Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Horticulus Slimux – Part 5

Horticulus Slimux is finished, and it’s been a hard slog because I‘ve pushed myself hard to refine the textures and transitions to the best of my ability! The experience has been quite intense and I found I could only really work on this mini in short bursts, of an hour or two, at a time. But I think the hard work has paid off and I’m very happy with the finished result!

The decision to focus my paint job on Slimux’s identity, as an ancient gardener, has helped me to keep an overall focus while working on the many small details. I feel it’s also helped me to create the feeling of Slimux being a distinct individual among the masses of Nurgle’s demons. And that is exactly what I wanted to achieve! Of course, no matter how happy I am with Slimux, he is just one element of a bigger model and I now have to start thinking about that dirty great snail and the base in more detail!

The Saturday before last I spent the day at Warhammer Salisbury as ‘artist in residence’! Recent events in Salisbury had, understandably, made things in town a little quieter than usual. However, you can’t keep a good hobbyist down and I enjoyed a full day of hobby related chat and demos. The morning in particular evolved into an extended Q & A and I hope I was able to share the benefit of my many years of painting experience.

A major talking point of the day was ‘How to take your painting to the next level’. What emerged from these discussions was the conclusion that attention to detail is crucial! This works on many levels but, for the purposes of this article, I’ll try to provide a simplified version.

By it’s very nature this hobby is all about detail but there is one VERY important thing to remember.

Don’t ever lose track of the overall scheme. Small details, like eyes, fingernails or jewelry, are important but the thing that holds it all together is the overall scheme. Global lighting, contrast, colour and composition are the things that provide a strong foundation for all the small details.

Attention to detail means paying attention to ALL the many factors that come into play in creating a successful paint scheme. You can’t cut any corners and ‘good enough’ is never good enough! Deep down I think we all know when we’ve not quite done our best and it’s important to pay attention to, and trust, those instincts.

You may well think “that’s easier said than done” and I agree. Taking things to the next level, regardless of you current standard of painting, requires you to commit to investing a lot of time and effort.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Horticulus Slimux – Part 4

Apart from the odd pimple all of Slimux’s flesh tones are all painted. It’s been worth the effort to achieve the finished effect but it’s been a very hard slog. I’ve had to spend a lot of time going back and forth between the various tones and in a few places the paint was beginning to build up. That’s a problem I’ve not encountered for many years.

When paint begins to build up on a mini it can result in a rough grainy surface that detracts from, and spoils, the finished result. It’s the reason I started working with increasingly dilute paint mixes and up until now that has avoided the problem. Avoiding heavy paint build up is by far the best option but if it does occur there are a couple of solutions I fall back on.

The first is to burnish the painted surface and flatten out any lumps and bumps. This needs to be done with a clean smooth surface for example the end of a paintbrush handle or, my favourite, the rounded end of a sculpting tool. This all needs to be done with extreme care as it can damage the painted surface and cause bigger problems than those you are trying to fix. However, when it goes well it can work like a dream!

My second solution is to apply several layers of varnish to the rough area. Each layer needs to dry thoroughly before the next is applied. Once again great care is needed as it’s all too easy to build up a lumpy surface but that may be less distracting than a rough grainy one!

Thankfully a combination of these techniques has fixed Slimux’s flesh and now the surface textures are as I want them!

At the same time as I’ve been painting Slimux I’ve been building Mulch. I now have enough of him put together to be able to start work on a base. This is something I prefer to do as an integrated part of the project in order that the model and the base work together as an overall composition. It’s early days yet, but I’m pleased with how things are coming together.

I’ve a good feeling about this project but it’s increasingly clear that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to complete Horticulous Slimux and Mulch to the standard I expect from myself. As soon as I started this project I began to suspect that it probably wouldn’t be ready in time for the Golden Demon Classic in May and I’m OK with that!

I feel that over the last couple of years I’ve begun to fall into the habit of chasing deadlines. A deadline is not in itself a bad thing and I’ve always found that competitions are a great way of giving my painting year some structure and goals. But over the last year I’ve felt increasingly that my painting schedule was getting out of control and competition deadlines are a part of the reason.

