Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Void Dragon Phoenix

Hi folks, I said that the next post would be Corsair shinies didn't I? Oh, and what a shiny it is:

The Void Dragon Phoenix is one of my favourite Forgeworld designs, it just 'works'. The lines are so elegant, the ratio of plane to engine feels right and the weaponry is neatly designed. I will say that there was one massive dissapointment on this kit and that was despite my every effort I was unable to correct a problem that occurred during assembly. Due to Forgeworld's total lack of instructions - a perennial infuriation of mine - a casting plug, exactly the size of the bottom of the cockpits, neatly cast, with no indication that it's removal was required, caused the pilot's heads to be 1.5mm too tall to fit under the canopies. There is no way to seperate resin once superglued. Believe me, I tried. Acetone can soften superglue but the join was too perfect to allow the acetone in. In total frustration I ended up having to remove the pilots heads and paint the canopies (mercifully, the cockpits aren't up to much).

I'm afraid Forgeworld's much vaunted customer service was completely absent here. I wrote to them explaining the problem and expressing my frustration that a £69 model could be spoiled by so small an error and that as a result the lack of instructions was damn near unforgivable. All I got in return was "oh, we hadn't run into that one". Seriously Forgeworld. Get someone to build your overpriced kits and photograph the steps. Write a note or two. If you can't bear to pay for a couple of sheets of A4 in a kit then put them online as totally free to you pdfs. You have to assemble them to sell them. Do this. Earn your price tag. Harrumph, enough of this, on to more edifying things:

The paint scheme for the Phoenix is the same as the other corsair vehicles, the usual airbrushed basecoat, edging and then very Eldar asymmetrically applied red panels which get their hex scales. The canopies fit in with the red because the highlight colour for the red is achieved by mixing Hashut Copper with Mephiston Red. The canopies are Hashut Copper, I took the view that these vehicles are used in space as well as in atmosphere so a NASA style film coating of metal over the glass would prevent radiation damage and reduce blinding stellar light. On their own, they looked a bit plain so I added a suggestion of horizon lining (reflected landscape in the windows) with brown ink and then thin glazes of blue and green on the respective areas. You hardly see the colouring but it helps the illusion. Two layers of wet effects give it a high gloss shine.

It's worth mentioning gemstones on Eldar vehicles. There are two theories on them. Some people like to paint every single gem-shaped object on a vehicle as a gen. I think this is overkill. The designers say that most of the blisters are just armoured domes containing equipment. Areas that get a gemstone on vehicles that I paint are those that feel like there should be some sort of psychic control or detection. so on this one, the weaponry gets one each, the engines and rudders have them and the large sensing arrays are stuffed with them. I figure the gemstones are attuned to the crew and allow them to see through them or detect what is going on around them. It also means that you don't have to paint what can be an enormous number of gems. On a Wraithknight - apparantly - it is almost FOUR HUNDRED. Choose life, choose sanity...

I deliberately kept the underside plainer than the top. It isn't seen as much and somehow having a dark surface to not show up too much against the night sky (I see corsairs doing a lot of night raids) felt right. The air-to-ground missile pods got red accents and a whacking great sensing gemstone to aim them with! The underslung starcannons I painted like the nightspinner weapons, the wraithbone toned weapons encased in grey painted armour.

The four squares around the flying stand hole are not on the model. Those lovely cross-shaped flying stands didn't exist when this model was made and they have not made a retrofitting piece to fix this. Sadly, the stand will not support the model on it's own. Instead I made a few thick plasticard shims to create a cross-format shape for the stand to squeeze into. As a result we have a tight fit that allows the aircraft to be firmly on the stand without gluing.

I decided that the base needed a little bit of "extra mile" work as those whacking great oval bases are normally filled with some girt great beasty. In this case it is totally empty. Knowing that the client's basing is all for urban environments I thought that digging out some spares from the cities of death buildings would provide an accent. Adding this to some cork rubble and secret weapon mini's bricks led to a nice, rubble strewn environment for the Phoenix to strafe.

So with that, I shall leave you, until next time folks


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Two Ruperts and a Kick-Ass Wheelchair

Hi folks, yet more from Project Leviathan today!

