Going Green with Focus

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St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, so it’s fitting that Reaper’s Bones USA miniature of the month is Finn Greenwell, the leprechaun. Christine Van Patten of Moonlight Minis did a wonderful job sculpting this little charmer. I can’t give you any tips for how to find the end of the rainbow, but I’m happy to share my experiences with painting Finn. I’ll also share the exact colours I used to paint this figure at the bottom of this post.

Lep bl front

NOTE: My copy of Finn is a metal master. The Bones USA version wasn’t ready in time to send to me for painting. 

Colour Considerations

With some miniatures the choice of colours is vast. With other figures, like this one, you may be working within established colour scheme ideas. It didn’t take too much time looking at other artistic interpretations to establish that leprechauns are most commonly depicted with fair or ruddy skin and red hair, and wearing clothing/accessories of green and gold. Taupe/brown/cream as a third accent colour was fairly common, as well.

I did have some decisions to make about which kinds of greens, however. Earthier less saturated greens were as common and logical as intense vibrant greens. I chose to go with more intense greens, reddish gold metals, and taupes/yellow-brown for an accent colour. I decided to use Bones HD greens, since I haven’t previously had a chance to use the saturated Bones greens that much and I wanted to get more familiar with them. 

Lep bl face

While I was researching the depiction of leprechauns, I was interested to learn that in the past it was traditional to depict them as wearing red, most often a red coat. So if you plan to paint Finn for a game or want to mix up the colour scheme for some other reason, you might want to read more about that. (I have another article with some tips and recipes for painting red.)

My initial impulse for the skin colour was a pinkish-red, as many fair skinned people with red hair have a lot of pink and red in their skin tones. In the end I decided to go with a less saturated and more peachy skin tone. My thinking was that the touches of red I planned to paint on his cheeks, nose, and ear tips would stand out more that way. 

Lep bl back

Two last elements influenced my colour choices. One is that I was trying to get this done ASAP, since people are always eager to see the monthly mini as soon as they can. So I chose a lot of Bones paints and other paints I know have decent coverage, and I used a few  old favourite recipes for some colours. It was a time for trusted standbys, not experimentation.

The final influence is that I tried to avoid using discontinued or special edition paints, since I know not everyone can get those and whether I mean to or not I seem to use several on most pieces. There is one in my gold recipe, but I’ll discuss alternatives to it in the colour list. I can’t do this every time, but I wanted to try to minimize it!

Approach to Painting

It is generally the case that I have one or two main areas that I’m concentrating on trying to improve in at any given time in my painting efforts. Attempting to just ‘get better’ is too vague a goal. Working on too many areas at a time is too much to think about and stressful.  Examples of improvement goals I’ve concentrated on over the years have included blending, basing, more complex colour use, higher contrast, directional lighting, stuff like that. For the past while I’ve been concentrating on the idea of creating more of a focal point on a miniature.

A focal point is the main area of interest, the place I want the viewer to spend the most time looking. There are things the human eye is drawn to look at –  faces, areas of strong contrast, and saturated colours. And there are things we’re less likely to look at – dull or dark colours. So the idea is to use painting techniques and colour choices that draw more viewer attention to the focus area than other parts of the miniature. You still want people’s eyes to move around the figure as a whole and not get bored, you just want them to spend the most time and interest on what you have decided is the most important/interesting part of that figure. 

I’ve been aware of focal points as a general concept for a long time, but it is something I have not put nearly enough thought and effort into for most of my painting history. Sometimes the trickiest part of focus is not even doing anything special in the focus area, but making sure that choices you make elsewhere do not steal focus from the important area(s). I think I managed that well enough on Finn to use him as an example of what I mean.

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First off, the sculpture is already doing a great job of putting a lot of focus in the area circled in blue. The face is there, and it has a lot of animation and expression sculpted in. The mug is close to the face and it’s easy to picture (or create) a relationship between the face and the mug. In other words, you can make the story of this miniature the emotions that Finn feels for (or because) of his drink. (Or maybe he’s trying to distract someone who’s eying his pot of gold with his drink.) The face is surrounded by interesting details to help pull your eye – two of the buckles, the scarf, and the details on the hat are all in close proximity to the face. The mug also has a fair amount of detail compared to the figure as a whole. 

