Call of Cthulhu - The "Mad" Doctor

Edit: Updated with color recipes used!

 It's been a little while since I finished the figure and got approval from the client to keep on trucking, but real life has intervened and thus a lagging blog post. I'd like to think it was worth the wait, though, as I've got hi-res pics and there's a few areas that I think turned out very well that I was to touch on.

 For starters, this figure is part of an investigators of the unknown set (exact product/part # unknown) released by RAFM specifically for Call of Cthulhu. He looks to me like a doctor with a kit bag and a vague air of professionalism - in reality, the figure struck me as extremely creepy and representative of the religious cult leader from Poltergeist II, so that's what I rolled with in the final presentation.

 I was aiming for a paler "realistic" skin tone than I've used in the past, and made specific effort to accentuate the shading in places like the hollows of the cheeks and around the eyes - in reality, some of this was a "trompe l'oeil" effect on my part, as the sculpting was a little misshapen and the left and right sides of his face actually don't match up well. Anyhow, from extreme shadow I went through 6-7 color progressions to almost a near white for the facial highlights on the bridge of his nose, his upper cheekbones, and the pate of his skull as I really wanted to accentuate a somewhat skeletal appearance.

 The blacks I used in the figure are two different shades, having used cool colors for his suit from a cold grey-black worked up to highlights of pure neutral grey and Vallejo Model Color Deck Tan worked in (I love this color!), with pure black shading; and for his hat and shoes, and wanting to make the hat somewhat of a warmer color to draw attention up to his face, I went from pure black straight to highlights with Games Workshop Graveyard Earth worked in and Graveyard Earth/Deck Tan for final highlights.

I really like the way the stone turned out, and despite the appearance in pictures, there's not a single element of grey at all!

Edit: Color recipes!

The "Mad" Doctor's Skin Tones
 As mentioned in my previous post, I approached skin tones on this figure differently than I have in the past, mostly for the sake of trying something new. I've had the Reaper Master Series Bright Skin triad set for some time, but never used them outright, so there's that. I also have had some untried recipes for flesh color progressions thanks to Keith Robertson of Forge World/Games Workshop fame and an old printed article from Mike McVey's painting site (Raven Priest Assembly and Painting - Pt. 2). I took the Reaper paint set, combined the two recipes with some tweaks for an older, paler-looking flesh tone, and went to work!
  1.  To start with, I painted all the skin areas using several thinned coats of Games Workshop Tallarn Flesh, although really any dark neutral tanned flesh color would do.

  2.  I applied shading with a mixture of Tallarn Flesh and Vallejo Model Air Dark Green, being careful to only apply this to areas where shadow would naturally fall - on the face I painted this color in the eye sockets, from the below the cheekbones down, under the nose and lips, and the entirety of his neck.

  3.  I added a deep blue to the shade mixture, in my case Vallejo Model Air Intermediate Blue (or an equivalent royal blue) and painted this onto any deeply recessed shade areas - on his face I worked this into the tops of his eye sockets, directly under the cheekbones, beneath where his hairline met skin, and the neck recessed within his collar.

  4.  I began the highlighting and defining process with slightly thinned Reaper Bright Skin color, essentially working over any skin areas untouched by shading and taking care to draw the color upward with my brush to the above-lit areas I was trying to represent.

  5.  For the next highlight step used thinned Reaper Bright Skin Highlight color, accentuating everything from roughly a 45° angle upwards, making sure coverage on his bald pate was good, as well as touching up his lower lip and eyelids slightly.

  6.  For the next highlight step, I added pure white to the Reaper Bright Skin Highlight paint previous and accentuated everything visible from roughly a 75° angle upwards, again making sure coverage on the upper surfaces of his bald pate were nicely transitioned, as well as focusing on areas like the bridge of his nose, his upper cheekbones, hints of color on his earlobes, and the sinews of his hands.

