Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Artistic Inspiration #4 - Fantasy Art (Tamurkhan and Storm of Magic)

Photographs of miniatures tend to date books rather badly, whereas illustrations, on the whole, do not. I'd like to think this is one of the reasons why illustrations feature so heavily in Storm of Magic and serve as the only pictures in Tamurkhan. Of course, the real reason is almost certainly that many of the models had yet to complete the development stage before publication. No matter. The illustrations are great examples of the kind of grimy, grim and often macabre fantasy art that I like - they don't have to be from these books of course, they just happened to be to hand. The other thing that I like about them is that they look as if they could be artefacts from the very world that they are depicting; sketches captured from memories, snatched glances, nightmares, survival stories, and the lyrics of ballads. How could these fail to be inspirational for miniature work?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Occasional Photos of GW Stores Spotted While Travelling

The last week has been entirely fallow for hobby as I've been away with work. As I travel to various cities around Europe I've decided to start a new series called 'occasional photos of GW stores spotted while travelling'. Here is GW Rennes in France, handily situated next to an Irish pub.

Normal Gazette service resumes tomorrow....

Friday, 17 February 2012

Marienburg Handgunner - 'Sketch' Approach First Full Attempt

Following a handful of aborted experiments I've finally settled on my 'sketch' approach for painting - a fast way of getting troops ready for the tabletop that uses a painterly technique even though I'm working swiftly... I get the work done and also fortify my artistic sensibilities. I'm priming in white then applying a skeleton bone base coat, both with Army Painter sprays. Then I'm working up sepia tones over the whole model, first with the GW wash, then with a slightly diluted sepia ink from Daler Rowney. Then I set about developing colour using a variety of inks and washes. I'll discuss each of these briefly under the photos that follow:

The Marienburg colours are blue, red and yellow. For now I've decided to leave actual yellow out of my palette and work mostly with blue and red - I figure the skeleton/bleached bone is quite yellow anyway at this stage of development. Additional shading is being supplied by another Daler Rowney ink, Payne's Grey.  

I think the barrel of the handgun is probably where my different approach stands out the most in this example. I'm actually very pleased with it, although these pictures don't really do it justice. My self criticisms (getting those out of the way first) focus on the skin tone and the feather. I decided not to go back and highlight the skin - although I may do this at a latter stage - because I want to maintain the technique that works entirely with colour shading, leaving the sepia/bone as the top highlight. This might not work with the skin... The feather just didn't work. I may actually use yellow ink on these with a flesh wash, which is something that has worked on other models.

My colours - the blue, red and brown - are all mixed P3 inks and Model Color transparents in the first instance. I used just the inks to add some extra depth. I applied them using a broadly zenithal lighting approach, so the colours are thicker and darker where shadows/shade would 'naturally' fall. This is going to be the main area where my painterly approach combines with the three dimensional realities of model painting.  

Overall, I'm very happy with this first attempt: I do need to think a little about human skin and perhaps diverge from my original plan with those surfaces. Next month I'm aim to finish a full ten man handgunner unit.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Artistic Inspiration #3 - Francis Bacon

Screaming mouths, crucifixion, death and lone figures in boxed isolation: it can only be Francis Bacon. In terms of his grim themes of existential angst, I think Bacon truly is an artist that can inspire dystopian fantasy work. The extremities and absurdities of the human condition - which I would argue should be at the core of grim fantasy and science fiction - are laid bare in emphatically bleak style through his paintings. As with other artists I've written about this month, it is the placement of colour that perhaps inspires me the most. And with Bacon, we can see the grotesque shadow running through the spine of all humanity: the utter fruitlessness of existence. How could such honesty not be appealing? Is it not the melancholy truth of decay, demise and ultimate extinguishment that inspires every act of beauty and horror ever committed? 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Artistic Inspiration #2 - George Braque

Given the disruptive take on form and perspective that cubism emphasises you might think that there's little it can offer the miniature painter. George Braque has always dwelled in the shadow of his peer Pablo Picasso, but I've always found him equally (and sometimes more) engaging. What I'm taking from Braque's work at the moment is the balance of his palette in pieces such as those included below. These tones are almost organic and I'm intrigued by the way that they build from an near sepia base. Both these aspects are key to the sketch approach that I'm developing throughout this month.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Artistic Inspiration #1 - Egon Schiele

And so begins a short jaunt around some of my artistic inspirations as I develop new ways for painting miniatures... For me, Egon Schiele is one of the most genius artists of the early 20th century. Not only was he technically astonishing, daring, truly modernist and utterly barmy, his signature themes of death, eroticism, isolation and fragmented subjectivity are perversely appealing. I think they could be very productively and creatively subsumed into my 'sketch' approach to painting. Here are a three of my favourites...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Most Miniature Painting Is Cartoony, Generic and Boring

Dominant cultural trends are everywhere. No one, for example, seems to be able to sing on a TV talent show unless they're emulating highly-Americanised vocal warbling. Sometimes these people have obvious ability - talent, even - but they leave me unmoved. The same goes for much miniature painting. There's a dominant and rather narrow trend for producing what I often refer to as 'cartoony' and 'shiny' models that influences everyone. Even people who treat painting as a necessary chore in order to get an army to the tabletop are affected.

