Problem Solving: Tara the Silent Part 3

Please check the bottom of this post for information on where to buy this figure or receive one as a gift with purchase.

At the end of Part 2  I explained how I try to take photos of a figure when I’m nearly done so I can check for issues to fix. I included my photos of this stage for Tara, inviting you to spot problems in my painting. I’ll share the two main views again now so you don’t have to flip between two blog posts.

Tara WIP final check front

Tara WIP final check backAlmost but not quite done…

Here’s the list I made of things I needed to add, alter, or fix. I just jotted things down in the order I spotted them, I didn’t go through an exhaustive checklist or anything. I will expand on/translate things from exactly as I wrote them down so they’re understandable to people who are not me, however. :-> 

* Soften the edges of the highlight on the nose, and broaden it to a wider area.

* Smooth the transitions on the cheek highlights.

* Tidy the edge of the shirt trim on the left collar point.

* Clean up the bottom edge of the top buckle.

* Glaze the leather texture.

* Smooth the highlight transitions on the arrowhead.

* Soften or increase gradation on the transition from the upper lip highlight to cheek area on both sides.

* Paint the base rim. (Hey, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the obvious!)

* Check the murky look to the shadow under the rib on the bow side.

* Darken the skin? (The question mark was in my notes. I had intended to paint a skin on the darker side of the mid range and wasn’t sure I had succeeded.)

* Paint the lips. Add pink/red glaze to cheeks.

* Add additional bright hair highlights in small areas.

* Clean up overly-wide strand line on the back of the head.

* Tidy up chin highlight.

* Check/improve brightest highlight on the quiver.

* Clean up edge of the bottom of the quiver.

* Add dirt glaze to steel areas.

* Glaze purple into shadows of most areas, particularly skin, blue.

* Clean up the shirt trim near the neck on the shoulder pad side, looks like blue got swiped on some areas of it.

* Increase highlight on waistband of pants.

* Smooth transitions on the steel of the shoulder pad spikes.

How many did you spot? I look at these pictures full size; there may be issues that weren’t too apparent at blog-friendly size, so don’t feel too bad if you missed some.

ADDENDUM: I was asked on my Facebook page to give more detail about the glazes I used on the leather and the steel. This was my reply.

By glaze, I mean heavily thinned paint. Closer to coloured water than thin paint, really. With Reaper paints you can use just water. I often use a mix of Brush-On Sealer and water. I almost always will test a glaze to make sure it is indeed super thin and transparent, since if I get it wrong on something like the leather texture, I’ll be covering over minutes or hours of work with a couple of brushstrokes I can’t remove once they dry. I test it by painting it on to a piece of paper and checking that it just barely tints the paper once it dries.

I also use the term glaze to mean paint applied in a deliberate, controlled manner. So while it’s thin like a wash (or thinner really), I do not slop it all over like you would with a wash. I dip my brush in the paint, and then wick a lot of it off on to a paper towel. Then I apply a thin coat only where I want it to be. In the case of the steel, in crevices and other areas that aren’t going to get rubbed with use or are harder to polish. In the case of the leather, I was using it to shift the colour and tone down the appearance of the texture, so I applied it all over the leather areas.

The glaze did not texture the leather. If you look back at the previous pictures in Part 2, there was plenty of texture on the leather long before I got to the end stage touch ups. The texture was built up in layers with unthinned or only slightly thinned paint. The point of the glaze was to tone the texture down just a little, since she’s a well-kept adventurer and not a half-wild orc or something. I also used it to shift the colour to a little more orange to play up the colour complement contrast with the blue.

On the steel areas, I used a similarly thinned glaze of a dark brown colour. I keep this away from the lighter highlights. Partly because these areas are likely to be well polished and maintained, and partly because even super thin paint like a glaze painted over while will make it darker, and that’ll make the NMM less shiny.

I didn’t use the term, but some of the other places I used glazes were to add purple in the shadows of the skin and blue cloth, and to add a little bit of a blush to her cheeks.