For this figure, my job as a painter was to compliment that focus area, and also to make choices that did not distract the viewer too much from it. The buckles are painted as shiny NMM that draws the eye, and the NMM on the mug is painted to be quite shiny too. The lightest and brightest colours are on or near the face – the bright green of the hat shamrock, the reddish hair and eyebrows, the light colour foam of the drink. The highest contrast is in that area, as well – the light skin tone next to that deep shadow under the hat brim, and the pale foam of the drink next to the dark colours on the mug. Detail is concentrated in that area, both detail that is sculpted (facial features, mug, clothing and hat details) and detail that is added with paint – freckles, and freehand stripes on the scarf.

The areas further away from that are downplayed a little. The contrast on the NMM of the shoe buckle and gold coins isn’t quite as dramatic as the NMM near the face. The skin of the hands has less interest and contrast than the face. The pot and shoes are fairly subdued. The tan of his socks is darker than the tans on the scarf near the face. An example of stealing focus would be if I had made Finn’s socks the same colours as the beer foam. That would fit in with the colour scheme and makes sense from a colour use point of view, but it would distract the viewer’s focus down to Finn’s ankles, and they are not a significant part of the characterization or story of this figure. 

One important aspect about miniature art is that figures are three dimensional, so you’ll get a different effect from different angles. In an angle where you’re looking only at the back view of the figure, things might look a lot different. You might need to choose another spot as the focus area. I will confess that I didn’t think a lot about the focus of alternative angles while painting Finn, but if you look at the back, I think this area becomes the focus point because of the contrast, saturated colours, and detail in this section.

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I also talked about working to create focal areas on the Mistletoe Goblin.

Paint Process Notes

I’ve covered much of what I did on this figure in other posts. I chose a simple pattern and subdued colours for the scarf for the same reasons I talked about with the freehand on the pillow of one of the succubi. I’ve shared non-metallic metal tips before, too. 

My approach to painting the darker and lighter green areas was similar to what I described for the red in the Mistletoe Goblin. I picked out a selection of greens from dark to light value. The darker greens focused on the darker side of the values with lighter colours in small areas for the brightest highlights. The lighter greens were painted with the lighter half of the scale. Their shadows did not go as dark, and they had lighter value highlights. The key is the difference between the midtones of the two areas, as depicted in set of paint swatches below.

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Order of Operations for Painting

One of the most common questions I get from newer painters is wondering what order they should paint things on the figure. I have talked about order of operations before, too. It is something that came up for me several times while I was painting Finn. My paint colours at the bottom will be listed in the order of painting each of the areas. 

Lep bl left

A good general guideline for painting order is to paint ‘from the inside out’. So paint items that are the most inward or under other objects first, and then work out from there. Usually that means skin, then clothing/armour, then accessories and weapons. I typically paint hair/hats and objects that protrude away from the main body of the figure (often weapons) last. These are most likely to get handled during the painting process and experience some rub-off, so I like to leave them for last, even touching up the primer if necessary. (Letting your primer cure for a while and using a painting handle help make your paint jobs sturdier.)

Painters also generally try to paint all areas of the same colour at the same time, particularly for quicker paint jobs. If you decide to paint the gauntlets, boots, and belt on a figure all the same colour leather, it’s more time efficient and uses less paint if you paint them all at the same time.

Lep bl right

These two goals sometimes collide, and you the painter have to make decisions about how to handle that in the way that works best for you. Skin is often an issue for this. The face, torso, arms, and legs are generally under clothing and accessory items and most easily painted first. Hands often surround or rest on top of other items so are most easily painted later in the painting process. You have to consider whether it’s easier to mix up your skin colours twice and paint things in the easiest order, or paint all of the skin areas at the same time and deal with the challenges that can bring.

On Finn, the hand and arm holding the mug in the front view are kind of tucked away between the torso and the mug. The handle of the mug is inside that tucked-away hand. I started painting with the idea that I would paint the skin first. I painted the eye and did an initial base coat. While I was putting the base coat on the hands I got to thinking it would probably be easier to paint the gold in the pot on the right side and the mug handle and the sleeve on the left side prior to painting the hands. As a result, I ended up painting the skin nearly at the end of the process, and breaking up the painting of the steel on the mug and the hair/eyebrows into two parts. Another option would have been to paint the face early on and the hands when I had the other areas done.

Work in Progress Pictures

I took some pictures while I worked, so I figure I might as well share them. My PDF Patrons will receive back view WIP pictures as well.