I'm really appreciating being able to switch from the eldar with the tight, precise lines - that hurt my wrist if I do it too long - to the more familiar Imperial painting with a variety of schemes to keep things fresh. Today's Ruperts (the generic name for all officers in elements of the British armed forces) are a Bromhead from Black Scorpion and the charmingly bonkers Colonel MacDonald from Spartan Games. We'll start with Mr Bromhead: First Rank Fiahhhh!

The brief for the Bromhead figure was to make him similar to Col Winterborne's Praetorians. I'm guessing he is representing them in the command staff! Most of him is Val Khaki shaded with Agrax Earthshade, rehighlighted with Khaki and then with Khaki and Bone mix. Creates a lovely colour. I can't recommend Vallejo's military range highly enough. Citadel just do not make these strong but desaturated shades. They make a lovely pairing in a painters arsenal, Citadel for the strong saturated tones, Vallejo for the muted militaries and sadly, now only Army Painter (small shudder, but their acrylics are not bad) for half decent metals. The grey/black cape was typical of the victorian look and giving it the pop of a red lining made him look wealthier.

The Spartan Games Colonel MacDonald is just lovely in it's insanity. A massive steam powered bath chair with an aging officer at it's centre. I made one modification, a new plasma gun rig replaces the very cartoony blunderbus of the original. I figured that utilitarian was the order of the day. As always, I thought about the narrative of the model as I painted so that I could inform colour choices. I figured that he had been grievously wounded in battle and his troops had jury rigged this thing out of an old grav accelleration couch and a solid wood burner along with some cylinders from his wrecked command salamander or something. This implied that the paint job should be heavy, industrial steel and old, cared for leather. As yet another example of previous painting facilitating future projects, the leather tone I figured out for Sister of Biggles got used again here. Really captures that armchair-from-a-gentleman's-club look I was going for.

The tartan blanket just felt right! The trick with tartan is half and half shades. Start with your base layer - in this case Karak Stone - then the "Big Grid" of a 50:50 mix of the base layer and the grid colour (Castellan Green). Then the intersecting squares get painted pure Castellan Green. The red gets treated the same way, will look pink and weird until you get the red intersections sorted. I added some Val German Cammo Black-Brown thin grids too and then washed the lot with Athonian Camoshade to provide some definition.

The business end of the bath chair needed more weathering and wear than the grav couch. Thin washes of black ink mixed with Lahmian Medium and then AK-Interactive Rust Streaks gave a nice, dark, heavy, untreated iron look. The cogs and axles all got coated with AK-Interactive Fresh Engine Oil. Makes a lovely greasy look.

There you have it folks: Two Ruperts and a Kick-Ass Wheelchair! The next bit of Corsair lovliness is almost finished and will likely be the next thing on the blog. Until then,


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sister of Biggles

Eyup folks! A quickee update today showing off a rather lovely miniature:

I'm pretty sure this is a Bombshell miniatures "Betty". She's part of the Leviathan command staff commission, I reckon she's either the naval officer's pilot or she's commander of the local air wing. "Betty" was one of those models that just loved to be painted! She looks tons better in the flesh than she does in the photos. I must find ways to improve my photography, constantly frustrated by the results!

Something to note on this model, I'm making much greater use of inks at the moment for toning and warmth. Mixed with a bit of Lamian Medium you get something that flows like a wash but keeps the really translucent quality of inks. The leather, for example, was painted Val Leather Brown, washed with Agrax Earthshade for the shadows, highlighted and then glazed with brown ink. The result? A delightful warm toned mid brown perfect for a sheepskin bomber jacket.

Likewise her hair, I went with red as brunette or blonde would be lost amidst the leather, khaki and fleece. Black somehow didn't fit. I keep playing with various red tones for hair and I think I've hit upon a good one here. A good clean coat of Deathclaw Brown is glazed with a heavy coat of chestnut ink (again mixed with Lamian Medium). This shades and tones the hair in one movement. Lovely.

