About highlights and shdows
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Thread: About highlights and shdows

  1. #1

    Default About highlights and shdows

    I recognise that this might come across as an opinionated post (well, technically every post is opinionated, but you get my meaning), but here goes...

    I think, IMHO, purely personally, just my 2c...

    Shading and highlighting are become overdone.
    And I mean on the top rated, award winning pieces.

    *Ducks for cover!

    I'll divert attention from that controversial statement and use an analogy.

    Here is a picture of a modern Siamese cats:

    Note the extreme pointedness of the snout, a "classic" Siamese feature.

    Here is a picture of what is considered the origin of the species:

    What...? that looks almost exactly like any cat!

    Breeders have taken a very slight feature and bred for it, resulting in that feature gradually being exaggerated in order to achieve the "Look" of the breed.

    I feel the same is happening with minis.

    The point of shading and highlighting is to create the illusion of natural light cast on what is supposedly (say) a 4 metre tall ogre.
    At 4cm tall, the depth of musculature, armour joins, etc etc, is too small to create the shadows themselves, and so we paint them on.

    Just as extra reverb is added to mic-recordings, we add back to a scaled object that which the scaling removes from the look of the original, if 4m tall ogres actually existed (cue mother-in-law jokes).

    But what I am starting to see, is OBVIOUS shading and highlighting, so much so, that it has passed the point of looking natural and is in fact forced, unsubtle, wrong.

    I DO NOT want to post examples, for fear of offending artists who are in no doubt better painters then myself.

    I will however post this thread, and ask if I'm totally out of order here, or if there is some agreement amongst fellow painters:

    Is the highlighting/shadowing now being so "looked for" by judges that it has begun to become exaggerated beyond the point that it no longer serves the purpose of being an attempt to recapture natural lighting, but is looking unnatural.

    Discuss...!

  2. #2

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    Yes and no? I think in some ways it's become a style thing. I have feared trying out high contrast like you mention for a while now. I did manage to try it out although somewhat subtly on my Canadian Gobo just to see if I could do it and and how it would look and feel. Here it is feel free to use it as an example for or against your point - I won't be offended http://www.coolminiornot.com/345866 I like how it looks in real life, but it was the hardest damn mini I have ever photographed because the highlights went so far up and were so unnatural that they tended to wash out a lot. I had to split the difference between light and dark - as a result the photo is a little washed out for my liking, but its as true to the colors and finished mini as I can get. I will use this on my more cartoony type pieces like the chibi style diorama I am working on now, but I can certainly see what you mean. It throws a lot of rules out the window and looks great on some minis and just plain wrong on others. I really think it depends on how far the exaggeration is pushed and how subtle the blends and extreme highlights and shadows are. Oh god, I'm so Canadian. If that wasn't the most "sit on the fence" answer you will get I don't know what is ~sigh~ I don't want no trouble, eh.
    "Remember, you can't spell paint without a little pain."

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  3. #3

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    It is definitely a style thing - and because a lot of the top painters are doing it it's becoming something that is looked for, like many trends.
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zab View Post
    Yes and no? I think in some ways it's become a style thing. I have feared trying out high contrast like you mention for a while now. I did manage to try it out although somewhat subtly on my Canadian Gobo just to see if I could do it and and how it would look and feel. Here it is feel free to use it as an example for or against your point - I won't be offended http://www.coolminiornot.com/345866 I like how it looks in real life, but it was the hardest damn mini I have ever photographed because the highlights went so far up and were so unnatural that they tended to wash out a lot. I had to split the difference between light and dark - as a result the photo is a little washed out for my liking, but its as true to the colors and finished mini as I can get. I will use this on my more cartoony type pieces like the chibi style diorama I am working on now, but I can certainly see what you mean. It throws a lot of rules out the window and looks great on some minis and just plain wrong on others. I really think it depends on how far the exaggeration is pushed and how subtle the blends and extreme highlights and shadows are. Oh god, I'm so Canadian. If that wasn't the most "sit on the fence" answer you will get I don't know what is ~sigh~ I don't want no trouble, eh.
    In this example, the mini is itself a caricature, so exaggerated highlights work well, and in any case, you've not overdone it, I'd say that was a perfect example of just the right amount of highlighting and shadows to suit the size and style of the mini.