  7.  Finally, I went back with thinned pure white for the final highlights, applying them minimally to areas where I wanted to draw attention as well as play up his somewhat skeletal appearance - the vertical lines at both temples, the bridge of his nose, and the very top of his bare pate.

  8.  I did need to go back and smooth out some of the transition of the facial shading so for that I went back in with a 1:1 mixture of Vallejo Model Color Russian Uniform (great color, btw!) and the basic Reaper Master Series Bright Skin color thinned so as to more smoothly transition the lighter color of the jaw evenly on both side of his face into the shadow under his cheekbones (did I mention that the face seems unevenly sculpted on both sides? Oh well, that's why this one's a classic!)

The Stone Base
 This is actually one of my old color recipes that I tweaked slightly for this model, as I wanted the stone to be less"warm-looking" so as not to detract from the cooler palette of the rest of the figure.
  1.  To start, I applied a basecoat mixture I've had for ages (Games Workshop Chaos Black and Snakebite Leather mixed - only this is the Snakebite from the early 90's color range that was a dark brown) - you can use any neutral dark brown, but a good equivalent would be the P3 Battlefield Brown color - just make sure you have good coverage over any areas you want to look like stone.

  2.  Next, I heavily stippled slightly thinned Battlefield Brown all over the stones - the trick when I'm stippling or drybrushing is that I thin my paints about 1:4, so that when I wipe away most of the liquid out of my loaded brush, I never have to worry about it laying on too thick or dark, because it was already somewhat diluted at the outset - this makes for an excellent "dust" effect on figures using different colors, by the way.

  3.  Trying to avoid any warmer colors in the paving stone basing, I next lightly stippled thinned Vallejo Game Color Khaki over all the stone, but with greater attention paid to upper areas.

  4.  The first actual highlighting I did was with (again) a thinned color - this time Vallejo Model Color Deck Tan, which is an excellent light cool beige-grey. I drybrushed this color primarily on edges using a squared-off Filbert synthetic brush - I like the brush shape (think tongue-depressor roundness) as it allows me to drag mostly along sharp edges, and I like synthetic bristles for drybrushing as it chews up natural hair brushes like nobody's business.

  5.  The final highlighting on the base was more drybrushing with a thinned pure white color, being very careful to only apply it to edges and raised stone edges on the base with very careful dragging.

  6.  The very last step on the base was a wash of a mixture I've had for ages - 3 parts Brown (or Sepia) Ink, 1 part golden yellow paint, and 1 part mid-range green all mixed together and painted more or less once over all the stone and then primarily into the crevices to darken things down a bit.
That's basically it for the color recipes and painting of this figure - feel free to drop me a line or post any feedback!


Call of Cthulhu Figures WIP #1

 I mentioned starting work on some Call of Cthulhu figures for a customer but haven't had a chance to make a proper painting blog post since I received the first batch. Let me remedy that:

 Above are the first two investigators I'm working on: the first one I'm picturing as some sort of 1920's playboy in a boldly colored shirt and tie, and the second as a doctor who may or may not be menacing. I've basically been given free rein by the client to paint them up however I like, and so I've been working on the doctor off and on this past week (would've started sooner, but a bad case of conjunctivitis last week made my vision blurry and the rest of me miserable)... and he's definitely leaning towards the sinister.

 Aside from basecoating and shading the skin areas a few days ago, I think the skin areas are done with highlights worked up 3 steps, the eyes painted in and eyelids cut in to shape, the dress shirt highlighted up to pure white, the vest a pale greyish-blue, and the tie (cravat?) a darker greyish-blue. From here I plan on putting him in a black suit and hat with leather accessories.

 I'm mostly following a recipe that Keith Robertson (of Games Workshop/Forgeworld fame) gave me ages ago for the skin tones he used on a 40K Ratling sniper, mixed half-and half with a skin tone progression Mike McVey posted on his blog ages and ages ago - it's not my usual selection of skin tone paint colors, but I like the results! (And thank you also, gentlemen...)