Anyway, a quickee today. I only had a half day available so bashing out a 4-hour character seemed the best option! Until next time.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Eldar Ruining Picnics

Hi folks! Today we have pretty pictures of wasps for you. No not the stripy insects composed of sting, wing and a hatred of all living things. No, not White Anglo-Saxon Protestants either. No, these are Eldar Corsair Wasp Assault Walkers:

with all the clear componants, cutting them from the background was a NIGHTMARE, cue retro white!
Even normal Eldar walkers make their Imperial cousins look lumpen and clumsy. These things though are another level again. They've got jump packs. Yup, those nozzles you can see beneath them are essentially the same design as on the corsair squads. The models come with large resin flying stands to allow you to model them in full motion so I took advantage!

By playing with heights and angles I was able to get (left to right) coming in to land; leaping into the air; taking long jump assisted bounding strides. Incidently, those canopies should be standard for the war walkers. They look awesome and make so much more sense than just hanging out with a "kill me" sign on your face.

As with most long running projects I am starting to run out of things to say about the painting. I've been over most of the themes in previous corsair posts so I'll leave it to you to cruise around them at your leisure. Will be a coin toss whether it's infantry or vehicles tomorrow for the Corsairs but as it is the dreaded MOT day it's debatable how much I'll get done. Fingers crossed that Bertha the Big Blue Battlewagon (my venerable diesel Scenic) passes with not too many more nails needing to be banged in!


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

In the Navy

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth...
...And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Excerted from High Flight by Magee

There is something uniquely cool about the concepts of space travel. It evokes that romance of the age of sail with it's dangers, isolation and possibilities. Warhammer 40,000, of course, adds another few elements from the age of sail: brutality; press gangs and ruthless captains. These fine gentlemen are the focus of todays offerings! These are part of the leviathan command crew (I've now tagged all the Leviathan models as such) and represent the two fleet elements that have come together in the client's warzone. We decided that two would be in a classic British Napoleonic navy mode and the other two in an emerald green that we vaguely remembered being associated with the Segmentum Obscurus/Saturnine fleets. I'm afraid I do not know the manufacturers of these chaps so if anyone can illuminate me I'll re-edit to include the original manufacturers.

First up is the hawkish figure that I was referring to as The Admiral in my head while painting him. He's an older, gaunt, severe looking chap and well suited to the image of the senior officer. For the classic Napoleonic look I needed dark - almost black - blue dress uniform jacket and cream-white breeches. The blue-black really is practically black, I just mixed a drop of Val Prussian Blue into the black and then added The Fang for highlighting. The Fang a blue-grey for those unfamiliar with Citadel's current daft naming, honestly, The Fang, not The Fang Blue-Grey, just The Fang. Unless you are intimately familiar with the backstory of the Space Wolf chapter of Space Marines then this is meaningless. Sheesh!

The cream breeches are the same method of the wraithbone from the Corsairs, i.e. Zandri Dust mixed with white and highlighted with white. See? Solve one problem and open doors in the future. The trick is remembering all these mixes and tricks and the blog has been invaluable for that. One feature on this chap that I'm really happy with are the fairly naturalistic ostrich feathers. They're all over the place in empire armies and the like and I'm starting to warm to the idea of painting them undyed. This method uses Val Deck Tan and Val German Cammo Black-Brown (two really useful paints) shaded with Agrax Earthshade and rehighlighted with the original colours. Creates a lovely soft natural tone.

From the same fleet we have this chap, who I had in my head as a fairly recent promotion. He cuts a rakish, dashing figure and put me in mind of a hard charging ex-frigate captain recently elevated to the captaincy of a capital ship and thus a presence at this table. It has just occurred to me as I type this that were we to be doing this project for a diorama these fellas could have been painted glowing green to be hololithic projections around the command table while still being aboard their ships. Hmmm..... thinks.

Anyway! This paint scheme, focus Jeff! Something to mention about all of these models is that they have simultaneously incredibly dense AND incredibly fine detailing married to average castings. This is not a useful mix. The hair on this gentleman for instance is painted on despite having sculpted hair. It was so shallowly and finely sculpted that neither wash nor drybrushing could pick up the texture finely enough. Likewise, lots of the dense decorations and honours on the others might as well have been flat discs for all the help the sculpting gave to the painter. There is a reason that things tend to be a bit scale exaggerated at 28mm.

