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Completed Greco-Persian Wars 75mm

Discussion in 'vBench (Works in Progress)' started by phil_h, May 15, 2023.

  1. phil_h A Fixture

    Hello Everybody,

    Continuing along with the idea of painting all the ancient Greek figures in my gray army I've come to the second to last set of figures. It's a wonderful diorama depicting a scene in 75mm from the Greco-Persian wars of the 5th century BC from Mercury Models.

    The figures were nicely casted and aside from a few mold lines that were easily sanded away, there was very little prep needed. The figures were easy to assemble and there were no fiddly parts or connection points.

    As before the first thing done after the figures were prepared was to prime them. This was done as follows:
    • Sprayed them both down with black primer. In this case, Games Workshop's Chaos Black primer was used.
    • Once dry, I then sprayed them again, this time with white primer and at a 45 degree angle to the figure. The primer used was Games Workshop's Corax White (which is actually slighty off-white).

    With the priming done, the next step is to block in all the colors on the figures with acrylic basecoats. Although necessary to make sure the oils have a proper base with which to sit on top of, I find this step to be pretty tedious... Fortunately if done right, it's rather quick. My own thoughts on this step are:
    • Always paint things a little darker at this point then what would be the mid-tone you'd use with your oils.
    • While trying to keep things neat, I don't particularly mind if some of my colors wind up being "outside the lines". I plan on covering this all up with oils anyway, so there's no need to be precious about this.
    • I also don't get too concerned if the color I'm using for my basecoat isn't exactly matching to what I'll do with the oils. Sometimes I don't know what I'm exactly going to do, or in between the time I painted the basecoats and then got to the oils, I've changed my mind about a color. Again, (unless it's a massive change in value between the two colors), there isn't much to get concerned about.
    • I do try to keep the paint rather thin, so if it takes a layer or two (or three) to get even enough coverage it's no big deal. Although with that said, if the coverage isn't entirely even, it probably isn't a big deal - certainly nothing to get too concerned about.
    • For me, I don't like to do anything in acrylics except just a plain solid basecoat. Many like to paint highlights, shadows, do sketches, texture, etc... and then go to the oils. I prefer to do as little work as possible in acrylics, and get to the oils ASAP. Textures, etc. will all be done with oils. This of course, is highly subjective and either way is good and valid.

    The paints used for this were the same paints I used for my Spartan SBS - Liquitex acrylic gouache:

    As mentioned in my prior SBS, as far as acrylic paints go, I think these are pretty nice. When putting down these basecoats, I'm looking for two things - highly opaque coverage (less layers and work needed), and a very matte finish (better for the oils). These paints exhibit both these qualities... far more so than other paints from typical hobby brands.

    And along with the paints, here are the brushes used:

    Some take aways about the brushes (this is mostly a repeat from my last SBS):
    • 98% of all my work is done using cheap synthetic brushes. Even the freehand work done on the all the shields on the Spartan diorama was done with these. This applies to either oil or acrylic work.
    • My favorite cheap synthetic at the moment is the "Velvetouch" line from Princeton Brush Co. Raphael and Da Vinci also make nice cheap synthetic brushes.
    • Oddly enough, while probably making the most well known pure Kolinsky sable brush available (The Series 7), I don't particularly care for the various synthetic brushes that Winsor & Newton make. For some reason, after one session they're usually trashed in a way that doesn't happen with other brands. And they never keep their points.

    Here is everything basecoated:

    20230515_152953.png 20230515_153032.png

    As you can see, not everything is attached to the figure. My rule of thumb is to build out as much of the figures as I can without something getting in the way. After I get the main assembly painted, I'll then decide if I want to a) attach whatever it is I'm painting next, and then paint it, or b) paint it separately, and then attach it. Honestly, it just depends on how complex the element might be, or how many angles you need to paint it from. I hate to say it, but sometimes it's completely arbitrary...

    I apologize as much of this is just a repeat from my last SBS, so I appreciate your patience (y). Going forward, I'll probably keep the commentary for these steps to a minimum and save the yammering for the oil work.

    Thanks for reading!

