Texture, texture, texture

Cromwell is now almost done, and really just needs his sword, spurs and base to be finished. He’s a really simple figure without any cluttering of details or too many parts, so he’s a really good piece if you want something you can either knock out quickly or spend a lot of time perfecting. I’d thought about embroidering his jacket, but I’m not sure how well that would work as it could break up the shape of his torso, which is part of what makes the model appeal.

As you can see, I went with a burnt orange for the sash, in line with what the Parliamentarians typically wore during the Civil War. I was initially uncertain about this, as orange could have quite easily overwhelmed the composition and drawn too much attention. In the end, however, I decided that it should work as his coat is rather blue to balance it out.

As the title suggests, the latest painting session was marked by a lot of texture. The coat is intended to have a sort of velvety finish – hence the softer highlights – while the sash should have a silky finish and the gloves and belt are different types of leather. These all needed different approaches, which had the added benefit of keeping me interested and thinking about how to apply the paint.

For some elements, this extended to varying the thickness of the paint itself. His gloves, for instance, were painted with barely thinned Scale Colour and Jo Sonja paints to make the most of the pigment grains and break up the light as it hits the surface, which makes the material look softer.

I tried looking for an image to illustrate this, but it basically boils down to a couple of points:

  1. Light that hits a smooth surface will reflect exactly as you expect of light: angle of incidence = angle of reflection. This means the light remains coherent and the surface looks shinier.
  2. Light that hits an uneven surface will reflect in a number of directions, breaking it up and making the surface look softer.

While painters generally try to achieve soft/shiny effects by painting them (broader, smoother blends for soft surfaces; sharp highlights and reflective spots for shiny surfaces), you can also manipulate the way that the light interacts with the surface to help this along. This is also why varnishes exist: gloss varnish effectively gives the light a smooth surface to reflect off, matte varnish provides a coarse layer to break it up. I tend not to use varnishes because I’ve found they can reduce the contrast I’ve painted in, but they have their place, and I’ve been enjoying using satin varnish on some spots to add an extra element of realism.

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