February 13, 2011

Top Ten Pitfalls for an Artist

By Danielle S. Feldman

The following are some pitfalls that an artist can fall into that can easily be avoided. All suggestions are based on my own experience, but will hopefully work for you as well.

1) Unrealistic Epoxy Clumps in Hair Texture

Stroke on rubbing alcohol (for Martin Carbone gapaxio) or water (for Aves apoxie sculpt) with a soft paintbrush after you’re done sculpting to smooth out those little clumps left from your sculpting tools before the epoxy cures. I’ve heard you can use Goo Gone to remove clumps from non-hardening clay, but have yet to try it myself.

Example of clumps in a tail that should be smoothed out.

2) Seam Lines in the Mane

Use the Rio Rondo carbide scraper with a pointed tip to recreate hair texture, following the direction of the hair, all along the crest of the mane to remove the seams as you go. Look up and down the mane from different directions to make sure no seam lines remain.

Seam lines that were missed during the prepping process

3) Wobbly Horses

If it’s a minor wobble, taking an emery board across the bottom of the longest leg to level out the hooves will work. You may find you need to build up the bottom or edge of a hoof on a short leg with epoxy. If you find a warped leg is causing the trouble then gently heating the warped area and moving it gently back into place to cool may solve the problem. And if all else fails, you can always make a base, using epoxy around shaped aluminum foil.

4) Air beneath standing hooves

A floating leg is just not realistic. If you see just a little air underneath a standing hoof, you may be able to sand the other, longer hooves with an emery board to even things out. But, the best bet is to add epoxy to the underside of the floating hoof. Make sure to apply a little epoxy over the edges, so that when sanding flush (with an emery board), you don’t end up with rounded toes.

5) Unrealistic Dapples

Dapples are more like a jigsaw puzzle than connect-the-dots. They should be irregular in shape, size and placement. Avoid round, evenly sized and evenly spaced dapples. Refer to pictures of the real thing. Dappled grays, dapples in sooty coats, and dapples created from the bloom in a healthy coat will all have differences that the artist should strive to capture. The other pitfall is star dapples that look like perfect stars; keep them irregular instead. On the forearms and gaskins the starbursts actually occur in the skin over veins; keep this in mind when rendering them.

6) Sticky primer

Sticky primer can best be avoided by spraying under the right conditions in light layers on a properly prepared surface. Humidity seems to be a main contributor to the sticky factor, so try to stick to drier days, not too hot and not too cold. Applying the layers too heavily, or not allowing layers to cure (dry) completely between coats can also cause sticky primer that never fully cures.

Another source of trouble is what lies underneath, causing a chemical reaction. Is it a newer plastic model? These can take a long time for the primer to cure. It’s best to start by roughing up the surface lightly with sandpaper and spraying one very fine misting layer that barely coats. Allow to cure completely, and then apply one more very light misting layer to cover a little more. When that is completely cured, you can generally proceed to primer as normal. Was an OF paint job removed with chemicals? Maybe a painted model wasn’t stripped beforehand? Or the stripping agent wasn’t completely washed off? These could be the sources of a chemical reaction.

If you find yourself with sticky primer, just set the model aside and let it sit for a long time in hopes it will cure. If you still have sticky primer months later, your best bet is to strip it and start over. Adding layers of paint, pastel and fixative will not make sticky primer go away.

7) Less than Stellar Markings

Nicely done details will enhance even a simple paint job. On the other hand, careless details will ruin an otherwise gorgeous one. Use multiple thin layers of white to build up to an opaque white marking. This will eliminate brush marks and build up if done right. And don’t stop before that marking is opaque white, there’s no such thing as a transparent white marking on the real thing. You don’t want any body color showing through. And pay attention to the edges where the marking meets the body color. This area should be tidy and your intent clear. Are you mapping the edges with a thin area of wash? Are you doing individual hairs? Maybe several edge techniques on one model? Just be sure to make your intention clear.

8) Hair Going the Wrong Way

If you have markings, make sure you know which way the hair is going! This is true of fleabites, pinto mapping, and appaloosa spots. If your hair pattern doesn’t follow the hair growth direction of the real thing, you’ve just ruined the believability of your work. And isn’t realism the end goal?

Example of appaloosa spots following the direction of hair growth.

9) Lost Detail

If you’ve ever seen a sad little model that has been over-primered, you know what I’m talking about. This can happen quickly to a mini during prepping, but larger models aren’t immune, This occurs when primer is applied too thickly or with an excessive number of layers and the primer runs into the subtle details of the model. Poor little critters – don’t do this to your models! Tamiya brand primer offers a fine white primer that is excellent for retaining details. It was created for metal miniatures, but I have had success with it on mini resins to retain detail. Try googling Tamiya primer to find a supplier.

10) Copying Other’s Work or Ideas

I left this one for last, as I think this is a huge pitfall that strikes a chord for many. A new and upcoming artist can put a blotch on his or her reputation when she copies a model done by another artist. The original artist will likely be offended, as could admirers of that artist’s work. The innocent new artist may not see anything wrong, after all, isn’t imitation the most sincere form of flattery? But I caution strongly – don’t do it. A lot of time, energy, and creativity goes into each piece that an artist creates. Their vision is uniquely their own and trying to reproduce it for yourself, whether for your own enjoyment or for monetary gain just isn’t right. So no matter how much you admire a resin, don’t try to customize your plastic model to match it. And no matter how much you love that custom and want one for yourself, resist the temptation and find your own unique voice in creating models.