Sunday, 9 March 2014

GottaCon 2014 part 3 : Single Miniature continued

Returning to the Single Miniature catagory, I'd like to take the opportunity to remind people to (re)read my previous blog post : Explanation of Judging Process for Painting Competitions.  Written after last year's GottaCon painting competition, I think that everything I wrote there still rings true.

And without further ado, here are some more entries in the 2014 GottaCon Miniature Painting Competition.

Ric Jesson entered this amazing Twilight Knight pinup model.  I have to admit, I wasn't prepared to see two Kingdom Death models in this year's painting competition (Arthur Nicholson's pinup Architect was the other one).  As far as I know, no one ever uses these models for gaming... the main draw of this line of miniatures is their gorgeous gothic art appeal.  When I saw these models in the competition, I knew things were getting serious... these weren't going to be simply game-quality paintjobs plucked from someone's army, but dedicated competition pieces.

The Twilight Knight model in particular is one of Kingdom Death's signature pieces.  A quick search in Coolminiornot reveals that there are a ton of them painted by some of the finest painters in the world.  That being said, I almost didn't recognize Ric's base model, as a simple arm swap and intriguing base completely transformed the silhouette of the piece.  There is some coverage of his work on his blog, Ricalopia.

The flesh was particularly well done, and I could tell plenty of attention was lavished on getting her skin tones right.  By contrast, the highlighting in other places was a tiny bit heavy handed.  The armour plates on her knees, and the black tiles showed only a few layers of highlighting, and the opacity of each layer was a bit too strong.  When using a layering technique for shading and highlighting, I believe people should thin down their paints to a near translucent opacity.  It means that many more layers of highlighting are required to achieve a solid contrast, but since it makes for a really gentle and smooth transition between shades, it can deceive the eye into believing that there is a really nice blending job going on.  The master of this technique was a guy out of New York in the late '90s and early 2000's named Bobby Wong:

This Ultramarine won bronze at the U.S. Golden Demons in 2001.  From what I've been told, Bobby would decide on a colour, find the darkest and lightest tones he would use for that particular colour, and then proceed to line up a bunch of empty paint pots and mix up every shade he could manage between those two extremes.  By meticulously laying down each layer one at a time, spacing each layer out precisely, he would achieve a nearly imperceptible succession of coloured layers, and his transitions were nearly invisible to the eye.  If this story is true, then Bobby was not so much an artist, as a painting machine.  By laying down countless layers of paint, he was the human equivalent to a 3D printer, if such a machine could be taught to paint.  It must have been insanely time-consuming, but the results speak for themselves.  It reminds me of how last year's winner, Bryce Jensen, paints his models, but taken to an extreme.  It's not my favourite method of painting (it doesn't take as much "feel" for the brush, paints, and model, and hence it's too cold and methodical for my tastes), but it gets the job done.

However, Ric needn't have gone to that extreme.  Had he feathered the edges of each layer a bit, I think it would have ended up looking much smoother.  In any case, there were a few areas that didn't live up to the skill level and dedication that he showed to the flesh areas (which were really nice, btw).

Emily Jarrett's "Paladin of the Wall" was another solid entry.  She literally painted this model during my painting clinic on Saturday, and I had the pleasure of spending some time chatting with her about various topics, including things that had absolutely nothing to do with painting (she told me that she was a professional theologian, and it was interesting hearing her take on theology in gaming).  I did my best to hold up my end of the conversation, but being sleep deprived, caffeine deprived (the engine of my brain runs on caffeine), and battling the first signs of a cold, I could only muster the IQ of a flickering fluorescent bulb with a loose connection.  At the end of the day, just before entry deadline cutoff, she decided it was done, and asked if she could enter it in the competition.

This model's bone coloured armour was strong and even, and lacked the kind of rough brush marks that one typically sees in any white-ish coloured paint.  For some reason, I've found most whites and cream colours are somewhat gritty (Vallejo Model Colour is typically the worst for that, but all paint ranges I've tried suffer from this to some degree or another), but if you thin down your paint enough (as Emily did), and have enough patience to lay down multiple thin coats (while allowing each coat to fully dry inbetween), you can end up with a fairly smooth white, which Emily did very well.

