Friday, October 21, 2011

Seeking sensation: elements of suggestion

Today let's go deep into artistic talk, for all of you hardcore painters who seek something more than just a correctly painted miniature.

I'm having a wonderful discussion with my friend Francesco Farabi, a great miniature painter from Italy who I'm sure you a lot about already. The discussion was regarding his last piece, the Last Stand of Nuln, modelled by Mariano Numitone (a great honour) and painted by himself. I'm also sure you have seen this one already, presented on the last Golden Demon Italy and awarded Gold in Diorama (I posted pics previously on the blog):

While the scene is just outstanding, I pictured out that the painting is too clean for a battle scene like this, I miss blood and dust and dirt in general. I couldn't see how the guys could be dying from arrows without choking in their own blood. Francesco answered:

About the question of dirt... yes you may be absolutely right, but there is a reason because I chose not to put a lot of dirt. It's because there is no close combat body fighting been done there, this is a "long distance attack, like some terrible enemy attacking the bastion of the castle and the soldiers go to the broken part to defend as a last stand, but a great swarm of arrows arrive and kill them all. If you look there are no soldiers with blade weapons, only guns, also the campion shouted with arrow in the neck tries to bring his guns, not a sword for example.
About blood... yes interesting in effect! Also because I am an habitual gory painter (i make a lot of blood effects in my miniatures) but we talked a lot with Numi about how much blood I wanted to put and therefore I studied that arrow shots don't create some blood spatter effect because it is very direct and quick, there's just a little quantity of blood exit from the wounds before you pull the arrow off from them.

My comment just started a great discussion around the use of explicit elements to achieve sensation which I wanted to share with all the readers of Volomir's Blog because I'm sure you will find it deeply interesting and maybe we can learn a lot together with it.

I had my own inner discussion about this when I painted my Last Stand of the Crimson Fists (which has also flaws because of lack of time and impatience, but that is another topic). I used the illustration as the main source (I very much copied it and tried to translate that into a 360º scene with 3d volumes) and in the drawing there is not much blood, or even dirt. There is weathering on the armours, yes, but not that kind of blood and dirty stuff that you would expect from a war scene. And I tried to be loyal to that concept because the drawing pours war and drama sensation from every brushstroke and I thought I could get that with my scene using the same resources. Some say that I got it, some say that I failed. I really can't be objective because it's my own creation and I have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I think I got it, sometimes I don't. There is also a bit of regret in some decisions that I took during the process, specially because it took such a long time that now when I think that I could have done better it just freaks me out. But anyway, that is done and past and from that I learned a lot (at least is what I try to think) and next time, when I do something to try and achieve something dramatic I'll try to use my own resources instead of just copying, so for that I am happy.

Here is a great example of how to achieve drama sensation and battle without the use of a single drop of blood:

When I see this picture of the spanish civil war I don't see dirt, blood or anything gory (it is true that absence of colours is also very powerful and we are adding colours to the equation so that is really something we cannot forget). I see drama there mainly because of two reasons. The first one and the most important and evident is the dynamism. The pose of the soldier falling, the weapon in the air, the clothes inflated and the blurryness of the picture around the area of the feet clearly suggest that there is action going on, and you feel that he is falling. Second is the expression of the guy. If you just concentrate con his face and forget about everything else you'll feel like if he is sleeping, at least that's what I get from it. But in the context of dynamism and movement you feel as if he is dying. You see no pain, you see no grief or scare, but you see he is "leaving", he is passing out. And you get the feeling that he is being shot because of the pose and specially the weapon on his arm, which suggests he was fighting. But you see no blood, no dirt, not even the place where he has been shot. And still you get the feeling that he has just received a gunshot.

