Aglaé

Sometimes a model is just so inspiring that I have to have it in my collection. Aglaé was one of those for me, I smiled the second I saw her and I had a vision of exactly what I wanted to do. It took me a while to finally get around to starting this project, but once I did it was one of those rare, perfect painting experiences where it’s just fun and the hours fly by and then suddenly the vision is real. I applied a lot of what I learned from Roman at the Beginner Workshop. Those techniques and the mentality that goes with them made the process feel loose and natural, which was so fitting for this happy woodland scene.

Before I started, there were a couple of things I did want to change about this sculpt. While I love it, not all elements work for me personally. I didn’t want to make any rash decisions so I went into Photoshop to get an idea of what the changes I had in mind would look like. To start I left off the extremely fragile leaf type things – they don’t really look like anything at all to me, and while I get the halo effect and way that they draw attention to the face, I’m not into it. That said, they’re super easy to leave off, they are on a separate sprue and the hair doesn’t have any strange indents for you to attach them that would otherwise need to be filled. The other bit that bugged me was the thick eyebrows in the middle of her forehead. That stylistic choice just didn’t work with my vision, so I used my scalpel to scrape them off her forehead extremely carefully. With miniatures at this scale I prefer to paint on the suggestion of eyebrows, if I do them at all, and the placement of these ones just felt off to me.

With that taken care of I could assemble her, which was a little fiddly due to her tiny joints but didn’t take long to sort out. Then I picked out a natural looking plinth and started chopping into it! In hindsight I wish I had been a little bolder and sliced off more actually, but no matter. To sell the idea of a forest you’ve got to have trees right, so I picked a suitably interesting bit of dried wood to use as an old, rotting stump. I glue a few pieces of cork around it to create another level and somewhere flat for her to sit on, then began sprinkling the whole thing with dried soil, sand, and roots to create a nice forest floor texture. Most of it would get covered up by more layers of undergrowth, but this helps it feel real. After coating this in varnish to really lock everything down I primed everything zenithally, since I image the sun is high overhead here.

I’ve learned to appreciate brushes like this one

Knowing that so much of the base would get covered up, and because it is a natural scene, I was able to paint the entire base quickly using a wet-in-wet technique and a big, “characterful” brush. I got a surprising amount of fine detail out of this by stippling with the frayed brush, then used lots of wash to bring out even more texture and do a little bit more shading. I think in total this only took about 30 minutes, letting me move right on to the miniature herself!

I knew I wanted a warmer, reddish skin tone for Aglaé to contrast with the green environment, so I began by doing a very rough sketch of that using the same wet-in-wet blending that I used for the base. This gave me a good starting point, and wouldn’t be too frustrating to paint over if my color choices didn’t end up looking right. I ended up liking the result though, so I continued to place a few highlights and shadows, again and again until the skin was smooth and felt like she had the sun shining down on her.

From there I moved on to the dress. Not wanting it to blend in, I chose a nice sky blue and tried to keep it a little more desaturated. Once the dress was blocked in to frame the skin, I also went back to work on the skin some more. You can see that some areas are starting to come together, while others like the hands and face still need more attention. I kept coming back to the skin in between other parts because I didn’t want to have a mistake on something like the instrument ruin her hands.

Speaking of, the instrument was the next thing I painted up, since I knew exactly what I wanted to do for it. I tried to get a natural woodgrain texture, then glazed over it to bring in some richer brown tones. While I had an orange-brown on my palette I also went ahead and basecoated her hair with that color, hoping that it would look alright with her skin tone. I think it does, and the orange contrasts so nicely with the blue dress that I decided to stick with it. Plus, if I painted the leaf in her hair green that would stand out just enough against the hair!

At this point everything was flowing smoothly and going so fast that I almost forgot to take any pictures. I used a neutral brown/black for her hooves, shaded her hair, worked on her skin some more, then started covering the base in plant life. I used tiny natural leaves and lots of fine green flock that I mixed with varnish to be able to glue it down. The little flowers are very nice, but because they are so bright I only used a small amount. After the varnish was dry I used washes to darken the moss and some leaves, before lightly painting on some highlights in various shades of green. Whenever I was waiting for something to dry I just worked on her hair some more, and other little things here and there.

I did a couple more checks to see what she looked like in the ambient room lighting, rather than under my bright daylight bulb. She’ll rarely be looked at under the harsh brightness of an intense daylight bulb, so if I like what I see in more normal lighting that’s good enough for me.

She’s attracted an audience!

That last inspection made me decide to work more on the leaf in her hair. Since it is so small and not super visible from the front I decided it wouldn’t hurt to make it extra vibrant and use more extreme highlights. With Aglaé finished the last things to paint were all the little forest creatures that came to listen to her music! These tiny animals are so much fun for me, and I hid them all over the place. I tried to paint them in a way that they are almost camouflaged, see if you can find all 6…

I added some tiny little mushrooms at the very end

All in all, I love how this little scene turned out. She’s a little bit of peace and joy in a cabinet full of violent warrior minis, painted during this difficult time as the world struggles with fear and isolation.

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