Paintlog: Mary Read

So, this was something that I had been working on for a while and I’ve alluded to in previous posts, but I think it’s time to do a paintlog of my Mary Read bust from Scale75. This was my first bust, and my first crack at something in 1/12 scale, though I did do a Reaper figure in an intermediate scale as practice for levelling up from 30mm to 1/12, and I’d say it turned out pretty good, in spite of me breaking my hand partway through and having to paint one-handed.

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Anyways, just to get it out of the way first, there was a bit of controversy with this kit. This was one of the busts from their Naughty Gears kickstarter campaign, and I got it (among a few others) as part of this campaign. Scale75 had initially shown a very different model in their concept art, however shortly after the campaign closed and they took everyone’s money, they informed backers that the original Mary Read was no longer available due to a copyright issue, and that they were going to be offering a completely different model in her stead. After getting a bit of flak from their backers, Scale75 relented and created a new sculpt of Mary Read, changing her just enough to avoid any sort of copyright issue.

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Original (left) and actual product (right). That hair, yo…

I have to admit, I was initially a little disappointed with the new sculpt when Scale75 first showed the photos of it. The original had some pretty awesome elements that I was looking forward to painting, particularly the hair, which really sold me on upping my pledge level and getting this model. However, the new sculpt had grown on me, particularly once I started getting some flesh tones down, and looking at the finished product, I have to say that it may be a little cheescakey with the amount of exposed skin, but I really like her sculpt. Her expression exudes the right amount of confidence and badassery appropriate for a pirate captain, particularly one who can pull off that corset.

This kit comes in about six or so pieces and is made out of a grey resin. Some of the pieces are small and fragile, such as the two dreadlocks hanging down by her face or, as I was to learn the hard way, the feet of the parrot. This kit includes two options for her right arm; one holding a gun and one holding a piece of fruit. The parrot on the right shoulder is optional, and one could with just a little bit of filling leave off the two deadlocks hanging down next to her face or the gun at her waist if you so desire.

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For someone who is used to assembling mid-quality miniatures from companies like PP, this one went together like a dream. Mold lines ranged from tiny to nonexistent, and there weren’t any alignment issues to speak of. There were some tiny bubbles in the resin, but they were easily covered by even a thin layer of primer. I did a tiny bit of sanding and filling, but the precision of the fit probably means that except for maybe where the arm fits to the body, you could get away with just gluing it together and getting straight on to priming. The model is also fairly well-engineered, in that the seam between the right arm and the body is somewhat concealed by the bandages on her right arm. As someone who doesn’t like assembly and fixing up gaps and seams and just wants to get on with the painting, I was really happy with how nicely she went together.

Once the kit was (mostly) put together, I primed it with the airbrush with white Stynylrez. In case I haven’t mentioned it, Stynylrez is a great primer for plastic and resin miniatures, and since it’s made by Badger of airbrush fame, you can basically just drop in in your airbrush and shoot. Once that had fully cured, I pulled out the airbrush once more to paint the corset. This corset was something that I thought I might have trouble placing the highlights and shadows on, and it was something I didn’t think I got quite right on Yephima, my practice model, so I figured by doing it with the airbrush, I could use the zenithal method of spraying from the angle that the light is coming from and that would be a lot easier than trying to place my highlights manually and blending them in.

So, out came the airbrush, and with a little bit of help from a colour chart and a quick stop at my friendly local game store to get the one colour I was missing, I figured out the exact colours to use. I started with Coal Black as the deepest shadow colour, which is one of the really good colours in P3’s range. It’s a blackish, bluish, greenish colour which works really nicely as a shadow colour either straight or mixed with your base colour. Or just for anything where you don’t want to go to straight black because of colour theory.

Once I laid down the Coal Black into all the shadows, I moved on to Sanguine Base, covering up most of the Coal Black but letting it show through in the deepest recesses. Then onto Sanguine Highlight, and finally mixing in a little Menoth White Highlight, a warm, cream-coloured off-white, to get the highest highlight without making it look too pinkish, as it would have if I went for straight white as my highlight colour to mix in.

P3 paints thin down quite nicely for use in an airbrush, but they do need to be transferred into dropper bottles because their paint pots are quite possibly the worst in the business and dropper bottles are so much more convenient for airbrush work.

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Dear Privateer Press: Forget the game rules, please do a CID on your horrible, horrible paint pots so I don’t have to transfer your paint into dropper bottles. Also, while you’re at it, make my Assault Kommandos great again.

As for the skin tone, my chronic inability to follow a studio scheme is well-documented, so when I saw something in their “Steampunk in Miniature” painting guide about how steampunk models should traditionally have pale skin, I immediately know what to do. In true George Costanza fashion, I chose to do the opposite.

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Initial painting of skin, and my wet palette at work as I mixed the colours to paint her.

This skin tone involved a lot of colours and a lot of wet blending. First, I base coated it with Reaper’s Soft Blue, which I find to be a good base coat for skin because of a bunch of reasons that have to do with colour theory, shadows, and the nature of the translucent sacks of meat that we walk around in every day. Next up was Idrian Flesh from P3, which I love for medium-dark skin tones, and which I applied in a couple coats, covering up almost all of the blue, but letting it show through in the deepest shadows. Also on my palette, I can see some Tanned Skin and Fair Skin from Reaper, as well as Khardic Flesh and Ryn Flesh from P3, all of which went into my highlights in various amounts as I mixed them on a palette and applied them in ever-increasing highlights. This isn’t the end of my painting flesh; I would touch it up in a few areas as the project progressed, as well as applying a glaze of Idrian Flesh and Vallejo Glaze Medium to bring it all together and smooth out my blends.

