Whenever I've embarked on most of my painting or modeling projects in the past few years, if the subject is something that has reference to anything in the real world or if there's materials or patterns or any other specifics that I'm not outright familiar with, I've generally done research or image searching online to get a bit more comfortable with things before I start the actual work. This was especially true when I modeled and painted my 2007 Chicago GW Golden Demon Painting Competition entry, Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm. I must've watched The Fellowship of the Ring film itself about 10 times for general inspiration, the combat sequence between Gandalf and the Balrog alone at least twice that many times for details on posing and atmosphere, and looked up a ton of reference images online in preparation. I covered a lot of relevant subject material in researching online, even down to the particular weaving of Gandalf's robes; granted, the movie watching was much more enjoyable than the apparel writeups, but it's all good. (I must have done something right, because the finished figure went over much better than I expected at the Golden Demons!)
At any rate, one of the things that I think helped me win an award was the specific attention to detail - this isn't anything that I was told by the judges, or anything that I've read or referenced elsewhere, simply personal opinion. Things like the particular color of the robes illuminated in the scene, or the angle of his arm holding the staff, or the color of the rocklight in the background of the scene; details that if they weren't there, the scene would've still been complete, but would've been missing out on its authenticity or "realism". It's with this same idea in mind that I've since been researching particulars about different materials that I might paint or model up in fine scale on a miniature figure or display base, things like aged brass or chipping paint, the colors and plants found in a generic near-tropical swamp or the ground texture of a washed-out ash wasteland at the edges of a desert - places or things I might not necessarily have been to or seen firsthand, or have readily available for reference, but am trying to replicate on a small scale through paint or modeled appearance.
Now some of these materials and images might be a little more disturbing or graphic than the pictures of weathering I posted some time ago, so if anyone is sensitive or squeamish, consider yourself warned (I've left the somewhat more unsettling subject matter until towards the end):
Expanse of ash waste, with the ocean in the background - taken from the Internet, used without permission
Weathered and sunbleached tree - taken from the Internet, used without permission
Waterlogged dead willow tree - taken from the Internet, used without permission
Generic swamp with brackish water, presumably southeastern United States - image originally from iStockphoto.com, used without permission
Brass pipes and fittings with patina - unnamed southeastern Michigan restaurant
Interestingly shaped new-fallen snow "spikes" on a stainless steel gate - casa Tinweasel, Feb. 2010
Fire-charred paper - World Trade Center Ground Zero, taken from the Internet, used without permission
Tank with battle damage - taken from the Internet, used without permission
Destroyed apartment buildings in downtown Beiruit - taken from the Internet, used without permission
Destroyed city street in downtown Beiruit - taken from the Internet, used without permission
This would be the point where the pictures start to get a little unsettling in subject matter so, again, consider yourself warned.
A cooked turkey wishbone with dried blood - casa Tinweasel
A burned corpse in a military vehicle - taken from the Internet, used without permission
A live human brain infested with housefly maggots - taken from Snopes.com, used without permission
If the owners/original photographers of any of these "material reference" images would prefer me not to have a particular picture posted, let me know and I will certainly take it down.
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