Vex Airbrush Impressions and October Airbrush Class Signups

I got my hands on a Reaper Vex airbrush! This was part of a preview sale release at ReaperCon, but they will go back on sale on Monday, September 28, 2020. Check this page after that date.

IMG 1356

I gotta admit, it’s a sexy looking gadget. But can it possibly work as well for me as Aaron Lovejoy has claimed and demonstrated in his recent videos?

I took it for a spin to find out. I’m not a total airbrush novice, but I am the next thing to. My current airbrush is a GREX Tritium. It is a very well-made airbrush, and after an initial session or two of struggling to figure it out, I haven’t really had any problems with it. But I also haven’t really loved it enough to catch the airbrushing bug. Unless I’m painting a lot of smaller things in the same colours or painting something larger, it doesn’t seem worth dragging it out or, more particularly, cleaning it up after (and between colours). I don’t do either of those things very often.

One issue the Tritium has is I think it is more of a 1.5 action than true dual action. I’m going to have to give it a thorough cleaning and try again, but on previous attempts I was not able to get a spray of just air alone.

Mystics baddies 1000Villains from the Mice and Mystics board game. Painted in 2013. I really haven’t used my airbrush enough…

The last time I tried airbrushing with my Tritium, my compressor overheated and then I ended up not liking the colours I had picked. I started fixing it with standard brushes instead of dragging out the airbrush again. (My GREX airbrush is high quality, but I’m not so sure about my compressor… Though I have my water trap on my compressor, not on my hose as Aaron recommends, so maybe that would help.)

Rocky group 800My GREX definitely came in useful for doing base coats and initial highlights on chonky baby dragons though!

Although I’m not very practiced with airbrushes, I have learned one tip to pass along. You need to know your brush well. You need to feel comfortable taking it apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together, because that’s how you fix most problems. So for my first session trying out the new Reaper Vex, I rewatched Aaron’s demo video and sat down to do only that. I had to go back and watch a section of video again because I didn’t remember how to reassemble the trigger parts after the first watching. I shot some water through it and called it a night. Whatever brand of airbrush you have, I recommend looking for some videos of people breaking it down and putting it back together again to have for handy reference.

I had a group of figures to prime, so for my next session with the Vex I started there. Just basic grey brush-on primer. (The figures are for a project I can’t yet reveal, so no picture, sorry. Also because of the nature of the project, I couldn’t try the zenithal prime method from Aaron’s videos.) It did not go well at first. I’m not sure what I had done wrong, but it was sputtering and reluctant to spray. I poured out the primer and cleaned out the brush.

IMG 1371At the end of my first airbrushing session with the Reaper Vex. The grey blob is primer that got spilled when I knocked over one of those mixing cups.

For my second attempt I decided to try some spraying some regular paint on a Bones figure since that’s easier to clean up than primer. This went much better! I gave the primer another shot, and that went well too! The Vex is light and sleek, so it seemed less cumbersome to put down and pick up and so on for the frequent tip cleaning (required with any airbrush when using acrylic paint), moving the minis around, refilling the cup, etc. I used the last of my grey primer to do a sort of zenithal prime on the Bones mini I had practiced with earlier to practice my aim with the Vex a little more. (That figure, which is in the picture, has a darker grey overall spray and then a light grey zenithal spray, so not really true zenithal prime. I was going to paint over it anyway so it didn’t much matter about the colours.)

I only used the larger needle since I was spraying primer, I didn’t switch to the fine needle and try that. The larger needle seemed to do pretty well with more targeted spraying, as well. I will need a lot more practice before I can do the sort of detail work Aaron shows off in his video, though! Tools are only one part of that equation. I’d have to do a more thorough comparison, but I felt like it was a little easier to aim for where I was spraying than I have found it with the Tritium.

VexThe silver end needle is larger for priming and base coats, the black end needle is smaller for more detail work.

I’m excited about the possibilities for airbrushing more often and more comfortably in the future. I had expected to have more problems with the dual action trigger, because I’m not very coordinated at doing multiple things at the same time. I was also concerned about whether the classic airbrush style of trigger would be an issue with my hands. The reason I bought the pistol trigger style GREX is I have some issues with pain in my hands and fingers. (I don’t know the exact issue, my doctor poked around a bit and gave up on it.) Using this traditional trigger style airbrush was more comfortable than I had expected! I suspect I’ll have days when it will hurt my hands, but being able to use it for a few hours on a good hand day is honestly more than I had expected. 

IMG 1358The pouch is more convenient for easy access home storage than the larger Reaper case or the plastic case of my GREX. Those plastic cases are great to have for safer travel and long term storage though.

