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.

Bones FAQs Live Video Classes and Other Events

ReaperCon 2020 is fast approaching! Two of my classes are live paint alongs for the learn to paint kits. I am also hosting two seminars about working with Bones miniatures, as well as participating in some other fun events, and I wanted to let you know a bit more about those. Or you can just hop over to the schedule and browse through all the fun ReaperCon 2020 events  and find something to your taste.

Bones FAQs Live Video Classes

When Bones miniatures first released, there were a lot of questions about how to work with them. What glue to use? How to get rid of the mould lines? If they didn’t need primer, why did the paint sometimes bead up and fail to cover areas when painting directly on the material? I decided to do some testing and find out what might work well or not with this flexible plastic material. After conducting my tests and studying the results, I wrote a series of unofficial FAQ documents for the Reaper forums.

Short FAQs – no pictures or testing information

Preparation: Glues, Putties, Mould Lines – includes photos and summaries of all relevant tests

The First Coat is the Difference – Primer or not, doing washes directly on Bones, paint durability tests

Bones painted 1000Some of the Bones I’ve painted for gaming and to practice speed painting and airbrushing.

The Reaper forums are no longer the only gathering place for Reaper fans, and there are a lot of people who prefer information via video format. So I’m going to run two online seminars for the Bones FAQs. I’ll demonstrate the products and methods I find most effective for working with the Bones material, including a few tools that I’ve added to my arsenal since writing the original FAQs.

Zoom: Thursday, September 3, 2020 from 19:00 to 21:00 Central time
Twitch: Sunday, September 6, 202 from 14:00 to 1600 Central time

The Twitch stream will appear on the Reaper channel, so I’m pretty sure they will record and archive it on both their Twitch channel and YouTube channel. It will also likely be a little shorter since I’ll have to finish up a little early so that the Reaper stream team and the next instructor can get set up and running.

You can register for classes (and will need to for the Zoom one to receive the link information).

Bones demo 1000I love Bones to test colours and for lightweight and sturdy demo pieces to hand around at convention classes.

Reaper Errant D&D Game Presented by Knightheart Gaming

I get together with several of the Reaper artists to play in a Dungeons and Dragons game on Twitch every other Friday. The game is hosted by Frank and Ann at Knightheart Gaming. The game plays out on an epic tabletop display of terrain and painted miniatures, with camera angles that reveal what’s going on only as our party discovers it.  We had just stepped into hell in the last episode, so it should be pretty interesting!

I finally painted my character, Fathom, and shipped her off to Frank. Hopefully arrive in time to make her debut at the ReaperCon session. We’ve had hints we should expect to see a pretty special table for this game, so I thought I’d better get off my butt and get my character mini painted finally! I will have a blog up about that after ReaperCon with some tips on choosing colours.

We normally play from 7pm to 10pm or so Central time, but our time slot for the ReaperCon session is a little different to accommodate special convention events. Frank does a great job of making each episode work both as a stand-alone story and as part of a larger campaign, so don’t feel you need to watch any of the previous episodes to be able to hop in and laugh at my bad dice rolling in this one. You can also read a very fun summary of the past few episodes from the perspective of the character Kay Nimblewit (played by Jen Greenwald.)

Twitch: Friday September 4 2020, from 17:30 to 20:00 Central time

The other Reaper artists who play in this game are:

Bobby Jackson: Pujol, the fortunate gnome bard with the unfortunate name
Gene Van Horne: Gooseneck, the barbarian lizard-man who bites back
Jason Wiebe: Corncob Thunderbludgeon, the cleric trying to keep us all alive
Jen Greenwald: Kay Nimblewit the rogue –  “It beats being a door”
Michael Proctor: Abran, the elf rager/ranger and keeper of the abs
Rhonda Bender: Fathom, the tiefling “magic user” whose patron just told us all to go to hell

Screen Shot 2020 08 26 at 5 01 50 PMScreenshot from the inside a witch’s hut, featured in last month’s Better Lairs and Dungeons.

You can also watch a stream of Reaper peeps playing in a special convention game set in the pirate city of Brinewind. The dungeon master is Joseph Wolf, and scheduled players include Ed and Dave Pugh (Reaper founders and owners), Ron Hawkins (art director), Jon Overton (social media relations, casting, and more), Michael Collins (man about Reaper). It will stream on Twitch Saturday, September 5 starting at 5pm Central.

If you’d rather play than watch, check out the Games page on the ReaperCon 2020 site.

