Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ten Thunders Archers

After some work, repainting, and careful attempts to fix up certain areas, I have finally finished up my archers! There are some areas that didn't work out quite how I'd hoped, but overall I'm pleased with the outcome. With that, time for pretty pictures!

How fast can you run?

I decided on a theme with the crew, since they have such disparate parts. The Torakage (not yet finished), being essentially ninjas, would have clothing that is as much as possible 'standard citizen' in colour and pattern. The Archers, being to my mind about the same level in the hierarchy, would also have mostly 'plainclothes'. Of course, I needed a way to distinctively mark them as Ten Thunders even still, and decided on using spots of red on each model, somewhere, to declare their allegiance.

The consistent sections for the archers are their 'helmet curtains', quiver, and bow string and tassel. A few have other elements, but those would be the consistent ones.

Early on I decided this model had to be on top of something. Finding a twig was as easy as walking outside, and after some careful cutting, drilling, and pinning, I had a stable perch for my archer. The advantage of this is it gives him more of a sense of motion too. He's not just crouching to sneak a shot off in an awkward pose that isn't just kneeling, but is instead mid-leap on to, and then presumably off of a broken tree.

Also here, you can somewhat see the tattoo pattern I applied to most of them. I'd looked at lots of photos of Yakuza-style tattoos, and attempted to emulate them, which in 32mm is not easy... All the colours I was going to apply got mixed with flesh tone to make it look like they're sub-dermal.

His clothing, as I suggested earlier, is a very mundane, drab, grey and brown. I've always found that the more fantastical settings feel more 'real' the more realistic all the individual elements are.

Here's my calm and collected archer. Sadly, he's managed to pick up some of my cat's long hairs already, but luckily post-painting, so they're not adhered. This one also features some more significant conversion than just adding bowstrings, in that I gave him little sandals of the traditional sort. I reinforced that formal feel by having him standing off a boardwalk of some kind. This guy's tattoo pattern is a dragon, with the fanged mouth right on the shoulder, and his kimono is meant to be patterned with a lotus-style flower. Sadly, I noticed the wash pooling in those front creases after I took the photos, and will be going back to fix them...

This archer was the first I nailed down how I wanted the colour scheme to go, while the rest were made more earth-tone to contrast him.

My final archer is the one that has given me the most trouble. The hair acting as his bowstring is under significant tension, and infuriatingly, has snapped a number of times. I've managed to glue it in place for the time being, but Lord only knows how long that will hold. This guy is also jumping over a log, to tie in with the other one, and sports a more traditionally black kimono, offset with brown pants and a dark green shirt. The small dotted pattern helps to make him seem less dreary, and the bright belt contrasts the red and overall drab. His tattoo is a series of flowers and leaves, and is the one that looks the most striking of them in person.

Since the photos, I added static grass in patches to the bases, using a dead-yellow short fuzz since I figure the grasses in Malifaux are all kinds of strange, and it helps them look all drab. Also something to note: when painting clothes, keep your highest highlight and darkest shadow relatively close on the spectrum to make the cloth look fairly rugged and 'typical'; cloths like cotton or wool won't vary much. If you want to make them look silken, strengthen your lights to dark, since silk reflects light so much more readily. If you look at the third archer, just above, you can see his black cloth and green shirt look to be made of far more durable fabric than, say, the red cloth that makes up their helmet curtains.

Next, I intend to finish up the Oiran. I have their masks, bases, and some details left to do before they get photographed as well!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ten Thunder Archer Helms (At Last)

I love the Ten Thunder Archers. Their garb almost perfectly matches traditional ceremonial Japanese archery, their poses are dynamic, and the level of detail is marvelous. I have, despite this, one problem with them. Their helmets are most frequently shown to be, I believe, painted metal. Even their art card has a weird blue-teal-grey colour which is certainly accented like it were metal.

Link from

The problem is; there's no way an archer who is entirely otherwise unarmoured has a massive metal headplate. It's not practical, in my opinion.

While it is similar to traditional Japanese cone-hats, it's not conical, and therefore, wouldn't be made by woven reeds, as would be the case traditionally. What then, is a somewhat obsessive model painter to do?

Well, I figured wood would be a good solution. It's lighter than metal for the same density, and cut properly, would provide all the protection an archer would need from an overhand blow to the skull. First job, as always, was seeking out inspiration. How could a devoted modeler ever figure out the exact variegation and pattern of wood cut to a flattened-domed shape? I just so happened to luck out in the form of serving bowls we have here at the house.
Almost like it was meant to be for this!
After a bit of study, observing how the angles came together, I base-coated the helmets with Steel Legion Drab (Citadel paints). This was followed with a mix of it and Pale Sand (Vallejo 70837).

This was mostly just to get the shapes in, but using a thinned-down coat and lightly feathering the paint on to the helm made it pretty close to what I wanted in the first run. Following the bowl, and the idea that wood is harder to chop through against the grain, you can see two of the three have helms cut that way. The third is different mostly for variety, but also it's more an angled cut than a straight through, hence the width of the grain. I took effort to make the rings connect from left to right side, and the closer it got to the top, the more variance I threw in to stop it being perfectly circular. This will really help the wood feel more natural, since real wood is rarely if ever consistently thick throughout the entire piece.

