Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014...

It's a couple hours from midnight and it's finally starting to sink in that another year is about to die... I mean... "pass". I'm strangely numb to the process; getting old I guess, and lately years have started to zoom by so quickly that they barely seem to register. Le sigh. Oh well, guess it's time for some hastily thought up new years resolutions.

1. Watch More Anime
An easy one to start with. Over the past few years I've been watching less anime and playing less videogames; I've been too busy with other things (coughwarhammermachinecough). But there's some anime queued up that I've wanted to watch for ages, so I'm going to try to make it happen. Playing more videogames on other hand might be a little too ambitious right now.

2. Exercise More Regularly
So for a few years now I've started every year with a half-hearted (and severly cliched) "get back in shape" resolution. Problem is I was never really in shape to begin with. So this time I'm breaking it down a bit more: the idea is simply to do some measure of exercise regularly, even if it's just 5 seconds of stretches. Hopefully when it's a solidly ingrained routine I can slowly start to try to make it useful somehow. This is especially important as I've been having back problems (I'm perpetually hunched over keyboards and painting tables these days; funny to think that anime is probably better for my back than Warmachine) so I need to strengthen my core.

3. Paint More Minis
Despite putting the lion's share of my free time into Warmachine this past year, I've only managed to paint a total of 4 models (I'm not counting the extra Warjack arms or four half-hour paintjobs I did for the benefit of some very young family members, but even so). Shocking really. There are legitimate reasons for this, but one of the big contributing factors is G.A.D.D.: Gamer Attention Deficit Disorder.

I have planned and even half-finished conversions that I came up with or even started two or even three or more years ago, just sitting around in various boxes waiting for the day I either finish them, throw them away, or die of old age. I actually have dozens of primed models waiting to be painted, some of which are conversions that I was very excited about at the time and still am, on occasion. But the reality is that I come up with new ideas and fall in love with new models at a MUCH faster pace than I paint.

So this year I will try not to jump from project to project without finishing, but restrict myself to a more limited set of works in progress and follow through until I finish. And I'll try to pull off quick paintjobs on large units, even if I have to resist the urge to try fancy tricks and they end up a little boring.

4. Post More Reviews
Yeah, I have like twenty half-written reviews sitting around waiting to be posted, some are close to two years old. Reviewer Attention Deficit Disorder? Or just a lack of time? To be honest I kinda get stuck trying to fit in everything I want to say (which is pretty much every goddamned details I can possibly think of, unfortunately) in a way that flows well, and end up putting half-finished reviews aside then watching or playing something new and forgetting about the old one.

Hmm, I like the sound of being R.A.D.D. more than being G.A.D.D.

5. Stick To A Routine
I have trouble sticking to good daily routine. This is nothing new, and this isn't my first attempt to do something about it. Well, if at first you don't succeed, try again, right? Or possibly re-evaluate and try something new? Meh, I think I'm getting better anyway, so I'm going to keep trying.

6. Be More Responsible With Money
So I guess I probably shouldn't be starting two new Warmachine armies and a Horde anytime soon then? And Infinity is probably off the table for a little while longer? Eh, we'll see.

Well, that's all that comes to mind. Contrary to my earlier "hastily thought up" comment, none of these are new ideas, just a re-affirmation of things that I've been trying to hold myself to for a while now (well, except for the anime one maybe). The new year is simply a good time to renew my efforts. Does that make these resolutions unambitious, focused and realistic, or overly optimistic? Honestly I can't tell anymore.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

They forced my hand...

So I've posted before about my illuminated models. The thing is I've actually had a few models ready (or close to ready) for painting for a good long while, but for various reasons (mainly life and the desire to build up my Khador army) I've neglected them. However, now that PoweredPlay Gaming have successfully launched a Kickstarter for powered bases, the results of all my hard work will soon be somewhat obsolete. This has spurred me to refocus my efforts on finishing my lit models. To be honest, it would be nice to get photos of them out before the "market gets flooded", as it where. Therefore, I will be doing something today that I normally don't do: post pictures of unfinished models. I sincerely hope that these will all be painted soon.

To infinity, and beyond!

I originally planned this guy as a joke, but I got caught up trying to make him as ridiculous as possible and ended up successfully adding LEDs to the base and sword. He was actually the first of my current style of battery holding base. In fact he predated my Cortana - it was the lessons I learned on him that let me successfully fit all the components in her base.
A look at the base. The 50mm PP bases are nice and roomy underneath.

The problem with him is... I don't know how to paint horses. So, since I had finished Cortana - who was more technically impressive and therefore kinda made him obsolete - I put him on hold until I could get some more practice in on painting animals. And then I ended up putting all my time into other models and Warmachine.

