Thursday, 29 November 2012

The final harlequins

Avast me hearties, we are finally, finally at the end of the Harlequin road. These bad boys were in the same box as the griffon so they had hit the same brakes as the pidgeon of death.

I've never made any secret of how hard I have found painting these. It isn't just a matter of fiddly paint jobs or motivation. Those I can handle. It was, bizarrely, the bright colours. I just don't normally paint in a vibrant, cartoony style. Mine is a much darker more "realistic" (yeah right, that space goblin with a hamster cannon is really realistic Jeff...) and grungy. As a result I had to practically teach myself how to paint again. White undercoat helps though...

I was able to deliver these to the client in person so live feedback is nice. The comment "It's like a 70's disco" pretty much sums these lads up for me! I would be curious to paint a set designed to go with a Dark Eldar army some time. All deep tones and sinister details, hmmm....

Given that overall there are 20 or so of these guys (click the harlequin tag at the bottom of the post to see the others) I painted one of them as a spare troupe leader. Annoyingly the lamps cut through the layers again making it look scrappy. Grump. Mercifully lightbox v.2.0 should solve this, I'm doing a collaborative construction with my dad (well, I say collaborative, he's the one with the knowledge and manufacturing skills). I'll take some shots when it's finished. Well, that's it for now so until next time.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

200th Post! - Dwarf Kegger!

Arrr me hearties, welcome to the bicentenial post of Pirate Viking Painting! I was casting around for an appropriately celebratory model to paint for the occasion my gaze was drawn to the work in progress Dwarfs on my shelf...

Joseph Bugman is going to be the champion of my rangers and represents the perfect party paint job. What's better than a heavily armed drunkard with bonus barrels? Speaking of those barrels, I've really fallen in love with the new woodgrain I'm using. Basecoat in Steel Legion Drab. Streak woodgrain on in Rakarth Flesh. If necessary use Steel Legion Drab mised with a little black to seperate the planks. Finally give the whole thing a generous wash of Agrax Earthshade.

While we are on new techniques, thanks to a reccomendation from Crazybaldhead I picked up some of the Vallejo liquid gold range (from Jackson Arts, my usual brush supplier). Wow. Fantastic doesn't begin to cover it. One coat gold with the most authentic metallic shine I have ever seen. You can even use regular washes over it without hurting the shine too much (I would rehighlight though, well worth it). There are a few things to consider when using this range though:

  1. It is alcohol based so in addition to the paints you'll need some 97%+ Isopropyl Alcohol to wash the brush in. This can be picked up from Amazon or chemists. This is not a product for the kids.
  2. Stir... the... paint. No really, grab a cocktail stick and really mix up the sedimented metallic flakes at the bottom of the pot. Otherwise it will be too thin, shaking doesn't really cut it.
  3. You can mix the alcohol based paints together but you really shouldn't mix them with water based acrylics. Apparantly only a drop of water will start to corrode the metals and discolour the product.
  4. You can use them any way you would use a normal acrylic paint, it is worth picking up a synthetic brush though as the IsoProp really rips the moisture out of natural brushes.
So with that I shall leave you to your evenings with a heartfelt thanks for sticking with a random bloke in Cardiff painting models for fun and profit over 200 posts. Here's to the 500th!


Monday, 26 November 2012

A Griffon under Glass

Greetings all, today I can combine a couple of elements into something deeply nifty. The groundwork I showed last time is the foundation for this:

This is a diorama commission intended for display (although I have also made a more normal base so that the Griffon can be used by the client). Quite a lot of the elements have been seen before - the Griffon for example - so I shall focus on the newer elements of the paint job.

One of the questions some may have is why has this taken so long? It was started in February. Truthfully it is this: Two house moves, sourcing the cover (see below) for a sensible price and then solving the logistical problems of fitting the Griffon into the cover using the base. The house moves were the biggest problem as everything has to go in boxes and the Griffon always seemed to be the last to be unpacked. Thankfully it is finished now and ready to go! My client has been very patient and for that I thank him warmly! Now, painting! Check out the wings, these were almost my undoing! The pattern is a modification of the natural Peregrine Falcon colouring and was achieved with an excellent brush, a magnifier and steady hands. Take lots of breaks when doing long duration, close work as the eye and brain get very tired and there is a temptation to rush.