If you want more information about my process for painting skin, see my presentation to a local IPMS group.

For the lips, I went with a dark makeup of Red Shadow from Reaper, which just a little bit of a sharp highlight on the lower lip to convey volume and reflection. For the eyes, I went in with Walnut Brown from Reaper for the liner and pupil, and Misty Grey with a hint of a flesh tone for the whites. Generally when painting whites (or painting figures in general) you don’t want to go all the way to a straight white. This is because the whites of the eyes aren’t actually white, and if you paint them like that, your figure will look surprised and googly-eyed, and a messed up eyeball is going to be the first thing that a viewer is going to notice. The eyes on this figure are probably a little whiter than would be realistic (I used a very light grey, with just a touch of flesh tone in it) but that is a deliberate choice that I made. With her darker skin, I wanted to put a little extra contrast in the eyes just to make them look a more intense, as well as draw the eye of the viewer upwards away from the chest and balance out some of the light trim on the corset. Whether a competition judge would agree with that decision remains to be seen, but it’s one that I’m happy with.

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Next up was the hair. I base coated it in Walnut Brown from Reaper, which is a very near-black brown. I don’t remember the exact combination of washes and glazes and whatnot that went into it, but one of the keys to painting dark hair is the highlights. Hair is naturally oily, and those oils are reflective, so some very sharp highlights are necessary to convey the shape of the hair and the light reflecting off of it. When it comes to dark hair, I like to use desaturated blues as my highlight colour, in this case going all the way up to P3’s Frostbite, which is a very light, faded blue which is one of my personal go-to colours in P3’s line. I also did some washes and glazes to blend it all together; when it comes to hair, a black wash can help in the shadows, and a nice glaze can help pull all your highlights back together.

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Hair, before and after highlights. Also, see a before and after of the glaze on the stocks of the guns and the leather sash.

Also in the above pictures, you can see some of the work on the corset. While there was some detail sculpted onto the corset of the figure, it was pretty fine and hard to make out, so I ended up more or less freehand painting the patterns on, using the box art as reference. Of course, I also kept with the studio colour scheme for this filigree, as gold and purple go together quite nicely. For work like this, the secret is simple — a good brush with a fine tip and some nice, thin paints which flow smoothly off the brush with the lightest touch. Either a 00 or a 10/0 liner will work for something like this, and if you haven’t built up the brush control necessary to pull this off yet, you will with some practice.

The leather sash was something that I also went back and forth a little on, eventually deciding to go with Reaper’s Oiled Leather as a base colour. I painted on a couple scratches, and then used a couple of dark washes and glazes with a hint of blue in the shadows to give it that worn, beaten look. Finally, I used the technique I wrote about last week for painting woodgrains on the stocks of the pistols; the glossy nature of the Scale75 glazes work perfectly to represent a fine, varnished wooden stock.

After finishing painting the rest of the bits, using my true metallic metal techniques on the metals and plenty of blending and edge highlighting on the rest, it came to time to put the parrot on. And here is where I ran into a bit of a problem. When I started this project, I figured I would paint the parrot and the head separately, otherwise it would be impossible to get in there with the brush. Unfortuantely, here is where a little problem came in. I had fractured my hand falling down some stairs partway through this project, which meant that while I could continue to hold the figure with the cast and paint her with my good hand, painting the parrot and gluing it on was out of the question until the cast came off and I got a bit of dexterity back.

Normally that wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but remember how I said that some of these parts were fragile? Well, at some point while this project was off on the side of my workbench, both the legs had broken off the parrot and disappeared.

So, I had some sculpting to do. After cleaning off the nubs where the legs broke off, I took my pin vise and some brass rod and drilled and pinned the bird to the shoulder, with the brass rod representing where the legs would go. From there, I took some epoxy putty (I believe it was Brown Stuff from Green Stuff World) and sculpted the legs and feet around the brass rod. A bit of primer and some paint, and it was good as new, or at least good enough that most people probably won’t notice.

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There, good as new

From there, it was just a matter of some blacklining in the cracks, a few touch ups here and there, popping her off the pill bottle and onto the display base, and making up a little display sign for her out of a primed piece of a miniature blister pack. After priming and base coating the piece in black with my airbrush, I drew out my design with a pen and paper a few times until I was comfortable with it, and then brought out the brushes and did it for real. A drop of super glue, and Mary Read was complete.

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Conclusion

Busts are fun. Because of the nature of the piece, you get to focus your painting on areas like the head, face, etc., where you have the most interesting parts of the miniature, and not have to worry about painting boring stuff like pants. While busts are traditionally cut off at the arms and purists may decry the choice of including a little more than on a traditional bust, I think Scale75 made the right call in including either one or both arms on these models; just having one arm holding an object like a gun or a blacksmith’s hammer can really add some character to the figure that wouldn’t necessarily be present otherwise.

This was an important milestone on my hobby journey. First, the result is something that I am quite proud of, and I’m looking forward to putting her on the table for some competitions and get some feedback on her. Second, this was my first bust and my first project in this scale, so it was nice to know that I can do something in a scale way bigger than 30mm and work on a project where I have enough surface area to really explore all the highlights, shadows, and freehand details. Finally, I feel that this project represents a true evolution from an army painter who rocks an above-average army while losing at Warmachine to a true display quality painter. She may not be perfect, especially when she is put next to the work of some Crystal Brush winning professional painter, but she represents a huge step on my journey as a painter. And, really, that’s what it’s all about — your personal journey as a hobbyist.