Transition Piece

I call this bust “Transition Piece”, because of the long strange learning process that I went through while painting it.

This is one of the first busts I have ever painted. After having painted miniatures for gaming since the mid-nineties, I had to try something new. I figured that busts were so far removed from 28mm war gaming miniatures, that I would be forced far out of my comfort zone and therefore be in a prime position for learning new techniques and skills.

I started the bust after Monte San Savino 2015, with all the gusto and energy that a new project entails. The story behind it was that the character was a white man that had been honoured by a tribe, and received their traditional scarification patterns and tattoos.

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I made the scarification pattern with heavily thinned Milliput, applied in a few iterations with a toothpick over a sketched design on the bust. After primer, I made the first base coats with my airbrush, and began work on the midtones for the skin. transition-umalet-1transition-umalet-2

I painted a lot of cross-hatched and stippled textures for the cloth, and layered in glazes with oil to get a deeper red colour. Then the energy sort of petered out, and I put the project on the shelf.

In February 2016, Alfonso Giraldes held a Master Class workshop in Copenhagen. I felt so out of my depth and totally confused, but the topics on colour theory and contrast really started to coagulate in my mind following the workshop. I picked up the bust again, and begun applying what I had learned: Much deeper shadows, and sharper highlights, as well as a newfound disregard for smoothness.

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This first transition was a lot of fun, and putting all that new knowledge to use was exciting. Then Dogma48 rolled around, and I got sidetracked with another project.

So the bust was forgotten again, but then Tue and I went to Barcelona to participate in a workshop with Sang-Eon Lee and Myeong Ha Hwang. The workshop was great, and I learned a lot more about painting faces and making them believable. I wanted to play with this new knowledge, but got diverted again.

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This next transition finally got under way during the summer of 2016, and the colour mapping that I had learned from the Barcelona workshop worked out really well. I started glazing in primary colours in the zones of the face: yellow around the eyes; red on the cheeks and nose; and greyish blues in the jaw. Working on top of already two very different technical styles; my own starting point, and the Alfonso Giraldes inspired first transition, made this a bit weird to work with. But I felt like I had pulled it off, and then I forgot about the bust once more.

Now it was time for Monte San Savino 2016, and up until a month before departure, I had basically made up my mind as to not bring anything. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my small selection of pieces, and the one bust I had been working with on-off for almost a year was just a “learning piece”, that I couldn’t possibly finish and bring to the show.

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But I was persuaded to actually bring something to the show, and so I had to finish this piece.

The final transition brought the pieces to its final conclusion. At the onset of this stage, I had convinced myself that a few more highlights would do the trick, and then I was done. But looking at it further, I needed a much stronger light source to support the way I had painted the shadows.

I gave the bust a filter of Schmincke Titanium White with airbrush from one direction, and then glazed more skin tones and primaries over this. It was a little hair-raising to take something that is almost done, and then airbrush it with the whitest of white paints, but the result was good. The face was then highlighted even more with Titanium White, using spots and streaks, instead of solid lines, to build some final texture.

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The cloth got some more texturing, and then another red glaze, to deepen the colour. I was not entirely happy with it, so I glazed in a blue ink in the shadows, and a yellow ink on the parts of the cloth that would be in the light. This creates a temperature contrast that I am really happy with. Highlights were done with Titanium White, again with a spottier application to build more texture.

When all was said and done, something was still amiss. The pectorals were very bare, and boring, so to break them up, I added a few tattoos. These were made with watercolours, and then sealed with a very light application of satin varnish. I used watercolours because they can be erased and reworked until the design is as it should be, without accidentally screwing up the underlying paint job.

His eyes were painted turquoise to contrast with the orangey-red cloth.

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And thus, the title Transition Piece came to be. This bust has been a journey for my skills and mindset, and it represents a lot of things that may not have been ideally compatible, but worked out for the best. It is a transition of techniques, colours, and personal painting-philosophy.

It is hard to keep applying new techniques on top of old ones, and make it all work in a meaningful way. There is no doubt that I have had to do more work to get this to work, than if I had not worked in this transitional way. But the learning experience and the process has been amazing for me!

I am very happy with the outcome, and I hope you like it too!

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