Monday, 31 March 2014

Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?

Hi folks, been quiet hasn't it? Sadly that's what happens when a fortnight includes three days out of the office, another 3 spent assembling and converting 50+ Inq28 figures and then four days of wasted effort that you need to strip and redo because Scibor's sculpting doesn't support washes as a painting tool. Hmmm. So, with the Scibor figures stripping in Fairy Power Spray I needed a quick win to get my groove back.

This win was ably provided by Heresy Miniatures' Troopers, part of the Inq28 series that I am doing for my client. These aren't the normal troopers, these have Elysian heads converted to fit (mostly slicing the necks at the right angle and using a blob or two of ProCreate to form collars for the more open neck joins. There's nothing wrong with the Heresy mini's heads, they look great. But I really think that the Elysian heads on these bodies creates a great look.

During the initial "musing" phase of painting (an important one that, make use of it) it occurred that these chaps looked a lot like SWAT officers. With that in mind I was able to construct a paint plan, urban camo fatigues; black, police style, body armour and dark leather. The posing really lends itself to that "coppers jogging along hugging a wall and covering each other" vibe.

Painting started with getting the greys laid down, Val German Grey for the fatigues, Mechanicum Standard Grey for the armour. The steel gets painted AP Gunmetal, the leather Val German Camo Black Brown. Then the whole thing gets a liberal but smooth wash of my badab black replacement: Black Ink, thinned and mixed with Lahmian Medium. Then the camo can be built up. Splodgey (totally a word) patterns of The Fang (a blue grey) and Administratum Grey over the dark washed German Grey. Creates a nice convincing urban camo. The leather gets highlighted with a reapplication of Val German Camo Black Brown further highlighted by adding some bone. The leather and the fatigues both get a wash of Agrax Earthshade to make the fatigues a little grubby.

Finally, the faces get painted and the visors got my usual "glass" mix of Thunderhawk Blue mixed with Black and highlighted with pure Thunderhawk Blue. A quick white catchlight and a layer of gloss varnish finish it off.

All in all, a nice, quick paintjob with a satisfying finish! Just what I needed. The sculpts by Andy of Heresy are cracking, great poses. Clean casting and thoughtful design. Quite a change from the Scibor, but I'll save that mild rant for when they are finished. There's a whole bevvy of lovely Andrew Rae Statuesque sculpts on the workbench now though so they'll be coming next! Until then


Saturday, 15 March 2014

No Creed but the Imperial

Hi folks! Finally got acceptable shots so today is a bumper update all about Assassins!

These are the first in a series of Inq28 commissions that I am doing, we'd kind of split them into their gangs and a gang of assassin types emerged. "Well," thought I, "I suspect I'll be using the same techniques on all of them... lets batch paint some characters!". With that in mind I'll discuss most of the painting side with the first group and then just get on to blathering about miniatures and anything unique for the rest. Where to start? I think the classics:

The only two officio assassinorum types in the batch. The Eversor on the left and the Culexus on the right. For those unfamiliar with the backstory, the Eversor is a berserker, a warrior juiced up on every rage-inducing, reflex enhancing, pain-blocking hormone and steroid they could find. You don't guide these, you pull the pin, drop them in and if somehow they are still moving after they've gone through an entire complex then you scoop them up and throw them straight back into suspended animation. The Culexus is somehow worse, they are untouchables, those with the pariah gene and thus no soul. They've been trained in the use of a thing called the Animus Speculum (the big eye thing on the helmet) that converts the aching blankness of their soulless form into a kind of spirit vacuum. A hoover for life energy. To say the least, Leon these guys are not.

Painting wise, all of the assassins started the same way, solid basecoat of Val German Grey. Follow that with picking out any leather areas with Val German Camo Brown-Black and the metalwork in AP Gunmetal. Then, unless there are adjacent areas of black that need basecoating in another colour a wash of thinned black ink mixed with lahmian medium is glazed over the whole thing. This almost does all of the work for you. Just go back in and edge highlight with the original base colour. For these two I needed to play around a little more, especially the bone. I needed it to look artificial, part of the helmet not an actual honest-to-god skull as a head. To do this I started straight from Ushabti Bone, washed it down with Agrax Earthshade to get the contrasts and then started adding white to the bone for highlights. The Culexus also got some object source lighting to represent the active Animus Speculum:

not a great photo, sorry

As with all OSL this was mainly thinned very, very pale mixes of the colour I wanted built up in translucent layers and then highlighted with the addition of even more white.

