The unsung heroes. That’s what master painters are…unsung heroes. Sure, you’ll hear about “so and so” designing this piece. You may even hear about the sculptor on that piece. But, what you don’t hear about? The painter. It’s the painter that brings the piece to life. Kat Sapene, master painter for Sideshow Collectibles, took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about herself, her work and the amount of effort that goes into painting a sculpture.
Your friendly neighborhood jman: Kat, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. I’m really curious about the process behind the painting of a sculpture. When you get a finished piece, can you give us an idea of the process behind what you do?
Kat Sapene: Thanks for your interest in the paint process! I feel like paint is the silent contributor to a finished sculpture. If the paint is done right, it’s the least seen part of a statue. Everything looks as it should, and a collector can focus on the sculpture not the paint job on top of it. But if it painted poorly, it’s all you will see.
There is a lot of prep work that goes into painting a sculpture. I start by going over each piece to get rid of any seam lines, small air bubbles or any other imperfections in the castings. I’ll also test fit all the parts and pin any parts that may need more support once it’s all put together.
Then I wash the resin castings, either with soap and water or denatured alcohol, to make sure there are no residual oils on the pieces. If I don’t do this, I run the risk of having the paint peel off when I go to remove any masking. Not fun.
Once everything is clean, I will prime all the pieces with a primer used mainly for gaming miniatures. I like to use this kind of primer since it’s very thin and won’t fill in any of the sculpt details.
Now the fun begins! I immerse myself in reference; looking for images of colors, materials, and textures that I want to use in certain areas. This also helps me learn more about characters that I may be less familiar with.
With a plan and general idea of what I want, I’ll start to mix the colors I’ll need to achieve this. Usually starting with skin tone and then moving on to the next largest element. This way I know my colors will work together and I can make color adjustments before I actually start to paint.
And after all that prep work… I finally get to start painting! Yay!!! Despite appearances, most of the time on a figure is actually spent painting. All the prep work usually happens in the first 1-2 days. The first things to get painted are the flesh and then the face. A character’s face is the first thing everyone sees and it sets the tone for the rest of the statue. Then I paint the next largest elements, usually the clothing, and so on until the figure is finished. The last thing to get painted is usually the base.
It sounds very methodical, but having a general guideline like this helps provide me with a structure in a process that can get overwhelming if I let it. It’s my own sort of safety net that keeps things moving along even if I’m uncertain of what to do in some parts. I can be busy cleaning parts or priming, all the while thinking about how to tackle the paint.
jman: When you’re about to work on a sculpt, can you see in your mind’s eye the finished product? Or is that something that comes together for you as you work on it?