Crow’s Nest Panel and Sculptors’ Panel

People have requested panels for years at previous ReaperCons. They’re difficult to manage in that environment because the demand for classes is so high that the schedules of painters and sculptors are already pretty demanding, and space is an issue as well. While we’re losing some of what we love in this online no contact ReaperCon, we are also gaining new opportunities, like being able to have some panels!

I will be participating in the Crow’s Nest panel hosted by Michael Proctor. The other scheduled guests are Jen Greenwald and Derek Schubert. We’re going to talk about what makes a quality paint job.

Crow’s Nest is a show that Michael hosts on Twitch. Each week he paints, but he also talks to a guest in the miniatures industry. He’s interviewed painters, sculptors, art directors, and Frank from Knightheart Gaming so far. I can say from experience that listening to his show is a little snippet of what it’s like to sit around and paint/sculpt in a room with these fine folks. A lot of us lurk in the audience when it isn’t our turn in the hotseat. You can catch Crow’s Nest on Twitch Tuesdays at 4pm Central, and an archive of the previous streams is available on YouTube.

Painters’ Panel
Twitch: Saturday, September 5, 2020 from 10:00 to 11:30 Central time

The sculptors also have a panel, hosted by Reaper’s art director, Ron Hawkins. 

Sculptors’ Panel
Twitch: Sunday, September 6, 2020 from 18:30 to 20:30 Central time

As these are twitch events I imagine they will be archived on to Reaper’s YouTube channel.

Painting the Bones V Hydra

In a previous post post I talked about how it was a change of pace for me to paint this large hydra figure because of the difference in size and subject to what I paint most often. Now I’d like to share a little of the actual painting process for this miniature.

Hydra - finished, view 1It’s not too late to get this and hundreds of other figures at much lower than retail prices.

Planning Phase

My first step was making a plan of action. This is the stage where I consider different colour scheme ideas, what might be the best order to paint areas, things like that. In this case I did not take very much time and effort at this stage. I was on a deadline and not wanting to psych myself out about the aspects of painting something less usual for me.

And my experience in painting this figure is an example of how not spending a little bit more time in thought beforehand likely cost me a chunk of time in execution. I had some broad colour scheme direction via photos from Reaper’s art director, Ron Hawkins, but I didn’t take the time do do any colour tests. With some minis, I spend a bit of time working out my exact colour choices on paper before I start painting on the figure. I decided to wing it with this one, and I didn’t get it right on my first try.

Colour Complexity and Variation

One thing I did think about a little was colour variation. This is a subject I often end up talking with intermediate painters who are looking to improve their work to the next level. While painting shadows and highlights on an area adds some variation and visual interest, it only does so much. If you look at something the size of the hydra, or even a cloak or large expanse of skin, it gets a little samey to look at if the only variation is a difference between the dark, midtone, and light areas.

Bases color complexityTop: Shades of darker and lighter grey only.
Middle: Grey shaded with dark Burgundy pink, and highlighted with pale Caucasian flesh tone.
Bottom: Shades of darker and lighter grey for the value transitions, glazed over top with other colours.

These colour variations represent real world objects more accurately than you might think – reflections from surrounding materials on shiny objects, variations in skin tones like blush on the cheeks, colour shifting caused by a light with a colour cast, all kinds of things create varied colours on surfaces. And just as with many elements of art that reflect real life, it’s pretty common for artists to exaggerate these colour variations to create a more interesting piece.

There are a number of different techniques you can use to add some colour variation to areas. I talked about a couple of methods in a Reaper Toolbox video I recently completed. Michael Proctor is a master of colour use, and he also has a recent Toolbox video where he talks about some of his techniques.

Hydra view of light directionI visualized the sunlight shining from the direction of the tip of the hydra’s tail, but much higher in the sky.

In the case of the hydra, I relied primarily on shifting the colours used to paint the lights and shadows, as in the middle photo of the example above. I added a little more visual interest to things by shifting the direction of the light to one side of the figure, and using some colour contrasts in my (eventual) paint choices. I visualized the light as bright sunlight streaming from the direction of the tip of the tail. This created a situation where one side of the creature would appear more in light, and the other side more in shadow, with some interesting interplay of light and shadow on the necks.

Airbrush Misstep

Several people have asked me if I used an airbrush to paint the hydra. My answer is yes and no. I did try to start with an airbrush. it seemed like a perfect fit for a large creature like this, and handy method to lay in the broad strokes of the directional light I planned. It took me a few hours of painting over a couple of sessions (my compressor overheated the first session!), but eventually I ended up with this.

