Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Gentle Caress of Blades

My Oiran are finally finished! Let me tell you, these ladies took a while to finish off; in part because of the detail I wanted, in part because of the detail on the models.
Probably the least subtle of the hidden blades...
As with all my projects, the first stage was research. I spent a lot of time looking up traditional kimono colour patterns, what various designs would mean, and then just general information about kimonos, Geisha, and as I later realized, the distinct group; Oiran. Unlike Geishas who are primarily performers, the Oiran are courtesans. Having seeped myself in knowledge, and armed with my colour schemes, I set out to make each one distinct and beautiful on their own, with only a subtle nod to the Ten Thunders faction (the red on sandals and hair ties).

I love that she could be cracking her knuckles. Her metal-plated, blade-bedecked terrifying knuckles.
My first Oiran I decided I would make a subtle pink. I tend to enjoy strong bright colours, and so intentionally muting the tone was an interesting change for me. Since her outfit is the most classical "Oiran" look, I decided to make her the leader, or most experienced of the group, and decorated her kimono with Peonies. (No, not ponies...) A subtle pink exterior balanced by a stronger interior, repeated on her sash, belt, and tassels unified the look. To contrast the soft muted tones of her outer robe, I did a strong, deep blue underneath, shaded to look silken, but undecorated. Her hair, as with all of them, was done in gloss black to make it look very well kept, and subtly highlighted by mixing the black with a mid-tone cold grey.

As with the other two, one of the hardest things to paint on her was the makeup. I wanted to make it suble: Not clown-like, but still the pale face so famous of Japanese courtesans. This was achieved by starting out with the normal skin tone, but then highlighting it with pale sand, and later white, more strongly than I would otherwise. She is also on the koi pond base from last entry, suggesting that "if you want to cross, you go through me" feel.

(Btw; click on the pics to see them even bigger!)

Next up is "Koi". This kimono started out being airbrushed with a rich blue over the white kimono. I mixed the paint, and feathered the airbrush to make the gradient less a smooth tone shift, and more of a sea spray transition. After that was done, the white parts of the kimono were carefully touched up, and thin white glazes added shading to the sleeves so I didn't have to mix paint for each part of the gradient to highlight them.

The koi themselves were painted first, similar to how the pond ones were: Bright orange, overlaid with increasing mixes of pale sand. The belt was originally bright orange as well, but it distracted from the koi, and was replaced with a similar sea-colour teal.

Her legs were painted to make the stockings look translucent by gradually highlighting from a mix of black and skintone in hatched highlights. First, the 50/50 mix would be hatched top-right to lower-left, then the 60/40 mix atop it done top-left to lower-right. This, combined with the overall thinness of paint, gave a fine hatched look without (I hope) looking like fishnets. Also, on a whim, I painted fingernails on any model who had them exposed in a strong red, both to distinguish fingers, and to again tie back to the Ten Thunders.

Finally, using thinned white paint and my smallest brush, I traced wave-lines along the kimono, and added a few dots of darker brown as pebbles or whatnot. The masks on all three are metal, which I debated for a while but decided that, as courtesans going into battle, they'd care significantly about protecting their face!

The last of course, is "Cherry". How could I do a series of kimonos and not include a cherry blossom one?

She too started her life out with an airbrush layering of green over white, highlighted as above. Pink is a natural complimentary colour in kimono history, and so her sash, and conveniently the blossoms themselves received that treatment. The branches were made before the blossoms; thin tracings of black. Originally I thought about decorating her fans, but a combination of the way they're half-folded, and the lack of sharp edges on the plastic made me hesitant to try.

I was happy to discover that the shoes of Oiran are almost consistently a lacquered black, which freed me up from attempting to imitate a wood pattern like Geisha typically have. On this size, and with the plastic's limited detail, I tried them and utterly failed to make them look convincing. The lacquered black is more historically appropriate, and it nicely ties together all three models, as well as distinguishing them from the bases, which were kept drab and plain, though I am really tempted to add flowers on the base around Cherry...

Go on, I'm sure they're friendly!
So that's all three Oiran! They're my least-subtle of the Ten Thunders faction yet, but I figure unlike the Torakage, who must pretend to be normal citizens, or the Archers, who are just citizens, the Oiran are the most likely to be accepted walking into enemy territory unimpeded, and the brighter colours reinforces that. Also, a slight break from tradition: The things sticking out of their wigs are traditionally orange plastic, but I figured when they're called to action by Misaki, their decorative headpieces are themselves further weapons in their arsenal.

Another thing you may now be able to notice slightly with their colour schemes is they all nod to one another slightly. Cherry has pink like Peony, Peony has blue like Koi, and Koi's belt (and ankle guards?) are green-tinged like Cherry. I'm trying with all these to have a subtle colour unity throughout the sub-groups of my crew. Painting all three at one time makes this smoother: The paint I mix up to paint Peony's kimono and sash becomes the same colour used to dot Cherry's kimono and paint her sash, etc.

I will soon do a post on faces, since you may notice unlike many others, I've not attempted to paint detailed eyes on most of these. I've got my reasons, and they're ones I think others may benefit from. Depending on whether I get my Torakage photographed soon, I may do them next.


  1. AWESOME! Simply awesome. Great work, mate.

  2. Wow, that is some of the best paintwork I have ever seen.

  3. Just a great work, i´ll try to do a good work with mine too. Thanks for the images and the comments, and ideas.

    1. Happy to inspire! If you're on the Wyrd forums, I'll be interested to see your images pop up!