Dwarfology -part I-
So, yesterday we launched our Kickstarter campaign, and things seem to grow up really nicely: we have already claimed our funding goal and unlocked the 10.000€ Stretch Goals, in about 13 hours of campaign. Such a mighty beginning!
However, this night, while I was trying to sleep without any success (it's hard to falling asleep if you check that damn Kickstarter app every 10 minutes...), I went spiritual, thinking about that little magic that we usually take for granted: I'm trying to create something, and people all around the world decide to support me, allowing me to reach my goals. It's something, at least for me, really powerful.
For this reason I thought about how to repay your support, at least in part, and I realized that in the last months I've started to edit the first painting tutorials about my Dwarves but I had to put them aside for a while, to manage this Kickstarter campaign.
However, now that the campaign is live and everything seems work, there are no excuses for procrastinating again the painting guides of my Dwarves.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Dwarfology, a series of tutorials made to show you how I paint my Dwarves.
There are tons of tutorials out there, made by painters who are way better than me. With my tutorials, I don't want to "teach" you something, because I honestly don't feel like I'm technically competent to be a teacher: as we say here in Italy, "I still have to eat a lot of baby food, before doing it!". Instead, I prefer that you approach these guides as a way to know how I paint and, possibly, get some kind of inspiration from them.
Said this, you will quickly learn that my painting style is directly linked to how I learned to paint: I'm self-taught, I've no artistic studies in my resume and I don't think I'm blessed with an above average artistic talent.
For this reason, I had to optimize my skills and find a way to make the painting more easy to control: in brief, my style is all about breaking up the whole painting process into easy steps.
I think it's not a powerful method, nor the most artistic one: in fact, I'm quite jealous of those painters that seem to breath the colors and tame them like a proud tyrant of spectrum.
I'm not able to do it, so I need for a more digestible approach to the subject. It's like when you were a baby, and you didn't know how to eat your soup without burning your tongue, and then your mother gave to you a second dish so you could put a small amount of soup inside it, in order to make it cool quickly. My painting process is like having tons of different dishes to be able to enjoy the art a little at a time, without getting burned.
HOW I PAINT THE SKIN
Generally, I always start with a smooth base-coat of a medium color (1). In this case, it's my precious Tallarn Flesh, one of the citadel colors of the Foundation line (I think probably the best line of colors ever made, such a shame that GW stopped to produce it). However, having the exact tone is not important, when you paint something, so just choice your favorite medium skin tone, or just prepare it using the primary colors and white: it's up to you.
In my opinion, it's important to have the best base-coat possible, that would mean a homogeneous coat, because my painting style is all about "discipline" and if I start with a bad base, I would bring that defect 'till the end of the process, ruin everything.
After having painted a proper base, I generally give a wash to the whole surface (2). Here I made a mix between Agrax Earthshade, a small amount of Fuegan Orange and Lahmian Medium. That would be almost a normal Reikland Fleshshade (gosh how I hate these new names...), but I don't have that color and I don't want to spend money to buy it. I'm a Ligurian, after all.
It's easy to paint a wash, but I recommend you to avoid to make "pots" of wash in the deepest recesses.
After the wash is dry (be sure it is!), I always restore the base color on the surface except the deepest recesses (3). In this step, I don't just cover the surface with a thick coat of paint, but I try to blend the darker skin-tone (created by the combo base+wash) with the base color. To make so, I use glazes (approx. 50% water, 20% Lahmian Medium and 30% Tallarn Flesh, in specific).
If you blend in this way these two first tones, you will get a kind of mid-tone for free: oh yeah!
Now it's time to highlight a bit the skin: I add a a small amount of Bleached Bone (any kind of ivory works fine, obviously) to the base color and, using glazes, I highlight the face trying to blend the colors (4). If you are not a veteran on doing glazes, you may have some difficulties on controlling your diluted color, but don't despair: when you paint using very diluted colors, but you want to have an exact control on them (so they don't flow directly into recesses), you should keep a very, very small amount of color on the bristles. Generally, I load my brush with color, then I take off almost 90-95% of it using blotting paper. Moreover, if the area that you are painting allows it, it's always better to use a brush with long bristles and paint using the side of its bristles, not its tip. For example, I painted this face using a Windsor&Newton series7 size 2.