I finished up the session by taking the brush apart to clean it. I’m not fanatical, I don’t typically use airbrush cleaner, but I like to be thorough in rinsing everything out with water and wiping/scrubbing it down before putting an airbrush away if I’m not sure how long it’s going to be until I next use it. If only I had such good habits with my wet palette. ;->

There are some features I miss from my GREX. The Vex paint cup is built-in, you have to choose small or large size at purchase. The GREX paint cups screw on and I can swap between three sizes depending on the needs of my project. The chrome of the GREX is very easy to wipe paint off of, though the plastic is decidedly less so. The Vex finish is in-between. Both come with a crown cap to protect the needle. The GREX came with two styles of crown. (The bit on the front that protects the needle tip but also makes it a little harder to see when aiming for precise application.) Both attach magnetically, which is very convenient. They also magnetically attach to the back of the airbrush to store when you aren’t using them. The Vex has a reversible cap, but in both orientations you have to screw it on. The GREX also has a magnetic cap for the paint cup. The Vex has a plastic cap. The paint cup caps on either get pretty messy if you use them (and many people do not), but it’s less messy than tilting your brush and spilling paint all over. The GREX came with a printed instruction booklet that lists the part numbers of replacement parts and is very thorough in instructions for cleaning. It was still super helpful to watch videos of someone breaking down and reassembling the brush, but it’s handy to have that printed reference.

IMG 1380My GREX Tritium. A wealth of paint cups. The fitted case is nice, but only the bottom is fitted. The top is clear plastic and not snug to the contents. So for travel and storage I have to add bubble wrap padding.

Both the Vex and the GREX have a nice feature for those of us who are newer to airbrushing. You can set a ‘brake’ that limits the maximum volume/pressure of spray. If you twist the knob at the back of the brush, it limits how far you can pull back on the trigger. So if you’re doing delicate detail work you can set that to ensure you don’t shoot a really strong spray by accident. 

IMG 1359The soft case has a main pocket for the airbrush, and a second pocket for the other needle. The Vex ships with both needles. My GREX can accept multiple needle sizes, but I would have to swap out the nozzle as well as the needle every time I wanted to switch. (And buy the other size nozzle and needle.) With the Vex you just need to clean out the paint and swap the needles and you’re good to go.

Although my initial attempts went pretty well, I’m also well aware that I don’t really know what I’m doing. How do I actually get good at this? What can I use it for apart from priming and base coats? I decided the most effective way for me to learn would be to sign up for the Miniature Monthly airbrush classes in October. That will give me four sessions of instruction with a master of the airbrush and regular practice sessions that should leave me feeling a lot more comfortable using this nifty new tool. Reaper has put together packages to buy the paints and figures Aaron will use in the classes, but you can use your own paint and supplies, and any brand of airbrush.

Has anyone else picked up a Vex airbrush? How are you liking it so far? Or are any of you signed up for the Miniature Monthly classes? (They also have a cool Patreon with information on lots of different painting techniques.)

NOTE: My information about both the Vex and the GREX should be considered first impressions rather than in-depth reviews. I am not an experienced enough airbrush user right now to write quality in-depth reviews, and even if I were, I haven’t used either enough to do a true review.

The Anatomy of Colour

When I started to think about writing a handbook of miniature painting, I had an idea of where I wanted to start. And it wasn’t here. ;-> One of the challenges I wrestle with in teaching is deciding in what order to address topics. We tend to think of learning and improving a skill as a set of linear steps, but I think it’s often more like a spiral staircase where you repeatedly circle back over the same subjects, but each time increasing the depth of your understanding.

Where I wanted to begin is by discussing the core concepts of what we need to do to make miniatures look visually effective on the game table or in a display case. Recently, while I was working on articles related to that, it occurred to me that I was using a lot of colour terminology. So I think it will be helpful to start instead with an overview of the terms we use to identify, define, and discuss colour.

If you’re not very familiar with colour terminology, please don’t be intimidated or put off by these terms! It may seem like a whole other language at first, but just reread this document or others like it now and then, and before you know it the vocabulary of colour will become much more familiar. These terms are common to discussions of colour throughout all fields of art and design, so they’ll be useful to you in better understanding a lot of other useful  resources, too.

This is a (relatively) brief overview. At some point in the future I hope to delve into each of the aspects of colour in a lot more detail, to explore other aspects of colour theory, and of course to discuss how it all relates to miniature painting specifically.

I’m also working on a colour quick reference sheet for members of my Patreon.