How many did you spot? I look at these pictures full size; there may be issues that weren’t too apparent at blog-friendly size, so don’t feel too bad if you missed some.

More importantly, how many things did you spot that I missed?! On later reflection, I think I may have missed some big picture type stuff. And probably some small stuff, too. Feel free to let me have it with your critique!

Here are the pictures of the finished paint job, after I addressed the issues I outlined above.

Tara - final face

Tara - final front

Tara - final right

Tara - final back right

Tara - final back

Tara - final left

If this piece had been intended for competition, my ideal would have been to finish it some time before the deadline. I’d put it somewhere I see often so I could look at it over time. Or perhaps not look at it all for a few weeks, and then bring it out again. After some time had passed and I’d been working on other things, I’d be able to come back to this with fresh eyes. That would be especially helpful to getting a view of the overall effect of the figure, the big picture. When you’re in the thick of painting something it can be easy to spot something fiddly like improving the nose highlight, but a lot harder to step back and see the big picture effect to judge how the overall colours, values, and other contrasts are working. It is very important for a competition piece to ‘pop’ on the shelf/table, not just look amazing when you stare at details close up. Popping out viewed at a distance is what makes the judges and other viewers want to look closer to see and appreciate all the detail work. (And also what looks most effective for tabletop play!)

You can purchase the Bones Black plastic version of Tara the Silent during the month of May 2019 (while supplies last). Orders made on the Reaper website during the month of May will receive one free Tara for every $40 (or other accepted currency) worth of pre-tax/shipping order. So if your order totals 82.99, you would receive two free Taras. A metal version of Tara is also available. Or you can buy a version of Tara sculpted by Sandra Garrity in metal.

Problem Solving: Tara the Silent Part 2

Please check the bottom of this post for information on where to buy this figure or receive one as a gift with purchase.

In my last post, I outlined some of my thoughts as I started to paint the classic Werner Clock figure Tara the Silent, with the aim of sharing how how I spot problems during the painting process and try to come up with possible solutions.

I ended the painting session with the figure as seen below. The light is imagined to be coming from above and to the right in the front view photo. I had settled on the colours for the skin and cloth areas and finished painting those areas, but when I looked it over the next day, there was something I wasn’t quite happy about with how I had painted it. This issue relates just to the skin and/or cloth, the other areas of the figure are just flat basecoats, and are going to be changed to different colours.

Tara - WIP blue clothAt the end of the paint session where I switched the cloth colour from green to blue.

When I looked at the figure the next day, I felt like the highlighting on the front of the legs stood out more strongly in comparison to the other areas of the cloth or the skin. I was unhappy with that for two reasons. One is that I was not intending the thigh/knee area of the figure to be a major focal point for the viewer. The other is that it does not evoke the imagined light source very well. If the light is coming from above and to the right, the right side of the face and torso should be more strongly lit than lower areas of the body. 

I debated whether to just leave things as they were until I was further along in the painting process. It is always challenging to accurately judge elements like value contrast while areas of the figure are incomplete. Our perception of colours and values is heavily influenced by the colours and values around them. (This is particularly true when you use a strong value primer like white or black.) I find I always need to tweak a few things at the end, so often it’s more efficient to wait to address things like this until that stage. If you scroll down and look at a later stage picture, you can see that in fact the value contrast on the cloth overall seems much more muted once the lighter value areas like the trim on the shirt and the non-metallic metal areas are added.

But the lighting being off nagged at me, so I decided to address it before I continued painting other areas. I reduced the brighter highlights on the legs to confine them to a smaller area, and also painted in more midtones and shadows in the front of the legs. I then increased the brightness and the overall area of the highlights on the chest and shoulder.

Tara - WIP blue cloth with adjusted highlights and shadowsNot perfect, but I like it better.

