Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Zombicide Invader - Xenium Horror

If there was ever a miniature calling for oil paints, this is the one.  With the various smooth blends depicted in the game art, I decided to look into oil painting.  While fantastic blends are possible with acrylics, it is particularly difficult in the very low relative humidity.  I used a series of washes on the Xenomoths to achieve some blends, but it was difficult to control and still was prone to coffee staining.  After watching several videos by James Wappel and Vince Venturella, I had enough courage to pick up a few Winsor & Newton Oil Paints and give them a go.  This post will be a bit wordier than most since there will be more talk about my first experience with oils.  Bottom line - try them, but first, learn about them!

If it weren't for my desire to try out oil paints, I probably wouldn't have picked this model to paint quite yet just because there is already a good variety of abominations painted up.  However, this one adds an additional challenge as it solves the problem of abominations showing up across the map late in the game and effectively out of play.  With this thing springing up near the noisiest zone (likely close to the characters), it should prove to add an unpleasant surprise.

So oils...wow.  Never considered that I'd ever use them.  They were indeed a different experience.  Could I have painted this model to look similar using an airbrush?  Probably, but it would have had a different 'feel'.  Could I have done it with acrylic washes and layering techniques?  Probably, but even though this took me a lot longer than it would have if I was experienced with oils, I think the acrylics would have taken longer and still would not have been as smooth.  

Some of the subtle transitions are not well captured in the photos.  The oil is still drying in the photos below which has a little extra shine.  I could have spent a lot more time adding more detail, but I thought this was sufficient as my first oil-painted miniature.  Even with the oil learning curve, this one took me about the same amount of time as one of the Spoiler Abominations I painted a while back.  

Speaking of the drying times - it is definitely longer than acrylics, however, I don't think I thinned down the 'pre-glaze' (as James calls it) enough which led to some overly thick areas.  Normally I'll seal acrylic-painted miniatures the next day, but I think I'll leave this guy out to dry for a week before sealing just to be safe.  Not ideal, but the slower drying time is not only a negative of oils, but rather, one of its big advantages.

James describes painting with oils as a 'much more chill' way of painting compared to acrylics.  I believed him when he said it as he clearly knows what he is doing, but didn't really know to what degree until I actually tried it out.  It was awesome to not have to mess around with various mediums and rush around trying to avoid coffee-stain marks or work with a bunch of super-thin glazes.  Being able to go back to something I worked on an hour prior and further enhance or change something is really fantastic.  There was certainly some self-inflicted stress as I didn't really know what I was doing, but there were certainly moments of 'wow - that was easy'.  

One thing I do not like about the oils is that they are a lot messier than acrylics.  If you get some acrylics on your fingers or a brush handle the mess is contained as it dries so quickly and can't spread around any further.  With oils, you can spread the mess around to all sorts of things for a very long time.  Generally, I noticed before oil was spread to anything critical, but it is just something that needs to be aware of.

Something that I was unduly concerned with was any sort of odor and toxicity of working with oils.  Yes, do not lick brushes (I never have anyway) and watch out for sanding some of the pigments (never plan to do any sanding post-painting).  Using the Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner from Speedball (very little is needed during a paint session), I didn't notice any odor from anything in the process.  I periodically turned on my exhaust fan just to make sure nothing was building up just to be safe.  Overall, I found that the cleanup of oils was actually easier than with acrylics.  Since the oil doesn't dry as fast, the brushes generally have wet paint in them rather than mostly dried acrylic.  The same Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner and Restorer can be used and even has a hint that oils are easier to clean as it says it 'works in minutes on dried oils' and 'hours on dried acrylics'.

I highly recommend trying oils out even if you have been an 'acrylics-only' painter for years.  However, there is a lot to learn on how to use them - it is a completely different approach than acrylics.  I've watched many hours of James Wappel painting miniatures from start to finish and I feel as though I've only scratched the surface on how to use oils - and 'artistic' painting in general.  James recommends starting with an 'easy' model when first trying oils and I feel the Xenium Horror model fits very well into this category.  I really look forward to trying out some more 'normal' flesh tones and slightly more complex models - perhaps after watching a hundred or so more hours of James painitng.  Watching him paint has opened my eyes to what feels like a whole new world of possibilities and I'm 100% confident that if I hadn't followed his instructions, this experiment would have ended with stripping the model and starting over with the airbrush.  Take a look at this video for an example of how _not_ to paint with oils.  Yes, oils can make a great wash as well as he concludes, but Jeremy missed out on the real experience that could have been had with some additional research and learning.  No offense to him - he does great stuff and some of his experiments turn out awesome.  He says he enjoys just jumping in and trying new things out and that is certainly respectable.  That approach just isn't for me... :)

Although the oil painting of the Xenium Horror turned out fairly well in my opinion, I don't plan to use the oils for the Invader character miniatures for two reasons.  First, doing so would change the overall consistency of the look of the Invader set as a whole.  Second, I found that the smaller detail areas are more difficult to paint with oils than with acrylics.  This is mostly due to my inexperience with oils as I've seen James Wappel use oils to give more detail to 32mm miniatures than I could ever imagine possible regardless of the medium used.  I will, however, definitely use the oils for some of the abominations as the oils really 'shine' on larger surfaces where large smooth transitions are most noticeable.  Other miniatures such as those in Nemesis will definitely see the oils as they will be perfect on the various 'aliens'.

Paints used on this model:

Next up on the workbench:

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