The Vocabulary of Colour

Every colour can be defined by various properties – whether it’s light or dark, vivid or dull, warm or cool, etc. Think of it as similar to using vital statistics for describing people – height, weight, age, gender, etc. Colours have identifying properties like that too.

Thinking of and describing colours by their properties is often more useful than thinking of them by their names. Colour names are not standardized in any art media. Individual people sometimes have slightly differing definitions for common colour names, as well. So it can be more useful to describe a colour as a dark, warm, somewhat desaturated red than it is to quibble about whether it should be called maroon or wine.

This is similar to people, too. You might know multiple people with the same name. When talking about them you have to distinguish between them via other characteristics – the tall Juan, Lee with the curly hair, Maria from work, etc.

Colour is Relative

The properties that definite colours are inherent, but they aren’t absolute. You may not always be aware of it, but the way you perceive a colour and its properties is affected by the colours around it. A colour that’s fairly dark can seem kind of light if it’s surrounded by much darker colours, for example. It is this relativity that causes a lot of our challenges in working with colour!

Relative greyThe same value of grey appears a little lighter surrounded by black, and a little darker when surrounded by white.

Think of it as similar to vital statistics in people. You probably have a friend who is quite tall. But if you imagine your friend standing next to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (7’2”/218cm), they might not seem quite as tall. And if your friend stood next to the current tallest person in the world, Sultan Kösen (8’9”/251cm), they wouldn’t seem tall at all. The actual measurable height of your tall friend doesn’t change, but your perception of your friend’s height is affected by the height of those you see around them.

Sultan kosenSultan Kösen standing next to other people of various heights. Photo by Helgi Halldórsson via Creative Commons.

The Major Properties of Colour

Art theory defines colours by three major properties: value, colour/hue, and saturation/chroma.

Value
(Sometimes called Lightness)

Value describes how light or dark a colour appears.

Value is a fundamental element of all visual art/communication. Some art instruction sources treat value as a property of colour when listing the basic elements of art. Others consider it so important that they list it as a separate element of art that is distinct from colour. And that sort of makes sense. After all, you can make art or other visual expression with only two somewhat different values of a single colour. And you can describe the world and explore artistic ideas with a lot of depth and finesse using only multiple values of a single colour.

Bw comboYou can say a lot with just black, white, and grey!
 (Blues Brothers stencil by Six-Hundred, drawing by Rhonda Bender, Deadlands Noir Detective by Rhonda Bender, movie still from Casablanca.)

I am going to use the term value a lot in discussing the core concepts for painting great miniatures. It is a key element in creating contrast, and an important tool to use to analyze our own paint jobs, assess those of others, replicating real life textures and materials, and more. Try to memorize and become conversant with this term first.

Value Scale

The term value scale refers to a range of lightest to darkest values. The scale is absolute, with the darkest possible value for that colour at one end and the lightest possible value for the colour at the other. When measuring all possible values or viewing value in greyscale, the scale has black at one end and white at the other. A value scale can be as small as two different values. Dividing the value range into ten is the most common, but several variations exist.

Value scale bw

Value is easiest to see in grayscale, but it exists for all colours.

Valuescale combo

Value Range

Value range refers to the range of values used in a specific work. This might encompass the full range of the absolute value scale and include extremes of white and black, or it might include only a portion of the full value scale. Generally speaking work that includes a full or nearly full range of values is more visually clear and pleasing to look at, particularly in the art of miniature painting.

Value range goblinIf you convert this goblin figure to black and white and compare it to an eight point value scale, the darkest colour is between seven and eight, and the lightest colour is around three. So the value scale of the goblin’s paint colour scheme is roughly 3 to 7.5. The goblin is less visually effective than it would be if it were painted with a larger range of values.

Colour or Hue

In art terms colour/hue refers to the broad colour family to which a colour belongs. The colour families are: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, violet/purple.

What about pure neutral colours, like white, black, and grey? Think of those as another colour family, but one that is slightly different than the rest. The pure neutrals work with each of the other colour families in a different way than those colour families work with one other.

The colour/hue families are very broad umbrellas. It’s the whole family tree taken together. You are identifying a colour as a member of the green family, it doesn’t matter whether it’s lime or olive or chartreuse. Other than the broad names of the families, the specific names of colours are usually not useful or important in art colour discussions. It’s better to either refer to specific pigment numbers, or describe a colour by its family name and other properties.

Colour familes

By strictest definition, colour and hue have slightly different meanings. Colour includes the family of black/white/grey. Hue refers only to the main colour families. (So white is a colour, but it’s not a hue. ;->)

Note that hue also has other meanings. When used as part of the name on a paint tube/bottle, like Cadmium Red Hue or Cobalt Hue, it means it is similar in colour to Cadmium Red or Cobalt, but it is mixed with different pigments than those traditionally associated with those names. In general use people sometimes use the word hue to refer to variations of colours rather than the broader concept of a colour family.