  2. Nap Moderator

    Hi Phil

    A great start to this SBS .......well explained and enjoyable to read , very clean basecoating, neatly done

    Must admit I am intrigued ref using these gouache ......might give them a try

    Nice dynamic figures and they certainly look detailed and I see we have a full flowing cape as well

    Sat down waiting in anticipation for your next update and the yammering ...lol

    Have fun and enjoy the benchtime

  3. MalcC A Fixture

    Nice start. (y)

  4. TERRYSOMME1916 A Fixture

    Phil good to see another project coming from your bench straight after the Spartans, some very interesting info in this one regarding brushes and undercoating, so again following with interest.
  5. Redcap A Fixture

    Some good points and tips - thank you and nice start.
  6. phil_h A Fixture

    Hello Everybody,

    First off, gentlemen... thank you all for the very kind words :).

    So after base coating the figures with acrylics, the next place I like to start painting with is any open skin areas. In this case, it's mainly the arms and legs of the Greek figure in this set. (The Persian's face will be done further down the line).

    Let's take a look at the paints used for our skin tone:


    What we have here is:
    • Burnt Umber from Old Holland - As we all know, Old Holland makes some of the nicest oil paints around. Their Burnt Umber is really nice. I'm using this particular color as a way to keep my darker and shadow tones relatively warm.
    • Cyprus Orange from Williamsburg - Also a very high quality paint; I chose this color instead of the traditional Yellow Ochre because I wanted darker, ruddier skin tones to start with, and this color will help create a darker, warmer base tone.
    • Cobalt Blue, Titanium White and Light Red (Terra Rose) from Holbein's Vernet series of artists oils. These paints are not quite as popular and well known as the above two brands. One reason why is that they are outrageously expensive for what you get. They are however very high quality. They are much, much better paints then Holbein's regular artist oil paints which are not very good. I happened to have a few, and I'm hoping to use them all up so I can replace them with paints from the brands I really like.

    I should say this, if you're budget conscious and want to start or experiment with oils, buy cheap brushes, and with the money saved, get some high quality oil paint. In many cases, the paint will make a bigger difference than the brushes. Cheap or student grade oil paints:
    • Have far less pigments, which makes it very difficult to get nice, smooth even coverage - even if the color is supposed to be opaque. Colors that are supposed to be opaque just aren't in cheaper lines. This is something that can get very nightmarish when trying to paint a figure (much more so than a canvas).
    • To keep costs down, the pigment itself is much lower quality. Instead of real Cadmiums or Cobalts, you wind up with Cadmium or Cobalt substitutes (among others) and it's yet another reason why cheaper paints are so uneven in their coverage and other working properties.
    • Most colors available in cheaper ranges are made from mixed pigments, not single pigments. If you like to mix colors, this can get painful, because it's hard to know exactly what you're mixing, and it makes it much more harder to control your mixes. Mixes will also tend to get muddy as well.
    • Good oil paint should ideally be made with two things, a pigment, and a binder. In oil paint's case, the binder is usually linseed oil. (safflower and poppy oils are also common). Cheaper oil paints usually have fillers, solvents or other additives mixed in with the paint in order to keep costs down. (One exception to this would be Schmincke's Mussini Artists Oils. In addition to linseed oil and pigment, they also add Damar resin. These are fantastic paints.)

    Despite the above (and more) reasons for staying away from cheaper paint, I can imagine thinking, "I'm painting figures not fine art, do I really need the high quality stuff??" The honest answer is, not really. BUT, to me, the better coverage, pigment strength/quality, mixability, and brushability of higher grade oil paints make all the difference in the world. This is obviously very subjective, but if you're going to use oils, I think it's something worth thinking about.

    Here are some brands that I think are about as good as it gets, and you can never go wrong with them (in no particular order):
    • Vasari
    • Blockx (possibly my favorite on this list)
    • Williamsburg
    • Old Holland
    • Michael Harding
    • Schmincke Mussini

    OK, sorry for the digression - back to the painting :). After choosing the paints to use, here is the palette:


    The mid-tone was made by starting with Cyprus Orange, then mixing a small amount of Light Red into it, and then mixing a smaller amount of Cobalt blue into the resulting tone. Next a small amount of Burnt Umber was added which resulted in a tone a little too dark for my taste, so I then added a little bit of Titanium White to lighten the overall tone.

