When I first began searching the web for sites related to “flats”, I found a site hosted by Steve Cady. The website is beautifully produced and the photos of his work are a pleasure to see. Steve paints more than “flats,” all of which are worth seeing, but, in particular, I want to focus on his work on flats. If my memory serves me well, I think I found contact information for him at the International Flat Figures Society.
I wrote to Steve asking him to tell us how he got involved painting flats and what advice he might have for those beginning or wanting to improve their skill in painting. Below, you will find his response. Scattered throughout you will also find samples of his work, but I recommend you visit his site for the rest. He downplays his skills as a painter, but to my tastes his work is clean and vivid.
The photos scattered throughout this post are from Steve’s website: http://castlesoftin.blogspot.com
I’ve been painting figures since the early 1980’s. I’ve liked flats too since discovering them about the same time. I’ve been painting flats off and on for about 20 years, much more off than on I’m afraid. Of late, I have concentrated mostly on the antique style 40mm castings of Heinrichsen, from what seems to me to be their golden age of designs in the 1880’s. They just go to show how timeless flats are really, and how well-proportioned figures stand the test of time so well. It never ceases to amaze me how much care went into designing and engraving figures intended as children’s toys, and in their day, most hastily covered in simple factory paint jobs.
As for technique, I’m in the minority with using acrylic paints. Most flats painters prefer oils, I know. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend acrylics to new painters as oils lend themselves better to effective shading in achieving a more 3D look. I do recommend the use of the artist’s acrylics in tubes as the wargames/hobby paints will only take you so far. These latter work fine for laying down a base coat but don’t mix so well.
While not exactly a “love it or hate it” proposition, flats either seem to immediately engage and inspire the viewer, or they don’t. And I find that fantasy and wargames figure painters often seem to be intimidated at the prospect of painting flats. Which is a shame really as the 20/30mm flats make fine figures for wargaming.
I think the trepidation lies in the growth of connoisseur, contest entry caliber flats painting as the accepted standard. To that I say, don’t worry about measuring up to some self-imposed standard: paint to please yourself. Improvement comes naturally with practice. I don’t consider myself to be amongst the master flats painters. I do it for relaxation and enjoyment, if what I do can also have the power to please others, I’m always delighted and somewhat surprised by it.Best regards,
Here are a few more samples. It was hard for me to quit selecting photos from his site because I like them all.
I asked Steve two more question:
1. Can you elaborate on the use of tubed acrylics compared to some of the favored brands of bottled paints?
Yes, that’s exactly right. The pigments of the artist’s acrylics are generally more vibrant than the hobby paints such as Vallejo or Reaper. And the main thing is they mix to a graduated range of coloration similar to oils.
Try mixing two bottles of Vallejo paint, you only get one intermediate color. You definitely can paint flats with them but you need a lot of different colors to approximate the shading effect. If indeed that’s what you’re aiming for. In my view there is no shame in painting flats simply. Whatever you do is bound to represent improvement over the old factory paint jobs.
The weakness of acrylics relative to oils in the opinion of the oil painters is 1) acrylics less vibrant than oils and 2) they dry too fast. I’m not convinced about #1, but can’t dispute the dry time issue. But I’ve switched to Chroma Atelier Interactive acrylics for recent work. The colors are vivid and they have the added advantage of drying more slowly than normal because you can re-wet them with water as you go. You can do this on the palette or directly on the figure.Best regards,Steve