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Colours/Hues

The terms primary, secondary, and tertiary are ways of categorizing colours in terms of how you can mix them. The colours in each category depend on the colour theory/wheel system you use. The one most commonly in use is the classic red-yellow-blue system. The second most common is the CYM (cyan-yellow-magenta) colour system. In either system, the combinations for mixing colours are based on how ideal colours would behave. In reality actual pigments and the paints made from them make slightly different mixes than expected. Delving into the realities of colour mixing is definitely a longer topic for a different day. For now, think of the colour theory/wheel mixing information as guidelines not certainties.

Primary colour
The primary colours are a set of colours which cannot be mixed from other colours. These are mixed together to create other colours.

In classic colour theory the primary colours are: red, blue, and yellow.

Primaries classic

In the CYM colour system they are: magenta, cyan, yellow.

Primaries cymk

Secondary colours
Secondary colours are obtained by mixing two primary colours together in roughly equal proportions. (It may require different volumes of paint to achieve equal proportions due to tinting strength, which is discussed later in this document.)

In classic colour theory, the secondaries are: orange (red + yellow), purple ( red + blue), and green (blue + yellow).

Secondaries classic

In the CYM system the secondary colours are: red (yellow + magenta), blue (cyan + magenta), and green (cyan + yellow).

Secondaries cymk

Tertiary colours
The colours obtained by combining a primary and a secondary colour are called tertiary colours. In classic colour theory they are yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange. Note that the naming convention is to use place the name of the primary colour first, secondary colour second: primary-secondary, or red-orange.

Complementary colours
The pairs of colours that sit opposite one another on the colour wheel are considered to be complementary colours. Complementary pairs provide strong colour contrast when used adjacent or in close proximity to one another. Mix a bit of its complement into a colour to reduce saturation. Mix the two in roughly equal proportions to create a brown or chromatic grey.

In classic colour theory the pairs are: blue/orange, yellow/purple, and red/green.

Complements classic

In the CYM system the pairs are: cyan/red, yellow/blue, and magenta/green.

Complements cymk

Saturation
(Also called: Chroma, Intensity, Purity)

Saturation describes how intense or vivid a colour is. A highly saturated colour is very vivid. A less saturated or muted colour is duller. Black, white, and grey are completely desaturated colours. As with value, you can think of saturation as existing on a spectrum from black/white/grey to vivid colour.

A bright cherry red is a highly saturated red. A dull brick red is a less saturated red. A completely desaturated red is grey.

Colour complementsAbove is a diagram showing the classic complementary colour pairs with highly saturated versions (top) and less saturated versions (bottom).

There are a number of ways to desaturate a paint colour. Although they are not used as commonly as others of the terms listed here, there are specific terms used to describe some of the desaturation mixes.

Tint: a pure colour mixed with white is a tint. A tint is always lighter in value and less saturated than the pure colour it was mixed from. Sometimes called a pastel colour.

Tone: a pure colour mixed with grey is a tone. A tone is always less saturated, and might be lighter, darker, or equal in value to the colour it was mixed from, depending on the value of the grey used to to mix it.

Shade: a pure colour mixed with black is a shade. A shade is always darker in value and less saturated than the pure colour it was mixed from.

Hue tint tone

Neutral Colour
Colours that are fairly to mostly desaturated are generally considered neutral colours – brown, tan, ivory, and similar. A pure or true neutral colour has no trace of another hue in it – true black, white, and grey. Chromatic neutrals function like neutrals in a colour scheme, but have touches of another colour in them. The grey or brown colour obtained by mixing two complementary colours together is a chromatic neutral. Neutral colours allow you to add additional colours to a design without having to use a rainbow kaleidoscope of colour. True neutrals never clash with other colours, but are more lifeless than chromatic neutrals.

Additional Colour and Paint Properties

Colour, value, and saturation are the three major properties that define colour in the abstract. In practice, and in working with actual paint instead of abstract colours, there are additional properties that it is useful to be aware of.

Temperature

Colour temperature assesses a colour as either warm or cool. Warmer colours are those with more yellow (sometimes orange) in them, and cooler colours are those with more blue (sometimes cyan or blue-green) in them. Understanding colour temperature is helpful to paint mixing, and can be a useful tool for creating contrast and mood.

Note that even within a warm colour family you have variations of a colour that are warmer or cooler, and the converse for a cool colour family. So you can have blue colours that are warmer and yellow colours that are cooler.

