Steve’s Art and Philosophy Workshop: Painting an Owl Bear
What's up, guys? Things have been going great at casa de Steve since last we spoke. Got a 50 cent an hour raise at FreshCut, talked to Keith and he said he might want me to run a new D&D campaign and I went to my mom's house and found my old public access tapes. I used to have a show on local cable called "Steve's Drums and Philosophy." It was originally going to be called "Man and His Cymbals" but I didn't want people to think it was a Jungian show. I was taking a philosophy class at the community college and I was way into it, plus I love drums. I shot about ten episodes of the show, just mostly talking about drums, how to metal drum and how drumming figures into Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Anyway, I had to hock my skins to pay to get my car fixed after I left the emergency break on for a week. Then I was stupid and bought a Playstation when I had the money to get the drums back. So I was thinking about those old tapes and then I was thinking about what Keith said about running a new D&D campaign and an idea for an article hit me: I could get ready for that campaign, bring back the old show and write a new article all at the same time.
I hope you guys like this! It's called "Steve's Art and Philosophy Workshop" and pretty much I will go through how to do stuff that's art and helps with the D&D campaign and maybe throw in some wisdom about philosophy. This time I'm going to paint a figurine to use with the campaign, but down the road here it might be doing the player handouts or just drawing some cool pictures like of barbarians.
Okay, so, today's subject is the Owl Bear (also known as the owlbear) from Reaper Miniatures. The owlbear is one of my all time favorite monsters. It combines the raw fury and strength of a bear with the cunning intellect and nocturnal abilities of the owl. In the hands of an experienced DM they certainly live up to their challenge rating, believe you me. I chased a party halfway across Krynn with one of these bad boys back in the day and it's a great stock monster to scare the crap out of people.
Imagine you are like a cavalier walking through a swamp with a weak lantern flickering in the humid night air. You hear a "whoooo" sound and you think it is just a regular owl, but suddenly from behind a tree you see two glowing yellow eyes the size of Hot Pockets. "WHOOOO," it roars and charges at you! Spooky stuff.
I would rate the difficulty of this figurine from Reaper as Experienced. The owlbear has a lot of details like feathers, fur and talons that could befuddle a greenhorn painter. If you're a rookie, stick to painting something like a knight that has a pretty smooth surface. This isn't a really hard miniature either, so that's why it's just experienced. You don't have to flock the base (which is like putting grass crap on the base) and you don't have to glue any parts onto the owlbear. He is one beefy hunk of owl and bear killing machine.
Before you start painting your owlbear make sure you have everything in place. You want a clean work environment, good lighting, brushes, a hobby knife, paints, a cup you don't mind ruining, paper towels, glue (for some miniatures) and of course some handy refreshments. This is a long process and the worst thing you can do is rush it. If you can't commit the time necessary to painting an awesome owlbear then don't even bother starting. They sell pre-painted miniatures for people like you.
Okay, so you see here I have laid out all my stuff. I like to use poster board over my work surface so I can paint on it and generally not worry about any spilling. You'll notice my sweet paints. I won them in a raffle at the local comic book convention. You don't have to use fancy paints like those but they are highly recommended. The owlbear figure is pretty hefty. You can go ahead and take that out of the package so you can get a look at it. Pretty sweet, huh? Would I lie about something like that?
Alright, step one here, pretty straightforward. When they make these figurines they use like a press thing like in a cartoon. With two halves that come together and steam shoots out. This leaves seams and other junk called "flash" on the figurine. Just take your hobby knife and cut that stuff off, but be careful. This guy here is kind of hard because a lot of those feathers and little knobby talons look sort of like flash, but they're really supposed to be there. The worst is when you're doing a naked chick figurine. I can't tell you how many devil girl nipples I have cut off. Take your time and do a thorough job here, otherwise you will notice it when you're painting and possibly even after you've painted over the flash. That sucks big time.
Next up, you want to get some primer. Primer is like a coat of paint that makes the other coats of paint stick. A lot of people like spray primer because it's really easy to get an even coat, but for a figurine like the owlbear I prefer hand primer. Spray primer is good for when you have like a bazillion goblins or kobolds, but when you've only got the one then take the time to do it by hand. I also don't really trust spray primer because sometimes it will clump up and that can practically ruin a figurine.
One thing I didn't mention is that you should have something you can use as a paint surface. You never ever want to leave your paints just sitting open because these dudes will dry out like a mother. I used the leftover container from some egg drop soup I got at China Express. Just squirt however much paint you think you'll need on there and then go to work.
Priming is easy. Just get a thorough coat of it all over the figurine and try not to leave any bubbles or lumps. You can avoid bubbles by moving your brush slowly and in the direction of the "grain" of details on the miniature. You can avoid lumps by making sure your paint doesn't start to dry and you are applying it evenly.
