Monday, January 7, 2013

Silent Night, Source Light - Lord Chompy Bits details

A couple weeks ago, I wrote in this frantically written post that, when I had gotten back home, I'd write with a clearer head and some nicer photos about my recent dakka dakka competition entry, so, now that I have said time, it would be wrong of me not to follow through, so, without further ado, said pics and writing.

Some years ago, when I was just starting to get interested in Malifaux, and spectacular and spectacularly expensive limited edition things were less common, Lord Chompy Bits came out as a limited edition sculpt, and I hesitated too long at the vast $60 price tag on one miniature for a game I hadn't played. (...which I'm saying, having now spent more than I'd care to think about on the Sedition Wars and Kingdom Death Kickstarters.)

I regretted this for a long time afterwards and, eventually, when the fates looked kindly down on me, Wyrd eventually put it back on the market for a few days, and with a $100 price tag. While more expensive, it was still a great mini, and had been bouncing around the ebay market for $200-300, so I pounced.

I eventually assembled it, and it's one of the heaviest minis I've ever built, and quite beautifully detailed, with my only complaints being some serious seams that needed to be sculpted over and that the regular version of the mini looks so much less cool. It then sat around for another year, plus, as I worked up the nerve to paint that expensive of a model.

Along comes dakka dakka's painting competition, and what I took as a personal challenge: regardless of how well I did, I wanted to push myself as hard as I could, and felt the painting contest would be the incentive I needed.

The first thing I decided was that, with that amount of effort, I wanted it to be a big, centerpiece model that I was working on, and, after deciding on Lord Chompy Bits, that I wanted it to be very atmospheric, which, in this case, translated to serious source lighting effects.

I've been painting for quite some years now, but, to date, I had only done two other projects with a white undercoat, and both had been going for a more cartoony feel, so this was a bit of a leap of faith to me, but I knew that I needed strong mid tones in order to pull off the combination of light and shadow, and, from my limited experience, I expected that a white undercoat would be the only option.

The second thing that the source lighting determined was the base: I had already planned on a cool base, but I simply couldn't get a position on the street lamp that would provide interesting lighting, without the model being well above the level of the lamp. Hence, the stairs organically became the base, and the base began to form the scene.

From this, the girl was the next logical step: the girl was important for context, for making a narrative contrast between the two (well, three) entities, for compositional balance (that much base couldn't be lacking details), and for the necessary horror element of the character that the audience was implicitly sympathetic with.

The wreath actually conceptually started out as hanging on the lamp, with a maw, tentacles/vines, and a grimace, referencing The Nightmare Before Christmas (which had a built in subtle pun*, for those who knew a bit about Malifaux and recognized the wreath), but I decided this didn't work, for a few reasons:

-there would be too much color and action, distracting from LCB and the girl

-it was too cartoony/over the top

-it would have been far too delicate

*Lord Chompy Bits's actual name is Nytemare, for those unfamiliar with Malifaux.

It ended up by the girl, adding some more color and focus on her. The christmas theme was reinforced in a contrast between the girl with her teddy bear and the Dreamer with LCB, though this seemed almost completely overlooked, probably because the photo of the girl was so small, so the bear kind of disappears.

In this rare case for me, the base was completely painted before I attached Lord Chompy bits, not because of any particular difficulty reaching pareas, but because of how ridiculously heavy the model was, which was incredibly awkward when I was trying to sculpt the base.

My illustration work heavily influenced my decisions here, as I tend to focus on layered light in my graphic novel, and it had me thinking about light in a very different way than I had a few years ago. While some of the light was mixed with the colors I painted it on, a lot of the light effects were mixed together, then applied as glazes.

Where my mentality about lighting most came in to play was on the brick work, LCB's face, and anything I wanted to glisten, where I decided to forgo much blending with base colors, nearer the edges, and moved straight to mixing yellow and white for those sharp edges.

My illustration work also influenced my decision to, as much as possible, avoid actually mixing in any black in the darks, as a saturated dark is punchier than a desaturated one.

The final serious influence with my illustration and lighting was in the contrast of light-- while I've done my fair share of highlighting armor edges, I needed a sense of true darkness, which meant that, despite my tendencies, I sacrificed a degree of detail in the shadows, in order to strengthen the contrast. This is still the decision I'm least comfortable with, but, with a couple future plans, I'm going to try to improve this aspect, or at least get more comfortable with it.

I feel like it was the weakest point in the model, though I still managed to get some volume. Unfortunately, my first couple attempts were too subtle, and, for fear of overworking it, after the attempt you can see here, I called it done.

While I liked this angle of photograph to show the volume of the base, (and the brick and shadows, which I was happy with) I still didn't feel great about it, so left it out of my contest entry, largely because I was making a scene, and not all scenes are designed to be seen from every angle (no pictures of the bottom of the plastic base, either :P).

One of the latest changes I made to the model was the Dreamer's head. Originally, he was set possibly noticing the girl, but, instead, I have him happily leaning forward while riding his companion, which added a sense of height and movement, and gave some pretty fun shadows from under lighting.

One of the most difficult aspects of this project actually came from prepping it for the online contest. First, after a quick try with other screen colors, I decided on black for the cloth. While it's often a bad idea to match background and foreground, I felt that it nicely emphasized the source lighting and de-emphasized (am I allowed to say emphasized and de-emphasized in the same sentence... twice?) the parts of the model I wasn't as happy with.

Then came the composition. Having worked on my graphic novel (damn, I guess I lied about the last time, above), I recognized the flow and limitations of multiple photographs in a small space, but, it still took 4 attempts and the aid of my wife (the author for said graphic novel) before I got a composition I felt flowed correctly.

Happily, though, I was able to show the un-cropped forms, here.

Hmm, that wasn't a very exciting end. Well, they can't all be winners.

Well, to compensate for that lack of punch, I wasn't really planning on putting this out online for some time, but a very early work in progress of the continuing experiment of this model (with notes, 'cause the pic's kind of dark).

(Also, one more shout out to Dakka Dakka and Wyrd  (and Alfndrate) for running and sponsoring the competition.)

Addition, by request, on a white background: