Tuesday, April 23, 2013

So you think you're a good painter?

Bill Horan, a prominent figure painter in that corner of our hobby, is known for using paint to imply or suggest shapes on 54mm figures that aren’t actually there. For example, one of his books shows the bottom of a soldier’s boot and what appears to be a hole in the sole. You would think he used an X-Acto knife to actually scribe a hole, but when you read the nearby text you learn that it’s only paint; a small dark color represents the hole itself and a lighter color suggest the highlight of the edge of the hole. Horan and other figure painters use similar techniques to show, for example, the tiny highlight on the crest of a bronze button or to "paint" a crease on a uniform without actually sculpting it.

These are just a few examples of how scale modelers use trompe-l'œil techniques to imply shape and form no present on the actual model. I’ve always been amazed by an artist’s ability to fool the eye like this. Even when I know better, my eye still sees what it wants to see!

That’s why I was excited to see Keng-Lye’s work via Artist a Day on Facebook. (If you enjoy art, you should Like their Facebook page or visit their web site.) Every day they highlight an interesting new artist and his/her work. Keng-Lye takes trompe-l'œil to a level I’ve never seen, using not just paint, but multiple layers of clear resin, and three-dimensional objects to trick the eye into seeing three-dimensional fish and other sea life.

As a scale modeler, I sometimes think about how I can use trompe-l'œil techniques on models. It’s another way of thinking about a model not just as a replica but as a representation, one that reflects artistic skill as much as engineering skill.

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