Wip1a Hydra airbrush stageThe more lit side after the airbrush stage. Crummy cellphone photo.

It looks pretty dull in the photographs, and that’s not because they’re just crappy cell phone pics – it looked pretty dull in real life, too! Essentially I ended up with a sort of zenithal prime effect – it was a good guideline to where to place my shadows and highlights, but not much more.

Wip1b hydra airbrush back viewThe more shadow side after the airbrush stage. Cellphone photo.

Painting the Base

As I considered where to go from here, I realized that it would be tricky to reach all the areas of the base if the body were fully painted, so I decided to paint the base first. I talk about the techniques I used to paint the rocks in my recent Reaper Toolbox video.

Wip2a hydra painted basePainted base. Light side view. Cellphone photo.

The technique I used on the pillar pieces was a little different. I painted using my usual layering technique, but with some variation in the selection of colours for lights and shadows. I looked at some reference photos of Greek temples, and plenty of them are not perfectly polished white marble. Several seemed to have a fair bit of ruddy red showing on the pillars. So I started with a basecoat of cream, and used a clay red in the shadows. To keep the effect of the bright sunny day throughout the whole figure, I used some dark blue in the shadow areas of the pillars, and yellow in the highlight areas that are receiving full light.

Wip2b hydra base shadow sidePainted base. Shadow side. Cellphone photo.

Re-Colouring the Body

Now I had to figure out what to do with the body of the hydra for a more interesting colour selection. I decided to keep my main shadow colours, but swap in more saturated midtone and highlight colours. As with the rocks and the pillars, I was using dark blues in the shadows, and yellow in the highlights to simulate a sunny day.

Wip3a hydra base colour repaint light sideAfter wet-blending new body colours. Cellphone photo. View from the direction of the light.

The majority of the paint on the body and necks was applied with the wet-blending technique. I started with a size 2 round sable brush, but this figure was large enough that I switched to a bigger synthetic brush for most of the basic lay-in of colour transitions, using the size 2 on smaller areas or to refine blends. I used the light to dark transitions created by my airbrush stage as a guideline, but refined and shifted the location of light and shadow as I deemed necessary to create the effect of the lighting or make the figure more interesting to look at.

Wip3b hydra wetblending shadow sideAfter wet-blending in new body colour, view from the more shadowed side. Cellphone picture.

Forging a… Five Heads

I was much happier with the colour selection for the body than I was with my first attempt. However, I felt like using the exact same colour transitions on the head would not work very well. The heads need to stand out in some way to help the viewer spot them and connect with them. I did some experiments with a couple of patterns to see whether patterning would be a good way to make the heads stand out. Sometimes I’ll grab a similar figure to practice tricky freehand or do tests like this (Bones are great for this!), but in this case it was just as easy to test on the figure, and it is sculpted with such definition that a coat or two of extra paint wouldn’t be an issue.

Wip5 pattern testingTesting some ideas for patterning on the heads and/or neck scales.

I also decided to use more saturated colours on the heads than I had on the body. I switched out my brown shadow step for one that was more green, and swapped my kinda yellow highlight step for one that was a more intense yellow. The heads and spines scales were smaller areas and I was working with more transparent colours, so for these I used my usual layering techniques rather than doing any wetblending.

Wip4a hydra colour contrast between heads and bodyPainting completed on two heads. They are a slightly different colour scheme than the body to help them stand out to the viewer.

Lining the Scales

The next time I sat down to paint I wasn’t in the mood for fiddly blending with semi-transparent colours, so I decided to work on painting the lining between the scales instead. I talked about the technique I used for that in a previous blog post.

Hydra lining comboAdding lining between the scales makes a big difference in the appearance of a figure like this!

Once I had the lining in, I reevaluated my intention to paint some patterns on the heads and/or spine scales. The lining between the scales added a lot of texture and I felt like the contrast between that texture and the smooth blending on the heads would help keep the heads as the focus.

Belly Scale Dancing

Wip6a hydra blue belly scalesTest of a blue colour scheme for the belly scales. I used slightly different colours on the final version.

The last thing to figure out was the colours to use on the belly scales. As with the pattern experiments I decided to test right on the figure rather than grabbing a separate one or testing on paper. I wanted to pick colours that would stand apart from the belly scales, but not steal focus from the heads. The brown was a bit too bland. The blue worked better, but it was important to keep it muted so that it didn’t compete with the yellow of the heads. I tweaked the colours a little on the final version.

