Friday, July 19, 2013

The Axeman!

If you drive a car, I'll axe the street,
If you try to sit, I'll axe your seat.
If you get too cold I'll axe the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll axe your feet.

Cos I'm the axeman, yeah I'm the axeman!

This guy only took me perhaps 3 hours total, spread over an evening, which is blinding speed for me. It is also my favorite mini that I've painted so far, and not just because I have wanted to own a White Lion since I was young.

Everything just kind of worked on this model. The non-metalic metal, which I have been struggling with, is the best I have achieved so far, and in two different colors too! I especially like the side of the helmet pictured above. The axe head is another story...I'm not saying I still don't have plenty to work on.

But it is an encouraging step... so encouraging that I'm now thinking of converting some Mantic elf scouts into a Pro Elf team for the Chaos Cup this year, and that would mean plenty more NMM in this style. I'd better get moving, though. That's coming right up!

I was surprised by just how un-systematic painting this metal was. Sure, I had to plan somewhat carefully (you always do), but the things that really helped were 1) having all of the colors blended on my pallet, and 2) not being afraid to go back in with a color I had previously used. It is a much more 'painterly' approach, very different to the mindset in which you highlight with one color, move on to the next, and rarely go back.

I am also extremely pleased with the face. I don't often achieve that kind of expression, and it is quite gratifying. I think the reason it came out so good (for me) was that I was able to leave the deep shades in tact during the highlighting process, which really helped to define the features.

...Speaking of Blood Bowl conversions, I would also like to welcome a few of the new followers who I haven't formally acknowledged yet. These are Paaor, The One, Fireymonkeyboy, and Sir Skofis. Welcome and thank you for reading!

Firemonkeyboy is a contributor on multiple blogs that I read, and it is an honor to have him following, you should check out the links to his blogs on his profile.

I have only recently discovered Sir Skofis's excellent blog Sir Skofis's Workshop. He has excellent articles on converting and sculpting figures for Blood Bowl (which put my efforts to shame,) as well as astounding scratch-built 40k vehicles. Check him out! He deserves to be followed!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Another Dwarf and his - Slightly Larger - Hammer

Here we have another of the converted dwarf warriors, all painted up and ready to splinter iron-banded doors, bust the hinges off be-plated ne'er-do-wells, and test the reflex reactions of giants. 

What must it be like to be a bone-weary adventurer whose only worldly possessions are a super-massive hammer and a cloak made out of shag carpet? Tiring and warm, I'd bet.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how the figure came out. But here, as always, is where the litany of errors begins.

For one thing, the non-metallic metal, while marginally better than on his stout compatriot, is still kind of laughable-- not that I'm discontent, you understand, but one must recognize areas that need improving.

One other such area is in my model preparation. Specifically, I should really take more care and patience in removing mold lines. There are a couple here which do not show that much on the table, but are painfully obvious in the photos.

A further such area is in my hair sculpting. I really like the way the matted fur texturing came out, but the hair really looks flat by comparison.

The NMM on the hammer head is particularly ineffective. The rest just looks more or less gray.
On the plus side, I'm really starting to like the puddles on the bases. They're getting close to what I envision...just need a touch of something to capture that murky-but-reflective brilliance of unhappy pools under a wrathful sky.

Anyhow, go forth little bearded one. Hammer what needs hammering.

If you have any comments, just use your own hammer to bop the little button below. It's like whackamole.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Dwarf and His Hammer

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells,
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

--Over the Misty Mountains Cold, J.R.R. Tolkien

For some reason, that particular verse of that particular poem was echoing on loop while I painted this figure. I love that internal rhyme.

Anyway, here's one of those converted dwarf warriors all painted up. Above is a good example of the puddle effect I am developing for bases. Still needs work, but I'm getting there. You can also see the rudimentary non-metallic metal I tried to employ, especially on the shield below.

NMM is a tricky technique to get used to because it takes a lot of careful thought and a lot of patience with the blending...and honestly, I wasn't willing to take too much time on these particular figures. So I used paint that was a little thicker than it should have been and made transitions that were a little too abrupt. The result doesn't really look like metal, but it does have some contrast so I'm content.

I also need to work on brush direction. This is a basic principle that I always forget to follow, but it is one of the easiest ways to improve one's blending. Simply remember to draw the brush in the direction of the gradient of increasing pigment intensity (e.g. towards the brightest spot on a highlight.) The brush will naturally leave less paint at the beginning of the stroke than at the end. That way, one makes transitions rather than blocks of lighter color (which are instantly recognizable by the lines of their boundary--see the cloak highlight above.)

