Monday, 30 May 2011

We'll keep the khaki flag flying here...

Well, this is it! The last Death Korps! I decided to leave the banners for last as a treat so here they are:

This fellow is the Command HQ standard bearer, almost more of an icon bearer than a true banner bearer. I thought about doing all kinds of fancy painting on the pennants but quickly realised that it would detract from the central icon. Thus I wound up keeping it simple and maintaining the colour pallette that had served me well thoughout the project.

The other three are the Lieutenant's standard bearers, these are the classic "flappy flag" style of banner and look lovely for it. The banners are moulded from resin and are seperate componants to the bearers. You need to use a metal pin to attach them. Be very careful when drilling the flag for the pole as it is very easy to go right through. Search as I might I could not find the finials from the top of the banner poles. As a result I needed to find replacements, beads superglued on and painted made a decent job of it.

The banners themselves were painted with the same colour pallete as the rest of the army but with pseudo non-metallic metal gold edging and detail to make them stand out and thematically link them to the brass of the officer corps. This colour is based from Snakebite Leather and is shaded and highlighted with nothing but black and white. Normally this is a disaster but works well with NMM techniques. Obviously, this is not true non-metallic metal, there are nowhere near enough layers, shading or highlighting for that. The main reason for this is that the flag would not be gold either, just heraldic "gold" yellow. The "Unto Death" motto was chosen for two reasons, first, it fit the morbid Death Korps vibe. Second, it was two short words that would actually fit!

And with that the Death Korps project is finished. I am told that we will be doing some more at a later date but the vast bulk is all done. I will be doing quality control over the next day or so to check that there is nothing glaringly wrong. You would not believe how easy it is to miss an entire limb or a base when batch painting. You answer the phone, pick up the next model rather than the one you were working on and everything goes wrong! On such a large project I confidently expect to find 3-5 miniatures that will need some form of remedial work before I dispatch them to the client. Already working on the next projects: a pair of Iron Warriors predators and a super-secret present for a friend of the commissioning client. I'll post up a mass group shot of the painted DKK army once Quality Control is over. Till then,


Saturday, 28 May 2011

Finecast - a review

So here it is, Citadel Finecast has been released and I have my hot little hands on a model for my current Warhammer project: A Dark Elf Repeater Bolt Thrower. Handily I have built several of these for various shops and individuals over the years in its metal incarnation so I can compare fairly easily.

At first glance, not a lot changed save that banner at the bottom and the slightly more obvious 12+ sticker. I gotta say I much prefer the look of the new clamshell packs for the smaller minis to the old blisters. Big improvement but that is by the by, lets crack this bad boy open and see what we have here!

First surprise was: Sprues? Really? Ok, cool. Second thought that struck was "my lord, flashtastic". A fiddle with the flash though showed it was paper thin and tore off like a stamp. Not a big deal. The material is something a little new, for all the cynics out there I had to hand a sample of Forgeworld resin and Privateer Press "plastic" to compare with and it is not really either of them. It is way more flexible than both of them. Easier to cut and shape than the Privateer Press stuff and doesn't have that greasy mold release feel of the Forgeworld. Then the third thought struck me:

What the hell? My crewman has a mangled foot! A real shame as this was my very first of these Finecast figures to get a broken one. Will wait to see if the odds were against this or whether it is a common occurance. As it happens the foot was too badly damaged to be easily saved. Grump, will keep you informed about how open GW customer service are to replacing these parts. I started clipping the components from the sprues and looking toward clean up.

Most of the mold lines seem to be these minor mold misalignments (try saying that three times drunk). On a metal model these would be disasterous and take forever to fix. On these figures, one pass with a sharp knife and a quick rub with a sanding stick.

Then ran into the next problem: Warping. It was at this point that I had to remind myself that I was not comparing finecast to plastic. I was comparing it to metal. Metal warps too so it isn't such a hardship to deal with in the new material either. My heart did sink though as I was expecting to do the usual resin palava of hot water dips and reshaping followed by a cold water plunge to set. Unlike Forgeworld resin though this was able to be just bent back into shape. Nice surprise. Disapointing that you have to correct this at all but good that it is a fairly easy fix. Here it is after correction:

It is worth doing though as otherwise you will have some very odd looking parts as the next picture will demonstrate:

The parts really fly together with superglue. Believe me, I've made a lot of these in metal and they are a regal pain in the bum. This one was a doddle. It is true that we can forget pinning, these figures just don't need it. Unfortunately on the next parts I found the first real problems:

Terribly warped upper arm of the bow, I had to spend some time twisting and recarving this part with my knife. Mercifully I have the skills to do this, many do not. Then:

Voids. Really bad ones, I can handle a little bubble in the resin, you just dot it with superglue and sand it flat. Some of these clusters of bubbles had all but destroyed the part. I rescued them with carving or hiding them on underneath surfaces (in the case of the arrow) but these are pretty bad. I hope this is just a symptom of casting a new material being learned rather than a systemic problem. Time will tell. I suspect that Finecast just is not designed for war machines like this because as we are about to see, its real strength is the organics:

Now, I don't even like the crew miniatures for the bolt thrower much, I bought the model for the machine, but just look at the casting. The scroll and wrapped cloak in the inserts especially. Again comparing with the metals I have put together of this figure there is no contest. This is a much better medium for capturing those thin details, ignoring undercuts and allowing crisper edges to cloth. I imagine we will see a gradual shift into plastic for anything but character models as this will allow the resin material to shine and use the plastic for what it is best for.

So, lets sum up then, good points first:

1) Very light, very easy to stick together. The whole process including photography took just 40 minutes.
2) No need to wash or prepare beyond the normal removal of mold lines
3) Really crisp details
4) Easy to carve, cut and sand.

And then the not so good:

1) Broken componants, remains to be seen if a systemic problem or just bad luck.
2) Warping, although this is easier to solve than in metal or normal resin.
3) Bubbles, this is the real problem, until this is solved I think we will be doing a LOT of filling or exchanging parts.
4) Delicate, I hadn't touched on this but you cannot be heavy handed with these. Granted, this is a slender model and was designed to be moulded in metal but seriously. Keep clumsy people away from these and base them!

All in all, not too bad. Very disapointed about the breakage, worried about the bubbles but impressed by the potential especially when we start to see models designed to by cast in this material rather than metal recasts. I will keep you informed of my Finecast adventures, especially on the second bolt thrower (will it have identical problems? If so, that will be more concerning) and on the single miniatures that I feel this medium is designed for.

To finish off a final thought: I think on balance resin and metal are close in merits, both have virtues, both have serious flaws. Plastic is still the best material for modelling, especially in this day and age of CAD modelled tolerances and super fine detailing. Given the way that GW has been going we will see more and more plastic. I really think that this finecast material will simply fill a stop gap between the current situation and a time when virtually everything is plastic. Back to painting for the next post and the final Death Korps! Very exciting, till then:


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Exterminate! EXTERMINATE!

Here they are, the on-ly tru-ly su-per-i-or be-ings in the gal-ax-y! The Daleks:

I couldn't let my Doctor continue for long without his arch nemeses. The problem with Daleks though is they are very definately recognisable as Daleks, you can't make "Pepper Pot Space Robots" and expect to get away with it. As a result there is only one source for 28mm Daleks out there: Black Tree Designs (formally Harlequin) who have the license for the pre-Eccleston years. Now I was not expecting perfection from these figures. They are after all really quite old sculpts, I was however expecting little more than the results when they arrived.

This is the back of the figures. Now this is after I spent some considerable time cleaning them up. There is a huge mold line up the front and the back row of nobbles were fused into long ovals. I ground out the nobbles with my dremel but short of carving out and resculpting the back section there was nothing to be done. After a good bit of grumbling I decided that I would just give them a fairly simple paint job rather than trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I suspect that the problem is mold degredation. Normally you would cast a new mold from tins taken from the master mold but I have a nasty feeling that it is the master mold that may be on the way out for these fellas. Still, they are Dalek shaped and that is the main thing.

On the positive side the eyestalks are ace! The plungers needed to be dremelled out to give them more of a plunger "dip" in the middle (could have said concave I suppose!). As far as painting I was in a quandry. There are many different shades of Dalek schemes, While I like the Eccleston/Tennant era bronze I was always more fond of the old school grey/black. I do have another three of these which are getting converted (two into the WW2 Ironside Daleks and one Bronze/brass one to represent the participants in Victory of the Daleks) to allow me to field all sorts of different era Daleks (how? With what rules? Under what circumstances? Who cares?! I'm geekin' out here). The paint scheme was created with an Adeptus Battlegrey and Boltgun Metal mix to give a metallic grey. The nobbles were painted a dark grey and given a gloss vanish. Any glowing blue bits were simply painted flat white and then glazed in blue ink. Oh and while we mention the nobbles there are 52 on each Dalek. That is 204 for the four. This was not a quick job.

To give the Daleks someone to O-bey, I painted the fourth Dalek as a black Dalek Supreme (mostly for variety). Essentially he is just highlighted black with a gloss varnish and nobbles painted in the same mix as his more basic comrades.