The next model that I managed to finish was quite an ordeal. This was my first good 25mm base, and it was not easy to make.
There's a lot more custom work in this guy than you might realise.
And it was all totally worth it!

I cannot tell you how much work this model was or how many times I had to go back and add something I had forgotten or fix something after it broke - I've already written about how his spear broke after he was done, but I didn't mention before how the switch turned out to be broken after I had epoxied it in to the base, and I had to carefully carve it out and replace it (NOT and easy task at all!). Anyway, I finally managed to replace his spear tip. I used a lighter piece of plastic this time, as I found that this way it looks more like the spear itself is glowing rather than being lit from the base. I will probably darken it with glazes after painting though, as right now it looks too light for my tastes when not lit.

I had a lot more trouble than I expected replacing the spear tip.
Having said that, I actually think it looks better when lit now.
A look at the base - the smallest "nice" base I've managed yet.

Even though he was now finished, I still couldn't paint him. Why? Because I didn't have any primer. There is no spray primer around here. I have some GW brush-on primer but it doesn't work very well - I don't know if there's something wrong with it or it's settled out and won't mix back properly or something, but it's basically completely unusable. I ordered some spray primer online around four months ago (perhaps even earlier), but because it has to be sent by surface mail it took forever - I only just received it less than a week ago. In the meantime I worked on some other designs.

One thing I noticed with the base under the unicorn was that attaching LEDs to the bottom of the clear resin just created a spotlight-like effect rather than lighting up the whole thing. So my next move was to try to solve that. My first experiment was to put some distance between the LED and the bottom of the base, and put a little paint on the bottom to help diffuse the light. The resulting base looked better, but still not perfect.
I mounted a larger LED in an enclosure...
... to try to suspend the LED away from the resin base insert.
Better, but still looks like a single spotlight underneath the base.
Strakhov's pose (and status) made him the most suitable model for the base.

After that I hit on the idea of pointing the LED away from the base and reflecting the light upwards by creating a sort of diffusion chamber. While not as bright perhaps, it looks much more like a solid area of the base is glowing. I also discovered that the piece of metal I was using to hold the battery in was too weak, and by switching to a stronger component I had I was able to make the base more reliable, so that solved one of the final big problems I was having. Just wish I'd figured that out a couple of models ago... ah well, hindsight and all that.

The desired part of the base was brushed with PVA before priming.
With the PVA removed the glow comes through nicely.
It may not be obvious in this photo, but the light here is much more diffuse and "glowy".

The problem is that you can't light up the whole base since there isn't enough room underneath, which fortunately is perfect for this swamp base.

You can see the LED pointing sideways in this photo.
Adding a thin sheet of plasticard underneath served to diffuse the light upwards.
You can see here how important it is to precisely plan where the model will be pinned to the base.

I wanted to do the same thing for Alexia, which was a real exercise in compressing the components as far as possible and making efficient use of the space, as well as soldering in tight spaces.

I think I screwed up the LED angle somehow because the front is much brighter.
Careful planning was required to leave as much empty space as possible.
BOOM! Let there be lights!

Which brings us up to the present. Now that my primer is here I can finally start painting these fellows, but I'm just so painfully slow...

Currently I have plans for another way of lighting up the entire base that I think could work; I have a several models that I'd like to do if it works. I'm also halfway through a Space Marine with a light-up hammer that I've been wanting to do for ages, but I've had some problem with that one so he's on hold for the foreseeable future.

The good news (for me) is that PowerdPlay powered bases start at 40mm and up, and add a bit of height to the base. That means my completely-normal-sized 30mm and only-slightly-high 25mm bases are still somewhat unique. I've actually seen several illuminated models on 25mm bases (or smaller; I've seen an entire WFB army that lit up), so not that unique, though I think I add less height to mine than most (in theory I only need to add about 1mm depending on the model, though my only good 25mm base right now has about 2mm extra). I take some pride from that.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Experimenting with Drybrushing Blends

I once saw a very nicely painted Koldun Lord with some great glow effects. I don't remember where I saw it or who painted it, but when it came time to paint this guy, I wanted to try something similar. I decided to be a lot more heavy-handed with it though.

I've tried blending before and failed miserably every time. I think the problem is that blending requires speed and I'm intrinsically a slow painter. Plus I suspect that getting the paint to the right consistency with the addition of water and medium is important, which is another thing I have difficulty with. So I decided to use this model for experimenting with the use of drybrushes as a sort of poor-man's blend.