But that's why it can be nice to just churn out figures sometimes. It gives you ample mistakes from which to learn.

I'm sorry if this post was a little boring and obvious for some readers (among whom I know there are some excellent and experienced painters) but writing these things down helps me remember the things I need to work on.

Thanks for reading! Please share any tips you might find invaluable by painstakingly painting them into the comment box below.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Quick Promotion...

...For an illustrious wargaming blog that has just hit the big One Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero.

That's approximately 250,000 times the number of pageviews  for this blog. Yowza.
Apart from the fact that posting this means I get extra entries in his awesome prize draw, for which he is offering a number of excellent models and painting resources, I also want to encourage anyone who reads this to check out the Big Lee's Miniature Adventures blog in general. Big Lee is a very dedicated historical wargamer, and the articles and resources he posts are always interesting. His was one of the first hobby blogs I followed, and it went a long way in convincing me that I too could be a hobby blogger.

Thanks a million in deed, Mr. Big Lee. Congratulations.

For those Constant Readers looking for something a little more on-topic, hang in there. I will be updating again soon.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Couple New Sculpts

Here are a pair of new sculpts I've been working on. These are the first scratch-built minis that I've tried since my Blood Bowl Troll: I was excited to try something at normal scale for 28mm (which is funny, because these came out more like 32mm) and I wanted to try out mixing Aves Apoxie Sculpt and Green Stuff, which ended up working quite well. It's less sticky and it blends very well, unlike straight G.S. which always seems to leave a seam.

Above is the first mini and its concept sketch, The Electric Wizard Comes to the Wastes: Link, loosely based on the wonderful stoner-metal album Electric Wizard. You can tell that the work is still very much in progress, what with the lack of hands, but I'm very pleased with the face, as it is very first human face I've ever sculpted. I made it roughly following this tutorial: This is a good, simple way to start studying the art of the visage.

I'm also taking my first crack at weapon-making. (The wizard's sword, Slamdring the Foe-Slammer, and his Staff of Incandescence are mounted on wires out the sides of his cork.) That part's not going quite so well, but I'm learning a lot. It's a very fiddly business, and, as you can no doubt see by my attempt on the Evil Dead below, I have not quite figured out how to get an elegant result:

I tried to fashion this chopper out of plastic card, but that turned out to be even harder than using G.S. Furthermore, mounting it to the figure to achieve a strong bond proved to be impossible save by sculpting it into the hand itself, which came out looking...odd.

It was a good experiment, though, and I don't mind rough results on what will wind up being a rather mookish character. You have to start somewhere. I am, however, pretty pleased with the face on this one too, in spite of its being out of scale and anatomically out there. I'm discovering that I enjoy making my minis closer reflect my twisted visions than they do "reality."

What do you mean "reality?" This is fantasy, damn it.

That said, I will be trying to work on my sense of scale and the elegance of my putty work. Any and all comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Couple Painted Baddies

Sticking with the "A Couple" string of posts, here are "A Couple" of bad guys from my Christmas acquisitions. These were the first figures I had painted since my Orc Blood Bowl team, so my hand was a little shaky. I worked quickly, focusing on having fun and experimenting rather than agonizing over every little detail.

These figures mark a lot of "firsts" for me. They are the first true fantasy dedicated figures I've painted since I was 15. They are also the first figures to go in a warband for Song of Blades and Heroes or Skulldred. So sentimental value, for sure.

More interestingly, these were the first figures which I tried basing on washers, the first where I tried puddle effects on the bases, and the first where I tried superglue instead of PVA to adhere the sand. They were also the first figures on which I tried using Liquitex matte medium for blending, and the first figures on which I tried Non-Metallic Metal and Object Source Lighting techniques.

So these are very important figures for me. Even if they don't look that good.

What's fun is tracking the improvement across the two pieces. I painted the skeleton on the left first, and you can see how sloppy the OSL is compared to the hand on the Sorcerer. Likewise, the NMM is pretty odd looking on the skeleton, partly because I was working from a midnight blue base, and partly because I did not take enough time in the blending details. The NMM on the Sorcerer has a more believable color, but does not look very metallic. Which I'm fine with. I think it conveys a nice, grubby metal.