I used brush-on primer, but applied it with my Reaper Vex airbrush. I love that it doesn’t clog and frustrate me when using primer! (I have been using the larger needle, I haven’t really used the smaller needle.)

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After painting the eye first and thinking I would start with the skin, I instead painted the hair, socks, dark green clothing, the wood of the mug, and then the handle of the mug in my first paint session.

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In my next short session, I tackled the black areas – the shoes, belt, and the pot. I looked up ‘cast iron cauldron’ for photo references on the more subdued reflections on that kind of metal.

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The next day I started with the hat band, then the lighter green sections, and the gold NMM, and then finally on to the skin!

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One more long session staying up way past my bedtime, and I was just about finished. The picture below shows where I left off after that session. The next day I checked for anything that needed touch ups, added some vegetation to the base, and added freckles at the request of Ron, the Reaper art director. (And I think he made a great call on that!)

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You can get a free copy of Finn Greenwell with purchases of $40 (or equivalent in local currency) from the Reaper website. You can also just buy copies directly. 

Colours Used to Paint Finn Greenwell

All paints used are from Reaper Miniatures.

Colours in italics are not in production. Alternatives are suggested.

Colours are listed from darkest to lightest. A few areas were painted this way. Most were painted by starting with a base coat of the midtone and layering in shadows and highlights. For items painted with a starting midtone I’ve indicated the midtone colour in bold, or made a note of the colour mix used.

Eyes
9282 Maggot White for sclera (alternative option: Ghost White), Elven Green and Turf Green for the iris, Blue Liner for the pupil, Blackened Brown for the upper lid line and Saddle Brown for the lower lid line.

Socks and Mug
9040 Dark Shadow, 9127 Uniform Brown, 9129 Faded Khaki, Yellowed Bone

Hair
9070 Mahogany Brown, 9072 Rust Brown, 9243 Highlight Orange, 9247 Saffron Sunset

Dark Green
Blue Liner, 9488 Elven Green, Wilderness Green, 9481 Turf Green, 9012 Pale Green
Midtone: mix of Elven Green and Wilderness Green

Black (pot, shoes, belt)
9066 Blue Liner, 9479 Solid Black, 9085 Shadowed Stone, 9086 Stone Grey, 9087 Weathered Stone

Hat Band
Dark Shadow, 9041 Dark Skin, Uniform Brown, 9032 Amber Gold

Light Green
9411 Wilderness Green, Turf Green, Pale Green, 9415 Dungeon Slime, (For the leaf, added a dab of White in for top highlights)
Midtone: mix of Turf Green and Pale Green

Non-Metallic Gold
9137 Blackened Brown, 9071 Chestnut Brown, 9073 Chestnut Gold, 9074 Palomino Gold, 9075  Buckskin Pale, 9061 Linen White, 9039 Pure White
Chestnut Gold is currently out of production. 9256 Blond Shadow is a close match to mixing Chestnut Gold and Palomino Gold, as shown below. Mix with Chestnut Brown for intermediary shadow colours.

Gold nmm paints

Skin
9428 Saddle Brown, 9443 Bronzed Flesh (previously called Warrior Flesh), 9445 Peachy Flesh (previously called Youthful Flesh), 9487 Yellow Mold, Pure White
Red areas glazed with very thinned down 9134 Clotted Red
Freckles – 9305 Tarnished Copper, Mahogany Brown

Scarf Light Stripes
Entire scarf was first painted with the lighter colour.
Uniform Brown, Faded Khaki, 9143 Yellowed Bone

Scarf Dark Stripes
Chestnut Brown, Chestnut Gold, Palomino Gold

Non-Metallic Steel
9318 Carbon Grey, 9088 Stormy Grey, 9089 Cloudy Grey, 9038 Rainy Grey, 9090 Misty Grey, 9316 Foggy Grey, Pure White

Beer Foam
Yellowed Bone, wash with Uniform Brown, highlight with Yellowed Bone, then Pure White

Base
Mottled areas of Uniform Brown and Turf Green, wash of Blackened Brown, highlight with original colours and versions lightened with Yellowed Bone.
Sticks painted with browns used elsewhere on the figure.
Grass is grass tufts, shamrocks are small dried flowers.

Shadow Glaze
Shadow areas on much of the figure glazed with very thinned down 9023 Imperial Purple. 

IMG 0644Quick cellphone scale picture. Does anyone need a pint more than Sir Forscale?