Well, there we go, not the greatest models on Earth but they are Daleks and thus cool! They are the right scale to fit in with Heresy's Dr Hugh and from the front aren't bad looking at all. Now if only someone would sculpt some cybermen worthy of the name! As a final thought, while Black Tree own the classic Doctor licence I can't understand why anyone hasn't gone for the new era license. With all the various companies and sculptors making tribute figures would it not be better to be able to make the Ood? The Sontarans? The Judoon? Heck, if everyone making tribute now was up for it I would apply for the license and retroactively commission the real figures. We could make quite the co-operative venture. Anyone interested drop me a line ;)

Check back on Saturday for my review of the Finecast Dark Elf Bolt Thrower kindly reserved by my FLGS (thanks Firestorm Games). I'll give it a fair and open review and I've got samples of Forgeworld and Privateer resin to compare against. Till then


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Happy Birthday Pirate Viking Painting!

Well would you Adam & Eve it? Pirate Viking Painting is 1 year old today! All together now: "Happy Birthday to yoooou...."

A year ago I started this blog as a means of communicating with what I thought would be occasional clients and with friends spread across Britain. I certainly wasn't expecting the response and readership that has developed. 6123 visitors (actually lets say that a bit slower, six THOUSAND, one hundred and twenty three visitors) from 71 countries around the globe generating 14,812 hits. That is a touch more of you than I was expecting to be honest! All the interest and the kind responses of the community at large - and particularly the 66 (so far) of you that deemed me worthy to follow - spurred me into seeing this as a business rather than just a lifestyle. I've got big plans for the future so stay tuned! Oh, and I think we need some kind of follower raffle prize once we hit 100 followers.

So what has this year brought me? Well, I have learned a tremendous amount. Take a look back at the first posts on this site and compare the quality of work to some of my more recent efforts. That is what near as damnit 300 days solid practice will bring. Over the year I have learned miniature photography - although still a way to go - figured out that I really enjoy commission painting (not always a given, just ask some ex-commission painters) and that making creative stuff for a living is the best thing in the world. I've painted 291 figures this year (hadn't realised that many!) and intend to do more than that this year now I've got my discipline down.

In addition to painting minis I am also writing rulebooks and making gribbly theatrical props these days. More on the rules front closer to 2012 but you can see some of my gribblyness over at Pirate Viking Props. All that remains is to thank all of you warmly for reading my humble missives and to make deeply appreciative noises for all the help, advice and promotion that the community has afforded me. You are all wonderous people and deserve the best luck in the world. I hope to keep you all interested as PVP goes from strength to strength and expands it's repertoire. Till then, charge your glasses, toast the birthday blog and...


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Officers and Gentlemen of the DKK

Just a quickee this time and the penultimate Death Korps update before the project is finished! This time it is the turn of the officers and commissars of the DKK to take the limelight:

The officers were a fairly straightforward affair. It is often a weird point of the Guard that their officers are not much more than a pimped out Sergeant. I wanted to indicate that fact while tying them thematically to the senior officer's look. I worked this through by painting them in very basic DKK style but with the brassy plates on the front of the helmets to tie them in to that "Brass Hat" feel of their boss. This gives them that half way house between the Colonel and his men. Another consideration was the power fist on the rightmost Lieutenant. My client had added an old Space Marine power fist complete with shoulder pad to the officer. The challenge here was to minimise the impact of the part as the slightly oversized arm would look tagged on otherwise. As a result there is no extra decoration on them and the green pad blurs with the breastplate while the brown fist merges with the greatcoat.

I then went in and really knackered the edges. This guy has the only weapon capable of taking on armoured vehicles in combat and I imagine him leaping to the fore and bludgeoning the hell out of tanks, bunkers and other armoured thingies. With these fellows down it was on to their watchdogs, the officers of the Commissariat.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Imperial Guard background, Commissars are effectively Soviet Zampolit (political officers) tasked with maintaining discipline and fighting mettle. They are empowered to summarily execute anyone "found wanting in the field" which usually means running away. They are the lash and the leash of the Imperial Guard and universally feared. To underscore this they dress in black with long leather stormcoats. Much like the Hot Fuzz boys, these were an exercise in adjacent blacks. I got around this by highlighting the storm coat with Scorched Brown and the cloth with Codex Grey. This gave the impression of different fabrics and gave the model definition. The green decoration tied them to the rest of the army thematically whilst allowing them to stand out a little.