    Next to make the highlights, more Cyprus Orange was added into the mid-tone, and then gradually lightened with Titanium White. The shadows were made by mixing in more Cobalt Blue to the mid-tone to desaturate it, which will make it "grayer" and also darken it a little. Increasing amounts of Burnt Umber where then mixed into that to get to the deepest shadow color, which eventually resulted in a nice dark bluish-gray color.

    For those who read the Spartan SBS, the painting process will be the same. Apply a basecoat of the mid-tone over the area to be painted, the block in the highlights and smooth them out, and then block in the shadows and blend them in as well.

    Here is the first step with all the skin base coated with the mid-tone:


    The key take away here is once the paint is applied to the model, clean your brush and use it to wipe off any excess paint that was applied. I do this 2 or 3 times to each area, and afterwards, I have a very thin, even layer of oil paint with no brush marks that looks incredibly smooth.

    Next we'll block in our highlights - where to put these are determined by where I imagine the light source is coming from. In this case, the sun is shining down onto the Greek figure's top left at an almost 45 degree angle. Here they are blocked in:


    Pretty simple, just literally brush the highlight right on top of the basecoat. With the highlights in place, we next blend them into the mid-tone:


    Now with highlights in, we can block in our shadows:


    The thing to really notice here is the shadow under the right thigh; it's pretty blatant, almost obnoxious looking when not blended in. However, once blended in, due to the color and placement, it really looks like a natural shadow (at least I hope :)) :

    With the shadows now blocked in, the skin to me is what I like to think of as "Phase 1 complete". Here is photo of the figure with all the main shadows and highlights in:

    One of the things I love working with oils is that they dry slowly. I love the fact that I can take my time with putting the highlights or shadows on, blend them, move them around, change things up, and make adjustments with no rush. I can just take my time, relax, and really get things they way I want them.

    Here are the brushes used for the entire process:

    The brush on the right was used to apply the base coat and mid-tone. The brush in the middle was used to apply and block in the highlights and shadows, and the brush on the left was used to blend and smooth everything.

    Once the skin is dry, we'll be able to proceed to "phase 2" of painting the skin which consists of:
    • Painting hand and feet details
    • Color tones and nuances. I like using transparent oils to glaze various other tones to give more depth and richness to the skin. The skin at this point is fairly desaturated, and this will help fix that.
    • Any other adjustments or tweaks needed.

    If you've made it this far, thanks for reading!!

    NigelR, marco55 and Nap like this.
  7. Russ Active Member

    I've got to say that Phil - you've revolutionized the baseline for my painting! I picked up a basic set of the Liquitex acrylic gauche paints; base-coated one bust, working on another, and I'm SOLD!! (y)
    phil_h likes this.
  8. Redcap A Fixture

    Excellent photos Phil and thank you for the suggestions with the flesh mix which looks excellent. I just wish I could grasp the concept of colour theory without having to see it laid out before me..!

    Great work mate.
    phil_h likes this.
  9. Russ Active Member

    "The key take away here is once the paint is applied to the model, clean your brush and use it to wipe off any excess paint that was applied. I do this 2 or 3 times to each area, and afterwards, I have a very thin, even layer of oil paint with no brush marks that looks incredibly smooth."

    Epiphany time, of sorts. I realized, as I was reading this, that I tend to do more dry brushing of oils over the acrylic base. I still get enough on the surface to blend and so on, but the results are as subtle as I can get them, and any feathering is easier for me (if I remember to pick up a fresh, soft, dry brush). I can also control coverage a bit better by dry brushing.
    phil_h, Redcap and Nap like this.
  10. phil_h A Fixture

    Glad you Like them Russ!

