Painting Alex The Vampire


Love in Vein by David Fisher

I had planned to work on another kit this issue, but when Alex The Vampire from Spectral Motion appeared on my doorstep, I had to drop everything to work on him!  Alex is an amazingly well sculpted and life-like (make that death-like!) sculpture from the talented hands of Mike Elizalde. Busts are great for refining painting techniques, and the size as well as detail on this piece make it a perfect candidate for demonstration purposes.There are many ways to paint a piece like this, so the first decision you have to make is how do you want him to look.

Spectral Motion provides you with hair to customize Alex, so you could go for a younger, “Lost Boys” kind of feel to the character, of you could leave him bald, and go for more of a “classic” Nosferatu design.I decided to go the Nosferatu route, but with a twist. Alex has prominent veining on the sculpture, so I wanted to give him a translucent skin effect, one where the veins are visible through the skin. This is an effect that would work on all sorts of undead characters.After cleaning, building and puttying the bust, I give it a couple of coats of Floquilfigure primer. I always stress that priming a kit is very important, it seals the surface and gives the paint something to ‘bite’ into.

This is not a step you want to cut corners on. If you don’t prime the surface, your paint will eventually begin to rub off with average handling.Priming this kit with light gray primer also serves a dual purpose, I use the light gray color as my basecoat.I want to give a translucent/dead effect to the skin so I mix a base skintone of Raw Siena and White with Burnt Umber, a touch of Payne’s Gray and a touch of Purple. The combination of Raw Siena and White gives you a golden/beige color, adding Burnt Umber makes the color “cooler” in tone, and Purplegives the color a death-like pallor. You could also use blue or green in place of purple.

Normally I work from dark to light with skintones, but doing a translucent technique requires a different approach. I mix a pale grayish-purple skintone color with the combination of the before mentioned colors and lightly spray the figure. The paint is thin and requires a couple of coats, but I actually allow some of the light gray primer to show through under the coats of paint for a slightly mottled effect (Figure 1).  
Next, I take some of the “dead flesh” color and mix a touch of Red Oxideinto it to obtain a slightly I darker, redder shade of the same color. You want to change the colors gradually, you want a very subtle difference in the shades. I take this color and airbrush a fine line all over the surface of the skin (Figure 2).  
You want this line to be an even pattern, almost like a “scribble” to represent the deepest veining under the skin. The deeper the veins, the harder they would be to see, so keep the color subtle, close to the beginning skintone. The idea is to see the deep veining, but not have it overwhelm the piece.The next step is to repeat the same procedure, but with a slightly different color.I take the basic skintone once again and add a touch more of Payne’s Grayand a touch of blue. I then add another layer of veining over the surface of the bust.This time, I take more care in the placement of the veins. As the veins get closer to the surface of the skin they become darker and more visible, so I spray the color in more of a veining pattern of longer, “spidery” strokes (Figure 3).  
There are a series of raised veins by the artist, so I make them the ones closest to the surface of the skin. They will be the darkest veins, I so I add a touch more gray and blue to the mix and take care to spray directly on top them.Once the veining is done, I take the “master” skintone color and slightly mist over the raised veins to blend them down to give the impression they lie under the skin (Figure 5).  
Once the veining and skintones are complete, I combine a small amount of Burnt Umber and Payne’s Gray with a larger than usual amount of Polly-SAirbrush Thinner to make a dark, “smokey” transparent color. I lightly airbrush this color underneath the muscles, around the temples,  eyes, hollows of the cheekbones and the edge of the bust itself.This brings out subtle shading, but don’t use too much!After I’ve achieved the look I want, I spray the bust down with about three coats of Testor’sflat lacquer to protect and seal the work done up to this point. Now comes the fun part!I make a wash using the same combination of Burnt Umber and Payne’s Graywith Polly-S thinner and begin to shade around the eyes. I work the wash into the creases of the skin around the eyes, the folds and wrinkles of the face, in the ears, nostrils and wherever else I want to add shading. (Figure 4).  
Washes give you more control in the fine details than you would have with an airbrush, and you can always wipe away any mistakes you make.  To help blend the edge of the wash out, I use the Polly-Sthinner on a clean brush to feather the edges before they dry. You have to work fairly fast with washes, if they dry on you before you get a chance to blend them you will get an unsightly edge. Work in small areas one at a time to keep this from happening.Another trick is to brush a thin layer of plain thinner on the area first to dampen it before adding the colored washes.This helps the colors to blend and spread a little easier.  If an area of wash painting accidentally gets wet you’ll ruin all of your work, so when you get a you like, seal it with a couple of coats of flat lacquer before proceeding.