The colours of the rider - he's a roleplay character - were a dark blue and black with a unicorn as his sigil. Try as I might I could not get a unicorn on the cloak so the pennant got a pair of them instead. The very bright silver is made by painting pure Mithril Silver - I still keep a pot - and then shading with very thin blue and black inks mixed with thinner medium.

I toyed with adding another colour with the gemstones, perhaps a red? But I was worried that the sheer size of the gems and their placement would make them a dominant colour. Instead I decided that a nice blue surrounded by pale gold would do just nicely.

And there you have it! A lovely display piece and hopefully an appreciated present for its ultimate recipient. If anyone is curious the cover is a classic cloche, a sort of mini-greenhouse. They can often be a little easier to get hold of - unless American, you guys have all the covers ever! - and have that pretty handle to pick them up by. Well, until next time folks, oh and next time is my 200th post. Good lord, I'll have to think of something nifty for it.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Workbench: Basic Groundwork

Greetings one and all and welcome to another one of my workbench articles. Today the theme is groundwork. Groundwork is essentially basing writ large for dioramas or terrain bases and needs a litte more effort than normal basing. First though, I ought to mention that this was something that I spontaneously decided to turn into a workbench article later in the process than normal. As a result we start in media res so to speak. I'll try to explain the early stages as best as I can!

Righto, to give a sense of scale this base is 15cm across and that is one of GW's plastic trees in the middle. Firstly - as this diorama is going under glass and is really a complicated way of suspending a Griffon - I needed to position the tree so that the model would fit in the dome. This done I started supergluing some slabs of slate around the tree to give the groundwork a bit of height and interest. Incidently we use slate a lot in modelling because it is "scale ambiguous". It looks the same whether it is massive or tiny, same layers and texture. As a result we can paint a small lump of slate and make it appear massive in scale. Not all rocks do this and you can really kill the look of a diorama with a rock that looks out of scale. I also glued a dried root to the base - a roughly circular disc of thick plasticard - to help the tree look more in place. Then it was sand time. Lots of it.

I have a trick for sanding large areas like this that helps to build up layers and height quickly: Use cheap pound-store superglue. The reason for this is that it is simultaneously dirt cheap (2 10g bottles for £1) and thin as water. Useless for glueing figures together but awesome for flowing around a base. I worked in patches, pouring superglue on then sanding the pool. This stuff is so thin that you can even just dump dry sand where you want it and then use capillary action to draw the superglue through the pile of sand. I finished the whole thing off with a wash of diluted PVA to help seal the surface as otherwise you might strip the sand off with drybrushing. With the groundwork solid as concrete (as let's face it, that's what we've made) I moved on to painting. It's all fairly basic so instead of taking you through each individual colour I'll tell you some principles. First, make the top highlight of your soil and rocks the same colour. Soil is made of the broken up local rocks mixed with organic matter and thus looks better if there is some of the rock colour in it. Trees are more grey than brown so use greys as your highlight colours and then give it a very thin wash of Athonian Camoshade - khaki/brown/green - to give it a mossy feel. It was around this point I decided to turn this into a workbench so... picture!

Glue isn't dry in any of these shots so ignore any white bits.

Though the tree is autmnal it won't be completely dead. I used canopy glue (a very thick, clear-drying PVA) to attach strands of ivy basing material up one side of the tree.

Even the rocks aren't dead, these are little moss tufts, essentially very, very short cropped static grass blobs that I PVA'd onto the stone to be lichen/moss.

