Thursday, 15 March 2018

Arcworlde Trolls and JoeK Apollo

I've got various friends who run their own miniature companies, either sculpting their own stuff or commissioning others to do it for them. Over the last few years I've ended up accumulating tons of metal and resin models from their ranges and (mostly) completely failed to paint any of them! At the moment I'm doing what I can to make right on this, by working their models in amongst the many GW projects I'm doing.

Arcworlde Trolls

These are some really old Arcworlde models, made by Alex for his Warploque Miniatures range. They're getting close and I should have them finished in the next couple of days. Stuff like this suits my painting style to some extent - there are big, organic surfaces that I can airbrush, applying the initial highlights and glazes of colour for nuance. Once that's done I continue along the same lines with brush work, adding details and more colour nuance and highlights. These are still at a playing around sort of stage - nothing is fully refined, so some parts might look a bit rough. I'm 'blocking' in the feel of the model and will tidy it up at the finish with some more glazes to smooth everything out, then some carefully applied spot and edge highlights and detail work.

Arcanite crystals are a big part of the Arcworlde lore, providing magical power where they appear, so I have added them to the base of this troll and replicated some of their colour in his eyes, as if he's being possessed by the power.

This one's still at a slightly rougher stage. I do like the feel of the tones here, they just need to be transitioned through a bit smoother. I think I'll add some pigments to the base because it's a bit close to the skin colour right now.

JoeK Apollo

Apollo is a model from Joe's Odyssey range. I have to admit, he's not my favourite out of all the options, some of the characters, especially some of his recent Kickstarted efforts are bloody magnificent! But, a colour scheme popped into my head for Apollo and I really wanted to try it out. So far I think it's working well. The metallic blue is just a basecoat right now - Vallejo Model Colour Gunmetal Blue - which is a new paint in my collection and one I'm going to be experimenting with quite a lot this year I suspect. It has great coverage, lovely shine and I think there's tons of potential for cool effects.

I'll probably wait until I've finished painting the rest of the model before I continue the metallics. I will be doing some drybrushing on the metal and I want to mask the other parts before doing this, otherwise paint could get everywhere!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Mother's Day gift and basing

I've got some sort of muscle pull on my right side and it's made painting tricky. They're worse when I sit, even worse when I hunch, and I hunch a lot when I paint. But, I've still managed to do some project progression.

Mother's Day gift - Meridian Miniatures Hippogryph 

This was fun! One of those models that seems to paint itself. I began with airbrush work, applying zenithal highlights, starting with a warm dark brown, then a sand brown, finished off with a final application of sand mixed with white.

This created depth and a nice bit of tonal transition. Applying dark-lining, edge highlights and final details accentuated this initial airbrushing. Sometimes the simple approach gets the best sort of results!

The sculpt is very crisp and clean, so it was easy to pick out the details around the model. I've not done anything in the 'chibi' style before but I had a blast with this. I'll certainly be doing more models from Meridian's Tooth and Sword range.

Shadespire Bases

I've built bases for various models that I'll show as I finish up the minis that go on them. I also painted the bases from the Shadespire boxed game and I've gotta say, I really like them. I've practiced a simple marble effect on the Stormcast ones and by making the leaves sculpted onto them orange it's created a cool Autumnal mood. I'll replicate the green marble effect I've done here on the column and steps of Morathi's bases.

Friday, 9 March 2018

AoS 28 - Nurgle Lord build is almost done

Hey y'all. I've managed to seriously impede my hobby times. Seems I've pulled some muscles down my right side, possibly through cycling (the lesson to learn here is clearly to avoid exercise). It's generally uncomfortable all the time but especially when sitting and even more so when sitting and leaning forward a bit. That's basically my standard body position when painting. So that royally sucks!

I have managed to do some further conversion work on my increasingly odd Nurgle dude on a warped giant fly. I still need to think of a name for him. The build's all done but he needs a few more passes of sculpted detail.

