Monday, 24 February 2014

Tom- Painting - A Journeymans Guide

Tom is back, this time with a look at increasing his Painting-Fu! We have let him away with painting a fantasy figure, but only because his next article will be using what he learned to paint up his NZSAS!

In my last article I said I was going on to tell you all about Willie won his VC. Well I got distracted, so I am going to write an article about something I never ever thought I would write about - painting.

I am at best a Journeyman painter. I can paint a reasonable table top standard but I will never win - or have never won best painted. This probably wont change in the near future, but I hope I now have some extra tools in my toolbox after spending a weekend in a painting Masterclass. For those of you around the world who have access to master painters you may have already done this sort of stuff - but down here in NZ we tend not to have this sort of event happening. Yes we have amazing and talented painters, yes people share their painting - but actual professional painters teaching technique and theory, well I haven’t ever had that opportunity before.

Over the weekend we have had a US painter Meg Maples (look at her blog for what she does here) take a two day Masterclass. If you have had a wee look you will realise that Meg is mainly a fantasy/SciFi figure painter, so she didn’t show me how to do MARPAT (but Craig does here-Ed), but she did show me how to get the effect I am after.

Two full on days of theory, technique, tips and ideas. Meg was very focused on how to use different techniques to paint to get effects that you want (rather than telling you what to paint and with what colour). One of the biggest revelations for me was using colour opposites and colour theory. An example of this being - rather than shading a light brown with a darker brown, you can use greens or blues or purples or red shades depending on the lighting effect you are after and the warmth of the brown you started with. Complimentary colours are opposites but they work very well in shading and highlighting giving quite stunning depth to a figure.

We started with a figure supplied for the class to experiment. We cleaned it up and came to my first surprise for the class - undercoating.

I thought undercoating was the easy bit - but I found out I had been over undercoating all these years. I usually undercoat with a black spray (or I used to) and I would make sure every little crevice was covered. This has tended to wash out the detail in my models and I have had lots of problems with chipping. We learnt a light covering sprayed across a model actually (a spackling) creates a small uneven surface for paint to adhere to when it is applied. It took a while to get my head around this - and if you want to read more there is an article on Megʼs Blog.

Below is the cleaned up model and then the undercoated model.

Once undercoating was done it was on to base coating. The idea was to base coat with a medium shade (no surprises there) and from that we would shade down two colours and highlight up two colours. This is normally where I would get my inks and washes out, wash the whole thing to death and put some line highlights in - and the wonder how the good painters got such a graduated shade and highlight effect on their models. Meg taught us the two brush blending technique, and coupled with the colour theory things started to come together. The expert painters out the will already know what two brush blending is - but for the rest of us plebs .....erm .......journeymen here is a quick guide.

The secret to shading with two brush blending is using a good paint that doesn’t dry out to quickly and saliva. You kept one brush moist in our mouth and the other in our hand with the paint you wish to apply. Then you chose recesses to shade and put a dot of paint in that recess. Using the moist brush from your mouth and the saliva on that brush as a medium you sweep across the surface you want to pick up colour and then drag the paint from the dot you have already applied across the surface. Et Voila! Some shade blended into your base. On her jacket I shaded twice - once with a darker brown and once with a dark green.

Then the highlighting - using the same two brush blending technique but this time choosing the ridges to highlight and dragging the paint along that ridge from a dot of paint. I tend to put the dot where I want the deepest shade or brightest highlight. It is a simple technique to do but a complex one to master - and several layers will be involved, although it is easy to correct. If your paint is coming out chalky or highlights are too bright a glaze can often smooth it out for you. By glaze I mean a really watered down medium colour of the surface you are working on - not a special pot of “glaze.”

One of the things I wanted to emphasize is Meg’s philosophy. She accepted and understood how people painted and the fact we all do things differently. Doing something a different way did not mean it was wrong, in fact it was celebrated. Showing us new ways and explaining why and how has really opened my eyes. I won’t be throwing any inks/washes or paints away, but I will look at the paints I buy from now on and there will be changes to some of my old ways. I have loved climbing out of my same old way of doing things and I am keen to get painting my NZSAS.

Dorothy... Done! Shading and highlighting done on the flesh, bodice, basket and stocking. I even managed eyes and lips :)

And now for the NZSAS, first up Mr Apiata :



  1. Nice post Tom. Blending is lots of fun. Looking forward to seeing Willie.

  2. Looks like that lesson was really good. I do think you are being a tad hard on yourself though dude I have seen your figures and you paint well (better than me at least) but I am guessing now you have the theory, the level will just keep rising. Most excellent.