This weekend I picked a miniature from the Dark Sword Stephanie Pui-Mun Law Masterworks series. I had a hard time choosing– there are so many beautiful miniatures! I narrowed it down to two and let the Twittersphere decide:
The result was unanimous! Before I started with Euterpe, I looked up the sketch that inspired the mini. Stephanie's sketch shows a woman sitting atop a seashell-like rock playing a flute while an image of the cosmos rotates overhead. In Greek mythology, Euterpe is one of the nine Muses, goddesses of music, song and dance. I love the romantic idea of using a moon and water theme to inspire my color palette– I'll choose muted greens, blues, and purples in this miniature with a few pops of vibrant color accents to add interest. With Stephanie's image references and the Dark Sword Marike Reimer DVD playing in the background, I started cleaning up the miniature. I took my time to file away mould lines and decided I'd attach her arms last in order to paint her face to the level of detail I want. However, once I primed her, I noticed she has very detailed eyes sculpted in– a testament to the high skill of the sculptor no doubt, but something that I find challenging to paint. One of her eyes bit more recessed than the other, and I find that lower eyelids, however well-sculpted, have the tendency to make female miniatures look older. One of my painter friends mentioned that he sometimes cuts away that part of the sculpt in order to "open up the eyes more". I really hate to change a sculpt in any way– it's like adding salt to your dish at a fancy restaurant without even tasting it first. A silly analogy perhaps, but unless I set out to intentionally modify a sculpt, I try to keep it as consistent with the original cast as possible. However, that lovely sentiment flew out the window this Saturday.
I usually start painting the skin while lining and blocking out adjacent shapes like her dress. I wanted to paint her with a fair porcelain-like skin tone. Things were going fairly well until I started on the eyes. I find that painting eyes on fair skin is difficult. Standard liners are too dark so I used the darkest shadow of her skin tone along with a warm off-white for her sclera. I wanted her to have rich, deep blue eyes and all I could think when I looked at her was, "Great, now she looks like Elijah Wood". No offense to Mr. Wood, but having this beautiful miniature remind me of Frodo Baggins was just no good. After 4 hours of layering skin tones and struggling with the eyes, I put her in the "Dunk Tank" to strip away the paint and primer.
I decided to start over– a la "Groundhog Day" the movie with Bill Murray where he's stuck doing the same thing every day until he gets it right. Yep, that was me! However, this time I decided to give it a different spin. I begrudgingly (and carefully) cut away the lower eyelids with an X-acto knife and brought out the Reaper Brush-On Primers in black and white. Then I mixed them in different amounts on my wet palette and applied them in thin layers as a basic value study. The darkest parts would be black and the parts that receive the most light would be much lighter. This took me around 15 minutes to apply, since I didn't want to apply too many layers and add unecessary texture to the miniature. Overall, I think she turned out great! I'm going to take my time on this second try and I may rethink some aspects of my color scheme. While I think fair skin is beautiful, I like painting dynamic eyes even more– I may give her more of a darker complexion, one of my personal favorites! I believe if you're going to paint a miniature you like, paint her in a way that you love. After all, if she's a Greek muse, she may as well have a beautiful Mediterranean olive skin tone to match!