This photo just about manages to show the difference in tone between the blue-black uniform and the grey-black cloak (Val German Grey washed twice with Nuln Oil). Those highly complex areas of braiding at the corners of the uniform jacket were essentially painted as solid colour (my fake NMM) and then washed with very, very thin washes of the uniform colour in order to define the braid.

Speaking of braid, this chap is covered in it! Those tiny little tabs on the lapels - not, I have to report, brilliantly cast - were properly fiddly but very worth doing. We've moved into the Saturnine fleet colours, the green being bog standard Caliban Green highlighted with increasing amounts of Warpstone Glow. You'll notice on the other models that I've used the green as a spot colour and of course the red sashes. Here the dark blue-black is the spot colour. The upshot is that the four of them hang together quite nicely despite being very different principle colours. The other change is a reversal of the cream-white breeches and grey-white socks/gaiters. With the green I have used grey/white breeches as another change that nonetheless binds the models together.

I think this one is quite the vain individual. The coiffured hair and fine cravat speak to this but also, in 40k at least, the odd, flat face can be explained as repeated juvenat treatments. Quite the dandy I think.

Finally a blatent Nelson - although with a weirdly sculpted upper lip which became a mustache. When divvy-ing up the models I deliberately assigned him to the green pile to further diminish the Nelson look. The normally tricolour decorations on Nelson's uniform were retained but the traditional blue swopped out for imperial black. The black/white/red thing is very 40k Imperial and helps to make him more of a 41st century gent.

Hope you're all enjoying the Leviathan series, I certainly am as the variety is very much spicing my life. The Eldar are still rolling but these bright peacocks are really helping the corsair uniform scheme. More soon!


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Imperial Officer Corps

Here we are folks, first finished models of 2014.

These are from a whole bunch of Imperial-type chaps that are forming the command staff for an entire warzone. My client envisions them clustered around hololithic map tables on a Leviathan. Heck, he might even be making the leviathan!

First up, we'll check out the Vostroyans. I love these figures. If only, if only they'd been slightly affordable for the purposes of building an army. Metal figures and the massed infantry of the Imperial Guard don't make the happiest bedfellows. The briefs for all of these guys are fairly brief - love this, gives me huge artistic licence - and in this case was just red with green accents. The red is the normal Mephiston Red highlighted up through Evil Sunz Scarlet and Troll Slayer Orange. Greens are in short supply in the new range but Caliban Green mixed with Warpstone Glow doesn't make a bad shade. Armour was a point of musing, thought about painting it as, well, painted but the colours were giving me trouble. Adding more red to the model was a possibility but then red armour can look a bit naff and non-martial unless you do a lot of weathering or it is the dominant feature of the model. Green would work but would make it a dominant colour rather than an accent. In the end, bare steel seemed to be the win! These days I paint worn steel by first painting with Army Painter's chainmail substitute Plate Mail Metal then giving it a thin wash of a 3:2 mix of Black Ink and Brown Ink. The inks don't change either the shine or the tone as much as the washes.

The frogging down the front I felt needed a spot of colour other than green. As there was a lot of brass details on the model I thought gold thread would work. It was painted with my not-at-all-non-metalic-metal gold which I only use for fabric (not a fan of the overly cartoony effect from any NMM that isn't absolutely perfect). Last thing to mention on these chaps is the leather. The Vostroyans were absolutely crusted with detail. This is ace but can sometimes be incredibly busy. The armour could have had the eagle painted different colours, the pouches could have had the wing picked out. But these options would have distracted the eye and made the overall shape of the model harder to see. Instead I just highlighted them as either leather or steel. The sculpting is enough to make them a feature so you don't need to pick details out all of the time. Just a thought...