Finally it was time to move on to making more colour choices. Since I was going with an overall darker colour scheme, I decided to go for a somewhat worn leather texture. I’ll be going over this type of contrast in a lot more detail in the future, but it is usually most visually effective to have a strong value difference between adjacent areas on a figure. (An example would be dark skin next to a light value shirt, next to a medium value skirt.) Sometimes that isn’t possible to do, whether because of your concept for the figure, or just having too many areas that are adjacent to one another. When adjacent areas are similar in value, it is important to create contrast between them in other ways. Colour contrast is usually what people will think of first, and I did use that here, picking orangey browns to contrast with the blue cloth. But using different kinds of textures is also a handy tool in that situation. (Note that smoothness like cloth is also a texture, and that there are different kinds of smooth – from dull like wool to shiny like satin.) 

Tara front WIP - main colour scheme establishedMuch more of a classic rogue look now. But maybe she blends into the background a little TOO much for a visually striking miniature paint job?

Tara back WIP - main colour scheme establishedAnd what the colour choices look like on the back view. This is a Klockenbooty figure, the back view is important. ;->

I definitely felt like she was looking like more of a classic blend into the background type of rogue. Almost a little too much so in the sense that I felt my paint job was very dull to look at. That was another problem to work out – what was missing or not quite working? One feeling I had was that it lacked colour complexity. In this case, I decided I would leave making a judgement on that until the end stage clean up. My touch up phase always includes some glazing and colour shifting to add interest and depth. 

Based on conversations I’ve had with people who are frustrated with their painting, I think this is one of those points where frustrated painters would have given up – just stopped painting, or even stripped the paint off the figure and started again. The thing about miniature painting is that you can’t always assess whether everything is working in the middle of the process. Expecting the areas you think you’ve finished AND the miniature as a whole to look good throughout the entire painting process is unrealistic. If you’re thinking like that, your mindset is more the cause of your frustration than your painting skills. What you need to do is push yourself to paint through these points and get several miniatures to the point of completion and THEN critique those figures as overall pieces to get a sense of areas where you’re weaker and need to work to improve. This is also true of many effects within the process – a lot of things don’t look good until you’re done or at least 90% done. (Examples include non-metallic metal, transparent cloth, and numerous others.)

So even though I wasn’t super enthused about the figure at this point, I proceeded onwards with the details – the trim and lacing on the top, the string on the crossbow, the arrow fletching, some decorative gold NMM, and some steel NMM areas, and then of course the hair. The hair is a fairly sizeable area of the figure, not a smaller detail, but I generally prefer to leave painting hair until a later stage as the top of the head is more likely than other parts of the figure to experience paint getting rubbed off while holding it in order to reach to paint other areas. I usually paint weapons extended in hands near the end for a similar reason. Affixing the miniature to a holder really helps minimize these kinds of rub-off issues, but I’m just in the habit of painting hair near the end now.

Tara front WIP - details and hair paintedSince many of the detail areas include lighter value colours, adding them in helps move the eye around and breaks up the dullness of the main colour scheme choices.

As I started to paint in the details, I felt the figure was already looking less dull. Why is that? I think it’s because the major areas of the figure that I had worked on (skin, cloth, leather) are all in the dark to mid sections of the value range. They are also fairly matte textures, so the range from highlights to shadows doesn’t include very many areas of light values. The trim is a lighter value, and so are the midtone and highlight colours of the non-metallic steel and gold areas. Those small pops of lighter value colours help keep your eye more engaged and moving around the figure.

Although I was resolved to leave addressing most problems until the final touch up stage, that doesn’t mean I didn’t touch anything already painted. If I have paint on my palette that fits in with other areas of the figure, I’ll often add some glazes or do other touchups. During this phase of painting Tara, I added a bit more texture and highlighting to the leather, touched up the highlights on the face a little, and added some touches of brown to the rock she’s standing on.

When I reached the point of feeling I was pretty much finished, I took a few quick photos and edited those the same way I would my final photos. I find it is helpful to check photos before I go to the final touch up stage. It usually saves time. There is almost always at least one thing that looks odd in the photos that I don’t notice looking at it in person, even wearing a magnifying visor. As another opportunity for you to exercise your artist’s eye, I’m going to share my final check stage photos here. I’m sharing at a decent size. In practice I actually look at the photos heavily magnified so I can see all the issues and goofs as well as possible. Though it is also important to look at them at a smaller size to get more of a sense of how the colours and values work on the figure as a whole. I do want to find the problems with details, but I don’t want to get lost in the details and miss the big picture!

