Monday, December 20, 2010

Soldier's SR-01 Republican Legionary - Update #3

This early figure from Soldier's is nearing completion. I have now attached the completed shield and have applied some dirt, mud and filth to the overall campaign appearance of the piece. Next will be more detail painting, painting and attaching the pilum as well as further work on the base and groundwork.

Soldier's SR-25 Roman Centurian Update

I have been kind of busy with this figure, working on the leather and laying down some of the colors on the tunic. I started the leather with a mixture of Mars Brown and Burnt Umber. Once dry I applied a wash of Burnt Umber to tone down the reddish tone and accent the creases and stitching. My next step will be to work the deepest shadows with Mars Black and Burnt Umber. This will also shadow the red tunic. I also spent some time reworking the face to get the angry stark look that I felt was missing when I first painted the flesh. There is quite a ways to go yet on this figure but I'm happy with what I have at this point.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Figure Photography - A Brief Tutorial

One of the best ways to be inspired by and learn from other people's work is by reading articles in magazines and following people's work on the Internet. Being able to see great photographs has always inspired me to tackle subjects or improve my skills. Nothing aggravates me more than poor quality photos, especially as I have learned from other how really easy it is to take near studio quality photos on a shoe-string budget. As you can see below I use a simple setup that utilizes two goose neck lamps with 65watt "daylight" bulbs for lighting. An additional light has been built in a homemade wooden box using a lamp repair kit that can be found in any home-improvement store (Go to Home-Depot not Lowe's - I'm partial as I work there). This third light creates a "hot spot" on the bottom of the colored backdrop that gives you a nice reverse lit effect behind the figure. I'll explain that more in a moment. All of this sits on a table with the various sheets of colored paper clipped approx. 10" or 150mm behind the box light. Another example of a tabletop photo setup that is very nice can be found on my friends site at Massive-Voodoo. Roman uses a very cool diffuser for his lighting that is made out of a translucent white garbage can. Ingenuity folks, that is where it's at!

One of the first things we learn from experience is the effect that color has on the camera lens, specifically backdrops. The interplay between the colors of your figure and the color of the backdrop will appear in photos. Your eyes can filter this and make adjustments in real life but the camera cannot. It simply captures the light that it is exposed too, where our brain works it's magic and "auto-adjusts". When I finish a figure I will take my photos in front of all of the various color papers I have and then select the one that best depicts what I see in real life. I prefer not to tweak my photos with software but I will from time to time by using a software photo filter that acts the same as putting colored filters over the lens of the camera. For this I choose to use Adobe Photoshop Elements. Below you will see my recently completed Marcus Aurelius figure shot in front of four different backdrops. If you look at each picture in detail you will see how the colors are effected by that background. Some figures are effected more than others but all figures require a particular background to appear normal.

In addition you can change the appearance of your photographs by how you adjust the goose neck lights, forwards/backwards, closer/further, side to side, etc. Obviously your camera plays a role in this as well. Everybody has their favorite. For years I used a high quality reflex camera and scanned my images from the photographs. This was done because 15 years ago when I was writing articles we didn't have the benefit of today's technology. Now with a simple, inexpensive digital camera set on macro, a simple tripod and about $30 worth of lights, paper, wood and clips you can take really great quality pictures of your work to show everyone as well. I thank Phil Kessling and Bill Horan 15 years ago for showing me how simple it really is.

Soldier's SR-02 and SR-25 Update

Work has begun on these two little Romans from Soldiers. I have started on the flesh with both figures. These photos are over a week old with SR-02 showing only the base flesh with starting highlights. The yellowish tone is always played down with the addition of shadows and further highlights. The shadows have been applied to SR-25. I am not happy with the face and may well repaint it. I would prefer that these figures be sculpted with the cheekpieces cast seperately as they frequently make painting facial features very difficult. The head was painted seperately and attached only after the scarf was painted. Doing them together would have been impossible. Both of these figures are further along now and I hope that after this weekend's painting sessions I will have newer photos to show.

