Thursday, 10 August 2017

Summer is here!

The last few weeks have been pretty busy with one thing and another and it’s hard to believe that summer is now well underway. But, in spite of what the weather might indicate, it is; and that means it’s time for me to take stock and focus my energies on some new projects. My hobby activities for the first half of this year were dominated, in a good way, by workshops and competitions. With no new workshops planned until June next year I can get down to some serious mini painting for myself! I’ve got some exciting projects in the pipeline and I’m looking forward to getting them underway!

This could be the start of something big!

To Hull and Back! 



However for the next few weeks I have a pretty hectic schedule and my opportunities to update this blog may be limited so please bear with a brief hiatus. In the meantime here are a few pics from my ‘Monster Skin & Texture’ workshop, hosted by John Harrison’s Weekend Workshop in Hull last weekend. We were a small but dedicated group of painters and, from my perspective; I felt the weekend was a great success. I was thoroughly pleased and impressed with how everyone got to grips with both the theory and technical aspects of the course and made great progress with their Plaguebearers over the two days!


Still no pictures?

I’ve had quite a few messages about the missing pictures on this blog. Thank you for your support and concern. Unfortunately the job of replacing five years’ worth of pictures is going to take a long time, so please continue to bear with me. My primary focus will be on moving forward with this blog and keeping it regularly updated. But I will be going back through the archives and replacing the pics as and when I can. I will endeavor to get the tutorials done first.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Building a ‘better’ Splash

Back when I was making the base for Gutrot Spume I created my wave and splash effects using a foundation of clear plastic. These pieces of plastic had been partly melted and distorted over the heat of a candle. While the finished result was very effective it was also quite a bit of fuss and bother to achieve!

For my Abyssal Warlord I decided to try a slightly simpler method of creating dynamic splash effects for the base. This involved a similar technique to the one used before of building up layers of water effects but, in this instance, I would be using cotton wool as a foundation material.

I’ve used cotton wool previously to create candle flames and seaweed and while I was adding a wet weedy fringe to the Warlord’s cloak, I had the idea to use it for splashes. The technique is very straight forward but it is best done slowly, allowing each stage to dry before adding the next. I’d recommend making up a load of these splashes as a side project fitted in between other jobs.

Materials and Equipment. 

Cotton wool – I used cotton buds as only a very small quantity is needed.
Water effects - I used two types of water effects Transparent Water and Still Water, both by Vallejo. Transparent Water is thick and has some body to it, the Still Water is fluid.
Paintbrush size 1 or 2
A plastic tray/ palette – I used an old blister pack

Step 1

Pick off a tiny amount of cotton wool from a cotton bud. Give the cotton wool a coating of the Transparent Water. Take the piece of, now soggy, cotton wool and attach it to the edge of your tray/palette. Gently draw your brush along the length of the cotton wool to pull it out into a longer shape. Now leave the cotton wool alone until the water effects have dried.

Step 2

Trim off any stray or straggling ‘hairs’ with a pair of scissors. Build up the splash using Still Water applied in several successive layers. I found three to four layers gave me the look I wanted. Let each layer dry before you add the next one. As you build up the effect form rounded droplets at the ends of the splashes. The droplets may need a few extra layers of water effects.

Step 3

Once you are happy with the splashes let them dry thoroughly over night. This is an important step as the water effects will shrink somewhat and go totally clear as it dries. The next day you can assess the fully dried splashes to see if they are done, or if you wish to add a little more of the Still Water.

Step 4

When you are satisfied with the splashes and they are totally dry you can cut them from the tray/ palette using scissors. The splashes can then be fixed to your model using a small blob of the Transparent Water. When this has dried you can add further layers of both types of water effects to incorporate the splashes into your base/model.

To finish the splash effects on the Warlord’s base I added a few microbeads (of course) and some slimy seaweed, using more cotton wool, but with less layers of water effects. For a final touch I’ve used a little green pigment powder to tint the last layers of water effects.

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!