Upcoming Online Classes – Fur, Feathers and Scales

I will be teaching two online classes this week as part of CYBËR WÅRS, an online convention! The classes will air on my Twitch channel. They should remain available for viewing for two weeks on Twitch. I will be recording the classes to make the videos available to members of my Patreon in thanks for their generous support of this blog and my general teaching efforts.

Fur class

Painting Fur
Thursday, November 12, 2020 from 8pm to 10:30pm Eastern

Fur is found not only on miniatures of animals and monsters, but also as part of clothing and accessory items on figures. I will demonstrate several different techniques for bringing out the sculpted texture of fur. I will also discuss tips for colour selection and referencing real life to help achieve attractive and realistic results.

(I probably will not talk much about detailed fur patterning. I have two previous articles on that topic though! Article one, and article two.)

You are welcome to paint along during the class! Suggestions for good practice miniatures, paint colours, and other supplies are included below.

NOTE: I will not start the class material until after the Reaper Live Twitch stream concludes to give people an opportunity to attend both. I will take painting questions from the chat for the first 10-20 minutes until we begin the main class subject. So this is a great opportunity to corner me and ask me questions on other painting topics. ;->

Feather class

Painting Feathers and Scales
Saturday, November 14 2020 from 2pm to 4pm Eastern

There are several different techniques you can use the paint the sculpted textures of feathers and scales. Which is best to use depends on the time you can spend on the miniature, and the level of results you’re looking to achieve. I’ll demonstrate various techniques and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each. I’ll also discuss some thoughts on colour choices and research and reference.

(I have a couple of articles available about painting a scaly hydra – article one, and article two.)

You are welcome to paint along during the class! Suggestions for good practice miniatures, paint colours, and other supplies are included below.

Class Materials

My goal is to share general techniques and information you can use to paint a variety of texture types in the colours of your choosing. Please don’t stress out about whether you have the exact same supplies as I do. The following are suggestions for figures and tools to get the most out of the class. 

Class Materials: Miniatures

For both classes, aim for figures with well-defined sculpted texture. Try to choose something at least 28mm humanoid size or larger. You can use some of these techniques with tiny familiar size figures and small areas of texture, but it will be easier to practice on something larger, especially if you want to paint during the class. Here are some photo examples of options that are better and not as good for both topics. These are all Reaper Bones figures, but you’re welcome to use whatever figures you have on hand and would like to use.

For fur I will probably use the large wolf in the centre and the fur cloak figure on the far left.

Fur practice good

Fur practice bad

For scales I will probably use the cobra on the far left, and the angel second from the left at the front. I may switch to the griffon wing if people are having trouble seeing what I’m painting onscreen. 

Feather practice good

Feather practice bad

Class Materials: Paints

My goal is to demonstrate general techniques that should work with just about any colours. To follow along in the class it is much more important to try to match the value of the colours I’m using rather than worrying about whether you have exactly the right colour. Value is how light or dark a colour is. 

I’m going to use a range of grey and brown paints. Aim to have on hand a range of lighter, medium, and darker grey and/or brown paints as well as white and black, and you should have little trouble following along with what I do in the class. 

The following is a scan of some suitable paint colours from Reaper Miniatures with their product code numbers. You do not need to have all of these paints or even any of these exact paints! These are just examples of the colours of paint I will use so you can try to find something similar in your collection.

These are examples of greys and browns of various values. The far left column are true neutral grey examples. True neutral greys do not look as natural as warmer greys, but if you find the chart confusing you might find it easier to just use simple grey paints during the class.

Each row is an example of browns and more natural greys that are similar in value to the example on the left.

The top row includes examples of light colours you could use. Try to have one of these plus white on hand.

The second and third rows are examples of medium value colours. Try to have at least one of these available to use.

The fourth and fifth rows are examples of darker value colours. Try to have one of these available.

The bottom row is an example of very dark colours – black or nearly black. Have one of these on hand to use.

Paints rectangle

Class Materials: Brushes

I will be using a selection of round and flat brushes. The picture is examples of brushes I might use. As with paints, I don’t expect you to have all or even any of these exact brushes to be able to follow along! They’re examples to help you find a few brushes in your collection that should work for the class.

Try to have a medium to larger flat or filbert brush. Also a medium size round brush that forms a smooth end without a lot of stray hairs sticking out to the sides. Have on hand whatever brushes you feel comfortable with for doing base coats and washes.

If you have a brush with a fine tip like a Kolinsky sable, that will be useful for lining on scales and feathers. You don’t need something super tiny like the two second from the bottom in the picture, just brushes that form a nice sharp point. The two second from the bottom in the picture are what I would use to paint faux fur texture on smooth surfaces. There probably won’t be time to demonstrate that, but I’ll have them on hand just in case.