    Thanks for the kind words Gary :)

    Yeah, totally - dry brushing is essentially what's happening when your putting down the first oils over the acrylic base (y)
    Russ likes this.
  11. phil_h A Fixture

    Hello Everybody,

    Lots of progress over the last couple of days, and in this post I'll cover the metallic areas of the figure. Here were the paints used:


    From left to right we have:
    • Raw Umber - this will be used as the primary shadow tone (with some Terre Verte mixed in). Raw Umber is a great shadow tone for metallics, and a great tone for oil washes. It's darker and on the cooler side compared with its buddy Burnt Umber.
    • Iridescent Bronze - this will be used as the mid-tone for all the metallic areas of the model. As I've mentioned before, I think this particular bronze paint from Williamsburg is just plain awesome.
    • Antique Gold - This will be our primary highlight tone. What I really like about this gold is that it's not too yellow. We're painting armor, and we don't want it to look like jewelry or armor that a fantasy figure would wear. It has a very subtle greenish hue to it, and this works really well when painting bronze tones. When painting any kind of golden tone, this is almost always the paint I reach for. I should also mention that all the metallics that are part of Schmincke's Mussini line are wonderful paints and are highly recommended.
    • Iridescent White - One of few tubes of Winsor & Newton paint that I own. This will be used to create the highest highlights.
    • Terre Verte - This will be used to help with shadows and to add some color tones to the metals.

    Alrighty, so first let's base coat everything with pure Iridescent Bronze. As with everything else, after the paint is applied, we'll brush off the excess with a clean brush. This is what it looks like:


    Next we're going to take some Raw Umber and some Terre Verte and mix them together to get our shadow tone. Just keep mixing enough Terre Verte into the Raw Umber until you get a tone you're happy with - not very scientific, but effective nevertheless :).

    After we get our shadow tones in (I don't have a pic of this step), we'll apply our first highlight. This is going to be pure Antique Gold. Based on our lighting, it will be applied to the figure's top right chest and top of the area under his right arm. As always, we'll block it in, and then smooth it out. Here is the shadow and first highlight blended in:


    Next will come the second highlight. This will be a mix of Antique Gold with Iridescent White. When these two colors mix, the outcome turns almost silver-ish. This will again be applied to the top right areas of the chest and under the right arm, but in a smaller area inside the previous gold highlight. It looks like this:


    And here it is from another angle. You can also see in this pic the work being done on the greaves too (done in exactly the same fashion):


    After this dries, we're going to do another important step, and that is with plain Raw Umber, we're going to make an oil wash and apply to the entire chest armor. This will help delineate and define the individual scales that make up the armor. It will also help to desaturate some of the gold tones. Of course, since this will darken everything, we'll have to go back and re-apply the highlights in our specified areas. This looks like so:


    You'll also note that somehow magically the red skirt, and the leather work are finished too (these will be covered in a different posts).

    The very last thing that will be done is to glaze in some pure Terre Verte in selected areas of both the chest armor and greaves. This won't be done until a little later though.

    Here is the palette that shows all the mixes used:

    And everything was painted with these brushes:


    The Nova line from Da Vinci are a little stiffer than a lot of the other synthetic brushes out there, so I like using them for my metals because they leave a little bit of texture when the paint is applied.

    Hope you found this useful
    NigelR, Oda, marco55 and 1 other person like this.
  12. phil_h A Fixture

    Hello Everybody,

    This post will cover the work done on the figure's red skirt. I've done a lot of different ancient Greeks and they usually all have some variation of a red skirt, cloak, etc. This one will be no different ;). However, I do like to make all the reds different from figure to figure. For this figure, our red is going to be a very straight-ahead and no frills basic red.

    The paints used are:


    • Cadmium Red - A decent Cadmium Red is pretty much the workhorse red. It's the basic, standard, medium red tone that we almost always think of when we think of the color "Red". Because it's a cadmium it has very high opacity, and mixes really cleanly with other colors.
    • Perylene Green - This is the color that will serve as our shadow tone. It's a very dark, rich green - almost a "black" green. Green was chosen as the shadow, because green is red's complementary color. This means that it will desaturate the red and create a very natural shadow color. I like this color quite a bit, and it is my definite go to dark green, but any dark green will do.
    • Naples Yellow - This is a very desaturated yellow tone that will be used as part of our highlight mixes. Because of it's desaturated nature, this will our highlights stay in "red territory" as opposed to migrating into "orange territory". (This is not always a bad thing, but not something we're going for on this particular figure).
    • Titanium White - This will also be used in our highlight mixtures.

