The Succubi Finally Spread their Wings

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Way back in April through June, I was working on a set of three succubi from the Bones 5 Kickstarter. And then I wasn’t. And now I’m done! These succubi figures are available through the Bones 5 Kickstarter late pledge manager in the Demonic Temptation add-on. The add-on includes three incubi. I haven’t yet received those to paint, but I’m including pictures of the incubi sculpts near the end of this article)

Succ blue front

These are links to the previous articles I’ve written about the painting process for these figures, including lists of paints used for various areas. When I finish my current painting crunch I’ll be assembling all the succubi painting articles into a single PDF for patrons at the Fill the Feeder level on my Patreon.

Article on the skin for the kneeling succubus.
Article on the skin of the seated succubus.
Thoughts on freehand and painting the pillow.
Article on the skin of the standing succubus and a bit about painting the transparent cloth.

I had a few people ask me if I planned to write an article about painting the wings. Now that I’ve finally finished the painting, here is that article! I will also be writing a little bit about the experience of getting side-tracked and roadblocked on projects and trying to get back on course.

Succ blue back

My overall painting vision for the succubi figures was to paint them as individuals, but also as members of a set of related figures. Partly I worked on those ideas by using a set of colours, but incorporating the same colours into different sections on each of the figures, as I’ve discussed in the previous articles. But I also planned to paint the wings on each in a similar way to help tie them together even more.

My first challenge with the wings was figuring out which colours to paint them. I’m going to run through some of the factors I considered as examples of things you might consider when you’re wrestling with choosing colours, which can often feel as if it gets harder to do the further into painting a figure you get. I’ll include additional pictures of the completed figures to break up the text a little.

Succ kneel front

My initial considerations related to the nature of the characters. These are succubi. They’re seductive, yet also demonic and a little creepy. Demon wings are typically patterned on bat wings. Even those few characteristics of the sculpts and character type suggest or argue against a lot of colours or types of colours. Lizardy skin green would fit the style of wing sculpt, but not the seductive demon qualities (at least not with the colour palette I already had in use). Brightly saturated, cheery, pastel – most colours with those kinds of characteristics are going to be unlikely to fit well. 

NOTE: It is totally possibly and okay and cool and creative to choose atypical colours for things. I’m not saying to always fall into stereotypes! But it is a reality that we associate colours with certain emotions and activities, and it’s not weird to be working with your viewer’s expectations and assumptions a lot of the time. Making atypical choices is something that is best done consciously and as part of an overall vision for the work. It’s going to be tricky if you have typical colours on a lot of the miniature to then introduce atypical colours on just one or two areas unless you’ve planned for that in advance to create a particular mood or effect. I’m making the suggestion to think of the character type when choosing colours because some of us don’t. I personally am sometimes really bad about not always thinking about character and story enough!

Succ stand face

With those ideas in mind, I considered the choices from the perspective of trying to paint something that was visually effective. The main focus of these figures is their faces and bodies/skin. Secondary areas of interest include the complex jewelry and their hair. Everything else is more background. If you think of it in terms of a movie or a play, the face and skin are the main characters, the jewelry and hair are supporting characters, and the wings, clothing, bases, etc. are background scenery and bit parts. 

We have to paint everything on a figure. It took me a long time to understand that we do not have to paint everything on a figure in exactly the same way and to exactly the same level. And indeed we should not paint everything on a figure in the same way and to the same level. Some areas should stand out to the viewer as the most interesting thing(s) to look at. If everything is painted the same way, it’s like standing in a room with a bunch of screens all showing something different – it’ll be hard for you to decide which thing you should be watching and even harder for you to keep your focus on it.

Succ sit front

So how does that work in practice when painting a miniature? I talked about some choices related to this in the article on painting the freehand on the pillow. The colours I chose and the decision to use a simple pattern were made with the idea that it is a piece of background scenery. Does that make that choice the right answer for every figure every time? Alas it does not, or figuring this stuff out would be a lot simpler. ;-> If the character with the pillow were some kind of noblewoman, a more elaborately decorated pillow might be the right answer to help illustrate her rank.