Primaries warm cool classicThese are warmer (left) and cooler (right) versions for each of the classic primary colours in more saturated (top) and less saturated (bottom) examples.

Opacity

Opaque colours cover over everything or almost everything beneath them. Semi-opaque or semi-transparent colours only partially cover, allowing some of what is beneath to peek through. Transparent colours reveal much of what lies beneath. The level of opacity that a paint possesses is largely determined by the pigments used to mix that paint colour. Many pigments that are rich in colour are innately transparent, including most of those used to mix yellows and reds, and some used in greens and blues.

You can make a paint more transparent by adding water or medium to it. You can only make it more opaque by adding more opaque colours to it, such as white and/or black. This will also alter the saturation of the colour, and depending on what you mix in, its value. Paint companies can also make paint more opaque by adding opacifiers like chalk dust or talc, which is probably functionally pretty similar to adding white. Mixing a large proportion of pigment into the mix can help make a paint more opaque, but since many pigments are transparent by nature, there are limits to what can be achieved with more pigment.

We tend to think of opacity/transparency primarily as tools related to techniques – we need more opaque paint to successfully wet-blend and more transparent paint for glazes, for example. However, opacity contrasted with transparency can also be usedl to create contrast, depth, and/or colour complexity.

Opacity

Luminance

The way the human eye perceives the value of a colour is influenced by our perception of the hue and saturation of that colour. Colours that might appear as the same value to a camera will appear lighter or darker to our eyes based on their hue. This effect increases with saturation. This effect is particularly noticeable with red. You likely perceive saturated shades of red to be much lighter than they appear when converted to greyscale. The term brightness is sometimes used with similar meaning to luminance.

LuminanceThe desaturated greyscale versions for some of those colours are probably darker than you expected.

Finish

Finish describes how the dried surface of the paint (or sealer, if used) reacts to light. A glossy finish reflects a lot of light, and appears quite shiny. A satin finish is slightly reflective and appears to have a sheen. A matte finish reflects very little light and appears uniformly flat. Acrylic paints are inherently glossy. Some paint companies mix in matting agents to alter the finish of the paint. Effect paints like metallics and pearls have mica or similarly reflective materials added to create sparkle or shine.

Some painters prefer a uniform sheen to their paint or finished product. Others prefer to use paints with different finishes to help simulate different materials. The most common example is use of paints mixed with metallic flake to paint areas intended to appear as if made of metal, while using matte paints for other materials, but there are artists who use a wider array of paint finishes for more subtle effects.

Sealers also affect finish, and can be used to simulate materials, such as painting gloss sealer on eyeballs to make them look more natural, or over black to create the appearance of shiny vinyl or patent leather.

Sprout front 600The visual differences between finishes are always more striking to view in person than in photographs.

Strength, or Tinting Strength

Saturation level describes how visually powerful a colour appears. Tinting strength refers to how an actual paint colour behaves in mixes. If you want to mix green by combining yellow and blue, you will find that you need much more yellow paint than you need blue paint. Yellow can be a highly saturated colour with a lot of visual impact, but most yellow paints have weak tinting strength. Different pigments create paints with different tinting strengths, so you might have some blues that are stronger and some that are weaker.

Patron Spotlight

My content is provided with the generous support of the members of my Patreon. To thank them, I will be featuring a Patron in each post I make!

Anne Foerster started at Reaper Miniatures as the staff painter. She then took on the project of mixing and designing all of the Reaper paint lines, which quickly became a full time job. For more than 15 years she designed, mixed, and named literally hundreds of paint colours. Recently she left Reaper to strike out on her own as a commission painter, and contribute to the community in a different way. She has a daily weekday show on the Reaper Twitch channel, additional streams on her Painting Big Twitch channel, a Patreon where you can learn a lot about colour and painting, and a website where you can find pictures of her great pieces and more information on commissions.

Thank you Anne for helping my Patreon get off to a great start. And for all the answers to paint questions I’ve had over the years!

Figures Featured in this Post

The Deadlands Noir Occult Detective is available in plastic or in metal.
The goblin archer is from a pack of Goblin Skirmishers available in plastic.
Sprout von Harvest II is a special edition metal figure. Purchase one and proceeds go to Second Harvest Foodbank of East Tennesee.

My Patreon Community and Blog Plans

I have started a Patreon! I wanted to write a post explaining why I chose to do that, and talk a bit about where the blog and Patreon could go from here. I’m going to throw in some pictures of past work I’ve done to break up the wall of text a little. ;-> (If you’re newer to this blog, check the home page for a ‘table of contents’ to previous posts you might find useful.)

