(Many pictures on this page. I apologize for any slow download times.)
Happy Halloween! Iím probably early, or late. Whatever the case my be, for this article keeping with season, I thought we could discuss the most fearsome creature known. Women! Kidding aside, painting realistic human flesh can be frightening and even intimidating. Especially when confronted with such a lovely sculpt as Critical Massí Dejah Thoris: Princess of Mars. Sculpted by Mike Petrysak from an illustration by Frank Cho. I am unfamiliar with the character, from the John Carter on Mars series Iím told. I was also told that according to the books, the Princess has a reddish tone to her skin. Iíll be painting mine like her sisters here on Earth. Just in case anyone thinks I donít know what the hell Iím doing. Oh yeah, I donít.
I get asked quite a bit how I paint female figures, or just humans in general. Rather than just write that down, I once again decided to experiment and try something different. But first, we have to get ready to paint. This is going to take some work, and planning.
Click on pictures to enlarge.
The kit comes in 5 pieces for the figure. An axe, knife blade, and a simple round resin base.
It would appear that the kit producers wanted to make it possible to paint the pieces separately, and then assembling. The pose of the figure almost makes this a necessity. Upon test fitting, I ran into some snags. I like to have my kits as completely assembled as possible when painting, so I at least decided to attach the left leg. I drilled rather large holes, and stuck three metal pins into the leg for support. Additionally, before gluing, I stuck some Plumberís Putty in there as well. A good snug and strong fit.
For the other leg, I noticed some gaps while test fitting, so I ran some Apoxie sculpt along the inside of the leg.
Dipping my fingers in water, I wetted the torso where the leg will fit, and mashed the two pieces together. I liberally wet down the other piece so the putty on the leg wouldnít stick yet. Holding the pieces together, I smoothed out the putty and took off any excess that oozed out. Pulling the pieces back apart, I set the leg aside to dry.
Here is another, and more complicated way of doing it. I had worked on this kit before, and took the long way I guess. Having more trouble the first time, I think I ground off too much of the inside of the leg piece, and got an even worse fit. I got ht legs to rest together like I wanted, but the waist looked odd to me.
I took my clippers, and cut off the jewelry along the seam.
I brushed a layer of Liquid Latex over the other piece, keeping it thin but making sure everything was covered well.
This is to keep the putty from sticking to it, and sticking to the separate leg piece where I want it to stay. Once the latex was dry, I put the two pieces together and held them in place with rubber bands and ultimately Duct Tape. I puttied the seam as if the pieces were permanently attached, careful not to rub off the latex while smoothing the putty with water. Its starting to look like a bondage film.
Using copper wire from some spool I had laying around, I wound two threads together with a drill. Attaching the pieces to the drill, and holding onto the other ends with some pliers.
I cut this to length, and attached it to the leg.
These pieces just snap together perfectly now.
If your not bored to death, lets get on with the painting. Oh yeah, donít forget to fill any pinholes, and sand everything nice and smooth. And wash, and prime...
I mixed up four sets of skintones in acrylic, and four ďsecondaryĒ colors in watercolor. For the acrylic tones, I had a medium which was pretty much Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, and White. Another color was more red, by adding more Burnt Sienna to the before mentioned mix. The darkest had more Burnt Umber, and the lightest had more Raw Sienna and White. For the watercolors, I mixed up some basic flesh tone, and pured this into 4 separate film can containers. You wont need much of this, maybe fill the containers as much as if a couple of coins, quarters, were in there. I mixed some purple in one, Indian Red in another, and Raw Sienna and Payneís gray in the other two.
Starting with my medium acrylic flesh, I base coated the figure. I added some highlights with my lightest color. With the reddish color, I misted this under some of the features and around the figure to add some life.
I recently was able to get an obscenely fine splatter effect with my Iwata Micron airbrush. Taking advantage of this, using the purple watercolor mix, I applied a fine texture of dots over the figure, most heavily in what would be the shadow areas of the kit. On top of this, I spattered the reddish mixture, and ultimately the yellowish or raw sienna mix. Its gone from a bondage flick to a flesh eating disease flick!
Donít worry, mist over the entire figure with a mix of the medium flesh color with some more white added to it, and it looks much better.
I did this instead of using my former highlight color. I like to mix and change up colors as I go, to get a variety in the tones. This creates a nice, subtle texture to the skin. I ended up going back and forth over the kit, with more speckling and misting over, going a little lighter with my mist color each time until I got the effect I wanted. I wanted to be able to see the texture, but keep it soft. On a make figure, or an older character, you could go more heavy with the effect. Before I finished up with this, I added some freckles with a straight burnt umber spatter on her cheeks, shoulders, and breasts. I misted over these to tone them down, this picture was before that.
Before I went much further, I decided to attach the other leg, to make sure the pieces all had continuity in their tones. Even though I had been painting the other pieces as I go, with all this layering there will still be differences which you cant see when they are apart.
I knew the leg wasnít going to fit perfectly, but that is what Liquitex Acrylic Putty is for. I mixed in my darkest flesh color with it, since the putty is white and seems to lighten up whatever color you add in. With a brush, I applied this to the seam, and wiped clean with a cotton swab and water. Donít forget to dull coat before this or you will wipe off your paint.
Now comes the fun part for me. Using my Micron (not spattering) and very thin watercolors I started layering some more color onto the kit. Of course burnt umber for shading, but I used the mix I had with some flesh color to keep this from being too dark. Some burnt sienna, or other reddish tone along the tips of the shoulders, around the breasts, knees, ankles, cheeks, you get the idea. Fleshy parts, and anywhere there is a lot of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. I even used my gray watercolor mixture which you may have wondered about in just a few areas. Down the middle of her torso, the center of her ribcage and in-between the ribs (or where they would be), and under her collar bone. These bony areas to me seem to have a gray hue to them.
Its all downhill from here. You know the rest. Paint in the eyes and lips.
Then get out the fine tipped brush and paint in those thin straps and jewels.
I think the key is variety. Our brains know what a human looks like, its hard to fool. Look at all the small details of the skin. The imperfections. Freckles, warts, the fine hair on the forearms, how the lightest color is on the inside of the forearms and back of the legs. Taken too far, you can end up with a pretty gaudy kit. Some might argue that these details aren't "in scale". I personally like the results. They may not even be that noticeable, unless you get real close to the kit, but donít we all put those little details in that no one else sees? The camera may not pick it up, or judges at a contest. But on a subconscious level, maybe, we can try to trick our eyes into believing its real. And in the case of this kit, wouldnít it be nice?
~Click here to see pictures of the finished kit~