Pirate Parade: Stylish Scallywags

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

Barnabus front 450

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

Barnabus back 450

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

Barnabus right 450

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

Kalonice front 600

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

Kalonice back 600

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

Rb pirate front 400

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

Rb pirate back2 400

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

Rb pirate face 400

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

Figures in this Post

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

Pirate Parade: A Motley Crew

ReaperCon 2020 has begun! You can sign up for classes, enjoy the Twitch streams, come hang out and chat in the Discord, or start painting things to enter in the Showcase or Quad Color Clash to try to win some gift certificates.

I am getting into the pirate theme spirit by sharing some of the pirate figures I’ve painted over the years. There ended up being more than I thought!

Mousling pirate front 400

This adorable rascal is out to steal your heart and your gold!

Mousling pirate back 400

The base was made by layering a sandy texture paste over the integral base he comes on.

Dwarf pirate front 400

Some years ago I was asked to participate in the Ace of Aces charity event. Prominent painters come together for a frantic hour of speed painting, and the collection of figures is auctioned off to support the Gen Con charity of the year. The only trouble was… I hardly ever speed paint. I am a sllloooowwwwww painter. Even more so back then. Since this was for charity, I didn’t want to make too poor a showing. So I started to practice speed painting. Took me a while to get something decent in less than an hour, but I finally managed it. This dwarven pirate was one of my practice pieces. And then did double duty in our role-playing game sessions.

Dwarf pirate back 400

I’ve been working on getting more conversant with making videos to prepare for ReaperCon classes, and I was thinking that it might be interesting if I do a few videos where I take speed painted figures or older figures that I have lying around and demonstrate how I would touch them up to improve them and address issues with the paint jobs. Let me know if you think that sounds interesting!

Skeleton pirate face 600

Last up is the skeleton pirate manning a cannon. Those of you conversant with cannons probably noticed that something is a little off here…

Skeleton pirate left 600

Yep, the cannon is assembled backwards. I’d like to blame it on his being a literally brainless skeleton, but it’s the painter who is brainless. :-> This was painted for an old contest that used to run in the Wyrd Games forums, Iron Painter. 

Skeleton pirate right 600

This figure looks like another candidate for some repainting to me. The painting on the cannon is solid (it’s based on pictures of real cannons that I found), but surely there’s a way to add some interest to this super boring base, and make the skeleton look more weathered and worn. And maybe spruce up the light from the flame a little bit! (That cannon is pinned and glued, so that mistake I have to live with. :->)

ReaperCon Badge

If you have questions about any of my ReaperCon events, feel free to contact me here, or through my artist chat channel on Discord. I hope you have a great weekend!

Figures in this Post

The Mousling pirate is available as part of a three pack of metal figures.
Gruff Grimcleaver is available with a pistol in plastic, or as a pirate cook in metal
The Soulcannon is available in metal.

Female Mage with Staff

Dark Sword just released 14 new miniatures into their web store, and I’m pleased to be able to share my work on one of them, an adventuring mage.

old mage front

I was interested in painting this figure for a few different reasons. The main one is that she seemed like a great representation of the idea of what if you had a character concept that was kind of Gandalf, but as a woman, which is something we don’t see too much in fiction or in miniature. The sultry young sorceress, yes. The withered old crone, yes. But a wise and powerful older wizard who happens to be a woman, not so much. I get excited to see as wide array of character types as possible in all settings, and there are some great ones in this latest Dark Sword release.

fmage right

One of the other reasons I was excited was that the way her cloak is sculpted was a great opportunity to try out the leather painting technique I’ve been experimenting with. I went into that in a bit more detail on a previous post about painting a Dark Sword archer. I learned the technique in a workshop with Fernando Ruiz. There aren’t too many in person workshops and classes happening right now since we all need to stay safe, but keep your eye out for online learning opportunities! ReaperCon is coming up and class registrations have opened. There are also a wealth of painting and sculpting live and recorded classes and sessions on platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon. (Or if you’re too exhausted to work on learning a skill right now, that is also an absolutely valid way to feel!)

fmage back

A third thing that interested me was the opportunity to paint grey hair. I love painting hair, but I haven’t paint a lot of grey hair, particularly on a female miniature. (I did have fun painting a whole shades of grey miniature painting Maester Luwin for Dark Sword some years ago.) I don’t think I’ve painted a figure with this ringlet style hair, either, and that was fun!

