Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Alfonso "Banshee" Giraldes : Vancouver, Canada Masterclass

Early this month, I had the privilege to attend Alfonso "Banshee" Giraldes' Vancouver Masterclass, his first in a series as he tours across Canada.  Alfonso is an incredibly talented painter, sculptor, sketch artist, teacher, and mini art historian from Spain.  Despite only being 32 years old (10 years my junior), this man has a resume that is absolutely astounding.  He has won a multitude of painting awards across Europe.  He has worked for Knight Models, Forgeworld, Andrea Press, Nuts Planet, and many other notable miniature companies.  He has taught some of the biggest names in our art form... people like Raffaele Picca, Ben Komets, and others.  And with Madrid, Spain being about as far away from the Wet Coast as you can get, this was a rare opportunity to learn from one of the most influential people in mini painting history.  Even Mathieu said that he had lots to learn from Alfonso... and if someone who has won 19 Golden Demon awards and taught painting all over the world is saying that, the chances were that I would likely learn something from Alfonso as well.

Now, Vancouver has only a small but dedicated mini painting community.  It's not like it is in Europe, where art appreciation is in their blood, and small kids go to art museums on their field trips to see Rembrandts, Van Goghs, and Matisses.  We do not have mini art extravaganzas like the Golden Demons, Mont San Savino, the World Expo, and Euromilitaire... where you can go hang out with the top names, and check out their works in person.  But somehow we have managed to bring people like Mathieu Fontaine and Meg Maples to inject new skills, techniques, and approaches to mini painting our damp corner of the world.  And now we have had Alfonso, and mini painting in Canada will never be the same.

Alfonso's class took place over two days, which is never enough when you have a guy with that much talent.  I'm not sure what he was expecting... he was going to be away from home for about a month and a half, going from Vancouver, then to Montreal, then over to Winnipeg, and finally Calgary.  And coming from sunny Spain, over to Canada's wet and cold Fall weather would likely take some adjusting to.

What's worse, the day before he left home, we were being warned of a big storm approaching our coast.  The media and government was warning everyone to be prepared for massive windstorms and rain that would likely knock out power to a good part of the area.  Mathieu had set up a Facebook group for all the  students, and while we were stocking up on non-perishable food and water, we were also telling each other to grab candles and headlamps in case we had to paint in the dark. 
Luckily the worst part of the storm ending up hitting a bit further south than the weatherman had predicted.  Even so, we got drenched in rain... a perfect welcome for our guest.

We all got to the venue safely, including the people that had to take a ferry over from Vancouver Island, and one gentleman that crossed the border from the US to attend.  We had been told to bring our regular hobby supplies with us, along with a few other items if possible... artist heavy body acrylics in the primary colours, plus black and white, artist quality inks (in the same colours), a really large wet palette, and a 70 or 75mm model.  The reasons behind these models would become apparent soon after we started.

Alfonso started off by introducing himself, a task that took a little while considering his extensive history in the field.  His grasp of the English language was very impressive, and we had no difficulties following anything he taught (I had watched a number of YouTube videos of Mig Jimenez the night before, and I think Alfonso's English was considerably smoother).  We then broke out our pens, notebooks, brushes, and wet palettes, and got down to business.

I'm not going to lay out Alfonso's course in a blog post, but I will tell you what to expect if you get a chance to take it.  It's radically different than any other mini painting class I've ever taken part in.

Most teachers teach technique.  They show you a few tips.  They demonstrate the use of a few new tools, and they show you how to blend, shade, highlight, and maybe weather a bit.  They talk about their preferred brushes, and answer questions along the way.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach... it's what most painters want to learn, and it produces the quickest boost to your painting skills.  As a student, you can walk away from a course like that, and start improving your painting right away.

Alfonso's class is nothing at all like that.  His is more of a thinking painter's challenge... he makes you ask why certain colour schemes seem to work better than others.  He gets you to examine each colour, and get intimate with it... learn all the nuances and personality quirks, and then discover how they like to play with other colours.  And how to bend it to your will.