    Our mid-tone will be Cadmium Red with a healthy does of Perylene Green mixed into it. We want to purposely start with a mid-tone that is going to be much darker than usual. The idea is that since we start with a darker tone to begin with, we can use our pure Cadmium Red as a highlight tone instead of a mid-tone. This will go quite a long way into making sure our red highlights don't turn pink. On the palette, the mid-tone color looked quite a bit like a dark brick-red tone. Here is mid-tone applied to the figure (and the excess wiped away with a clean brush):


    With the skirt base-coated, we'll start with our shadows. Our first shadow is a mix of our mid-tone with more Perylene Green mixed into it. This first shadow is kind of subtle, and because it's a small area, it might be a little hard to make out. Nevertheless, here it is blended into our mid-tone:

    I wanted some folds to have a shadows that were a little darker with a little more contrast, so with pure Perylene Green, I added a second, darker shadow to select folds. Here they are blended in:

    The difference between the above photo and the one just prior is pretty subtle, and hard to see - in real life it's more noticeable. Hopefully you can see the difference.

    With the shadows out of the way, we can now move onto highlights. As I mentioned, since our mid-tone was on the darker side of things, our first highlight is pretty simple - it's just pure cadmium red. Here is our first highlight blocked in:

    In this photo you can really see the benefits of starting with a darker than usual mid-tone for reds. We're able to have some very strong highlights and everything is still just "red". (It's also easier to see the deeper shadows in this photo too). Here they are blended in:


    In many cases, you can stop here and things would look just fine. However, based on the pose of the figure and where we picture our light source, there are some folds that should be lighter with more contrast. So we'll need lighter highlight. For this highlight mix we did two things:
    • Starting with Naples Yellow, we mixed a small amount of Cadmium Red into it. Essentially getting a reddish flesh-tone.
    • Added small quantities of Titanium White to that until we got a lighter tone. Almost on the verge of being a pink flesh tone
    This mix allows us to make a red tone that is higher in value than our pure Cadmium Red, but not going into pink or orange territory (can't stress that enough ;)).

    Here is the second highlight blended in:

    Again, it's subtle and for this photo I had to change the angle slightly to show them a little more. However, I think it does come through that we have some really nice contrast between our shadows and highlights, and everything still reads as "red".

    Here is the palette (this should make the mixes painfully obvious):

    The brushes used were:
    90% of all the work was done with the brush on the right. Only the 2nd shadows and 2nd high lights were applied with the brush on the left. Everything was blended with the brush on the right.

    So that's it :). I hope you found this useful, and hope you give this easy recipe for reds a try! Next will be all the leather elements.
    NigelR, Oda, marco55 and 1 other person like this.
  13. Warren SMITH A Fixture

    Great work...
    Oda and phil_h like this.
  14. phil_h A Fixture

    Thanks Warren (y)

    Hello Everybody,

    This post is going to cover a the leather strips/skirt and leather banding around the chest armor. The leather on my last project was all based in brown-ish tones, so I thought I'd go for something different this time around and do the leather work in tones pushing more into the orange/yellow earth tone area.

    The paints used for this were the following:


    Three things of note:
    • Ultimately, I didn't use any of the Mars Orange, it was just too powerful a color, and I wanted something more mellower and natural looking for the leather.
    • Not pictured but also used was Naples Yellow from Michael Harding
    • For leather or other organic materials, you can never go wrong with earth tones. (While this is subjective, I stand by it :)).