Anyway, thats all folks for this time, next DKK update will be all four standard bearers and the last one before I attempt to shoot the entire army! Until next time.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A plea for positivity

I really do not do this very often but I am going to post about something that has nothing to do with painting miniatures. It does, however, have an enormous amount to do with this great hobby of ours.

The Internet is a funny old place, people hide behind their anonymity in order to make snide comments. Complex issues are summed up in 140 character bursts which are frequently massively over simplified. People actively “troll” to trigger long strings of furious comments that somehow enhance their self worth. More than anything else, people bitch and moan.

It is getting to the point where I find myself actively avoiding seeing any comments sections of websites at all because they just depress me. This is a real shame as the Internet can be an enormously potent tool for discussion and debate. Now I am not naive, I know that the idiots who “troll” comments forms will never go away as long as there are sad people whose self worth is boosted by the rage and upset of others. What I would like to see is a greater responsibility on the part of we, the bloggers, to make sure that we present news and opinions in a positive and non inflammatory light. There are sites – you know who you are – who seem to post deliberately inflammatory editorials to spark what they call discussion. I suspect that the problem is that advertising revenue on the Internet is tied to page views and rows bring page views. Oops, there I went, see how much deliberate thought this takes? That last comment violated rule 7 below.

So here is my thing. I hereby pledge to do the following on my blog:

1)            I will keep all criticism constructive.
This is an important one, if you don’t like something about a model then specify what it is and more importantly what you are doing to correct it.

2)            I will make no sweeping generalisations.

This leads on from above, do not say “that model is rubbish”, say “not convinced by the sword” and then – following rule 1 – “so I’ll replace it with...”

3)            I will not signal my dislike for a range/model that I have no intention of buying.

This really annoys me. People who do not like a model, who have no intention of buying it, throwing around cynical snipes which ruin the enjoyment of all those who do like the range. If you don’t like it you won’t buy it. That is fine, there is no need to express your less than humble opinion to the world. (example: I genuinely felt like the only human on Earth who thought the Stormraven was kinda cool)

4)            I will not base my opinions on photography alone.

Miniatures often do not photograph well. I will have a model in my hot little hands before I make any judgements upon it.

5)            I will treat others with respect.

Other people’s opinions are valid, they are entitled to them, yes, even if you think they are stupid.

6)            I will not summarise highly complex issues of business.
I know nothing about running a multi-national company, I know nothing about running a miniatures company, neither do you if you are honest. Maybe a handful of people in every ten thousand know anything about these things. I will not make sweeping comments about things I know precious little about.

7)            Suspicion is not proof.

I will not make accusations without proof of indiscretion. Snide cynicism is an unhealthy humour.

8)            People are people, even on the Internet.

What a lot of people seem to forget is that every miniature ever made was created by the blood, sweat and tears of at least 1 person. Maybe lots of people. All of those people worked hard, are proud of their endeavour and will see any flaws in their creation far more keenly than you. All that ignoring the above 7 rules will achieve is to hurt someone’s feelings.

There, now I would love to turn those 8 rules into some sort of active pledge that we would all endeavour to uphold. Unfortunately I am just a very little fish in this great big pond and don’t have the sort of clout that would be needed to get this universally adopted.  Any volunteers?

Oh and to settle my mind I would like to throw my hat into the hurricane of fury associated with pricing. NO-ONE is forcing you to buy models. No-one is forcing you to choose one miniatures company over another (anyone who raises the tournament compatibility thing only has a right to if they ACTUALLY ATTEND THEM and the vast majority of us do not). If the models are expensive, save up for them. If the models are more than you think they are worth, do not buy them. Everyone can afford this hobby at some level. So you can’t afford a 4000 point vostroyan guard army? Of course you can’t. You probably don’t own a Ferrari either. I want a huge number of things that I cannot afford. I don’t buy them. I don’t feel that I should vent my spleen to millions of people about it. Try not to grumble automatically just because someone is successful. This was brought home to me when I realised I used to make anti-Microsoft jokes while using a Windows PC. Ridiculous.

That is all, I just wanted to get that off my chest as it has been driving me nuts lately. If you have read this far I salute you. Stay positive people.


The Quartermaster cometh...

Greetings all, I am back from my break and here to show you all some more creepy stuff! Hurrah!

