by: Peter Ong [ ]
The Rise of Fantasy: How to Build Fantasy Scenes
By Juan J. Barrena
Fantasy kits, with their outlandish appearances, original themes, and creative subjects give the modeler a creative outlet for the paint palette. Indeed, one main reason modelers delve into fantasy modeling is because the colors used for painting fantasy kits are not confined to the usual greens, tans, browns, and grays of military modeling. Modelers could create unusual and imaginative scenes, vignettes, and dioramas with fantasy subjects that they couldn’t do with military kits.
Accion Press has released a book by Juan J. Barrena titled, “The Rise of Fantasy.” The 112-page full-color softcover book covers the following topics:
• Material (tools, putty, paintbrushes and paint types)
• Composition (Symmetry, Asymmetry, balance, light, and colors)
• Painting a Figure (Basecoating, priming, highlights, shadows, outlining, and detail profiling)
• Ground with Layers of Milliput (How to create cracked mud groundwork using Milliput)
• Ivy Vines (How to create ivy vines using twigs and paper leaves)
• Ruts (sic) [Rust] and Water
• The Sea Lion (A vignette using a standing Leo lion figure)
• Fighting Under Water (A vignette using a sea monster and a naked female figure)
• The Wolf Pact (A vignette using a medieval knight and two zombie wolves)
• The Usurper (A vignette using a barbarian figure, a resin throne, and a naked female figure)
• The Conjuring (A vignette using a sea monster and a figure holding a sword skyward)
• The Kitchen (A vignette using three levels to depict a cutaway of a fantasy kitchen)
• The Puppeter (sic) [Puppeteer] (A vignette using a wagon and figures to depict a puppet master (as seen on the book’s cover)).
“The Rise of Fantasy,” with its full-color and well laid out pages, appears easy to read; the author took good effort to take photos of many steps in the construction and painting process. Essentially, the photos in this book do the actual teaching, showing the reader what changes have been made to the figure. The photos are crisp, colorful, focused, and taken at very good angles and closeups.
The book uses a format of one to three columns per page, combining text and photos in the columns. Headers and subheads are well defined and there’s plenty of balance and white space to make pages appear attractive and easy to read. I found that there’s actually a good wealth of information per page. The topics read similar to a journal, chronicling what Juan Barrena did to the figures from sanding and puttying to painting to mounting the painted figures onto the finished base. He provides Vallejo color guides to paint the figures in this book and has nice graphics showing the colors he used and mixed to obtain light and dark tones for uniforms, flesh, fur, monsters’ skin, etc. Therefore, any reader desiring to follow and paint the exact same figures as in the book could practically do so by matching their colors to the book’s color charts. Mr. Barrena’s descriptions don’t get verbose, and do a good job of conveying his message and teachings in the sentences.
What’s interesting is that Mr. Barrena uses a lot of wargaming miniature figures from companies that I haven’t heard of. Many of these white metal wargaming miniatures are quite large, 28mm to 75mm in scale, and quite detailed. I thought the book did a good job in telling readers the names of the figures and the companies where they came from. The use of wargaming figures opens up new varieties of fantasy figures that kind of lack in the plastic and resin figure market.
The book does contain nude female figures and drawings; therefore, readers should bear in mind that the book is intended for adult modelers.
The book starts with an introduction of the materials (tools, paintbrushes, primer, paints, and putty) a fantasy kit modeler would need. This three page section covers some brand names of the paintbrushes, primers, and putties that Mr. Barrena prefers, not as a way to market a certain product, but because these brand items were deemed as the best quality. I found this interesting since I too now use many of the brands that Mr. Barrena prefers (after years of trial and error myself), so it’s nice for readers to have this information upfront. Techniques and the pros and cons of paint types and primers are briefly covered.
Two pages with nice color photos cover prepping and assembling a figure with detailed photos showing the filing, sanding, and puttying process. Mr. Barrena also drills holes to insert metal pins into his figures, thus ensuring a strong join between parts and also the base.