Fg front cu fullFrost Giant Queen available in Bones plastic. (This was a resin master.) Pushing myself to practice freehand and textures.

When I first started thinking about doing a Patreon years ago, I thought of it as a method to make available video versions of the classes I teach at conventions. I didn’t have the equipment required to make that feasible, so instead I started this blog. And that turned out to be pretty great because it got me thinking of the challenges of miniature painting and how to talk about those, and opened up a world of teaching opportunities that don’t fit into the convention class structure.

The time limit of in person classes, or even weekend workshops, is a significant constraint on the possibilities for teaching. What attracts people to those events is partly the opportunity to study how an expert at their craft handles their tools and techniques, and partly the chance to get feedback on their own use of tools and techniques. There is a very heavy focus on the craft/technique side of things. People want to get painting, not listen to a lot of theory!

Cersei front fullCersei Lannister is available from Dark Sword Miniatures. She is a great figure for studying transparent cloth.

The more I work on improving my own painting, however, the more I realize that technique is just piece of the puzzle. There are concepts of how to present visual information that I didn’t know or didn’t fully understand that are just as important to creating a successful piece as how you put on the paint. Perhaps more so, since they apply regardless of which techniques you use, and they apply whether you’re painting a quick game figure or an elaborate display piece.

This blog has allowed me to explore and share some of those ideas in a more hospitable environment than convention classes. I can take the time to break down and explain a concept. I can easily cross-reference other material, both previous articles of my own, and material from great artists and teachers all over the web in all kinds of visual art disciplines. Readers have the luxury to read and re-read on their own schedule, and can exchange ideas with me and with each other through the comments.

Rando face full cuRandom Encounter bust, available from FeR Miniatures. Busts and larger scale figures offer different possibilities, but make different demands of the painter.

So I definitely want to go on writing this blog. It’s been over two years, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of things I’d like to talk about. And I am learning more myself all the time that adds to the potential topics list. I’d also like to continue making information freely available. I like contributing to the community. I like sharing knowledge!

However, I also like paying my bills. ;-> Currently just running the blog costs me a bit of money due to site and storage fees. A much more significant issue is that working on in-depth content like the contrast articles takes a lot of time, and there are limits to the amount of time I can afford to divert away from commission painting.

So I circled back around to the idea of a starting a Patreon. Patreon kind of seems like Kickstarter for teachers and creatives. And like Kickstarter, it gives creators a way to ask a community what they think of something. Do people like the idea of what I’m doing enough with the blog to help support it? My first two tier levels are my way of asking you that question. So far the answer seems to be yes, and I’m so gratified and excited to see it!

Arfin face fullAr-Fienel from Studio McVey was a limited edition resin piece. Noble Knight occasionally has one for sale. I used a limited colour scheme.

When I started thinking about doing a Patreon to support the blog, it also got me thinking again about the possibilities offered by video. There are definitely things that are difficult or impossible to convey using text and photos alone. I do still want to make videos to share the information I teach in convention classes. But just like the blog has, I think that Patreon video classes could expand the possibilities of information I can share beyond what I can teach in a stand-alone convention class. I’ve already got ideas for some great video topics along those lines. I’ve also got ideas for exercises to suggest to you to help you practice and improve your craft.

Another advantage of Patreon is that unlike a convention class environment, it offers ways to stay in communication so that patrons and I can ask questions and share ideas and clarifications with one another. (I’m also thinking about whether a Discord would be a fun addition for our Patreon community. Let me know what you think!)

Bsoph face fullBourbon Street Sophie is available in metal. I’ve studied the source lighting effect intensively. I like this piece, but there are a few things I’d do differently today.

Video creation and community support is much more time intensive than the blog. I need to have some idea of whether people are interested before I can jump into creating video content. Maybe I’ll lurk around Twitch a little while I practice with it. Please let me know if video classes and/or streams are something you’d like to see and would be willing to support! We’ll need to grow the Patreon a little more before I can go too far down that rabbit hole. In the meantime I’m going to continue to study what I need to do on the technical end. Gearing up for ReaperCon got me over the first few hurdles, but I still have plenty to learn.

As for my pie-in-the-sky goal… what I’d really like to do is create a sort of equivalent to a college course for miniature painting. The articles and illustrations of the blog would come together over time into a sort of textbook, paired with Patreon videos to demonstrate techniques and effects. Both would be supplemented by exercises to help improve both understanding of theory and practical technical skill, with occasional critique articles/videos for examples to help improve your artistic eye.

Tara comp frontExercises like this have taught me a lot about miniature painting that I hope to share. This version of Tara was a special edition, but it is coming out as part of Bones 5.