If there is time, I want to experiment with a few different brushes for drybrushing to give you an idea how different ones work. The three brushes at the top are super soft makeup brushes. The green handle one just below it is a similarly soft brush I got from the art store. I have really enjoyed working with these for drybrushing lately.

IMG 0106

I hope that I’ll see some of you on Twitch in a few days!

I am pretty busy right now, so I’m not able to spend the time to round up links to every miniature and product mentioned in this post. If you need to know the name/product code for a particular miniature, let me know in the comments and I’ll find that info for you. 

Aaron Lovejoy Classes: Review

I previously reviewed Aaron Lovejoy’s Airbrushing 101 class. At the time I figured that was enough of an overview of Aaron’s attitude and approach to be helpful to other people deciding whether to take his classes. I found the experience of the Airbrushing 102 class revelatory enough that I started working on a review about that. But, I’m me, so between one thing and another I didn’t get that finished in a timely matter. On the upside, now I can review the class series as a whole.

I don’t know when Aaron will next offer his airbrushing class series, but he is currently taking signups for a class series on non-metallic metal to take place in January, so I figure this review will still be useful for people to help decide whether to take that. 

IMG 1474Airbrush 101 took us this far through painting a dragon! The airbrush 104 refresher video demonstrated ways to use an airbrush on other areas of the dragon I haven’t had a chance to practice yet. 

First, a little background on where I’m coming from as a reviewer. I’ve taken dozens of miniature painting classes at conventions. I’ve also taken a few weekend workshops. I have a lot of miniature painting video instruction, too, from the very first DVDs that came out years ago, to the videos released by the Patreons I support last week. (Though I will confess that I have not watched as much of that material as I should have yet!) For the past few years I’ve been studying traditional art, so I’ve also taken part in a lot of in person and online instruction on drawing and painting. I’ve studied everything from free YouTube videos, to $5 mini workshops, to $35 DVDs, to a $400 week long oil painting workshop. And I also teach miniature painting myself, both through this blog, and at convention classes. I have as active an interest in studying the methods of teaching and guiding as I do in the subject of the class.

Lastly I should note that I am friends with Aaron Lovejoy and Liz Hunt. This review is not given in exchange for consideration, and I feel no compunction to give a positive review. I am friends with a lot of people in our industry and feel free to choose the option of saying nothing at all if I don’t feel comfortable saying something negative about friends. 

The online instruction structure that Aaron Lovejoy and Liz Hunt have developed might be one of the few good things to come out of pandemic life. They clearly put a lot of thought and effort into the program before it started. Once it began, they refined and improved their approach based on feedback from their students. 

DotsAaron has developed a system of exercises to build levels of precision and finesse of airbrushing that I had not previously thought possible. (He demonstrates his skills in this video.) I can attest that the exercises help. My initial attempts on the left were poor. With practice I improved to be able to do the example on the right. I still have lots of practice to be able to do anything like what Aaron can do!

The following is an overview of the general structure for the classes, and I would anticipate that the structure for the non-metallic metal series will be similar. I took the entire series of four classes, but it is possible to take only an individual class or two.

Signup
After enrolment we received a document listing the topics that would be taught in each class, and the supplies that Aaron would use in each. Aaron outlined the figure prep for each class in a video, and discussed figure alternatives that would work for each class. (He was also responsive to questions about alternative supplies throughout the classes.)

Pre-Class
Prior to each class we received a class notes document. This allowed us to read and be familiar with it before the class itself. We also got reminder links to the supplies list and prep video. 

Class
Live classes took place on Zoom. Aaron had everything prepped and ready to go on his end, no time was wasted. (Something I have regularly found to be an issue in classes I’ve taken in the past.) Liz monitored the chat and Q&A channels and communicated questions and issues anyone was having to Aaron. I suspect that as a teacher that this was very helpful on his end as well as ours. He could focus more on instruction instead of having to multitask looking at a lot of screens.

The class was set up with the intention that students paint along after each demo stage, and then post photos of their results on a Discord channel for Aaron to look at and give advice. It did take some speediness to keep up with that. There were a few times I decided to wait to follow later steps until after the class, and I know a few others did the same. The structure worked well to accommodate both student approaches.

Aaron and Liz were not at all stingy with their time. I think we went over time pretty much every session because Aaron was thorough in answering questions and reviewing submitted photos.

