Monday, 17 July 2017

The Abyssal Warlord - finished

I love that feeling of having just finished a project! It's high time too as, although very busy and achieving plenty, I've not actually finished very much this year! But the Abyssal Warlord is now done and I'm very happy with the result.

This model feels like a consolidation of the techniques I've been experimenting with over the last year or so: the tentacles and weedy slime are a clear call back to Gutrot Spume and the textured NMM, like the use of the black tones, is something I’ve been working on over several projects.

I’ve felt for some time that I develop as a painter by having periods of experimentation followed by periods of consolidation. This probably means it's time to stretch myself and try something new. So it’s a good thing my next project will be finishing the Akito bust!

I’ll be posting a step-by-step guide on how to create the splash effect shortly. Although it looks similar to the effect I used on Gutrot it was not achieved in the same way, and I think it’s well worth sharing.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Painting the Abyssal Warlord - a weighty issue!

If I’m not very careful to take regular breaks during my painting sessions I’m prone to a fair degree of shoulder pain on account of an old injury. So I make a point of taking time away from my models to move about and stretch. This has proven to be an effective solution and I can happily paint away with no trouble. Until I started painting the Abyssal Warlord that is!

What I didn’t take into account was that, as a white metal kit, the Warlord weighs a lot more than a plastic or resin model. My regular stretch breaks were not adequate and as a result I’ve had to endure a month and a half of shoulder pain. The lesson I’ve learned is to treat each model individually and pace myself accordingly. I’ve been able to carry on painting but only by restricting myself too much shorter painting sessions with this model. The weight also makes the Warlord awkward to handle as he’s very top heavy and painting him became a bit of a chore!

That’s a shame because in all other respects I think he’s a great model to paint and I’ve been very happy with how my paint job is developing. So I persevered and, once the cloak was attached making him even heavier, I was finally able to work on the sword and shield. This came as a great relief because I’d decided to paint these as sub assemblies so there were no more weight/balance issues.

I chose to paint both the sword and the shield predominantly in black. I made this decision based on how the overall colour palette and contrast were shaping up. I could have gone with the gold but rejected it on the grounds of it being too glitzy! Equally I could have gone with the steel but I felt this would be too much of the same tone as the rest of the armour.

The shield was something I’d been looking forward to. As a large flat surface it provided the perfect opportunity to paint a freehand design. This is something I’ve been itching to have a go at for some time. I’d considered doing it for my Farseer but, somehow, it didn’t feel right on him. Similarly I was going to paint an elaborate freehand on the Megaboss but decided to do something more appropriately Orky instead.

My choice of design was fairly straightforward. I wanted to develop the abyssal, deep sea, theme already featured on this model. So something fishy seemed appropriate especially because of the fish head motif on his armour. For the same reason, an anglerfish seemed like the best choice and so I searched online for suitable reference. Although there were plenty of photos to choose from what I found most useful in the end were tattoo designs. These had already undergone a process of stylisation which made them more appropriate to my needs. No single design was exactly right but I was able to take inspiration from a couple and combine them into something I liked.

My final anglerfish design incorporates an ‘S’ curve in it’s body with the head at the bottom. I had initially thought to have the head at the top but I found it more pleasing to sit the head in the curve of the shield’s lower edge. To tie it in with the overall scheme, I’ve painted the fish in the same blue as the cloak and the loincloth. The eyes have been picked out with the yellow/green tone that I used for the gold.

I was surprised at how quick it was to paint the fish. Starting off with a few guidelines, pencilled in white onto the black background, I gradually built up the design from a fairly rough start. As the design developed I resolved the form and contrast until I was happy with the result. The fish design became increasingly spiky, as this felt appropriate to the feel of the model.

With the sword and shield now glued in position there are just a few finishing touches to paint and then the Warlord will be ready for basing. With that end in sight I’ve started work on a base creating a hard cracked surface by gluing very thin sheets of milliput onto cork. The cracks are created by pressing through the brittle milliput into the flexible cork with a metal tool.

