Creating a Softer, Gentler Figure

by Alex Castro

Historically toy soldier figures evolved from toys. Toy soldiers and dolls were intended to be handled, but were not meant to be realistic or historical, just representative! Children’s imagination and creativity doesn’t need realism or historical facts to have fun, but a lot of hands-on play, so heavier, and glossy paints, usually enamels on these lead pieces were used. Details were not an issue here.

During the transition between toy soldier and historical scaled figure the need for detail and realism was quite apparent. Oil paints were grabbed off the shelf because they were readily available, commonly used by artist. My point is that oil paints were not designed or created to paint figures, but to accommodate figure painters!

In the old school of thinking, techniques used created a more severe, rigid and unrealistic looking figure. For instance the use of heavy enamels; not using an airbrush, painting by the scale system, applying a fix light source to the figures, lines not blended in; and making very little distinction in how paint is applied and blended from the face to the shirt resulting in a very hard line face, which makes the miniature look “mean.”

For those who feel that there should be no universal standard to painting figures, because it is an individual effort and a system of painting would affect their creativity, I say that although painting figures should certainly be fun and an exercise in creativity, it should involve a system that works and brings your figures to the next level. Don’t confuse negligence with creativity! The old school of painting was right for its time and helped to put in place the building block for today’s miniature painters. Creating a softer-gentler figure has to be a conscious effort; an understanding of techniques and concepts. A well-defined standard is necessary if the world of miniature painting is to flourish into an art form.

Written by Alex Castro (c)

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