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Author Topic: Curious painting conventions  (Read 6705 times)
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Hobgoblin
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« on: June 20, 2016, 06:27:38 PM »

A while back, I picked up a copy of the third edition of Warhammer FB. Looking at the pictures of painted miniatures, I was struck by the wolfriders in particular - and the fact that they were painted "solid" grey or brown. That got me thinking about other odd painting conventions that are employed with fantasy miniatures. Here are a few off the top of my head (all of which I've employed at various times, and all of which strike me - on reflection - as a bit strange). Can anyone think of others?

1. Block-coloured wolves: real wolves generally have quite varied pelts, with lots of brown and greys and reddish hues. You do get all-black or all-white ones, but even then, they don't tend to have uniformly coloured pelts. Wargamers, historically, seem to have devoted much more effort to getting horses right than to wolves. I think this one is changing a bit, though - lots of amazing naturalistic wolves on display here and elsewhere. But the block-coloured wolf has certainly loomed large in the past decades of fantasy wargaming.

2. Claws like teeth. The talons of animals - reptiles, mammals, bird - whatever - tend to be dull and are often be closer to black than white. Yes, some bears do have pale claws, but they're typically dull in colour. And many bears have dark claws. Yet, for some reason, matching claws and teeth have long been the unthinking default for dragons, lizardmen and the like.

3. Gold-hilted swords. Even for the humblest goblin! This is one I thought about just recently - I was reaching for the brass paint, when I thought, "hang on ...". And sure enough - most high-medieval swords appear to have steel quillons (which makes sense). Grips appear to be black or brown rather than brass or gold. And so on.

4. Green orcs. This is an odd one, because it was late in evolving and has now become dominant. The advert for the first Citadel paint set showed a cheerful Black Mountain Boy painted in European flesh tones; early White Dwarfs were full of brown and grey orcs. John Blanche did an article on converting in one of the Citadel Journals that was illustrated with a grey-skinned final product. And of course there's no green in sight in the source material - and that was reflected in descriptions of orcs for Tolkien-derived games. But the green orc has won out against his (for example) Angus McBride counterpart as the "default".

5. Ogres in human skin tones. This is the counterpart of 4. And it's just as odd, I think: goblins can be bright or dark colours that are distinctly non-human, and so can trolls. But ogres? Heaven forfend! There's a bizarre logic at work somewhere ...

6. Reptiles are bright green! Of course, you do get plenty of bright green lizards and snakes. But they seem to loom much larger in fantasy games than in real life, where the range of reptile colours is huge. This one may have been eclipsed by "reptiles are bright blue". The possibility of dull-coloured reptiles (like most crocodilians) seems to be much less widely considered.

7. Dwarfs are ruddy, outdoor types. But they live underground ...

Anyway, these are just a few "conventions" that struck me. Now - obviously - there's absolutely nothing wrong with any of them. I've conformed with all of them myself. But they do strike me as a slightly odd set of default assumptions - and it's always good to recognise such things when cooking up paint schemes (or I think so at least Smiley).

But what other conventions are lurking out there in plain sight?



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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2016, 07:25:36 PM »

Dwarves aren't ruddy outdoor types, they're alcoholics.  Those red noses and cheeks (and bloodshot eyes) are from booze rather than a love of hiking.  And the grouchy attitudes are from the hangovers, of course.  Smiley
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Hobgoblin
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2016, 07:33:23 PM »

Dwarves aren't ruddy outdoor types, they're alcoholics.  Those red noses and cheeks (and bloodshot eyes) are from booze rather than a love of hiking.  And the grouchy attitudes are from the hangovers, of course.  Smiley

Now that is an unanswerable point!  Cheesy
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Cubs
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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2016, 07:40:34 PM »

I saw the 'gold' hilts as brass or bronze. Iron and steel was very expensive in past times and anything that could be made of the cheaper stuff, usually was. Even now it's quite common to see brass hilts on knives and such.

The wolf painting I reckon is a product of it being quite tricky to do put nice blended shades onto fur! I find inks and glazes are a simple short-cut.

Yes to the green orc thing. I like to paint them as being all sorts of colours - browns, greens, greys and flesh coloured.

There was a brief convention on painting Dark Elves as dark blue/grey - the old 'Drow' look. I never really understood why they should suddenly develop that odd colour, just by being naughty Elves.

  
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mcfonz
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« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2016, 08:12:18 PM »

Ok, so this seems to be mainly a GW orientated thing.

Lizardmen in GW are from Lustria - essentially the warhammer old world version of South America and the Aztecs that were the natives there.