How to Deal with Burnout

 Meg Maples, of Arcane Paintworks (and formerly Privateer Press) fame just recently made an update to her blog that I think bears sharing: http://arcanepaintworks.blogspot.com/2013/11/burnout.html?m=1

 I've definitely gone through periods of burnout, for different reasons each time, but I keep getting back in the saddle and trying to keep at it. Recently I've been frustrated with work on Tsathogga, where I'm happy with how the underbelly is looking but not at all liking the rest of the skin color I've airbrushed. That, coupled with a lack of definite inspiration as to final color choice (I want it to look like a frog, after all, only more disgusting and supernatural), a lot of hours at work and stuff going on w/ family, and that I'm kind of stuck with doing more on the skin before I can work on anything else because I still have the figure masked off for airbrushing.

 As a result of all of this, I haven't done any miniature-related anything in about a month. I think I'm over that, though, having some commission pieces to work on and getting a more definite idea on how I want Tsathogga to look overall - coincidentally, both appearing around the same time - that I'm enjoying looking forward to painting these Call of Cthulhu figures I've been prepping (and believe me, prep work is my least satisfying part of the whole miniature painting hobby).

How does anyone else handle burnout from art - whether it be lack of motivation, or whatever?


Status Update

  1.  I've been working a lot of hours on the job lately and unfortunately it has left not a lot of time to post updates and work-in-progress as I'd like to - I've also been going through a little bit of a creative drought, but I'm still intent on keeping up with the blog and with painting. That brings me to...
  2.  I'm putting the painting of Tsathogga, the Frog God, on hold for a bit for several reasons: I masked off the figure and started working on the rest of the skin - I started with a dark green, thinking that I'd paint him a near-black green and apply bands and mottling of different colors and he'd look amazingly awesome and I'd be able to move on to other details of the figure... yeah, not so much; I don't think the dark green works at all, he looks way too reminiscent of "Gollum" from the old Rankin-Bass animated version of The Hobbit, and I've been racking my brain for a while now trying to think my way out of the corner I've painted myself into while suffering from a great lack of inspiration; The other day, I had inspiration and I think I know where to go from here with the colors to use and everything! But that brings me to...
  3.  I have several new commisioned paint jobs to work on at the moment! My work schedule has slackened somewhat, I'm expecting some more free time, and just when I was wondering what to do with myself and chomping at the bit to get back to spraying Tsathogga new and better colors - all of a sudden I have other figures that I have to work on for a customer instead of painting a very large, gross frog for my own enjoyment. These new figures are all very cool - a variety of investigators from RAFM's Call of Cthulhu miniature line to be painted to a high standard but for gaming use. I'll be posting updates as I get 'em and I'm working in small batches to fit within my still-somewhat-limited schedule - Tsathogga seems like the kind that can patiently wait, and after him, I believe I will be working on several Malifaux gangs.


Tsathogga, Part 2

 I've been painting away in fits and starts on Tsathogga, The Frog God - today was the first weekend day I've not had to work at all in roughly a month-and-a-half and moreso, I actually had an opportunity to get some decent work in on this guy's underbelly. (Not complaining about working per se, more about the lack of free time...) There's been a few other pics I've taken of various color stages on his underbelly and neck, but when it came right down to editing pics tonight to post something, I don't really think they showed anything worthwhile compared to this last one - essentially I went through a number of color changes, from greyish-green to pale grey to fleshy and finally, to this point which ends up being a combination of all of them!

 While I think I probably should go back and add another layer of highlighting, between how this looks photographed and the feedback I received at this season's first meeting of the Michigan Historical Miniatures Club earlier this week, I really think I ought to just push on and start adding coloration to the rest of the figure. In case my as-yet-untried airbrush masking skills crash and burn I won't have so much to redo, or more optimistically, when I get the rest of his skin tone and blotches and stripes and things blocked out I can decide how exactly to lighten up the underside a bit more - cool colors, warmer colors, more grey, and so forth.

