Saturday, 25 December 2010

Gnome's gone Rogue

Well, I think it is late enough in the day to post this! This was a christmas present commission for a client's wife - representing her D&D gnome rogue. The base model was a Reaper Miniatures "Cassie; Gnome Wizard" as after a long search this was the model closest to her image for the character:

There were going to have to be some significant changes made to the base model to make it appropriate. The staff had to go, a shortsword and crossbow needed to make an appearance but the rest of the model was just great! I figured just pull a spare crossbow from the bits box, repurpose a sword and the job is a good un. Then she arrived. This model is tiny. Not regular tiny either, this is oh-my-gods-that-is-small tiny, just half an inch tall. Go grab a ruler and look at how big half an inch is. Go on, I'll wait... see what I mean? No weapons I owned were ever going to fit this petite little madam. Only one thing for it... scratch build a crossbow:

This is an intermediate stage, there is a lot of carving to go to achieve smoothness. You'll see later on what the finished effect was. The stock and shaft of the crossbow is the wizards staff, carved down and shaped to an appropriate look. The bow was a paperclip wire pin drilled right through the shaft and curved, you can see the end of the wire sticking out so you can get a sense of the scale. Green stuff was then used to bulk out the woodwork and give a suggestion of workings. The string is a single strand of picture hanging wire (very useful, very cheap, easy to work folks) tied and glued, then stretched into the 'v' to give a sense of tension. I though about adding a trigger block to hold the wire back but this would have been about a quarter of a millimeter across and I simply could not manage it!

Meanwhile - while the green stuff cured - I turned my attention to the rest of the model. I fiddled with the pose of the arm, pushing it down to give a more realistic pose for a blade. I had picked up an elven wizard dagger from Let the Dice Decide as this was the smallest, and most elegant, dagger I could remember. I intended to rework the fingers of the original hand but fortunately the two hands were roughly the same size. They are a little overscale (if she were human) but this is the limitation of sculpting in this scale. Anyhow, this gave me a free pass! I amputated the original hand and substituted the dagger in a nice badass low guard.

The small scale of the model meant that I felt that the base needed some presence to stand out amongst other miniatures. Fortunately - living in Wales - slate is everywhere, I grabbed a couple of chunks from the front garden and figured out which worked best for the size of the tag and pose. A blob of green stuff stuck her to her imposing rock and we were starting to get somewhere!

The crossbow, now dry and mostly smooth was fitted, problem two arrived. The only position that the crossbow arm would fit in was down. Both arms down created a very static, quite boring pose. Only one thing for it. Snap off the dagger hand, reposition the arm again (very carefully as the more times you bend metal componants the closer you get to the Uri Geller spoon snapping effect) and re-glue the hand in a more triumphant pose.

I now added some topsoil to the rock. This helps to give a feeling of permenance and size, soil collects on large boulders and over time grass grows. You need to pick your locations carefully - lots of reference material. But a very nice effect can be had fairly easily! A final tidy-up of the crossbow and she was ready for painting!

So there she is! The colour pallete was to fit the character's description, dark purple clothing, pink hair, dark leather. Annoyingly I am going to struggle to give my usual run down of colours as when I am painting a single character I rarely use a pure colour and frequently fiddle around with shades to blend smoothly. Often there will be eight to ten layers of shading and highlighting rather than the usual four or so. There is a reason we charge more for single characters! Instead I shall just wurble - technical term that - on about individual elements that I found interesting or fun.

I got a bit excited by details. Yes she has fingernails. Take another look at that ruler. The half inch was from floor to top of head, I might have run mad for a while. The skin is painted in the usual way (see the Book of Jeff on the right!) but with extra layers of mixed colours in between each stage.

The sword was painted following advice in the White Dwarf on painting elven swords, it gives a nice sense of reflection and the shape of the blade. Just use blended mixtures of metallic colours from Boltgun Metal all the way up to Mithril Silver. Let this be a lesson, there will always be something to learn. There is always a better painter than you and if there isn't then there will be someone who has a new angle that will refresh your style. You never ever stop learning.

A quick shot of her face, I did paint in pale blue irises but the camera kinda washed them out. I played with lipstick colours but they looked wrong against the pink hair. Too much modern on one fantasy figure so she got natural lips (tanned flesh). I can't say for sure what colours are in the hair as I highlighted up and shaded down at least twice over to get the colour I wanted but I was definately using warlock purple, skull white and mixed washes of baal red and leviathan purple. Beyond that I couldn't say!

I was really pleased with how the potion bottle came out. I painted it my usual glass tone of Fenris grey and black and then filled the middle section with orkhide shade highlighted with white. This gave a nice sense of a thick walled flask skull white catchlights along the curves and a hit of gloss varnish finished it off. It's tough to see in the photos but it is one of the things I am happiest with on the model!

I was delighted to discover that one of the little sculpted details on the original wizard were a ring of keys bound into her ponytail! This was a lovely little rogue-like touch and helped to make the transition of wizard to rogue that much more plausible!

Below is an overhead shot showing the groundwork. You can see how the little bit of soil and grass adds so much presence to the rock. Gives it a sense of weight. Were I building it into a larger base I would have added more soil around it to sink it into the ground and add more weight to the stone. A word on painting rocks. I really, really hate how the studio paints rocks. Brown earth with a stark grey rock sticking out of it. Look around your world. Do you ever see this? Ever? The soil is generally a similar - usually darker - shade of the rock. Why? Because the soil is made of the rocks! Weathered and broken down into finer and finer bits. The deeper browns come from organic matter added in. When painting rocks make them a similar colour to your soil. Use the same base shade. Just add a little grey as the highlight tones while keeping the soil in shades of brown. This gives a much more natural effect. Here endeth the rock rant.

Next is a nice close up of the finished crossbow, compare it with the unpainted shots earlier and you can see how much smoothing and carving went on. The paint job is my usual kemri brown highlighted with bone but with a chestnut ink glaze added over the top to give a varnished finish. This is a tip given to me by a fellow painter from Oxford called Charlie Brassley who is ace at detail work like this. Again with the always learning thing!

And that is about it, the final shot in this post is the answer to a question I have been asked many times, mostly by mothers of new painters. "How many paints does it take to paint a model?":

Lots. This was a very simple scheme and I used all these colours. Some I don't even remember using, they were clearly just for mixes to give that exact colour I was after. It is easier to paint well with the right tools and the right tools include paints. It is false economy to skimp on paints. You might not use all the colours often, but you will find yourself thanking your investment when you want that one perfect spot colour on a character model. I have every single paint in the citadel range including a bunch that they don't make anymore. It is still not enough, I am buying new shades from Vallejo to fill in blanks in the range or to provide difficult to mix colours - usually subtle military tones - that citadel don't have. Well, hope you enjoyed that, I have been sitting on these pictures for almost a month! The secret is out now! Louise, I hope you like your rogue, may all her dice roll 20's!


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