As you may have noticed, arrived at step 4 the skin has some lights and we start to see some tridimensional look, but it is also highly desaturated. This depends mostly on my way of painting: to help me defining the layers of painting, maintaining smooth transition, I use in the first steps highly pigmented colors. Their coverage is better than normal acrylics, so they help me to smooth the layers more easily , but the cons of them is that they lack in brightness and saturation.
For this reason, I balance the step 4 to give more vitality to the skin using at first some red hue. To achieve that, I give very, very diluted glazes of Vallejo Transparent Red on all the face, adding more and more subtle layers of red in the areas that I want to be more red (on the nose and in the recesses of wrinkles) (5).
When I'm happy about the red saturation level, I take again my skin palette and I add more bleached bone to it. Again, using glazes, I build more lights, always trying to blend this new steps with the previous one (6).
The face now is almost done, but as you may see it's too "bi-dimensional", concerning the tones: there are a strong, red, hue and a neutral and bright tone. I want to give to this skin more depth and I want to enrich it with more color variations. To achieve that, at first I paint very subtle glazes of Scorpion Green (almost a watercolor level dilution) on the whole face, and then I add also orange glazes on the temples using a mix between Vallejo Transparent Red and Vallejo Transparent Yellow (7).
Now that I achieved a more interesting skin tone, I want only to paint the last highlights, using very subtle glazes of pure Bleached Bone (8). With this step I want to better define the various volumes of the face and to add more contrast: I think that, especially for 28/32mm scale miniatures, it's better to enhance a bit more than normal the contrast between lights, mid-tones and shadows, because in this way the sculpt of these tiny bastards are more easy to be read by our eyes.
HOW I PAINT A DARK BLONDE BEARD
What would be a Dwarf without a proper beard? Probably an unfortunate Dwarf.
There are many and many way to paint beards and many colors to choice, but before going on into details, I want to tell you my method to paint this type of texture.
When a paint a beard, I always try to work on two levels: the general volumes of the beard and the definition of the texture itself.
Don't think about beards only as a group of many tufts, but try to think about it also as a whole volume itself.
This is important to avoid that kind of "zebra effect" where beards are just a bunch of super bright stripes with super dark recesses.
Easy to say, not easy to do (and I often do it wrong!).
As usual, I start with a medium-dark tone, painted as smooth and homogeneous as possible (1).
I confess I don't remember the exact mixing, but it should be a kind Tausept Ochre + Khemri Brown mix. A Sneakebite Leather (or similar), mixed with a small amount of any dark brown, should work too.
Unlike the skin, however, here I don't give a wash to the beard, to avoid to darkener too much from the beginning the (many) recesses of this texture. Instead, I start to highlight the beard directly from the second step, adding that amazing color that is Averland Sunset to the basecoat mix (2). Here, for each highlight I work like that: at first I focus only on the volume, seeing the beard as a unique surface and without considering the texture itself. Paint smooth, diluted glazes to define a kind of light areas of the whole beard: paint also the recesses. After having established in this way the volume, with the same color but less diluted I paint the various tufts of the texture, one by one, always following my previous "study" (so, for example, if I decide that the more the beard is close to the face, the more is bright, I paint consequently also the tufts, trying to make them brighter as close they are to the face).
I keep painting like that, adding more and more Averland Sunset to the mix (3).
Don't think about these steps literally: I don't paint a beard in 8 layers of color, of course. Instead, trying to imagine every step as a result of many, uniform, passages. In the step 3, for example, you see the result of 5-6 glazes of the same color. I prefer to work in this way, adding a lot of subtle layers, because it allows me to control every single stroke I paint on a miniature. It could be boring, but as I wrote before, I'm not able to paint otherwise, or better, if I don't know exactly what is happening on my miniature, I will surely make a mess.
After the first lights, as occurred on the skin, I have a general dark-bright base on the surface, but it's not interesting at all. For this reason, after having added more Averland Sunset to the mix, to increase the lights and contrast on the beard, I give a subtle glaze of a kind of orange-brown, made by mixing Vallejo Transparent Red, VT Yellow and VT Green on the whole surface (4). This step give to the beard some saturation that, after the next highlights, will become a kind of mid tone. With pure Averland Sunset, I define again the tufts of the beard, always with glazes (5). Try not to cover the orange-brown tones! The following steps are quite easy to guess: I add more and more Bleached Bone to the Averland Sunset and, with glazes, I highlight the beard 'till I am happy about the contrast (6,7,8).