Delicious Damage: The Importance of References


Rust pie

One side effect of painting battle damage onto models is that it’s made me start to look very closely at real-life examples of abused metal surfaces.  Whenever I see chipped paint on a car, column, or other metal object I find myself studying it intently to see how the light interacts with the edges of the paint and the effects of rust on the whole object.  Pictures help as source material.


Rust and a number

I’ve been painting with green and red a lot lately, so I’ve been on the lookout for good reference material.  For red, I saw the loading dock of a Coca-Cola truck that had some nice erosion patterns on the edges.  I’ll be on the lookout for a parked truck to try to snap some pictures.  For green, I found a large trash dumpster set up in the parking garage of my office building.  I took several pictures of the surface because it had some nice damage patterns of various sizes and shapes.


Rusty cuts

I always feel that I am slow-witted when picking up the important things.  In this case, there is a connection between source material and rendered artwork that I didn’t make early on which, upon reflection, I should have immediately.

In illustration, there are an infinite number of “how to draw X style” guide written by people with good intentions but lacking appropriate caveats.  For example, there are guides for “how to draw anime” that show how draw the big bubble eye shapes and light stripes on the hair and all that, but really the fundamental way to draw a human form correctly is to learn anatomy first and then reduce down to simplistic forms.  Learn how life looks in three dimensions, then decide how to represent it in two dimensions.  When I was interested in anime and manga I read those guides and thought I was learning how to draw the right eyes and mouths, but really I was just jumbling together shapes without any real knowledge of the reason why they were in the places they were.  As a result, eyes and mouths often looked like they were floating around the face and any attempt at drawing bodies tended to look very static and rigid.  It wasn’t until later that I figured out I was approaching the subject from the wrong direction.


Rust and Grit

The same applies to painting miniatures, even though I didn’t realize it at first.  In trying to learn different techniques for proper light sourcing and effects like rust and chipped paint, my initial attempts at learning focused on tutorials on how to directly create the effects.  These tutorials provided nice results and were fairly straightforward, but in a way my results were still just tossing down floating eyes and mouths.  My interest in real examples is rooted in learning how life and nature deal with light and damage, then working on applying that knowledge to painting.

Oddly, I can only think of a single video tutorial I’ve watched on rust effects that actually presented photographs of real damage as a reference.  It might be something that just isn’t implemented very much.  Maybe in the way that the How To Draw guides are well-meaning but without the correct emphasis on source material, the How To Paint Minis guides simply overlook that key part of the educational process.

rusty thing

Rust Hook

I’ll add more pictures as I come across some good examples of the effects I want to create on my models.  Source material is very useful, and I’m always on the lookout for good stuff.

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