The end of 2016 culminated in a three month long tour through Europe. For the most part, I was teaching others but I did set aside one week while I was in Germany to spend some time with the crew from Massive Voodoo.
For those who don't know, Massive Voodoo was started by Roman Lappat about 10 years ago. He later brought on Sculptor and Painter, Raffaele Picca. They are the front men for Massive Voodoo creating blog content, teaching classes and taking on commission work. If you don't already follow their blog and FB page, I highly recommend doing so. The content they put out is inspiring for any painter out there.
Roman and Raffa both teach Private Coachings at their studio in Augsburg. While I stayed there, they made sure to recommend many yummy foods and things to see. It is a gorgeous city. Definitely check out the Golden Hall (their Town Hall). It is massive and all decorated in the Baroque style.
Back to the class time . . .
I booked 2 days with Roman to cover Atmosphere. I felt like my painting had stalled out after doing my time at Privateer Press as a studio painter. While working for them, I got to focus on my technique and painting for print work but that's a very different approach than painting for "art". I had lost my way a bit and hoped that Roman would help inspire me and guide me through the murky haze I'd found myself trying to wade through.
When I first booked my time with Roman, he was very curious what it would be like to teach a Teacher! He kept wondering how it was going to go. I think I surprised him a few times. We first sat down and had a tea and discussion about background and painting philosophies. When he realized that we were very similar in our thought processes, he then embarked down the road of discussing Atmosphere.
So, what is Atmosphere? I'm sure some of you are sitting there scratching your heads. Atmosphere is including the color of your light source and your environment in your artwork.
Let's look at a couple of examples of stills from Lord of the Rings. We can see with these three examples side by side that there are predominant colors to set the mood and tone of the scene. This is atmosphere. At the Council of Elrond on the far left, the tone is a very serene sort of grey-brown tone. It's not menacing but it's not joyous. It's slightly tense but mostly neutral in tone (a word we use to describe brown and grey is neutral because it doesn't provide us with strong emotion either way).
Bilbo running through Hobbiton is a scene bursting with frantic and excited energy. The tones are mainly green and yellow to indicate an upbeat and boisterous feeling.
In the Mines of Moria the scene is tense, the Fellowship is waiting for the horde of Orcs, Goblins and Trolls to break down the door and annihilate them! It's a serious part of the movie. The grey blue light in the image helps to convey that feeling. They are cold, they are alone and they are pitted against the evil hordes of Sauron.
Everything I described above, I totally understood the concept of before my visit with Roman. I understood the color theory and color psychology part. What I struggled with, was how do I incorporate that into my mini. Where do I put these colors? On the base? Directly on the mini? But what if I want a red skirt on a model in a cool scene?! HOW DO I DO THAT?!
What Roman explained to me was simple. Essentially, I realized I was thinking TOO MUCH about the process and not just doing. The KISS principle totally needed to be applied and I wasn't doing it. (KISS Principle is Keep It Simple, Stupid!).
Once he explained how to tackle atmosphere - using some very nicely drawn PowerPoint slides - he then set me to a task. He broke out a photo of a wolf and a piece of paper that had a line drawing of that very wolf. "I want you to paint the colors you see. I need to understand what level you are," Roman said.
Roman gave me about 15-20 minutes to reproduce the wolf as I saw him. It felt like being back at art school. I loved this sort of work and Roman pointed out that I was really happy when I talked about my time in art school and then when he gave me tasks like this. And he was right. I miss art school so much and would like to finish my art degree some day. At the very least, I need to start drawing and doing 2D painting again as well. Something I want to get back into this year. That is my goal for 2017!
Anyway, back to the wolf. This is the result of my effort.
Roman watched the evolution of this painting the entire time. Not like a hawk over my shoulder but he kept checking back to see how I was going. He gave me the thumbs up and said it was great and that he wasn't worried about my understanding of how to read color I observe. So, we went back over to the couch and discussed more about Atmosphere. He pulled out photos this time of different examples of atmoshpere and he wanted me to choose one. The idea was, that whatever environmental colors you were seeing in the image, you had to then apply to the wolf. He pulled out the hardest examples he had and put them off to the side. I immediately grabbed one of them because it's one of my favorite pieces of art. Then I set about applying it to my wolf.
Pretty pleased with myself after completing this task I was eager to apply it to a model! Roman and I had decided weeks before that we would paint Spira Miribalis's Garfio Pirate Bust together. He asked what I had in mind for my atmosphere. I explained that I wanted to keep on trying the hard stuff. No reason to be pussy-footing around, it's balls to the wall! YEAH, BABY!
I told him my idea is that Garfio has found a treasure chest and is carrying it back to the ship while one of his crewman holds a torch over his shoulder. I showed him where I wanted the torchlight placed and we discussed how to tackle it. And then . . . we were OFF!
I should have stated earlier - it probably seemed like the beginning with the Wolf Painting exercise like that would take a day, right? We did that in a couple of hours. It went so quickly because I already had a good understanding of what was meant to be happening, it was really just applying the technical aspect with some guidance that I needed. Roman even remarked on how quickly I got through painting sections.
We started by applying my environment color -blue for the night time - to every single color on the model as a basecoat. Then for the Orange torchlight, we added orange directly into the colors I'd mixed for my basecoat. This meant at the outset, my pirate totally looked like a troll. I was a bit unsure, because it's not how I typically work, but I trusted in my Jedi Painting Master. I did exactly as he instructed.
Through the rest of the two days Roman kept asking if I had any questions. He said he's used to students asking a lot more questions but he'd give me a set of instructions and I would sit and do as he said. I suspect it's because we think similarly and teach similarly so my understanding of what he was directing me to do was clear. If I had a question, I asked. I mean, that's why you pay for lessons! To ask as many questions as you can fit into the time you've got!
Roman also remarked on my speed. He would tell me when he was about to go on break or apply a layer of AK Interactive Ultra Matte to his model. That's when I'd hand him mine and ask for a hit of the Matte finish as well and he'd take a look and realize I was keeping up with him. I think this was a first for him. Between his clear instructions, my understanding of atmosphere and my color theory, I was able to get a lot done on this guy. Garfio is almost complete. I just have his hat and little mouse companion to paint and he will be finished.
I got more than I could have hoped for from this lesson with Roman. I didn't really know Roman previously. I mean, all the professionals out there seem to be connected on social media and we know "of" each other without really "knowing" each other. I had met him, Raffa and the gang at Scale Model Challenge a few weeks before and had a chance to chat with him a bit then. But we didn't really get to sit down and talk and get to know each other until I was in Augsburg.
I left the studio feeling exhilirated! I got my motivation back and I'm really looking forward to digging into painting over the next year. I want to get back to painting for myself and advancing my own craft instead of continuing to produce "clean" models. I want to get more story, more life, into my pieces and I can't wait to try my hand at it. I'm sure I will fail a few times along the way but that's how you learn.
I also feel like I've made a life long friend. The welcome from everyone I met, but particularly Roman, Raffa, Phil, Roman Gruba and his wife, they are amazing artists and the nicest of people. I get warm fuzzies thinking about the awesome times we had together while I was in Augsburg or when we were able to visit at Scale Model Challenge and Monte San Savino. I had an amazing time with them.
If you will be in Germany and want to take lessons, hit up Roman and Raffa. If you live elsewhere in the world and would like to take lessons with either of them but know you won't be going to Germany any time soon - contact them. They do what I do, accept requests to go teach all over the world. It never hurts to ask!