    The shadows on the boot are great!

  5. #5

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    Lemme give you a real life example. I'm in theater and one of the first things I had to get over was fear of makeup. Before the whole "Metrosexual" thing, makeup and guys just didn't really go together- but I realized that I can exaggerate my face all I want, if I don't have makeup on, it's not really going to do any good. Because guess what? From 40-50 feet away I'm the size of a miniature! Now, you're right- it can be overdone! For example, the makeup of the early cinema and the black and white era was.. black and white.
    Here's a great example:


    See how the left half of her face is almost ghoulish, and the right appears normal? Contrast. You do need to find a happy medium in my opinion. Artists in the past have made the whole stark contrast of black and white their thing- Tintoretto for one:


    So, it all comes down to case by case basis. If a funny or whimsical mini or diorama had stark, contrasting colors I'd be less inclined to say it works vs. a more tense kind.

    And for reference sake- 40%. That's the amount of darkness a shadow usually casts from an object.

  6. #6

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    Is it a style thing? Yeah, in a way. If you like stark highlighting, go for it. If you don't, don't. But, there is a practical reason to it, as well, which is touched by in Chrispy's post above. A lot of top painters go to lots of shows and competitions, displaying their miniatures on exhibition tables, cabinets etc. with lighting conditions that may vary from almost non-existant to focused LED-lights with close to white-coloured light. You simply have no control over under which lighting conditions your miniature will be viewed when displayed. Furthermore, you have no control over under which lighting conditions your miniature will be JUDGED at competitions. By pushing contrasts, shading and highlighting to extremes you will guarantee that your miniature will look exciting and interesting even with extremely poor lighting conditions.

    And, as a side note... Don't think that the driving force of most painters is to paint minis so that they look natural. Reality is boring! We want more than that!
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  7. #7

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    Well, there's definitely a difference between definition and contrast per se. Most people seem to mean that the miniature is not defined enough when they say it's flat. I also think some are doing too obvious highlights at times especially that they do not consider different textures. Then we have the difference between contrast from light to dark within a colour and contrast between colours. I had pretty ok of the first previously but not enough of the latter, that was a real issue at competitions.

    And as Anders say I want not only realism, I want super-realism - enhanced realism.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Avelorn View Post
    I want super-realism - enhanced realism.
    There are substances that would help you with that. Not that I'd recommend them, though...
    Combibo vestri peniculus quod fio a melior pictor.
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  9. #9

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    "When I was on acid, I would see things like beams of light... and I would hear sounds that sounded an awful lot like car horns."
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritual View Post
    But, there is a practical reason to it, as well, which is touched by in Chrispy's post above. A lot of top painters go to lots of shows and competitions, displaying their miniatures on exhibition tables, cabinets etc. with lighting conditions that may vary from almost non-existant to focused LED-lights with close to white-coloured light.
    Wow, you mean those events aren't judged under good lighting by default?
    Sad....

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by yxalitis View Post
    Wow, you mean those events aren't judged under good lighting by default?
    Sad....
    Nope. And the display conditions can vary greatly too. Dim lighting, scratched plexiglass....
    Proud owner of a Cassar!

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  12. #12

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    I've been to a few in my deep dark past where cataracts and beer goggles were even a factor where the judges were concerned o_O
    "Remember, you can't spell paint without a little pain."

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by yxalitis View Post
    Wow, you mean those events aren't judged under good lighting by default?
    Sad....
    Quote Originally Posted by TrystanGST View Post
    Nope. And the display conditions can vary greatly too. Dim lighting, scratched plexiglass....
    Quote Originally Posted by Zab View Post
    I've been to a few in my deep dark past where cataracts and beer goggles were even a factor where the judges were concerned o_O
    Now are you talking about the competition display or the area the judges inspect the figures, because if the organisers have done their job right, the lighting should be clear and bright for the close inspection area.

