Private Coaching with Bill Bruce

This weeked I had a 2 Day Private Coaching with Bill Bruce. He had originally contacted me asking if I was going to be holding another Beginner's Painting Class in his area. He had heard about the first one and was keen to attend. When he found out that the next one wouldn't be till 2018 he asked about a private lesson. 

He explained that he was brand new to miniature painting but had an art background. He wanted to learn the fundamentals to get started. So I booked him in as my last 2 Day Private Coaching for 2017. 

Below are examples of Bill's work that he sent to me in our email exchange. 

Since he was practicing painting on board game models, I decided we would work on the Dark Sword Shaman model. She is a small model with a few nice details and would be about the size of a lot of models at home. 

I usually start off Private Coachings by introducing Color Theory, as you can't really progress in your painting without understanding the basics. Since Bill had a background in art, we were able to largely skip over this and instead move right into technique. As we have summer approaching in Australia, I taught him glazing since a wet palette is necessary for painting once it warms up here. 

I explained the reasons why glazing is an important technique and some of the finer points of applying it. Then let Bill to work on his own for a bit, applying basecoat colors to his model. Instead of using game range paints, he threw himself in the deep end and used my limited palette of Artist Acrylics for the weekend. That meant he had to think about color theory and how to mix various colors. Due to his art background, I was able to explain how to mix to get certain results and he quickly understood.  

Bill's first time glazing! He did a really good job for a first try at this technique which can be a bit fiddly.

Bill's first time glazing! He did a really good job for a first try at this technique which can be a bit fiddly.

After lunch, we revisited glazing and I helped him troubleshoot the technique. We also discussed how to apply shadows and highlights. Again, I left him to his own devices for a bit to give shading a try. He wasn't sure if he had shaded dark enough so I taught him the Camera Trick for checking contrast. He realized after trying it that he needed to make his shadows even darker. I explained why that was the case and let him take another crack at it. 
Then we moved onto highlighting for a little bit before breaking for the night. 

Where we got the first night! 

Where we got the first night! 

The second day, Bill started back on highlights to see if he could bring his contrast up. Then we moved onto a bit of discussion about the artists I recommend following as well as any blogs and videos I think would be helpful. I also recommended he get on Pinterest and Instagram. Pinterest is great for finding reference art and inspiration for pieces. Instagram is great because you can follow the work of many artists without needing to be on their Facebook feed. It is an excellent tool. 

We also discussed the differences between using True Metallics and Non-Metallics, how to use inks with your painting, the varied uses of an airbrush, and the properties of different sculpting putties. He also realized the importance of a larger palette as he ran out of room on his. I let him use my extra palette and explained how to build one on his own. 

Bill's background is in digital art so he asked a question that tickled me a bit, "I am used to being able to experiment and then just delete a layer or click my Undo Button. How do you handle when you make mistakes?" 

I told him that you will always make mistakes and you will learn from them. You never stop making mistakes. It is an important part of your process to learn how to mix paints, how to apply your colors to your model and what works for you. 

He said he is afraid of making mistakes. I told him not to be because you can never ruin a model unless you melt it or break it into pieces. Otherwise, you can always paint over your mistakes or strip the paint off. 

At the close of the second day, he had a model that was a huge leap forward compared to the "Before" pictures he sent me when he booked the Private Coaching. I am very proud of his progress he made over the weekend and the effort he put into it. I can't wait to see what he does with a couple months of practice under his belt. 


Private Coaching with Nathan and Katie

Day 1

This past weekend I held a 2 day private coaching with a very lovely painting couple: Nathan and Katie! Nathan has been painting for a couple of years, primarily with a focus of painting to play. He has wanted to get his dudemans painted up for the various games he plays. Katie, his partner, was introduced to toy soldiers through Nathan and has recently taken up miniature painting as a hobby. Both of them are focusing on learning more advanced techniques in order to elevate the quality of their painting so they can enter into painting competitions. 

With that in mind, they arrived at 8:40am on Saturday morning after driving in from Canberra. I advised them to get to the studio a few minutes early so they could meet the dogs, who must be friends with everyone, and have a cup of tea and relax a bit before diving right in. 

Once tea was consumed and puppy cuddles were had, we went into the studio and prepped the Random Encounter Dwarf from FeR Miniatures. We went over some basics for cleaning plastic and resin models as well as the appropriate safety gear to wear during prep. Once all of our models were cleaned and glued together we went over priming basics including how to not over prime and what zenithal priming is.

At this point I asked them to think of the setting they want to paint their model in as that will help determine their lighting. They both chose campfire light coming from in front of the model's right foot. So they sprayed their white primer from that angle. I primed mine with the idea that the sun would be at a 2 o'clock angle really highlighting the face. 

When everyone was finished priming, I did a quick run down of color theory, contrast and value with them. Since both Nathan and Katie have been exposed to other forms of art, they both nailed the color theory pretty quickly. We did stop a couple of times for some exercises in color mixing.

We started by discussing contrast and value (the relative lightness and darkness of colors) and I had them create value scales on paper with Jo Sonja and Schminke paints. 

