Sunday, August 16, 2009

Anatomy, the continual learning process.....

One of the most important aspects of sculpting is anatomy and I am always studying it. Anatomy is not something you ever can completely learn. There are no books or courses you can read or take and viola! you've learnt anatomy! (Don't get me wrong school is always a better option than self teaching, but everyone continues to learn after school as well).My philosophy is that anatomy is a continuing study, that as an artist, I strive to keep learning.

One of the best series of books for anatomy is Burne Hogarths's series of books on anatomy. I have all of these in my reference library and they are invaluable. Part of the reason for this is the way in which the drawings are illustrated. Most of the muscle groups are broken down into thier base shapes, which lends itself to sculpting because the shapes are the same that you would form the putty to sculpt them. His drawings give clear definitions of the muscle groups without being confusing like other more technical medical anatomy reference.

Burne Hogath's Dynamic Anatomy
Copyright ©2003, By Burne Hogarth Dynamic Worlwide Media LLC.

Throughout this post there are a few samples from his book Dynamic Figure Drawing. Each muscle group is first shown as a shape which helps you visualize the individual muscle. The drawings are clear and easy to read and naturally relate to sculpting.

What I like about these books is how clear they are. When I first started sculpting I was using medical anatomy drawings and while they were very precise, I found them very confusing and difficult to interpret. I was lost until another sculptor Jeff Grace showed me these books, and I am grateful.

So if you are having problems with anatomy here is a good place to start.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Industry Interview-Professional Painter Vesa Mäkelä

As promised earlier, here is an interview with a professional painter Vesa Mäkelä. Vesa is a relatively new face in the painting scene and does work for Pulp City Miniatures and his obvious talent will ensure that he will see much more success in the future.

"Pulp City:Chronin"

Vesa has also generously volunteered to paint a figure for the winner of my contest to keep as part of the first prize!

Since Vesa is a painter I thought many of you would enjoy some insight into how a professional painter operates. Sculpting and painting are two essential skills in today's hobby whether it be in fixing separate parts, converting or customizing mini's, or making that great base for a diorama.

"Defiance: a diorama using Corvus Belli Cutter and Billie and Alyx minis from Hasslefree"

Enough Rambling Here is the interview:

JVS:Briefly describe your background in miniatures and gaming, and of course painting.

VM:I’ve been painting minis for about six years now with a few longer breaks and many months away from the hobby but for the last two years I’ve been painting pretty actively and trying to improve my techniques and style. I am not much into gaming anymore but oddly enough, I still love to paint playable skirmish groups for visually intriguing games.

JVS:Do you have any official training or experience in fine arts?

VM:I have done some fine art studies mostly traditional painting and drawing.

JVS:When did you paint your first miniature? What was it?

VM:I painted my first miniature in the late autumn of 2003. I happened to find a box of plastic citadel dwarfs from a local book store. I built and painted four of them and started to wonder why they didn’t look anything like the picture in the box. Then I learned about undercoating and GW paints…

JVS:How and why did you make the transition from painted as a hobby to being a professional painter?

VM:I first got an opportunity to paint a group of minis to get some old Rogue Trader era Citadel figures as a reward and as a passionate collector of RT minis I of course pounced on the chance. Then I slowly started to get more commission offers from collectors and gamers and moved to doing commercial painting as a logical step.

"Pulp City: Tangent"

JVS:How did you learn and improve your craft? What tips, tutorials, or books did you use?

VM:I’ve never had tutorials next to me when painting but I’m sure I’ve learned many things from them. Studying master painters techniques from the pictures of their works have always been important to me. Some of the feedback I’ve received over years on a Finnish miniature forum have also been a major source for encouragement.

JVS:How much time on average does it take you to paint a miniature from start to finish?

VM:If the figure is very simple and I’m doing a basic paintjob I probably can finish it in one sitting with no rush, if the mini has a lot of tiny details and different types of surfaces it should take a day or few. It is very hard to say any average without defining the level of painting.

JVS:What would you say is your specialty?

VM:I would like to think that my specialty is the placing of light and shadow which I use to imitate the directional lighting. I also like to strengthen this effect with strong contrast by using complementary colours. It’s an old technique but I aim to use it expressively to learn how to create almost impressionistic effect on a three dimensional object.

JVS:What has been your greatest challenge with regards to painting miniatures?

VM:There are many things I could put my finger on but I think the greatest challenge was the full wood elf army commission that I did last year. Painting a whole army on a such a high level in two months was very tough but I learned a lot during that time and it especially added a nice bit of dexterity to my blending/layering technique.

"Pulp City: Sister Bedlam"

JVS:What type and brand of paints do you prefer?

