Shooting the Planes with the Airbrush

by Alex Castro

On close inspection of the miniature, we are confronted with a landscape of high peeks and low valleys that range from very rough to smooth; and large to small; Form regular shape to irregular form. It is this surface I refer to as the surface planes. In order to achieve a realistic figure the correct painting of these surface planes is crucial. Instead of a brush I use an airbrush, but it’s the same concept. When you dry brush you are stroking the high points of an already painted surface to indicate contrast between the low point in the relief and the high points. This suggest your darken areas in the lower extremities and your light areas in the higher ones. When I use an airbrush, I spray at an angle, only spraying the high surface planes, going all around the face. I hold the brush at an angle. The brush only hits what is in its way, thereby creating darken areas and highlights.

Relieves: are three dimensional areas that have been cut out. Any given model is a composite of high and lows, ins and outs, softly and sharply molded lines. It is the treatment of managing these lines and forms that the figure painter works lies. How well you manage these recessed areas will determine the quality of the piece.
The first goal is to keep relieves as close to the original state as possible. Strive to keep priming and painting at a minimal. In essence avoid build-ups. Again, less is better. Keep lines as pristine and crisp as possible, while at the same time applying color, depth and shadow to them. That is the illusion that the modeler creates and manipulates. Again, how will the modeler does this will determine the esthetics of the piece and its realism.

Basically the act of painting figures is manipulating these areas. I keep relieves very simple. I don’t paint shadows on the relieves. I use the relieves that tell me what shade it goes. The softer the sloping, the gentler the highlight. The sharper the relieve the brighter the color. The form is indicative of the action. “With models, the form is indicative of the light source”.

Written by Alex Castro

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