Consider the figure below, which is from the George R. R. Martin collection at Darksword Miniatures. She is a handmaiden, a servant waiting on someone of higher rank. If I wanted to emphasize that characterization I could paint her clothing and accessories in more subdued colours and as plain, simple fabric. And then also paint the piece of clothing she is waiting to hand the noble with rich bold colours and/or an elaborate pattern. (This would be a good approach particularly if this were used as part of a scene that included the noble being attended.)

Handmaiden

In the case of the succubi, their wings are also more background character than starring role. They are important to establishing the type of character these are. But they already demand a certain amount of viewer attention by virtue of being a large area in proportion to the figure. They are not small details that might need to be a light or bright colour to stand out and be visible. What I really want is for them to act as a sort of frame around the part(s) that I have painted as the focus. Two of the succubi have medium to fair skin. Using a darker value for the wings would literally work well as a frame. The third succubus has darker skin, but it stands out by virtue of being more saturated than most of the colours used on the figures. So in a similar way, using a darker but less saturated colour on the wings would likely work well to frame her, as well.

Succ stand frontExample of what I mean about the wings acting as a ‘frame’ for the skin and faces of the figures.

Since there were already a fair number of paint colours in use on the figures, a logical third consideration was to choose or mix a colour from the paints I was already using on the figures. Once you have colour on a number of areas on a figure, it is often a better idea to work within the set of paints you’re already using than to introduce new colours. It helps things look like part of a cohesive whole. It can help avoid a look that is too busy or confusing. For example, when doing highlights on stone or earth on a base, you can use the same light colour you used to highlight the skin (or horns, or bone). You can mix darker colours you used elsewhere on the figure into your shadows for other middle value or pale value objects. Colours will appear a little differently if blended from darkest up to lightest than they do blended midtone down to shadow and up to highlight, so you can vary the appearance of colours by the way you apply them as well as the ways you mix them. Or you can mix slightly different colours that are still harmonious by using the highlight from one area and the shadow from another.

There are a variety of ways to mix and shift colours from a small set so you can get more mileage out of them on a figure and not have to add a new colour into your set. Working with a smaller palette of colours in this way tends to create a visually attractive result. It’s also more realistic than you might think. When light bounces around it absorbs and reflects colour from surrounding objects. 

IMG 0811The reflection of the green shirt in the shadows of my husband’s skin is very apparent. It isn’t always as immediately obvious to your eye, but this kind of colour reflection is happening to everything around you all the time.

When looking through the paints I had used on the succubi, I wanted to stay in the same colour family as I had used on the skin tones. I came up with two main possibilities for wing colours. I decided it was worth a little time to do a test of both of those colours before painting the wings. I found another figure with wings and painted one in each proposed colour scheme.

IMG 0131I had already used this figure for some skin tests at the start of the project.

Once I had the wing tests complete, I could hold them up behind each of the succubi to get an idea for whether one of the colour schemes worked better than the others. (And I also took pictures for you to see how that test worked.)

Succ1 wingtest 500

Succ2 wingtest 500

Succ3 wingtest 500

With all three cases, when I look at the test wings, the more pinkish wing on the right is the one that draws my eye as being more vibrant and more interesting to look at. That’s a good thing, right? We want our work to pop, we want to paint things that are visually interesting. I picked the colour scheme on the left precisely because it didn’t draw my eye as much. The pinkish one draws my eye, but it draws my eye away from the main areas of the figure that I’ve decided are the focus. It’s a less extreme version of costuming one of the extras in a movie scene in bright red when all of the main characters are wearing grey and blue. Viewers are going to look more at the red background character than you want them to.