Wip6b hydra brown belly scalesTest of a brown colour scheme for the belly scales. 

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see from my experience painting this figure, one of the things to keep in mind when painting something that is different from what you normally paint is that the process is not likely to go as smoothly as usual. You have less experience to draw on, fewer helpful habits established. Even though I was painting this on a deadline, and I felt some pressure to make it look as cool as I could for the sake of the Kickstarter campaign and a few other reasons, I had to accept that I lost time to mistakes and having to do tests to avoid more mistakes. There would have been no value to beating myself up or getting too frustrated about it.

Display Painting versus Tabletop Painting

I’m still working on a bit more of an overview post of my experience painting the hydra I showed in my last post. In the meantime, I was thinking about the conversations I had with people about painting at the countdown party. 

Hydra side viewLate pledges are available if you missed the Kickstarter campaign.

I was very happy to talk with people about painting and try to share some tips. My painting knowledge is built on a foundation of generosity of other artists taking time to share what they know, and I want to give back to the community in the same way. I also genuinely enjoy geeking out about one of my favourite things with other fans! But there were times when I felt like the information I shared was disappointing to people since a lot of it summed up to the big ‘trick’ in painting this was time and patience.

When you’re learning a new skill, you tend to assume that as you get better at it, you’ll be able to do things in a similar amount of time and with similar techniques, just better and quicker. Certainly there are skills or areas in which this may be true. I’m not a great cook. I could follow a recipe to make a pie crust, but it would take me a lot more time and effort than a professional baker or even a practiced and enthusiastic home cook. And my results would likely neither look nor taste as good as theirs. They have a lot more experience and possibly access to better tools than I do. However, there are also areas where neither expertise nor tools are the limiting factor. My pie is going to take about as long to cook as the expert’s, and there’s not much either of us can do about that.

Cmon speed paints - frontA group of pro painters including myself, Jen Haley, Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford, and Clay Williams painted these Robb Stark models in a 90 minute speed painting challenge at CMON Expo 2018. The figures benefit from our painting expertise, but display models they are not.

Now I’m going to look at a more art based example. Someone who is in the earlier stages of learning to draw can produce an accurate and realistic drawing, whether through use of tools like grid drawing or just sheer effort. I did some decent drawings in my early days of starting my learning traditional art journey. But just like my attempt to make a pie crust, they took a lot of time and effort on my part. And they weren’t the norm. There were a lot more terrible drawings than decent ones. That stands in stark contrast with the work of a skilled artist, who can do quick sketches that look attractive and realistic in a few minutes. That is the value of practice and repetition, but also a lot of knowledge and experience that the artist draws upon.

I think people look at something I’ve painted like the hydra and parallel it to the example of the two artists above. They assume it’s the ‘pro’ version of their tabletop or speed painted miniatures. But it’s not really an apples to apples comparison. It’s more like comparing a pencil sketch to a high rendered photo realistic drawing. There’s a foundation of knowledge that applies to both, and there are some similar tools and techniques. But one is not the evolution of the other. It’s more like siblings or cousins.

Cmon speed paints - back viewMy figure is the second from the right, and is the weakest of the bunch. The painters who are more successful at balancing speed and end result than I am picked colour schemes with much more contrast, and enhanced those with painting techniques that enhanced the pop of the figure, and then sprinkled a dash of an extra like weathering and/or freehand on top. I spent too much time worrying about blending.

A professional painter, particularly one who paints armies or other tabletop figures regularly for commission, is like the professional baker making the pie crust. They have good tools and materials, but also a wealth of experience to draw on to create a great looking result in less time than a beginner or casual painter. Something they speed paint might be to a standard a beginner is aspiring to do as a display painted piece. But a lot of high level display painting techniques we use are more like the baking time in the oven for the pie, or the time it takes to render a quick sketch into a fully painted picture – there’s no quick trick or tool that does the job for you, it just takes time and patience.

Hydra - pre scale liningA work-in-progress picture of the hydra before I painted in the lining between the scales.

The lining between the scales of my hydra is a good example. Using quick painting techniques, most people would line between the scales by using a wash of a darker colour. Or maybe they would start by painting a dark coat of paint and then drybrush or sidebrush lighter colours on top of the scales, leaving the lines in between them dark. This figure is sculpted with a lot of great definition, and those techniques should work well to paint it. But that’s not how I painted mine, and I don’t think you could use those techniques and get a result that looks like what I got.