VM:Vallejo Model Colour range of acrylic paints is definitely my favourite, the drop-tip bottles fit perfectly with the use of a wet palette and the wide range of different hues is very inclusive. I actually painted my very first minis, the dwarfs I mentioned before, with VMC paints! After that I immediately moved to official GW paints and during last couple years, ironically enough, Vallejo started to conquer my painting table back.

JVS:What type of brushes do you use?

VM:I use EM-4 Kolinsky brushes sizes 1, 2 and 3. When I paint larger surfaces I tend to use some cheaper Schubert model brushes because they hold more paint and withstand my violent brush handling habit better. I also have a mystic sealed W&N Series 7 size 2 brush which I preserve for extreme emergency.

JVS:Are there any other tools you use?

VM:When painting I have Tamiya tweezers in my reach just in case if I need to remove a dust fibre from the mini. I also have needle to open clogged paint bottles and something to smooth sludgy paints.

JVS:What type of thinner do you use?

VM:To thin paint I just use tap water, it’s nothing fancy but works well. Some time ago, I used Vallejo glaze medium for glaze to prevent the puddles created by surface tension but now I use more brush control, precise thinning and drier brush when glazing.

JVS:How important is basing to the process of painting a miniature?

VM:For me basing is very important. When I decide to paint a mini I first start to think what type of base the character needs. The base tells a story and the mini tells a story and when these two are well combined with attention and care every finished miniature is like a small diorama.

"Yu Jing Mech-engineer from Corvus Belli"

JVS:Do you use sculpting techniques in your work? If so briefly describe them?

VM:I haven’t combined much sculpting with my painted works yet but nevertheless I’m practicing sculpting and have entered my sculpts in few competitions. My aim is to develop my sculpting skills and combine them with painting to be able to realize some personal ideas in a miniature form.

JVS:How important is photography in your work?

VM:For me the photography is the most important way to share my work with the wider audience, it’s also my primary way to receive people’s thoughts about my works.

JVS:Briefly, describe the process from start to finish that takes place when a company commissions you to paint a miniature?

VM:It’s very complicated so I thought I should make a little comic to explain how it happens!

To see more of Ves'a amazing work visit his blog "Static Painting" HERE.

"the dragon is from Ultraforge and the rider from the Asmodee's Hell Dorado range, Karl Franz on a griffon is from Citadel"

Thanks again Vesa, for the great interview and for volunteering to paint the grand prize winning figure!

My next insider interview will be a in depth look at what goes into creating and managing your own gaming company when I chat with Maciej Zylewicz, the owner and operator of Puly City!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Rafm

Hi everyone,

Sorry about the long delay between blogs, normally it is hard for me to find time to blog but the summer is especially busy for a sculptor. All the major trade shows means every client you have wants all their figures before the convention season.

I just thought I'd post photos of this Cultist Leader I did for Rafm. I thought it would be good to post photos of the greens and the metal version. I always like to see a figure in metal because it really looks quite different from a green. You lose most of the scratches and dents, and seeing a miniature without the colour variation that a green has gives it a whole new look.

You'll notice some slight differences between the metal and green. I tweaked her face slightly, fixing it up and filling it out. The spell effect is available as a limited edition so you can get the figure with or without the skull.

Here is a link to the Rafm site to find out more.

I will soon have my first behind the scenes game manufacturer interview I did with the owner of Pulp City up so stay tuned for that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Sculpting Tutorial

Miniature Mentor has released the tutorial I filmed with them and it is now available for download. Basically in this tutorial I sculpt this figure from the ground up.

In the tutorial I start from a metal armature and progress through each stage including underpinning and musculature, clothing, equipment, hair, face, and hands. Throughout is a running commentary describing each step. Don't let the title or description "sculpting with green stuff" fool you. The techniques can be used for any type of putty and I use the same for procreate, brown stuff, and fimo.

The figure is also available through RAFM here so you can actually purchase the figure and have it in hand as a reference when you are viewing the tutorial.

Visit the Miniature Mentor site here to get the tutorial, just scroll down the list until you see my name and the figure.

Below is the excerpt from the miniature mentor site describing the tutorial:

"Miniature Sculpting with James Van Schaik is the ultimate guide to sculpting 32mm miniatures using Green Stuff. Learn from an industry veteran as he takes you through all the steps required to build this Anime Girl.

