Meg Maples

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2013 was a hell of an emotional ride, but attending Meg Maples’ class at my local games store, Huzzah Hobbies, was a perfect ending to the year.  I’ve been lucky enough that this is my second time taking on of Meg’s classes and each time I walk away knowing more than I did when I sat down.  Sadly, I forgot to bring my camera and so I don’t have as many pictures as my buddy Plarzoid, but I’ll steal a few of his pics and tell you a bit more about my experience in the class and some afterthoughts.

On Day one of the class, after we had cleaned our models, Meg took us outside and showed us how to prime our models.  I realize it sounds a bit silly, but the majority of us overprime our models (myself included) when using spray primer as we’ve been taught to hit every nook and cranny and to have a nice solid coating.  Basically you need (at least with white primer, I didn’t ask about black – but I imagine the principle’s the same) only enough primer to cover the model, your model will look gray instead of white, as shown here with Plarzoid’s model:
001_primed_front

Yes, its hard to believe its really white primer.  Meg covers this more in the blog on her website: http://arcanepaintworks.blogspot.com/2013/11/varnish-lacquer-dullcote-and-chips-oh-my.html

Then we hit the meat and potatoes of what most folks were there to learn, two brush blending.  I’m really not going to go in depth here as its been covered in other websites and videos.  We started our two brush blending adventure with the cloaks and from what I recall, everyone’s cloaks turned out great for the most part.  I spent way too much time on mine and had to catch up on other parts, but I was amazed with how it turned out.  So amazed that she’s sitting on my painting desk right now staring at me, harassing me to finish her base.  Here’s a finished shot of the back of the cloak:

  200_chris_back

One of the main criticisms of my models is my lack of contrast and not pushing the highlights enough.  I’ve always been afraid to push the highlights too much for fear that the model with just look too strange or the paint will start to look chalky.  But Meg then blew my mind (yes, I know, doesn’t take much, but bear with me) and showed us all something that’s in the painting section of the Khador army book, that if your highlights are too bright or start to look chalky, to take your base color (or mid tone, depending) and glaze over the area to slightly darken the highlights and/or remove chalkiness and help blend them back into the base color and smooth the transitions as well.

I was able to apply this to most of the rest of the model as well, to varying degrees of success.  As you can see the highlight in her hair is a bit too bright and the blends on her skin as seen here on the front of the model, could be a lot smoother.

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Then Meg covered eyes (Oh. The. Horror!) which was easily the most painful part of painting the model.  I’m really looking forward to Plarzoid’s tutorial on eyes as I still need a lot of help, although the eyes on my model turned out okay, but nothing as amazing as Meg’s or Plarzoid’s.  And then skin, gems, hair and fur and I think she may have pulled folks for a sidebar after someone’s question regarding metallics.

The best aftereffect of class was that I really feel reinvigorated regarding my painting.   I’m positive that Meg’s teaching, spending the weekend just painting, and sitting and talking with the other fellow painters and my friends, really all helped to make me feel refreshed and rejuvenated.  All too often its easy to get bogged down in the day to day minutiae of living our lives, which (for me at least) eats away at our time to paintpaint. Painting armies can make painting seem more like a chore or not worth the effort of setting up, sitting down to paint (not always uninterrupted painting either), and then cleaning up and putting things away.   While I don’t normally go with New Year’s resolutions, I am going to try to attend some painting get togethers or paint with Plarzoid or one of my other friends sometimes as a way to help keep myself refreshed.

Just to show you folks at home how invigorated I really feel, I finished the Tau Crisis Suit (including the scratch built base), worked on these bases and stared touching up and finally moving forward on some Retribution of Scryah models.  I apologize in advance for my less than ideal picture taking – I just don’t seem to have the knack for it:

Tau Crisis Suit-2 Tau Crisis Suit-3 Tau Crisis Suit-6

Bases Bases-2 Bases-3

What do you folks think?  What other things do you do to try to help keep yourself motivated or refreshed?

The weekend before Christmas I had the pleasure of taking another painting class from former Privateer Press studio painter Meg Maples. She has recently gone back into freelance painting under her own studio, Arcane Paintworks, and has a whirlwind schedule of international classes scheduled for 2014. Luckily, she has family here in Northern Virginia, so when she comes home for the holidays, she occasionally schedules a class.