Next came grass, now normally I would recommend only about 1/3 of a miniature's base to be covered in static grass. When doing groundwork it is pretty much the other way around! The base is the model and needs to have impact. Care needs to be taken with placement. If you just do blobs of grass it will look like a fresian cow. Think about where the grass will be growing most healthily and apply your glue there. Also, when flocking (I said flock) a larger area work in smaller patches - I worked on about a sixth at a time - and overload it with grass. Really tip it on, press it down and leave it a while before you tip it off and blow off the excess. This gives the grass time to adhere and create that clumpiness (totally a word) that we are after.

We could have left it there, it looked fine, but like most jobs in modelling it can be taken another step forward. In this case I used tufts of clump foliage (check out Tooltime - part III for a roundup of these products) to create... a shrubbery! Sorry, couldn't help it! When using this stuff, it helps to soak some dilute PVA into it (I use a glass eye-dropper) and squeeze it through the material. This stops it from falling apart. Now, this is almost finished but looks a little neat and tidy. Is there a gardener that is raking this forest?

Ding! There you go. Leaf litter simply glued down with dilute PVA. Now, there will be some of you who are currently yelling "BASIC groundwork?" at the screen. Let me assure you, none of this is difficult. It's just involved and needs some practice and reference (oh no, don't make me walk out in the countryside where the pretty scenery is...) to get right. Believe me, the groundwork experts are astonishing. I have seen dioramas where I had to be convinced that it wasn't a 1:1 photograph. Stunning. I'm happy with this sort of level though! Well, next time you see this it will have a griffon mounted on that tree and under glass so until then.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Liebster Blog Awards

Well, thanks to Andy over at Lair of the Breviks (check it out, he's a top bloke and a great painter) I've been nominated for a Liebster Blog Award. Essentially these are sort of benign blog chain letters helping people find all sorts of awesome stuff that they might have missed.

As a kind of paying it forward, when you get one of these you nominate five blogs that you think your readership might get a kick out of and why!

Sproket's Small World: This is the blog of a stunning painter, Dave Soper, if you were ever curious what it takes to be a top level competition painter then read this!

Tabletop Fix: As far as I am concerned this is THE news blog, a wide variety of sources and genres of wargaming without any obvious commercial connections unlike some we could mention...

From the Warp: A mix of great tutorials and connections across the wargaming community and solid hobby content.

Dave Taylor Miniatures: Dave Taylor represents the sort of hobby output I would like to be doing. The speed and quality of his painting - especially his Armies on Parade - is an inspiration.

The Beard Bunker
The Beard Bunker: Now those who know the Beard Bunker might see this as a little self promoting as I am involved with it. However I am nominating this blog for the other members of the Beard Bunker, they don't get anywhere near enough exposure!

These five represent a decent cross section of my regular reading and as far as I am concerned some of the best on the web. There are hundreds more out there and hopefully these awards will help people expand their hobby reading horizons!

Back to miniatures next time folks, until then...


Children of the Emperor

Greetings all, today we have Noise Marines on the bench:

These are the renegade space marines belonging to the Emperor's Children legion. Devoted to Slaanesh, their quest to feel every sensation and emotion in the universe led them to adjust their senses and use sonic weaponry to fully experience the music of battle. The client had already done all the assembly, including some marines that were starting to take on the aspect of Slaanesh's handmaidens. The Daemonettes.

Following the positive response that TwiddlyBits (TM) on the Daemon Prince recieved from the client, I decided to reprise TwiddlyBits on these chaps too. Most only have a spare shoulder pad to decorate but the Aspiring Champion gets a stripe of them across the entire model.

The Purple is a simple basecoat of Naggaroth Night, highlighted with Xerus Purple. The gold is the four step process necessitated by the new paints. Unfortunately, in contrast to the other new metallic paints the gold only works one way and it includes a drybrush step. I am thus commencing gold-quest to find a new basic gold colour to work on details rather than the broad strokes that you have to use with the new ones. Its fine if you have a whole model that you want gold but small bits are just a nightmare.

Love that head, the glee with which this mutant maniac is shooting is quite charming. Using bone as a contrast for the Emperor's Children shoulder pad icons works nicely against the purple and complements the gold.

The sonic weaponry, indeed all the weaponry, is gloss black. Slaanesh has a sense of style after all and glossy black looks great. There is a temptation when using gloss black to just paint it black and allow the light glinting off the gloss varnished edges to do the rest for you. Resist this temptation and edge highlight the black with a nice bright grey. This means that even in low light conditions the weapon is still defined.

There are another ten marines and a pile of armoured vehicles to go with these noise marines so plenty more purple in our future folks. Until then...


Sunday, 18 November 2012

What I did on my Holidays (dwarfs mainly)

For those who do not follow the glorious Beard Bunker you may be wondering where all the pretty painted models are this week! Well, I have been over in Oxford at our sort-of gaming club taking a holiday - when you are self employed you do have to remember to take them! Weirdly, we decided to do a busman's holiday as far as I was concerned as we all took the week off and decided to do a group paint for the campaign that we will be running in January. The pictures below are the results, I'll leave the Beard Bunker Geek Week posts to explain them but the captions will explain what they are!

Runesmith Dwalin Gravenrune and his shiny, shiny shirt.
The Ancient Mariners, Dwarf Longbeards
Thunder unit behind custom shield fence representing their held shields

Piratical slayers adding to the nautical theme of the Barak Varr army
More slayers, hurrah! Gotta love a slayer, they are all part of the slayer unit the Unforgiven Dead
The Bolt Thrower - Griffonbane

My Dwarf Workometer for the initial 2000 points therefore looks like this:

So you can see there is a real, real benefit to a concerted, focus week of painting with friends to keep you focussed and entertained.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow, until then


Friday, 16 November 2012

Getting the most fun from your hobby

Greetings all, I thought I would talk about a subject I consider essential. Making The Hobby into Your Hobby and getting the most fun out of it as a result. This might seem to be fairly basic stuff but it is amazing how often you hear people talking about elements of their hobby as a chore or seeing a proscribed view - often I'm afraid from the internet - as being the one true shining way that they must follow. I'm here to tell you different. First, some definitions:

The Hobby: The entire spectrum of activities relating to Wargaming that exist regardless of whether you like them or not.

Your Hobby: The elements of that vast spectrum that give you pleasure and thus form the activities in which you most often partake.

So straight off the bat we see that there is a need to identify what the elements of our wonderful hobby are. To help with this, I've made diagrams (get me with the technology):


In its simplist form the hobby exists in three parts: Collecting miniatures; Painting & Modelling them and then Gaming with them. Now straight away we can recognise different sorts of hobbyists, the fellow with boxes and boxes of unpainted figures might emphasise the Collecting element. The chap - or indeed chapette - with lots of individual painted figures but no recognisable army falls more firmly into the Painting & Modelling section. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Now this is as far as most people take thinking about their interaction with The Hobby, but in order to take that next step of truly making it Your Hobby we need to go a little complex. Lets take Gaming for example:

Most games played fall into one of three catagories: Casual - or Garage - Gaming is where you have a circle of friends who play, you meet up semi regularly and have a game. No more organisation than that. Club Gaming by contrast starts with strangers meeting in a venue provided for the purpose to play games. Tournament gaming is where you actually journey to a place where a competative gaming event has been organised. Now notice that I have not talked about competative vs. so-called "fluffy" gaming. That is a whole other thing and is spread across all of the different elements of gaming. It is though essential to your creating Your Hobby that you understand what sort of gamer you are and find people to play who share your views on what makes a good game. But I digress, we are still defining the elements of The Hobby, not yet crafting Your Hobby.

Collecting is one of those weirder elements of The Hobby, we all do it to a greater or lesser extent. Some people write army lists, only buy what they need from that list and therefore have a very tightly controlled Collecting element. These people also have more money than me because their discipline avoids the Shiny Model Syndrome that causes people like me to buy something on impulse. Then there are the completionists who like to own an entire range. The "Gotta catch them all" mindset. Nothing wrong with this - your bank manager may disagree - I've done it with Dwarfs. Then there are those who chase the rare and limited editions, essentially a more classic form of collecting that is in essence the same as the antique hunter. Most of us do a bit of everything, some do almost none of it and just wind up with the models that they thought were cool at the time. All valid options.