I need to finish the tentacle arm, add some chainmail around the upper arms, cover the shoulder pads (there's still Stormcast stuff visible right now), add extra fur at the top of the cloak, and sort out the stirrups.

I think I'll add a padded or furred detail to the seat of his throne too, it looks very plain at the moment and because I've given him such a raised, more dynamic position, a lot of it is visible.

Writing that list has made me realise there's still quite a bit to do!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

AoS Morathi build

I couldn't resist getting GW's latest big beastie (plus the mini-me Morathi that's included). This is the first Daughters of Khaine model I've ever bought... actually it's the first Witch Aelves/Dark Elf I've ever bought (it's possible I may have inherited some in the dim and distant past, but nothing intentional) so it's quite an event!

I've built her two forms (twice, because two Morathi kits are almost as speedy to paint as one in my brain) but it has to be said, they are far from the easiest of GW kits to put together. It's a cool model (with the exception of some seriously silly, over-the-top and not suited to battle high-heeled boots) but after a joyful and easy experience building the Nurgle new releases lately Morathi was a chore.

The snake tail is complex, nine parts make up the part that is wrapped around the column, and though it's a fascinating puzzle of 3D breakdown it's a real faff!

The main thing that almost caused me to totally mess the kit up in the build stage, though, is that if you build Morathi's Shadow Queen form separate to the column she WILL NOT FIT BACK ONTO IT! Not ever. At least I didn't think so as I tried to do this in various ways having built the model separate from the column to make painting easier.

Luckily I noticed before the glue had fully dried. But, be aware of this! The instructions clearly show when to fix her to the column, of course, but as someone who paints in lots of sub-assemblies I was all set to keep the column and the snake-tail split until painting was done.

So, I'll paint the big version of Morathi as an almost fully built model. Which is most unusual for me.

The smaller version of her, in stark contrast, is going to be painted almost un-built! Loads of parts logically break-down into individually coloured sections. The skin, the bladed wings, the cloak parts, even each of her impossibly high and very silly heeled boots, can be approached individually. So, that's what I'll do, then put it all together at the end.

I'm going to try and work with a muted, fairly desaturated, blue-toned paint scheme here. It should bring about some good mood and atmosphere and give her a different vibe to the 'Eavy Metal version.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Books wot I read in 2018 (Jan 1st to Jan 15th)

I rediscovered my love of books last year and that's continued into 2018. I've decided to try and put down my thoughts about each one I read. I've got some catch up to do. Here I go!

The Worm and the Bird by Coralie Bickford-Smith

Coralie Bickford-Smith makes a simple tale feel more grandiose through her art. The illustrations are beautiful and impactful; smart composition and effective colour palettes punctuate each beat of the story. But, ultimately, the impact of the story's words is fleeting. The message is clear enough, it just didn’t resonate, at least not for me. Others may get more, but I found it a far more interesting art book than a good read.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The next installment in my 'The ... and the ...' reading list was The Golem and the Jinni. :p

This is a vivid journey through 1900s New York, focusing on areas of the city I’d never really considered, and more intriguing because of it. Told from the viewpoint of various immigrants, it is a deeply human tale, despite the eponymous main duo being anything but.

As the book’s outsiders search for their place in New York, at once enthralled and alienated by the cocktail of cultures and people, Helene Wecker does an excellent job of wrapping the reader up in New York’s complexity and vastness. The city is as important a character as anyone else here, the core that connects the various stories together.

Much of the journey is great, but the final approach to the destination is less fulfilling. This is a weighty book, around 650 pages long, yet the climax arrives in a rush and is all too brief and predictable. Still an interesting read and I'll probably check out the follow-up, due out later this year.

And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave

Nick Cave has never been afraid to roll in the grime. His lyrics often feel dirty and nasty in their blunt honesty and subject matter – truth and insight are spiced with horror and venom as he lays himself bare and asks us to do the same.

As with his music, his first novel challenges the reader, weaving a fable about people and a world that is bizarre, yet familiar enough to feel utterly uncomfortable.