Post-Class Refresher
It can take a considerable amount of time to edit videos and upload them. To help students keep momentum, Aaron prepared a refresher video in advance, and it was made available to access immediately after the class. These videos demonstrated the painting steps a bit more thoroughly and leisurely, and in most cases included additional bonus information or additional examples of how to put the techniques from the class into practice in miniature painting.

Class Video Recording
Within a few days the recording of the actual class was available for access. This allowed the structure to work for those of us who had to miss a live session. I find you usually find something you missed when you watch material like more than once, particularly if you watch it after having put some practice in yourself, so it was also useful to those who were present for the live session. 

Homework Critique
This is one of the areas that improved during the class series. We had access to a Discord channel for each class where we could post pictures of our practice for review, and ask questions. Initially Aaron responded to everything with text messages within the Discord channel, but he quickly evolved that to daily video critiques for a week following each class. He displayed the photos on screen while pointing out issues and successes with the practice attempts. We were all able to easily see and benefit from each other’s critiques as well as our own. Liz and Aaron continued to answer questions in the Discord channel as well.

Gnoll zeniAirbrush 102 also focused on good zenithal priming. My feedback on the my first attempt (left) was less about airbrush use and more where to place shadow and light more effectively, as in the adjusted version on the right.

Review: Positives

As a student, I was very pleased with this approach. In many ways I think it is superior to a lot of in person instruction. The fact that you continue to have contact with both the instructor and other students for a week after the session is a significant advantage. It gives you time to practice and get feedback, and to benefit from the shared struggles and successes of others. This is very different from a convention class where you are usually unlikely to have much time to practice during the convention, and often can’t easily find the instructor later for feedback anyway. (ReaperCon is a little different in that regard, but you still have a lot of other fun activities competing for your attention there.)

This scheduled class approach works in my experience. The nice thing about a permanent on demand video through DVD or Patreon or whatever is that it is there whenever you want to access it. The bad thing about recorded video is that ‘whenever you want’ often becomes ‘I’ll watch that later’, which often ends up meaning never. Or even if you do watch now it’s easy to put off trying to practice what you learn. A scheduled event prompts you figure out how to fit it into your schedule and do it now. That’s not going to work for everyone every time, but if you find you aren’t self-directing your study of recorded materials as well as you’d like, you might want to give something like this a try. Having a recording of the live session available within a day or three meant those who couldn’t attend live could still take advantage of the information, but also still had that push to practice and study now to be able to get feedback. There was an energy and cohesion among the participants that I haven’t often seen in discussion fora for permanent on demand information.

Zenithal comboMore zenithal priming practice.

Aaron and Liz clearly put a lot of effort into this series of classes. Information was prepared in advance and the presentation was polished. (But still in Aaron’s affable and goofy style.) Both were attentive to student questions and concerns, and just generally accessible and friendly. Several of the daily critique sessions included additional review of class material or extra information in response to student concerns/conversation, and I’m sure these extras required additional time and effort on Aaron’s part that he may not originally have planned for.

One thing I particularly appreciated about Aaron’s instruction is that he included a lot of information about why and when he does what he does.  His feedback often emphasized lighting and focus on figures through use of value and saturation. The nuts and bolts of how to use an airbrush and perform the specific techniques he does with it is invaluable information, but it’s only half of the puzzle of getting a great looking paint job. I really appreciated getting insight into his choice and placement of colours.

As an instructor, I have been considering methods for online instruction for some time now as I prepared to start my Patreon. This experience has given me a lot of food for thought. 

Ab blending fullAirbrush 103 focused on how to use an airbrush to blend and glaze figures. I went a bit overboard by the point of the final picture on the right and would need to bring back some of the midtones and highlights. Aaron repeatedly emphasized that this, like many other miniature painting techniques, is a back and forth process.

Review: Negatives

One of the big draws of attending in person classes and workshops is the opportunity to get feedback. Even the best camera equipment and photo setup can’t capture every aspect of seeing a three dimensional object in person with our own eyes. And most of us aren’t working with the best equipment or knowledge! There were times with the photos in the homework group that Aaron couldn’t be sure whether the issue was more with the photograph or the miniature(s). He took the approach of acknowledging that and proceeding with the advice he’d give if it were the figure.

It may also be worth noting that digital camera technology has improved in leaps and bounds. Most of us have better cameras in our phones than those people paid hundreds of dollars for 10 or 15 years ago. Until the point of talking about subtle nuances of colour changes and so on, you can get some pretty good information from a photo. Photo critiques also allow the instructor time to reflect on the image, or use photo editing to illustrate points. 