I am really liking the washer bases. The low profile with the black rim really appeals to me. I need to work on the puddle effect, though. The idea here is to make a blanche-style soggy base with puddles reflecting a luridly colored sky. It did not work at all on the skeleton because I tried it as an afterthought, on top of the sand. It worked much better for the sorcerer because I left blank spots on the washer when I glued on the texture (gel formula super glue is perfect for this kind of control). I still need to work on the illusion of depth, though.

Finally, while I had the paints out, I figured I'd whip out a measuring stick for SoBH/ Skulldred. (If you aren't familiar with these systems, they both deal with movement in fixed increments, rather than measurements.) So I cut down a length of sprue and painted bands for short, medium, and long movement. Since Skulldred uses base-widths rather than the odd increments of millimeters in SoBH, I decided to just go with that. I don't understand why SoBH is different, but I don't think it will break the game and this way I only have to paint one.

Look out for more painted figs, and maybe someday even a batrep. Any tips, criticisms, advice, questions, &c are always welcome. Just drop a card in the box below:

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Couple Burly Conversions

As promised, here are the other two converted dwarf warriors. Pretty much the same stuff as before, but this  time I was a little more adventurous.

I wanted a heavily armored dwarf, so I gave this guy some BURLY SHOULDER ARMOR. This armor is important if you spend a lot of time in fantasy battles because if you don't have it, your opponent can cut you. RIGHT IN THE SHOULDER. They are a little lumpy due to my lack of patience in trying to create a hard edge in Apoxie Sculpt/ Green Stuff.

I also wanted him to have a shield, but the ones supplied on the plastic dwarf sprue were definitely not burly enough. (If you couldn't tell already, "burliness" is a real theme in this post.) So I added a little extra around the edges...

...Plus some wood-grain for the back. Nothing fancy.

Now THIS guy took some work. Obviously, the two handed hammer needed something. What was it? Oh yeah. BURLINESS. I mixed up some Apoxie Sculpt and G.S., formed a rough cube, let it cure, and then ran it over fine-grit sand paper to get the sharpish edges.

Unfortunately, the arms provided on the sprue were not burly enough to accommodate a two handed pose with said hammer. (Weird that they would provide a piece that doesn't fit, but whatever...) I had to severely elongate the model's left arm to make this pose work. I lengthened the arm with a bit of paper clip, and then sculpted a simple vambrace over it. Never mind that it doesn't match! I didn't have much patience after all the chopping, as I also had to dislocate the shoulder because the arm was THAT short. This left a gaping hole where the arm socket was.

...which led me to the decision to burly up his cloak a little bit. I decided to do some matted fur so I could practice my texture sculpting. And there it is. I think I did a pretty good job of using the fur cloak to fill the gap in the shoulder, though there is an angle on one side where it looks a little weird. Oh well. I wanted idiosyncrasy.

Seriously, though, I really like it. And I'm excited to have a couple of heavy hitters for my little band of lost dwarves.

And here's dwarf number one again, after an unfortunate paint job and an even less fortunate strip job, in which the winged crests of his helm were lost forever (God! What a fiddly kit!). So I sculpted him up some nice, asymmetric horns. Perhaps not burly, but certainly unique.

Which brings me at last to this distinctly non-dwarven bit of putty magic. This is one of the used figures I picked up for Christmas. He was missing an arm, and I thought it would be no problem to sculpt him another (I was wrong, it was very difficult) but then the horns on the dwarf above gave me the idea for the weird, twisty claw thing. HETERODOXY! He will probably have the "Mutant" special rule from Song of Gold and Darkness. Unless you can provide a better idea, by using the fancy button below.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Couple Stout Conversions

About a year ago, I bought a box of used plastic Citadel dwarf warriors from the discount shelf at the Dice Dojo ($17! Sweet!) At the time, I had just discovered Blood Bowl and was looking for cheap ways to make teams.

I separated out all of the pieces I would use for the team (I will have to convert/sculpt a pair of Troll Slayers, Runners, and, of course, the death roller. If you're patient, you might just see that project some day.) I found that I had enough left over to make a small party of dwarven adventurers.

What you may not know about this particular plastic set, and what I found out shortly after sitting down to assemble it, is that it is total crap. It seems like none of the pieces fit together as intended. The bodies come in two pieces, front and back-- or more accurately, beard and legs-- and I had to spend at least 15 minutes shaving and filing each piece in order to get them to fit together. And even then there were gaps. Big ones. Between the hair and the helmet, the beard and the body, the arms and the sockets... a total mess.