Just like in the real world, the old world was invaded by Conquistador - only in warhammer they were styled Empire. It's then also worth mentioning that some of the original lizardmen were more amphibian like.

There is plenty of reference material encouraging people to paint them in the form of some of the more exotic and colourful examples of lizards and frogs out there. I would suggest for various reasons - some of the most poisonous frogs are brightly coloured or have brightly coloured markings. Not just this but the Amazon is colourful in itself as have the Aztecs been described as being. So I suspect that whilst there are less colourful lizards/reptiles/amphibians in the world colourful perhaps reflects the source material and the historical material it is drawn from.

The wolf issue is odd as I don't remember seeing many block painted wolves. My mid 90's ones certainly carried a mixture of browns and grays.
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Vermis
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« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2016, 09:55:55 PM »

I think a lot of these boil down to what people 'know' - going by ingrained memes and shorthand symbolism rather than, well... cracking open a book, or google images. In their mind's eye wolves are grey, lizards are green (a distinctly unmammalian colour) and so on...

A couple of those conventions did change a little in 6th ed: when lizardmen saurus grew a faux-ceratopsian head frill and ogres became obese mongols. The former, and skinks, were 'officially' a bright blue colour, that'd make you nostalgic for acid green; and ogres became a kind of dull, greyish-yellowish brown. I think that ogre colour lasted for about one edition. I still have a spray can of 'ogre flesh' around, somewhere.

McFonz has a point about colourful rainforest animals, buuuut... personally I see a bit of difference between a frog the size of your thumbnail and one that's first cousin to Jabba the Hutt. Smiley The bigger animals get, the duller they become, even among animals with colour vision like reptiles and amphibians. Almost as if the pigment in the skin is disappated or diluted, or concentrated in specific features.
I'd say the lace monitor is one of the biggest colourful reptiles at up to 7 feet (almost two thirds of that tail) but even then it's more about bold patterns than bright colour, with black and a pale or ochre-ish yellow. In up-to-6-feet green iguanas, the biggest individuals are often closer to grey than bright green. Heck, in some big green iguanas, the most notable colour is orange, though still a rusty, ochre-brown than bright orange. Again, notice the bold patterning on the tail.

Oh, and here's something I entered into Games Day 2003. The claws are the same colour as the teeth (rap knuckles) but otherwise I based it on the false gharial. The angle of the pic doesn't show the bold patterns going down the back and the tail. Cheesy

It got absolutely nowhere. Laugh
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fastolfrus
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« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2016, 10:25:35 PM »

Vermis -
lovely looking figure.

Alasdair hit a similar wall with figure basing a few years ago - a GW tournament umpire tried to dock points for his goblin army not having painted/textured bases, but he pointed out they were textured with Tetrion and painted dark grey as slate floors. The umpire had to go away and check what Tetrion was and what slate looked like....
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LeadAsbestos
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« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2016, 10:39:46 PM »

Because ogres are human flesh colored, and all the rest are because I want to open as few paints as possible. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2016, 10:54:16 PM »

Vermis -
lovely looking figure.

Alasdair hit a similar wall with figure basing a few years ago - a GW tournament umpire tried to dock points for his goblin army not having painted/textured bases, but he pointed out they were textured with Tetrion and painted dark grey as slate floors. The umpire had to go away and check what Tetrion was and what slate looked like....

There were a couple of years back in the mid-to-late 80s where there was an unwritten rule in US GW painting competitions that the only acceptable basing was plain green flock glued to the base.  You could enter anything you liked, but if your figs weren't didn't look like they were standing on astroturf you got dinged for points by the judges to the point where you stood no chance to win.  Had an organizer tell me it was because they wanted to judge based solely on painting skill, and if the bases weren't all as identical (and boring) as possible it drew attention away from the model.  Utter nonsense of course, but GW did some weird, weird stuff in the early days of their assault on the American gaming market. 
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rob_alderman
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2016, 10:59:49 PM »

Some interesting points.

I have a few answers...

Wolves - I think this is down to ignorance and laziness. I always try to refer to references when painting animals, but I am sure that in the past I haven't done this and have ended up painting monotone wolves!

Claws like teeth - I suffer from doing this. On a similar note, Orcs with red fingernails? What? I put it down to 'it looks better' because of contrasts, but I do get your point. I usually LITERALLY paint claws like they are tusks or fangs...

Gold hilts - Hey, it's fantasy! It looks really cool! My Haradrim army for Lord of the Rings featured a lot of Bronze and Gold, my reasoning was that it's more common in Far Harad...

