Painting fast is something I struggle with. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and always have been. My mom loves to tell stories of my art projects back in grade school where she told me, “It’s great, be done, and get to bed!” and I would push for a little bit more, a little extra time to make it just right. Unsurprising then that 20 or so years later I end up painting minis the same way, only no one is telling me “Stop. It’s good enough.”
I’ve taken a few speed painting classes, but inevitably fall back into my familiar habits and style of painting if I feel like the speed techniques don’t live up to the quality I want. Recently I’ve been following two different miniature artists who do incredible things at incredible speeds; Raffaele Picca from Massive Voodoo, and Matt DiPietro from Contrast Miniatures. I was able to take a ‘Speed Painting Display Quality Miniatures’ class with Raffaele at Adepticon 2017, and I hope to be able to take Matt’s weekend class on his ‘Sketch Style’ sometime in the future. As an experiment, I decided to try both styles on identical models, and see how they worked in my hands.
Raffaele’s speed concept is all about creating focus on the model. As he says, no one is taking time to look at the feet (which is funny because my dad always used to say the same thing about shoes). Time is better spent painting the important areas and letting the rest fade into the background. He accomplishes this by using desaturated colors to start, and building up brighter colors and details only around the focus area, usually the face.
I started with a primed model, the Tharn Ravager Whitemane by Privateer Press, and then airbrushed an undercoat of P3 Battlefield Brown since this model has lots of leather tones. It’s a cool, dark brown color that is perfect for a desaturated, muted look. From there I used the airbrush to highlight the upper portions of the model with Gun Corps Brown, and a final highlight of Hammerfall Khaki around the face and shoulders.
From here the base colors are glazed on to get the overall midtone base tints. Once the main colors are on (ignoring the metals for now) a dark brown wash is used in the shadows, and wiped away from the higher highlights. When the wash is dry, airbrush a very transparent white layer on the face and upper shoulders to bring back the highlight and really solidify the focal point on the model.
Next I used Army Painter Dark Tone wash on the lower half of the model, again wiping the wash away from anywhere that should be highlighted. From here, it’s highlights only, focusing on the upper half of the model, adding in details only around the face, shoulders, and upper arms. The metals got done right at the end with a simple basecoat, wash for shadows, and a bright highlight. The finished Whitemane has a strong focus on the face and shoulders, and the rest sort of fades from view.
Matt DiPietro’s Sketch Style has been super intriguing, and I’ve been keeping an eye on the articles and models he’s been putting out there. That said, a lot of what is going on with this technique is just me guessing until I have the opportunity to take his class. The Whitemane starts out with zenithal priming through the airbrush. This gives a good grayscale base for the next step.
Using the primer as a kind of map, the next step uses P3 Thamar Black, Morrow White, and a Golden artist’s acrylic Titanium White to create a value ‘sketch’ on the model. The titanium white is the brightest, most pigment rich white and should only be used on the highest highlights. The value sketch refines the shadows and highlights, and basically creates a black and white version of the model.
From here, the midtones are thinly glazed on over the value sketch, allowing the grayscale to show through. The value sketch does almost all of the work with the shadows and highlights as long as the colors aren’t applied too thickly.
To finish the sketch style Whitemane I basically just added a couple details, a few higher highlights here and there, and some tone adjustment of the leather armor with brown ink. The metals I did the same as the previous model with a quick basecoat, wash, and bright highlight. The finished model has a high level of contrast throughout, and makes a very engaging looking model on the table.
Since the goal of this whole thing is eventually to have some good looking models with less time spent, I kept careful track of how long each method took. I was doing both of these techniques for the first time (and also stopping for photos and looking at notes) and both ended up taking about the same amount of time, around 5 hours total. With some more practice I don’t doubt that I’d get even faster. I did a side by side comparison and I still can’t figure out which one I like better, so I think that’s a win!
Take a look! Raffaele Picca’s what I’m calling Focus Style on the left side, and Matt DiPietro’s Sketch Style on the right.