Arcane Paintworks Painting Masterclass!
Over this past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a class taught by Meg Maples of Arcane Paintworks, and I just wanted to share a bit about how it went.
The class was held at Barwell Bodyworks south of Leicester, UK (where I help teach wargame airbrushing classes – the next one is in February 2017) and after the first UK class filled up super fast several months ago, I made sure to jump in the queue ASAP as soon as the second class was announced.
Meg’s Tywin (from Game of Thrones) bust – one of the deciding factors in me choosing to attend!
photo from Arcane Paintworks
Meg has been skipping around Europe and the UK for the past few months, attending model shows and competitions such as SMC (Scale Model Challenge) in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Euromilitaire outside of London, plus squeezing in as many classes as possible on the off-weekends, which I’m sure helped pay for the trip from Australia!
The details for the class were put on the Arcane Paintworks Facebook page, and luckily for me the only new items I needed to get were some Rosemary & Co. brushes for the 2-brush blending (#2 for paint and #3 for blending, if you must know!).
photo from Arcane Paintworks
Although I’d heard of Meg before (only in the sense that I’d seen her name mentioned in a couple of painting blogs, I think), I’m not familiar at all with the figure painting ‘scene’ in the US or Europe. It’s a different sort of thing than wargaming painting, and even that I don’t know much about! My work with Barwell Bodyworks led me to starting this site and my painting service, and that’s only been in the past couple of years, so I’ve only attended shows like Salute and UK Games Expo this year, plus Derby World Wargames and a few smaller shows in the UK last year. My day job and other side jobs keep me pretty busy!
I knew what Golden Demon is/was, but until a few years ago had never heard of the Crystal Brush awards, Cool Mini or Not, Nova, Las Vegas Open, Bay Area Open…and I’d only heard about Euromilitaire a couple of years ago – and I’d never heard of SMC! So it was with great interest that I heard names like Roman, Ben Komets, Bohun and many others get tossed around the classroom during the discussions that took place about great artists to aspire to.
All this goes to say that I didn’t really know much about Meg beforehand, although I’d picked up a few things here and there and checked out the blog on her site before handing over my cash to sign up for the class. So all I knew about the class and Meg’s signature technique (apart from what I found on her blog and pictures of the awesome models she’s done there) was what I saw on the class description:
The topics Meg will go over include but are not limited to the following:
Miniature Cleaning and Prep
Proper Priming Techniques
2 Brush Blending (a quick and efficient technique for smooth blends)-used in the Privateer Press P3 Studio on all studio models.
Painting Faces and Eyes
Color Theory-not a separate section but a hefty introduction will be provided throughout the class ensuring students get hands on experience with mixing and layering colors accompanied by explanation as to why it works.
Hair and Fur
OSL (glowy bits)
True Metallic Metals
So I see we’ll be learning about 2-brush blending! 🙂 I’d tried it years ago on some Warmachine Cryx models but learned through YouTube basically, and while I was generally happy with the way the models turned out, I was enthusiastic about learning more. Mainly I was very interested to learn everything I could from a brush painting master!
Now onto the supply list. Every art class has a supply list!
Supply List (recommended)
Painting lamp-preferably one with a fluorescent or daylight bulb. Bulbs that are too yellow or too blue distort the color of the paint.
P3 paints (if you have them, they are best for 2 Brush Blending. Vallejo will also work for 2BB but will be more difficult. Reaper, GW and Scale 75 paint will not work with 2 brush blending.
There are a few options. I use a Raphael 8404 Sable size 3 for blending and a Winsor and Newton Series 7 (standard not miniature sizes) size 2 for application and details.
You can also use a size 2 and 3 from Rosemary & Co Artists Brushes series 22 (not 33).
• You can get any good quality Red Sable Brushes as well in a size 2 and 3.
• I do not recommend Games and Gears brushes for 2 Brush Blending as they are too soft and floppy
Dry well palette
Sketchbook and pen for note taking
Hair dryer (at least a couple for the class to share)
White and Black Spray Primer for Zenithal Priming
Other minis to practice techniques on that include a well sculpted and defined face, fur/hair, weapons or shields, something that can be turned into a glowy bit, lots of skin and wide open spaces such as shields or capes to practice blending. You can bring whatever scale of mini you like but I recommend between 28mm and 54mm for this class.
The only thing that I needed to get was a selection of P3 paints – all I had to start with was the Cryx set for Warmachine, so I went online and found a bunch of paint swatches and chose the most skin-like ones I could find. Silly me, I should have brought more!
Everything else I already had, and I found a bunch of big (giant-size in 28mm) models from the Blood Rage board game with lots of skin and fur plus a few 28mm scale barbarians from the Red Box Games Kickstarter campaign of Warriors of the Cold North (you can see my review of these models here).
Ejrvindr from Red Box Games – I painted the metal version on the first day to practice 2-brush blending
The Frost Giant (left) that I brought on the second day to practice skin glazes and blending
The “class model” was an archer from Guild Ball, that Meg passed around at the start of the day Saturday.
I brought lots of other models, including some Space Marine parts, some Medieval Mayhem models (basically unlicensed Monty Python and the Holy Grail models) and a few other things but stuck with painting just a couple of models for the weekend.
I arrived later than I wanted to – from past experience teaching classes, I knew many students show up pretty early, up to about half or 3/4. Some like to chat and get to know the teacher, others just set up quietly and wait for the class to start. The rest of the students show up just before class starts or even late, which only happened with one couple in our class because they had babysitters to deal with. I got to class about 15 minutes before the start time, when I wanted to get there about 45 minutes early, but no biggie. Meg was very friendly and welcoming, and the rest of the students didn’t look dangerous – plus, I’d helped teach airbrushing to 3 of them before! So I was amongst friends. It’s always weird walking into a classroom for the very first time, but really it was fine.
Starting the Weekend
Meg started the class with a quick primer about…primer! We were to prime the class model, ideally with zenithal priming (to get a head start on the shadows and highlights), either with airbrush or using Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. Meg explained that the Halford’s grey primer or other cheap primers may be fine for army batch painting but for display work nothing is better than Tamiya primer (unless you have an airbrush – and then it’s Badger Stynlrez all the way).
That’s me in them maroon on the left, with Meg in front of the Badger Spectra-Tex sign
photo by Steve at Barwell Bodyworks
After priming our models and putting the first basecoats on, the class continued with a brief description about how 2-brush blending works. This included what the technique involves, how much paint to put on the paint brush, even how to hold the brushes (because one is in your hand at all times and the other is held – and moistened – in your mouth). After some questions and answers we sat at our desks and got started, while Meg demonstrated the technique to 4 students at a time.
This turned out to be the format for all of the topics that were covered: a bit of lecture and discussion, some theory description with the topics that needed it (such as color theory), questions and answers, then multiple demonstrations to a few people with more questions and answers. You can see the class topics above.
My desk area for the weekend
The color theory part of the class was done on the first day, and merged in with the 2-brush blending shading lesson. Using her own color theory handout and the Figopedia book as a sort of textbook with examples, Meg went through the basics of the color wheel, including complimentary colors and how they can be used (or abused) to provide shade, depth, and importantly, CONTRAST. This was Meg’s mantra through the weekend, get more contrast on your model! Techniques from Figopedia using our phone cameras were demonstrated to show where we needed to improve on our models as we tried glazing and blending more and more highlights and deeper shadows.
End of Day 1
At the end of the first day, I had probably the best ‘brown leather painted on model’ that I’d ever done:
Not a very sharp photo (and I know I missed part of his belt!)
To my eyes (not on the screen) this is darker but the best 28mm model I’ve probably ever painted. This was all Formula P3 paints
I’m lucky to live just half an hour from Barwell, so I was able to grab all the Vallejo paint I could plus some extra models to bring to the class. This is when I grabbed the Blood Rage monster models.
Now, for the second day, we covered skin and faces, hair, metallics and OSL a bit (I was the only one interested in it, I think). The Frost Giant model proved to be a great way to learn how to glaze skin and then work on hair:
Still a WIP, the rocks and glowing runes need to be painted and the hair needs some shadows
The most skin I’ve painted on a model, and a great result for me! This is done by hand (no airbrush except for zenithal priming), no washes, no inks. This was all Vallejo Game paints, the whites are a bit chalky on the glazes but don’t show in the photos
Covering All the Topics
The only topics we didn’t cover as a class group were model prep, which everyone had a handle on anyway, and basing materials like flock and whatnot. I did overhear people get answers to their questions about basing in individual questions (and I asked as many questions as I could think of), though, so it’s not like these areas were outright ignored, it’s just that the class as a whole didn’t seem to want to learn this and the people that did were free to ask whatever they wanted. I asked about model display composition when put on a base and how it relates to lighting and had a very nice talk with Meg regarding the nicest 28mm model/diorama I’ve ever seen, which she brought with her:
photo from Arcane Paintworks
As you can see, the foreground (tentacles), mid-ground (the Ariel model herself) and the background (window wall with jewelry pendant) are all perfectly placed, with the lighting on the tile base providing the highlight for the figure. Meg brought along several other busts and models with her to help show many examples of every one of the techniques we went over as a class and individual instruction.
Having these examples (which are also on her blog and Facebook page) proved to be invaluable, and seeing them in person was very nice indeed. I just wish I’d taken pictures of the example models! But there are much nicer photos on Meg’s blog than I could have taken at the class, so it’s fine.
photo by Steve at Barwell Bodyworks
One of the great benefits of getting in a class like this are the bits where the instructor isn’t reading from their prepared notes, and they reply straight from their heart (or their gut). So questions about the upcoming Steamforged paint range (50+ paints developed by Meg and coming out at some point), working at Privateer Press and Reaper, how paints are developed and made, working with other artists, the competition arts scene…you name it, questions were asked and Meg replied with no filter. Even non-art questions and discussions were on the table, and it’s great to not have to treat our visiting artists as just an art book that we flip open to a certain page and only learn about art. We learned about Meg’s background, how much she hates Australian spiders and how she ended up in the wilds of New South Wales, Australia.
Possibly the highlight of the weekend was Meg leading everyone to the nearby Co-Op store (a corner grocery store) to search for the right baking paper to use for wet palettes (unwaxed, greaseproof) and the right sheet sponge – which I found actually pretty easily, there’s thin cellulose sponge (about 3mm thick) and thicker cleaning sponges about 4-6mm thick). I’ve used wet palettes for some time, but didn’t know there’s a right and wrong way to use certain ‘dry’ palettes (did you know?!), and have been searching around to make the ‘perfect’ wet palette, so this was super helpful. Look for a video on making wet palettes soon.
I always kick myself a little when I don’t ask a question during times like these classes, and I meant to ask, among other things:
- what exact System container is best for wet palette (I have subsequently asked on Meg’s Facebook page)
- who makes Acrylicos Vallejo paint and the various Spanish-owne paints like Scale 75, Ammo, AK, etc. (we did get tons of info about Reaper and P3 paints)
- if I could get a ‘class picture’ with Meg (sounds weird but I have a picture with Angel Giraldez, studio painter for Infinity models, at Salute)
- I should have taken video of Meg at work blending and glazing – it’s one thing to see pictures of a wet palette, WIP (work in progress), the finished work, etc., but actually watching the technique happen really really helps!
- having already ordered many more P3 paints the first day of the class, I’m now feeling the urge to get more display-sized models to paint…
Overall I’m very happy with the class and Meg’s discussions and demonstrations. It did cost a chunk of change but I feel it was well worth it, and I’d paid months ago so it’s not like I’m feeling the pain of the cost right now. Some students seem to treat these classes as a weekend away and simply as a time to get in 16 or so hours of painting done, but I asked nearly all the questions I meant to ask (and Meg happily invites questions by email) and squeezed everything I could out of it, even if I only really painted 2 miniatures (and one 1/10th scale RC car driver face, to practice the eyes). It sounds weird to tell someone who isn’t a model painter that you paid someone from Australia to sit down and paint for 2 full days in front of them, but it was an intensive weekend of painting and I really do feel I learned a lot and improved quite a bit as a painter!
I’m looking forward to a future class with Meg in Barwell, and I’ll also need to remember to watch more painting videos online, plus read more from all the different sites and painters Meg suggested!