Ah, Kommander Aleksandra Zerkova. A master of the dark arts, this blonde bombshell ruthlessly eliminates anyone who gets in her way, and looks good doing it with her tight leather outfits. Known in gamer circles as Zerkova2, the epic version comes with two Reaver Guards to protect her, and goes well on the tabletop with anything that can sling spells.
I got the idea to paint her a while ago, as a possible counter to the ubiquitous Cryx Ghost Fleet/Dark Host pairing. However, in the process, I kind of fell in love with the model and had a lot of fun painting her up. Though I didn’t get a lot of photos, I felt that she did deserve a paintlog because I tried out some new and interesting stuff on her.
First off, one of the distinctive aspects to Zerkova2 in the studio artwork is the shiny leather. This was something that I haven’t really done yet, so I was excited to try it out.
Black can be a funny colour to paint sometimes, because what our eye reads as black isn’t usually not actually black. While we are taught in science class that black is black because it absorbs instead of reflects light, unless it’s some sort of crazy vantablack or the event horizon of a black hole, that’s not quite true. Black still reflects some light, and our eyes have been trained to read light reflected a certain way as black of varying shapes and textures. Our challenge, then, is understanding how light interacts with a black surface and replicate it at scale.
So, let’s take a look at something black and shiny, such as Carrie-Anne Moss’ outfit from the Matrix movies. If we take a picture of it and look closely, we can see that the light reflecting off of some areas of her chest and arms is almost white. So, in order to replicate this and get that nice shiny effect, we are going to need to make sure our model has some sharp highlights.
Anyways, we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves here.
One of the first decisions I made on these models was the base. I decided I wanted to give them a little bit of an elevated base to give them a little more presence as I feel character models deserve it. So, I dug into the Reaper Bones collection at a local game store and found #77304, Male Thundernight, a big guy with a hammer standing at the top of a flight of stairs. It was a simple matter of slicing him off and doing a little sculpting on the top to fix up the area of the cut, and then inserting a piece of a paper clip through the plastic base, a layer of cork, the stairs, and into Zerkova’s foot.
For my colour scheme, I knew I had to keep the shiny black leather, and that I also wanted to have some light colours on some of the ending and details, mostly so that the shape of the model and all the fine details pop even from a distance. As such, decided to base coat all the black in Reaper’s Grey Liner, which is a paint that is very close to, but not quite black, and then do most of the details and edging in Amethyst Purple, which is a light purple that I use a lot for highlights on my purple army. And, of course, where you have purple, you have to have to have brass to go with it.
One of the first things I painted was the face. For this, I used my usual strategy of starting with some very light grey for the eyes, placing the eyeball, and then working out, all the way from blue, to a darker skin tone, to the highest highlight at the tip of the nose. I added a scar on her right cheek from messing around with Orgoth stuff that she probably isn’t supposed to, and painted her tiny bit of hair sticking out from under her hat blonde.
Anyways, now we can return to the shiny leather jacket. As you will remember, I base coated it in Reaper’s Grey Liner. I didn’t use black, because I wanted to leave myself somewhere to go when it comes to shading it — after all, it’s hard to shade something with a darker colour when you’ve already used the darkest colour possible as your base. For my highlight colour, I decided to go with some desaturated blues, just to make the light on the cool side which I felt would go with the model better. I used P3’s Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite, which are two colors that I’ve found to be perfect for this sort of thing, though you can use whatever equivalent brand and colour you have available. The highlights were placed carefully with my brush, in such a manner that they would represent the point at where the light is hitting the jacket and reflecting off, as well as accentuating some of the… ahem… curves of the model.
For the metals, I used my usual true metallic metal techniques, which worked out well and which I will write about at some point. The fur was a bit of a challenge; initially I wanted to dry brush it, but I found that there just wasn’t enough texture. So, after hitting it with some of GW’s Drakenhof Nightshate, I decided to work back up and highlight the fur with plenty of tiny grey and white dots in an almost pointillism-like technique, careful to put more white dots in the places where the light is hitting the model. I added a couple subtle green glow effects on the badge on her chest and on her sword. I didn’t want to overpower the model with the OSL, especially because I was happy with how the face was and because I wanted to keep the focus of the light on the shiny leather, so I tried to keep it subtle, with only a little bit of green on the left side of her face and the fur near the badge.
With all that done, it was just a matter of painting up the base (lots of drybrushing and some dry pigments), sealing it, and showing it off.
Oh, and painting those two other jerks who come with her.