You can also build up layers of color this way.The next step is to bring Alex to life by giving him realistic eyes and teeth.For the eyes I paint a basecoat the orb of the eye with a warm oyster-gray color made with White, Burnt Umber, and Raw Siena. I then lighten the color slightly and highlight the center of the orb a bit more. I line the bottom edge of the eye with pink/red, made from Red Oxide and the eye basecoat color (Figure 6)

Next, I position the Iris of the eye black to give me a guide (Figure 7)  
Where you position the Iris can change the effect of the bust so give some thought to what you want to do.  Aligning the Iris along the bottom edge of the eye makes the figure look angry. Putting the Iris at top of the eye can make the figure look as though he’s in agony. You can also shift the Iris to the left or right for different effects, so play around with various looks.
After placing the Iris, I paint it with a basecoat of blue/gray (Figure 8). I then highlight it with a series of lighter shades. Since the eye is larger on this bust than an average kit, I paint the highlights in a series of rays from the center to the outer edge to mimic the pattern in a Iris.Once the highlights are complete, I paint the pupil in the center with Black.Once again, how you paint the pupil can affect the personality of the figure.Studies show when you see thing you like, your pupils open than when the opposite occurs.  With this in mind, a large pupil looks friendly while a smaller pupil looks more threatening. Another element will change the expression of the character is how you paint the eyebrows. I like the look of Alex without them, so I choose to leave the brows off.  
At this point, I seal the eyes with flat lacquer. To make the eye more ghastly, I use a wash of Red Oxide to give it a bloodshot effect (Figure9). I wanted to give the eyes on my bust a eerie membraned effect, as though perhaps he caught a glimpse of sun and was blinded. To achieve this, I mask off the area surrounding the eye with Liquid Latex Moldbuilder (Figure 10) available through most hobby/craft outlets.After the mask has dried, I spray a light mist of color made with Raw Siena and Whiteover the eye, obscuring the Iris but not completely covering it up.In this instance, less is best. I then remove the mask, seal the eye and repeat the bloodshot wash effect (Figure 11).

For the mouth, I paint the inside dark brown using Burnt Umber, and fade the color to a reddish shade as it gets to , the outer edge by adding Red Oxide and a touch of White to the mix. I darken the lips with washes of Burnt Umber, Red Oxide and Payne’s Gray.Using the Red Oxide/White color I paint the Vampire’s gums. I then basecoat his teeth with the same color I used to basecoat the eyes.  Next, I highlight the tips of the teeth by adding white to the basecoat color. After the teeth have dried, I add washes of Raw Siena to make them more ivory in color, and a Burnt Umberwash to darken them along the gum line. My guess is Alex isn’t too concerned with flossing! I take the pink resin tongue and give it a light wash of the Burnt Umber to bring out the details (Figure 11).After everything is dry, I glue in the mouth assembly- wicked!

I brush Testor’s Gloss Coat over the eyes, teeth and tongue to give a realistic wet appearance. As a final touch of realism I decide to add a bit of spittle between the upper teeth and tongue. This is a technique I constantly get questions about, and there are many ways to achieve it, but the easiest is to use a clear five minute epoxy glue. Mist a small amount of epoxy and wait until it begins to thicken. Place a small amount behind the upper teeth and once again wait until it begins to set up.When it gets just “gooey” enough, pull down on it with a needle or pin and attach it to the tip of the tongue.You have to time this just right. If the glue hasn’t set up enough, it will separate in the middle and snap back. If it sets up too much, you ‘ll not get it to stretch or hold. I suggest experimenting on some other item before trying it on a kit.Use this technique sparingly, you don’t want your kits slobbering like Cujo!

If you want drool coming out of the mouth, like on an Alien, you can use the same technique, but pull the epoxy with a pin and hold it until it sets up.Then clip off the pin and add another drop of epoxy to the cut edge to get a droplet at the end. I also clearcoat the epoxy to make it shine and help keep it from yellowing.For the base, I chose to go with a weathered brown/gray marble effect. Now just attach the brass nameplate provided by Spectral Motion and you have one heck of an impressive piece to add to your collection. Alex is a disturbing, frightening vision, one that’s a “must have” for Vampire fans!

List of colors used for painting the kits in the article, along with description of the color for cross referencing other brands of paint.

Liquitex Acrylic:

Raw Siena (yellow/brown)
Burnt Umber (dark chocolate brown)
Payne’s Gray (steel blue gray)
Red Oxide (rust red)
Dioxazine Purple, (violet)
Phthalocyanine Blue (deep transparent blue)
Black, WhiteTestor’s Model Master enamels: Gloss Coat

See my version of the bust in the Build Ups section here: Alex The Vampire