Painting Poorly: A Song of Ice & Fire - Lord Varys, the Spider

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"Power Resides Where Men Believe it Resides..."

Hey, there, Westerosi!  Today we're going to be taking a look at one of the sneakiest snakes in the grass there is, Lord Varys.

The Master of Whisperers is part of the Neutral "Heroes" box, along with Roose Bolton, Ramsay Snow, and Theon Greyjoy, and he's one of only three possible choices if you're planning running a neutral NCU, so we should get him painted as quick as possible for you to fill out your Neutral army!

1. Gameplan, Prep, and Prime

Okay, so once again when coming to the gameplan stage, we must decide on what to base our paint scheme off of, and I can't think of anything better than Conleth Hill's performance of Varys from the HBO series:

Sure, he's worn a lot of different outfits, but when I think of Varys, this is the look I usually associate with him: a gold robe with silver embellishments and tan/yellow sleeves and trim.  Thus, I've assembled the following paint.

Similar to Theon, I will be using only Vallejo colors, starting with Basic Skin Tone, the slightly racist WWII Japanese, Gold, Silver, and Flat Earth.  I will also be using Light Flesh, which was not pictured above (sorry), for helping highlight Varys's dome.

The Spider has been primed with matt white spray primer by The Army Painter, like I always use, and now, we're ready to paint those basecoats!

2. Basecoats

So, the first thing we're going to be painting on Varys is the skin.

Use your basic skin tone, thinned 50/50 with water, and paint the hands and head.  Since Vary's chromedome is such an iconic look, we want to make sure it's painted well, so take the time here and apply a second or third coat if you have to.

After that, you're going to take your WWII Japanese, again thinned 50/50 with water, and paint the sleeves, and the robe beneath his outer robe.  This includes the parts that stick out from the bottom on the sides and back.  Try to avoid the cuffs of the sleeves as much as you can.

Once that's done, move onto the gold.  Now, for the gold, don't thin it quite 50/50, as it's a lighter pigment, so getting strong coverage with paint that's too thin can be difficult.  It should be more like 2/1 gold/water, and paint the outer robes, including the underside of the collar.  You will also want to paint the cuffs of the sleeves gold, as well, though you'll leave the trim in the center and that splits down the front unpainted if you can.

After the gold's done, we're going to go back to our WWII Japanese and our detail brush and paint the trim of the gold cloak, along with the inside of the collar.

Be VERY careful when painting the inside of the collar.  The space between Varys's cheek and the collar itself is miniscule, so hold the brush against the collar and try rotating Varys himself instead of moving the brush.

Now, it's time to paint the shoes and the rope around his waist.  I used flat earth thinned 50/50 with water, because in the HBO series, he's mostly seen wearing a brown leather belt:

However, it's not that important, and you can make it really any color you want.

You'll notice that Varys has kind of a paisley/floral pattern in his robes, which we are about to TRY to duplicate, so get ready.  This will be the first time we've really done any significant kind of freehand painting.

Once the gold robe is COMPLETELY DRY, using your silver with NO WATER added and your detail brush, try to duplicate some of the patterns you see on Varys's clothes.  Unless you have the nerves of a robot, it will be very difficult to create an EXACT paisley pattern, so I really focused on making some "S" shapes or a "G" here and there, with a few small circles here and there.  The real trick to making this look good, however, is symmetry.  Anything you paint in silver on on side of Varys, you'll want to paint the mirror image (as best you can) on the other side.

Add a few dots of silver randomly dispersed on the gold cuffs of the sleeves and you're ready for shade once it's all dry.

3. Shading

So, for Varys, we'll be using three shades:

Flesh Wash, Dark Tone (black wash), and Soft Tone (brown wash) all by The Army Painter.  You'll start with the flesh wash.

Apply the wash to Varys's head and hands, while trying not to get too much on his collar.  If you get some on the cuffs it's not as big of a deal since the wash we use over that will cover most of it up.

Next, you'll use the soft tone on any areas where the WWII Japanese was.  This includes the sleeves, the under robe, and the inside of the collar, along with the trim of the gold robe.

Again, be careful not to get any on the face when applying it to the inside of the collar.

The last thing you'll was is all of the gold with dark tone.  Make sure you go pretty lightly with the dark tone, as you don't want big areas of black anywhere on the mini except the inside of the gold cuffs on the sleeves.  For the most part, just a light brushing of the dark tone will be enough to mute the gold and add a little depth.

You'll also want to use the dark tone for the rope and shoes, but after that, you're all finished and ready to move onto highlights once it's all dry!

4. Highlights and Finishing Touches

Okay, so since Varys's baldness is such an iconic part of the character, we're going to taking considerable care when highlighting it, just like we did with Theon's skin.  So, taking your basic skin tone, you'll highlight the face like this, following the green markings:

Before looking at it from the top down and using the basic skin tone to highlight the top of his head like this:

Now, add a drop of light flesh to your mix, so you have a roughly 1/1/2 basic skin tone/light flesh/water mix, and paint highlight the face in the yellow sections:

And the top of the head:

The last bit, you'll use pure light flesh, and just highlight the tiniest portions of the already highlighted areas, indicated by the white sections:

And the top of the head:

If you've done it correctly, it should look something like this when you're finished:

You can also take this time to highlight the top of the thumb and index finger on his left hand before we move onto his under robe.

Using your WWII Japanese, highlight each fold in the under robe, specifically the top of the sleeves.

You'll also want to highlight the VERY TOP of the collar, and don't forget the portions of the under robe that stick out from beneath the gold one.

For the shoulders, think like you're making a triangle that's pointing downward with the highlight paint, and you'll get a nice rounded looking shoulder.

If you want a more dynamic highlight for the sleeves, you can even add in a drop of light flesh to lighten the paint a bit and you can repeat the process.

5. To the (Very) Small Council!

That's it for the Master of Whisperers!  Base him, spray him, and add him to your forces!

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As always, this and all of my tutorials for A Song of Ice & Fire can be found here.  Thanks for reading, and check back soon as we continue our journeys!

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  1. Wonderful piece of art. Looks it took so much effort but the final results are awesome and flawless.

    1. Thanks, Eric! He’s actually not that hard thanks to the fairly basic color scheme.


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