The twisted tale of Euchrid Eucrow begins with a broken-bottle-caesarean and gets bleaker. The lyrical flow of the narrative is a grotesque and often rambling butcher’s slab of alienation and unpleasantness. The setting, the valley of Ukulore, is a place of hardship, cruelty and foulness, the characters (perhaps it would be more apt to say caricatures) are driven by ill-will and intolerance, snuffing out any hint of goodness or reprieve as fast as they can. Even the environment feels deadly and the creatures within, human or not, are all prey.

Yet, despite being a brutal read, the tale is compelling. For each moment when the prose feels naïve there are others where it is so honest and intriguing, so intense and visceral, that I just wanted to feast on it.

But, yes, this is a challenging book, one that almost certainly suffers from its beginnings as a screenplay and an author more used to lyrics than novels. And one made more intense by the relentless grime and questions of humanity at its heart. At times it made me feel like I needed to take a shower, to clean the dirt of this gothic tale from myself. Maybe that’s ok!

The Black Monday Murders, Vol. 1: All Hail, God Mammon by Jonathan Hickman, Tomm Coker, Michael Garland, and Rus Wooton

An intriguing start to a series that makes no attempt to hide its cinematic noir influence. There's an air of confidence in the writing, art and colour here, greatly enhanced by the striking cover art, layout and flavour pieces within.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Wind in The Willows box diorama - painting begins

After a long weekend with my girlfriend doing some belated Valentine's Day stuff I'm back at my hobby desk this evening. I've finished the build part of my Wind in The Willows box diorama and have splashed on some initial (and incredibly rough) colours.

The build remains pretty much as it was in the last update, but with sand and small rocks glued on to add extra texture and detail. I think I'm on the way to creating the riverbank feel that the Wind in The Willows characters (who will stand in it) demand, now it's just a case of adding in layers of extra tone and detail with paint.

I'll soon need to decide if I add clear resin to the lower part of the scene, to give the effect of a river running through. I'm considering using a thin sheet of transparent perspex instead. I'd add ripple textures to the top of this and change the colour tone of the underwater part to sell the effect.

I think I'll get further with the painting here, then do some testing of both options.

I also picked up some of Games Workshop's Creeping Vines and I'll use these to add depth to the scene, hanging them a little more to the foreground. I've stuck the models into the scene here to check the composition's working and I think that it is. This photo shows the colours a lot closer to their current state too - the first photo came out a little weird! I'll probably add more warmth - beams of light finding their way though the canopy of the trees and stuff like that. I don't want the scene to be too gloomy.

With just over a week until I give this to my Grandma for her 90th birthday I've got to get busy. I fear it may be a scramble to paint the miniatures in time but I'm starting to believe it will be worth it. :)

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Rising Sun and another box diorama WIP

I finally opened my Rising Sun Kickstarter pledge from Cool Mini or Not. I wavered on backing this but some of  but the models and gaming systems they were presenting convinced me. It sounded pretty entertaining and it looked great.

I'm really happy to report that the quantity and quality of models and components looks to be just as awesome now they're in my grubby hands. This is the most potent mixture of generosity and quality that I've ever received in a large box of Kickstarter goodies.

I've not taken a proper look at the rules to play a game yet, but I'm kinda in love with various models here already. Some of them will probably make their way to my painting desk. A few of my favourite non-clan models are shown below. Part of me would love to paint some clan models too, but I feel like that's an all or nothing proposition and with 80 of them that's a pretty intimidating prospect!

If I get paint on any of these I'll be sure to show them here.

Diorama building

The weekend has mostly been about relaxing but I did fit in some hobby time before then. It's my Grandma's 90th birthday at the start of March so I'm making her a gift. She reads the Wind in The Willows every year and I'm hoping that this box diorama will go some way toward capturing the look and feel of E. H. Shepard's illustrations of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger.

I've constructed a riverside scene using cork board, a fair bit of modelling putty and some bits chopped from the Sylvaneth Treeman set. So far I'm rather pleased with it and think it gives the illusion of depth despite being less than an inch from front to back.