Hydra - after scale liningThe same view of the hydra with the lining painted between the scales. It adds a lot of impact and texture!

The way I painted the lines between the scales of the hydra was… to paint the lines between the scales of the hydra. I used a fine tipped brush, patience, and a little over two hours of my life. The only ‘tip’ type thing I did that might not be obvious to the viewers is something that made the process even more fiddly, not less! I did not use a single colour of lining over the whole figure. If you compare the value (lightness/darkness) of an area of scales to the lining around it, you’ll see that it’s fairly constant over the whole figure. It looks that way because I used a lighter brown colour to line between the lightest colour scales, a blue-black to line between the darkest colour scales, and a couple of mixes in between. In total I used five values of lining. Possibly I could have gotten a similar effect with four or perhaps even three value mixes, but in for a penny, in for a pound is how I tend to paint. ;->

Hydra scale lining paletteThe dried liner mixes in my welled palette.

My analogies are to an extent a simplification. There is a gray area between tabletop painting and high level display painting. High tabletop, basic level display painting, I’m not sure what you’d call it, but the basic gist is something both fast and good. There are some limits to how fast you can paint like this, and just how good of a result you can get with this. It uses techniques from both ends of the spectrum, so if this kind of painting is your goal, it is worth studying information from display level painters. Most people who paint miniatures for a living probably paint to this level as much as they can – as good as you can get it to look, in the least time possible. But when they paint a very high level commission piece or a contest entry that pulls out all the stops, they use techniques that take a lot of time and skill, like individually lining every scale on the hydra.

That balancing act between end result and time commitment is one of the ways I am not very good at my job. I’m working at getting a little better at it, but through my entire miniature painting experience I have tended to use time and brute force and focused on the quality of end result, and done a poor job of learning increased efficiency and good planning to improve on time. Or even just learned to accept that a lot of the time 80% of the best I can do is good enough.

As a result, those who are seeking information on how to better balance high quality result and speed are probably better off consulting other painters. :-> Two of the best painters I know for this both share their experience on Patreon if you’d like to learn a lot more tips and tricks than you could from a quick convention conversation. (And they also teach full classes at conventions.) Look up James Wappel and Aaron Lovejoy.

We Must Increase our Bust*

Reaper Miniatures has announced an add-on level for a set of busts in their current Bones 5 Kickstarter campaign (Late pledges available here.). To some people this may seem like an odd or even undesirable turn of events. I’ve been lobbying them to produce some Bones busts for years. I’d like to share my thinking behind that, and why I hope inexpensive Bones busts may help the Kickstarter and even the hobby as a whole.

Busts in Bones 5 KickstarterA set of busts sculpted by Julie Guthrie available in the Bones 5 Kickstarter.

There is a large and active segment of Reaper’s fan base, and the miniature hobby as a whole, who evaluate miniatures solely from their value as playing pieces in various role-playing and miniature war games. Apart from potential use as terrain and objective markers, the busts have little appeal as playing pieces, and I’m not trying to persuade anyone in this group to buy them.

In the miniature hobby as a whole, there are also a large number of people who only paint figures and do not play with them. This segment of the audience has a strong preference for figures in larger scale than gaming miniatures, and many of them also enjoy or even prefer busts to full figures. If you haven’t been much exposed to the painting side of the hobby you might feel like people who only paint are just a small number of people who paint at a very high display level. This is not at all the case. There are enough people who enjoy painting that there are clubs and large shows devoted to this side of the hobby all over the world. And those painters encompass the same range of beginner to expert quality of output as the painters on the gaming side.

World expo show roomWorld Expo 2017. Miniature enthusiasts from around the world traveled to Chicago to show their work. This large ballroom contained only a portion of the total entries and attendees.

Members of this side of the hobby have traditionally focused on historical miniatures, but many also enjoy fantasy and science fiction figures as well. In fact, the number of people participating in this area of the hobby who are interested in fantasy/SF has only been increasing over the years. Just as with gaming miniatures, there are a few larger companies with big catalogs that offer a mix of historical and fantasy/SF figures, and a lot of boutique companies with more select offerings. Two of the bigger companies are Andrea and Pegaso. If you take a quick look at the number and variety of figures they offer, you will be able to see that there might be a larger audience of people who just like to paint miniatures than you might have imagined.