What I wish I had recommended (and demonstrated) to her was the use of washes for blacklining.  The whites, golds, and silvers on her model needed more definition from one another, and a bit of blacklining would have helped with that.  By mixing a little bit of dark coloured ink or GW wash with a bit of medium (such as GW Lahmian medium, Vallejo Matt Medium, or even a 90% water to 10% flow release mix), and then carefully applying this to precisely the areas you want (such as the border between the gold and steel areas of her sword, or around rivets), you can create nice visual borders on the model that make it much more easily read by the human eye.

Not having enough of a real defining border on a painted miniature reminds me of the colour-only sheet of cel animation, as compared to the final product.  I had a very hard time finding any examples to show you via my weak Google-fu.

In this pic, you can sort of see what I'm talking about.  The colours are there, but without a defining line between them, they don't contrast well against one another.  Your brain naturally wants to blend the colours together.

This is a better example.  This is a comic book cover, without the characteristic black lining of comic book art.  It looks like a washed out watercolour.  It leaves a fairly weak impression on the eye, and in the brain.

Now look at this finished product, where the original line art has been reinforced with the work of a good inker.  That would have been a dramatic black and white piece, but then the above example of colour was put in, and this is the final marriage of dark lines and bright colours.  It has that visual punch that the earlier colour-only pic lacked.  It has much more depth to the piece, as well.  Hard to believe that the earlier piece was exactly the same work, minus the black lines.  The black lines give the impression of deeper shading to the blues, the flesh tones, the hair, and everything else.  That illusion of deeper shading gives the pic more depth, and makes the whole thing much easier for your eye to read.

On Emily's piece, the cloak has fantastic depth (although an extra level of highlighting would have been welcome).  So does some of the gold areas, where it looks like some sort of wash was applied.  But the bone coloured armour plates and the steel of the sword could have used a blackline wash to visually reinforce them, and make all the details pop so much more.

Kim Daynes entered this fantastic limited edition model from Privateer Press.  Last year, she entered a "Druid Gone Wilder" model that really impressed with it's fun flair.  Her entry this year was a bit more subdued in tone, but just as jovial in theme ("Hey, look who brought the beer!").

Again, Kim really "brought it" with the base.  The rising cliff face was neat, and the use of static grass clumps was perfect.  Unlike the old days, when we dabbed white glue onto a base, and then pressed finger-pinches of loose static grass them, we now have pre-made clumps of grass for sale in various gaming shops (Army Painter offers a "Highland Tuft" that I really like).

I also love the fact that the pilot really stands out from the rest of the model.  Your eye is naturally drawn to her first, and can then take in the rest of the surrounding detail afterwards.  The pilot is a real focal point of this model, as it was no doubt originally intended by the sculptor.

She also had depth aplenty on this model.  Shading was great, but I would have liked to see her take her highlighting up another notch or so.  With the green armour plating in particular, some lightened edges would have simulated the way light tends to catch on the edge of a plate.  One of my favourite painters, Angel Giraldez, is particularly good at painting mecha, and any of his models are a good example of what I'm talking about:

By brightening up the edges, you create contrast.  If this model was full size (let's say, 10 feet tall, perhaps?), then the sun's light would naturally catch along the edges of the various blocks and plates.  This light also creates contrast against the dark shaded areas that they border against.

Kim's model was a huge improvement over last year's entry in terms of depth, but I feel like it almost went too far... it became a bit desaturated and lost some vibrancy.  By bringing the highlights up a notch or two as well, she could have created a much more interesting and eye-catching contrast.

I guess I'll close up this blog here, as it's again past my bed-time (this time made worse by darn daylight savings time... grumble grumble grumble).  Sorry for only covering a few entries this time, but these ones were really great painting topic starters, and I hope I was able to illustrate some points for people to consider.  Overall, I believe these entries were great paintjobs, and each had some sterling high points for me.  I only bring up some odd points here and there as places of potential improvement, which is something I look for every time I myself enter a painting competition.  I do my best to emphasize my strengths, and each time I do up a new model, I try and work on my weaknesses.  In doing so, I hope to become a better painter in the end.

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