As I mentioned last time, the whole tableaux for the Death Korps Quartermaster is a tad unsettling. Here is a wounded guardsman, reaching out for aid and instead is going to be mercy killed, his organs harvested, any useful garments reclaimed and his name added to a KIA list. The skull faced Quartermaster reaching calmly for his pistol stalks the battlefield making administrative decisions on who will live or die and the best use of resources. Damn, even for the Imperium that is cold. These have been some of my favourite DKK models for ages and were part of my reward to myself for finishing all the grunts. Lets take a closer look:

Firstly, the Quartermaster himself. I wanted to keep his colour pallete the same as the rest of the army and have any little changes be muted. This is so that he fits with the overall look and feel of the army but has his own personality. To this end I decided that the cloak, that covers half the model, would be lined with the accent green colour used across the rest of the force and be black on the outside. This gave him a sombre tone without making him leap out from the rest of the army. The bones were painted in the same way as the Grenadier masks, again making that link.

Next up, we see his intended victim. When you have a mask on, you have to use body language to convey any emotion. Here the sculptor has done a bang up job. The pose is perfect to convey that pleading for help, and the torn hose and shattered respirator give us that impression of a man not long for this Earth. Painting-wise he is identical to the rest of the army with the exception of a rather grevious wound. This was painted in my usual 3:1 mix of Red Ink to Chestnut Ink with gloss varnish added. It is very easy to make wounds look either excessively gory or cartoony and it is important to avoid either one. Gory is avoided by remembering "less is more", I could have soaked his greatcoat, made the ground awash with blood and so on. This would have looked gratuitous and taken away from the subtlety of the sculpting. Likewise had I just used blood red paint - staple of young gamers everywhere! - it would have looked cartoony. Blood isn't just red. It runs from a brownish red in old stains through bright arterial red in just-that-second-spilled blood to almost purple deoxiginated blood that you will never see outside the body except in blood tests. I always add a little chestnut to the red to give it that more-than-a-few-seconds-old look. I test the colour by painting a thin line on myself, if it looks like I have cut myself then I've got the shade right!

Deeply disapointed that he has bled all over his uniform is this servitor. Tasked with gathering the effects of the dead. I wrestled with the descision of whether to make the uniforms look battered, bloody and dirty and then decided that there was no urgency to reclaim that sort of kit. Only uniforms in good nick would need to be grabbed before they were ruined. Decision made!

And then there is this chap. Something of a challenge to paint as he is festooned with scrolls. Trying to find a purpose for each was taxing as I didn't just want to do wobbly lines on all of them. To that end, if you look closely you will see MIA and KIA lists, writs of authority from the Ecclesiarchy, Warrents of Office and lots of other administrative paperwork. I remembered just in time to paint KIA upside down as it spooled from the printer.

To round out this happy bunch we have this cheery fellow. I rabbited on about him at length last time so I would say go read about him there!

Anyhow, that is all for now folks, only thing to mention is that I have finally settled on my next big project after the Blood Angels are done and dusted. With the Dwarfs rumoured to have an impending army book I am reactivating project Corsair for my Dark Elves. Going to try and paint them as Drow to give them their own identity. As part of this I am going to need a couple of Bolt Throwers which are among the models being remade in that new Citadel Finecast stuff so I will post a complete review here when I get 'em. Until next time:


Sunday, 8 May 2011

WIP Death Korp Quartermaster

Well, it has been one of those weeks! Everything on my painting table is half done and thus not suited for photography. That pesky RealWorld stuff keeps being in the way and I go on holiday next week! So, in order not to go completely dark for a fortnight I am posting a Work In Progress shot of one of the creepiest figures in Warhammer 40,000. The DKK Quartermasters "medical" servitor:

Now, isn't he lovely. So comforting as a doctor... Thinking about the Death Korps proclivities I figure he is more of a recycling technician rather than a medic. Retrieving viable organs from the mostly dead to keep the more valuable soldiers alive. Shudder. Wait till you see the whole tableaux next time. Really, really creepy.

To emphasise the creepy vibe I painted the front of his smock/robe as though it was transparent green plastic, as though disposable scrubs. This is a technique I had seen done with silks and satins (mostly on buxom wench models for some reason...) and wanted to have a go. Turns out it is fairly easy, you just basecoat in the garment colour and then highlight by adding the colour of the layer below. In this case Orkhide Shade base with increasing amounts of Khemri Brown added. A quick hit of gloss varnish later and it was distressingly plausible. I also deliberately painted the face (see insert) to look shifty, staring off to the left rather than focussed forward. The skin is also highlighted with nothing but fortress grey to give a bloodless feel.

From behind you can see the workings of the arms and also the green oxygen tank and reserve blood vial. The oil on the cogs is simply Brown Ink mixed with gloss varnish and thinned a little.

Anyway, that's it for now, I am off on me hols. See you some time after the 16th. For now, why not check out my sister site Pirate Viking Props for some 1:1 scale gribbly stuff. Hope you all have a lovely week. I shall!