When I’ve done my best work it’s always been because I’ve taken as long as I needed to do it. It’s time to dig my heels in and reassert my identity as a painter because I refuse to compromise the quality or the experience of my painting. I’m going with the flow and enjoying my painting for it's own sake!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Horticulous Slimux - Part 3

The eyes have it!

I’ve been painting minis for the best part of 37 years now and I get the same pleasure and satisfaction from it at the age of 51 as I did when I started at 14! I like to think that, as I’ve grown in experience, I’ve been able to develop and refine my technique to the point where my painting skills are the best they have ever been.

However not everything gets better with age alas! I’ve gradually been finding it increasingly difficult to hold focus on my minis as I paint them. I first noticed it while I was painting my Plague Marine but recently it’s become a serious obstacle to my painting of Horticulous Slimux! Put simply after a short time painting my focus slips and I can’t see what I’m doing. Oh the joys of being middle aged!

Thankfully the remedy is simple enough. I’ve had to admit to myself that I’m no longer 25 and get a stronger pair of painting glasses. Much relieved, I can now focus on the mini for long enough to refine the textures and colour transitions to my satisfaction.

As a result of all this, and the fact that it’s half term, I’ve not made a massive amount of progress this last week. However I’m very pleased with what I have achieved. I’ve refined the green plant growth on Horticulous and painted the flesh tones on one of his legs. I’ve also been able, now I can see them, to go back and refine those areas I’d already painted.

Although my colour palette is very different, my technique for painting the flesh tones is a more polished version of the one I used for my Plague Bearers. I paint a base coat of Rakarth flesh then I glaze over this with my mid tone and shade colours. These colours provide an element of saturation to the, otherwise neutral, flesh tones and glazing over a light base colour gives them a feeling of depth and luminosity. The result is colorful but messy.

I then build my highlights up, with a series of dilute layers, over the glazed layer. These are created using my neutral flesh tones. Although I’ve used Ivory for the extreme highlights the majority of the highlighting is created using Flayed One Flesh. This has a warmer yellower tone than the ivory and gives a softer look to the flesh. It’s during the highlighting stage that I create the texture by building up areas of stippling and, in this case, wrinkles.

At the same time as I build up the highlights, I glaze the red, yellow and blue tones back in, if an area becomes too pale or the highlights too harsh. This is a very organic process with a lot of going back and forth between glazes and highlights until I’m satisfied with the result.

Coming back to the topic of eyes, I’ve had a lot of requests for a tutorial on Horticulous Slimux’s blind eye. But I’m not going to do one as such! The reason being that the technique really doesn’t merit it. The eye was painted with very basic glazes of desaturated blue/grey and red/grey tones. The pupil was then glazed on with a darker grey tone making sure to keep it soft and undefined. The whole thing was then finished off with a strong white highlight on the top surface and a softer highlight along the bottom edge.

The real secret to painting the blind eye was that I found good reference material. In the end an image of the old faun from the film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ gave me what I needed. The trick with using reference material is not to simply copy without thinking, but rather to study and then apply what you have observed to your mini. In the case of the eye, I looked at the overall colour and transparency of the eye paying attention to how the light reflected off the surface while also penetrating partway into that surface. I also studied the pupil and how it looked diffuse as a result of the cataract.

Using reference material to help inform you painting choices can make a huge difference to the final result. As I said in my first posting for Horticulous Slimux, I’ve sourced pictures of slugs, snails, frogs and caterpillars and I think they are going to be a great inspiration when I get round to painting Mulch!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Horticulous Slimux – Part 2

It feels like it’s been a long time since I got into a steady daily painting regime. But over the last couple of weeks, inspired by Horticulous Slimux, I’ve found my groove and established a productive routine!

Last week I decided on a colour palette for the pale flesh tone I wanted to use. This week I’ve been adding some brown and green tones to compliment and contrast with the flesh. The use of the green plays a key part of my overal concept for Horticulous.

As I said last week, I was inspired by the idea of him being old and a gardener. Both factors I want to incorporate into my paintjob. I hope his blind eyes and pale wrinkled flesh create a feeling of age. Although there are a lot of details on this mini that help to portray Horticulous as a gardener, I wanted to build the idea of Nurgle’s garden into my approach to painting him.