To try to achieve the glowing effect, I would add layers of colour to transition from the glow colour (in this case blue) through a darker colour and back up to the "underlying" colour (typically the red of his clothes and armour). After applying each new layer of colour I would drybrush over the boundry with first one colour then the other in order to create a gradient effect. This actually turned out to be quite slow and lead to a lot of clean-up work, but it did basically work. The transition between colours is not nearly as smooth as a true blend, but in this case I think it looked OK since it kinda gave the glows a bit of a "shimmer".

I tried to use a similar method for shading the recesses in cloth. I think it looks OK on the back of the cloak, but I didn't go dark enough on the inside of the cloak or on his tabard and they look too flat.

I painted the back of the cloak with a slightly darkened Lich Purple, then layered Lich Purple, Scab Red, and Blood Red towards the center, and Regal Blue, Enchanted Blue, and Ice Blue towards the edges. I painted a thin line of Skull White around the very edge then drybrushed Ice Blue over it again to soften it. Armour was done the same way (only without the drybrushes on the brighter colours as there wasn't room), with a bit of a wash of Baal Red to try to change the colour a little bit to subtly differentiate it from cloth. The inside of the cloak was the same, only I simply transitioned from a darkened to Regal Blue up to white. For the runes on the axe I tried to do a similar transition between Boltgun Metal and Regal Blue, then painted up to the brighter colours. I also used a combination of edge highlighting and subtle drybrushing with Chainmail to highlight the axe; additionally I tried to "feather" the cutting edge to give it some texture.

I initially only painted the cloak up to Scab Red, but I didn't really like it and I was trying to experiment with creating glows on already bright colours by transitioning through darker ones, so I ended up going all the way up to Blood Red. I tried to stick to darker colours for the rest of the model though in order to exaggerate the glow effect, using darker shades than I normally would for the beard, the brass, and the fur. I even tried to mix in some grey paint with the snow to stop it from overwhelming the white of the glows, but I don't think I used enough in the end.

Being from the frozen north (him, not me), I wanted him to be very pale, so I painted his skin with a mix of Elf Flesh and Pallid Wych Flesh, then shaded it with a wash of equal parts Ogryn Flesh and 'Ardcoat. As usual the shading was a bit too subtle but for this model but I didn't think that was too big a deal since there's so few areas of detailed skin. I had difficultly with the glows over skin since trying to go through a darker colour just didn't look good, so I just skipped straight to Ice Blue and added an intermediate step of lightened Ice Blue. There's a glowing spot in the middle of the hand that's quite hard to see from most angles, but I added a bit of blue between the fingers on the outside of that hand too which worked quite well.

I had initially intended to add some weathering to the armour to help it stand out from the cloth, but I forgot and I can't be bothered now as he's all varnished and everything. Speaking of, I might not have used enough Purity Seal, as he's still a bit too... satin. Oh well, I don't think it's bad enough to really matter.

While the Koldun Lord model doesn't hold any particular appeal to me, the fact is that it's a great model (although he has the same problem as Sylys in that I don't know what he's supposed to be doing with his left arm... trying to look dramatic to the stage audience perhaps? It's almost exactly the same pose in fact...) and I didn't see the need to make any changes, except for straightening out the "pick" end of the axe a bit. I did have some trouble painting some of the recesses; it would have been much easier if I hadn't glued him together first, especially when it came to the inside of the cloak. I actually considered doing a lot more in the way of free-hand glowing runes and stuff on the inside of the cloak, but I quickly realised that it would be extremely difficult, so I settled for some little stars instead, which I think look quite nice.

Something strange happened while painting this model: after the 'Ardcoat had dried, I noticed that there was some... damage to some areas of paint. Specifically the white outline on the back of the cape: in some areas a bright purple had shown up over the white. I think the blue was affected as well, as the gradient effect doesn't look the way I remember it - it seems to be darker overall? Like the Ice Blue faded and the gradient doesn't work as well, going too quickly from white to dark blue. I tried to fix the missing white at least, but if you look carefully at the photos you can see areas where there is a bit of purple coming through. That didn't used to be there, I assure you. Also there's a spot on the inside of the cape where there's a large purple stain. I didn't know how to fix that, but it's so dark that it's not really noticeable against the dark blue, and it basically follows along the recess of a fold, so at a casual glance it looks like a shadow anyway, so I didn't try to fix it or anything. I'm not really sure what happened, but I think I may have brushed the 'Ardcoat around the model too aggressively to try to stop it from pooling in the recesses, and it picked up some paint somehow. Which I didn't think it was supposed to do. Kind of annoyed about that; I'm sure the back of the figure used to look nicer than it does now.