The next up for our little parade of lethal are the Death Cult Assassins. These girls are often the enemy as much as allies. They worship the Emperor through human sacrifice and as such are a deviant heretic cell that needs to be wiped out... or... tolerated and used during a crisis. These models are a classic case of where what is called dolly sculpting was a bad idea. It is clear that the sculptor got the basic - and very distinctive - shape, cast up a few (the dollies) and then armed and dressed them. This works fine if you've got a lot of normal infantry to do, they'll all be similar sculpts mutatis mutandis and so making a dolly makes perfect sense. For these highly distinctive sculpts you have to start making up narratives about how they are performing some kind of synchronised kata-style dance of death. Cool, sure, but I think the posing stops them from being classics. Anyway, enough grumbling. The differences in painting for these really boil down to the scrolls (Karak Stone, shade with Agrax Earthshade, highlight by adding bone to the Karak Stone) and the blood. I was using that new Blood For The Blood God technical paint and I gotta tell ya, it is great. Works perfectly. Only does one "flavour" of blood - i.e. fresh - but it does that very, very well.

Then we move out of the normal imperial assassins and into some more unusual ones. These next four are all from the infinity range and will be representing some of the smaller assassin temples. The first one - above - is my favourite, sadly my paint scheme does him no favours at all on camera though if you zoom in you'll see the detail of the sculpt. The hakama (trousers) and the positioning of the scabbard in particular are lovely. You can scarcely see as the camera cut through the glazing, but the hakama are actually a bluey tone.

Another infinity sculpt, quite liked the faceless visor on this one and the next for assassin types. Very daft punk in style but gives a "faceless killer" vibe nicely.

Another nice sculpt, the hair in particular is impressive. Would not photograph. I only got these two shots, the rest would not focus. Clearly such a ninja that even cameras can't detect him.

Then, a a bit of an oddity, an infinity SAS type model, I swopped the gun for a DKK laspistol but everything else is as the model comes. I figure this guy to be an Imperial Guard infiltrator/assassin specialist. Tough to see on the picture but every area of adjacent black is a different colour. Looks cracking in real life.

And finally a trio of Charlie's Angels types, I figure them for an inquisitor's retinue. All three are from Andrew Rae's Statuesque Miniatures range, the sculpts are very nice, if you like them I can recommend them!

Not much to say about the girls, they were the quickest and easiest of the lot.

I'd decided that the weird dismembered fembot thing she is standing on was some sort of necron and had died a long time ago. I rusted it up with AK Rust Streaks and let it blend into the base. Painting it brighter would have drawn too much attention from the model standing on it.

And that is all, hope you've enjoyed this bumper assassin update despite the difficulties in photography (seriously, I took like 50 shots, these are all the good ones). Until next time


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Painting for a Living – Part One

I’ve pondered a few times about how to write this article. All sorts of different formats, but the one I’ve settled on goes something like:

Part One: What painting for a living is like.
Part Two: Advice for those considering the career.
Part Three: Advice for those considering hiring a painter.

And given that this week’s models are proving impossible to photograph (lots of subtle black tones) I thought I would start part one… now! Most of you know that we are coming in to this story at the end of the process. Pirate Viking Painting the business is closing and the blog will be converted to my own personal stuff and will likely change a bit. A quick disclaimer, I have had no problems with any of my clients and to my knowledge they have had no problems with me. Anything below that sounds like a complaint is at worst a mild niggle and is what makes professional painting a job rather than a hobby.