Fortunately, I dislike having figures that too closely resemble one another. So it became an opportunity to practice my putty work. To fill the cracks between the helmet and the top of the warrior's back, I sculpted longer, knottier hair. To cover the gaps in the shoulders, I sculpted armor (or more hair.) To cover the seams running down the sides, I sculpted extra folds in the cloaks (or even more hair.)

These are just the first two. There are two more to come, so keep an eye out. And let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pilgrims to the Hidden City

How once those cities shone high in the gloom,
As patient embers...yes. A muted furnace for many souls.

What comfort came to the hearts of the pilgrims
When they saw far off the glittering collective, and knew peace.

But now the hidden city is lost again. 
Perhaps it is buried in dust, and the fiery domes are cracked.

Or perhaps it waits over the next rise,
Or in the shadow of that sneering mountain, or in the basin of some dry sea.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hard-Core Foam-core: Part Last

Light on the text today. This post is mostly just a picture dump of the painted results of my recent foam-core scenery. I am more than a touch pleased. 

These were primed gray, then hit with an overall black wash, as well as some brown and green in places. I then dry-brushed the stone up to a light gray; based the ground and wood with chocolate brown and mixed in white to dry-brush;  I then added some basing mix, a couple of bits of lichen coated in ground foam, and I was done.

I am quite a fan of the egg-shell ivy, though the color did come out a little garish. I tried, for the first time, using inks on it. The only problem was that the ink was 5+ years old and had formed into a sludgy, pigmented gloop. It took a good many washes of brown to tone that down.

I then went and drybrushed a little too heavily with the white, making for an overall unrealistic paint job. But I'm content with the vibrancy. I think it reads as ivy and draws the eye in a way that the more drab colors on the rest of the piece do not. It almost says: "The ruin is dead, but the land is alive." I might go back and touch it up one day. I might not.

Here's a picture to show how the pieces go together, inspired by those old citadel plastic ruins:

And finally, a pic of the foam core pillars after paint. Not half bad, even though you can still see the join in the foam.

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Synntowne Abbey Mangles: Blitzer Conversions

Having (quite a while ago) completed my plastic Orc Bloodbowl team from the Bloodbowl box, I have since let my human team sit gathering dust. Well it's time to change that.

However, the models provided in the box make for a silly line-up. To get a working team, I need to make some changes. The first (and maybe only--I haven't really decided) step is to turn a couple of the many linemen into a more useful position--blitzers.

This kind of project can be tricky, but when I thoroughly mutilated and reconstructed a couple of Orc linemen, they actually became my favorite models on the team. So I had every confidence I could do the same for these measly humans. What I had in mind was to re-position both the legs and the right arm of a lineman to achieve a running pose similar, though not exactly alike, to the standard blitzer models. Here's some of the preliminary surgery:

I went on to cut the leg on the left into three pieces at the knee and ankle. After a bunch of pinning and careful, strenuous drilling, I was ready to roll!

...Until the newly glued foot fell off and skittered into oblivion. Then I was ready to cry.

So, after much tossing aside of possessions in the ensuing search, I carefully set the first model aside and decided on a more conservative conversion for the second blitzer. A simple arm re-positioning and a sculpted knuckle duster.

Fortunately for me, by the time I got to the sculpting stage on the second model, the missing foot dropped back from oblivion into plain sight where it patiently awaited me. NOW I was ready to roll.

The Finished Blitzers
There was, of course, much gap filling, but the really important putty work needed to sell these guys as blitzers. I needed more than just the pose. Looking at the original models, I noticed the distinctive leg padding. So I slapped some on. An easy step. I also gave them some plumes by sticking a tiny length of paper clip into the tops of their helmets to use as support for the sculpting. Finally, I slapped on some fun, ridiculous, custom visors. My favorite.

The finished blitzer's arses.
And that's that. Ready for basing, priming, and paint. I still need to decide whether I want to try and convert some of the team into more catchers, since the box only comes with two. However, the box also comes with two throwers, which I think might be one too many. Now what would be really cool is if I could figure out a way to convert the extra thrower convincingly into a catcher... we'll see. Oh, and I have to decide if I want to sculpt an ogre.