Three pages are devoted to presenting the scene to viewers and deal with symmetry, asymmetry, diamond shape, grid format, diagonals and X-shape, light, colors, and balance. Essentially, these pages revolve around guiding the viewers’ eyes around the scene, preferably how the modeler wants the display to be seen by creating ‘focal points.” The photos have overlaid lines to explain and show how the viewers’ eyes would see the composition. Warm and cold colors help present contrast and this is briefly touched upon as is the topic of counterbalancing, presenting massive objects on one side and lighter objects on the other side to “counterbalance” the effects of “visual weight.”
Painting a Figure:
This chapter covers the basic steps of painting a complete figure. Mr. Barrena starts with a dark base coat and then shows the steps to add highlights, shadows, detail profiling, metal highlights, and varnishes. He mostly paints with a paintbrush, but for some areas he does use an airbrush. What I learned from this chapter was that he mixes different colors of paints to achieve his highlights and shadows, and not simply adding white for highlights and black for shadows. For example, he mixes Dark Flesh to Black Green to create a highlight for the Black Green tunic and the results look quite convincingly spectacular.
The Vallejo paints he used and mixed for highlights throughout the entire figure are contained in neat gray boxes titled “Color Charts.” What’s also nice and helpful is that a photo of the actual Vallejo bottles are usually placed next to each color chart so that the reader could compare his or her bottles to the ones being used in that Color Chart. Therefore, modelers could use the exact same colors to paint the face, tunic, legs, cloak, and metal for the Nocturna figure in this chapter.
Ground with Layers of Milliput:
This chapter details how to create a cracked mud base and an undulating floor base using Milliput putty, glue, cardboard, and paint. Most of the painting is performed with a paintbrush, but an airbrush is sometimes used for faster and easier painting. Color Chart frames are provided to show the Vallejo colors mixed and used. Once again, the photos show a lot of visual information, providing good step-by-step visuals of the process of creating the putty bases.
This chapter’s two pages show how to superglue small paper plants onto long thin vines to create ivy.
Ruts (sic) [Rust] and Water:
This chapter describes how to paint rust through a series of washes and layering of complementary colors to produce shadows, streaks and dirt, and profiling. A section describes how to create water using a resin mixture and a constructed form to contain the pour. Another section describes how to create waves using cotton fiber, glue, and varnish.
The Sea Lion:
Mr. Barrena created a vignette showing a 54mm Yedharo Models “War of the Zodiac” Leo lion standing on the rigging of a mast. The pages contain content on how to construct the base setting of the sides of a ship using balsa wood and wooden ship parts one can find at hobby and crafts stores. Ropes were made from copper wire, string, and buttons. As usual, a helpful Color Chart provides the Vallejo paint colors and mixes he used to finish this build.
Fighting Under Water (Underwater Attack):
This composition involves a nude female figure from Preiser and a “Moray Eel-man” from Sphere Wars, a wargaming miniature company. Mr. Barrena describes how he first pinned the Eel-man figure and then primed and painted it. It’s interesting to read and see how much detail could go into painting a white metal figure and the Color Charts shows all the colors he used for painting the Eel-man’s basecoat, highlights, shadows, and spots and also for the female figure. The final pages in this chapter detail how he made the trident, base, algae, and rags. This chapter, similar to the previous ones, presents the project from start to finish with solid narration backed up with very good photos.
The Wolf Pact:
This chapter also uses some wargaming miniatures (the zombie wolves) and a white metal knight from Elite Miniatures. Mr. Barrena shows how he cleaned up the figures, puttied them, and arranged the pose and the pinning. The chapter goes on to show how he painted the face, the tunic and chain mail, and the wolves using layering and mixing of colors. In the final section, he explains how he made the base and the groundwork and composed the scene with details and groundwork to create a balanced visual of movement and action.
The Usurper vignette centers on a composition of a barbarian sitting on the captured ruined throne and sitting beside him is a naked female companion. There’s not a lot of text here with most of the text explaining how Mr. Barrena cut and roughed up the resin surface of the throne to give it a shattered appearance. He describes how he painted the throne, the barbarian, and the nude female figure. In the female figure’s Color Chart, he harks back to the “Underwater Attack” as the painting method he used to paint this female figure, so this chapter has less text since he did not repeat that same painting method in text here.