The effect was, however, a bit paler than I was hoping to achieve, so I followed this up, once it was dry, with a glaze/wash mix of Agrax Earthshade (is there anything it can't do?) and Vallejo Ochre Brown (70856).

I applied this relatively thickly, but made sure it didn't pool anywhere by pulling it back off using a dry brush if it did pool. The eye symbol on the front also received a wash of straight Agrax Earthshade just to really pull it out in detail.

After this had thoroughly dried, I re-highlighted with the 50/50 Steel Legion Drab and Pale Sand from before, focusing on the upper edges of the rings, and where it approached the top, I applied it in an almost hatching-pattern, applied over a section and quickly dabbed with my finger to mitigate how strong it looked.

The big advantage of this method of wood painting is that, due to a combination of physics and chemistry of paint, it does start to take on the effect of wood. Since real wood has more-opaque rings gapped by more-translucent, darker sections, cut into a curve you will see the 'darker' sections receding. Painting the darkest sections first, and having a glaze/wash halfway through, adds an incredibly subtle, almost-imperceptible 3d effect to the paint, which the eye reads in a similar way to wood. It also helps that the smooth, large area of helmet, and semi-matte finish of the paint allows it to shine like wood that's been well buffed, but not necessarily varnished.

Now I just have to finish their tattoos to a similar level of detail, finish the patterning of their clothes, and convincingly paint their bases, all without damaging what I've already done to their helms... If it works, you'll see the fruits of my labour next week!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Clothes and Malifaux

I've not posted in a bit because the last of my photos of Wolves are crap (may upload them anyway) and I've been stymied in my next project. I am painting a Malifaux crew of the Ten Thunders, and I have nearly every Ten Thunders model that isn't undead. The thing is, I am obsessing over making them look traditional Japanese/Chinese.

Wet Pallette: Saviour of detail painters. Also, rest of the crew in the background.

It is tough putting traditional Japanese/Chinese clothing patterns on 32mm models.

I've tried to make each cluster follow their theme. The Torakage are clearly ninjas, and despite what popular culture would have us believe, they didn't wear black. In all likelihood, they wore whatever clothes would best blend them in to their surroundings. As such, mine are all muted blues, browns, and greens, with only small elements of bright red as the 'crew colour'. (Misaki and her brother will feature lots of bright red, her mentor will likely have a darker shade of red, or black kimono highlighted with red; I haven't quite decided yet.)

The one thing they have, which I figure would be quickly removed once the job is done (or they're discovered) are their masks. While the Japanese did have hard masks, they were mostly carved into daemonic (or humanoid) shapes, and don't fit the flat, featureless masks of the Torakage. Luckily, since we know narrative-wise they're supposed to be a blend of Yakuza and Triads, I have borrowed Chinese style mask-making.

More detailed pics to come once I get them more finished off.
The Oiran, as would be appropriate for courtesans, are wearing very fanciful kimonos patterned and themed each one differently. I will have pics of them when they're more complete.

Finally, we have the archers. The style of archery they seem to be practicing (one sleeve off, full kimono) was traditionally meant more as meditation than killing, and every movement was carefully practiced. The practice continues to this day and you can find videos on youtube. While I still have absolutely no idea how I'm going to paint their helmets, most of the rest is at least roughed in. I figured I'd show folks a quick and simple way to do detailed patterns on a section of fabric though.

First, dots. For my guy, I started on the front, since it's where most people will see it. I did a vertical, spaced line of dots, then shifted over an amount that felt right, and put dots at about the midpoint of the first. Continuing around the model this way allowed me to tighten in where there was a significant fold, or, where the fabric swings at an angle, bend the line. Luckily the kimono is gapped at the front, so it won't matter too much if I haven't measured the distance too carefully.
When doing this, I wasn't concerned about making the dots heavy, solid, or of a certain size, knowing I'd be detailing them later. For now it was just spacing out the pattern. (At this point, the kimono itself is already highlighted.) - A note: Wash the brush frequently. The paint is going to dry out on the brush, and you'll want to ensure you don't ruin the brush, or have the tip widened from dry paint!
Wanting to do a generic lotus-type pattern, I did a single vertical line to get the pattern set, and work out distances. Again, fairly straightforward, just work around the body, careful to wash the brush often so it doesn't dry out.
Slightly blurry, but in this final pic for now I have done two side 'petals' to each. I will likely wash the cracks to ensure the petals don't jump out too much, but at this point I have settled where the pattern will sit, and roughly what it will look like. Now I just need to go back, fill in the petals, wash it down to look like the rest of the robe, and move on to the next pattern! (Yay thin tiny stripes...)

More soon, I hope. I am forcing myself to finish these up before I move on to any new models. I just had a lucky break with deciding how to do my Oiran today!