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Two years ago, Meg visited the area and hosted a class in which I learned 2-brush blending, and stole lots of great color recipes for various textures and colors.  This year, I was able to show my mastery of 2-brush blending, and pick Meg’s brain on things like painting eyes, flesh, hair & fur and freehand painting.  The class was two 8-hour sessions, and with about 12-15 people in the class, there’s plenty of one-on-one time where Meg helps you out individually.

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I think the last bits to be covered are glowy bits, and leather.  There’s no special techniques for these, just borrow from what’s already been covered.

Glowy Bits are painted just like hair.  The brush bristles are positioned 90 degrees to the direction of the raised bits, and is moved in the same direction as them.  As you lighten the colors, paint less and less.

Glowy Bits Brush Placement

For the glowy bits of the Lightning Coils, start with Arcane Blue.  Then keep adding pure white until you’re basically at pure white, and it’s just a dot on each coil.  I think I ended up using half a dozen “layers”, or steps.

For leather, use two-brush blending.  A basecoat of Bootstrap Leather was used.  Shading was Umbral Umber, and highlighting was Rucksack tan.  Simple ’nuff.

Oh, hey, metallics!  Meg shades both grey metals (silver, iron, etc) and yellow metals (gold, brass) with the same mixture.  She used Greycoat Grey with some Umbral Umber.  It both tarnishes and dirties the metal.  The main goal isn’t really to darken the metal so much as dull it, and take away the shine.  Metals were highlighted with an appropriate color of the same family (golds highlight bronzes, silvers highlight irons, etc).  As for a technique, just 2-brush blend it.

Here’s how my Nemo turned out:

Nemo!

 Here are a few more pictures:

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I had the awesome opportunity to learn from a master painter, Meg Maples.  Of the several things she covered, one was faces.

For the flesh color palette, she started with a basecoat of Midlund flesh, and then shaded with Khardic Flesh.  Her second shade was Khadric Flesh with some Sanguine Base added.  The highlighting was done by adding Morrow White or Menoth White Highlight to the basecoat’s Midlund Flesh.

Colors used for standard Cygnaran flesh

Obviously, you darken or lighten the shade depending on what sort of tone you want the flesh to have.  For a Mediterranean, olive toned flesh, you’d add Ordic Olive to the mixtures.  For lighter (female) flesh, kick everything up a level by basecoating with the Midlund Flesh / Morrow White mixture, and don’t shade with nearly as much Sanguine Base.

For black flesh, start with a basecoat of Battlefield Brown or Umbral Umber.  For shading, look to blues or purples, made from a mixture of Sanguine Base and Exile Blue.  For highlights, add a flesh tone to the brown basecoat to lighten it up.

Colors used for darker flesh

Meg painted the face using glazes.  These are essentially super thinned down paint.  I’m used to using mixing medium to make glazes, since it makes the paint translucent without loosing the consistency of paint.  Meg just mixed in lots of water on her wet palette, and then applied that directly to the model.

When I painted my Nemo’s face, I used my standard formula of basecoat, wash, highlight.  This was as much about speed as it was my complete lack of ability to make a glaze that worked.

The placement of the highlights and shadows is incredibly important for making a believable face.  The hollows of the cheeks, eye sockets, insides of the ears, bottom of the top lip and the bottom of the bottom lip are all places that should be in shadow.  The cheekbones, brow ridge, nose, top of the upper lip, top of the lower lip, and chin should all be highlighted.  The stronger the shadows, the more hollow the face will look.  The brighter the highlights, the healthier and younger the face will look.

When we covered hair, the technique Meg showed us was simple, but incredibly effective.  You use a wet brush, with not a lot of paint loaded.  The brush bristles should be 90 degrees to the direction of the hair, and then you essentially slide the side of the bristles along the raised strands.

Proper brush direction for hair

This allows the raised portions of the hair to be painted, without pulling any unnecessary paint out of the bristles, and accidentally filling in the valleys between the hair.  I hope that makes sense.  The brush bristles are perpendicular to the hair, but the motion of the brush is *with* the direction of the hair.

For Nemo’s hair, I based with Ironhull Grey, then I did my first level of highlighting with GW Codex Grey.  This was followed by a layer of GW Foundation Astronomicon Grey.  The last bit of the hair was pure GW Skull White.  Each layer on the hair moves further and further from the roots of the hair, highlighting the outermost strands.

One important thing Meg discussed with hair was the use of cool and warm colors.  Use a cool color for the basecoat, since it’s supposed to be in shadow.  Then, use warmer colors for the actual strands of hair, since they’re part of a living thing, and they are in the light.