Succ kneel wing2 cu

That doesn’t mean I was sloppy or quick about the painting process. I had hoped it would take a night of painting to finish all three sets of wings. It ended up taking more than three times as long as I had estimated. Since the wing sails were sculpted with a few striations to help give them a leathery look, I chose to emphasize that by painting the highlights on with vertical brush strokes. The subtle texture would be a lesser element of contrast with the super smooth painting on the skin that I hoped help emphasize its smoothness. My primary goal was to bring out the three dimensional form (shape) of the wings with placement of lighter and darker areas, but I applied these with a lot of overlapping brush strokes. To do that I used a Kolinsky sable brush with a fine point. (In this case a Winsor & Newton size 0, but there are lots of similar brands that would work.)

Succ sit wing1 cuTo add a little variation and match the pinker skin tone on this succubus, I used a pink glaze to tint her wing sails.

I did the colour selection test back in June before I stopped working on these figures. When I got back to them, I realized there was an additional colour/approach decision that I hadn’t initially considered. Like bat wings, these wings have well defined wing bones. On bats these often appear a different colour than the membrane area, usually paler. I didn’t like that idea on the succubi for a couple of reasons.

One was practical expediency – I didn’t want to have to paint it. A lighter colour would be more fiddly to paint. That would add time when I was trying to crunch and get these finished ASAP. It would also be challenging to do since I had glued the wings to the figures on by the time I thought about this. It would be tricky to get my brush everywhere it would need to be for precision painting.

Succ stand wing2 cu

The second reason I didn’t like the idea of a much lighter colour on the wing bones goes back to pulling focus. Lighter sections on areas darker wings would create a fair amount of contrast and more visual complexity, making them likely to draw the eye more than I wanted. I did an image search of succubus art, and I didn’t see very many pieces of art that depicted them with pale wing bones, so I guess a lot of other artists have come to similar conclusions. I saw many artists use darker wing bones rather than lighter. (Even on a bat’s wing, if the wing is viewed with a light source behind it, the thin membrane will appear lighter and the wing bones will look darker silhouetted against the light.) I chose to paint the sections of skin stretched over the wing bones as a slightly darker value, and with a smoother texture, though not quite as smooth as the skin. The wings are the demonic creepy part of the figures, not the attractive woman part. 

Succ kneel face

One final colour consideration related to how to apply my colour choices in light of the shape of the wings. We paint shadows and highlights on miniature figures to bring out the three dimensional form of objects. The wings of all three tended to be a little (or a lot) curled over to be concave when viewed from the front and convex when viewed from the back. The wings overhang themselves so that their front sides are largely in shadow. For this reason, in a typical overhead/diffuse lighting scenario, the fronts of the wings should appear darker in value than the backs of the wings, particularly on the seated and kneeling succubi. This ends up working pretty well with the idea of focus. It was most important for the wings not to compete with the face/skin in the front views of the figures. There’s no face on the back views. In the back view angles, the wings take up more real estate and even partially obscure other areas of the figure. So the wings actually need to be a little more interesting and attention-drawing viewed from the back. To accomplish that I used a higher range of value between shadow and highlight colours, and emphasized the streaky striation texture a little more than on the front.

Succ kneel back

Finally I was down to one last bit that needed painting – the horns and wing talons. Typically I would paint these in a bone/horn colour. I considered using some of the colours I had used on the non-metallic metal areas. But in light of all the similar considerations I made on the wings themselves, I decided to go with a dark colour instead. Certainly there are animals with black or dark horns, so it’s reasonable enough on that front. I wrestle with whether I think the horns on the finished figures fade from view a little too much, but overall I think it works more than the alternatives would have.

Succ sit face

One thing I want to make clear is that I do not always think through my colour/technique selections in such a rational and deliberate way as what I’ve described here! In fact I would say that I very often do put enough conscious thought into these kinds of choices. It took a long time to type it out and for you to read it, but this kind of thought process is not necessarily time consuming. I think it has been helpful for me to think through this process to describe it to you so I can try to be more conscious of it as I make choices for painting figures. I’ve also made a note to myself to work on a more general colour/technique choice article at some point in the future.

