When I saw Sergio Calvo’s Hirelings of Asura kickstarter I knew I had to back it, even if only for the video tutorials. However, the miniatures themselves were incredible too, with one of them bearing a striking resemblance to a character I’ve played for years in D&D. That was Tsukigoro, but the sculpt was so cool that I really wanted to be sure I had the skills to do it justice before painting him up. So he languished in my pile of shame these last couple years, until that character’s story finally came to an end. I wanted to paint a sort of tribute piece to this guy I’ve pretended to be for hundreds of hours, and remembered the Tsukigoro model. The character Momak came from a sweltering jungle, was always bare-chested, and had a penchant for taking the pieces of slain monsters as trophies – including demons and a great red dragon. The one article of clothing he always wore was a huge belt he had inherited which could spew fire, otherwise he liked to keep things loose with loincloths and the like. You can just tell the Tsukigoro model couldn’t have been more perfect, with the skull pauldron loosely tied on, the massive belt, scales, fur pelt, and loose clothing. When I took a look at the tutorial we had received for him it felt like stars had aligned. To make it special for backers, Sergio had decided to paint the model glowing from within using an incredible OSL effect. This was fantastic because it was a way for me to depict Momak’s ability to channel the spiritual might of his ancestors, in addition to looking absolutely badass.
But enough about how happy I was with the model, on to painting! Well, almost. I built the base first, with milliput, dried bits of wood, and dirt to create a sort of forest floor texture. I used the leftover milliput to fill some gaps on the joints of the model (though I did frustratingly mess up a tiny spot on the arm which I only noticed later painting it…). Usually I would do the base next, but I was way more excited about painting the model so I started with him.
I primed him black, and since I had a can of the GW Mephiston Red spray leftover from another project I used that to place the red basecoat on the glowing area. The video tutorials make extensive use of an airbrush, which I don’t have, but really the only important thing I needed to know was where color was being placed. From then on I just worked with my brushes, stippling brighter and brighter reds on, building up to orange and then pure white. The effect is incredible just like that, but to really make the glow seem to come from within Sergio suggested painting tiny purple veins over top of this. Mind-blowing stuff that I would never have come up with on my own! While I had my reds handy I also painted the sword, belt, and skull pauldron in a similar fashion.
For the greaves I wanted to do something a little different, so I used magenta hues to distinguish them from the glowing reds. To get the texture I made some streaks and scratches almost like how I would do weathering on rusty metal. There wasn’t a particular reason why, other than that kind of thing looking cool on Sergio’s model and me being a big fan of using different textures on minis.
From there I moved on to the skin, although I did come back a couple times to the glow and make adjustments. Oh and I did the wrappings on his glowing arm real quick, with an ashy color to show how they’ve been affected by the heat. To make that glow even brighter, the other areas of the model near it needed to be way less saturated. I took GW Deathworld Forest and Knarloc Green as skin colors and dulled them down with black, then highlighted up by adding white. The color was pretty ugly by then, but it was easy to glaze on extremely thin coats of the intense Warp Lightning contrast paint and carefully bring that green back in later.
The face on Tsukigoro is phenomenal so I focused on it separately from the rest of the skin, using the same technique. Generally speaking I tried to have the green skin appear smooth, to contrast with the stippled texture of the OSL.
For the wraps on the other arm I tried to show what they might look like un-burnt. Thin leather felt like the right choice, it wouldn’t burn up instantly the way cloth might. Speaking of cloth, that was next up! I sketched things in with very little saturation since they’re so close to the OSL, then messed around with a few glazes to tint the cloth. My first choices were purple and yellowy-green because they do contrast nicely with each other, but it just didn’t end up looking right. The loincloth was way too close to the skin color and I just wasn’t feeling the pale purple. I asked some friends to take a look themselves they felt similarly, so I went with much cooler tones the second time around. Color-wise that worked great, but I was getting so into the idea of creating interest with different textures for each material that I wanted do the loincloth differently. With that in mind, the third time around I did a couple freehand swirls and dots, then shaded and highlighted over that, letting the patterns fade into obscurity the way they might on a worn and faded piece of fabric.
Looking at the model the left side was still needing lots of work so I moved on to the sword’s sheath. With so many natural elements on the model I couldn’t imagine it being anything other than thick leather, beat up and scratched to all hell from years of being carried though the jungle. To achieve a texture like that I did a bunch of rough highlights using a few shades of XV-88 mixed with more and more white, then glazed Snakebite Leather and Wildwood over thinly. Repeating the process three times resulted in a really rich yellowy-brown with a lot of depth to it. Some scratches look fresher, while others have faded away over time.
At this point the painting went so fast I forgot to take many pictures! The pelt was a piece of cake, just a little wet-in-wet blending to achieve some volume and then a couple glazes with thin brown tones to bring in some color variety. The non-metallic metal was also surprisingly easy, though far from perfect. I very rarely use this technique so I was nervous, but building up a couple highlights from reddish-brown to yellowy-white did the trick here. A very thin glaze with Snakebite Leather and then Nazdreg Yellow tied it all together and gave a golden appearance. The top edge of the leather on the sheath got one last highlight then because it was looking quite dull next to the metal. Since I was on a roll I knocked out the hilt wrapping, using another cool blue tone to try and have the blade itself stand out more.
Moving upward, the last big thing left to do was his hair. I like the greying look for this experienced hero and went with a blue-black highlighted up by adding white. This was actually quite similar to the fur pelt in terms of placing highlights and shadows, I needed it to have some depth to it.
Still very much in the zone, the next photos I took were when he was completely finished. The hairties he’s using are probably bits of twine so those I painted in a mid brown color. They stand out against the hair that way, but aren’t particularly noticeable either. The base was done in a flash, with some wet paints slapped on there, a generous amount of moss made from green flock and matte medium, and a pile of tiny leaves dumped on top. When the whole mess was dry I went through with several washes to darken the leaves, tint them orange-y brown, and add depth to the mossy clumps.
This absolute champion turned out great, probably the best painting I’ve ever done. The larger scale definitely helped me out, giving me tons of surface area to play around with these textures on. Speaking of, I’ve never incorporated so many different kinds of texture before! This guy has smooth skin, wrinkled skin, stippled glowing skin, faded cloth, rough linen, dark leather, heavily worn leather, charred and normal leather strips, golden metal, weathered greaves, fur, hair, the list just keeps going on and on. Thinking of ways to do all of those was incredible fun, and painting in so many different ways made the process feel a lot less like the three-week-long marathon that it was. I don’t think Tsukigoro will be the last of the Hirelings of Asura that I paint!