I’m now in the final stages of this project and very much enjoying the process of bringing it all together. And my shoulder is feeling much better too!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Where are the pictures?

You may well have noticed the sudden disappearance of the pictures from all postings over a year old on this blog. This is down to a change in my picture hosting arrangements and I’ll be taking steps to fix the problem. That will, however, be a very big job so please bear with me as it’s going to take a while. I will sort the pictures in my most popular postings ASAP and then work back through the archive as time allows.

On a positive note all postings from the last year and all future postings are, and will remain, unaffected.

Thank you, in advance, for your patience!

Sourcing a Miniature Transit Case

My trip to Copenhagen last April presented me with a few miniature related issues that needed to be sorted out. First of all I had to fix the damage that Gutrot sustained in transit. All in all that went better than I dared hope. Secondly I needed to find a replacement for bicarbonate of soda as a texture medium. This particular quest is on-going; but I’ve concluded that I need to resort to a range of different materials to achieve the effects that the bicarb made possible. Finally I had to rethink the transport solution for my miniatures, particularly with regard to flying and airport security.

I wanted the type of miniature case that comes with a sliding tray. I could then bolt my models to the tray when the occasion demanded. The case had to be strong, lightweight and small enough to take on board a plane as hand luggage. I was lucky enough to get an excellent recommendation. I was chatting to Mally Anderson at this year’s Salute and he showed me the transport case he’d had made for his brilliant Glottkin .

His case came from Sphere Products and Mally advised me to go to their stand so I took myself over to have a chat with Jon Page. It quickly became apparent that Jon was able to provide exactly what I needed. Sphere produce several ‘standard’ sizes of transit case but are also able to make them to individual requirements. In addition to that there are options for trays, handles and clear panels.

It was a great weight off my mind to have found a solution so easily but it’s been a busy year and it took me a while to take further action. I finally got round to contacting Jon with my requirements last week. I’ve gone for quite a small case at 300 x 200 x 190mm but I know that size will safely fit under the seat in front of me in a plane and accommodate most of my minis. I also opted for a strap handle as this would lay flat and have a lower profile. In addition I was able to request a tray position that would allow for minis to be bolted in from below and a clear Perspex door and back panel. This is a particularly useful feature in my opinion as it enables me to monitor my minis in transit. Airport security staff will also be able to clearly see the contents of this ‘strange’ box and, hopefully, they will then feel no need to tip and shake the box in order to assess it! I also opted to have my logo etched on the door as I think that’s a nice finishing touch.

Jon came back to me with a drawing of my transit case for approval and after a slight tweak to the tray height I was happy. From my initial enquiry to delivery of the finished case took just a week and I’m impressed at how speedy the process was!

The case arrived flat packed and with all the necessary tools and fixings. I’ve a history of rushing flat pack projects, and regretting my haste later, so I made sure to take all due time and care assembling the case. Most important was putting the parts together in the correct order but all in all assembly was very straightforward.

The finished result is a transit case that meets all my requirements. I’m delighted with the quality product and service I’ve received from Sphere.  I’ve already decided to get another, larger case for transporting minis to my workshops.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Painting the Abyssal Warlord - resolving the overall colour palette

I’ve spent some of my recent hobby time finishing and refining the areas of the Abyssal Warlord that I’ve painted so far. For the most part that’s involved picking out details like the rivets and chains and working some painted texture into the skull and loincloth. I’ve also painted the back of the legs prior to attaching the cloak.

Although the cloak covers up most of the back it is possible to see between it and the warlord, so those areas need some attention and I’d decided it would be easiest to treat them as sub-assemblies. This also gave me the chance to paint the inside of the cloak.

Once this was done it was time to take a deep breath and glue the cloak onto the body. I’ve used a rapid epoxy glue for this as it gave me a strong bond between slightly ‘gappy’ parts. Making sure that I’m fixing bare metal to bare metal, I like to apply glue to each surface and let it become tacky before bringing the parts together. It also helps to lightly score the metal surfaces with a craft knife as this provides a better grip for the glue. Once the glue has set there is just a little gap filling and fur sculpting using green stuff to finish the job.