I also need to come up with some fluff for this team, for as we know, teams with a story always play better. So far I'm thinking they might be the sporting initiates of some violence-loving brotherhood of monks. We'll see what I can come up with.

On another note, I've begun stripping my second-hand citadels from my last post, as well as some plastic dwarf warriors which I really messed up on my first try. I'm trying a solution of dish soap and water to see how well it works. Stay tuned to see the results.

Oh, and if you have anything to say, too bad. It's not like you can comment or anything.

Monday, June 3, 2013

From the Ground Up

There is much to consider when getting into the modeling and miniature gaming hobby. Yes. Much to consider, and even more to build. It is a daunting task. But one must start somewhere.

One is reminded of some old adage.

I am writing this post to share my experience following someone else's great idea. If you would like to see the original tutorial, you can find it here from Sir Tobi of Tobi's Paint Pot. It is worth it, trust me, and by far the greatest resource I was able to find, during months of searching, on the subject of DIY Battle-mats.

That's right, you read me correctly. A realistic, roll-able, DIRT CHEAP method for turning any old table into a gaming table. And for the tiniest fraction of the cost of a commercial model.

Here are the materials:

1. Acrylic paste from the hardware store. The four tubes cost me something like 15 dollars. I got the siliconized variety, cuz I figured it might give extra flex. You might need all four tubes for a full-sized table, but my little 3' by 4' table only needed one.

2. Generic brown craft paint. As cheap as you like, really.

3. Twine or string.

4. Scissors for the twine or string.

5. Flocking and texturing materials.

6. Also, some washers and a pointy nail.

7. And a piece of artists canvas. I was expecting this to be the most expensive part, but to my surprise, the medium weight, unprimed stuff that I got was only five bucks a yard, and for my table a yard was all I needed. 

(8. Newspaper. DO NOT forget to put newspaper under the canvas, just to make sure you don't ruin your dining table.)

Big ol' bucket of grass.

For the flocking materials, I used my usual home-made grass flock (though this project brought out some weaknesses in my method for making said flock, which I need to work on), dried coffee grounds and tea leaves which I had collected, and also a pack of ground foam I got at the art store with the canvas. Four bucks or so.

I should note here as an Amateur Tip that this project can be made or broken on the quality of your flocking materials. If you have passable flock (like mine) you will get a very satisfying result. If you have a range of high-quality materials to mix together, I think the result would be mind-blowing. Balance, as ever, is key.

Here's the point where my method differs from the original: I, unlike Sir Tobi, do not have the luxury of being able to drill holes in a table to use as a stretching rack for the canvas. Because I don't have a dedicated gaming table. It's kind of why I got into this in the first place. But I found a work-around.

In order to secure the canvas to the table while it dries (so that it doesn't shrink and so it stays flat) I first glued some spare washers to the corners of the canvas. I then used my nail to poke a hole through the center of each washer. Like so:

By feeding twine through these holes, I was then able to tie the corners down to the legs of the table. The washers made sure that the canvas didn't rip, and the string just got covered over with the paste mixture and trimmed later.
There. You see?
Next you mix up the acrylic paste, paint, and sand with some water. The proportions are very much by feel. For my table (a little shy of 3' by 4' in either direction) I used the whole large tube of craft paint, but only one tube of acrylic paste, 1-2 cups of sand, and just enough water to make it mix easy. Don't worry if you aren't sure. I think it's pretty hard to mess up.

Mix it all together, stick your hand in, and serve a large dollop onto your canvas. Spread it around until it is evenly coated.

Then it's time to add your flock. I just mixed together all my materials and applied them haphazardly, but I think a more controlled approach would also be possible.

Here's another Amateur Tip: More flock is better. You don't want to get to this point and realize you might be short (like I almost did). Better to err on the side of a fuller, lusher table.

Now leave it to dry for an entire day before shaking off the excess... and when it's done it will look like this:


At this point I couldn't resist throwing down some terrain and Blood Bowl orcs to see what it would look like. Easily passable:

From the back ground, you can see how embarrassingly out of date this post is.
It wasn't until the next day that I remembered one of the main advantages to this kind of battle mat, which is that you can easily make hills by placing objects under the cloth. Classic!

And that's that. If you want to see how this can be done with even better results, do visit Sir Tobi. His gaming mats are fantastic.

That wraps up today's post. But look for some new painting posts soon, since I also managed to pick up some birthday (okay, Christmas) goodies for myself out of the gaming store bargain bin.