To give you an example, Alfonso made us understand that we associate colours with ideas.  Blue is cold, depth, calm, darkness, night, death, and humidity.  It is also the noble family of colours, with properties not associated with yellows (which is just about everything that blue is not).  Red, the last primary colour, stands apart, but while blue and yellow are rivals, red is sympathetic in its interplay with other colours.  The other colours (non-primary) also have their qualities and personality quirks, but like a biological child, they are a blending of their primary parents.

He also made us understand the relative strength of each colour.  In pigmented paint, colour has a relative strength (whereas in light, every colour is pretty much equally strong).  It's important to know just how powerful the natural tendency of a colour is, because there is also the additional factor of how strongly pigmented the particular paint or ink that you are using is.

Paints, palette, brushes, and most importantly, coffee and a muffin!

Remember how I mentioned that we were asked to bring some artist quality heavy body acrylics and inks with us?  It's because Alfonso has had the opportunity to work behind the scenes in paint development in the past, and realized that many hobby paint companies are forced to cut corners when they formulate their paints for a variety of reasons (but mostly because of cost).  High quality artist paints, on the other hand, typically have more potent pigments, and high quality artist inks are the most potent of all... sometimes adding a little ink to the paint on your palette can really add an extra punch to your colour.

The reason why this is important is to keep all this in mind when you are mixing paint.  Yellow, a typically weak colour, is easily overpowered when mixed with something like blue, which is a very potent colour.  Therefore, in order to get a "pure" green, you would need to mix several parts yellow to just a little bit of blue.  Of course, you can also try using a more weakly pigmented blue to even things out, or a more concentrated pigment strength yellow (such as in an artist quality ink).

All this is a bit moot if you rarely mix paint.  Most of us paint the easy way... when painting a green part of your mini, you might start by grabbing a pot of mid-tone green, shading with a darker version of that green from a different pot of paint, and highlighting with a pot of lighter green.  This is an easy formula for acceptable (and predictable) results, but it gets a bit boring after a while, and it certainly limits what you can do with a mini in terms of controlling atmosphere, temperature, and mood.

In order to push past "the ordinary", we need to learn how to mix paint.  We needed to learn how to dissect and deconstruct the paints that we already had, and learn how to experiment and mix with them so that we could discover how to rebuild them into completely different tools.  Concepts of colour, tone, nuance, temperature, value, brightness, and luminosity were crammed into our heads in a short amount of time.

My wet palette after a few different exercises

I felt like we were taking some sort of higher level culinary class, taught by a Michelin star chef.  We were breaking things down to a level that was beyond just refining technique.  We weren't just learning how to recreate traditional appetizers, entrees, and desserts... we were understanding our ingredients at a molecular level, in order to design brand new dishes and flavours with them. 

Alfonso had us doing one colour exercise after another.  It became readily apparent why he wanted us all to try using these giant oversized wet palettes... even though they were the size of laptops, we utilized every last inch of space while searching for the perfect blend of paint.

I have to say that it was a bit exhausting and mentally taxing.  I admit I leaned over the shoulder of my fellow classmates (especially my friends Jeremy Fleet and Matthew Beavis, who grasped these concepts much more quickly than I did) on many occasions to take a peek off their notes.  For my poor friend Steve Kemp (who sat to my left), it was his very first painting Masterclass, and he was getting a real crash course in higher conceptual painting (to his credit, he was picking up everything almost as quickly as I, and he didn't have the university art courses and decades of painting experience that I did... what Steve did have was a much bigger brain than me).

Thankfully, at the end of the first day Alfonso brought out some of his works-in-progress, and a few pics from his tablet.  This really helped crystalize the reasons why we were going through all this work, and just what it was that we were trying to accomplish.  We weren't treating our minis like 3D colouring books any more... we were working on them like 3D illustrators and artists. Alfonso defines himself as a 3D illustrator, bringing an illustrative approach to 3D models (which is actually more difficult than 2D, because you don't necessarily have a background with which you can establish mood, tone, atmosphere, and lighting).

Understanding how to break down a subject into shapes, in order to determine where the shadows and highlights would form.  And how light and shadow appear differently on different kinds of textures and surfaces.