    The leather bands around the skirt comprise of an inner leather strip surrounded by an additional banding of leather. Since I like to approach painting elements from the inside out, I started with the inner parts of each strip first. These were base coated with Naples Yellow and a small amount of Burnt Umber mixed into it. Here are the results:

    After the base coat was applied, I then added a shadow of pure Burnt Umber in the upper half of each strip. This was applied directly on top of the base coat and then blended in:


    The exact same process was then followed for the second, bottom row of leather strips:

    With the inner leather parts finished, next was the banding around them. I don't have a photo of each step, but here was what was done:
    • A mid-tone of Cyprus Orange mixed with a little bit of Burnt Umber was applied over the entire of each band.
    • The top of each band received a shadow or pure Burnt Sienna. This added some nice warm red tones to the leather.
    • At the bottom of each band, I used a mix of Cyprus Orange and Naples Yellow for highlights.
    • Depending on the location of each strip I added more shadow or highlight tones as needed.
    Here is what this looks like when finished:

    The banding surrounding the scale mail on the chest was done in the exact same fashion with the same colors; shadows and highlights were added per our light direction. And here is what this looks like when finished:

    In the middle of each leather bands is some stitching. This, unfortunately was not as crisply sculpted as the model in general, so I decided to just paint this area as a solid stripe of pure Burnt Umber. I choose a darker color so it contrasts nicely with the rest of the leather.

    With that, here is the finished leather elements:


    Here are is the palette with all the mixes used (ignore the black at the top):
    And the brushes used were:

    With this out of the way, quite a bit of the figure is finished, and we just have the cloak, helmet, and shield to do.

    Thanks for reading!

    NigelR, Oda, marco55 and 2 others like this.
  15. Nap Moderator

    Hi Phil

    Apologies , catching up on the last 3 updates

    Appreciate your excellent explanation of the oil paints ...and advice you've given

    The actual armour and leather work looks really good with the red being a good choice and again well painted

    Said it before but this is a ideal SBS , great text well written and good pictures as well

    All = interesting and fascinating to read and follow

    Looking forward to seeing more

    Happy benchtime

    phil_h and Oda like this.
  16. NigelR A Fixture

    Catching up also, superb work and thanks so much for the detailed updates (y)
    phil_h and Oda like this.
  17. phil_h A Fixture


    Thanks Nap!

    Thanks Nigel, much appreciated!
    Oda likes this.
  18. phil_h A Fixture

    Hello everybody,

    This post is going to cover the cloak our figure is wearing. For this figure, we're going to paint a textured red cloak (same colors as his red skirt). We're going to use a stippling technique to represent a rough fabric texture on the cloak. This will provide some nice material contrast against the smoother skirt and leather elements.

    Stippling is a technique we see a lot with acrylics, however, stippling with oils can be just as easy or even easier! The nice thing about stippling with oils is that if there is too much contrast with the paint that is being stippled on, you can just immediately blend it into the prior layer with a little smoothing/blending. This in many cases eliminates the need for glazes to reduce contrast that you often need to do with acrylics. And in terms of glazing, you can always wait for the stippled work to dry and then always glaze more transparent oils over it for color nuance.

    Here are the paints used for the cloak:


    These are the same colors I used for the red skirt, so I'd refer you to the prior post in this thread if you want more details.

    The first thing done, was a smooth mid-tone base coat with a mix of Cadmium Red and Perylene Green. I would say there was probably a little more green than red. As always, after everything was applied, I wiped off all the excess paint with a clean brush:


    This will serve as the base for all of our stippling.

    The next step was to apply a first shadow. This was mixed from the mid-tone with just a little more green added. For the stippling, the paint was thinned down with just a little bit of white spirit - just a little bit! You don't want to add too much; you'll wind up with a different kind of effect than what we're trying to achieve here. With that, put some paint on the brush and just start dabbing small dots, lines, or squiggles into where you want your shadow placed. It looks like this:


    The first shadow is a little subtle - it's not that much darker than the mid-tone. The idea here is that we'll slowly build up the texture using a couple of different shadow and highlight layers. Next is some darker shadows; we'll take some of our mix used for the first shadow layer, and mix more green into it. Here is the second layer of shadows:


    As these layers are applied, sometimes I go back to the prior layer's tone, and add/tweak/clean-up certain areas if I don't think they look right. Finally using pure Perylene Green, here is the third and deepest areas of shadow added:


    With that layer, things are starting to look a little more obvious now. It' pretty clear where our shadows are being blocked in. Again, after putting these shadows in place, I went back and forth with some of the prior shadow colors and mid-tone to adjust as necessary to get things where I wanted.

