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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Challenge Accepted!

It's been another long break since an update, but work has been busy and life pulls no punches. It's 3 in the morning and I just finished painting a jack. I planned on putting it up on this blog but this laptop needs to reformat the darn SD card which would erase all the pictures I have on it, so I'll put it up later when I back the files up.

I've been busy on the hobby front. I've been introducing Puppet Wars to several people and it's always with positive reviews. It truly is an amazing game, and is extremely well balanced. The models are superb and the wife and I plan on painting them soon.

Speaking of painting my friend Reuben and I have begun an interesting development. We were texting each other about painting backlogs and how we want to minimize them. I then said we should challenge each other weekly about our hobby list. We'd pick out an item to finish and give each other a week to finish them. The first thing we started on was simple enough: paint a Warmachine Solo. He painted a wicked looking Manhunter for his Khador force and I painted my Gorman Di Wulfe model. I hated the paintjob I gave him, especially when compared to his superb job. Still, I stuck to the challenge and finished him off. I later intend on stripping the model bare and starting over, but only after my army is fully painted (in short, never lol).

Week 2 I issued the challenge of painting a warjack. He painted a great looking Buccaneer. I decided to paint one of my two mules.

In keeping with my theme of making a ragtag looking crew for my mercenaries I decided to use a color I was not familiar with: yellow. Lately I've been trying out colors that instill the fear of God in me. For Gorman it was brown. That experiment proved unsuccessful, as brown is a color that always eludes me. I must have tried at least 20 different recipes for brown in my painting life, and only one was ever successful in my eyes and for the life of me and I cannot remember the recipe! It was on my first ever troll model, the Troll Impaler. I accidentally stumbled upon it by mixing old colors that are currently out of production (although I stilll have them) but there was a third color I threw in that I can't remember. Long story short I've never been able to recreate it, though I've tried several times. My troll army was an exercise in browns and blues, two colors I've never tried before them, and the blues were extremely successful. The browns - well, let's just say that every troll in that army has a different version of brown that I tried.

Bright colors have always been my forte. They are easy to contrast, and black is always great as an accent color to them. I have two different recipes for black that are extremely easy to apply. My metal turns out dark and compliments the brights. Red is always striking, blue is always a good midway point between light and dark, green makes interesting schemes, purple makes a good combination with several colors, I've even painted a whole army pink with my Slaanesh army which won several awards. But earth tones aren't nearly as easy to deal with.

First off earth tones don't have as easily an attainable striking quality - at least in my eyes. It's hard to have that wow factor with a brown or olive, as they don't quite separate themselves from the table as easily as Red or Blue. Most earth tones don't lend well with bright highlights - you have to use a muted version of its highlight equivalent such as bone rather than white. Their shades are also elusive, using dark tones of brown and red or even black to make the earth tone stand out.

Even neutral colors lend themselves easier to work with, as grays can be done in so many ways such as having your base be a light grey and contrast the shading with dark gray or black and highlight in white. Making that wow factor on the table with olive or brown is extremely difficult.

With that said I painted olive for my warcaster Gorten a while back, and although he's not done I am impressed with him. Still, I notice he doesn't quite get the attention that my trolls do from a passerby on the table. The tricks I pulled on him to make him stand out are much more subtle than my usual paint jobs and thus take a close look to see what I've done.

So I decided to use yellow on my first complete jack for the army. One: yellow can be an earth tone with brown shading. This will help me tackle my difficulty with earth tones by learning a new recipe and a new way to look at yellow. When I painted my Bad Moon Orks it taught me a speed painting recipe for yellow but didn't teach me anything new, since I always treated yellow as a bright color and used my usual techniques on them. When I painted my Hsieng for my Yu Jin Infinity models (which can be viewed in my earlier posts - much earlier) I learned a new way to paint bright yellow by using orange as the shade. But I've never used yellow in the context of an earth tone, mostly because I'd be using brown to shade it and brown terrifies me.

By tackling this color I felt I could add another tool to the box and finally not have brown elude me.

Although I won't have the pictures up until later, I am pleased to say that I have succeeded! Brown isn't so scary in the context of yellow now that I understand a good progression of color for it. I started with a basecoat of golden brown then a golden brown and bright yellow mix. This created a sandy yellow, much like Iyanden Darksun from the GW line (out of production). I debated starting out with a sand brown, but that it was much too neutral to be successful. If you're ever in doubt about a color progression mixing is a great way to mitigate that. You will always have a smooth transition of color because essentially all your colors are involved in all the steps.