54mm Villanovan Etruscan - Update #3

Work has begun on the tunic. These items could have been made of wool or other natural cloth and typically undyed. I have chosen to build the white up from a base of Raw Umber mixed with Titanium white with the hems being purer white. The hem bands will be painted with geometric designs.
At this point my greatest frustration lies with the decorative canteen that should hang on the figures right hip. I seem to have misplaced it and no amount of looking has turned it up. I have a vague fear of where it may be and that means that I will have to wait for a thaw in the weather (possibly springtime). When I primed the figure and it's components, I did so out doors. The parts were on a big sheet of card stock and as I went to bring them in a gust of wind blew the sheet off the table and the parts went flying on the cement patio. At the time I was sure that I had gotten everything but obviously not. This being Buffalo, I now have a ton of snow and ice that must melt before I get on my hands and knees to search. If all else fails I will have to buy another kit to finish the figure as the detail on that piece is far too elaborate to duplicate. Oh well, the joys of our hobby......and usually it's the tiny bits lost in carpet.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Marcus Aurelius Completed - Photo Project

So as you can see, I have completed Marcus Aurelius. These images will give an idea how the piece looks. All of the shadows on the stonework were painted using a glaze/rub of Mars Black, heaviest by the feet, and thinning as it goes away from the figure.

Now I am challenged to get photos that help show the vision I have of the figure. Photographing miniatures is an interesting sideline to what we do. Getting a photo to look like the actual miniature can sometimes be daunting. I use a variety of backgrounds and frequently shoot a figure in front of them all in order to see how the color affects the image. After awhile you develop an understanding of how a selected backdrop will effect an image. Similarly, as you would expect, lighting position will also effect the outcome of your final image. In addition, what I see on my monitor is most probably NOT what you see on your own. Monitors have different color color settings, so what I see is adjusted to match what I think the miniature looks like and may well look all wrong on your own.

I will continue to play with the pics and if I get a definitive image I will post it. ~Jim

Monday, November 22, 2010

EMI 54mm Villanovan Etruscan - Update #2

These pictures were taken earlier this evening after application of the first thin filter layer of shadows. These were applied using W&N Burnt Umber oils which are a very transparent color, allowing the warmth of the undertones to come through. Additional washes of Burnt Umber were applied to the hair and an outline of color at the sleeves, hems and boots to more clearly delineate the flesh from the clothing. After this is dry I will apply a further shadow coat with Brown Madder Alizarin and move onto the stronger highlight tones. In the meantime I can now start to paint the clothes and armor.

Here is the groundwork as it was looking Sunday night. I have worked all the deep browns and greens with one more shadow tone left to go before beginning to pick out highlights and details. I always like to paint the groundwork simultaneously with the figure to maintain consistent tonal value, usually with the figure attached. In this case the tree trunks wouldn't have allowed for good brush access so the two are painted separately.

More New Figures Prepped for Winter Painting

Two more 54mm figures are prepped and primed for painting. Both are from Soldiers, the first being SR-02, a Roman Aquilifer from the time of Caesar (1st Cent. BC) and the second SR-25 A Roman Centurian from Legio XX Valeria Victrix, (1st Cent. AD). Again it is interesting to compare the work of Laruccia with a few years of growth and development of his skills as seen in these two great figures. The first is a favorite of mine due to the dramatic pose, something rarely seen in these figures. The second has a real nice feel to the figure with a bit of a haughty air, something you would expect of a Centurian in the Roman Army in that period. The figure is based on the grave stele of Marcus Favonius Facilis in the Colchester and Essex Museum, Colchester U.K. I have depicted the figure walking down the road in Britannia, while the first is obviously in battle, most probably against the Celts that so made Caesar's military career.

EMI 54mm Etruscan Villanovan - First Step, Flesh

I started the Villanovan 54mm figure from EMI over the weekend. As with most all of my figures, a base color mix of Burnt Sienna with a bit of Cadmium Red Medium and Cadmium Yellow as well as a slight touch of Yellow Ochre, was applied overall and initial highlights applied with Titanium White and Cadmium Yellow. This is all done "wet-on-wet" using oils to achieve soft blended tones. That was on Saturday night. Sunday I worked on the groundwork a bit to allow the figure to dry and tonight I went to the next step of initial shading. That is for the next update.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two completed Projects - Clearing Space For New Projects

It's always nice to get done with a project, especially one that has been on the bench for what seems an eternity. I managed to get two things completed and in the case while starting two more projects.

The first item is the Gladiator vignette that has been "in progress" for years. This really was done a few months ago but just sat there waiting for a few small detail touches and the addition of the sword blade on the Retiarius. I finally took the time to get it done after realizing I needed the space for my new projects. The second was the completion of King David from Art Girona's "Historical" line.