    With the shadows finished (for now), we'll move onto the highlights. The first highlight was pure Cadmium Red, and applied like so:


    As with the first shadow layer, it's kind of hard to see what's going on here. One thing that doesn't help is the fact that the paint is still wet! The wet paint makes WIP photos using oils very difficult to capture sometimes because the light is being reflected all over the place. In addition to placing our first highlight, I also used this to help clean up and "re-shape" some of the initial shadows.

    At this point, there is definitely some nice contrast going on, but we'll add some more highlights. First, we'll create a mix of Naples Yellow and then add small amounts of Cadmium Red into it - just to get it into dark pinkish territory. We'll then add some Titanium White to it, and use the resulting tone as our highlight color. For this highlight, we'll add this tone into some pure cadmium red, and wind up with this:


    Again, with the paint being wet, it makes it a little harder to see, but at this point, the texture effect is definitely noticeable. We're going to add the mix above (with no further Cadmium Red mixed into it) as the final highlight:


    So that does it with the shadows/highlights. Next is to take a good look at everything and make adjustments if needed. I felt I needed to re-work certain areas and make a bunch of adjustments to shadow/highlight placement. (Very rarely do I get things the way I like them in the first pass.) Here is what things looked like after this step and finished off:

    Another thing I did was wait till the oil paint was a little drier so that everything comes through better and is easier to see. At this point, the texture should be blindingly obvious :). It's also a very nice change of pace from the more traditionally blended cloaks of the prior Spartans I worked on.

    Thanks for reading(y). Next we'll do the freehand on the shield.

    Oda likes this.
  19. phil_h A Fixture

    Hello Everybody,

    This post is going to cover the first part of the shield, which includes everything up to the weathering, which will be done in a future post. Since I've gotten a lot of questions about this, the bulk of this post will cover the freehand decoration that was painted.

    Before the freehand though, there was work done on the shield itself. So, the following was done:
    • The entire front of the shield was base coated with Iridescent Bronze (from Williamsburg Oils) with a little amount of Raw Umber mixed in to darken it down.
    • Next, towards the bottom 1/3 of the shield or so, a shadow of pure Raw Umber was applied and blended in.
    • At the top, Antique Gold (Schmincke Mussini) was applied to the top 1/3 of the shield on a slight angle and blended into the base layer as a highlight.
    • This was then left to dry for a day or two.
    Unfortunately, I don't have any WIP pics of the above steps, but you can see the work done in the various WIP shots of the freehand.

    So, for various shields in the past I've done scorpions, bulls, cyclops, lambdas, fish, octopi, etc. Some rather complex (cyclops), some fairly straight ahead (lambdas) and some in between :). Knowing I wanted to do an SBS on this, I've decided to go with something very straight forward and easy to understand but at least historically accurate (as far as I know). I also wanted it to be simple enough to show how I approached this kind of work. With that in mind, we're going to paint a very simple Spartan helmet.

    My approach in general is to just start painting and see what happens. If what I am going to do is on the more complex side, I may do a sketch or two with pencil and paper, but for the most part, I'm just going to start painting, (as in this case), and adjust things as I go back and forth.

    First, I found a point to start with, and then just started sketching in the basic outlines of the helmet. Some things I was keeping in mind:
    • The most important thing here is to just start somewhere. It doesn't matter if it's good, bad or whatever; the most important thing is to just put something down.
    • I try to keep going until I get all the initial forms sketched out. In this case there was the helmet proper - top and bottom, and then the crest.
    • The other really important part is don't worry if things aren't "right" or it "doesn't look good". We can always identify the things that are problematic and fix them later during the process. I can't stress this enough.

    The paint that the initial sketch was done with was a mix of Cadmium Red and Perylene Green (the same paints used in the cloak and skirt). This was then thinned down very, very slightly with a little bit of white spirit to help with brush flow.