With the cloak now in place I’ve been able to resolve the overall colour palette. The fabric parts of the cloak are painted in a dark turquoise, Despair Green from Scalecolour’s Fantasy Games range, to match the loincloth. More importantly I’ve used the same colour as the blue/green tint in my blacks. This turquoise is the most saturated colour in my palette and provides a contrast to both the steel and gold tones in the armour. It also helps to bring something of an under-sea or ‘abyssal’ atmosphere to the model.

Despair Green is an interesting colour to work with. I’d normally choose that old favourite Dark Sea Blue to bring a blue/green tint to my blacks but I decided to experiment with a more saturated colour. As it turns out Despair Green is a very saturated and highly pigmented colour!

This means a little can go a very long way and it will easily overpower other colours when mixed with them. A good example of this is on the loincloth where I mixed Dryad Bark and Despair Green for the shadows. The dark brown desaturates and darkens the green but the result is still very much a shade of green. I think Despair Green will prove be a useful colour and I’m looking forward to experimenting with it further.

Overall I’ve gone for a palette of relatively cool colours on the Warlord. It’s worth noting that to contrast with this I’ve used a warm base colour (Dryad Bark). It’s role is quite subliminal in the finished effect, as it features mostly in the shadows, but it helps to unify the other colours.

The gold areas of the armour provide a bold colour contrast with the other parts of the model. I decided on gold quite early in the project but it was clear that I would have to experiment with the colour. A ‘traditional’ warm gold would not work at all on this project. Furthermore, a warm gold would be out of place in the palette I’m using and it would also feel out of place for the atmosphere I’m trying to create. What I needed was a cold sinister looking gold!

As it happens the colour mix for this type of gold is very simple, deceptively so! It’s possible to create a very effective NMM cold gold using just three colours: black, yellow and ivory. I’ve also included a little Dryad Bark in my mix to tie the gold into the overall scheme.

The yellow I’ve chosen to use is Sahara Yellow from Scalecolour. This is a relatively desaturated yellow ochre with the slightest hint of green to it. That greenish tone is the thing that gives the gold it’s cold and sinister quality.

Strong contrasts are vital to an effective NMM effect and the gold incorporates tones from pure black to pure ivory. The tricky part is getting the saturation right. Both the black and ivory will serve to desaturate the yellow and this is exactly what often happens. It’s important to keep the extreme ends of the tonal range to a minimum and use the least amount of black and ivory you can get away with.

It’s in the mid tone areas that the saturation is created. I find it’s almost always necessary to first establish the extreme ends of the tonal range and then go back and forth to balance out the mid tones and saturation. Considering that just three colours are involved in the mix it’s a surprisingly tricky balance to achieve. The Abyssal Warlord is progressing nicely and the addition of his sword and shield will see the model completed. I’m working out my ideas for a base but before I make that there is the matter of painting a freehand design onto his shield. That’s something I’ve not done for a long time and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Sproket's Painting Masterclass at Element Games

The last few weeks have been a pretty intense time for me hobby wise and I’ve been left feeling a little tired, but very inspired.

I like to sit back and take time to reflect after a painting competition. But as soon as this year’s Golden Demon Classic was over I had to knuckle down and finish preparations for my Painting Masterclass at Element Games in Stockport. Although I’d painted enough of the Abyssal Warlord to serve as a reference model, I wanted to spend a little extra time refining the content and structure of my workshop. In addition to that I had to prepare a presentation for the ‘seminar’ being held on the Saturday Evening.

This was my first trip to the Element Games Gaming Centre and I was thoroughly impressed with it! It’s a great venue for a painting workshop with a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. There is plenty of space and the facilities are excellent. There were HD screens linked up to a web cam for a close up and personal view of the painting and, later on, to display my slides for the evening seminar. The centre also has a bar and a well-stocked ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of a shop, so all the necessaries are catered for!

