Completion Date: 03/22/2018 (literally the day before Crystal Brush)

Time: 249 hours

PNP link with more pictures:

This is my third of three posts about my 2018 Crystal Brush entries. You can find the first post here, and second post here.



I knew I wanted to bring an original piece to Crystal Brush. I had a fairly well developed idea in mind to pursue, and I spent a week trying to get started sculpting it myself when I realized that there was no way my sculpting skill level was at a place that I could produce anything close to what I was imagining.

So, I did some fairly exhaustive research, searching for a sculptor that met the following criteria: 1. Sculpted really well (obviously), 2. Sculpted in a way that was compatible with my painting approach, 3. Sculpted digitally (for mostly logistic and timeline related reasons), 4. Someone that wasn’t super well known, i.e. they would be hungry to do a great job on the sculpt and not just think of it as an annoying piece of side work.

By the time I contacted Charles Agius, I was fairly certain that he was the optimum match for the project. I prepared a crude Photoshopped piece of concept art:


And a guide that attempted to data-dump all of my thoughts about the elements of the sculpt:





Charles really crushed it. I got sweet looking updates:



…I gave some notes, and pretty soon, I was the proud owner of some .stl files, which I sent off to be 3D printed. I got two copies, one for potential future casting, and one to directly paint (again, because of timeline considerations, I had to get started painting immediately).

One thing I came to realize, however, was that the material that was used for printing this particular piece was more brittle that I am used to, which combined with the top-heavy nature of the Pharaoh sculpt, created issues keeping the piece safely pinned together (more on that in the ‘ugly’ section… yikes).



My usual approach to finding my color scheme involves using Kuler to solidify my palette ideas, and then taking versions of the miniature painted by other artists, desaturating it, and digitally painting over it with my new palette (if you go through previous posts, you can catch Photoshop paint-overs of Marc Masclans, Kat Martin, and Marike Reimer). This results in a guide I use while painting the miniature in real life.

Even if I want the light in a different place than where it started with my reference art, the baseline contrast of the volumes is there, which makes it easy to play with. With this piece being original, I had to try painting over an image of the 3D model, which is much harder to digitally paint into a useful place. I ended up with this monstrosity:



…also visible is an Arnau Lazaro piece that I was sampling as a potential palette source.

My pigment test (i.e. translating my Photoshop image into real life paint) occurred the day before I needed to get on a plane to leave for a winter break (with painting supplies packed for the trip), so it was very minimalistic, but got me the info I needed to get started:





By the end of the project, this is what I ended up using:



Unfortunately, when I did the test, I didn’t have any inks or fluorescents, so when I started painting the lighting effect with a standard matte red, I couldn’t get the contrast I needed. Because of this, this project had a very extensive “shit phase”:



Once I got my hands on some super saturated reds, it was still a challenge to find the right hue.



Good: I think it’s a miracle that I was able to finish this project in time for the Crystal Brush and actually get it to the show without breaking anything. So, the fact that it won 3rd place Best in Show is kind of doubly insane.


Bad: It’s honestly my least favorite of the three pieces I brought to Crystal Brush. I feel like even though it’s my original concept, I spent so much time working on it that I lost perspective on what I was doing and was just pursuing the goal of finishing it. One of the reasons I want to get the full diorama cast as a resin kit is that I’m 100% sure that someone else out there can top my version of it.


Ugly: The pinning between the Pharaoh’s feet and the base was always suspect because the legs (being 3D printed) were hollow, and the material was brittle. I knew that it was a potential failure point, and was relieved when the piece made it to the show intact. However, on the way home, a friendly TSA agent at O’Hare decided to toss the carrying case off the x-ray conveyor, and the Pharaoh snapped off at the feet, which also caused two other areas to snap from the impact. I was able to pack the broken pieces into extra bubble wrap that I had in my bag and get the piece home without even further damage. As ugly as this is, I think I could potentially fix it in as little as 8 hours. However, I have let it lie in state since “the incident” because I wanted to direct my energy to future projects rather than spend time repairing old ones. However, if I decide to sell this piece, there will probably be a multi-week waiting period for the buyer while I find the time to do the required fixes and reinforcements.



Due to the funds invested in designing and 3D printing this piece, I need to recoup what I spent! There may be casts of the full diorama in the future. I’m still trying to gauge demand (if you’re really interested, definitely drop me a note on FB, as it will help me get an accurate reading).

For now, there is a bust version available:

I distributed some at GenCon this year and may have some available at future shows. Pale King Hobby did a great review of the bust. I will have copies at future shows I attend and you can also buy online at Mr. Lee’s Minis.



Thanks for reading, and thanks to the following people for their help along this journey:

Charles Agius for taking on the sculpt.

Aaron Lovejoy and Ben Komets for their input.

Paul at Visionproto for the 3D print.

Caleb Wissenbeck for the sick plinth.

Jen Haley for the awesome pics at Crystal Brush.

Vincent Venturella for the amazing first version of the bust that we’ve seen (and is currently being used at Mr Lee’s)