Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops and paint at the best level you can… Step this way fellow hobbyists.
A few months back I found myself reading Dave Taylor’s blog as I often do, and stumbled across this post of his. It was almost shocking to see someone else writing thoughts so close to the ones rattling around in my own head. I too had always wanted to really pull out all the stops and try to push my skills to their absolute extreme. But like Dave, I have so far been loathe to take the time away from painting the numerous additions I’m constantly adding to my existing War Machine collections (not to mention the other systems I play). I would probably need to spend weeks on something that had a chance in a big competition. In that span I could probably paint at least a couple of units, and maybe even a few warjacks to my usual standard. Well you’ve probably guessed by now that I wouldn’t be writing all of this if I hadn’t decided to take the plunge. I present to you my Vlad 3, painted for the P3 masters competition. Thanks for the inspiration Dave. In the end I spent a little over three weeks on the project. That’s off time of course, since I do work a 9 to 5 like most of you probably do. By the time you read this Vlad and I should have arrived in Indianapolis.
I wanted to do something really special with the horse’s fur. In this case that meant giving it an actual fur texture. Before I began that process, I defined the musculature in a more standard way with aome more simple highlighting and shading.
These were the colors I used. While it might seem odd to use blues on a horse, I wanted the animal to have a cool appearance that would provide a nice contrast to the reds that would be so prominent on other parts of the figure.
I begin adding a fur texture by manually adding many thin strokes of the coal black.
Then its another layer of strokes. This time lighter ones, first with pure Trollblood Base, then with Trollblood base lightened with just a bit of Frostbite.
To create even more visual interest I did secondary sub highlights on the bottom of the musculature. This was done with a very thin application of P3’s Bloodstone.
Then I brighten it up a little more with some of the same Bloodstone mixed with some Cygnus Yellow and Morrow White.
And if you were thinking it was looking a little too intense, you weren’t the only one. I gave it two thin applications of GW’s Agrax Earth to tone it down some.
Up next were the reds for the armor. The Scaly Green and Red Gore are mixed to create the darkest shade, as shown in the little mixing pot on the right. And of course when necessary I’ll do further mixing of the various shades to help create a nice even gradients across the armor. I’ve been using GW’s reds for a long time now and I really feel like I’ve learned to get the most out of them. They aren’t very opaque, but over the years I’ve learned to work with this and apply them in very thin layers that create good results with little or no need for any wet blending.
I based all the red areas with GW’s Mechrite Red, then mapped out the highlights by adding some initial clumsy applications of my colors just to see where everything would go.
Then I begin adding those thin layers of red I was talking about earlier, slowly creating nice even transitions across the armor plates.
Eventually I get all the blends how I want them. Then I outline all the areas of gold trim with a dark shade of about 50/50 Scaly Green and Red Gore. This will create contrast for the gold that will be coming later.
And hey we’ve been looking at the horse for long enough so lets have a quick peek at Vlad himself. As you can see I’ve left him in several pieces to help make painting easier.
Before I do the golds I work out all the pieces of Vlad’s saddle. That little ring of fur with the tassles started as black, then was highlighted with Umbral Umber followed by Bloodstone, then Bloodstone mixed with a bit of Cygnus Yellow and White. Then it was washed with Agrax Earth. This same process was used a lot on this piece, including the fur on Vlad’s cape and around his neck.
The cloth at the base is mostly Ordic Olive with a little bit of the brown and yellow mixed in to desaturate it and give it a more natural hue. I used the same color for the inside of Vlad’s cape.
Bloodtracker Brown, Ironhull Gray, and White came together to mix the tan I used for the padding. There are actually quite a few shades of tan in the p3 range, but I didn’t have any at the time and didn’t feel like making a run to the store. For the other padding, the diamond shaped stuff, I just used Ironhull Gray highlighted with Frostbite. Then I washed it with Agrax Earth.
The leather on the saddle and on other parts of the piece was basecoated with Umbral Umber. This was highlighted up by adding Bloodtracker Brown, then finally Bloodtracker Brown with a little white and Cygnus Yellow added.
These are the four colors I mixed together to create my steel NMM palette.
That first pot there is mostly frostbite with just the tiniest amount of Bloodtracker Brown mixed in to make it a little more gray and less blue. The middle is the same color as the first but with a little of the Umbral Umber and Cygnar Blue Highlight from above mixed in. The final pot has still more of that blue and umber. Finally I’ve got the Frostbite and Umbral Umber in the picture since they were often used as the final highlight/shade respectively.
Here’s a close up of the spear tip from when it was finished…
and a better look at those Vlad-impaling horse blades and Vlad’s shoulderpad, all of which used these colors.
Of the three mixed pots above, the middle was the one used for the gold basecoat. It’s about 50/50 Bloodstone and Cygnus Yellow. To shade this color I added some Umbral Umber and some Ordic Olive. Now that I’ve finished this project I’m convinced that green is key for good NMM. There is also an incredibly small amount of green mixed in to the highlight pot, which is otherwise mixed from the base shade with some Cygnus Yellow and white added to lighten it up. For particularly dark areas I often mixed Beaten Purple, Umbral Umber, or Ordic Olive into my shadow color. And sometimes I felt a little more white was needed in my highlight layer to really make it pop.
I originally mixed four pots of colors for my bases. The missing shade was in between the highlight and base pots above. It was a lighter shade with extra orange mixed in. After finishing the golds for the horse I decided I wasn’t crazy about the effect the orange was having on the overall appearance so I stopped using it. Of course I felt like I’d gone too far to start all over again. In future projects involving NMM I plan on using just the three shades above. In fact I really want to experiment by adding more green to those colors as I paint.
Here’s the horse again with his first layer of gold.
Now a close-up of one of my favorite areas. Yes, out of the whole piece one of my favorite areas of gold is just the nice simple gradient on the round piece of armor over the horse’s rump.
I’m also extremely proud of the freehand I did on the cape here. Its not the finest in the world, but its definitely the best I’ve ever done. Once I’d gotten those shapes well defined I just treated them like I treated the embellishments all over Vlad’s Armor.
Here’s a picture of all the pieces before they went together. Well almost… I had left Vlad’s cape off to make the free-handing easier. I knew there would be some green-stuffing involved with getting it attached. My desire to get that out of the way was so strong that I forgot to take a picture when everything was still separated. And now a bunch more pictures. There were still a lot of minor tweaks to make after I took these. As I looked at them I noticed quite a few errors that I wanted to fix before I called it done. So this Vlad is still not quite finished.
~So do I think I’ll win? Well I am proud of what I’ve done here, but I’m going in cautiously. I’ve already stated that I’m not entirely thrilled with the golds as. And not all of the blends are as crisp as I’d like. I also didn’t get to the base until the very end. And while I’m pleased with the cropping effect I’ve done with it, I wish I’d had time to add some more details… maybe some dead menites which is what I had planned initially. And of course I don’t know what the competition will bring. I’ll be up against some of the best in the world. Still, I think its a great piece and I think it has a chance. And if I lose, I learned a lot with this project that may help me win next year. Wish me luck! And also thanks to BattleMechanik for hooking me up with a shoulderpad to replace the one I “fixed” after I mistakenly thought my own was miscast (they’re not symmetrical you see).