I’d realised while working on my Megaboss that the combination of non metallic metals (NMM) and stippling I was using could form the basis of a painting workshop. The Megaboss himself, though a brilliant model to paint, is just a bit too complicated to be a good workshop model. I wanted an armoured fantasy miniature that would be relatively quick to assemble and feature plenty of easily accessible surfaces. The Abyssal Warlord from Scale 75 proved to be perfect for the job!

While the main focus of the workshop was on specific painting techniques, it was important to provide some structure and context. Most of all I think it’s important to demonstrate how they could be used to play their part in an overall paint scheme. To that end, alongside the stippling and NMM, I also incorporated topics such as planning, colour theory and contrast into the weekend.

The practical focus for day one was on painting a NMM steel effect that transitioned from warm shadows to cool highlights. The colour palette we used works very well as it is tried and tested and this enabled everyone to concentrate their efforts on learning the stipple technique of painting. I prefer to get everyone painting at my workshops as quickly as possible. I think the best way to learn is by doing and I wanted everyone to have enough time to get comfortable with the ‘new’ technique they were learning before we went on to explore some potentially trickier colour palettes during day two.

By the end of day one everyone had gained in confidence and experience with stippling. I‘d stressed that speed came with practise and as the afternoon progressed this became very apparent! Many of the attendees found themselves able to do in 15 minuets what had earlier taken them a couple of hours.

Although a part of the whole weekend Masterclass evening seminar also functioned as a stand alone event and this gave me the opportunity to open things up. Titled ’10 Top Tips, Tricks and Techniques’ I presented a selection of my favourite techniques and materials and showed how I had used them in my work. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that microbeads featured!

For day two we turned our attention to painting first a cold gold tone and then black metal. Both of these use simpler colour palettes than the steel we’d painted the day before but, as I mentioned earlier, they can be tricky to get right. It’s necessary to carefully control both the hue and saturation of the colours in these palettes as even subtle variations can alter the finished effect dramatically!

I’d made a point of putting the NMM colours in order of increasing difficulty. I wanted to present a challenge that would push everyone out of their comfort zones, but not traumatise them. It was hugely rewarding to see how everyone got to grips with the challenges, were able to resolve them, then move on and cope with the increasingly difficult colour palettes. I’d expected that by the end of the weekend there would be in a great variety in the results achieved. While it’s true that some painters got more of the model covered than others they all demonstrated a solid grasp of the techniques we had covered over the weekend. Everyone had reached the point where they will be able to take what they had learned over the weekend and apply it appropriately to their own project. I really couldn’t have asked for a better result!

I also have a partially finished Abyssal Warlord to attend to. I’d considered keeping him as a work in progress to use in teaching but after the workshop I’m feeling too inspired to leave him as he is. During the Masterclass we had some very useful discussions about how the Warlord could be completed and I came away with some great ideas for my own take on him.

Things are going to get very ‘Abyssal’, there will be tentacles and microbeads … Watch this space!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Golden Demon: Classic 2017

For some weeks I’ve had a gut feeling that Golden Demon 2017 was going to be a tough competition. There have been hints, subtle and otherwise, that quite a few well-known and highly accomplished painters were planning to attend. Each year I seem to say that the standard was higher than before but that was never truer than this year. The standard went through the roof and much of the work on display was so good it was scary!

With all my hopes pinned on just one model the tension of waiting to find out who the winners were was pretty high! When my Megaboss was placed among the winners on the top shelf I was greatly relieved. Having taken note of the fact that my model was the last one to go onto the top shelf in it’s category, and what that might possibly imply, my hopes were riding high.

I wasn’t to be disappointed; my Megaboss took Gold in the Warhammer Age of Sigmar Single Miniature category! A fantastic result, even more so considering the standard of the competion this year. I can ask no more from my hobby than to find myself and my work in such talented company.

I’ve always felt that, no matter how good they think their work is, no painter should assume they are going to win something, not least the Slayer Sword. However, MichaƂ Pisarski (Lan Studio) must have been feeling a fair degree of justifiable confidence with regards to his Enthroned Nagash. It’s a stunning piece of work and it was no great shock when it won the, well deserved, Slayer Sword!

