Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Jealousy" - The Rotten Harvest Painting Competition Best in Show

Well, starting with the best foot forward...

edit: Oh, and, umm looking at the title now, in case it could be misconstrued, Jealousy was the name of the entry.

This wasn't actually something I intended to enter or even create. I had painted four other entries, and felt pretty good about them.

I had done some nice basing, but nothing very elaborate, certainly nothing compared to my Lord Chompy Bits from the previous Malifaux competition. My better half, while talking about my entries the weekend of the deadline, asked me which was my best, though, and I didn't have a good answer- I liked parts of each but didn't have a clear strong contender (and actually didn't end up placing at all with the piece I thought was my best, and another one I expected to do well with ended up photographing poorly enough that I didn't submit it).

So, I decided I might as well try for something bigger, but at this point only had four days until the submission deadline (little did I know it would be extended, but I was thoroughly burnt out from the rush when the first deadline rolled around, and I didn't touch the piece in that extra time).

This was my third idea, partially because it was the most practical given the timeframe (can't talk more about the others, since I'm still considering using them in the future ;) ).

It started with a rough sketch, below, which got the basic composition down.
I had always wanted to do the Weaver Widow for some competition, because it's one of my favorite Malifaux models, but I felt the contrast with the Mannequin was what elevated it from a nice display base to a diorama.

I wanted to get a lot of planes going on this and get it interesting from more than one angle: my only real issue with my LCB piece (other than the girl being impossible to secure on the base)* was that it was really only interesting from about 90-180º of the model, and I wanted to improve on that.

*Okay, I'm actually a perfectionist and spend an unhealthy amount of time criticizing myself about all the details in any given thing I work on, wishing it had been perfect and it not living quite up to expectations, which is why I need the qualifier "real"in that above sentence. While I've been writing this aside, however, I've remembered numerous other things I'd wished I could have changed, but won't talk about them, to save time and my emotional state (and your own lives...!)

As I was building on this, I opened up the composition a lot. The original stone work felt too heavy and too much like a frame, and I thought it would block a lot of lines of sight for edge angles, so I discarded it. The windows were based on some light research into European windows around the turn of the last century (i.e. around when Malifaux takes place).

I very briefly toyed with giving the piece an asian sensibility because of how it looked with the open frame, but decided against it, mostly because I already had the column in place.

The models were removable, because I have no love for display-only pieces: I like to game with my minis, and even if that means my display-level pieces risk damage, it's something I'm willing to chance, because they'll never be worth as much to anyone else, anyways, and I can retouch them if necessary.

This is what it looked like, around the second evening I worked on it.

Painting would be a challenge. In comparison with last year (where I spent much of the month working on it), I only had about 2 days to paint this one, after starting so late and taking a couple days to get it built.

Just as last year's entry reflected my illustration at the time, this year's did, too, with an intentionally expressionistic quality based on my recent graphic novel work:
As with my illustration, my interest was in gesture and feeling rather than precision, because I knew I could get it somewhere I was happy with in the very limited time I had.

Partially as a result of this approach, and partially because I had actually gotten accused of being a fraud with my subtle light last year (an experience which I didn't want to repeat), I made the light much harsher and stronger. It was based more on layering than blending, which I felt worked particularly well on the wood and the Weaver widow's dress/parasol.

My original intent was for the column to have a store sign bolted to it and hanging out over the street if I had time, but I decided against it, because I was very happy with how the door came out. In retrospect, though, I wish I had put a sign on the column, to break up the space and to give it more of a sense of specific place.

I could ramble on about what I felt worked beyond that, and what didn't, but I've already written a lot, so, the short version:

• I'm happiest with the Weaver Widow, the lamp (which improved over my last attempt), and the façade.
• I was least happy with a few of the wobbly edges and having not thought of the shadow as square-ish, which is odd, because I remembered to do it square on the other piece I was working on.
• The most unexpected improvements of it were the door and windows, which I hadn't really planned but needed to work quickly to make interesting when they took up that much space.
• The most pain-in-the-ass part was the windows, which required cutting perfectly (and ruining a lot of plastic), then painting on both sides, while trying to figure out where the lamp would light them while the lamp was either in the way and blocking my hand, or out of the way and not a reference point.

In the end, I was very happy with it, particularly in the time frame I was working in, and was hoping for scoring well in its category and maybe bases (I wasn't sure if that was a single place or 1/2/3 like regular categories), but was the first time I've entered something that wasn't smoothly painted, and I was pretty nervous about the piece looking rushed or unfinished, even though it was what I intended. Either way, I expected that precision painting was prized enough that some models with immaculate fiddly lines and perfect gradients that I had neither the patience nor time for would bump my piece down a notch or two, but was quite pleasantly surprised to find it had managed to take best in category, base, and show.