and sky horizon reflecting off of it.

Mini painters call this effect, "SENMM".  Normal people call this, "Chrome effect".  We mini painters are NOT normal people...

Gah, this is starting to turn into a tutorial article now, and I try to avoid those when possible.  Let's get back on track...

"TMM" or "True Metallic Metallics" as we know it now, came about years and years later after NMM started to lose its novelty and wow factor (not to say that it was any less impressive... just that it wasn't "novel" any more).  People were pushing the boundaries of NMM into ridiculous areas, just to impress the masses (SENMM being the most obvious example).  I definitely admire that drive to expand the horizons of miniature painting, but I was just so happy when TMM came along, as it truly was something unique to mini painting as an art form.

NMM may have been relatively new to mini painting, but it was well established in canvas and 2 dimensional art.  It's what people did since the first caveman started scratching drawings on the side of his man-cave.  It's in comic book art, it's in computer animation, it's in commercial art, and it's even in historical art.  You simply don't use metallic flake paint for those things, so you simulate the illusion of a metallic surface using NMM.

NMM looks fantastic in pics, as you are forced to view the model from the exact angle that the photographer chooses.  Thus it looks, "right" when viewed as intended (this is sometimes called, "forced perspective").  As it should be, as you are essentially viewing a 3 dimensional model in 2 dimensions.  However, the paintjob doesn't always look quite as good when viewed in person, as you are now able to view it in ways the painter never intended.

Think of it this way: What we build and paint are solid, three dimensional sculptures.  They can be viewed from all sorts of angles by your eye when held in your hand, sitting in a display case, or on the gaming table.  However, when you take a picture of it, and viewed on a computer screen or in print (a 2 dimensional surface), you have flattened that 3 dimensional model into a flat 2 dimensional impression of the original piece, much like a piece of canvas art or comic book page.  Thus, it only makes sense that a 2 dimensional painting technique "works" when you are viewing a model reduced to a 2D impression.

I'm sure Rackham knew this when they embraced NMM.  Most people around the world would never get a chance to see those models "live" and in person.  They would only see pictures of those models.  Of course those models would look very artistic and painterly, and evoke feelings and impressions of classic fantasy and comic book art... after all, they were painted using the same painting techniques used by those artists!

Of course, this is not to devalue NMM at all.  It's a damn hard technique to pull off (much easier once you've got the hang of it, but definitely difficult to master in the first place).  And it looks amazing... less so in person, but not by much.  It's still awe-inspiring to see a well done NMM piece in hand, but primarily because of the incredible and buttery smooth blending work involved, and the thought processes (care and attention) put into the model.

One of the most influential NMM works of all time, Darren Latham's Sanguinor.

And his NMM has only gotten better over time, as evidenced by this WIP Stormcast.

I think anyone who is still reading this article by now, and hasn't yet quit and started surfing pics of Megan Fox by now will start to get the feeling that I'm more of a TMM man (and more of a fan of Kate Beckinsale too).  I definitely don't hate NMM... I just think that TMM is a bit more versatile, as it looks slightly better in person (in my opinion).

Did someone mention Kate Beckinsale??

So what is "True Metallic Metallic" anyway?  Well, put simply, it's very nearly the same as NMM, only done with metallic pigmented paints.

Whaaaaa???  How the heck does that work?

Well, you have the extreme contrasts of NMM, but with the real shine and reflection (and not JUST the impression of it) of a real metallic surface afforded by using micro-metallic flake paint.  You still have to put some thought into placement of your highlights and shading, in order to ensure that the extremes butt up against each other for maximized contrast.  However, you can also play with the contrast of shine vs dull, by making sure your dark areas have little to no reflection (a matt glaze of black or other shade colour usually works for this).

A quick Google search pulled up this pic.  It perfectly illustrates the use of NMM techniques with "true" metallic paints, to achieve fantastic TMM.

With the latest generation of quality metallic paints, the metallic flakes are ground so fine as to be nearly imperceptible as grains, thus giving the dried paintjob a smooth shiny finish.  When carefully blended (as opposed to coarsely layered or haphazardly drybrushed on), they give a really nice, fairly realistic result that is still just as "artistic" and "painterly" as NMM.

TMM : Combining shine AND contrast!

You can also apply coloured glazes to TMM to simulate reflection, just as you would with NMM.  You can imply rust, dents, wear, bluing, chrome, etc, just as effectively as you would with NMM, but it requires additional work (just like you would with NMM).  

The problem with TMM is that the term encompasses just about every approach to painting with metallic paints... the good and the bad.  When done carefully, with all the same attention and thought as most NMM paintjobs, it's a thing of wonder.  When slapped on like house paint, sprayed on from a rattle can, or drybrushed on with a large drybrush, it's damn ugly. The end effect is overly reliant on the natural shine of the metallic pigments in order to achieve contrast, and many people dislike TMM for this reason... badly done and with little control, the effect is left to chance.

Painted back in the same decade that brought us piano-key skinny leather ties, and Samantha Fox singing, "Boom boom boom, let's go up to my room...", I guess this would be a good example of me executing what could technically be called, "TMM", before I knew any better.