I have no delusions that I’m the best miniature painter in the world. I do think I have some excellent qualifications for teaching miniature painting, however. My university training was in journalism, so I have background in clear writing for both print and broadcast. I’ve been painting miniatures for 17 years, and have studied with dozens of talented people. I’ve been teaching miniature painting for a dozen years, and I have strived to learn how to do that as well as possible, working to understand where people struggle and how better to explain and demonstrate to them. For the past five years, I’ve been studying traditional art. That study has reminded me what it is like to struggle to understand ideas and perform techniques! It also continues to teach me a lot about visual arts that can be applied to miniatures.

So that’s a bit of an overview of why I started the Patreon and what I have planned for it and this blog. I welcome any thoughts or questions you might have!

Rocky group 800Not a standard unit, but I used many of the same principles and techniques to paint them. The Rockies are available on Bones plastic.

In the short term, I’m working on a series of articles about some of those concepts for how we can best present visual information that I mentioned. In essence, the first chapter of what might become the textbook. A textbook is a distant goal that will take some time and effort to get to, but I think what I have in mind will be useful either way. I think there are some critical core concepts that we talk around a lot in the miniature painting community, but that we may not have defined concretely enough to be useful to a majority of people.

That first series of articles about concepts would be followed by a longer series of articles on the elements of miniature art that we have available to put the core concepts into practice in our work.

Week3 front fullI was intimidated to try painting in a more cartoony style, but once I buckled down and tried it, I had a lot of fun! Cthulhu is available in Bones plastic. The others are currently out of production, but several similar style figures are also available.

Thank you so much to everyone who has already signed on to my Patreon: Sheldon, Harvey, David, Frank, David, Ruben, David, Chris, Miniature Monthly, Timothy, Jim, Gregory, Jean, Jonathan, Ben, Brian, Marcia, Jessica, and Tom! I appreciate each of you more than I can express!

And special thanks to Dark Sword Miniatures and Miniature Monthly for helping to spread the word. (And their help and friendship over many years. And generally just being awesome!)

Flotsam and Jetsam

As the tidal wave of work for ReaperCon 2020 recedes, it leaves in its wake a few pieces of flotsam and jetsam I’d like to share.

If you attended either of my Bones FAQ seminar sessions, here’s a link to the reference PDF. If you weren’t able to attend or you’d like to watch it again, the Twitch stream is available on Reaper’s Twitch channel. I will edit this post to add a link to the YouTube archive of the video once it becomes available. The PDF is written as a useful reference even if you don’t watch the video, and includes information for tools and materials that work well with Reaper Bones and Bones Black miniatures. (And probably lots of other plastic figures like those in many board games.)

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And now some news: I have a Patreon!
I’ll make a blog post in a couple of days with some more information about why and where it’s going from here, but I figured why not share the link in the meantime?

Thank you so much to the people who have already signed up. I’m blown away by your support, and excited about the community we’re starting together! I really cannot express how grateful I am to you all!

Special thanks to Miniature Monthly for their shoutout on Facebook. Their Patreon is great, I’ve been a member for years. They also host classes outside of that. Right now Aaron Lovejoy is taking signups for some online airbrush classes, which will be handy for anyone who’s got an airbrush they aren’t quite sure how to use, or who just bought the new Reaper Vex airbrush. (Still need to get one myself!)

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ReaperCon left some more flotsam behind it bobbing in the digital seas. The Zoom classes were not recorded (many instructors are not comfortable with that for a variety of reasons), but several classes and a couple of panels aired on the Reaper Twitch stream. These will also be added to Reaper’s YouTube channel in the coming weeks, and are already available to watch in the archives on the Twitch channel. Twitch class topics include skin tones, freehand, airbrushing, shaded metallics, and more! Instructors include Michael Proctor of Clever Crow Studio, Anne Foerster of Painting Big, Michal Shultz of Mocha Miniatures, Josh Davis of Mini Painting Studio, David Diamondstone of Light Miniatures, Jimmy the Brush, Dan Holmes, and more. 

There were also a couple of panels. I was part of a painters’ panel where we discussed what makes a quality paint job. (Starts around minute 38 on the Twitch recording.) The sculptors’ panel starts around minute 45 on this recording. Lots of great insights in both.

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I’d originally planned one additional Pirate Parade post to share another couple of pirate figures. They’re topless female figures, and I started feeling that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to post them during ReaperCon when a larger audience including younger people might check out the blog. So I think for right now maybe it’s best to just link to photos of them and let you decide whether or not you want to check them out:

Treasure Chest is a miniature by Dark Sword based on class Clyde Caldwell artwork.