Succ sit back

Apart from these figures, the bulk of the painting that I have done this year has been more tabletop or tabletop plus. I’ve been painting for class examples, quick turnaround projects, or just to try to get the dust off my brush before going back to working on something like these. I haven’t done a lot of high pressure competition/display level painting for a while. And I found myself just not very in the mood for it when working on these. I’m happy with the results, and there are parts I enjoyed painting. But often I found it tedious or a little stressful, and it seemed to take forever. I think a lot of that is because these are difficult times of stress and strain. (Aka 2020!) I have more trouble than usual keeping focused, and it’s particularly difficult to work on projects that require sustained focus over a series of days or weeks. (And I wouldn’t say I’m great at these things in usual times!)

Succ stand back

I put aside working on the succubi in early June to work on the Reaper figure of the month for July. (Asandris Nightbloom.) It was a nice change of pace. But somehow I just never got back to the succubi. I got distracted by preparing for online ReaperCon, working on traditional art studies and challenges, designing a mini learn to paint holiday kit for Reaper, and just trying to get though another day of bad news.

There was one additional mental roadblock in getting back to painting the succubi, something that might have been an issue for me in any year. I had stopped at exactly the wrong moment for me. I have had my share of bad luck in gluing and assembling figures.  Enough bad luck that I dread these tasks and often put them off. (The wings of this one fell off almost immediately after I took the picture. Here’s a link to buy.) This happens to me even though I usually use five minute epoxy, not just superglue, and I use pins, thoroughly clean joins, etc., etc. I put the date on my glues after I purchase them and buy new every two years or so. In my early days of painting I had a figure I tried to glue the arm on three times – with a pin, epoxy glue, and filling the gaps with greenstuff, and after the third time it fell off I gave up painting it and turned it into my sealer spray test figure. Maybe it’s just a personal curse. ;->

Succ sit left2

When I put the succubi aside I was pretty much done apart from gluing on and painting the wings. I would think about doing getting back to them, then get nervous or superstitious and just put it off some more. Believe me, I know how lame that sounds! I also know that I’m not alone in getting in my head that way, and hopefully it will help some of you to hear that you’re not alone, either. My one consolation is at least I heard about a better superglue than I had been using in the meantime. (Loctite Ultra Gel.)

I am very happy that I finally got back to these and finished them up in time for people to see painted versions before the Bones 5 pledge manager closes. I definitely recommend grabbing a set of the Demonic Temptations! Gluing will be much simpler on Bones compared to the metal masters that I was working with, and the metal figures keyed together very well. Here are what the incubi that come in the set look like. I hope to have a chance to paint these one day, too. I think I would use similar muted tones for their skin colours but with more bluish colours.

Incubi Standing

Incubi Reclining

Incubi Sitting

 

Below is a picture of the paint colours I used for the wings. I used the Gothic Crimson as a glaze on the wing bones of all three sets of wings. The Cactus Flower was glazed over the wings of the seated succubus. Regrettably all of these are discontinued or special edition colours except for 9066 Blue Liner. I believe Drow Nipple Pink and Cactus Flower will go on sale on Black Friday from the Reaper Miniatures website as part of a special edition paint set.

Wing paints

Here’s a look at the colours I used on the wings swatched out. The top bluish row are the mixes I used on the horns and talons, which were mixed from 9066 Blue Liner and 6118 GREL Flesh. This gives you an idea of the value and saturation levels of the paints.

Succibi wing paints

 

The articles linked at the top of the page include information on the paint colours used for each of the different succubi skin tones. I’m going to finish up with a few more view angles of the finished figures. If anyone has read this far, thanks for sticking this out with me!

Succ kneel right

Succ sit right

Succ kneel left

Succ stand wing1

Succ grey forescale front fullOne last picture with Sir Forscale. Note that the standing and seated succubi both have additional levels on their bases. Sir Forscale is not sure where he can safely look and stay a gentleman.

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