This vignette starts with a Dread Maw from Forgeworld and Noctura Model’s Elric. The first few pages detail how to compose the scene with the Dread Maw wrapping its long neck around a pier column. Mr. Barrena explains how he used stone and pebbles to create a textured surface on the wood pier column that he carved himself. He then arranges the rocks and columns and builds the Dread Maw around these objects. His Dread Maw actually uses some additional parts from Citadel, the parent company of Forgeworld, makers of the Warhammer 40K game. Following pages show how he painted the Dread Maw, created the scene, and then created the water using lessons taught in previous chapters.
In this composition, Mr. Barrena creates a three-level kitchen vignette of a roof, middle floor, and ground floor. He starts with constructing the base and the supporting frame for the middle floor using brass pipe. A friend lent him resin sheets to construct the roof. All the machinery depicted in the vignette were either created from scratch or bought (and he tells the reader the companies where he bought them from). As standard, Color Charts provide the painting and mixing information on how to paint everything.
The cook is actually a conversion of a Nocturna Models’ flute player with putty conversions. The photos show how Mr. Barrena converted this figure with chef’s hat, apron, and moustache made from green putty and how he turned the flute into a soup spoon.
The girl does not have any conversions made and is used straight out-of-the-box. The resin animals are from Nemrod with some used without conversions whereas others, such as the duck, were converted to fit the scene.
There is a section on how to create dented pipes out of tinfoil wrapped around a thin pipe. Finally, the chapter closes with text and photos on how the three floors are joined together to create this vignette.
The Puppeter (sic) [Puppeteer]:
The key component of this vignette is the wooden puppeteer’s cart and Mr. Barrena shows how he constructed the cart using strips of wood. A 54mm cart template is even provided for readers to trace. He talks about painting the base, essentially a resin sheet, and then painting the exterior and interior of the cart. He then covers painting the white metal figures obtained from wargaming companies and Andrea Miniatures. As usual, Color Charts and beautiful color photos provide visual information as to the paints used and how he proceeded to paint each figure.
The strong, solid, helpful content of this book stands out as one of the main highlights; the content teaches. Each chapter has at least two pages of photos showing the finished vignette and those photos are gloriously stunning in showcasing what mixing some paint and some imaginative creativity could do to create original fantasy figure scenes. The reader will learn how to construct water, bases, groundwork, props, ivy, figures, and scenes from reading this book.
The last page has a Paint Range Compatibility Chart table that shows similar colors from Vallejo Model Color, Vallejo Game Color, Old Citadel, and Citadel paints. For example: Vallejo Model Color equals Vermillion 70.909, Vallejo Game Color equals Bloody Red 72.010, Old Citadel equals Blood Red, and Citadel equals Evil Sunz Scarlet for the similar hue for all four paint brands.
If there’s a downside to this book, it’s in some spelling (Ruts [Rust]) and grammatical errors, particularly in punctuation with the lack of a comma or the misuse of semicolons (a semicolon is used to join two independent sentences, not a fragment). These errors don’t really affect the communication that much as the messages and teachings still get across. One section, the “Colors” in the Composition chapter got cut off inexplicitly with the sentence going, “In order to solve this problem[,] we have to distribute the different items on both sides obtaining: [cut off]” However, most of the pages read rather well and the reader should be able to understand the teachings being conveyed despite the spelling and punctuation issues in some chapters. Perhaps a few more pages of text could have been dedicated to this book to explain more as it seems some of the text wrapping were pretty tight against the photos.
To reiterate, the book does contain nude female figures and drawings depicting feminine beauty; therefore, readers should bear in mind that the book is intended for adult modelers.
Overall, “The Rise of Fantasy: How to Build Fantasy Scenes” gives the reader very good content and new vision on creating imaginative compositions. It opened the door to new information for me (such as using wargaming figures and mixing paint colors for shadows and highlights); I certainly learned something from reading this book and studying the great photos.
Special Thanks to Ammo of Mig Jimenez for providing the review sample.