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Painting Challenges 101 #2 - Action Heroes

ArcOpen Is approaching and we are excited to see a new generation of painters stepping up to the challenge of a really accessible event.

That’s not to say we’re not looking for established painters either. But as the convener of ArcOpen I’m hoping to share some insights with anyone looking to take the challenge of this event. Established painters usually have well developed systems for getting their projects complete.

I’m hoping to help bridge the gap between painting for yourself and entering something a little more challenging, by putting down some advice on how to start thinking like an ArcOpen entrant.

In the last article I explored the importance of creating a story to set the scene with your model.

But action can speak louder. So can you use some key design principles to create focus and action - even when your model is in a very static pose?

Action can play an important part in telling the story!

A rider with a swinging sword or hero with a gun firing with muzzle flare and a bullet propelled out the barrel. That’s the sort of action that attracts people's attention and will get them to look closer at your miniature.

I’ve done some Harlequins flying through imperial power generator ruins fighting on and off their jet bikes. Loads of action or implied movement in the poses and positioning of the models in relationship to the base. Let’s call that dynamic action or a movie moment. It’s not the story - just simulating or representing movement.

But there’s other action you want to tap into. That’s by creating key focus points on your miniature. I’ve previously worked in printing newsletters, magazines and brochures.

Over the years, working with graphic designers I picked up a thing or two about how to use and place cues that guide the eye around a cover or across a page. So something static causes it’s own action. Your eye moves around the page to entice you to turn and read the next. Or open the cover to find out what’s inside.

If you can tap into that eye movement over your models then you might find a way to present a stronger more complete piece.

Look at the composition you’ve created and see if you can join the dots of the focal points to create a ‘Zig-zag’ of eye movement left to right down the model and with a final leave off point.

Top left is where our eyes naturally start - that’s where the headline starts. Your eye then needs something on the right to hook on to (at the same level or ¾ from the top). Then you need a bottom or mid left as the next point of interest. Finally we need a strong front bottom right focal point of interest. That leads our eye off the peice - or invites you to look again from the top left.

Technically it’s called Visual hierarchy. It’s a sequential guide to help your viewer through the intended journey of your model. You can use color, contrast, or position to highlight the hierarchy of important elements from your layout or posing of the miniature.

Morathi by Alessandro Gobbi

Mortarian by Richard Grey

It’s important to look unique and eye-catching.

Visual balance is created by working to ensure the elements of your design are in balance. Whether through symmetry of colours or balanced asymmetrical arrangements and the interaction of background to foreground.

Then you have to consider proximity or how close or far the elements of your composition are from one another. Closer together means that you will give tracking points for the eye to track across the model.

If you choose to include a background ensure that it has a relationship with the model and the base. And the model is framed in a way that ensures it stands out and isn’t competing.

(Sauron is great example of what not to do - he doesn’t have a background - but I photographed him on a very vibrant and detailed background. I’d suggest that it’s doing nothing to present him at his best. )

Depth of field and planes of focus is essential to ensure that despite their being a background, a base and a foreground it’s the model likely to be inhabiting the middle ground that needs to be the focus of your piece.

The other end of the trap is that things get too busy, too many elements all at the same intensity of detail and colour that there is nothing that is the focus of the display. Dark and light, high and low, foreground and background - composition is something that you will need to check, check and check again as you paint your model.

Will you spend time looking at your model before, during and after you think you have finished painting it?

Dynamically posed it an unusually tall display - but the focus on the subject is reinforced by slightly lighter palate at the top than the bottom.

If you’ve read my previous article will you be activating your inner story teller?

And will the composition of your model on it’s base be one of action or eye moving activity?

Hopefully I’ve given some things you understand through my explanations here. I really hope I have flagged some things for you to think about.

They should help in planning the composition of your model in relation to the background and base, as well as the shapes you create with pose to help create focal points

Next time I’ll explore technical stuff - things that won’t make you a better painter - but that will give you an opportunity to paint at your best.


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