Nemo's Closeup

The last interesting tidbit Meg shared with us had to do with facial hair (eyebrows and mustaches).  Hit each with the hair’s basecoat, but only highlight the mustache.  Eyebrows are almost always darker than head hair, and if you highlight it, it has a tenancy to get lost among the brighter flesh.  I disregarded this last bit, I couldn’t help highlighting Nemo’s bushy eyebrows.

Anyway, that’s faces and hair.  Next time, I’ll cover glowy bits and some basic Object Source Lighting (OSL).

Last weekend, I attended a painting class led by Meg Maples, a studio painter for PP. She  covered some great painting techniques like: 2-brush blending, OSL (glowy bits) via layering and glazing, faces & hair, shading metallics and how to do leather.  This post will focus on 2-brush blending, and the other subjects will be covered in later posts, so stay tuned!

All 9 of us in the class were painting the same model, pNemo 2010, because he has lots of cloth, armor, glowy bits, some crazy hair, etc.  He’s a great model to learn on because of all the different textures, and has been chosen as a model for several painting competitions.

PP Studio Model

The day started off with lots of witty banter while we assembled and primed our models.  Some folks primed white, others primed black.  When we asked Meg what she does for primer, she said she usually primes black, unless the model is mostly flesh.  Once my model was primed, I got organized and ready to paint.

My Painting Setup

Once we had all basecoated our models, Meg showed us 2-brush blending. The theory is fairly simple:  Put a dot of your shade or highlight where it’ll be the darkest, then quickly switch to a brush loaded with spit and feather the wet dot of paint out, so it’s thinner and thinner.  This creates the gradient effect, and creates a smooth blend between the colors.

There are several youtube videos that show the technique, but my favorites are the ones by McVey and Ghool.

Meg explained that there are several ways to do 2-brush blending, everyone has their own trick, or subtly different way to blend the paint.   If you watch the McVey video, it shows you the basic technique at the beginning of the video:  put down a spot and then “squizzle” it so it’s a smooth blend.  The brush moves perpendicular to the direction of the blend – back and forth, leaving less and less paint behind.  Ghool does essentially the same thing, but he does more pushing and pulling of the paint – moving the brush in the same direction as the gradient.

Meg does 2-brush blending like the McVey video, moving the brush side-to-side 90 degrees to the direction of the fade.  That tid-bit didn’t click for me until I saw it in person.  Once I had that in mind, I was far more successful with my blending.

I used GW Enchanted Blue as my mid-tone (the basecoat), and I started shading the blue with P3 Exile Blue.  Nemo’s cloak was the best place to learn this, so that’s where I started.

First Shading Attempt

Meg’s feedback was “more contrast!”  This sparked a discussion about shading, and how to pick (or mix) a good shade color.  This is a choice based entirely on your base coat color, but the go-to shade colors are Cryx Bane Base or Umbral Umber for a neutral, Coal Black for cool colors, and Sanguine Base for warm colors.  Since Exile Blue is already pretty dark, she suggested adding some Umbral Umber to the Exile Blue.  It certainly gave the shadows some needed depth.  Meg discusses lots of this in her PP Insider, here.

To highlight up, the simple solution was to mix some Frostbite into the base color.  A roughly 50/50 mix was used, but only on the armor.  I was too scared to try to blend highlights into the cloak, and by putting the highlights only on the armor, it helped differentiate the cloth as a different material.

Highlighted Armor

My Cygnar scheme has white accents, and the cloak border was perfect for this.  I started with Menoth White Base, and wanted to shade down to Umbral Umber again.  It’s a fantastically dark color that somehow maintains it’s richness despite being so dark.  I at first tried blending straight from MWB to Bootstrap Leather, but was having some trouble.  I just couldn’t get a smooth blend.  After discussing the issue with Meg, it was decided that the jump in color was too strong, I needed an intermediary.  Hammefall Khaki was perfect for this.  I blended the Hammerfall Khaki into the MWB, then the used a 50/50mix of Bootstrap and Hammerfall to get all the way to pure Bootstrap.  From there, I was able to get the deepest section of the fold to be pure Umbral Umber.  It was quite a few steps, but I think it worked out great.  I then highlighted the outermost edges of the folds with Menoth White Highlight.

Shaded Cloak Border

Whew!  The cloak border took almost as much work as the rest of the cloak!

The rest of the model uses different techniques, so that’s it for now.  Be sure to check out the videos on 2-brush blending, and leave comments about your experiments with the technique!