Once you've finished putting on the primer you need to let your owlbear dry. This is a good time to start picking some colors. You probably won't get all of them, but get a basic sense for what major colors you want to use. I picked Beastly Brown as my big color for this dude, because it looks like bear fur and I figured I could do some cool stuff to give it some texture. I also picked a lighter brown for the owlbear's feathers.
Oh, yeah, never leave your paint brushes sitting in your wash cup. Man, that will bend the crap out of your brush and mash up the bristles. Even for a large cheap brush like I was using for the primer, just rinse it off in the wash cup, then swipe it on a paper towel a few times to make sure you got all the paint out.
Things are starting to get serious. Here I have applied the first major coat of paint with my Beastly Brown. The owlbear still looks kind of goofy! Take your time and get a smooth coat, try not to miss any spots, but don't worry about painting parts that aren't going to be the base color. Here I got it on his face a lot but that's fine. We're just going to paint over those parts.
The base coat may take a while to dry and the worst thing you can do is paint onto wet paint. Take a break and fix a snack.
Oh man, I admit, I stocked up with my favorites for this session. Microwave White Castle and ice cold Barq's to wash it down! I call a pair of Sliders my ol' "four biters" because I can down all two of them in four bites. The two liter is great because you can just bring it with you to your work area and it's big enough to where it keeps cold most of the time it takes you to paint the figurine.
Alrighty, the base coat is dry now so I can move on to my feather color. It's called Filthy Brown and it's sort of a yellowy brown. Now that might seem kind of a strange color, but trust me, this will go all Bob Ross on you when we're done. The important thing is that it gives us a color base that stands out from the darker brown and also it looks natural, like you can imagine an owlbear eating moss and skulls or whatever in the bog and hooting the crap out of the place. You really want this thing to scare the bejesus out of your group when you whip it onto the table and declare, "roll initiative!"
Next up, I picked out kind of a bone white color for the beak and the talons of the owlbear. It'll be hard to see that in the pictures so let's just keep rolling.
Okay, now we're getting fine detail here. I picked a bright pink color for the owlbear's tongue and the little eyelids around the big huge eyeballs. I wanted something that would stand out if I was just using a little bit of it and I think it worked. Then, once that was dry, I just went on ahead and used that bright yellow I picked out at the beginning to paint the eyeballs. That was tough work because those eyelids were really small and I didn't want to paint over them. I'm not perfect, heh, but I think I did a pretty decent job.
Once that stuff dried it was time for some more advanced techniques. I was going to add some deepness to the owlbear, like to bring it out of the collective unconscious, by using a dry brush technique on the feathers and rocks. Oh, also, I painted the rocky base black so that then I could make it look like old crumbling stones with the dry brush. Basically, a dry brush is what it sounds like. You take your color of paint and fill your brush then swipe the brush on a paper towel or whatever until hardly any paint is coming off of it. Then you just gently move it across the parts you want to dry brush and any raised areas will pick up paint.
First I did the feathers, which turned out good but not great. Then I did the base, which I think looked awesome. Just like a crumbling tombstone or something, like there was a piercing shriek and an owlbear shot up out of a grave.
Alright, here I am going to skip a step, because I tried to do a paint wash of black on the fur part and it was a total waste of time. All of the black pooled in his little evil elbow nook area and I had to mop it out with a paper towel. I suck at washes and I am too scared to do inking because I tried once on an Eldar Avatar figurine and it looked like he got fished out of a mud hole. Keith even called him the Mudatar. Heh.
So then to salvage the owlbear's fur I turned to dry brushing again. I picked out a good accent color for the darker brown and went to town. Not much to tell. Dry brushing is super easy once you have the best amount of paint on your brush figured out for a color.
Okay, almost done, I added pupils to the owlbear's big eyes and then it is time to do the final coating. I picked a matte coat for the fur and most of the owlbear and a gloss coat for the feathers and beak and junk. My general rule on coats is if what your painting is glossy in real life then go for a gloss coat. Stuff like crystals, metal, feathers and gems are good things for a gloss coat. Zombie skin, orc teeth, studded leather armor; those are cases where you use a matte coat.
There we have it! Voila! A lifelike owlbear in less than four hours, with a nice snack break in the middle there.
If you have a cool monster figurine to suggest for me to paint or just something awesome you maybe would want to see me draw, you can email me and let me know. I would suggest looking it up on Miniature Market because they have a lot of Reaper figurines and they were super fast when I ordered my owlbear. Just hit me with a link to a cool miniature and I'll see how much money I have left after I pay rent.
So, yeah, I hope you enjoyed the painting workshop. I know it was long, but sometimes you gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.