That painter only audience currently has very little knowledge of or interest in the offerings of Reaper Miniatures. I am hoping that the addition of these busts to the Reaper catalog will inspire some of them to take a second look at Reaper’s product line, as they might also enjoy figures like the giants and dragons. If we can spread the word and get some of these folks participating in the Kickstarter, that will add more backers to help reach the backer goal unlock as well as adding more funds to unlock other goals, which will benefit also benefit the miniatures as playing pieces backers of the Kickstarter.

Dragon bust Julie Guthrie also sculpted this dragon bust that is available in the Kickstarter.

There is a third group of people who enjoy miniatures both for their use in games, and as artistic pieces to paint for display. Over the past 10 years, the interest this group has in busts and larger scale figures has ballooned. Once they were rarities to see as contest entries at conventions or in online galleries like Cool Mini or Not. Now they are much more common. But I think there are a lot more people who would like to paint figures like this than currently do. Busts are typically produced in resin, and resin production is expensive. Looking over the Andrea catalog, the busts seem to start at $60. I’ve seen a few boutique companies who offer them priced as low as $20, but $40 and up is pretty typical. 

I suspect there are a lot of people out there who are interested in painting a bust, but find the price point of $40+ to be too much to pay for something they aren’t sure they’ll enjoy or be able to paint a level they find satisfactory. In the Kickstarter, they can get three cool busts to try for a mere $12! And even when these hit retail, the price is still going to be much more palatable for an experiment.

Bust combo 600I did some quick B&W painting on this resin copy of one of the new Reaper busts to demonstrate how you can use paint to alter a sculpted expression. I was trying to make her look sad and grieving. The sculpted expression is much more neutral. Unfortunately my year of chaos means I haven’t had time to properly paint this wonderful bust yet!

Another great value of these is for teaching demonstration and study of how to paint miniatures, both for tabletop game use and display. There has been an explosion of great video resources online. As much as camera technology has improved in the past few years, it is still often difficult to make out exactly what someone is demonstrating on a gaming scale miniature. Reaper’s gotten in the game with their Reaper Toolbox videos, which you can find on Twitch and their YouTube channel, and their staff painter has mentioned that she tends to prefer painting bigger figures on camera because it’s much easier for people to see what she’s doing.

I teach and take a lot of classes in person, and suffer the same issue. Reasonably priced busts and larger scale figures are a boon to teaching miniature painting. I could much more easily demonstrate the texture technique I used to paint Delia on a larger figure, and students would have a much easier time practicing that technique on a larger figure. I have never taught painting eyes at a convention because the iffy lighting would make it too frustrating to see the demonstration or attempt to practice. The larger eyes of a bust would be a different prospect! Busts are common subjects for one or two day workshops, but have been too expensive to be practical for use two hour classes. Inexpensive Bones busts offer exciting possibilities for new subjects and improvements in miniature painting instruction.

Figures on a shelfWhich would viewers see best on a mantle or curio shelf?

One final value for busts is as gifts. A lot of people who paint miniatures like to give these as gifts to friends and family. A typical gaming scale miniature is too small to work well displayed on a mantlepiece or curio cabinet shelf. You’d need to build up an elaborate base or create a diorama to make them stand out. The picture above gives you an idea of what I mean. The Reaper mousling and Dark Sword woman in the middle of my sample display are painted to a high standard, but it’s challenging to even see what they are unless you’re quite close to them. The two busts and the Reaper Efreeti are much more suitable for display of that nature.

I suspect that part of the popularity of the Reaper Kickstarter dragons and giants is how well they work in this capacity. Busts also make great display piece gifts, are sturdy, and do not require time-consuming or fragile basing. They also fit into a type of art object more easily understood by non-miniature enthusiasts, so are more likely to be appreciated by recipients and viewers of that nature.

If you are interested in buying the busts that were added in the Kickstarter, you can make a late pledge through this web page.

Figures in this Post

The three humanoid and one dragon head busts sculpted by Julie Guthrie are currently only available via the Reaper Kickstarter. See the link above for how to pledge to receive these. They will release into retail channels some time in the second half of 2021 or first half of 2022.

The Random Encounter dwarf bust is available as a gift with purchase from FeR Miniatures, which also sells some other terrific busts (and full figures).

The mousling pirate is available in metal from Reaper Miniatures.

The female shaman is based on artwork by Larry Elmore and is available from Dark Sword Miniatures.

The Ziba the efreeti is available in Bones Black plastic from Reaper Miniatures.

*If the title of this blog post is lost on you…