Wednesday 20 January 2016

Painting Commodore Borgossa – part 3

As promised back in December here is a more detailed description of how I finished painting Commodore Borgossa. You can see the finished bust on Putty & Paint HERE.

 The Face

I chose a desaturated mid-grey/green as a base colour for Borgossa’s face. This gave me a muted foundation that helped to prevent the subsequent colours becoming too saturated, which might have happened with a lighter base colour. The shading and highlights were built up with translucent layering and glazes. Much of the apparent colour on the face is the combination of several layers of translucent colour rather than something that was mixed on a palette. 

The eyes 

I decided to give Borgossa a ‘dead eye’ by extending the scar sculpted across this mouth up across the rest of his face. This may not be the most original thing to have done, but it seemed to suit both the character and the sculpt. I used pictures of the actor Kirk Douglas from the movie ‘The Vikings’ as reference for the eyes, and this was a great help in getting some life into them. I also applied a spot of gloss to the eyes once they were painted. I’m always wary of going too glossy on a finished model; but, in this case, the varnish gives the eyes a sparkle that works with the painted reflections to great effect! 


Painting the clothing was a fairly straightforward task but I had to remember to keep the saturation down at all times. I’m constantly surprised by just how far you can push the desaturation of your colours without compromising the colourfulness of your work. One example of this is the ‘gold’ decoration on Borgossa’s waistcoat. The effect is achieved with the use of just three colours (grey, yellow ochre and ivory) but grey is the most used colour by a wide margin! 

The blue/grey and maroon colours used in the clothing were picked to complement and contrast with the green flesh tone. They bring some extra interest to the piece but don’t detract from the face. For the textures I decided to paint a silky shine on the waistcoat and give the coat a slightly courser texture. In the end, I used a stipple texture on the coat as this seemed to best complement the slight stippled texture in the sculpt. 


One of the targets I’ve set myself for 2016 is to experiment with true metallics. The buckle and buttons on Borgossa’s costume were a good opportunity to do this. By painting them in true metallic they contrast with the materials around them and help to sell the overall illusion of reality. Although I like to paint non-metallic metals, I’m currently of the opinion that true metallics work better for larger scale projects. 


The fishtail decoration in Borgossa’s hat proved to be the most difficult part of the project for me to get right. In my first efforts I attempted to use a metallic foundation and glaze over that with inks. The effect was interesting but, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to look like it belonged with the rest of the piece. In the end I used the same blue and maroon colours as Borgossa’s costume and these proved to be successful! The fishtail now feels like a part of the whole and is colourful without being distracting. 


I usually prefer to base my models on plain black resin plinths but I wanted to try something a little different with Borgossa. In this case I decided to use a tall wooden plinth and to burn and stain it to resemble an old ship’s timber. I’ve seen tutorials where bases are burnt using a cigarette lighter but this proved to be too subtle. The wood was quite hard and burnt very slowly. Taking my plinth (and my life) in my hands, I burnt it in the flame on my gas cooker hob. This proved to be more successful and gave a more dramatic effect. 

Obviously working with fire is hazardous and all due caution was taken with regards to ventilation and avoiding injury. In addition I found it very useful to have a large basin of cold water close to hand to extinguish the flames and cool the wood down - it became very hot! 

Painting the hat.

The leather texture on Borgossa’s hat was painted with a combination of several basic techniques.

Step 1. Base coat using GW Baneblade Brown. 

Step 2. Initial texture. 

To begin creating the texture, I daubed & stippled the hat with a darker brown using a combination of brushes and sponges. The process was fairly random, although I concentrated the texture effects on the areas I wanted to be darker. I then went over this with a stippled highlight of GW Baneblade Brown mixed with Valleyo ivory. The highlights begin the process of creating definition for the shape of the hat. 

In addition to brushes, I used a combination of both natural & synthetic sponges to create a more varied texture. Try to avoid only using one surface of the sponge as this runs the risk of inadvertently creating a repeating texture. 

Step 3. Wash. 

The first stages are fairly rough and random but that will help to create an interesting texture. The following stages will tie everything together and refine the texture. The first step towards this is an overall wash of ink. I used scale colour chestnut ink for this and it totally transformed the overall effect for the better. 

I found it necessary to dilute the ink as inks can give a very intense layer of colour and it’s easy to over-do the effect. 

Step 4. Refining the texture and highlights. 

