Completion Date: 08/14/2017

Time: 72 hours

PNP Link




I had been following the Rainbow Brush 2017 narrative and decided that it was almost definitely not happening this year, and had already moved on to a Crystal Brush project, when I saw that it had sprung back to life. I knew I wanted to enter, especially with 2017’s theme of environmentalism. I also had a desire to sculpt something original. I had been playing around with Mudbox, practicing on some bust ideas. So, I trolled around on Google image search looking for inspiration for a possible sculpt. I found this image:


I decided I wanted to do a similar dual bust theme. However, I wanted to keep it in the realm of fantasy, so I went with a vampire. I slapped together this concept art while simultaneously starting the sculpt:




My workflow was Cinema 4D -> Mudbox -> Cinema 4D -> Meshmixer -> Shapeways. My first “Nature Head” print was accidentally sized too small, so I took the opportunity to use it as a testing ground for water and foliage techniques. After a bunch of iterations, I decided on melted plastic and water effects. Not a ton of pics, as everything was so rushed.

I had some ideas for a base that tied it together, but I was running out of time, so I put them on a thematically appropriate feeling wooden plinth.



I started with a rushed 2D sketch to find my pigments:

I decided on a common warm shadow tone, which mixed up through a green range on the nature side, and a cyan range on the vampire side. I started each bust with a sketch:


…and basically kept doing passes to refine the sketches until I ran out of time.

I tried a few new techniques, including using some gloss varnish on the eyes, on the spilling oil, and inside the mouth, in order to produce environmental rather than forced matte reflection.



Good: I tried a ton of new effect techniques on this, including the water effect, the mixed foliage, the oil effect, and the rust. It also won ‘Best Interpretation’ at the Rainbow Brush.

Bad: The sculpt has some anatomical issues, a product of my amateur level sculpting ability. I find that I can push through crudely painted areas that don’t work by simply wiping them clean and iterating them until they are where I envision them… kind of a brute force approach that requires a lot of time and effort to compensate for lack of technique, but eventually produces results. I haven’t yet found any success with that approach in sculpting.

Ugly: Because of the aforementioned sculpting shortcomings, I think the entire thing looks kind of wonky.




Oakwood Studios for the plinth.

Shapeways for the 3D prints.

Massive Voodoo for the endless tutorials on any and all effects.

Aaron Lovejoy and Ben Komets for protips.

Marike Reimer for starting the Rainbow Brush, and Will Thompson for carrying the torch.



Completion Date: 06/02/2017

Time: 143 Hours

P&P Link



I wanted to have two entries in the Privateer Press competition, and Skarre has been really the main character of theirs that has captured my attention. Having already done a 28mm single figure, I decided to also do the bust version. I decided to stick with the glowing neck gem concept, and the overall ambiance (a blueish nighttime exterior look). I used Kat Martin’s Skarre bust as a base layer, and put together this concept art:



I had found the flying souls in Privateer Press’ bitz library. The egg shaped part of the base was a plinth that was included in 2015’s Rainbow Brush prize support. The only real sculpting was fusing everything together with apoxy putty. I took a month long trip in April and decided that I would take this bust, primed, to start on. I barely got the piece assembled and primed before leaving, and did’t get any pics on my way out. 




Another aspect of the trip was taking just the handful of paints I knew I needed. I barely had ten minutes to bang out an (incomplete) test sketch to find my pigments:


I ended up using only four colors, but adding an entire arsenal of fluorescents for the gem area. Once I arrived at my trip, I got my painting area set up, and started with a sketch to find the basic volumes from the OSL:


The main challenge was figuring out which surfaces were getting hit with which lights, and at what angle. In some cases, liberties were taken to try and create a more interesting image rather than be accurate.




Nothing new here. I just took the bare essentials with me to paint on the trip: selected paints, Rathcore holder, wet palette, W&N S7 brushes, and two portable LED lights. I also took the cutting mat, although it’s about as essential at the painting stage as a placemat is to a meal.



Good: This was a fun bust to paint. Since I was on a break, I was able to get in a good groove in extended-length four hour sessions (usual for me is 1-2 hours). And I feel like I made a breakthrough with my source lighting.

Bad: No P3 contest love for this one (Silver coin, no category win), even though I think it’s miles ahead of my other rather gaudy P3 entry (Gold coin, won category). I guess that’s just how these things go.