After basecoating the whole model with these two layers I gently sprayed a highlight coat of the bright yellow, keeping in mind not to entirely coat it and lose the earthy tone of yellow below. I then did something I usually don't do, and honestly used to think was a waste of time and ineffective. I shaded after I did my highlighting.

When I first became a serious painter I used to exclusively use the layering technique, which involves basecoating your model entirely with your shade. I thought this was the only logical way, as your basecoat is in the recesses and makes a more manageable way of applying shade. I never liked the way blacklining looked, and applying your shade after your base/main color looked odd to me as you could tell that the shading didn't look natural. Although I found that it made the shade smoother since you were applying it onto your base therefor letting the bottom layer slightly show through I never liked the "controlled" shading look.

With airbrushing, however, it looks much more natural and much more gradual. By only having the idea of putting your shade on first I never understood why my shades were so starkly contrasted by my highlights. It's because when you put your shade on first - for this example, Burnt Umber, or a very dark brown - you only get pure brown, or dark brown. Then you spray or paint on your base and highlights, all making a base of dark brown rather than the base you're wanting, in this case brown-yellow. The darkest shade is therefor made pure dark brown, rather than looking like the model is yellow and the shade is a darker yellow with a hint of brown, if that makes sense.

Before my airbrush I used to alleviate this by putting mixing medium in my paints and making them translucent, showing the base color through the shade.

With an airbrush, however, this process is extremely simple and successful. By carefully - and lightly, I might add - applying the shade to the recesses you don't lose your base color. For the heavier shading you can keep applying it to get it however dark you want it, up to the point you get pure shade (dark brown in this case). This was quite a revelation to me, and I plan on applying this knowledge as another tool in the box.

This resulted in the forthcoming paintjob I will be posting, and it's close to one of my favorite paint jobs to date. The result was a subtle blend of browns and yellows, where my shade was not the dominant force of the model but rather the base color is - which was always one of my weaknesses in previous paintjobs.

I always love when I learn a new technique in painting. It makes me smile thinking to myself, "Man, if I could just show this work to myself ten years ago and say 'Yeah, you'll get this good eventually!' "

I mean, isn't that what it's all about? I remember thinking to myself when I'd see incredible paintjobs in White Dwarf or at a tournament that I wish I could paint that way, or wonder how they did it, and now knowing that I've figured it out. It's not as elusive as I once thought, attaining a higher level is only a model away. I can't wait until ten years from now I will say to myself, "If only I could show this work to myself ten years ago..."

We can all be like that if you only have the drive. I constantly hear people say that they'll never be able to paint like how I do, and I always say the same thing. I tell them that they can, all it takes is practice. I tell them my first model was hideous. It was a Space Marine Captain that couldn't pick a color he liked. The face was burnt to hell, the gold was atrocious, the silver was caked, the robe was bland. I only started painting when I was a kid and only had 8 colors to choose from. I thought I could never understand how people do it so well, like it was some sort of holy grail that only the elite could achieve. I remember being told the first day I painted in a GW Store to use Chestnut Ink, then feeling silly asking what ink does and being told that it adds definition - nodding my head like I understood and having no idea what that meant.

Everyone can paint. Everyone can learn how to be better at it. All it takes is time and practice, with a few good tips from other people's work. We live in an age where the most advanced techniques and tutorials are available at any moment and your pool of knowledge is worldwide. When I began painting all I could do was experiment and wait for the next White Dwarf magazine to come in or get a tip from a stranger.

I remember the first time my eyes opened about painting. My friend Derrick and I were painting together. He was painting his Sisters of Battle army and I noticed his red looked great. He told me about layering maroon with bright red then highlighting it with orange and it blew my mind. Orange on red! It was so simple! I painted a lot of red that summer...

Well, I went on a tirade about painting. But the point is this: if you want to get better at painting, then paint. You'll only know how much you can do when you do it. And don't get frustrated too much. Lately I've been struggling with this with browns. But do what my wife tells me to do - walk away from it and take a break. Read up on how others paint that color. Then go back to it later.

Feel free to ask me any questions on my recipes. I will gladly give away my secrets to anyone who wants it!

I... love... painting!