Once they played around with their value scales, we jumped back into color theory and specifically concentrated on how you can mix neutrals and skintones using complementary colors on the color wheel. I then had them do some mixing using only the basics with Jo Sonja and Schminke colors. Both of them had a great time with the mixing exercises and enjoyed the limited palette so much, they continued with only 8 colors when they moved onto their dwarf. This meant they had to mix every color they wanted to use. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm! 

Once they played around with mixing it was time to start on the model. I explained and demonstrated glazing techniques and explained how to apply your basecoat to zenithal primer so you can still get the benefit of the light and dark primers roughing in your lighting. 

Once they did the basecoating the rest of the day was spent on getting the shading done. Both of them chose the same story for their dwarf:

He has been walking all day on his adventure and night has fallen. He was starting to set up camp and lighting a fire, when he hears a noise and draws his kukri. 

That means night has fallen with moonlight shining while he faces the fire. So not only did we have to go really dark to simulate the night but then we had to think about the two different light sources. This is a TOUGH atmosphere to paint for more advanced painters, so for those more on the beginner's end of the spectrum this is super tricky. Again, totally impressed with their drive and enthusiasm. When I told them it was a tough scheme, they said, "Well, we might as well make the most of this lesson!" 

The photo above is where we ended on Day 1. They had roughed all of their shadows in and were very tired at the end of the day. Most people don't realize how much stamina it takes to be able to paint all day. Most people who paint for a hobby, only get a couple of hours every few days as opposed to people like myself who will sit down and paint for 6 hours at a time. Or more.


Day 2

We started the second day with some discussion in the morning first. We talked a little bit about how to look at skintone and break down the colors present in the skin. This is something most people struggle with as it is very complex. They also asked me about transporting models after seeing my Laser Shark Design's Hobby Transporter. I never leave it behind when I travel with models. 

Then it was on to painting! I went over glazing again and then painted in some darker shadows on both of their models so they could see how to achieve the the right level of contrast. Most people are a bit timid with how dark and light to go. I find that if they see me smash a dark shadow or bright highlight on their model, the light bulb tends to go off. 

They worked on smoothing out some of their transitions between base color and shadow and then we started sketching in the firelight and the moonlight. It took most of the day to get the highlights in before Nathan and Katie hit their exhaustion wall. Once the end of the day rolled around, we closed up palettes and discussed their progress they made over the weekend. They seemed to really enjoy themselves and they said they were really inspired to paint their future projects. 

I couldn't be more pleased with them! They were excellent students, not being afraid to ask for help when they needed it. And they were very cute together as they were painting. They were excellent company in the studio as well and were very inquisitive. We discussed everything from painting and how I got into it, why I recommend people not trying to turn their hobby into commissions, and how I came to be in Australia. We also discussed painting competitions and how Mark and I have been involved in CanCon with Crystal Dragon. 

I think they also fell in love with my dogs as Katie kept asking if they could get a Westie. It was a solid weekend all around. I look forward to helping them in the future when they are ready to level up again! 

Atmosphere with David Higgins

This was my third or fourth Private Coaching with David Higgins as he's taken several private classes with me before and he has been competing in the Crystal Dragon competition I run in Australia so I am very familiar with his work. The feedback we had given him in January at Crystal Dragon was that he really needed to work on creating a link between his model and his base. He had been painting his model in a vacuum and then creating a base later on for it. Which made for disjointed compositions. 

Since I was already familiar with his work, we only needed to discuss a few things before the private lesson. The first was we had to decide on a model. He decided on the Random Encounter Dwarf from FeR Miniatures . This is a model I love to use with students because he is well sculpted but very simple. This allows the student to focus on technique and color choices and end up with a beautiful model at the end of the weekend. 

Once we had the model chosen I asked him to complete the first step of determining his atmosphere: create a story. If we don't have a narrative to work with prior to painting, we can't nail down the atmosphere to paint in. 

He chose a night time tavern scene for his dwarf. His story is that his dwarf is walking into a tavern at night and met by some warm fire glow from torches and fireplaces. As he walks in he draws his kukri because he finds a bar brawl in progress. 

Okay! Great story. It is simple and gives us all of the information we need to incorporate atmosphere. I then told him to build a base and come to the coaching with his model and base constructed. 

This is what David brought to the Private Coaching

Once David arrived we ran through some quick color theory so I could get a feel for where his understanding was. I found that he has a good foundation for color theory which is really necessary to be able to complete atmosphere. 

Then we nailed down his color scheme and started applying colors to his model. We really worked on getting the fireglow sketched in early on. 

I encouraged him to keep a simple and limited palette in terms of his color choice. He primarily focused on the tunic, cloak and feet while at the Private Coaching and in a few hours of work this is what he had. 

I think David was surprised at how simple the approach to atmosphere is, if you have a strong understanding of color theory. This was my reaction when I learned Atmosphere from Roman Lappat. He simplified it and reduced a whole bunch of explanation to once sentence and it clicked in my mind. I was pleased with David's results after an afternoon of painting. I hope to see more atmosphere in his future works.