Ugly: I do think some of the volumes on the face are questionable. Especially if you look at it at thumbnail size, it seems like something is off, but it’s hard to identify. I’m also not sure how the time on this one got out of control. I had a sketch done and looking 2/3 complete at the 30 hour mark, but somehow ended up spending another 113 hours on it.





Completion Date: 4/3/2017

Time: 130 hours

Putty and Paint Link



I knew from the start that I wanted to bring two pieces to the GenCon P3 competition, and I’d already decided that one of them was the Skarre bust. I had an idea that it would be interesting to do a single figure Skarre as well. There are a lot of Skarre miniatures, but something spoke to be about this one, and I imagined a gloomy night scene atop her ship. I put together some initial concept art:

The concept art differs from the final result in a lot of ways, but the first thing I decided to change was the angle. I felt that I wanted to see the source of the green OSL in the piece, and the side view didn’t offer any realistic placement opportunities. I also thought it would be more interesting having her coming straight at the viewer. As I proceeded with the sculpt, I threw together a really janky new piece of concept art to solidify my idea:



Before I could even start the sculpt, I embarked on a long exercise in wave tests, trying to figure out how much transparency and gloss worked. Here was the master list of possibilities:

  1. Totally opaque and matte
  2. Totally opaque, but with selective gloss varnish
  3. Totally opaque and totally gloss varnished
  4. Opaque main wave, gloss varnished, with transparent water FX at caps
  5. Transparent main wave, transparent water FX caps, with opaque paint in troughs
  6. Transparent main wave, transparent water FX caps


I started with melted plastic as the main form of the wave, and slapped tests together, sometimes one over the other:

I came to a pretty simple conclusion. If you are going to have strong forced lights in a scene, you need strong forced reflections. Meaning no gloss, no transparency. So, I ended up at option 1 – totally opaque waves with reflections painted on with matte paint.

With that process behind me, I looked to the ship. The box kit for Skarre comes with the top of the ship poking out of an ambiguously earthy base (I guess it’s supposed to be a shipwreck), but I needed more hull area to make the piece work. I tried carving the earthy part out, but it’s an extremely dense pewter. So, I made a resin cast of the piece (sorry, Privateer Press, but it wasn’t for resale), and was able to easily cut into it and use the carved down piece as the basis for an extended boat sculpt with Apoxy putty.

I then built up layers of melted plastic waves and added a chain and skull suspended in mid-air, both blown to the side by the wind, and called the sculpt complete:



I did my usual 2D pigment test to find my colors. In this case, though, I was indecisive about the overall saturation and exact blue hue of the entire piece, and ended up doing two side by side tests with different shifts:

I ended using this boatload of paint to complete the project. For someone who usually only uses three colors plus black and white, this was a LOT (and was even more when I added in the magenta):

I embarked with a finished sculpt and finalized paints, but the first sketch pass on the piece revealed a serious flaw:


There was zero focus on the face. The eye immediately goes to the green OSL (most saturated) and then bounces to the moon (brightest), and passes over the face completely. Drastic measures were necessary, so I decided to force another light onto her chest and face.

Some random WIPs:



This was my first venture into fluorescent pigments. Despite usually limiting my palette to just a few pigments, I ended up using fluorescents from Vallejo, Kremer, and Stuart Semple. The main challenge was that blending over the small areas where I included fluos still needed the hue to change, which required a separate set of colors, rather than just a single fluo pigment.

My Rathcore V2 miniature holder also arrived in the middle of the process. It’s kind of insane how helpful it is. I was previously using a piece of cork jammed into an old Citadel paint pot, which seemed fine, until this awesome piece of hardware showed up.



Good: Despite this being my least favorite of the five pieces I brought to GenCon, it won its category at the Privateer Press P3 competition, so I guess it isn’t the worst.

Bad: However, I do really hate this thing. I was trying to get some really saturated colors and strong hue/sat contrasts, but the final result is more abrasive than I would have liked.

Ugly: Several. You can’t see the chain in the photos because it blends in with the waves behind it. This is unfortunate because the chain is one of the parts that I think really works. I also didn’t like all of the course corrections that happened, they felt more like reactionary saves than something that would have been a good idea to begin with.



Ben Komets and Aaron Lovejoy for pro-tips on my WIPs. 

Stephen Rath for designing the awesome miniature holder.

Roman Lappat and MV for the endless tutorials. I wouldn’t even have had a starting place for the water without them.




