domenica 3 luglio 2016

Thranduil in Autumn Attire (MC8 Elvenking) - Painting Manual

In this post I will try to describe, step by step, my approach to paint a miniature. It will probably be TL,DR, but hopefully someone can find some useful tips.

So, everything starts with a pack.

I got mine from a fellow Mithril lover who had put part of his collection for sale, and so, from Denmark, here's the Elvenking. This is a classic figure, one of those you saw on Mithril advertisements back in the 90s.

Now, how to paint this. You know I'm a Tolkien purist and I wanted to get this right, so I did some research in the sources. "The Hobbit" is the one:

"[...] at the head of a long line of feasters sat a woodland king with a crown of leaves upon his golden hair [...]"

"In a great hall with pillars hewn out of the living stone sat the Elvenking on a chair of carven wood. On his head was a crown of berries and red leaves, for the autumn was come again. In the spring he wore a crown of woodland flowers. In his hand he held a carven staff of oak."
There isn't actually much more. It is mentioned that he has green banners, and he loves emeralds (supposedly because they are green).
"To the Elvenking he gave the emeralds of Girion, such jewels as he most loved [...]"
So he likes green, we get it. But who is the Elvenking?

Looking at other sources, such as the Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales, we learn his name is Thranduil. Of Sindarin descent, he was the son of Oropher, who in the Second Age left Beleriand and became a king among the Silvan Elves of Greenwood the Great. Oropher died in the War of the Last Alliance, and Thranduil succeeded him as Elvenking. It was after a thousand years of his reign that a shadow came over Greenwood, and it started to be known as Mirkwood. Thranduil did not have the power to wage war against the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, and so he withdrew from the old palace in the Mountains of Mirkwood and has a new dwelling delved in the northern part of the Forest, which was what remained of his kingdom in the late Third Age. Thranduil was the father of Legolas, of the Fellowship of the Ring.

So we have a Sindarin king ruling over Silvan Elves and a dwindling kingdom. I expect him to be elegant and refined, but in a simple way. He probably has nice clothes of fine fabric, Elven-made or possibly imported (he imports his wine, after all).

Now, let's look at how the Elvenking has been depicted in other media, just to get some inspiration.

This is my favourite one: art by Pauline Baynes, Tolkien's own appointed illustrator. This is taken from "Bilbo's Last Journey". Here the Elvenking has the red crown of leaves and berries, a light green robe and a dark green cloak embroidered with red thread.

What else?

This is the Elvenking from the Hobbit Cartoon (1977). And that's a big nope.

This is the Comic Book by D. Wenzel (1989).

You all know this guy. Good god, do I hate his impression of an elf >:(


Okay, we have an idea, but very confused. Frankly, I only like Pauline Baynes' idea, so I start working on it.

It's not bad, but it's not good either... I think I could do something more. The colours are too many and too different. But I don't want a predominantly green pattern, this is not Spring anymore. I want an Elvenking in Autumn garments. I want him to look close to Nature, but a Nature that is striving against Shadow. He lives in caves, but his kingdom is covered by trees.

Then it hits me:

"In fact the subjects of the king mostly lived and hunted in the open woods, and had houses or huts on the ground and in the branches. The beeches were their favourite trees."



Do you see what I see? The pattern. Earthy greys. Deep yellows. That's my Elvenking.

Let's start painting!

We start from the browns: boots and undergarments.

Then we paint the grey undertunic, and the bright overtunic, orange with yellow dry-brush.

A lighter, brighter yellow for the cloak.

Ah, Thranduil's hair. If you're familiar with Tolkien fandom, you'll know about the Great Hair Colour Debate about Legolas. But the Hobbit says quite specifically that the Elvenking's hair were golden (take this, PJ!). I went for a dark ochre just because I prefer to keep a light yellow for the few Elves of the House of Finarfin, and I also find it goes better with the Autumn mood.

Next we do the belt and the scabbard with the same brown as the boots. It's leather brown mixed with a point of grey. Details are highlighted in yellow (flowers on the belt) and white (flower of the scabbard). We also add a metal colour to the scabbard's edges and the sword hilt.

And now here's the crown. A flat red will do the trick, as we'll work further on it later.

The first hand is now finished. We do a little retouch here and there, especially on the yellow parts since I didn't find any bright yellow that's really good either in Vallejo or Citadel ranges. Then we paint the base, in our case a neutral dark brown. When we are done with this, we start the shading.

Here's what a little Fleshtone Wash can do!

Not to mention a Sepia Wash for all Yellow parts, and a Black Wash for all others! It's highlight time now, and we add a bit of the original colours on top of the shaded parts, to let the outer bits of the miniature flash out.
We'll do this especially for the yellow cloak and the red crown, which have been dimmed down by the washes; I want them to be the most striking parts of the figure.

We're done, at last! The Elvenking's painted and finished. Imagine meeting this guy in a dark forest, standing among the trees out of nowhere.

"[They] were Wood-elves, of course. These are not wicked folk. If they have a fault it is distrust of strangers. Though their magic was strong, even in those days they were wary. They differed from the High Elves of the West, and were more dangerous and less wise."
But the work is not done completely. To do justice to the figure, we need to base it properly.

We'll start with a layer of fine sand, attached with vinilic glue.

And progress with some more coarse earth, to represent stones and rocks. Add a pinch of Noch marshland grass of the matching colour, and there you have it!
Ladies and gentlemen, the Elvenking in Autumn garments!