The second day, we were right into the battlefront trenches once again.  This time, we were understanding Alfonso's motto and battle cry, "Fuck Smoothness".

"Fuck Smoothness" meant learning how to apply texture.  It meant not being obsessed with achieving perfectly smooth blends.  It meant hard lines here and there, abrupt transitions with crazily contrasting colours, and bending the subject to your will, forcing it to take on aspects that you could impose on it.

"Fuck Smoothness" encapsulates his feeling that the miniature world's current obsession with perfect blends (my friend Sebastien Cormier calls it "The Smoothness Meta", or "The technician's bias toward the primacy of technique") is going to eventually lead it to an evolutionary dead end.  His illustration background (a Master's degree in the arts) has made him more open to "imperfection", so long as it's done in order to push the boundaries of mini painting.  He wants everyone to be striving and accepting and developing new styles of mini painting.

If you look at 2D art, not everyone is working in Norman Rockwell's style, or Giger, or Picasso.  All their styles are phenomenal, but if only one style was acceptable, then the other painters would be considered failures.  This is obviously not the case.  The miniature painting world should be the same... many different styles and techniques and interpretations, and any artist working in one particular style should be able to recognize and acknowledge the brilliance of a piece done well in another style. 

It got me thinking of other painters that don't necessarily work in the contemporary mini painting format / formula... John Blanche and James Wappel come to mind.  Both are from the 2D illustration world.  Both are wonderful 3D mini painters as well.  And both do NOT paint in your usual Crystal Brush or Slayer Sword winning style.

In my opinion, this is not to say that all smoothness should be devalued too... it's incredibly difficult to master, and is an easily recognizable sign of talent and dedication.  It's just that you can still achieve mind-blowing results using techniques that aren't smooth at all.

Alfonso's current favourite artists are Sang Eon Lee and Kirill Kanaev, and they are perfect examples of what I mean.  Their stuff looks smooth from a distance, but once you look VERY closely (zoom in on a pic of one of their busts), you realize that the effect is actually achieved by laying down a variety of different textures and colours (what Alfonso refers to as "noise").  Your brain blends it altogether and arranges it in your head so that it makes sense, but you don't really, truly understand all the elements that are acting to create these impressions until you understand their processes and approach.

Kirill Kanaev
Sang Eon Lee

Near the end of the 2nd day, he was able to sit down and take us through the processes and approach himself.  Using his famous "Anonymous" bust (he had sculpted this for the express purpose of using it as a teaching platform, and also as a platform for experimentation), he showed us the various stages he went through to go from primered resin, to finished bust.

It was quite marvelous to watch.  Using only the three primary colours (red, blue, and yellow), plus some black and white, he was able to create skin tones effortlessly.  He would push colours around on his palette, and apply them in rough blocks on the model (with a chisel shaped brush!).  He also pushed colours around directly on the model, mixing right on the surface of the mini itself... wet blending, only somehow more freeform and chaotic.  And speaking of chaotic, whenever he made a "mistake", he would just go with it, and make it part of the final paintjob.

He played with all the concepts he discussed earlier... value, brightness, luminosity, colour, tone, temperature, and nuance.  He played with saturation and desaturation.  He would harmonize or contrast depending on his will.  He broke down components of the model into different planes, which he would play off of in order to create artificial shadows.  And he somehow did this in about 45 minutes, completing the bust while conducting a class and answering questions at the same time.

All done with just blue, red, yellow, black, and white.

Adding detail where there was none on the model... deep scars, deeply exaggerated cheekbones, and extra creases.

\Check out the shadow under the chin.  Hard, knife-sharp transitions, showing deep undercut shadows, and highlights within shadows.

One bonus was that much of our class was Alfonso telling us stories and the history of mini painting, which we couldn't get enough of.  It gave context and richness to this art form, and personalized it wonderfully.  I can't say that every class that he teaches is likely like this... we were always struggling to make up time, and much of that was probably because we kept encouraging him to be a storyteller, rather than a teacher.  But it was kind of like spending time with an old war veteran or famous movie director... getting a chance to talk to someone who was actually taking part in the evolution of our hobby, working at the various companies that nudged it along, and had a personal relationship with many of the legendary names was quite special.

