Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Self-Portrait in Oils, day 15

Fun with non-metallic metallics

Today’s painting was all about putting metal into the painting. Real metal paints would reflect badly and look flat; the painting, as in a photograph, has to represent the shine of metal without itself shining. There is a miniature-painting technique called NMM, or non-metallic metallics, which I never quite managed to master, but which is relevant here. A quick look at this tutorial will show you what it is, and its effect. (Did you know you can click the middle button on a mouse to open a link in a new tab? You can.)

I have done some photoshopped NMM, which is easy enough. Put greys next to each other and wiggle the blur pointer, and they blend and look like brushed or polished steel. In this case, I was going for something very like that. My watch is steel with gold-looking bits and my rings are platinum, which dulls down whenever the polish plating wears off. What I had to do was get the right reflections into the rings, and set up the moulding for the right reflections on the next paint layer, for the watch.

Close-up of two steel-coloured rings on a finger. This started with two greys, a dark and a light, and a near-black for the shadow. The not-black is my favourite Terre de Cassel, by Mir – it is such a dark, dull brown that it looks like black to the eye, but without the jarring darkness of a real black. Once I had the greys there, I blended them slightly, using the brush that had had the lighter grey on it. If it had been the darker grey it would have darkened the shine too much, while the lighter one spread the shine in a way that it can be interpreted as valid. I repeated that process a couple of times to make sure I had the shaping right – the current picture here shows the wedding ring looking dented, because the darker grey does not extend far enough out. The habit of getting the details right over a base that is imperfect is one I am trying to break.

Detail of two rings on finger, with solid shadow seeming to cut one off. The repetition gave me a good sheen on the ring, and then I added a shadow to the bottom edge of the larger one. This currently looks too dark, but it is the base for a reflection that will go on next time I have a green brush running. (I generally have three or four brushes on the go, with different colours, allowing me to deal with the edges of colour blocks without having to match lines of dried paint.)

After the rings, which were a warm-up, I was on to the really difficult part of the day. My watch has a metal strap with five columns of metal, steel-gold-steel-gold-steel, all offset from each other:

Close-up of watch, with strap painted in tiny patches of grey and yellow, and with heavily incised shadows The watch strap had to be described with this layer of paint, so that all the bumps and reflections were hinted and. Then, when I put on the details, I would be able to paint them without having to measure them at the same time. What I was drawing this time was the shorthand notes for what I would paint next time; I just happened to be drawing it onto the canvas with paint.

The shadows went in after the greys, but before the orange-yellows that are doing service for gold plating. That meant that I could drag them around with my brush when the gold went on, which is what leads to them being harder in the columns where there is no gold; they have not been disrupted. I will paint over them next time without strengthening them, and that should leave them with the right appearance. For this, I used my smallest oil brushes, and I was considering taking in my acrylic set and ruining them with white spirit. However, the watch is not the central part of the picture, and so leaving it at a slightly lower detail level is desirable as well as acceptable.

So that was my day; rather technical, and a return to my old minis habits. Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne! (And if that went past you, be glad. Warhammer is an expensive hobby.)