Monday, 20 June 2011

Sculpting a photo of a mini....

I had a conversation with another sculptor the other day regarding another of those curious phenomena that I am so drawn to writing about. In this case it is all about the styles in which we are sculpting these days and the pressure to sculpt in a certain way.

It's no secret that minis are becoming more detailed, scarily so in some cases. The point put to me and something that I have thought myself in a round about way in the past is that we're no longer sculpting for the person to see in reality and that we are now sculpting figures to look good in photographs (usually shown many times larger than the figure itself).

This is perhaps not surprising as very few companies out there are selling their figures to people who will make their decision whether to buy or not based upon looking at the figure itself in reality. No, in this internet age, we are shopping via photos on computer screens and probably looking at a pic that is 500 or even up to 1000 pixels high. The problem with this is that it's a totally different ballgame for a sculptor to make a figure that looks good under such circumstances and it's not uncommon to find that you get the figure and the figure that the sculptor has probably sacrificed his sanity and eyesight to sculpt is not an easy paintjob because it's so finely worked. Such figures are of course incredibly impressive and, as a sculptor, I am constantly blown away by such things but, as a painter, I still gravitate towards a bolder style of sculpture that looks good at 30 odd mm tall but might look a little clumsy/strange when blown up to five times it's actual size. I think the key there is not to show it quite so large. Zoomed in is one thing but there are limits (I try to make my mini pics on the small side but large enough to see the detail).

I do sometimes worry about how many sculptors are going to burn themselves out (or just strain their eyes beyond repair) to live up to the demands of detail and giant pictures. This pressure is there. I've ended up suddenly sculpting in a much more detailed style now and it does worry me a tad. My figures are being very well received but I'm very aware of just how much time I spend under an optivisor these days...


  1. I agree with you that I prefer to paint a bolder miniature and to be honest all the detail is a put off to me. I think in most cases the character is lost or a least blured when a miniature has too much stuff on it.

    I would like to ask you your thoughts on 3d sculpting and prototyping. I remember what you wrote in the "If Apple made miniatures" blog but that was in the hypothetical future. I would like to know your thoughts on it at the present. Bare in mind that you can zoom into a 3d model and sculpt at a very high resolution so more and more detail can be added this way with out the threat of blindness.

  2. Right at the moment I see the advantages of the process but it's still tough to get them prototyped at the required quality at a decent cost. But if it's a hypothetical future we're talking about it's the very near version of it as I'm practically counting the days until the prototyping is reasonable and available.

    Certainly makes the fine detail easier and saves the neck, back and eye ache (hopefully) but still falls back on whether we really should be pushing those levels of detail on 28mm figures...

  3. This is why the "feel" of a mini is so important. That can be influenced by a good paint job in the marketing photos, but the most detailed, feature-iffic GW minis still leave me cold compared to, for instance, a lot of recent Copplestone or Bob Murch stuff which tends to be less detailed but have loads of "character"!

  4. "...and saves the neck, back and eye ache"

    Well, that is also debatable - staring at a VDU all day isnt great for your eyes either. And ask anyone sat in an office all day whether they get back and neck pain and I suspect you'll be disappointed. :(

    Grated, the sheer intensity of the close work when sculpting and the often obscure postures hobbyists end up sitting in for the 'right' light might make it get worse more quickly, but extended PC work is pretty nasty too.

    I will also agree with Allison regarding the 'feel' of a miniature - there is definitely a fine line for me between too much and too little detail though. Your barbarian was pretty much perfect on that front for me :)

  5. There's a lot to be said for the ability to sculpt a simple figure and have it look right and that's why I love to see work from guys like Mark Copplestone and Bob Murch. The details are minimal so there's nowhere for poor design to hide. Mark was a great influence on my style and I'll always have a great appreciation for him as he's the guy who most directly taught me to sculpt (he sculpted a head in front of me in two minutes flat and even today I use basically the same technique he showed, just at a slower pace).

    Regarding putty versus a VDU, you're right and I was really comparing extended sculpting at close quarters and constantly under an optivisor to digital sculpting rather than traditional sculpting itself. I do feel that it's easier on the eyes and neck than the crazy intense style of traditional sculpting (certainly it is for me) though if I've suggested that working with a computer is healthier than traditional sculpting as a general idea then I'll happily step back and say that's not the case.

    And the Barbarian Warlord/Raider is still one of my favourite sculpts. I think that's one where I got the balance pretty good though he was never overly popular. Again, I think it was the public choosing figures that maybe over-detailed instead.

  6. @ Allison, Avicenna

    QFT !

    That's why almost quit the hobbie and moved to sculpting/painting er... "slighly different" miniatures. Simply put, the less intrincate the mini the funnier to paint it is (in most cases).

    Concerning to 3D design for minis... well, I've been working on it recently (a fellow french buddy sends me his 3D printed stuff on regular basis) and I have to say I still see it as an abomination.

    Everything is getting far away from the crafts and arts component. I see people playing 3d tabletop videogames with toy-figures in the near future. Or is it now ?

    3D printing deppends so much on the service provided and of course the base material of choice and well, allways feels like character was lost in translation in the process of making a 3D from a handmade sketch.

    It's like movies I guess... still there will be people that preffers the old good stopmotion than clumsy 3D and, yes, extremely nice 3D such pixar movies can be pretty emotive but again, leaver me with the feel that cartoons were not the same as rubber suit monster series (Ultraman GO!!)