I purchased some flat figures of the Wind in The Willows characters several years ago and I'm happy I'm finally taking steps to get this project done! It's one of those things that's been in my head for quite a while. Here's a look at the scene with the models in their intended spots.

There's still quite a bit of work to do and I'm probably going to add some water-effects to bottom front, making a cross-section view of the river water. This scares me a bit. I've not done much resin water pouring and I'm concerned it could react badly with the wooden frame. I think it's possible it could soak in, take on some colour where it touches the wood, or fully warp the frame. I'll have to do some Googling and tests I think!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Valentine's Day - Making a flat figure

It's that special day of Valentine's - a chance for folks to make their romance stance known!

I know some people aren't especially keen on Valentine's Day. Well, tough, because I am! I love the emotional stuff. Where there's yin there's yang, where there's chaos there's order, where there's Chaos there's Sigmar, and where there's a grim dark of ONLY WAR there's also gotta be some space for love in your life too!

I've ended up with a wonderful and understanding girlfriend who makes me want to better myself every day and encourages me in my hobby pursuits without any hesitation. So, I'm happy to take any and every opportunity there is to show her I love her. As I'm getting back into mini painting again, I decided to make this year's Valentine's gift using some of those hobby skills.

I've sculpted a fairly simple flat figure (with small changes in height across the plane of the model) and made a box diorama from it. The frame is from Ikea, but it's actually part of a bathroom set! If you want to try something similar it's the Dragan bathroom set of two lidded bamboo boxes that you're after. The bases will make two deep diorama frames and the lids are perfect for two shallow box dioramas (this one is made in the lid of the larger box). Best of all, it's just £9 for the set and they look really snazzy with the bamboo finish!

If you're curious about the scene I've made, it's me, but styled on the Big Butt Skinner balloon that Bart unleashes in an episode of The Simpsons (a show Jemma's a huge fan of).

It's pretty random and unusual, maybe not the standard sort of Valentine's... But, hey, I'm not exactly the standard sort of boyfriend, she's not the standard sort of girlfriend (she made me a mixtape y'all! 2018 and I got a mixtape, how good is that? :D), and we're happy with the situation being exactly as random to others as it is utterly clear to us.

Alright, I'll be back to the grimdark next time. Until then, much love, Happy Valentine's Day everyone. <3

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Word Bearers Ashen Circle completed

"The difference between gods and daemons largely depends upon where one is standing at the time" Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers

You could argue that the fairly basic Ashen Circle Marines here don't deserve such a grand quote at the start of their blog post. You might be right!

From a personal perspective, though, I think I've dramatically shifted where I'm standing in the painting of these models. My outlook has changed. I was looking out across an evil land, packed with daemons (in the form of piles of unpainted miniatures) and it felt very intimidating. Could I conquer this challenge, could I slay the daemons? Well, in conquering these 10 models and adding them to the 'Painted in 2018' column, I think I've dramatically shifted my perspective.  I don't feel the daemons weighing me down right now - I feel like a painting god!

Well, a minor deity at least! These are the first miniatures I've fully painted since the middle of 2014, you see (I checked, it really has been that long. Ouch!). It's over three years since I've completed a hobby project - a very long time for someone who has been into miniatures for almost 30 years.

Getting these done and finished is a pretty important step for me because of that. I'd started to worry I might not finish painting anything again. Like, ever! And I feared that I might not find it fun if I tried.

I know that these Marines aren't perfect, but I found my way with them. Perhaps more importantly, as I hit the final stages (working with washes, pigments and Tamiya Clear Red and Smoke to add my most precious grime and gore effects) I found the fun in a big way. It was actually a little bit emotional.

A big part of painting a model is that you've gotta believe. Thanks to completing these guys, I really do!