Completion Date: 02/26/2017

Time: 176 hours

Putty&Paint Link



I had originally conceived the Vanity idea for Michael Kontraros’ Vampire Queen, with the idea that the Queen has commissioned a portrait of herself that hangs behind her in the throne room. However, I have other plans for the Kontraros miniature, so I went searching for another option and found this miniature from Dark Sword.

I put together several rounds of concept art. It was originally conceived as living inside a vanity box. However, I couldn’t find anything of suitable dimensions. If I was working on it now, at the time of writing (almost a year later), I would probably 3D sculpt the vanity box base, but that wasn’t my mentality at the time.



So, I changed tack and did some concept art for what it would look like on a traditional base, and moved forward with that.




There were a lot of discreet challenges with the sculpt. The first basic conversion was that I needed to replace the mask with a hand mirror. My first attempt at this involved simply shearing off the mask and attempting to sculpt a mirror in its place. This didn’t work because the join was so small that the new mirror kept popping off at the smallest touch. So, I ended up having to buy second copy of the model (this happens to me constantly, it seems), to borrow a new mask piece. I then shaved down the mask, and built the mirror around the core that remained.

The furniture was pre-made dollhouse 3D sculpts from Shapeways, making it possibly the easiest of the diorama elements. The frame was a challenge. I found a 3D model of a frame that was designed for video gaming and not 3D printing, and it required heavy conversion to make it printable. It took several design-print/ship-examine-adjust iterations before I got something that worked.

The small box on top of the table was 3D sculpted by me. Because it’s so small, it was made from primitives, and not a big task.

Finally, the mirror etch was done through Pokono. It also took a couple iterations. The 3D print for the frame and the etch for the mirror were essentially two moving parts which had to be calibrated.



I found this image and was immediately inspired to borrow the color scheme. I used Marike Remier’s box art as a template to re-color in Photoshop.


Another inspiration was this miniature. I love how it’s completely covered with different textile patterns:



I did a paint sketch to find my pigments and originally thought I would paint the gold with TMM:


However, I didn’t like the way it looked in the sketch, and I tried painting the table in TMM as a test, and hated the way it looked, so I changed course and used NMM for the gold elements. It was a similar approach to the Slayer King, with purple shadows and yellow highlights. The main difference was that the common shadow color in Vanity is a dark, desaturated red, so the purple in the gold shadows had a bit of that as well.

I’m finding lately that the first area on a miniature that I refine ends up getting completely repainted, and this project was no exception. After starting with the freehand brocade on the front of the dress, I eventually circled back and completely re-did it, because it looked too soft, and the pattern wasn’t structured enough.

Another technique that was helpful was pre-printing guides for the wallpaper freehand. I borrowed David Soper’s approach that he uses for his nameplates, and varnished on a printed sheet which had my guides for the wallpaper:



The painting was its own mini-project. I almost exclusively stippled the design to try and create texture like you might see on some oil paintings.




I started using Schminke Titanium White for the first time on this project. The viscosity solved a big problem for me. I can now put down a thick, opaque highlight without any problem.



Good: This was my piece at GenCon that people seemed to really respond to. Given how much time I spent on it, I’m happy that people like it. It was also fortunate enough to win its category (Open).

Bad: My previous project (Slayer King) had a ton on NMM gold, and when I started this project, I was already sick of painting it. I didn’t really think very hard about how much NMM gold this one had as well. I wanted to kill myself by the end.

Ugly: Looking back, I could have nailed the presentation inside an actual vanity box, had I thought to 3D sculpt it. It could have been awesome. Even more ugliness is that there is a huge amount of freehand on the train of her dress that you can only see from the side. Could have skipped that.



Marike Reimer and Jessica Rich for the awesome boxart variants which I liberally borrowed ideas from.

Aaron Lovejoy and Ben Komets for feedback on my WIPs.


Finally, here’s some random WIPs:



I wrote up a monster post about this piece, as it was a really big time investment and creative effort for me. I’m planning on doing a post per entry, and posting them in chronological order of when the projects were completed.


Completion Date: 01/18/2017

Time: 119 hours (prep and paint)



This is an awesome sculpt by Raul Garcia Latorre. Marc Masclans’ box art captured the spirit of the original model, a green skinned Ogre (Cyclops Ogre?) with copper armor. I knew I didn’t want to be in the same realm of the box art, so I started to play around in Photoshop with ideas for different color schemes (see below). I thought maybe if he had gold armor, he could be some kind of king. But still, there’s a ton of battle damage on him, so he can’t be a fancy king… he must be a Slayer King!