Next up, a pair of Heresy Miniatures trooper officers. I kinda wish all the troopers in Heresy's range looked like this, with the greatcoats. I know it marks the officers out but it is a really cool look and I much prefer the officers to the grunts. Just my preference. The brief for these included the words "shiny white armour, like a stormtrooper". So I went with it! The troopers in Star Wars are actually wearing a black bodysuit with the white plates attached to it. These chaps most closely resembled the Scout Troopers (the bikers from Endor in Return of the Jedi) so perversely there is quite a lot of black underneath the shiny white. I decided that the trench coat needed to have a bit of tough and grizzled about it to make them a bit more 40k so I broke out the leather.

The second trooper had that grizzled campaigner look about him so the client had asked for the armour to be more dinged up. Cue a sponge and some Vallejo German Camo Black-Brown for initial chipping with Army Painter Gun Metal in the biggest chips for ground shiny bare metal. A word on the armour, I tried a new-ish way of painting the white this time. A clean coat of Ceramite White is then counter shaded with layers of increasingly dark grey washes. Needs some practice and tweaking but it was easier than trying to cleanly blend up.

Well, that's it for today folks. I've got some Eldar vehicles on the workbench and will be bouncing between them and more normal painting on the Imperial Officer Corps in order to not destroy my wrist on the hexes.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year Folks!

Yep, it’s that time again, 2013 has shuffled off and we have a whole new integer. In fact, as the third millennium AD is now fourteen years old it is on track to be starting to slam doors and tell us it hates us. Painting bedrooms black is next year.

So, as has become somewhat traditional here it’s time to take stock of the year gone and think about the year ahead. 2013 has been the most stable year for Mrs PVP and I since this blog started. At its inception we were living with friends, last year we had two house moves within 6 months. This year? Quiet, stable, nice. It shows up in the Pirate’s Progress numbers, 2012 had 285 models painted over its course. 2013 has had 388 models painted; three of those were titans…

It still only counts as one!

Yeah I know, probably worth about 30-50 figures, but when I decided to start tracking progress like that I figured that it would be too much of a pain in the neck to figure out equivalences! The blog itself has been doing well, audience numbers continue to rise, thank you ever so much. Especially to the now 215 of you who follow PVP and all those who left comments this year. It’s harder now to track whether anyone is really reading, as there are click-baiting advertising sites that spam your page with views in the hopes that you will follow the link back to see where the surge in traffic has come from. As a result, it is only by knowing that there are followers and commenters out there that I really, really know that I am not just broadcasting to an empty room!

Bet you thought I’d forgotten this right? Wrong! All this year Operation Remove-A-Toddler-From-Jeff’s-Waistline has been in action and it has paid dividends. This time last year I weighed 137.1kg (that’s 21 stone 8 lb or 289 lb for readers over the pond). I had a visceral fat (the fat that clags your organs and well, kills you) score of 21 which was off the scale for assessing healthy. It wasn’t the worst I had been – I almost hit 24 stone at one point – but it had been stable for too long.

Today I weigh 118.8 kg (18 stone 9 lb or 261lb). One pesky pound off losing three entire stones this year. That’s the average weight of a four year old child. Frankly, I am feeling good about this! My visceral fat is still too high at 17 but it is now on the charts and heading in the right direction. Need to lose at least another two stone before I feel content (I’m built like a rugby prop forward or an AFL line-backer, almost 50” chest and all so 16 stone will feel right) but damn this has been promising. So with that out of the way, let’s see how I did on the ol’ resolutions huh?

Judge Mulder now in session
So last year I resolved to:
  1. Take part in the Beard Bunker's Next Big Thing for 2013.
  2. Finish (I.e. workometer full) an army project from this list: My Flames of War Paratroopers, My Night Goblins, and My Warmachine Cygnar.
  3. Paint a minimum of six bases of Waterloo Napoleonics this year or abandon the project in 2014. No more kidding myself!
  4. There will be a gaming table in Mulder House (PVP headquarters).
And for the blog/business:

  1. Like last year, no dry spells, hobby content all the time.
  2. Put out more video tutorials, maybe one a quarter. So 4 by 2014.
  3. Take the time to improve skills, airbrush, sculpting etc.
  4. Produce at least one product I can sell.