IMG 1589Airbrush 104 demonstrated how to use the airbrush to glaze, refine, and enhance almost finished figures. This picture is not my attempt at doing any of those things. ;-> Between real life crises and work demands, I haven’t had the time to practice anything from 104. I did use information from the three preceding classes to put a foundation on the skin of these goblins though.

Live classes also allow instructors to study the painter’s materials and process as well as their results. When I first started teaching classes I would describe and do a quick demo of the consistency of paint needed for the techniques used in the class. There would always be a few people who were quite off when mixing their own paint to practice in class. Over time I came up with different ways to explain and demonstrate consistency, and I try to use as many of these as possible to be clear in classes. Fewer people have problems now, but it is still the case that my feedback is often based on an assessment of their paint dilution or the type of brush they have. Often you can see the issues by studying their work, but it can help to see the tools and tool preparation, as well. However, if I’m being honest, it is rare for me to study how someone is holding the brush and manipulating it and comment on that specific a level, and I don’t recall a lot of that happening in classes I’ve taken with others. There’s a lot going on in a 90 minute class and it’s hard to see since we’re working at such small scale. So while in theory this might be one of the things you miss out on with an online experience, in practice I’m not sure it’s as big a detriment as it seems.

The inability to review equipment and its use may have been more of an issue with the airbrush class than it would be with a standard brush painting class. Airbrushes aren’t super complex, but they are devices and there’s a little more to them than just use the hairy end like on a regular brush. There were probably issues that could have been resolved more quickly or easily if Aaron could have looked at someone’s airbrush or compressor in person.

VexWait, which end do I use?

There was something I would have found very helpful to see as part of the class. Aaron talked a lot about how he uses the skills and techniques from the four classes, but I would have found it very helpful to see his process of painting with a combination of brush and airbrush from start to finish to get the best idea of how the puzzle pieces all fit together. Switching back and forth seems like it must be a bit clunky, but Aaron paints a lot faster than I can, so clearly he makes it work!

One thing that is an issue is live video quality. The main venue for paid live classes is Zoom, and Zoom has somewhat poor video quality. (And occasional brief audio stutters and the like, but this is common in any live video format.) I have experienced that not just in Aaron’s classes, but also with video workshops for traditional media. There the issue is compounded by the fact that most traditional artists do not have the video setup and expertise that Aaron has developed in his years making Patreon videos. Luckily for students of the airbrush classes, the recorded video we had access to within a few days was of much higher quality. (Which is not always the base with my live traditional art workshops.) I don’t know if there’s another alternative to Zoom. I’d guess not or we wouldn’t all be using Zoom. I hope Zoom is aware that people are using this for more than video conference calls now and works to improve their video quality.

Figures in this Post

Reaper Vex Airbrush information
Narthrax the dragon is available in plastic.
The Gnoll Warrior is available in plastic or metal.
The Ogre Guard is available in plastic or metal.
Athak undead knight is available in plastic or metal.
Arran Rabin is available in plastic or metal.
The Bloodbite Goblins are available in metal, or in plastic by adding the Dungeon Dwellers set to your Bones 5 pledge.

Review: Aaron Lovejoy’s Airbrushing 101 Class

Last weekend (Saturday October 3, 2020), I attended the first of four sessions in a class series by Aaron Lovejoy on using airbrushes for miniature painting. I thought it might be helpful for me to share my review of the class. It’s still possible to get in on one or all of the remaining sessions. You can also get the videos from the first lesson and feedback in the homework group if you want to sign up for the full series. Aaron Lovejoy will likely once again offer this in live workshops and additional online classes, so I figured it was worth writing a review for general purposes, as well. I have found other people’s reviews of classes and workshops helpful in determining whether something would be a good fit for me, so I thought I might as well share my thoughts.

IMG 1391I gave my Narthrax a dip in isopropyl alcohol. It’s my preferred way of cleaning miniatures.

I started writing this also intending to share some thoughts about my journey in learning to use an airbrush, and general ideas about learning, but I think it would be better to split those out to a separate post. I’ll keep notes as I go through the rest of the classes, and then share my learning journey thoughts.

Aaron Lovejoy is a prolific painter. He’s painted armies and display figures on commission for many years. He has done a lot of painting for the Shadows of Brimstone game. He uses an airbrush throughout the painting process, not just for zenithal priming or painting the main area. I’m definitely intrigued to see more of that in the later sessions! Aaron is part of the Miniature Monthly team that runs in person workshops (when the world is not on fire), and online learning through their Patreon.

IMG 1392Assembled and ready to duke it out with the airbrush. Chomp!