Getting started:

There I was, end of May 2010, semi-voluntarily out of work and moving to Cardiff with my dear lady wife. What to do to earn a crust? The economy was in an even deeper hole than it is now and we'd just acquired Tories (for readers across the pond, think Republicans without the religious obsession) in charge again so I wasn't expecting any real help from my government. To get a bit of beer money I had agreed to paint a chaos army belonging to one of the chaps who frequented the Swindon Games Workshop (my previous job). It was during the planning phase of this that I thought "Hey, something I can do, have (at the time) 22 years experience at and might actually earn some crusts". So with that amount of planning and a call to HMRC a business was born.

I do not recommend doing it this way and it won't be a central feature of part 2 ;)

But there I was with some models to paint, a blog to promote my existence through and time on my hands, let battle commence! What happened next was a year of relative doldrums where I was trying to get exposure (actual good advice on this in part 2) and a lot of painting a variety of things to have content on the blog. Things didn't really take off until year 2 when I started to get much more regular work and was pretty much busy enough to be working full time hours.

So what is it like to be a full-time painter then?:

Well for the most part it is a lot of fun, you are doing something that you like in exchange for money and on your own terms - to an extent - there is not a lot to complain about! The key things that being a professional painter (and I wish we would go back to using pro painter as meaning paid for it, not "expert", I've seen pro painted stuff that is so basic I used to teach it in an hour back at GW and I've seen "amateurs" - i.e. every hobbyist ever - produce stuff of such quality that it has made me want to bite through my paintbrush in envy) kinda go like this:

1) It will make your painting better, a lot better.

There is a lot to be said for constant practice. My bog standard work these days eclipses some of my best work of only four years ago. I have learned a massive amount and have improved immeasurably. The other advantage is that you are constantly solving problems that you never knew existed as you would not have chosen that look; or colour; or pattern or whathaveyou. I'd had some experience with this army building for GW but it took on a whole new reality with this. In order to gain work you will agree to do stuff that in your mind you are saying "I think I know how to do that" and then you just do it. Sometimes frustrating, mostly rewarding. Having said that:

2) You will paint stuff that you just can't stand.

Sadly, you are doing this for money, what the client wants the client gets. I have been lucky with most of my clients, they've all been very happy to give me vague briefs and let me find the "my way" amongst their requirements. There have been some models though that the brief lead to me painting things that I thought were just "ugly". In reality it just means "not to my taste". The clients were delighted and technically the work was fine but you will never be truly satisfied with the end result as it doesn't look "right" to you. Other times you will be working on models that you just can't stand the sculpts of and would never have bought yourself. But the thing is, the client is paying their hard earned hobby money for you to do this. You have to get over it and just do it! Those days are the ones that drag, the ones that leave you feeling like a hack because you can't make it work. But the next day may have something unexpectedly delightful rock up and it'll all be sunshine and rainbows again.

3) Sharing is fun

One of the most enjoyable aspects for me has been maintaining this blog, we're almost at enough posts to keep you going for a whole year if you read one a day. My hobby had always been a private affair for me - with a slight local exposure in the shops - and opening it up to a large and growing audience was actually slightly thrilling. I long ago gave up on predicting what the internet will find enjoyable and now just throw stuff out there and see what sticks. The unexpected leaps in hits when you stumble on something that tickles the online Zeitgeist is very rewarding.

4) I'm not a natural businessman

Yep, I've admitted it, always had a slightly guilty relationship with money. Preparing invoices always made me feel a bit apologetic: "sorry, I kinda need to charge you for doing this fun stuff as we need to eat/fix the car/move house for the third time". I constantly undercharged for the work I was doing (seriously, I've seen some of the equivalent priced work from others now, I was undercharging) and didn't say "no" often enough when I knew that a project was wildly out of my wheelhouse. The bottom line is that I like people to have groovy things, the fact that this has had me on part time minimum wage for three years of 40+ hour weeks is very much my fault.

5) Freelancing is both awesome and terrifying

Freelancing is awesome! If you need to pop into town or it's just a lovely day then you can shift your work hours into the evening and chill during the day. You play by your rules and so long as you can get over the guilt of sitting still while there is work to be done then you can do so at your own pace too.
Freelancing is terrifying! If you are ill, you watch the productive seconds fly away, you are earning nothing in this time, if you take a holiday or circumstances force you away from the painting table then you are mentally counting the impact that it is having on your schedules. Plus, you never know where the next project/client will come from. Nerve wracking doesn't cover it.