    Here is the initial sketch in all of its disastrous glory:
    The best thing we can say about this is that there is something actually on the shield we can use as a starting point. I think it's really important to point out all the false starts and re-workings shown here - they're very obvious in the eye area, bottom and back of the helmet, and the bottom area of the crest. You can also see where I initially started to sketch the top of the crest (at the top left), and then decided it was too far forward. The key takeaway is that many of my outlines were from perfect, but I just kept making new ones until I got things where I thought they should be. Although this is not pretty at all to look at, this sketch gives me more than enough of a foundation to move forward.

    With the main sketch in place, I can start "erasing" or rubbing out some of the parts of the outline that were mistakes or problems using the base layer colors. In this case I used some of the Williamsburg Iridescent Bronze. Here is some of the clean up work starting at the bottom of the helmet:
    At the bottom of the above photo, you can clearly see where I've started the "erasing" and cleaning up process. An important thing to keep in mind with oils - if the base layer is not 100% dry, you can't just use white spirit to clean up or remove any of the unwanted paint - it'll start to take away your base layer too!! And trust me folks - this will be a total disaster. Even though the paint used for the sketch is wet, and will mix into the paint used to erase it, we can always take care of that later with additional layers. (As you'll see).

    Next I decided to fill in the sketched areas of the top and bottom of the helmet. This way, you won't see the couple of different adjustments that were made in the front part of the helmet during the initial sketch. I also started to clean up the area around the eye and at the bottom of the crest on the right hand side of the shield. Here is that:

    We can start seeing the helmet area itself come together. The eye still looks messy and the top portion of the helmet underneath the crest still needs to be properly shaped, but we're making some real progress :). Keep in mind, between the bronze color and the red color, I'm also making adjustments everywhere else as I see fit... it's a constant back and forth process.
    Continuing on with the adjustments to the face/head area, and finally starting to work on the crest. Just making more and more adjustments and going back and forth until I get things where they need to be. Also, in the photo below you can still see that annoying mistake in the front of the crest. Here is the progress so far:


    The small improvements and adjustments are starting to add up and it's starting to look like an actual helmet. Still a lot of problems though - mainly the areas that were painted over look like crap, and still need to be taken care of. The crest is still not shaped properly and the initial starting point of it is still showing, there is a piece of the helmet missing in between the top of the head and the crest piece. Also, there lines aren't as crisp as they should be. So let's tighten our forms and lines up, fix the crest and clean up the erased parts a little more. Here are the results:

    Alright, all the back and forth between the last step and this step has really helped. The crest looks much better, and the face and head parts of the helmet are much better. The lines are much crisper too. With enough clean up done between the helmet and the crest, we now have enough room to put in the missing piece that is needed to connect the two parts together. So lets put that in now:

    We can also see that while it's not close to perfect, the areas that were painted over are looking much, much better. Let's do some MORE clean up, and we're also going to add some slight highlights to our helmet as well. We're now getting pretty close to the final - here it is:

    And after a little bit more of some clean up, here is completed freehand:


    A couple of things:
    • There is still a little bit of clean up to do - this will be done when everything is dry.
    • There are going to be scratches added, and various other weathering done, this will also help cover up any areas that I might not be 100% happy with.
    Honestly, if anything, doing something like this is far more about having patience and perseverance than it is about being great at drawing or being an artist. You just keep going back and forth adjusting until things get to where you want them to be - it's actually a pretty brute force process. :)

    The palette looks like this:
    The two red colors at the top where for the design and it's highlights. The metallic colors at the bottom were used to paint over mistakes and erase things.

    The entire thing was also done with one cheap synthetic brush:
    Thank for reading!!
  20. Steve Ski PlanetFigure Supporter

    Call me late for supper, but this is the first time I've seen any SBS showing the use of metallic oils, awesome! I've never considered nor ever thought about it. I think I'll have to add a set of metallics to my paint locker.

    Phil, that's pretty brave sketching that shield design with oils, woof. I like how the shading has come out, looks good.

    Ruck On, Bby!
    phil_h likes this.

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