I tend to find my touch up issues fall into a few main categories. I write out the issues I spot on a piece of paper I can take with me to my painting so I don’t forget anything while I’m doing my touch up painting.

Final details: There are a few details I often leave until this stage so I can use the paint colours from those in my touch-ups.

Neatness: stray brush strokes, lining that has gotten fuzzy, or edges that need more highlights.

Blending issues: places that should look smooth but where I see transition lines, or perhaps areas of texture that don’t look as textured as they should.

Value problems: Areas that need stronger contrast between highlights and shadows.

Colour: colours that look a little dull, areas where colour is more uniform than it should be. (Skin is not uniform in colour tone, metal reflects surrounding colours, etc.)

In addition to these pictures, you can also study the face view shown above, it was taken at the same time as these final check photos.

Tara front WIP final check

Tara right WIP final check

Tara back WIP final check

Tara left WIP final check

Did you spot where I went wrong in the first set of photos? Are you ready to scour my final check photos above for errors and issues? I’ll share my checklist of issues to fix in the final chapter of this series on problem solving in a few days. I’ll also share the completed photos, and some thoughts and critique of the paint job as a whole now that I’ve had some time to reflect on it.

You can purchase the Bones Black plastic version of Tara the Silent during the month of May 2019 (while supplies last). Orders made on the Reaper website during the month of May will receive one free Tara for every $40 (or other accepted currency) worth of pre-tax/shipping order. So if your order totals 82.99, you would receive two free Taras. A metal version of Tara is also available. Or you can buy a version of Tara sculpted by Sandra Garrity in metal.

Problem Solving: Tara the Silent – Part One

Please check the bottom of this post for information on where to buy this figure or receive one as a gift with purchase.

Oftentimes I talk about painting figures in terms of planning in advance – working out the direction of your light source with reference photos of value painting, for example. But that’s not always how we paint, and even for those who do plan a lot in advance, sometimes the plan doesn’t work as anticipated and you encounter problems along the waythat you need to figure out how to solve.

I think the ability to critically analyze the issues with your painting of a figure and come up with possible ways to address those is one of the things that separates intermediate level painters from top level painters. It’s a similar skill to what you would use to try to create a new effect like a particular kind of cloth texture or something along those lines –  analyze a particular visual effect,  try a method to try to reproduce it, analyze the result, and adjust. A critical eye and problem solving are useful skills to develop for a number of different purposes in miniature painting or any other art form.

So I thought it might be helpful for me to try to share some of my own experiences doing this. To really help people learn to paint, I think we need to learn to help them have more insight into the thought process behind decisions and corrections. That kind of information can be just as useful as step by step information on techniques or colour schemes. It’s the paint equivalent of teaching you how to fish rather than giving you a fish. ;->

Tara the Silent is an iconic Reaper Miniatures character that there have been a few different sculpts of over the years. I’ve even painted one before! (And then I painted her again, where she provided a good example of ways to paint with more contrast.) Reaper has reproduced the classic Werner Klocke version in their new Bones Black plastic material as the promotional miniature for the month of May 2019, and I was asked to paint the catalogue version of that figure. 

My initial concept idea was to paint her up as more of a scout type rogue than a classic thief sort of rogue. I also wanted to paint her skin tone using some of the colours that paint maven Anne Foerster talked about on a recent episode of Reaper Toolbox. (Jump to minute 11 if you want to get straight to the paint talk.) In this case a somewhat darker skin tone, using Ruddy Flesh as the midtone. To work with that, my first thought was to paint the cloth khaki green, and the main leather a dark reddish brown, with a very dark brown for the hair and other leather accents. My idea was to paint her as more of an army scout type rogue than the classic skulk in the dark type thief. When I sat down to begin painting her, I quickly roughed in that colour scheme.