So how have I done? Well, on the personal front, the Next Big Thing for the Beard Bunker didn’t really happen, we were all enjoying the ongoing campaign and had had rather a falling out of love with 40k for a while so nothing much of an organised nature happened there. We’re fixing that for next year as we know now we do sooo much better with a plan!

Finishing a workometer: Well, this one went better, I am now just one unit shy of the original 2500 Night Goblin army and in fact have added more stuff to it. I’m loving my gobbos and these lads will continue to grow. Flames of War had absolutely nothing done to it. Not a sausage. I might have hit my limit on 15mm stuff for the time being. Mojo will doubtless return at some point. The Cygnar I am selling so I think we can all see what the deal was there but hey! Goblins! 

Yeah, so nothing at all was done on Napoleonics, time to box that project for a little while. I love the models so I am sure that the urge will rise again. Trouble is they are a massive effort/reward ratio. In the time to paint 10 Brits I can paint 50 gobbos. With personal painting time limited the choice becomes a tough one. This is going to change (see below) so I imagine the lads will be unboxed at some future date and run with.

Finally, gaming table, yes! I have all the components I need now, I just need to get it painted and flocked and it is ready to go. I had a hugely over ambitious plan earlier in the year which has come down to a sensible: Get a Suitable Surface For a Realm of Battle Board Ye Prat. This has happened so there will be movement on this over the next year too.

The business resultions took something of a beating. I don’t think I left any gaping dry spells – although the flare up of my RSI was an annoyance. The video tutorial thing turned into another effort/reward gap. Each of the videos I’d done before has had a couple of hundred views. The text and image based tutorials by contrast are in the thousands. It takes hours to produce one YouTube tutorial, minutes to type one. Unless I run into something difficult to describe I think I’ll be sticking to text. 

I have certainly taken the time to improve my skills. I’ve used the airbrush a lot this year and while I think it will never be a primary weapon for me it is a valuable tool in the box. I’m much more comfortable and confident with sculpting and increasingly reach for it to get exactly the model I want. Still not at producing whole figures Charlie style but getting there…

Now the last one, produce something to sell kinda brings me on to the problem with 2013. I tried a couple of different routes to making things. All were dramatically out of affordability. Even with things like kickstarter I don’t think I could have done it. Kickstarter has kinda been ruined by all the established companies using it as a hype generator and pre-order system. People aren’t investing in things that don’t give them endless stretch goals and the like and I don’t blame them. There is only so much hobby wallet out there and it has to go where we will get the most benefit.

Speaking of wallet. Sadly, after three years of building PVP I have had to acknowledge that I simply cannot paint fast enough to make the business a viable source of primary income. I’m going to do a proper post on the experience of being a painter for hire – and it has been a really good one – but I have been working full time hours for far less than minimum wage for too long. We were ok initially, but three straight years of inflation beating wage rises and ridiculous bumps in things like the price of energy means that we are struggling to cope just on Mrs PVP’s wages month in month out. As a result, the painful decision has been made that I have to return to the ol’ gainful employment dance.

Don’t feel sorry for me, the last three years have been ace but our government hasn’t done well at making the “recovery” work for normal people and we’ve finally hit the tipping point. I have committed to one final project after the Eldar are done and will be wrapping up the business April time. The site will remain though it will mutate to be simply my own hobby on screen. How this works we will see. Obviously I’ll have simultaneously more time to work on my own stuff and less time as I have to, y’know, work for a living. We’ll see how it goes.

So with that, 2014!

I’m going to keep the objectives very, very simple as frankly, it works better that way. In 2014 I shall do the following:

  1. Support the Beard Bunker in 2014’s Next Big Thing (there will probably be a new Warhammer army in this, I’m torn between Nurgle, Dark Elves and Empire at the moment)
  2. Wrap all professional obligations in the first third of the year. Close PVP as the business and mutate the site into my personal hobby boudoir.
  3. Get the gaming table ready and play AT LEAST one game in my own home.
  4. Continue the fitness quest and add in more exercise.

That’s it. I think that’s do-able! To finance some of these I shall be selling off some of the stuff I have gathering dust. This will include some 54mm Inquisitor bits so keep your eyes peeled Inquisitor fans!