Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Deployment Zone - Arcane Paintworks Masterclass Painting Workshop.

This weekend the Deployment Zone podcast decided to up their game in a different fashion.  This weekend Bryan, Josh and I all three attended one of Meg Maples of ArcanePaintworks painting classes.  Meg Maples, is an artist who has been a studio painter for companies like Privateer Press and has won several awards for her painting, including the crystal brush award at Adepticon for her Magneto paint job. 
Ms. Maples held her two day painting class at Guardian Games in Portland where she had a full curriculum centered around Two Brush Blending (TBB) and its applications.  Now I normally like to think that my paint jobs are of a higher quality than you would regularly encounter, however based on the skill exhibited during her class – that is all now called into question!
Here is am image of one of her models:


The class involved the following training topics: (copy/pasted from her blog)

·                     Model cleaning, assembly and preparation.
·                     Priming including when to use white primer, grey primer, black primer and Zenithal Priming. 
·                     Basecoating
·                     2 Brush Blending
·                     Glazing and Layering 
·                     Painting eyes, faces and hair
·                     Painting skin tones and how to devise skintone recipes
·                     Color theory discussion occurs throughout the class at a superficial level to explain why I am choosing to mix certain colors together. 
·                     Glow effects using both day glow pigments as well as brightly colored paints.
·                     Painting Gems
·                     Beginner level freehand discussion
·                     True Metallic Metals
·                     Sheer Fabric

If you are unfamiliar with Ms. Maples painting style or what her techniques are comprised, she uses a blending method to create smooth transitions throughout the model.  This technique allows for multiple effects to be integrated in the model to give a realistic feel to the paint job and “tells a story” as you look at it.

Ms. Maples requires that her class attendees use a specific size of brush and the Privateer Press Formula P3 line of paints in order to capitalize on her painting style and technique.  It was recommended for all attendees to obtain a Winsor Newton Series 7 size 2 brush and a Raphael size 3 (or something of comparable cost/quality for Sable Kolinsky brushes or acrylics were also an appropriate alternative).  The two brush blending technique she teaches works best with the P3 paints as the liquid pigment spreads more evenly across the model and the larger brushes allow for better surface blending.

The class started out with Ms. Maples teaching us how to properly prime which was something I was apparently not doing.  She explained the principles behind a proper primer (P3 formula apparently is an actual primer as it adheres smoothly and cleaning to a model vs. other aerosol variants) and how to prime not only in black but also using white and Zenithal highlighting.  The Zenithal priming was a really good technique to learn as I have watched Youtube videos before where you have a guy videotaping himself doing it but you really gain something more when you have the actual person demonstrating it and providing you instant feedback.

The Zenithal Highlighting then lead to the discussion of the primary technique Ms. Maples would be teaching: Two Brush Blending.  The technique centers on using two brushes of different sizes, the first brush being the size 2 applies a dab of paint into the recesses or the area where you want shadow.  Then once the paint is applied you take the second brush (generally held in your mouth) and you start to brush paint tracks from the outside of the paint to in, which will blend the paint across the surface and creating a smooth transition.  The second brush which is the size 3 only uses your saliva as the mixing medium as you draw it across the basecoat to softly blend it in.  Once you have done the shading, you apply the highlight and use same technique to blend it down to the shade.  The technique sounds super simple however after spending 16 hours + more, I still find myself struggling to master it to the point where I feel comfortable making this my primary method of painting.  This technique was the foundation for most of the curriculum Ms. Maples used for her class, especially when she discussed and demonstrated skin tones and faces.  One of the stand out lessons in between learning Two Brush Blending and how to properly paint skin tones was the way to paint eyes.  Ms. Maples tutorial on how to paint full color eyes was simple and the results looked fantastic.

The second day centered on painting realistic hair, true metallic metals and other realistic effects.  The True Metalic Metals tutorial was outstanding where Ms. Maples used metallic pigments and gloss varnish to paint on a shimmering layer over the basecoat.  Then once the shimmering coat has been painted on, a shading glaze is added followed by highlights and more glazes.  The result is a metallic paint job that shimmers in the light between multiple colors.  This was a fairly impressive tutorial and inspired me to look at metallic pigments.  Ms. Maples also touched on Object Source Lighting or OSL which provided us a very brief glowing eyes tutorial.

The class was a definite challenge for me as I do not hold my paintbrush the way most people do and it was a complete departure from how I normally paint both in form and function.  I do not normally use P3 paints, I have never successfully blended anything before, I do not mix paints when painting often, I do not normally use a larger sized brush and lastly I haven’t used a dry pallet in a long, long time.  So upon entrance into the class, I was fully out of my comfort zone.  I ended up bringing multiple models to prime and paint with various techniques and Ms. Maples was sure to walk around and provide technical assistance where necessary. 

There were several tutorials taught that had an instantaneous effect on my paint job and I was able to pick up on them immediately.  The priming tutorial was awesome, how to paint eyes has given me the confidence to start doing just that on my models, and the object source lightning took very little time but was instantly useful.  Those small but helpful tutorials will provide instant improvement to my armies.

The tutorials that I felt will take a lot of time but in the end pay off very well were obviously the Two Brush Blending.  The TBB will require a lot of my time to get proficient with it.  Ms. Maples has a fantastic technique and the results make you want to paint better just by looking at her models.  Once I have gotten proficient with her method, the other tutorials such as painting flesh and fabric will easily fall in line and yield fantastic results.  The other challenge I will run into will be my color theory, using the P3 paints will be great for resolving this as they mix well and last long.  I may still use a wet palette because I have a knee jerk reaction to hating dry palettes (never can get the consistency right in a dry palette). 

Now as far as the argument of cost vs. time investment, I will say that Ms. Maples provides her students a bargain for what is offered.  The students receive 16 hours of professional training in the methods that the studio painters from companies like Privateer Press paint their models.  I look at the amount of money I spend on this ridiculous hobby and then I look at the amount of time I spend painting to what I thought was a pretty high standard.  The time investment and cost of this class is literally one of the better investments I could make in the hobby as it is improving something that I have always wanted to get better at doing.  I have no problem getting better at the game when I play a list a few times and learn the nuances but something technical like painting requires some level of instruction in order to improve. 

As a result, I would formally recommend Ms. Maples painting class through Arcane Paintworks to anyone who is interested in improving the state of their hobby outside game.  Just the minor techniques she taught have already begun to have a big impact on my paint jobs.  I look forward to experimenting more with these techniques in the future.

The Deployment Zone podcast will be providing a full review of the class on one of our up and coming podcasts as well as an interview with the teacher Ms. Meg Maples.