Control is also marginally more difficult with metallic paints.  If you thin them too much, the metallic pigments have a hard time binding together, and the paint "breaks".  I find that mixing a tiny bit of medium in helps with this, but there are still limits to how far you can push a metallic paint.

Lastly, photographing TMM is not as straightforward as taking pics of NMM models.  With NMM, you know which angles are the best to photograph from, and light does not bounce off the model in unpredictable ways.  With TMM, the lighting used will actually reflect off the model, creating contrasts and shine that may be picked up by the camera in ways the human eye wouldn't.  Luckily with digital photography, you can simply take multiple pics from different angles, and discard the pics that didn't turn out as well as you liked.

So, which approach do I personally prefer?

At the moment, it's TMM.  I believe that with the right amount of thought and technique applied, TMM has many of the same characteristics of NMM (contrast is precisely controlled, and the effects are planned), but more accurately resemble METAL when viewed in person.  It's not an "artistic interpretation" of what metal should look like, but rather, it IS metal... a form of metallic medium, in any case.

I'm not as concerned with the piece looking good on a computer screen or in the pages of a publication.  Most of my models are meant to be appreciated in person, by the human eye.  I paint for competition, where the judge will see the model for themselves, and I have no control over which angle he/she looks at the piece.  I also paint to play with the models, and the angle and distance you view the models is nothing like the angle and lighting conditions under which models are photographed.

I'm kind of simplifying things a bit when I contend that NMM is better for photography, and TMM is better in person.  Generally, this is true, but there are many examples of NMM models that look fantastic in person, and TMM models that look fantastic in photos.  Try both methods for yourself, and see which works better for you.  But I urge you to master both techniques, as the skills and techniques involved in both easily transfer over to other areas of your painting, and will make you a stronger painter overall.

Plus, that way you will have two tools in your tool chest of skills, rather than just the one.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Bottlecaps as Painting Tools: Not Just for Fallout Any More...

It seems like all my gaming buddies are talking about Fallout 4, all the time.  While I haven't succumbed to the urge yet (heck, I haven't even replaced my XBox 360 and PS3 for the latest versions, and my PC would probably struggle to run Donkey Kong or Pac Man), I fondly remember collecting bottle caps as currency in the earlier versions of the game.

Thinking about Fallout inspired me to do a quick writeup about one of my favourite painting tools, the humble bottle cap.  While not a hardcore drinker by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy a good craft brewed beer with dinner every so often.  While I started drinking beer back in my university days (really crappy mass brewed stuff... Budweiser, Molson Canadian, and Molson Dry mostly), when the craft beer scene started taking off locally in the late '90s, I started expanding my drinking range, and found myself actually enjoying beer for its own sake, rather than just as a social lubricant.  My business partner in Sorcerer Studios (my old miniature painting studio) and I would often each nurse a bottle of the good stuff on particularly long work days (a nice light hefeweizen during a hot summer day, or a rich dark porter or stout on a cold winter day), and when my brother-in-law became a brewmaster, that pretty much cemented my appreciation of quality beers (he even had a beer named after him).

And so, returning to the topic of bottlecaps and how they relate to painting, I seem to have plenty of them at hand whenever I need them.  Granted, some are dented or warped a tiny bit from prying them off the neck of the bottle, but they are still perfectly serviceable.  People who drink beers from a can may not have a good supply of them, but they don't have any taste to begin with in my opinion (beer from a can tastes like licking the inside of a metal pipe... it's shit.  Craft brewers know this, which is why quality beers are not sold in cans).

So how do you use a bottlecap for painting?  The most common use that I've found for them is as a throwaway painting palette.

Have you ever seen the type of dry painting palette that has spoon-like divots in it? 

They are there to contain runny paints, and keep them from trying to get nasty with your other colours.  If I'm mixing watery inks, glazes, and washes, I may grab a bottlecap and mix my colours inside one.  Once it's done, I toss the cap.

I also use it for mixing oil paints.  Thinning oil paints to find just the right consistency requires mixing it with some sort of thinner (linseed oil, as an example).  It comes from tubes in a consistency thicker than toothpaste, which sucks for painting miniatures.  Mix in a little linseed oil, and you've got yourself something you can work with.  After I'm done with that colour, I toss the cap.

Bottlecaps are also great for "portion control" of glues, mediums, and other liquid substances.  When basing, I often squeeze a bit of white glue into a bottlecap, and then use a dropper to add some water to it.  Swirl a ratty old brush in there to mix it up and thin it to the exact consistency that you're looking for, and simply toss the cap away afterwards.

I've mixed up modelling snow in them (usually either baking soda or Secret Weapon crushed glass and clear resin water effects).  I've filled them like tiny cups with liquid brush cleaner and swirled my brushes in them to get all the old paint residue off them.  Thinning brush on primer or brush on clearcoat can be accomplished inside a cap.  I've also mixed plaster in them, and other modelling mediums too.

In fact, for just about anything you want to use, but you figure is best to keep away from the paints on your regular palette (dry or wet), I suggest using an upturned bottlecap.  Disposable AND renewable (so long as you enjoy good beer), what's not to like?

On a similar note, perhaps I should write a companion article regarding the many uses of wine bottle corks in miniature painting.  Nah... better not.  People might think I'm a lush that spends more time drinking than painting...