Both pieces were very nice projects that have allowed me to test some new techniques for metallic finishes, controlling the sheen of oil paints as well as creating nameplates using Microsoft Office Publisher. I am now printing these onto bright white sticker sheets and applying them to the completed base. I'm pretty happy with how they have turned out.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Soldiers SR-01 Republican Legionary - Update #2

A simple little miniature really, and one that shows the development of Soldier's Roman line and the skills of Adriano Laruccia (compare to our Emperor Marcus). Sometimes something simple requires something special, so on to the shield. The back of the shield is completed so that I can attach it to the figure and the base once the groundwork painting and weathering is complete. As you can see I have started dirtying up the figure already with some splashed dots of thinned brown oils. Next will come the mud.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soldiers Marcus Aurelius - On Base

With the figure finally mounted to the base I can begin to work on finalizing shadows, highlights and tonal glazing to get the proper lighting effects I am looking for. You really need the figure on the base to get the color shading to match up right.

Figurine TV - French Language Videos

Thanks to the guys over on Massive Voodoo I just found this wonderful web-site that has a number of very nice videos related to our hobby. The web address is and although all of the commentary is in French you will find some very nice video show reports and "how-to" videos. I watched the videos of the Gerone and Blagnac shows and got a good feel for the atmosphere of these shows as well as 360 degree views of many of the better exhibits. Check it out by clicking on any of the subject pictures and then click on the little movie camera on the following page. Some of these can be found on YouTube as well. Enjoy!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Soldiers 54mm Marcus Aurelius - Update #4

I have been working on the Soldiers Marcus Aurelius piece a bit more. The front "shaded" side of the figure is nearing basic completion. The back "lit" side of the figure will continue to get lighter and brighter with more coats of white as I build the glaze up to pure white highlights. Once completed the figure will be attached to the base seen below. At that time further refinement of shadows as well as creation of the shadows on the base will be worked. You can't really visualize these things until the two come together.

The marble ground in the base was created from sheet plastic, which was scribed to represent the sections of stone/marble seen here. I used washes and splatters of oils to create the impression of variegated stone. The trick is to mask all but one section at a time, applying the finish, re-masking then moving to the next section. Once completed the pattern is guaranteed to appear random as seen here. The next post will be with the two components assembled. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Art Girona 54mm King David - Update #2

This figure is in the home stretch now. I have begun painting the shield and doing all the little detail painting and crisping up the existing work. The sash was painted with W&N Indigo with a bit of Prussian Blue added. Highlights were built over the black boots with Mars Brown and Mars Orange with a bit of Yellow Ochre added.

Soldiers SR-01 Republican Legionary - Update #1

This is a quick post on how I am progressing with my current batch of figures. This little Soldiers Roman is moving along fairly well, with the flesh about 90% complete. I have also laid down the base coat on the armor and the helmet and am about 50% complete on the tunic. Instead of using the metal of the casting as the finish on the armor I gave it a base wash of silver printers ink and Ivory black with a wash of black applied after the first coat dried. The helmet is gold inks and Burnt Umber. Once complete I will dirty up the figure's clothing and legs as he looks tired after a long days march.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

EMI 54mm Etruscan Warrior VIII Cent. BC

Here we have one of the last figures that EMI released in their "Gladius" series, an Etruscan Warrior from the VIII century BC. This is one of two such studies of this subject released by EMI. The first was a very nice figure (also by Laruccia) showing a warrior celebrating over a funerary pit. This release shows how Laruccia has matured as a sculptor with amazing detail and personality. This is a wonderful figure that comes with two separate shield and spear choices. One shield is oval and leather covered, the second is round, bronze and highly detailed. The later was chosen for this figure. Unfortunately the more elaborate spear was damaged beyond repair in packaging and shipping (Why I like the steel weapons from Alive History's new kits) so I am forced to use the more simple spear. The figure has been primed and is shown resting in it's mounting holes. I will be painting the figure on a separate working base as the groundwork would preclude access to the back of the figure. Lots of Earthen Red and Bronze on this figure so it will be quite dynamic and colorful. The groundwork was created using some of the twigs I have gathered on outings locally, epoxy putty, a stone or two from the garden and primed for paint.

Soldiers SR-01 Republican Legionary 1st C. BC

As the weather here turns colder and there is less time for outdoor activities (except for blowing leaves and putting away the motorcycle for the winter) I am starting to prep figures for the painting season to come. One of the first I've begun work on is this little gem, the very first Roman release from Soldiers in their "SR" Series. The figure is simple but very nicely done and replicates an early image from Peter Connolly. The shield is simply resting on the figure for these pics and will be painted seperately for ease of access to the figure.