Pirate Parade: A Tale of Two Kits and Two Pirates

The theme for ReaperCon Online 2020 is pirates. As we start running up to the date of the festivities, I thought it might be fun if I shared pictures of the pirate figures I’ve painted over the years. There turned out to be more than I remember, so I’m breaking it up into a few different posts. Pirates ahoy, matey!

The ReaperCon Discord is already open and many of the artists are wandering by and available to answer questions in their chat channels. There’s a page with information on how to find and use the Discord.

Layer Up Pirates Front ViewWait, why two pirates? Why do they have different colour skin tones? Keep reading…

With this first post I’m starting with the pirate from the Layer Up learn to paint kit that I designed for Reaper Miniatures. This kit introduces painters to the techniques of layer and glazing, which tend to look better on smoother surfaces like cloth and skin. (The techniques covered in the Core Skills kit look great on textured surfaces like fur, chainmail, and many others.) I’m doing paint along classes for each of the Learn to Paint kits at ReaperCon 2020 online.

When I designed the learn to paint kits for Reaper, I was given some general guidelines for the quantity of products in the kits and the general approach, but I had pretty free reign. I chose to pick a set of paint colours that would work well to introduce and practice the techniques introduced in each kit, and then three figures to practice on. I painted each figure at least twice, and most of them at least three times. 

The first set of figures I painted for each kit was to test out my proposed colour schemes. I also made notes of colour mixes, water dilution, and painting tips so I could create the instructions for painting the figures in the kit. The two figures pictured in this post are some of my paint scheme test figures. Next I painted the ones for the kit itself, taking step by step pictures as appropriate. Those miniatures are in the Reaper collection. Finally I painted (or at least partially painted) each of the figures once more, this time following the instructions I wrote to test if they worked as I expected or if I’d made a miscalculation or a typo. (The instructions were also tested by several novice painters and non-painting friends of my acquaintance.)

The Core Skills paint kit did not include any red or normal human skin tone paints, so I wanted to be sure to include some of those in the Layer Up kit. The layering paint technique is well suited to painting flesh. Each of the paint kits stands alone, and you aren’t expected to use them in any particular order. But they also work together. The two kits are designed to pair together to make one mega kit with a selection of different brushes, paint colours, and techniques you can use to paint a wide array of figures after you finish the ones in the kit. 

Layer Up Test Pirates Back

So why are there two of this pirate and his booty? You can probably tell that the only significant difference between them is their skin colour. When I did the initial colour scheme test painting, I painted all three of the characters with variations on caucasian skin tones. Happily it soon occurred to me that I should include information for painting a wider range of natural human skin tones in the kit. The Bones HD paint line released around the same time as I was finishing up working on the Layer Up kit, and I was asked to include some of those paint colours in the kit. The Ebony Skin paint was close in value to the dark brown I originally tested and worked just as well in mixing, and even better for the pirate’s skin.

This incident is a pretty good example of unconscious racism. I try hard not to do or say racist things, but as a white person, and as a member of the majority group where I live, if I think of a generic person, by default I tend to them of them as being white, unless something prompts me to do otherwise. I’m not trying to exclude anyone, but if I don’t make some effort, I can end up excluding people by failing to ever include them. I don’t think that makes me a bad person, but it is something I need to work to be aware of so I can try to make better choices.

Pirates pair front bw 600

From a visual arts point of view, paint schemes like this are an interesting way to see how a colour can affect and be affected by your perception of the surrounding colours. There isn’t a huge difference between these figures since their skin tones are different values of a similar colour rather than being very different colours, but the different values in the skin colours still have some influence on how the rest of the colours appear and how the piece comes together as a whole. I think the vest and the clothing items stand out more on the figure with the darker skin. There is a greater range of values (how light or dark a colour is) in adjacent areas, which makes a figure easier to read and more visually effective. 

I previously wrote a post with a bit more detail about the importance of using different values across your figure, and it includes a few comparison examples. I’ve converted the pirate pictures to black and white so you can more easily see the value differences between the two paint schemes.

Pirates pair back bw 600

Figures Shown in this Post

Hajad the Pirate is available in plastic, and also in metal.
He is also included in the Layer Up learn to paint kit.

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