It feels like the mojo's coming back. The training wheels are off, the bike's heading down the hill with some stability. I'm excited for the next project!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Returning to a classic - The Warscryer Citadel

The Warscryer Citadel was originally released in 2011 (though it was called Skullvane Manse back then) and for me it was (and still is) an absolutely awesome kit, combining modern GW techniques in plastic production with an aesthetic that took me back to my earliest days in the hobby.

It was 1990 when my GW adventures began with White Dwarf 129. In those nostalgic days there were regular articles guiding readers through creative (and, at times, extremely complex) modelling projects. These Modelling Workshops (mostly done by Dave Andrews, who still works for GW on their scenery I believe) covered the basics: hills, fences, rivers, etc. but, some were far more complex: larger scenery pieces, Ork Battlewagon conversions, even one that guided readers through the process of making a Baneblade tank from scratch (using little more than some cardboard, spare bases and discarded pens)!

Some of my favourite Modelling Workshops detailed the fantasy townhouses, barns, coaching inns and more of the Empire. These really defined the look of Warhammer architecture for me and many of the ideas in those early articles continue in GW's kits today (with the addition of more skulls, naturally!)

The Warscryer Citadel, with its mix of wooden fame and stone wall, the jagged tiled rooftops, the muddled placement of building levels, the mash of architectural styles... Ah, it gives me such fuzzy nostalgic yearnings for those olden days. It's also a great showcase of how far GW's plastic production has come, making the realistic part of me very thankful for progress!

Honesty time - I haven't blasted this paint job out over the weekend! It's the first version of the model, painted back in late 2011, but I figure it's probably worth looking back at it, what with the Warscryer Citadel available again this weekend.

Adding tones to natural materials
Painting this kit was a real learning experience for me. I experimented with coloured glazes through my airbrush, to add nuance and realistic tones to the earth's raw materials on the rock and stone.

I used to approach stone in a basic way, working through a couple of highlights in grey and finishing off with a lighter drybrush. With this project I changed things up and many of the techniques I tried out are part of my painting arsenal to this day.

I still started with several highlight stages in grey, applied from above through my airbrush on a black undercoat. But, before moving to the drybrushing stage, I added a many different colours as nuanced glazes. There are blues, purples, reds, greens, and browns in the rocks here. It's a subtle effect, not too easy to pick out individually, but as a whole I think it brings more interest and realism to the look of the scenery piece.

All of the glazes were thinned until there was barely any noticeable colour coming through the airbrush. It's important to use a really low pressure in your compressor when your paint is this thin, otherwise the mix just blasts through in seconds! You can apply the same touches with a brush, but an airbrush makes the whole process so much faster.

By applying the glaze with some care, aiming strategically, at recesses or areas of interest on the stone, you can create some awesome mood and tone. If you need to shift the colour around after the initial application (or if it pools anywhere) you can quickly stop pushing paint through the brush and use just air pressure to 'push' the glaze around before it dries. Be quick though, or you'll end up with tide-lines from the glaze partly drying then being disturbed again.

You can see the effect quite clearly in some of these detail pictures. You'll also notice that there are areas where I went in with a brush and thicker glazes, applying them liberally to some of the stones. This added even more variety and interest to the architecture.

Since using this technique on the model I've worked it into my terrain painting, base painting and the way I paint skin on larger miniatures.

Details - go for the easy win!
I think models that fall into the 'high-tabletop' level of painting benefit the most from a final pass of smart detail application. What do I mean by this? Well, some people are happy to go back and carefully add one last stage of blending, or one more level of careful edge highlights to make their models pop. I admire those people, but that's not me, and I think that on a time versus results scale, that's not the way to go.

I'm always trying to find the quick wins - little things that will make the model stand out without much time investment. These can be details that really catch the eye from a distance or reward a closer look. In both of these circumstances contrast is very important.

So, the Citadel has heavy weathering on its metal parts (applied quite roughly if I'm honest) to create big impact. By bringing an oxidised blue into this weathering it makes it stand out more than a subtle tone and also works in a cohesive way with the building roof tiles.