Miniature Mentor's Secrets of the Brotherhood series takes you inside the hidden art of miniature sculpting. Learn it all in this massive 6 HOUR tutorial. James covers every aspect of the creation of this mini from building the armature, to laying down the under-pinning to building up the muscle masses to finishing and detailing the face, hands, pouch, shorts and blouse."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Pulp City Figure

Here is the latest press release of the first figure I did for Pulp City. I posted the painted version and the brown. I really love the paint job they did for her. Here you can see three generations of a character. The first is the concept art I got from Pulp Monsters, the photos of the brown I sent them for approval, and then the final painted version they are using to market the figure. To learn more about Pulp City Hero's visit their site here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chainmail Part 2

Well I finally got the chailmail photos done to update the chainmail tutorial. i had shot some photos last week but I accidentally erased them so i had to redo (just keep in mind I was a little rushed) them so here they are:

Step 1: Add the putty to the figure and smooth it out with a clay shaper.

Step 2: Add any contours BEFORE you cut the lines in. Use a round tipped clay shaper.

Step 3: Cut your lines or "grid" into the putty. If you want finer mail make the lines closer together, if you want large rings make them further apart.

Step 4: Add the rings by using a pin tool and poking holes side by side down each row. Insert your tool into the putty and rotate it outwards in a circular motion (be very careful!). Stagger or offset the rows to get the "weaved" look.

DONE! This is what it should look like (although this is a real rush job so I ended up pulling it off!)

Try it out on your own and experiment. You may run into other difficulties and if you need any help or have any questions feel free to comment and I'll help if I can. You can check out the previous chainmail tutorial here, it may help explain things as it has diagrams.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Update on Pulp City Stuff

Hi everyone

Here is some stuff I did for Pulp monsters. I had been meaning to get around to posting these awhile ago.

The first one is called Trail for a nice painted shot and his background go here, I had fun with the cape on this guy because it kinda reminded me of Spawn, it was challenging because I had to make it one piece so it would mold.

This guy is called Dead Eye and you can find out more about him here. Being a football fan I really enjoyed this one. I tried to get them to let me put a Steelers logo on him but they wouldn't let me :(. He really reminded me of bloodbowl.

This guy here is called Rook, check out the awesome paint job and background here
I used a mix of Brown Stuff and procreate on these. I like using the brown on armoured pieces so I can scrape it after it dries with a scalpel to get really sharp, clean edges. Maciej at Pulp Monsters uses RTV molds for casting his masters so I can use procreate without worrying about them blowing up during vulcanizing.

Check Back later today or Monday for an update on the Chainmail tutorial. I am doing a figure with chainmail so I will photograph the process and add them to the blog.

Friday, May 1, 2009

New Sculpting Tutorial

Hi everyone,

It's been awhile since my last post but what can I say, sometimes it is hard for me to find the time to update my blog. Thanks to all of you who have been patient.

I've been really busy lately sculpting for many different companies, soon you should see some of the fruits of that labour. I also was busy filming a sculpting tutorial with Miniature Mentor which I'm really excited about. For those of you who aren't familiar with Miniature Mentor here is a link to their site, check it out they do great painting tutorials.

The work I did with them is basically a tutorial where they filmed me sculpting a figure from the ground up. It is shot in amazing Hi Def and I provide a running commentary explaining each step as we proceed. I was amazed at the detail they managed to capture in the film, you can see every nook and cranny with amazing clarity.

The great part about it for me was that I got to sculpt whatever I wanted for a change.

Here is some photos of the figure I sculpted during the tutorial which will be available from Rafm later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mary Statue

Hi Everyone,

I got the first prototype for the Mary statue in. Here are some photos of the finished product:

If you are interested in getting a copy email me. They are available finished like in the photos above or bare metal for those of you who want to paint it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sculpting Chainmail Tutorial

It's been awhile since I posted a tutorial so I thought I'd do a quick post on sculpting chain mail. The following is an excerpt from my "Basic Sculpting" textbook I wrote awhile back for some sculpting lessons. It has been edited slightly from it's original version.

Step 1

Take some putty about 1mm thick and roughly the same size as the area to be covered, flatten it between your fingers and apply it to the area by gently pushing it onto the figure.

Step 2

Smooth out the putty making an even surface using your sculpting tool and clay shaper. Be sure there are no air bubble’s or seam lines and that the putty is thick enough. If there are any areas showing through you must pinch off a small amount of putty and apply it to the surface.

Step 3

There would normally be a slight hollow under the pectoral muscles. Add this contour by gently running your tipped clayshaper underneath these muscles. You want to create a smooth hollow.

Step 4

Now add the surface details. Start by taking your exacto blade and faintly cutting a grid pattern of horizontal lines about 2mm apart down the area until you cover it. This is your rows of rings.

Now you need to add the rings. Take your pin tool and gently poke holes along each grid line. Continue filling each row with rings until you have completely filled the entire area.

More Reaper

Here is a piece I did for Reaper.I based him after the outlaw Josey Whales.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Reaper Stuff

I have been doing some stuff for Reaper, here are some photo's of A ghast figure: