Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SA/GO: which B …? (part six) B is for basing

So, I have been having a virtual tete-a-tete with Brent’s empty digital headache, and the experience has been… illuminating. In sum, I need some help (put that one on a plate for you). As it turns out, so does Brent (tremendous service here).

You can find the sequence of our correspondence, as such, here: first, second, third, fourth, and fifth installments a-go-go. We like to talk. This, then constitutes the humble sixth installment (in which I try to bring something useful for Brent to the table) and which will soon followed by the seventh installment (in which I try to refine my Necron Combat Patrol list-building inexperience).  Here we go.

Brent. Mate.

You have been thinking about improving your painting scores in order round out your already potent competitive mojo. I’d like to help if I am able with a quick tip that I feel is something very close to imperative in army assembly.

I should mention that I have never won a painting competition or award really (I predate the trophy generation, so honorable mention doesn’t count), though I have entered two or three in my day. As such, I am a bit concerned that my “advice” might seem rather tepid at best or unmerited/boastful at worst.

Still, correspondence is as correspondence does and I humbly submit that the armies I paint are at least “tabletop” quality, and perhaps a breath or two above. This isn’t to say that your armies aren’t, but I think my skills seem a bit more ying to your proverbial yang (wayhey?), and there are a few pointers that I would offer all comers when thinking about making an army coherent, solid, compelling.

Funnily enough, the first item that I would stress is the last item I paint, with only the rarest exception. As such, this is the quickest “fix” for an already painted force, which I presume yours are.

Here’s the gist.

I encourage you to think about the bases of your model (all of them) in much the same manner as you would the model itself. This involves a few simple considerations:

-Unify the entire army with a specific theme for the bases as bases themselves. To do so, you will want to carry this across your entire army. I know that can be tricky. If you are like me, you will likely build an army in slow motion over a sequence of weeks… months… years. I confess that I have never genuinely, completely “finished” an army. The danger here is always that my techniques change, shift, develop, or simply vanish between the beginning and end of my assembly process.

Even so, I am not too proud to go back and re-work bases on older models to bring them up to scratch. Here’s the rub. A solid and consistent theme on a base will invariably pull the whole mix together, make them belong, tell a bit of a story about where they are, even on models that evolve in technique and even color over my extended assembly process. The contrary is also true. Mismatched bases will invariably make an army look like its adherents belong on different planets –tsk tsk. 


-Three color minimum and perhaps a wash somewhere in the mix. Paint your bases. All of them. All the time. You needn’t lavish the same kind of attention to detail as the rest of the model, but a strong start with a decent sized flat overbrush that works toward a drybrush in each additional highlight will do just fine. This can be accomplished really quite quickly, and an ambitious wash will smooth out areas that I have accidently treated rather clumsily, which happens often. I also encourage the sporadic use of static grass to hide other mistakes –the haphazard nature of the grass itself gives the appearance of randomness, but really just hides that clumsiness I mentioned earlier. 

But most importantly, your choice of color must look very closely toward...

-The color composition (or palette) of your force. I notice, for example, that your Daemons are largely blue and purple –which is a rather striking combination, appropriately chaotic, and visually arresting; however, I feel that the chalky whitish color that I’ve seen on several photos doesn’t really gel with anything else on the model. Because of this, again my opinion only and worth nothing more, the two seem oddly disjointed.

By comparison, I encourage you pull colors off the model (or vice versa) and bring them onto the base. Notice, for example, that the fur on the cape of this model is identical both to the staff and to the grit below. That’s not laziness. 

...and again below -same idea, different version/model.

-Narrative. I don’t know if you have considered a narrative for this army (it’s an horrifically FAAP thing to do, but I often find my mind wandering to these details during the initial, tedious parts of the assembly process), but you might also take a nod from that direction as well. As with the three-color minimum above, I encourage you to let the base tell part of your story. Again, also in an echo of the principle above, notice the way the red of the BA helmets underfoot repeat above, below and within the model itself. For me, this is a pleasant way to tell the story of my army (they hate Blood Angels, really), as well as connect a few visual dots on the composition of the model itself.

When applied across an entire force, the effect can be wonderfully dramatic.

notice the plumage of the first guy, and the red on those behind

Something to think about, I hope.


psychobob808 said...

Well said my friend!

Da Masta Cheef said...

'at least table top quality'????

You sir are SEVERAL levels (if not more) above that IMO.

I tend to do very simple & basic on my bases as for whatever reason that's the one part of the mini I dislike painting. Just some elmers & a dip in my flock mix, followed later (when dry) with some clear coat.

There are a always few exceptions of course. My Quar for example with their rocky bases, and one of my CSM armies who's bases resemble that gorgeous standard bearer or yours...


rcketscientst said...

A tip I heard from someone was to drybrush a dark "highlight" over the base texture. Then take a step lighter shade and drybrush only two thirds of the base. Do a final lightest shade drybrush over the final third. Like a pie chart or in bands, going from light to dark across the base. Once you add some stat grass, the total effect looks fairly natural.

Big Jim said...

Themed bases, is a Glorious way to tie your force together! It's the way I have been rolling for a while now and don't see myself ever changing.

Brian said...

@ Psychobob. Cheers.

@ Da Masta Cheef. Thank you kindly.

You are not alone with that business about not liking the basing process. I've heard quite a few people say just about the same. For my part, I save it for last so the completion of the base always accompanies the satisfying feeling of completion. Perhaps it's a Pavlovian thing.

I thought you might like that standard bearer.

@ rcketscientst. I'd never heard that before. Very, very cool idea. I will absolutely be trying this somewhere down the road. Cheers.

@ Big Jim. Cheers.