I painted another High Elf Pheonix as a mother's day present for my... mother. I couldn't seem to get any decent pictures of that painting process but it is definitely the best thing I've painted so far by a large margin. I did get photos of how I made the snazzy base though.
I have a mold of natural, miniature rock faces and outcroppings. A few hours before making the base I mixed up some normal milliput and pressed it in. It doesn't have to be perfect or solid. It only needs to have the outside detail. I tend to just make a shell then fill it with aluminium paper to save on putty.
I use different art pastes but it's because I'm a gadget freak who does loads of art stuff outside of miniatures. You can make up an approximation of any past using different amounts of glue, water and sized sand/rocks.
I do find the artistic gels let you sculpt them a bit more and are easier to control but it's not a necessary cost to get cool bases. However you do it you do want to get some different texture and densities when making organic type scenery.
I start by slathering glue on the bottom of the milliput pieces and pushing them into the base. I had played about with them earlier seeing which ones to use and where I would put them. I wanted the base to look like rock portruding from the ground, rather than resting.
You want to put enough glue that it squelches out around the sides when squelched down to make the rocks look like they are embedded in the earth.
I have all of my different size/texture sand and rocks in one pot. I rarely dig out the original bags or separate grade materials in. If I want a specific size all I have to do is shake it side to side and either the top or bottom will have all the fine sand, the other will have the rocks etc. If something is natural, industrial, destroyed etc you still want a bit of variation to make it look more natural and the occasional different sized rock piece aids this.
For the first step I just drop the gluey base in and poke it around.
We want the glue and sand to lay over the edges of the large rocks. Once I pull it out I grab my tweezers and add larger rocks where they would fall off and collect. Don't worry about looking 'right' if you can make something look better or more balanced though.
Once that it done I move onto spreading paste everywhere. I use 'craft' sticks that look like they come out of lollies to scoop out paste and push it around.
I start with the fine sand paste. This one is super great because you can get a finer sand/dirt effect that is more in scale than using actual fine sand and glue.
To integrate the paste properly with the rocks I smoosh it up against them so the edges are completely covered. Then scrape it down with the stick. This creates the right transition without leaving obvious edges or lumps. You want to scrape the paste down towards the base, not up over the rock.
More sand follows. I want more control now so I put the base in the lid, shake the mix until I see the texture I want, then scoop it out with my fingers and sprinkle it on making sure to leave bit of the original paste showing.
For the rocks on the ground I make sure to paste around them too. I either drop them on the paste and then roll them over using a cocktail stick or use the stick to poke the paste up against them. Tiny rocks that look like they've just been dropped on the floor look very obvious and ruin the mini effect.
I use a different grain paste on the other side. Here you can see the paste over the rock before I scrape it back down.
More sprinkles of sand mix.
I lightly brush some sand paste over the crevices in the rocks to show where material would gather over time. This is a good place to drop some mini leaves and sticks as well.
The best stuff to detail your natural scenery with is the real stuff. I go to the field next door and gather up clumps of different shaped mosses and tiny leafed plants, and different size/textured stick. I lay them out on some tissue paper and leave over a radiation until it's all crinkly dry. Then I store it in tupperware until I need it.
PVA glue to stick it down. These HAVE just fallen down on the base so they don't need to be smoothed into things as much, you don't need to fill in all the gaps between the tree and the base. I do have a bit of build up against it because it's supposed to look very old and untouched when finished.
I add another one on the other side, propping it up on a rock.
I had to rush from this point because it was due to be collected the morning after. I will be making more and showing how I painted them then added the miniature flowers I collected from outside soon enough though.