fmage left

I painted this miniature in late February/early March this year. 2019 was my ‘year of chaos’. Between planned renovations and unplanned renovations following a minor flood, our entire lives had been in upheaval for some time. It was all a blur of packing stuff away, moving it around, and rushing off to conventions. By the time I painted this figure things had settled down some and we were trying to get back on track, but convention season was already starting up, and then everyone in the world started experiencing upheaval.

fmage face

Because of the upheaval I wasn’t able to take any work-in-progress pictures or document much of the process with this one. Jim asked if I could add a few grasses or plants to the base, and I would still like to do that. And as soon as I find the box I packed the grasses and vegetation basing supplies into I will! (I found the box with a lot of other basing supplies and I’ve even tried to organize it, but some things are still at large in our basement. We’re working on it!)

Wiz front 400

The very talented Jennifer Haley also painted this miniature, so if you head over to the product page you can compare two different visions for the same figure. And see why Jen remains one of my miniature painting idols!

Quick-ish Paint: Stitch Thimbletoe

I chose miniature painting as a hobby in part because painted figures could be used in games, but I was attracted to the techniques and approach of display painting from the first. My initial attempts to learn drybrushing and washing were frustrating so I skipped ahead to learning layering after a couple of miniatures. I didn’t really start with a solid foundation in tabletop painting techniques or painting for speed.

Stitch face 400

Many years later I was asked to participate in the Ace of Aces charity speed painting contest at Gen Con. I spent some time practicing speed painting so I would be able to do a decent job for charity. A few years after that I worked on an unreleased project that wasn’t exactly standard tabletop painting, but was a lot closer to that than to display painting. I’m still no tabletop/speed painting wiz. I am regularly astonished by what people who are well-practiced at quick painting can produce in one or two hours! But I found I learned a lot from both experiences, and that what I learned could improve and inform my regular painting practice.

Stitch back 400Painted with the Pathfinder paints, which include some terrific pink and purple colours.

For a while now I’ve been meaning to do something like once a week take an hour or two to speed paint a mini. I didn’t quite do that with this figure, but it is something along those lines. I sat down with the intention of spending two hours, and ended up spending four hours or so, with a few touch ups the next day, so somewhere between five and six hours total. For me that is pretty speedy. :->

Stitch left 400

The figure is Stitch Thimbletoe, halfling thief. I painted it to use for my character for a long-running game with some of the other Reaper painters and sculptors. We play a few times a year when we meet in person. For years I used a half-painted female dwarf figure, and people at the table would forget that my character is a halfling. Stitch fit the character concept pretty well apart from being male, so I decided to go with that figure and assume that there are boyish build halfling women just as there are boyish build human women. I track the party treasure on my character sheet, so a figure holding a little sack was a perfect touch! 

If you’d like an idea of what it would be like to play with this group, a subset of us are playing a bimonthly game on the Reaper Twitch channel, and the first full session is up on YouTube now. The sessions are hosted by Frank at Knight Heart Gaming. Complete with fancy boards and thematic music! It is very cool. I should have another quick paint post up before too long because I’ll need to paint my character for that game if I want to be as cool as the other players. (Or not, since some of them also sculpted their own figures…)

Stich right 400

Stitch was sculpted by Bobby Jackson, who is one of the other players in the game. He loves halfling characters, and I think that shows through in this charming sculpt! The figure is sold with a small treasure chest. The other players in the game think we have a treasure chest amount of party treasure, but really we have more of a small sack amount, so I left the chest off my base. ;-> If you check Stitch out on the Reaper online store you’ll see the version that Brice Cocanur painted with a fantastic glowing sword effect as well as the chest.

Stitch forscale 700The knight is standard human scale. And also one of the figures I painted as speed paint practice!

I also used this as an opportunity to try out the new Pathfinder Paint colours. Most of the paints used were Pathfinder colours, with the addition of Blue Liner and the new Bones HD Elven Green for mixing darks. I think I used a little Palomino Gold for glazing the sack as well. I mixed my own greys for the sword and rocky base by mixing Elven Green with various of the dark pinks. (Mixing complementary colours like green and red creates interesting neutral colours that work well with the colours already on the figure.) Michael Proctor of Clever Crow Studio sculpted the base for me. He’s a terrific painter, and he’s sharing his wisdom in painting videos now!