On balance, freelancing is great, if uncertain.

So what changed?

Truthfully, not a lot, the situation - business wise - was actually improving, great exposure, regular work and long term clients. But a few things happened that made keeping PVP as the not-exactly-a-going concern that it was impossible:

1) My health:

Those that are long term readers will know that I damn near destroyed my wrist. Who knew that trying to do 11 hour days of repetitive activity would result in a Repetitive Stress Injury huh? Not this muppet that's who and I have a Biomedical Sciences degree and everything. Knowledge does not equal wisdom. Important learning point that. I got over the RSI and went back to work on shorter days only for it to happen again. Sadly, once you've harmed the tendons they are unwilling to let you just go back to normal. I'm down to about 6 hours a day maximum these days. That just isn't enough productive hours to allow me to clear commissions in order to get the next paying customer on the workbench. Turnover is everything in this business. 

2) Pricing:

If I am honest, I don't think I would have made much more cash by pricing more harshly. People have a limited supply of moolah for hobby purposes and I would have been competing with cheaper painters and with the more premium rate painters. I don't have Golden Demon awards or anything so I won't be seeing £100 a figure any time soon nor should I expect to. So I couldn't grow output and I couldn't realistically grow unit price...

3) Economy

Even with those things I might have seen the business as worth continuing had it not been for the way the economy has been handled. We've seen four straight years of inflation outstripping increases in earnings, we've seen leaps in the cost of energy (not included in most inflation calculations) and a host of other ways in which life has become more expensive. Sadly we have reached the point where my Wife Support is struggling to keep us going. I need to do the predictable paycheck gainful employment dance.

And so we find ourselves at the end of this particular journey. Parts 2 and 3 will possibly be more useful but I thought a general overview first would be useful. Until next time:


Thursday, 6 March 2014

I Am Iron Man

Hi folks, bit of a departure from the norm today. I recommend opening this up at the same time because:

"the truth is... I AM Iron Man"
This is the new Knight Models sculpt of one of my favourite superheroes, especially now he has a movie incarnation played by a man who frankly is Tony Stark. I've always had a soft spot for the heroes who are not super powered. I love the ones who use tech, grit and cleverness (the Iron Man's; Batman's; Judge Dredd's and Hawkeyes of the world) to win out against the super-powered types. I nearly called this post "The Easiest Model You Have Painted This Year" because as you'll see below, it was staggeringly easy to complete. First though, a word on the sculpt as it is one of the first Knight Models figures I've painted. Scale wise, the Knight Models are a little bigger than GW. They are 32mm rather than 28mm so they're about a head taller. Frankly though with the kind of games you'd use a model like this for (ultra small skirmish) it is not really a problem. The quality of the sculpt and pose is excellent. A little thin laterally but not so bad that it is an issue. But lets get to the really fun bit, painting!

this is the best shot for the accurate colours

I'd had a bit of a brainwave when I was on-line window shopping for this bad boy. The red needs to be metallic to be "right" for the modern look Iron Man. But as I have found with the Corsairs, metallic red is a bit of a bear. But then the penny dropped, transparent layers, inks! So the incredibly complex paint scheme goes like this:

  1. Paint primed model gold - I used Vallejo Liquid Metal Gold and burnished it with a cotton bud (Q-tip) to make it really shiny.
  2. Wash with thinned brown ink. I add a bit of Lahmian medium to all the inks to kill off the shine and help them flow.
  3. Once dry apply two smooth layers of red ink (I added a tiny dot of brown ink to this) mixed with Lahmian Medium. Leave to dry.
  4. Shade the key edges with a 5:1 mix of brown:red ink.
  5. Paint some glowy blue bits.
  6. Gloss varnish the red
  7. Done.
Well, not quite done, I did edge highlight some of the gold with a silvery-gold mix to define them better but otherwise, yep, done.

I'm delighted with how he came out. Has just the same effect as the movie armour. Now, I am really, really hoping that they are planning the rest of the Avengers. Would be awesome. Until next time folks.