• Faces with Expressions (Part 1)

    Faces with Expressions (Part 1)Discussions
    The key to most miniatures, and what can make or break a paintjob, is the face. Over the last few years, the quality of sculptures has been changing dramatically and this is most evident in the expressiveness of the faces. To provide some examples here are some close ups of faces from a number of my recently painted miniatures.

    All of these faces have a sculpted expression, which is what is making the difference in the miniature. Steve Buddle’s sculpture of the Amazon for Coolminiornot’s Competition is a very fine example of a face that could be painted in a number of ways. I ended up painting it looking somewhat fierce, as both the angle of the head and the body posture has a somewhat challenging demeanour.

    We are used to looking at the faces of our Family, Friends and Colleagues and recognise all their different facial postures, but what differentiates the living face from that of the miniature is exactly the same thing we see in photographs. They are both frozen permanently in time. We are used to seeing, but not noticing, the minute changes in a persons face as they talk, breathe and go about their daily routine.

    The miniatures we are now seeing, from sculptors such as Steve Buddle, Werner Klocke, Juan Diaz etc., show faces in varying emotional states. So this article is about how I go about emphasising the sculpture to reflect those emotional states. (There are a wealth of other sculptors, to whom I apologise for not mentioning at this time.)

    The Technical Bit: In order to look at how we paint faces we must first look at its construction. Firstly the skull is an ovoid bone structure that we all should be familiar with, due to the regularity with which it occurs on miniatures.


    On top of the skull, but under the skin is a series of thin muscle groups, the largest of which is the Massitar between the jaw and the cheekbone. Each set of these muscles is capable of pulling the sectors of the face into various directions, which provides us with the means to create our expressions. (Don’t try to tell me you haven’t stood in front of a mirror and pulled faces at yourself.)

    To better demonstrate this, next time you are in the bathroom, look in the mirror and try several exercises. First, smile broadly, and then mouth the word “Charge”. Try expressing Fear and Anger, Frown and Squint as if you are trying to make something out at a distance. In all of these exercises you will see how the facial shape changes considerably. In Fear the eyes widen dramatically, sometimes becoming circular instead of the normal oval shape. (And if someone in your family comes in during these exercises you can see what you look like when embarrassed as well!)

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    In the case of miniatures the face is a fixed expression, usually (but not always) one of a limited range of expressions Fear, Anger, Aggression, or Repose (The neutral expression the face relaxes into). Some miniatures are also sculpted with the intent of showing the face shouting. The following sketches I have done should give an indication of alternate facial shapes for Pain, Anger, Aggression & Fear.

    As you can see from the sketches the facial shapes change according to the emotions being expressed.
    · Pain the eyes and cheeks tighten, the teeth and jaw clench.
    · Anger the forehead furrows and the crease between the eyes becomes more pronounced, often the lips become tighter and the mouth can be open displaying the teeth in a threatening manner.
    · Aggression, the expression tightens the mouth, the skin around the eyes also becomes tighter, and the forehead furrows and the nasal creases become deeper.
    · Fear, the eyes widen, the eyebrows raise and the mouth opens much more widely than in any other expression.

    These facial expressions are only a rough example and there are other factors, which affect the shape of the facial expression. Illness, Stress and Fatigue will alter the face. If you look at photographs of soldiers in the trenches during World War One you will see a marked difference to a normal unstressed face. The eye sockets are darker usually with heavily defined circles of shadow. Cheekbones are more pronounced and the cheeks themselves are hollowed. All these are symptoms of the immense pressure and terrible conditions they were facing and fighting under.
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    The Painty Bit:

    To define how highlights affect the face, I will work from the eyes out. The eyes themselves are normally in a mild shadow. The jaw line and lower cheeks will have a lighter appearance. Next in lightness are the upper sections of the cheekbones the upper, lower lip and chin. Followed by the Forehead, Eyebrow ridge and then the Nose. With the definition of the highlighted areas, I need to draw your attention to where shadow toned areas occur; which are below the jaw line around the throat, the nasal crease to the sides of the mouth, below the bottom lip, below the nasal tip and the nostrils. In specific expressions the forehead wrinkles and shadow tones are present between the forehead and the eyebrow ridges. In very strong emotional displays the
    eyes also tend to have increased shadows due to the effect of the furrowing of the forehead.
    When we look at people’s faces we see the transitions between highlights, shadows and creases as very smooth. But for the miniature world, especially those miniatures around 25/28mm, the highlights and shadows have to be dramatically differentiated in order to seem realistic. To demonstrate I have the following three pictures, one without alteration, the second with increased highlights/shadows and the third reduced in size to scale around 28mm.
    I have adjusted the second picture to show the areas of the face that have the greatest highlights and shadow tones. At this size, the picture looks as if I had war paint on my face. However, as you can see from the greatly reduced picture there is not a lot of contrast, and the effective definition of the face is not as strong.
    In essence, how we paint the face of a miniature is by bringing those areas that would be natural highlights up to a greater level of brightness, and the shadow tones taken down to a stronger depth than we would see naturally.
    In order to define the face in 28mm scale, the levels of contrast need to be quite strong to compensate for the small scale. Consequently, in order to define the expressions the painting needs to be exaggerated to make the effect work. Where on an actual face the shadows are smooth and blend into the rest of the tonality, on a 28mm figure the staging of the colours needs to be stronger and with fewer stages between basecoat and highlights.
    [pagebreak]
    The first example I will use to demonstrate this is the Ursakar Creed face, sculpted as a strong grim and determined face. Given that this is a tough face and needs to be depicted as such, the paintjob is aimed at showing a pronounced stage variation.

    In this instance I used all GW paints, starting with Dark Flesh as a thin basecoat to which I then mixed in Dwarf Flesh for the next stage. This was followed by Dwarf Flesh on it’s own as the next level. Then I mixed in a small quantity of Elf Flesh as the main highlight. On the Key Highlights I used thinned Pallid Flesh to emphasise the tip and the bridge of his nose, between his eyes and the solidity of his chin with an inverted “Y” shape. (I use the term Key Highlights to define certain points, which help to emphasise the structure of a face.) Overall, this has worked well, showing that the face has a strong character. Uncannily it also has a slight resemblance to the British Actor Harry Andrews (Ice Cold in Alex).
    The basecoat has given the initial tone that sets the skin colour and acts as the shadow tone, most noticeably in this example around the mouth, nasal creases and eye sockets. The prime colour has been used to define the shape and characteristics of the face, the first stage of the cheekbones, jaw line, nose, upper lip, eyebrow ridges and the raised portions of the forehead furrows.
    Successive levels of highlighting on the raised areas of the face are smaller and less dense (using very thinned paint) in order to focus on the overall effect. The final Key Highlights were used to define and emphasise the brightest places on the face.

    One thing that is noticeable on miniatures is the definition of the female face. In the majority of cases these are sculpted as finer and thinner than the male face, more the shape of an almond. A fine example of this is Steve Buddle’s Amazon, (Sculpted for the Coolminiornot competition) which shows great bone structure, and does not have the heavily defined features of the Ursakar Creed miniature. So for this miniature I had to make the paint define the face rather than rely on the sculpture. Once again I used Dark Flesh as a basecoat, mixing in Dwarf Flesh for the primary colour highlight layer. I worked up the highlights by adding more Dwarf Flesh and then Elf Flesh to get the final highlights. As you can see in the picture that in order to define the eyebrow ridges, I worked downwards in a “V” shape leaving a central line on the face, that helped to indicate that the forehead was furrowed. The result has given the face a very determined and somewhat fierce expression.

    In this last example, the face is of a Chaos Warrior, and in order to show the furious aspect of this character I painted the face with an exaggerated contrast. The basecoat was Citadel Tanned Flesh with a first highlight coat of Dwarf Flesh painted directly over the majority of the face. I added Elf Flesh to the Dwarf Flesh and highlighted the raised portions of the face. I picked out and highlighted the Grey horns before continuing with the flesh tones of the face. Then using a fine brush (a Winsor & Newton Series 7 / 000) I applied a very thin wash of Dark Flesh to the creases only, to enhance the contrast. Once this shading tone was dry, I reapplied the Dwarf Flesh/ Elf Flesh mix over the raised areas. The rest of the highlights were then picked up using Elf Flesh on it’s own, then mixed with Pallid Flesh. Then further highlights of pure Pallid Flesh and finally a small amount of Skull White added to the Pallid Flesh for the Key Highlights.


    Part 2 will continue with some demonstration pieces
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