Tara - block in of green colour schemeA cell phone pic of my initial quick colour scheme idea. I don’t know the trick of taking nice cell phone WIP pics. 

I wasn’t that happy with this test colour scheme, and the art director at Reaper wasn’t, either. One issue is that, as it stands, it has much more of a ranger than a rogue feel. It’s always a bit hard to tell for me on plain mid-tone basecoats, but I don’t think there was a large enough value difference between the main areas of the figure, and the colours weren’t dark enough to convey more of a rogue vibe.

Tara - green colour scheme, painted skinSince I was on a deadline, I went forward with my plan for the skin and painted that up while pondering another direction for the overall colour scheme.

So I stuck with my plan for the skin, but switched to a dull darkish blue colour for the main cloth areas. (The art director also preferred that the figure be painted as if wearing a sleeveless top. As sculpted, I think you could paint it as either sleeved or sleeveless, whichever fits the painter’s taste.)

Tara - cell phone pic of blue colour schemeI settled on a somewhat desaturated blue for more of a classic rogue feel.

We both felt much happier with where that was going. So that is one example of problem solving. If you try something and you don’t love it, study and try to figure out what you don’t love. A lot of these kinds of things, there’s not going to be one perfect correct answer. I think I could have made tweaks to the original colour scheme to make it work better. For example, I think I might have been able to rescue my original scout concept by making both the khaki clothing and the red-brown leather darker value versions of those colours. Or I could have evoked more of a classic rogue feel with black, dark brown, dark purple, or several other ‘shadowy’ colours on the cloth, blue isn’t the only colour that would have worked. (And ideally I might have done the step of working out the colour scheme on paper or on a test figure, but sometimes the real world is far from ideal.)

Tara - work in progress 2 frontA better quality picture of the change to blue cloth for the colour scheme.

Tara WIP 2 back viewAnd what the blue looked like on the back view. At this point only the skin and cloth are the new colour scheme.

While I was happier with the main colour choice, when I came back to look at the figure the next day, I felt that something was a little off about the execution of the painting. Since it’s often easier to do this kind of analysis on someone else’s work, I’m going to end this post at this stage of the painting process and give you a chance to study the photos for a while and see if anything seems off to you. It’s always harder to tell when the painting is mid-process and doesn’t have all the main values laid in. But it’s still a useful opportunity to give you a chance to build your eye a little. It may also be helpful to note that I wasn’t using a reference photo, but my visualization for the light source is that it is coming from above and to the right in the front view pictures. I’m also not locked in to any of the other colour choices, so this relates only to the finished areas of the skin and/or the cloth.

I suspect that many of you will find additional issues to the one that was bothering me, so this is not necessarily a one right answer question!

You can purchase the Bones Black plastic version of Tara the Silent during the month of May 2019 (while supplies last). Orders made on the Reaper website during the month of May will receive one free Tara for every $40 (or other accepted currency) worth of pre-tax/shipping order. So if your order totals 82.99, you would receive two free Taras. 

Fall Colours

I live in the southeast of the United States, and while our days are getting colder and shorter, we are also still enjoying the last gasp of the beautiful colours of fall foliage. All the red and gold splendor and cool blue skies got me thinking about these figures I painted not too long ago, which also got me thinking about a useful tool to use for developing a colour scheme for a miniature.

Bards face 600

These figures were painted for Dark Sword Miniatures. They were part of a Kickstarter campaign for a line of classic character class miniatures appropriate for use in role-playing games, which were designed by the talented artist Stephanie Law. Bards are my favourite character class, so I was excited when Dark Sword offered me the opportunity to paint these. Stephanie’s concept sketches included some fallen leaves, so an autumnal colour scheme was a pretty natural choice. I also tried to incorporate the values (light, medium, or dark colours) she used in her concept sketches into my colour choices for the figures.