Now the section I know most about, Painting & Modelling. This splits down further into Painting, Modelling and Scenery Building. Modelling also has its subdivisions but they are mostly small, Kitbashing vs. Conversion and Sculpting and so on. Essentially for me, modelling is working with the construction of a model to make it suit your needs. How you do so is largely a matter of skill, imagination and practice. Likewise Scenery Building has it's distinctions, scratch builds vs. working with kits and the like but you tend to either like it or not! Painting though, oh, Painting can be the very devil of this hobby and splits down as follows:

There is Batch Painting where you are content to churn out larger groups of figures. This is closely linked to Army Building in Collecting and tends to be how people with fully painted armies wound up with the whole thing finished. Character Painting - for my definition - is where you lavish attention on single figures or small groups. Competition painting deserves its own catagory because although it is a facet of Character Painting, the time investment for competative painting is ridiculous. Check out Sproket's Small World if you doubt me!

So now we have defined the elements of The Hobby, how do you make The Hobby work for you. First, decide which of the many and varied elements of the hobby appeal to you. For example, this is mine (debated whether or not to do this as it feels like I am proscribing a hobby, ignore that! Hobby for yourselves):

So looking at the image above. I now think about what I am actually DOING with my hobby right now. Unfortunately, being that I have thought about this process I have sort of optomised my hobby experiance over the last 23 years so instead, I shall use my wife as an example of there being a difference between what you like and what you are doing. Lucy - Mrs PVP - loves lavishing attention on a single model at a time. She's good at it and likes the results. Batch painting has almost a physical repellance for her. Just does not enjoy it. However, she was designing a Skaven army. Now this straight away sets up an area of conflict within Your Hobby. In order to ever, ever finish a Skaven army you will need to chunk out some serious piles of Clanrats and that just isn't Mrs PVP's bag. Instead, we took a look at why she likes the Skaven - bestial, mostly - and found an elite army that would meet those likes, in this case Ogres. So now she has an army to work on that has less models that one unit in her Skaven plan. Now this isn't to say that she shouldn't paint Skaven, far, far from it. Just don't expect to enjoy grunting out 3000 points of them if there isn't the enjoyment of the process.

Other solutions to that same problem might be to shift to a skirmish style game, Mordheim for example, that encourages the style of painting that you want to do. If big fantasy gaming is your bag then look for an option that allows you to do it while enjoying the entire process. In my case, at one time I was doing most of my gaming in a club environment. Now I know lots of people love gaming clubs but I am not one of them. I prefer to know my opponant before the game starts as that means that the social experiance will be good as well as having a compatable gaming mindset. It had gotten to the point that I thought I didn't like gaming so much. It wasn't that, I just didn't like playing total strangers. Once I shifted all my gaming to Casual style I was in hog heaven once more.

Essentially what I am trying to say is that if there is an element of Your Hobby that you are not enjoying examine it. Find out the root cause of your lack of enjoyment. This is Your Hobby for heaven's sake, if you aren't enjoying it then there is nothing in it for you! Seek the root cause of the problem and then make changes to accomodate it. This might mean some dramatic changes, different games, different opponants, abandoning projects but ultimately you will have a happier and healthier hobby. I finish by including one of those compiled Your Hobby images that I used to show what I did just in case it helps. Let me know what you think in the comments and share this as much as you like. Lets get everyone thinking about their hobby, not The Hobby.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Prince of Daemons

Hi folks, today we've got a big one to check out:

The daemon prince is for a Slaanesh chaos space marine army I am painting for a client. Now I am going to be up front here. This model and I are not friends. I've painted four of them over the years for different stores or clients and we still haven't made up. For some reason it is fiddly and some of the details merge together making it hard to figure where colours will look best. But enough grumping Jeff, you're paid for this!