Overall I don't think the glow effect worked all that well, and is somewhat inconsistent as the gradient is much more noticeable in some places than others due to space constraints, but the figure looks quite dramatic nonetheless, and the colour combinations came out quite pleasing in my eyes especially the blend from blue to red through purple), so I'm happy with it overall. I especially like the axe and the inside of the cape. I wish it hadn't taken so long to paint though; so far I've just been assembling and painting the Warmachine models that I'm not all that fond of, and "saving" the ones I really like; I guess I'm just worried about messing them up. Well, hopefully I'll get to them sooner rather than later.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Archibald Worthington, Butterfly Hunter

I have traveled across the Iron Kingdoms, seeking to learn all I can about that most colourful of arthropods; the majestic butterfly. I have endured much hardship in my quest, for few in these war-torn lands are friendly to outsiders. In order to survive I had to study the people themselves.

The inhabitants of Western Immoren are varied in species, culture, and language. Though I have not spent long enough learning any single tongue to be truly proficient, I have learned enough to get by. Disparate though the people I have encountered may be, there are some shared gestures and expressions that seems to transcend geography.

One term in particular has stood out: an expression that I have come to believe means "honored guest", it is almost universally pronounced as "sigh-liss weesh-na-leer". Whenever I am greeted thus, I know I am among friends.

So long have I been amassing knowledge in my chosen field that I have come to be known as the foremost expert on butterflies; and as it turns out my expertise is in high demand. In fact I have been able to fund my studies by hiring out my services to a diverse and far-reaching network of enlightened individuals who appreciate these beautiful creatures.

I confess I have never understood why they so often save their questions on butterfly genealogy and mating habits for the heat of battle, but I take pride in knowing that they always seem to take satisfaction from my answers.
-Archibald Worthington

My first attempt at an animated GIF of a model.

So I picked up Sylys a while back for the free upkeep, but the model is just such a mess that when it came time to assemble it, I just had to do something to make it less stupid. The first and most important job was to do something about that stupid hip plate thing. I mean, the only piece of armour on his whole body was on his left hip? What, is his spleen his most vital organ or something?

Anyway, inspired by a then-recent No Quarter hobby article, I tried to sculpt a satchel to cover it. I think it turned out quite well, especially considering it was the first time I'd tried such a thing. Once I saw it in place, it brought to mind some sort of old Victorian college professor running through open fields chasing butterflies. For some reason. So that's what I went with, because humor and stuff.

I deliberately painted him in rather boring colours to try to make the butterflies stand out more. I was going for a light khaki colour on the jacket; I used Bleached Bone and a wash of equal parts Gryphonne Sepia and 'Ardcoat. I tried to differentiate the leathers and ground textures slightly by using different browns before washing with Devlan Mud (actually I think I used Ogryn Flesh for some of the leathers).

The basing was done with Citadel Technical paint, a bit of twig, and Army Painter's Battlefields: Meadow Flowers. I found the "flowers" tended to fall off so I added some very thinned down Jot Sealant (a waterproof PVA) to try to glue them down.

After a bit of searching for a suitable net material, I came upon the idea of cutting it out of a tea sieve - or perhaps it was suggested to me? Mind like a, well, sieve these days. The rod is made from a bent paperclip, I also greenstuffed some hair (do Iosians have hair?) to fit the "look" I wanted.

I started off by cutting butterfly shapes from coloured transparency sheets, but after some testing it turned out that painted plasticard came out much brighter most of the time. So I cut out wings from very thin, folded plasticard, sanded the profile smooth, and carefully painted them before gluing them to small blobs of greenstuff. I found "reverse action tweezers" to be extremely useful during the painting process.

I was originally planning to glue the big butterfly inside the net, but decided to position it as if he had missed with a swing. Because more humor and stuff. To try to exaggerate the effect I wanted to stick more butterflies all over him (the idea being that, you know, he's so useless that even butterflies aren't scared of him); this would have had the added advantage of making the position of his left arm actually make sense, like he's beset by the little blighters and trying to wave them off. Unfortunately because the butterflies are only glued on, I tried to put them in places where they wouldn't get knocked off or interfere with my ability to handle the model. That limited me somewhat, and I ended up putting the nicest one I managed to make (the small orange one) in the least visible position. It just kinda had to happen that way for balance. Still, they are the stars of the show, and I enjoyed making them.

Fingers included to give a sense of scale.

Overall I'm quite happy with how he's turned out even if I'm not happy about how long he took to do. While I don't really want to make a habit out of buying models I don't like and then spending holy-good-God-forever just to make them tolerable, I suppose it does lead to some more unique conversions. Silver linings and all that.