Doing this is very difficult in my opinion. I see what Francesco tried to do, and I think he did it very well but there is still a long way to go I think. What if you had to do what Francesco tried to do, how would yo do it? Now I'll tell you about an idea of mine that could work:

In a scene like this you don't use blood, you don't use dirt, but you still need to reflect action, war and suffering. Francesco used the right colours for a realistic ambience, greys and dark reds, desaturated. But it is the same greys and amount of saturation that you use when he painted the rocks. What if you transform the scenery, and make it more colourful, more saturated, specially the banner, the ground (maybe adding grass or flowers, I don't know) and the standard bearer, his face much more reddish and orange? Just saturating their colours, but leave the dead in a more grey ambience, the same way they are now so that you suggest death with the use of colours. I think it would be a very good idea. I think that if you don't use explicit objects like blood or dirt, the use of colours is the key, and you used the right greyish ambience to suugest that. But if you don't show a contrast so that the effect of the grey ambience just stands out, I think that the main purpose just doesn't show.

So, today I offer you this interesting debate to all of you fellow readers of Volomir's Blog. What do you think? Discussion will help you better understand this great piece of work and will for sure motivate you in your own personal creations!


Mr. Mahon said...

I am a believer in more accurate representation of what's going on in dioramas and models. Maybe too explicit for some, but appreciated by me.

And regarding the photo you posted, I read in a few sources that it's considered a staged situation. One of such sources is this article from "Time". I can't vouch for it, but I think it's an interesting point.

Rafael García Marín said...

Very interesting article Mahon! Thank you very much!

Then if the photo is staged as "Time" says, the more reason to use it for this explanation because it feels as if it isn't fake and people really can't tell after all this time. That means perfect use of fake elements for suggestion!

Franciuus said...

Ave All,
it's a pleasure to see this discussion on your blog volomir, as i said to you i found this very deep, very as you said for "hardcore painters", but useful in the study of figure representation.

I have to say that i know there are a lot of discussion about the pictures i show of the spanish civil war (i use this also because i'm talkin with a spanish guy), but i think is not important in this case if is or not a fake, from a representation point of view this is the "true about war".

as i said to volomir i think this discussion touch a lot of important things about painting miniatures, and art in general:

- the line between "drama and reality"
- the line between "drama and reality" and artistic choose

For example wen volomir say me that i could make more different and bright contrasted color for the base i answer that i try this, but "just didn't work", because the scene vanished...

So also this is another point i think, there are drama and real, but also artistic choose... how we can find some equilibrium?

i dont' know obviously, but i think we have to talk about and try!

just to return about question of dirt and blood i say to volomir also a little "positive" provocation:

"we live in a very "WOW time" in miniature painting: a lot of painters experiment and use so incredible strange and powerful effect, i love this research! but another type of research could be some type of return to the "minimal" power of the color, the brush and the feel. This time i try this, but tomorrow? i don't' know!
both sides are so beautiful to explore!"

i don't know how my painting on this scene or the painting by volomir on his "last stand" have touch and strike this point, but i'm sure that me and him, we try to search some kind of this "feel and emotion", and i hope (but, i think i can say WE hope) that this type of discussion about painting motivated other painters to find other way, new, and obviously, better!

thank you all!


Rafael García Marín said...

Thank you so much Francesco! This talk is really providing me with a lot of motivation which we all know its something very valuable (in my opinion, everything is about motivation really).

I've been thinkin again about this. Last month I was in NYC and had the opportunity to go to a wonderful Broadway play called "Warhorse". It was about the story of a kid and his horse during the time of World War I and how cavalries were being replaced by tanks because of the use of automatic guns and barbed wire. Well, the whole play was around the horse, and it was the main character. To do that, they used puppetry and actors to move the puppets, a very good strange steampunk kind of invention which two of three actors moved around. At first you thought "oh my... this is so bad, it's just a guy moving around a mechanical skeleton". But just a couple of minutes into the play you forget about the mechanics and the human actors and you just see a horse. You get into the story and your mind deceives you. And you feel and you suffer like the horse does, because its a horse, no longer a device operated by two guys.

Do you think we can do that with miniatures? I really think we can suggest and get the spectator to think something different from what we are explicitly depicting. I think that we really need to go deep into that kind of expression and look for something different, that would enrich our view of miniature painting and the hobby in general.

Marqués said...

As far as I understand, you are discussing a matter old as art itself, the "credibilty" of a composition.

For this kind of debates I always follow the opinions of Aristotle in his work "Poetic", that I think should be roden by all artists.

