Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Painting - Staying current and upping your skill

Questions came in a few times about what to do in order to get better at painting. What techniques, what videos do I watch, what brushes and paints? Certainly there are a great deal of articles, videos and other material out there offering all the advice you'd want regarding those topics. So how is this article different? This one talks about the most critical component, practice and a rudiment to practice daily,

Sure, you hear it often, and you try a few things here and there. But what are the new guy fundamentals? What can I do? Our hobby has pretty expensive practice material in metal and plastic so where do we go to step up to practice? Plain old paper.
 Basics of what we do starts on a sheet of paper. The level of realism baffles you? Grab a pencil and draw a square, now draw consecutive squares towards a corner, in the beginning you'll need four or five, as you get better you'll shade with your pencil seamlessly.

Yeah, but Twyg, what is that? That's perspective, layering and segmenting. You'll need it for painting models, a lot. Understanding how our eye views depth is important even if our models come prepackaged with it. They are 3d models, so some of the work has been done for us, yet there's so many places to go with it past the silver surfer mode.

Basic shapes
So what's next is to practice the "color by numbers" mode of painting every day. Just one square, then a triangle, circle, freehand whatever. Just on a receipt, on your ipad (brushes app) on that ticket stub, whatever. Use a pen, a carpenters pencil, a piece of charcoal from your fireplace. Doesn't really matter all that matters is that you stay on top of practicing your rudiments. Keep drawing basic shapes and playing with the layers. Remember that you're working in the negative. You're going to be applying color in the reverse of your shading. By this I mean a black primed model will have successive shades of color applied. Usually on our models we look to work "up" from the darkest color, it's certainly easier.
Shapes - Do all kinds!

So if this is the reverse on paper practice why learn it? Why not start with a black sheet of paper and add color? well, you could do that, however it's unlikely you have black construction paper around everywhere and pastels to match. Why practice something other than a directly applied concept? For the same reason you practice your jump shot to get your layups clean. You're getting overall muscle memory of these concepts developed.

In the basketball analogy the focus, speed and jumping go together, in this practice perspective, segmenting and layering go together. By learning to develop regions of color that imply a concept you'll end up transferring it onto the models. Next thing you know shadows, mid-tones and highlights become easier to identify and mimic.

Decals can be free handed
Mimic you say? You bet. With sites like cool mini or not and Dakka Dakka it's hard to argue there's a lack of source material. Pick a model you like, and mimic it on paper. Look at the broad brush concepts you like and work on them. Is it the fact that it looks like its a painting? Is it that the color is super smooth? How will you get there? Break it down and practice. By taking pencil to paper you'll get frustrated... That freehand on that eldar model cloak looks amazing, now closely look. Is it really the freehand? When you put it down to paper what's missing? Shading, mid-tones and highlights. Dimes to dollars that's what makes that cloak pop. If the artist is really good those are actually in the freehand. So draw the cloak, draw in all black an insignia, turn that pencil around and erase a few areas of the insignia where you would see light hitting it harder than in a fold of the cloak... See what you did there?

What do gums look like?
Really important on the to do list for any artist is to keep a constant collection of source material from your day to day life. You'd be stunned how much your brain ignores so take a picture of everything you see that tweaks you. Making a legion of everblight model? Get outside and take pics of dark rocks and if you're in a temperate climate in winter get pics of the snow with the rock in/on it. Need to know what gums with teeth looks like? Take a picture of yourself... Even if your wife laughs at you, that crystal brush 10k$ will be worth every silly picture!

Snowy source
Many times the inclination is to add more into a project, when in reality three or four steps is all you need. The right steps though. There is no such thing as true black in the universe so why are you using that color? Go ahead and look at pictures of obsidian, there's blues, reds purples. When you reference that picture you'll see it. Why you take your pencil out and draw it you'll realize it's easier than it was in your head by a long shot.
Snow, plus gums = Shredder!
Long post so here it is in a nutshell;
- keep up with rudiments
- mimic and borrow from your peers and nature
- the right answer is always the simplest

Good luck, and enjoy your time playing with these concepts!

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