Cyndria Wavecaller isn’t topless, but I painted her shirt with a transparent cloth effect. 

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Are you also interested in traditional art, illustration, or animation? Like every other convention this year, Lightbox Expo is happening online next weekend – September 11 to September 13. You can register for as little as $1 US. You can’t access the schedule page without registering, but I think you can see the list of artists and companies involved to see if any of them interest you. (If you do register you’ll see the schedule in your timezone, which is very helpful!) There are dozens of names, and the people I know and am excited to see content from might be very different than yours, so I’ll just leave you to head over and check it out if it sounds at all interesting to you.

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If you saw my unboxing videos for the ReaperCon swag boxes and you’d like any of the figures, paints, or remaining stock of promotional con items, those are now up for sale individually. As of writing, the boxes are also still available. As are some copies of the Brinewind pirate setting guide that I mentioned that I was helping to edit a while back. At the time I said it was going to be 36 pages, but it grew to 48 pages in the end!

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And now a random nautical fun fact!

While editing the Brinewind guide I discovered that flotsam and jetsam have a brother no one ever seems to talk about – lagan. Flotsam refers to items left floating in the water due to a wreck or accident. Jetsam refers to items floating in the water that were intentionally discarded. Jetsam legally belongs to whoever discovers it first, but flotsam can be claimed by the original owner. So what’s lagan? Items that are cast overboard, but are heavy enough to sink rather than float, and the location of which is marked by a floating buoy or cork for later retrieval. Lagan is considered to remain property of the owner who jettisoned it and cannot legally be claimed by anyone who happens upon it. Wikipedia has a bit more detail for those who are interested.

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Figures mentioned in this post:

Treasure Chest is a metal figure available from Dark Sword Miniatures.
Cyndria Stormcaller is a metal miniature available from Reaper Miniatures.

Pirate Parade: Stylish Scallywags

It’s time for more pirates as we head into the final stretch of this piratical ReaperCon 2020! This group is pirates with style.

Barnabus front 450

This is one of three variants of Captain Barnabus Frost, who is one of the members of the pirate Consortium in the ReaperCon 2020 setting of Brinewind. I painted this years before the Brinewind guide was written, but I think it fits the character as described decently. Much more ruthless and cruel than you might imagine from his fine clothing and love for antiquities and historical lore.

Barnabus back 450

This version of Barnabus was sculpted by Bobby Jackson, based on concept art by Izzy “Talin” Collier. You can get the Brinewind guide as a separate purchase or part of the Brinewind Box, but only while supplies last. There is talk that it will be made available as a PDF, as well, and I’m crossing my fingers for that. The Brinewind guide includes Talin’s art of this and several other characters.

Barnabus right 450

I enjoy that this is sculpted as a character who is out to rule the seas, but look good doing it. You may notice that Barnabus above and Kalonice below have similar colour schemes – purple, teal, and red-brown. I will admit this is a favourite scheme of mine. For a few years around the time that Kalonice was painted, I had used it a lot. I had gotten out of the habit and wanted to visit with an old friend at the time I painted Barnabus.

Kalonice front 600

Every now and then even the most critical artist produces something they’re pleased with. Kalonice is one of those figures for me. She felt like a bit of a jump up in my skills at the time I painted her. She’s not perfect, and there’s plenty I’d do differently if I were painting her today, but I’m still pretty happy with her. I still use her face as my avatar picture on the Reaper forums!

Kalonice back 600

Although this looks like a simple base, it was challenging for me. How do you make broken pottery was one thing I wrestled with. I did some research on what the spilled wine would look like by pouring some juice out on our counter. As I think about it, I think I need to go back to trying to experiment with things like that and studying more from life and reference photos!

Rb pirate front 400

I don’t know the name of this character. I think he’s from the Rum & Bones board game. He has a great dynamic pose where he’s twisting his body in the motion of throwing the knives, but as is sometimes the case with dynamic poses, it’s challenging to photograph.

Rb pirate back2 400

I started painting him at the CMON Expo paint and take table a few years ago. Then I used him to test some of the colours I was thinking of using on the succubi figures. By that point I figured I might as well finish him up!

Rb pirate face 400

His colour choices are maybe a little flashy for a grunt level pirate, but I had fun!

Figures in this Post

This version of Barnabus is available in metal. There is a variant version in plastic Bones. And a newly available new envisioning in metal.
Kalonice was a licensed miniature from the Exalted line and is no longer available for purchase. 
A variant version of Kalonice is available in metal.
The Rum & Bones figure is a member of the Wellsport crew.