A very silly example from Wyrd to help push my point
Looking back over the past 25 years or so, it seems to have been over the last decade that the cartoony/shiny approach has gained an almost total dominance. Soft gradual blending, stark highlights, strong palettes, anime influences... all these (and more) now seem to be indicative of the only generally accepted way to go about painting miniatures.

I can't offer a detailed history or in-depth analysis here - this is only really a personal reflection. But it seems to me that a few painters with high exposure have influenced the field to such a great extent that most of the expression that's put into miniatures (and the technical innovations) seems to flow down a narrow channel. I think this is a shame. I think people are missing an opportunity by not looking further afield for inspiration.

For that reason, I'm going to spend this week exploring my own artistic influences, before showing how these influences are shaping my own approach to miniature work.  

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The 'Right Stuff' For A Golden Demon

There's a fascinating post over at Chest of Colors today that compares and critiques the various Golden Demon Slayer Sword winners of 2011. My pick of the bunch - in a very Throne of Chaos vibe - is this behemoth from Italy...

Of course, the REALLY interesting aspect of the post is the commentary from the chosen few painters who pass judgement over whether the creator of each entry genuinely has the 'right stuff' and therefore truly deserves the top prize. They don't hold back on their opinions! My, my... 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Painterly Methods: Sketch (Fast), Canvas (Slow)

John Blanche apparently has two approaches to painting miniatures - one fast, one slow. Seeing as a) the man clearly knows his way around a palette, and b) I adore his work, I'm in the process of stealing/adapting/perverting this split approach. My version will divide along two lines that I'm (pretentiously) calling 'sketch' and 'canvas'. Overall I want to develop a painterly style that predominantly works with colour over line whether I'm working swiftly or at a drawn out pace.

A bottle of Daler Rowney acrylic ink and a rather experimental Marienburg greatsword
The Sketch Method
AKA the 'fast' approach. Starting with a bone colour base coat I'm trying to develop a way of using inks and washes to quickly develop light, shade and colour. I'm restricting my palette to only a handful of colours for each project, although all will be founded on the bone base, with sepia and dark grey shading, through to bone/white mix highlights.

The Canvas Method
Although in terms of technique this will be very similar to the sketch approach, the canvas method is going to be open-ended, draw on a wider palette, and be more expressive. When using the canvas method I also plan to use thicker paints in order to develop texture through visible strokes and mounting layers  - this will particularly be a focus for larger models and characters.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

New Citadel Paints

On trend with my topic of painting this month, a photo of some of the new Citadel paint line has surfaced (I found it here). Nothing more substantial yet - I won't bother rehashing the rumours - but it'll be very interesting to see what they've done with the range...

Friday, 3 February 2012

A Big Lump of Resin 'Stone 'n Crap' for £65?! Hmm...

Forge World - usually so on the ball - seem to have dropped it with this one. It's the Orc Rogue Idol. These photos have just popped up on their website and I have to say it's incredibly uninspiring for a large monster. Hard to believe I couldn't just knock one of these together from scratch... and for a lot less than £65! The rules look interesting (and suitably 'ocry') so maybe I will.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

February Pipe Dream - To Understand Painting (Properly)

Ah, February. It's like the feeble, underdeveloped and sickly cousin of the other months. I'm also away for over a week of it, so what to do, what to do...? At the beginning of the year I decided that annual to-do lists simply weren't for me - instead I'm going to have monthly 'pipe dreams' that will represent the current my whimsies will be flowing with for the next few weeks. It's a very loose structure and it suits my sensibilities. In that spirit, the February pipe dream is: to understand painting (properly).

By that I mean a few things really. First off I'm going to have a ponder on the artists that inspire me - primarily not miniature painters because I find most of the current fashions for mini-painting leave me unmoved (despite the fact that some people are insanely talented artists). The other thing I'm going to focus on is conceptualising my painting into two distinct but related approaches - a little like John Blanche's 'slow' and 'fast' techniques, but with my own twist. Oh, and as the picture below from this evening shows, in order to do this I'll be making my homeward journey to Marienburg.

Marienburg Greatsword WIP
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