Friday, 20 September 2019

My take on painting medieval heraldry

I was truly pleasantly surprised to receive so many positive comments on my last blog post for which I thank you all once again.  Most of your comments were appreciative of the heraldic designs on my models and this set me thinking about posting a blow-by-blow painting sequence in the hope that it might come in somehow useful to fellow modellers / gamers. I hasten to add that this is the method I have adopted and prefer but others might have their own different methods and I am by no means suggesting that this is better than any other method used.So here's my tuppence on this subject.

All colours quoted are Vallejo acrylics.

First of all, I identify a heraldic design to be painted.  Google usually comes in very handy here and for this particular case I chose one of the various rampant eagle designs available online. Having visualized the final colour scheme of a white eagle on a blue background in my head, I set off to clean the figure and apply black undercoat. The finished figure will be in Ultramarine so I applied a base of Dark Prussian Blue. The eagle will be painted directly on to this base so for starters a stick figure is sketched in German Camouflage Beige (Stone Grey works just as well) just to get the proportions and dimensions right.  Unfortunately I neglected to take a picture of this step but I made a mental note to take one when painting the shield so that I can convey the idea.

First brushstrokes - the rough stick figure gives an indication of position and proportion 
Once I'm happy with the positions and proportions I proceed to make my first full rough sketch, again in German Camouflage Beige which will end up looking something like this:

The stick figures have been fleshed for the first full sketch

The just-started figure against the specimen eagle design

Now is the time to start detailing. Rough edges are evened out using the backing Dark Prussian Blue as well as touching up with the German Camouflage Beige.  This is maybe the most tedious part of the process because it involves a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the two colours, but it is also the most important since it will have a determining effect on the final result. Once I'm happy I paint the beige over using Sky Grey but being careful not to occult the underlying beige colour completely especially where the wings connect to the outlying feathers or where the legs join the body and tail. I tend to dilute the colour so that some beige will show through as I find this gives depth to the final design.

Sky Grey coat over beige base with some beige showing through

The final layer in white is now applied, again taking care not to paint too much over the grey. The narrow 'secondary' feathers extending outwards from the wings are left in grey so as not to give them prominence over the thicker 'main' feathers. Only slight highlighting touches in white are applied in the tail design and claws - leaving gaps showing the darker base colours to give depth and pop things out. This method is also applied to the wing feathers - applying the white only to the outer edges highlights the curvature in the wing shape.

The rampant eagles are now ready, having been highlighted in white. A border in Burnt Red has been added to the bottom border of the bard.
Once the eagles are complete the first layer of Ultramarine is laid on. Here I take care to get as close as possible but not into contact with the eagle design, leaving a razor thin outline of Dark Prussian Blue barely visible around the eagle.  This is extremely important since the dark outline is what makes it pop. Care has to especially be taken around the feathers, claws, and elaborate tail design. The first coat of Ultramarine will look something like this:

Once this stage is complete things become much easier as now it is only a matter of finishing off the Ultramarine bard with darker shades and highlights taking care not to encroach on the eagle design. 

The mount as advanced work in progress

The same principles are applied to the jupon and shield. The former is quite tight in space but this can be turned to advantage since you can do away with a lot of detail and giving a rough overall idea is usually enough.  The shield is much larger and visible so all the detail will need to be applied.

The final touch to the eagle design is a Light Orange beak as well as Vermillion tongue and talons. Finally the model is varnished in Satin Finish. And this is the completed figure:

Finally I think it's only fair to say that I am fully dependent on my trusty Optivisor for all my painting and use a variety of brush sizes but mostly 3/0, 2/0, and 1. I really hope someone might find this useful and really look forward to any comments, tips and suggestions you might have.