22d4f73c8718bd7886083bb5cf9a939a original

I don’t paint with oranges and yellows very often, so this was a novel experience. The face on the female bard is one of the loveliest face sculpts I’ve ever had the opportunity to paint. Sculptor Patrick Keith really did a fantastic job with this one. It reminded me of a figure from a Renaissance painting. I enjoyed the rest of the miniature quite a bit, too. I love painting hair, and she has lovely flowing locks. The sense of movement in her skirt was also a lot of fun, as well as the fun detailing to her outfit. 

A9a692b020dd27ca333bba1023453d8e original

I also enjoyed painting the male, of course. His clothing is more finely detailed than hers in several respects, which made the occasion for some different types of painting. He also has some fun details on his instrument. 

Bards front 600

When you look at the two figures side by side, they work as a bit of an example of how using the same colours in different proportions can alter the appearance or effect of the colour scheme as a whole. The woman’s colour scheme is almost entirely made up of warm colours, with just a small area of lace and her jewelry in the cool blue colour. The man has a much larger proportion of the cool sky blues used. Where the yellow was more of an accent colour on the woman, the yellow, orange, and brown appear in almost equal proportion on the man. 

When you’re making a decision about a colour scheme, the colours you choose are not the only consideration. Where you put those colours and the proportion of each to the others can have a dramatic impact on drawing the viewer’s attention where you want it (or shifting it along from where you don’t), and the overall mood and personality of the figure. 

This next picture might look kind of goofy, but it’s a handy tool for working on colour schemes, so don’t dismiss it too quickly. It demonstrates a couple of ways that I work through and test colour ideas. Up top are basic swatches. I’ll often try to make these roughly match the areas of a figure and the proportions in which the colours would be used, but the main point of the exercise is to get colours next to each other to see if they look good together and give a decent range of values. You can see that my initial thoughts about the colours were still autumnal, but very different from where I ended up!

IMG 5165

Just above the figure are some transitions from light to dark. When I find a midtone colour that I like for an area, I’ll often test different shadow and highlight options in this way to see what fits the colour and what I’m trying to do with the piece.

Lastly you can see a very rough representation of the male bard. My goal with this is not a fine drawing or painting, it’s still about testing the colour. I place the colours down in roughly the place and size of how they would appear on the figure to better get an idea of whether the colour scheme works with the figure. I ended up changing the hair colour and increasing the proportion of the cool sky colour, but overall I ended up painting pretty close to my test version. It might seem that something like this wastes time, but it’s a lot quicker to do a few rough colour sketches like this than to do a lot of repainting on the figure itself! I used to use index cards for this, but I have since found that good quality drawing paper is better but still quite affordable tool for these kinds of tests.

The painter who first exposed me to this idea is the very talented Derek Schubert. His colour sketches are quite lovely and artistic. He keeps a sketchbook for doing colour tests and working out ideas for figures. I’ve since seen other painters do similar things. If you have a picture of a plain sculpt of your figure, you can convert it to black and white and use a computer or tablet photo or graphics editing program to ‘paint’ on colours for similar tests, or print it out onto paper and paint on it. If you look at the beginning of the video at this link, you can see a colour scheme test like that of Marike Reimer’s Crystal Brush winning piece, Kraken Priestess: http://www.destroyerminis.com/kraken-priestess-video/

Another option is to ‘sketch’ directly on the figure and roughly block in your colour choices. This can occasionally be risky with smaller scale and very finely proportioned figures (as Dark Sword figures often are) as it risks clogging up some of the detail of the figure with paint if you revise your colour scheme ideas multiple times. 

Bards back 600

Links to Figures and People Mentioned in this Post:

Dark Sword Stephanie Law figure line: https://www.darkswordminiatures.com/shop/index.php/miniatures/stephanie-law-masterworks.html
Stephanie Law’s website: http://www.shadowscapes.com
Patrick Keith’s website: http://www.patrickkeith.com
Derek Schubert gets a lot done by spending minimal time online, but here is a short bio: http://www.reapermini.com/Artists#Derek%20Schubert
Marike Reimer’s main website: http://www.destroyerminis.com