Green Orcs - Yeah, there are so many arguments about this. Apparently, Goblin Green was called that because Bryan Ansell said 'People like painting goblins green'.

Ogres in Human Tones - This actually makes sense to me. An Ogre is a big, broad, dim-witted relative of a Human in my book. I was one of the 'I hate the grey ogres' crowd when Ogre Kingdoms came out for Warhammer.

Reptiles are bright green - again, I think it's a colour contrast thing going on there. It's also an excuse to crack open near-fluo paints that you would never touch. We all love that, right?

Ruddy Dwarves - In Nordic Mythology, they are meant to be born from Maggots, so I can imagine them as pale grey, but I seem to recall them being described as pale blue? The Vanir in Celtos are blue. However, I think of mine as short drunkards, so they are often on the ruddy side. Smiley


Some great observations. Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2016, 11:08:32 PM »

Because ogres are human flesh colored, and all the rest are because I want to open as few paints as possible. Roll Eyes

What color is human flesh, pray tell?  Last time I checked there's rather a broad spectrum.
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fastolfrus
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« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2016, 11:15:14 PM »

What color is human flesh, pray tell?  Last time I checked there's rather a broad spectrum.

True enough, but it doesn't usually include green.
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LeadAsbestos
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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2016, 11:28:19 PM »

What color is human flesh, pray tell?  Last time I checked there's rather a broad spectrum.
Look at the label on your paint bottle. That one.
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Vermis
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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2016, 11:45:14 PM »

Thanks Fastolfrus. Looking at it now, thirteen(!) years later, maybe it could've used a lick of matt varnish. Cheesy

Alasdair hit a similar wall with figure basing a few years ago - a GW tournament umpire tried to dock points for his goblin army not having painted/textured bases

Bright goblin green base edges and bright green flock!  Laugh Thank goodness that's died away. I never liked that bog-standard flock: it doesn't even look like astroturf to my eyes, just like what it is - neon green sawdust. I think my biggest use of it was actually on that same kroxigor, painted brown as jungle leaf litter.

Now I've started, some odd conventions I see involve basing moreso than painting. One I first noticed back at that GD was the towering base, and the rise of the cork giant-biscuit-surfboard. I get that people like their 40K/WHFB models on plinth-like bases, makes them look more impressive and imposing in ways, but a lot of the time I think it either looks like a bullet magnet, or someone shouting "help, I don't know how to get down from here!"

But then I think that bog-standard slottabases look too tall these days anyhow, so meh.

One I've thought about recently is battlefield wildflowers, existing only in neatly hemispherical clumps. Smiley I have trouble getting too wound up about it, because I think that those flower clumps are an interesting new accent for simpler bases (that is, ones with regular dirt and grass, rather than lava, or decks with pipes and gears set right into the floor, or piles of rickety rubble and scrap metal...) and I've just bought a pack of Javis stuff myself. Although on closer inspection I think that's less hemispherical clumps and more a tangle with red flock scattered through it.
But I dunno. Something about the shape and density of the bunches, and the way they often rise high above the surrounding static grass... to my eyes it's starting to look like someone's been over the landscape already, placing little posies in strategic places, in anticipation of all the carnage. Confused

Quote
The umpire had to go away and check what Tetrion was and what slate looked like....

Him (her?) and me both. Well, about what Tetrion is, anyway. Laugh

Edit: agreed with Rob about ogres. Long before I knew Warhammer was a thing, I had the vague image in the back of my head that ogres were more humanlike than some other humanoid monsters. They lived in castles, wore fancy boots, and ate the finest children. Not under a slimy bridge, getting excited when a scrawny goat wanders past. Smiley
« Last Edit: June 21, 2016, 12:09:27 AM by Vermis » Logged
Hobgoblin
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2016, 01:19:36 AM »

I saw the 'gold' hilts as brass or bronze. Iron and steel was very expensive in past times and anything that could be made of the cheaper stuff, usually was. Even now it's quite common to see brass hilts on knives and such.

Good point. And there certainly are brass-pommelled swords around. But that the huge majority of longswords and the like in museums look like the attached - steel quillons and black or very dark grip. I reckon strength was essential to quillons/crossguard, given their role in swordplay - including offensive use, with knights gripping the blade to "end" someone with the crossguard!

There was a brief convention on painting Dark Elves as dark blue/grey - the old 'Drow' look. I never really understood why they should suddenly develop that odd colour, just by being naughty Elves.


That's a great addition to the list! I did see some nicely painted (Foundry?) elves or sidhe or something here, which were done an eerie blue-white despite not being "Dark elves", though.


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