After taking this first class, it is already clear to me that Aaron is an experienced teacher who has worked with students before on this material. (And a lot of other topics!) He obviously prepared in advance, and worked to present the information in a logical order that built on itself. He demonstrated his points thoroughly (including an unplanned what not to do example!) His video set up allows you to see what is happening probably better than you would be able to at an in person event. 

This first 101 class might seem basic, but in my experience as a newbie trying two very different styles of airbrushes, the basics are critical. You need to know how to take the airbrush apart and put it back together again, how to clean it, and how to swap out paint colours before you can do all the fun cool stuff. And most critically, you need to know how to deal with clogs and paint drying on the tip of the needle. Aaron reviewed all of this in depth, with lots of tips and info on handy tools. He discussed several other issues that commonly come up in airbrush painting for miniatures, as well.

IMG 1421Step one: Laying some shadows in over a black base coat.

If you don’t have a Reaper Vex or Badger airbrush and you want to take the class, I recommend searching YouTube for a video of someone breaking down and cleaning the brand of brush you do have. You’ll get the general info from Aaron, and still be able to figure out any quirks or differences your specific brush might have. Even way back in 2012 I found videos for my GREX that made the cleaning, disassembly, and reassembly much less scary. (Some pics and thoughts about my Reaper Vex and GREX Tritium airbrushes.)

Throughout this 101 class Aaron answered questions from attendees and helped people with specific problems, and he continues to do that in our homework chat group. He was ably assisted in that by Liz both during the class and in the homework group. Having a second person monitoring the chat and relaying questions allowed him focus on his presentation and helping people out. I need to find a way to convince my husband to do this for me. ;->

IMG 1455Step two: now for some midtones.

After our overview of the basics, things got a lot more exciting – he showed us how to paint a dragon! Or a large figure of your choice. Colour swaps were fine too. I did find it helpful to have and use his colours and his figure, because I find it easier to compare and contrast my work with the instructor’s when I do that. He gave some great advice on choosing colours for use in this kind of airbrushing. There are some differences to how I pick colours for brush painting, and this is definitely information I could have used when I first tried airbrushing some years ago!

Aaron quickly ran through the steps he would take to airbrush a foundation of paint onto Narthrax. Aaron’s ‘foundation’ would make for a nice looking dragon on most tabletops. I’d be fine just adding some details like talons and teeth by brush and calling it good for game play, but I’ll likely be tempted to fiddle a little more than that. ;-> I painted the first step of shadows during the class, but decided to wait and review the second video before painting more. Others airbrushed more quickly and were able to get some critique on their work at the end of the class. Those of us who were slower are able to post pictures to a Discord group for class members and get feedback on our miniatures, as well as answers to airbrush issues and questions.

IMG 1457Step three: highlights.

Following the class we received a PDF that summarized the main points with lots of useful reference pictures. We also have links to the video of the class itself, and a video of Aaron painting Narthrax the dragon a bit more thoroughly. Those will remain up for reference until the end of November. I watched the Narthrax video before I finished my attempts to follow Aaron’s example on my copy. I’m pretty happy with him!

There are definite advantages to this type of interactive remote instruction. I find scheduled events and limited access to information pushes me to study something more thoroughly and do more practice with it than I usually do with permanent access videos, which I usually put off studying until some time when I’m less busy. (A time I begin to doubt will ever appear…) It’s also great fun when a group of people are working on something at the same time and posting their results. There’s an energy to it, and it’s fun to see people’s different interpretations and approaches. It can be as helpful to ponder the feedback given to others as the feedback on my own work.

IMG 1474Step four: bonus fun colour.

The one downside of this and any remote course is that there are some limits to remote feedback. It’s not possible for Aaron to physically examine your airbrush or compressor to help solve problems, or to study how you’re using these tools, examine your paint dilution, etc. And while cameras and our ability to use them to take pictures of miniatures have improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, there are still some things that we can’t see in pictures the same way that we do in person. Aaron is doing his best within the parameters, but it’s something to be aware of. (But the fact that a lot of miniature painting instructors are using this usual time to get more set up for online instruction is a boon to the main people who can’t get to painting workshops and conventions though!)

FULL DISCLOSURE NOTE: I am friends with Aaron. I am a freelance painter for Reaper Miniatures. It is reasonable to imagine that I am predisposed to think favourably of both. :-> However, it is also worth noting that I wrote this on my own initiative. Nothing I wrote is based on any obligation or expectation of either Aaron or Reaper. 

Products in this Post
Narthrax the dragon in Bones plastic
Reaper Vex airbrush

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.

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, you can watch it on YouTube. Check out this playlist to watch other video classes from ReaperCon Online 2020. 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.