Returning to my base and highlight colours, I began to refine the details and texture with further stippling and glazes. It's all about brushes this time! It's quite good to use a couple of different sizes to help vary the marks. As well as Windsor & Newton series 7 I like to use Windsor & Newton Scepter Gold II brushes for a lot of the stippling. They are a sable/synthetic mix and a bit stiffer (& cheaper) than pure sable, which works well for stippling. 

This stage involves a bit of going back and forth between the shades used but it’s worth the effort. It is also during this stage that I picked out and enhanced the sculpted textures and damage on the hat. The trick here is to enhance and add to the sculpted detail in a complementary way. The final step is to add a few carefully applied glazes to enrich the colour and tie all the details together. 

Monday 18 January 2016

Abalam Prince of Hell - Part 2

The crest on Abalam’s helmet is done and I’m very pleased that I changed it. It was a nasty fiddly job to alter the model after I’d started to paint it but sometimes you just have to take a risk and go for it! 

I moved on to painting the rest of the helmet but as the week went on I felt I was running out of steam on the project. I found the stitching details very tedious to paint so rather than slogging on with them I decided to try something different. 

I’ve gone ahead and blocked in the base colours for most of the rest of the bust. This gave me a lot of progress in a little time and, more importantly, gives a good feel for how the overall colour scheme is shaping up. 

I’ve decided to spend some more time working on the overall paintjob for Abalam before I get too caught up in the details. That feels like a better way to approach this project, keeping myself energised and the January painting blues at bay! 

Monday 11 January 2016

Abalam Prince of Hell - Part 1

Having so enjoyed painting Commodore Borgossa I decided to start work on another bust and I picked Abalam, Prince of Hell by, Hera Models, for my next project. 

I chose to paint the limited edition version of Abalam wearing a helmet. To be honest I wasn't a fan of the small spikey crest on his helmet, so I've gone for something a little more OTT. His armour has a clear samurai influence so I’ve added a bladed crest to the helmet. After a little research, and a rummage through my spare bits, I decided to try using the head off the statue of Khaine from the GW Cauldron of Blood kit. In the first instance, I thought to use only the blades; but then I decided to try and incorporate the entire head as a crest. 

Purists will be pleased to hear that I also primed the model prior to painting. Although I don’t usually prime my minis I’ve found it essential with larger scale pieces. This turned out to be a very good decision as the model was going to come in for a lot of handling! 

A dark and moody feel seemed like the right approach for this model, so I’m working it up from an almost black base colour. The use of a dark base colour for the flesh, in particular, was a major departure for me as I normally use Rakarth Flesh for this. The overall colour palette for Abalam’s flesh tones was fairly uncomplicated with a range of warm flesh tones enhanced by the addition of blue, red and ochre glazes. I blocked in the lighter areas over the dark base colour before further refining with glazes and highlights. 

For the highlights, I decided to follow Ben Komet's lead and try using tubed artists acrylic. I’m not sure if it made that much difference to the overall result, and I think I prefer ivory as a highlight colour, but it’s worth further experimentation. Working with tubed artists acrylic was nostalgic if nothing else. This is the type of paint I used when I first started painting minis! 

Another good reason for having a dark base colour was my decision to use a lot of metallics on this model. I’d considered a highly decorated, lacquered look for the armour but, as the painting on the face came together, I decided to go for a more brutal look to the overall model. I want the metallics to look really ancient, but not heavily corroded, with a heavy patina. 

I used scalecolour metalics and they continue to impress me with the results they give. I used a lot of layered glazing to build up a patina making sure to add some scratches and stippling in between the glazes to create a worn look. 

The brown splotches on the gold areas are done using washes. I apply a blob of wash (slightly diluted) and then start to dry it off with a hair dryer. Once the edges have dried, I take a clean damp brush and wipe away the un-dried wash leaving a tide mark in the shape of the original blob. There is then a bit more glazing and stippling with the wash to tie it all together. 

I’m really pleased with Abalam’s face and the metallics are getting there although the gold needs more work – it’s too green at the moment, and I want a more nuanced look to it. But when I painted the face on the helmet’s crest I loathed it with a passion! 

I had a very strong reaction to it, a case of the head and the heart not agreeing. On one level I can see that the face wasn't a total disaster but I really hated it! In addition I was not 100% sure that the overall proportions of the crest were that great and the style of the face didn’t seem to belong with the rest of the bust. It just felt wrong to me so I decided to try to change it. 

What I’ve gone for is something more abstract. I feel that the new crest is a great improvement and closer to what I initially intended.