With the addition of the Gaming Tournaments Warhammer Fest was bigger and livelier than ever. The event feels like it’s going from strength to strength and The Golden Demons are a big part of that. It was a bigger, busier, tougher and more exciting competition than it has been for many a year and long may it continue!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Busy Times! – Part 2

2017 continues, as expected, to keep me very, very busy! But that was the whole idea behind becoming a full time hobbyist anyway. The only down side is that I’ve had to put Akito on the back burner for the time being. But it won’t be too long before I can give her my full concentration.

Carefully does it!

I’m very happy to report that Gutrot Spume has been repaired. I used plastic glue to 'weld' the broken parts together in a strong bond and, thankfully, it all went like a dream! I also remembered that I had some parts, including a helmet, from a spare Gutrot. So I've been able to replace the broken tip from the crest on his helmet. Once the parts were reattached a retouch to the paint on the affected areas completed the job. Gutrot is as good as new - I'm glad that's over!

The Bicarbonate of Soda crisis – an update.

I've decided not to freak out over the white frosting that appeared on some of my minis where I'd used bicarbonate of soda mixed in with the paint. Instead I'm going to calmly monitor the situation and look into alternatives for future projects and fix for the minis.

I've already experimented with a couple of Games Workshop products, Stirland Battlemire and Typhus corrosion, and was able to replicate the texture effects I get with bicarb. I'm going to try sealing the affected bicarb with a spirit based varnish and hope that will protect it from changes in humidity.

The following pictures might be of interest. Picture 1 shows the worst of the white 'frosting' that appeared on my minis. Now this is where it gets a bit weird because the white 'frosting' has vanished! Picture 2 is more recent but there is no apparent damage to the painted surface and no trace of the white. Not even a hint of it having flaked off and left loose particles on the base!

I'm very happy that my minis now look OK (for the moment at least) but I'm still not going to use bicarb again!

Salute 2017

I’ve been waiting a whole year to enter Abalam into the painting comp at Salute and was rewarded with Bronze in the large scale category! A very satisfying result for what was a relatively speedy project. Although it means my quest to win Gold for a bust is still unfulfilled. But there is always next year and I have great hopes for Akitio.

I didn’t quite enjoy Salute as much as previous years, which is no reflection on the show! I started off the day feeling fine and frisky but I’ve had a busy few weeks, and in the afternoon, it all caught up with me – big time!

My energy levels plummeted, which was a shame, but thankfully it didn’t ruin the day. I got to spend some quality time with my mates and met a whole bunch of painting friends, old and new, which is always the best thing about these events. The fact that I didn’t take in as much of the show as usual meant that I wasn’t tempted to spend my money, so there is a silver lining to be found there too.

Warhammer Southampton Showcase 


It's been 27 years since I last had my models in the cabinet at Warhammer Southampton so when I spent the day at Warhammer Southampton, on Saturday 29th April, I made up for lost time! I showcased my miniatures and ran some demonstrations of the techniques I’ve used on my Golden Demon winners. I also got to judge a painting competition! It was great to meet everyone and I’d like to say a big “thank you” to Rod and his team for making me so welcome!

Sproket's Painting Masterclass at Element Games 3rd and 4th June.

I’ve had my eye on the Abyssal Warlord for some time and I think he is going to be a great workshop model! The model has several options for its weapons, head and costume, giving a degree of flexibility in it’s construction. It’s a well-designed model with plenty of detail and texture but, overall, it’s clear and uncluttered. This provides plenty of opportunity for creativity when painting it.

I wanted an armoured figure for the workshop as I’ve decided to focus on the materials, techniques and theory that I use when painting non-metallic metals. This is something I first explored on my Scourge miniatures but I’ve continued to develop my approach, most recently on my Megaboss.

The Abyssal Warlord is proving to be, as I hoped, a joy to paint.

Tickets are now available for my painting masterclass at Element Games HERE but they are selling out fast!