    It's the initial "Eye catching/ Sparkly/ Shiny" selection process which is the one with the difficulty. Strong highlight to shadow ratios are only one of the factors which attract initial attention. Having a high highlight/shadow ratio isn't going to win much if the underlying brush work or overall quality of the figure is poor.

    The high scoring competition winners we see here oouse quality, from shadow to highlight through detail and storytelling. So it's not just a 'One trick pony' that attracts attention, I've been fortunate enough to see some of the worlds best painted figures "Up Close and Personal" and please believe me when I say that GOOD is only the starting point from where they originate and just keep climbing upwards.
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonsreach View Post
    ...the lighting should be clear and bright for the close inspection area.
    Yes, but sadly it's not always the case.
    Combibo vestri peniculus quod fio a melior pictor.
    My gallery - go have a look!

  15. #15

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    I thought I'd actually post an example, as this one is from a webstore, and unlikely to offend any readers.
    You will see what I am referring to:


    The shading on the flesh parts is just way over the top!
    And this is clearly a commissioned work for Centre Stage.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by yxalitis View Post


    The shading on the flesh parts is just way over the top!
    According to whom?

    The example above is just "Normal" highlighting/shading, if you consider that 'over the top' I'd be interested in seeing what you class as "Normal".
    I believe in Karma, what you give, is what you get returned. Affirmation; Savage Garden
    Oh look my IQ results came in:-
    , and proud of it.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonsreach View Post
    According to whom?

    The example above is just "Normal" highlighting/shading, if you consider that 'over the top' I'd be interested in seeing what you class as "Normal".
    According to me...clearly!
    It was my post...of course its my opinion!
    Look at the shadow between the breasts,
    WHY is there a shadow between the breasts...? That just looks wrong
    Now look at the shadows around the stomach.
    You think that looks natural?

    Compare to this one:



    THAT'S what I consider well-done shading.
    The shadows used to define the stomach are only a subtle tone darker. Note that between the breasts is NOT shadowed.

    Yes, opinions are exactly that, but if you think my example from before is a good example of shading, well...I disagree.

  18. #18

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    The mermaids made me think of comic books. They started with flat colours with thick black lines to provide the definition, then you got broken up lines and cross hatching upon those flat colours, and now the inks have tones themselves.
    That first mermaid looks like an old Jack Kirby character, minimal tonal range amongst the shadows, almost binary actually. The latter has far more levels of contrast, yet is actually rather dull as if there is not much light upon the figure. It makes it quiet, it could serve as supportive background to something else but doesn't really have enough presence to demand the attention it could have got from more contrasting lighter tones added to the mix.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by yxalitis View Post
    !
    Look at the shadow between the breasts,
    WHY is there a shadow between the breasts...? That just looks wrong
    Now look at the shadows around the stomach.
    You think that looks natural?
    actually the breast part is very similar to the one you show as "good one". Just more squished together, and because of that shown as a dark line.
    The stomach area is too strong, there I agree.

    for me all these light-shadows, based on the 2 pics you give (bad-good):
    breasts:
    - 'bad' one: go from a very dark brown to light flesh
    - good one: almost black(under the breasts) to light flesh, here the mini is large enough, so the part between the breasts can be painted separately (not squished together)
    so the light-shadow contrast is even more on the "good one".
    stomach:
    - 'bad' one: dark brown line, almost like a quickshade wash
    - good one: light brown - light flesh, but as I already wrote, I agree on this part
    back:
    - 'bad' one: none visible , but probably darkbrown - light flesh
    - good one: dark brown (almost black in some deeper parts) - flesh / light flesh
    again, I think the light-shadow contrast is greater on the "good one".

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by yxalitis View Post

    I think, IMHO, purely personally, just my 2c...

    'Shading and highlighting are become overdone.
    And I mean on the top rated, award winning pieces.'
    Yes I agree and I love it! Contrast is the key on modern miniature painting. (imo)
    This example from Yellow one is pure class, over exaggerated shadows to over the top highlights all add to a word class mini.
    Not realistic but its not supposed to be.

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