In the past I’ve added crusty rough skin and nodules to my Plaguebearers. This time I’ve decided to elaborate upon the effect and add tiny plants and tendrils. I love the idea that Horticulous may be using parts of his own body as a nursery for some of the plants in Nurgle’s garden.

I created rough, mossy areas on his neck and shoulders and then added tiny plant shoots into this texture. To make a texture paste I’ve used a range of materials. First of all I used Games Workshop’s texture paint Stirland Mud to create my initial rough texture. This was put straight onto the mini before I painted a base layer onto it. For a finer texture I used a mix of matt vanish, fine sand and micro balloons (used to bulk out and lighten resin) tinted with green paint. This fine textured mix was added onto the painted mini to create the mossy effect. Use only a very small amount at a time as a little can go a long way. Once applied to the mini I push it around with a clean damp brush. While this mix is not a perfect replacement for my once beloved bicarbonate of soda it comes pretty close.

For the shoots sprouting out of his neck and shoulders I’ve used bamboo roots from my garden. I set up a production line and pre painted a range of roots prior to needing them. This gave me a range to pick and choose from. To apply them I cut the very tips of the painted roots with a scalpel and glued them into position with PVA glue and tweezers. This process is every bit as fiddly as it sounds!

I’ve also added a few mossy growths to the handles on his shears. In addition to adding my fine texture paste, I’ve carved into the blades of the shears to enhance the corroded look of them. I used a scalpel to cut a series of notches and a drill to hollow out some corroded pits. Once I’d done that I brushed a little plastic glue over the pits and notches to soften up the cut edges and enhance the corroded look.

The blades have been given a base coat, wash and highlight prior to some more detailed work with rust effects. I’ve decided to use true metalics on Horticulous to further add to the range of material contrasts on this mini.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Horticulous Slimux – Part 1

It seems like everybody is painting Nurgle minis at the moment. Which is no great surprise considering the recent glut of impressive new Nurgle minis. How could I ever resist!

From the moment I first saw Horticulous Slimux I knew I was going to paint him. Every now and again a mini comes out that ticks all my boxes and this one does that to the max! Games Workshop rarely releases minis with such a strong feeling of whimsy. That, along with the almost cartoon like styling and subject, give this mini a strong ‘old school’ feel. On top of all that he’s Nurgle’s head gardener and, possibly, the first ever Plaguebearer! The last two details have given me lots to think about and inspired my approach to painting him.

It would have been pretty straight forward to break out the forest green and paint Horticulous Slimux in the same way as my other plague bearers. But I had a nagging feeling that, for me, that would be too obvious an approach. Horticulous Slimux is a significant character in the Nurgle pantheon and as such requires special treatment.

He is a truly ancient being and I wanted to reflect this in my paint job. To put it simply, I wanted him to look old. After a little time pondering this I’ve decided to paint him in a pale desaturated flesh tone. I think an almost human flesh tone will give him an extremely creepy feel. To help create the feeling of great age I’m painting a lot of lines and wrinkles into the texture of his flesh. I’ve also decided to paint his eyes (he has five) as though they are fogged over with cataracts.

For my colour palette I’ve used a range of colours that incorporate blue, yellow and red tones alongside neutral and flesh tones. This approach is the same as the one I used for both Akito and the Abyssal Warlord and it’s served me well in achieving realistic pale flesh tones.

Neutral & flesh tones
Red, yellow & blue tones

Realism is going to be a key word in my approach to painting both Horticulous Slimux and his steed Mulch. The sculpt is in a cartoony style and, although I love this, I’ve decided to play against it with my painting style. I don’t expect the finished paint job to look ultra naturalistic (he’s a plague demon on a giant demonic snail after all!); but I think using lots of ‘real world’ reference, and a palette of muted ‘natural’ colours, and will give the finished result something a little extra.

I’ve painted quite a few Nurgle minis and I don’t want to fall into the trap of getting too comfortable by simply painting ‘more of the same’! I’m on the lookout to find a new angle and using ‘real world’ reference will help me to do this. I’ve sourced pictures of slugs, snails, frogs and caterpillars. I think they are going to be a great source of inspiration!