Rule #1 of kings is that they need crowns. I initially sculpted a crown out of Fimo, but it didn’t have enough resolution/sharpness sculpted into it, a direct result of my very meager sculpting skills. I tried to convince myself that I could paint my way out of it, but literally 20 hours into texturing it, I let it go, as it looked irreconcilably terrible:


I searched for 3D models of crowns, and found one that I thought would work. It wasn’t originally designed for 3D printing, so I spent quite a bit of time in C4D thickening walls and removing detail that was too fine (opposite problem of my sculpted crown). I also had in printed by Shapeways in four different sizes (one version that I thought was exactly the correct size, and three insurance versions, +10%, -10%, and -15%). I used the -10%, so the insurance versions definitely ended up paying off, although I now have three awkwardly sized crowns sitting in the bitz box.


I had an idea that the Slayer King collected flesh trophies from his kills, but was still dignified enough that he wore them like military awards. I did some more scouring for 3D models and found some military awards that worked. The attached bones are from a tiny kit that Figone did… they released it right as I was scouring for trophy ideas, so I smashed the two together.


I designed the front plate and had it etched by an online company called Ponoko. They take a vector based graphic, with different colored lines for etching and cutting. When I set the design, I decided not to specify any cutting lines, thinking that I’d rather cut it myself. This was an oversight. The material they etch on is an absurdly hard and slick plastic, and will not cut straight even with a sharp blade (it will crack before it cuts). I actually snapped a scalpel blade from applying too much force. In the process of attempting to cut out the front plate, I accidentally split it in half, which is the same split you see on the final piece. I still had five more untouched versions of the same etch on the printed sheet, and could have tried again, but I felt like it was a happy accident, so I kept it.



I’m really going to insert a bunch of shoutouts in here, because I’ve seriously learned so much recently from the generous protips and advice that have been given to me directly from other painters, as well as from classes, blogs, and tutorials. This is such a different environment than when I was painting Space Marines in the late 90’s and only had White Dwarf ‘Eavy Metal tutorials to learn from.


I don’t have extensive NMM experience, so I decided to “borrow” Masclan’s box art highlight placement and volumes. I felt like my color and conversion choices were unique, and keeping this aspect of the box art made sense. Being a NMM neophyte, I also employed a protip about that I learned from Marike Reimer at her GenCon class, about using complementary colors for shadows and highlights in order to maximize hue contrast. So, knowing that my highlights would be a yellow-brown, I went with purple shadows. Yet another protip I absorbed was one from Ben Komets, about having a common shadow hue across the entire piece, for harmonization purposes. Although I see this “rule” broken sometimes to amazing effect (check out Aleksandra Cvetanovski‘s insane work), I was aiming to be baseline competent in a conventional approach on this one, so I used the purple as the shadow color on the skin and leather as well.


One thing I wanted to do before actually applying any paint was nail down exactly which physical paints I wanted to use for each hue I had decided on in my Photoshop concept. So, employing yet another Marike protip, I did an extremely janky sketch and colored it in:




This test was actually super helpful, as one thing I noticed was that my mixed purple (from Vallejo Model Color Flat Red and the skin tone color VMC Sky Blue) wasn’t saturated enough for what I was going for. So, I switched from a mixed color to a specifically selected paint from Reaper.


As a competition piece, I wanted to cram as much as possible in, so I took the broad flat surface of the shoulderpad as an invitation for some freehand. I ping-ponged back and forth between laying out designs in Photoshop and trying to freehand them in my sketchbook. The result was several iterations of removing detail until the design was something that was actually manageable with the amount of physical real estate available.



The other thing I wanted to accomplish was making a strong differentiation between different textures. I painted the skin primarily with glazes for maximum smoothness, while using a combination of stippling and glazes for the armor, to give it a splotchy, forged look. The leather and bone was all high contrast stippling, trying for a very rough, pitted texture.

Some random progress pics:



A few new things on this one. I designed and 3D printed a combo dry/wet palette design. “V1,” which I used for most of this project, sucked. It was too shallow, and when closed, paint would stick to the bottom of the lid, creating a huge mess. “V2” fixed this problem, and is what I’m currently using. I couldn’t help myself, and emblazoned the lid with “Metal AF” and some sick skulls which you can’t really see in the photo:



I tried out some different brushes on my test freehands to see what would produce the tightest lines. Being an avid reader of David Soper’s blog, I immediately bought a Reaper Pro Sabre II when he mentioned that it was his preference over Winsor Newton S7 for freehand. After testing, however, I found it too much to adjust to, and stuck with my S7 000.