And those tiles - they are in a blue that's rather at odds with the natural tone of the rest of the Citadel. I can't say it was intentional - I think I'd have toned down the saturation if I painted this same model now - but it works. It makes the eye skip through the levels of the building because it stands out from the natural rock and wood tones. It's not horribly jarring though, contrast is great, too much contrast can be very bad!

And then, finally, there are more refined details. None of these took too long to add but reward a closer look. From the bird muck splatters on the tiles, to the reflective lens of the telescope, and down to the application of clump foliage and climbing ivy. These things bring dimension and life to the model and took very little time to add.

What would I do differently?
If I painted this awesome kit again (and I'm considering it, believe me!) I think I'd do most of the work in the exact same way. The only major difference is that I'd make sure there were more dark tones in the recesses. The overall tone is a bit too saturated. I could actually go back and do this here, with oil paints, if I so desired. But that's a technique to talk about some other time.

And just to finish up, here are a couple of shots of a gaming display board I made. This, again, uses a load of different glazes to bring interest to the environment. I had practiced with the technique by this point and managed to paint this whole 2'x4' board in something like 5 hours from start to finish. So, if you want to make terrain with impact, but don't want to take ages doing it, it's well worth trying out!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

AoS 28 - the warband grows

I totally intended to add the required sculpted details to my Nurgle stuff this weekend. So far I've found myself creating the need for many more sculpting jobs instead. The positive in this is that my grimdark Nurgle warband is expanding rather nicely!

There's one model missing from this group shot but he's pictured separately at the end of this post. I love how they're starting to look as a group. They'll make for a funky looking warband, packed with character, but they'll also act as tone pieces for my bigger Nurgle AoS army (which I'm still fully intending to paint over the next couple of months).

One of the models that's in that big Nurgle AoS army is a Glottkin, with these two utterly incredible models mounted on top of it. This gruesome pair just had to join the AoS28 group too, but I wasn't going to sacrifice a whole Glottkin (and the £66 it costs) to do that. So, I will magnetise these two at the feet, letting me swap them between standing on the Glottkin and taking their place on these bases.

I'd already built a lot of bigger brutes but this was the first diminutive creation, starting as a 40k Gretchin. I chopped off the head and blunderbuss tip and with the addition of a Kharadron grapple and a Blightking helm I think he starts to fit in with his Nurgle bigger brothers rather well. The rope will be fixed to the spool (attached to the Nurgling's back) in a more seamless way when I add finishing touches. I imagine these two working as a team, hooking onto hard to reach areas (or enemies) and spooling the rope across (or reeling their prey in).

Nothing too complex here. This Nurgling is an amazing little mini, so I gave it a fancy base of cork, wood, an element from the Spirit Host set and some spare branches from a Treelord kit to suspend the model.

A long time ago CMoN took their first venture onto Kickstarter with the game Sedition Wars. It wasn't exactly great, largely because the quality of the casting was rather terrible. The game has sat unused in my Stack of Stuff (registered Trademark!) for quite a while. But, I reckon this guy fits in quite nicely as a freakish addition to the warband, so here he is!

Making use of the Spirit Host spares again here. Some sort of ethereal being... I'm considering what to do with. It's on the way to working but perhaps needs something extra to fully fit into the atmosphere of the other models.

And here's the latest creation (who was missing from the group shot). He's a similar hunter to the converted Gretchin, just a fair bit bigger! I imagine him stalking foes with his crossbow, spearing them and letting his beast off the leash to drag them back to him.

I'll probably add some chain to the spear that's fixed in his crossbow. The Squig in his hand (from the Runtherd in the Gretching boxed set) will have extra detail sculpted at the face to make it more themed to Nurgle. I do love the pose here though, combining Stormcast and Nurgle bits pretty effectively if I do say so myself. Also, the stitched up eyes and mouth on his head (from the Plague Drones set) seem to give him a really dark and twisted feel.

I've got at least two more kitbashes on my workbench before I stop sticking parts and new models together completely. They're both pretty complex efforts. I'll try and finish them before the weekend's through so I can start sculpting details next week.