One personal experience I had at the end of the class was when I pulled out my copy of an old Andrea Press book, "How to Paint Fantasy Miniatures" (published 2006), and asked Alfonso to sign it for me.

He had written an article within it, all about freehand designs (the example was a mini that he had won a Golden Demon with).  Other writers within were such legends like David Rodriguez, Julio Cabos, Jose Palomares, Jeremie Bonamant, and Juan Carlos Avila Ribadas.

Alfonso's face lit up when he saw the book.  It was a huge blast from the past for him, and he got somewhat emotional as he recalled the circumstances around his contribution to the publication, that time period of his life (a very difficult and somewhat desperate time as he struggled to establish himself, and was being taken advantage of for his talent).  He had a few stories to tell, which came out as he flipped through the pages and saw the authors and their works.

He gladly signed the inside cover, and got a few selfies with the book to send to some of his friends back home.  I told him that I had found my copy in the back of a games store years and years ago during a driving trip to California.  At the end, he said that if you had told him 10 years ago that he would be one day signing a copy during a class he was teaching in Canada, he wouldn't have believed it.

Of the two people holding the book, guess which one is the Spaniard?  ;)

As a book collector (I love picking up just about anything to do with mini and scale model painting), I have to say that was one of the coolest experiences I've had in regards to a publication.  This book will definitely have a place of honour in the collection.

In the end, I can't say that this class will have as an immediate impact on my painting as the ones I took with Mathieu Fontaine or Meg Maples / Soley.  I loved those classes, and they helped me break through some significant plateaus in my painting development.  I learned a ton of new techniques that demystified many of the works I have admired in print, but could never replicate in person up until then.  Mathieu and Meg are insanely talented painters, and fantastic teachers whose courses will up your game right away.

However, that's not the intent of Alfonso's class.  He knows there are many teachers teaching techniques, so he has made the decision to take a different approach.  Instead, Alfonso is teaching us to think... to break form with everything we thought we knew about painting before, and go down the crazy unpaved paths.  Expression, not imitation.  I think his course will have a profound, long-term impact on me, and everyone he teaches.  And he is very likely one of the most passionate people in this art form that I have ever met... which is really, really awesome because just being around him fires you up and inspires you.

Mind = Normal

Mind = Blown
Oh, and I have some quick thank-you's to add.  First of all, thanks to Mathieu Fontaine for heading up the effort to bring Alfonso to the Great White North (ie Canada).  Also, thanks to Jason Dyer and Chris Jones for making the arrangements for him to come to Vancouver.  Thanks again to Matthew Beavis and Jeremy Fleet for letting me cheat off their notes, and explaining things to me when I couldn't figure out what I was doing and wanted to break my brushes.  Thanks to Stephen Kemp for carpooling with me and covering the cost of gas.  And thanks to GW Jade Green, just because I love the colour (and I may finally be able to mix it up from scratch, which is nice because GW stopped making Jade Green about a decade ago).

A big thanks to James Gates of High Calibre Miniatures, who provided some really nice models as giveaways, and who runs an amazing mail-order miniature service out of North Vancouver.  Seriously... I ordered "The Last Mercenary" model from High Calibre shortly before the class (a 75mm Nuts Planet figure that Alfonso actually sculpted!), and he responded to my emails immediately, and I received my model within days.  Crazy good service!

And finally, a big thank you to Alfonso.  Thanks for coming halfway around the world to teach us.  Thanks for challenging us.  Thanks for opening our minds.  Thanks for inspiring us. And thanks for being such a nice guy too.

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 sableandspray@gmail.com 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.

*2018/11/19 EDIT : I'm finding it difficult to check this email regularly.  If you have emailed it and not received a response, please try my personal email address at kellykim@bikerider.com instead.

As for the "bikerider.com" thing... I created that address back when I was still a kid, and somehow thought it sounded cool at the time.  I never got around to switching it, and now it would just be a huge pain to do it at this point.

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.