I also started branching out and using paints that aren’t Vallejo. The now popular Schminke TItanium White was perfect viscosity for the tight NMM Gold highlights, and Reaper’s Monarch Purple was a more suitable shadow hue than what I could find in Vallejo’s line.



Good: I really got to dig into NMM on this one, and feel like I came out of it with a better understanding of material and reflection.

Bad: Nothing really bad here. It was a fun project, I learned a lot, and I’m marginally satisfied with the result.

Ugly: The original sculpted crown that I tried to “paint through.” Not only is it literally ugly, but between painting and sculpting, it also represents a 27 hour total wasted timesink (7 hours sculpting and 20 hours painting it to final and then resetting three times over before I gave up). It’s also hard to rationalize as a “learning experience” because the only lesson is to make a course change sooner rather than later if something looks wrong. It’s a lesson to be learned, sure, but 27 hours is an absurd price to learn it.

The Second Voyage of Sindbad

I wanted to document this project as I worked on it, but never got to it, so I made a condensed post:

007_sindbad_final1 007_sindbad_final2007_sindbad_final3007_sindbad_final4007_sindbad_final5007_sindbad_final6

Completion Date: Aug 2016

Time: 110 hours (!), sculpt and painting inclusive

Concept Summary:

This was made for Marike Reimer’s Ranbow Brush competition at GenCon 2016. I found out about it in late May, and decided that I probably had enough time to complete something in two months. I was mostly correct… I ended up pulling an almost all-nighter the night before I left for the con.

I knew I wanted to do something from the Arabian Nights, so I re-read some of the most popular ones. In the Second Voyage, Sindbad spends some time in a valley filled with diamonds, giant snakes, and rocs, which seemed like a fun concept. I decided on a moment where Sindbad has paused to inspect a diamond in the sunlight, and is ambushed by a snake approaching from behind. A giant roc footprint would fill in unseen elements of the story, and Sindbad’s own footprints combined with some bones and an abandoned bag would tell a fun secondary story for anyone who examined the diorama closely.  I also began collecting reference material:


Sculpt Summary:

I found a Reaper mini that seemed like it would work well for Sindbad with some conversion. I also found a Reaper snake that I thought would work, but on closer inspection, it was underwhelming in size and pose. That’s when I decided to scratchbuild the snake, which is also the moment the time investment in the project blew up a little bit.

The snake started with armature wire, was built up in layers of Fimo, and then finally skinned with greenstuff. The fit of the snake with the rocks was extremely tricky and required what seemed like endless fittings.


Paint Summary:

Photoshop and Kuler helped out trying color schemes:


The sand and rock dictated warm tones, so everything kind of fell into a complementary scheme of warm tones paired with the cyan diamonds. I wanted a rainbow refraction effect on the face (cool looking and also appropriate for the Rainbow Brush!), and bought an additional test model to try and sketch it out:


…but it didn’t make it to the final version because if was confusing and not clear that it was a refraction. (Big thanks to Ben Komets for pointing that out… he gave me a round of notes via his Patreon Virtual Coaching, and they were very helpful).

I spent a lot of time as I was painting adjusting the exact hues:


Gear Summary: Not a ton different than what I had been using… all of the painting was done with WN S7 size 1 and 000, and Vallejo paint. I did try Secret Weapon pigments for the sand, which added a dusty feel that didn’t exist with just the acrylics.



The diorama won the Rainbow Brush and a Silver in its category in the overall competition. I just got back into painting a year ago, so it’s great to win something. I’m also generally happy with how it turned out, except for…


I really wish I hadn’t titled it the way I did. In retrospect, it seems boring. It should have been “Sindbad and the Valley of Diamonds,” or something similar. “The Second Voyage” doesn’t give any information about the piece unless you’re already familiar with what the Second Voyage is. The sculpt on the snake and the conversions could also have been substantially cleaner, but what I did was pushing right up against my skill level.

As an overall thing, I think it’s solidly put together, but failed to have a big “wow” factor. I watched people look at miniatures in the display cases at GenCon, and certain pieces seem to have a gravity that pulls people into orbit.

The Sindbad model could have also been more ambitious. The robe could have been taken up a notch with some freehand.


Really wish I could have made the rainbow effect work on the face.