When creating a diorama or painting a miniature, I suppose one should, first of all, take in consideration what's its purpose, which can be: "I want a realistic composition" or "I want an unrealistic one". Hence one may explore different painting techniques, ambientation, etc. depending on the choice. I understand something as "realistic" when it tries to imitate reality or be credible somehow, whereas "unrealistic" means for me an explicit intention of exploring "unbelievable" things (for example, Sin City film is an obviously unrealistic film, opposite to Full Metal Jacket).

Of course, one can also present a real figure in an unrealistic way, or a fantasy miniature in a realistic way. And even mix styles.

Maybe Capa's picture was a fake, but it do has lot of credibility. Thus, a great pic. I'm really not a great painter (not yet, at least), but I think this debate should take in consideration the painter's research of credibily or complete unrealism, both of them absolutely interesting for me.

Have a nice weekend all of you!

P.D.: Francesco, son rimasto senza fiatto col tuo diorama, veramente spettacolare, oltre la discussione sulla mancanza di spurcizia. Sei un grandissim referente per pittori amateur come me.

Franciuus said...

just some other few reflection, i read also the spanish version of blog, i think i understand... italian and spanish are not so different for some things but i answer here for not create some chaos (also because this is an empire scene!!! :D)

i found very deep and full of great idea the post by marques (thank you for your word).

i just have to say one think about colors of the three face, in effect the standard bearer and the champion are not dead, the champion is going dead but he is still alive (and the face don't' became pallid in 2-3 seconds i think), the musician in real life is really more pallid and the tone of the skin is different from the others, i use a lot of more blu and cold white colors, but sadly the pictures don't' show this well, i think you can just see if you look at the close up, were is more evident the difference, is very difficult to have a pictures of this detail because the face is hidden by a lot of details.

but in effect i could try put more in evidence this fact! so is very interesting talking about this!

we have to try try and try different way and have reflection about the possibility.

i very love the idea of different color saturation by volomir, very difficult do do, but a great challenge!

why not try also this! ;)



Mario 2012 said...

I would like to offer you all a little example of something that a friend of mine has done and I thing brings together some of those things that Rafa has raised in here.

The strong contrast of the primary figure (size and color) and the use of a monochromatic color scheme accentuated the emotions on a scene that is "per se" extremely emotive (the subject has so strong connotations that everyone would have something to say about it).

This is an example of something done in another artistic medium (cinema) but applied to miniature modeling.

Hope you like it..

Marqués said...

Hello Mario.

I'm afraid I cannot see your pictures; I'm requested a password I have not. Do you know if there is any other possibility to access to it? The subject is so interesting that I wouldn't like to miss a bit of it.


Marqués said...

Ok Mario. I registered successfully in that blog just to see your friend's creation.

It is a great composition indeed. You see the child focuses all attention, as is the only coloured miniature (the others are all grey).

I suppose that, as miniature painting is not strictly accademic yet, we can, or even we have to translate other art techniques in to ours (and yes, I'm a defender of miniature painting as art, if done well). Thus your friend's work is excellent. I think that adaptation of other arts tecniques into ours is already in progress. Take a look at this, another Rafa's work, the idea being the same than the one you are showing us (monocromatic palette, then one saturate colour):

Which makes me ask you: Can miniature painting be an art? There will be a moment in which this hobby will be seriously taught at schools of arts? We are required to know some about sculpture and anatomy, theory of colour, painting and sculpting techniques, adquire an artistic eye to adapt achievements in other disciplines to ours...

What do you think?

Mario 2012 said...

Hi Marques,

Glad you like it and yes I knew about Rafa's Red riding hood version...with this one I though the author went a bit further not only to force the focus of the scene on the girl but also and following the theme increased the drama using monochromatic painting for the other subjects (sadness and cold hearted arrogance)

With respect to minitiature modelling as an art....i think is already there, as many of the great painters and sculptors of our times had some art is just an small step....

Mr. Mahon said...

It was one of the reasons why I posted the info about possibility of this photo being staged - because it's an icon now. If you can create a believable image which becomes an icon in its own genre, you're good.

You want to be that good in your genre, too. I am sure of it :)