 Feedback, as usual, is always appreciated - especially any suggestions on how to approach realistic contrast of a figure at this size (again, he's almost a good foot long from tip of his front hand to back of his hindmost foot). I'm guessing the easy answer would be to "exaggerate the highlighting and shading even moreso," but that's something I consistently struggle with, even on much smaller figures.


Tsathogga, Part 1

 Since shortly after GenCon, I've been working on a limited release casting of Tsathogga, the Frog God, from Center Stage Miniatures. This has got be one of the largest figures I've had the pleasure of painting, and definitely the largest resin casting I've ever worked on. Roughly a foot in length and molded from light grey resin, the detail on this figure is amazing - assembled from multiple parts, it surprisingly has minimal mold line issues and no bubbles in the copy I received. In all honestly, the trickiest part about assembly was pinning the arm and resculpting the gap where it meets flush with the body - other issues with the casting were fairly minor; I had to fill a few small cracks in the base near the body where the resin seems to have separated as it set, similar rough cracks in some of the deeper folds in his skin, and I had to dig out what I assume was solidified mold release agent in some of the deeper crevices on the body.

 I've made some progress in painting since this initial pre-primer pic and hope to post that shortly, but essentially I'm currently working on the figure in sections and trying to take as much advantage of the fine details already sculpted onto it as possible. I'm envisioning the underbelly as pale and sickly-looking, with blackened extremities on the upper body, pale, dead eyes, and a bright colored tongue to offset the rest of the more muted palette.

 If anyone has suggestions or tips on working with larger size figures versus the usual 1" tall scale that I'm mostly used to, by all means comment or post links. I'm trying to do this big guy as much justice as I can, since it is truly an awesome figure.


Back From the Dead! (Again!)

 It's been over a year since I last posted anything on this blog and, well, suffice it to say I wasn't exactly in the painting mood any more for a long, long while for a number of reasons. Recently, though, I've been spending time with a good group of friends who convinced me to go to GenCon with them. I found out there was a painting competition and although I had missed event registration by a long shot (I think it was July at this point) and I've been working a job that occupies roughly 6-7 days of my time on most weeks, I figgered I'd make the best of it and even see if I could crank out an entry to put in!

 In no particular order, I'd like to throw out a few "thank you's" from GenCon (albeit belatedly): to my wife, Jennifer, for lots of support and well-wishes; friends Jason, James, Will, Charlie, Paul (and Wendy!); Lyn Stahl - you rock!; Meg Maples (of Arcane Paintworks and Privateer Press fame); Drew Williams, sculptor extraordinaire; Izzy (I'm horrible with names, but you were very kind and an awesome artist!); Justin McCoy, aka 'misterjustin' of Secret Weapon Miniatures - it was great to finally meet you in person after all these years; the folks from Reaper Miniatures (Shannon Stiltz, Jen Kaufman, Martin Jones, and several more I'm sure but I suck at remembering names); and the awesome gentleman painter at the Privateer Press booth who critiqued some of my figures. If I've forgotten anyone from that crazy week, there's no offense intended - I feel I was in amongst a lot of great company; a little fish in a very large pond, as it were.

 And yes, I did finish a single figure entry, a Reaper Miniatures Wraith Harvester... mostly in the 3 days leading up to the painting competition deadline, where I got to sit at the GenCon demo tables upstairs and hobnob with greatness. My entry didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, but it made it past several of the initial cuts so there's that - I also got some good feedback on it and I'm fairly sure I know why it didn't turn out as well as I had hoped (and more importantly, how to improve on that in future). And then there's the "old school" converted Games Workshop Chaos Lord of Slaanesh that I painted several years ago and put in just for the hell of it as a second entry - oddly enough it ended up on the shelf right below the single figures that placed, which I'm to understand means in the selection process that the figure I painted up specifically for the competition was rather underwhelming compared to one I just put in as an "afterthought."

 With any luck I'll post some pictures soonish here and make this "hello again" wall of text worthwhile, but not tonight - It's late and I've got work in the morning.


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