Starting with the purple. Naggroth Night forms the basecoat. I then built up the highlights through Xerus Purple all the way to Lucius Lilac. I then shaded it back down with Druchii Violet. Finally I went back in and did some twiddly bits (technical term there) with reconstituted Lucius Lilac. I am starting to use dry pigments with added water to create a thin layer paint. Perfect? No, but it works well enough.

 I wanted the sword to really stand out so went for something completely different to the rest of the pallete. I loved the hot swords that the Bloodletters wield in the Space Marine computer game so I thought I'd go with that. Now I can't go into every stage as I used about twenty different layers. Mephiston Red formed the basecoat, highlighted with drybrushes of Kindleflame and Hexos Palesun. I then layered Nuln Oil onto the red to make that hot iron look. I glazed the whole thing in red ink and then ran thinned Ceremite White mixed with a little yellow into the runes. A glaze of Lamenter's Yellow made them hot and a coat of Water Effects finished the sword off. Gloss black is also going to be a feature of the army so it'll sort of tie in visually.

For the flesh I just used Daemonette Hide highlighted up with Slaanesh Grey, bone areas used the same mix but I added bone to change the texture without adding another tone to the colours. It also allowed the skulls to stand out from the daemonbone. You can also see more TwiddlyBits (TM) on the other shoulder pad.

As you can see from the back view, the overriding feeling is purple despite there being flesh, bone and armour in the same shot. The gold and yellow cabling balance each other and the green gems are tiny spot colours to add interest.

More chaotic goodness to follow folks.


Friday, 9 November 2012

Loose ends

Greetings folks, today is one of those "finishing off" days. I had a couple of figures that had been half finished and then hung around for a bit. One of my failings as a painter is that I like to finish what I start in one hit (however many sessions it takes), if I have to stop and come back much later I struggle to get motivated again. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets. However, knowing this about myself I tend to grab a day or so a month to finish off half-done projects. Today is one of those days!

Remember that flag from the NMM tutorial? Well, until recently, that was all there was! I finished off chappy holding the flag and added the Imperium Victrix motto to the flag. Not much more to say about him really!

I started the seeker when I painted the daemonettes the other day. Due to some heinous casting problems (so glad they've been replaced with the plastic ones, they always had problems) the detail on the face is a little soft but I did the best I could to merge the colours of the bony ridges and the purple flesh.

The steed of slaanesh she is mounted on needed to fit in with the daemonettes without merging with the rider. To achieve this I used the pale purple tone of the daemonettes on the underbelly and a stronger purple using Naggroth Night as the base.

The model is sculpted with irritating grassy bits attached to the feet. These are fine - sort of - on a grassy base, but on the grey rubble that my client likes they look ridiculous! Cue some thinking, in the end I decided that the speed of the daemon steed would be causing flames to spring from the ground. As a result I used some yellow drybrushing and glazing of the basing material to add a fiery glow to the feet.

Until next time folks


Workbench: Ursakar Creed and Jerran Kell conversion

Hi all, quick post today to show you what I am up to with an imperial guard commission:

Remember these lads?:

Well the two at the top will be leading them. For those unfamiliar with the originals, here they are:

Image from Games Workshop, used for illustrative purposes only.
So, taking the chap on the left first. This was my first experience with heavily converting Finecast and I have to say, it is a delight. The dremel just tore through the head and left me with a nice smooth neck joint and an empty collar. Mercifully his head is massive and as a result fits the supplied helmeted head nicely. Unfortunately the mask with the cigar looked wierd. Instead I dremelled it out and replaced it with a grenade holding fist to make him look tough.

Now, Kell, the chap on the right was more of a problem. Public service announcement. That image is NOT what is in the packet, that is the old metal one. The finecast one has the flag much lower and wrapped around the left shoulder. As a result there was a lot of carving away to get him sorted. My advice in this case is a dremel (or as I have its cheaper cousin) with one of those brass wheel brushes attached. This just eats the resin and leaves a smooth finish behind. Oh, and a heap of dust. Masks on people. As I had to destroy the sword to remove the flag (it is moulded into the fabric) I added a new one made of a hybrid of a guard chainsword and a space wolf power sword. Job done.

Until next time.