Paintlog: Aiyana & Holt. Also a bit of colour theory…

Between the recent theme changes in Warmachine allowing mercenary models in theme forces, and magic weapons being an important consideration if you want to play competitively (screw you, Gremlin Swarms and Ghost Fleet!), there are a couple models which have rocketed up to the top of my painting list.  That’s right, I’ve got Lady Aiyana & Master Holt to paint.

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However, because of my rebellious tendencies, following a studio scheme is anathema to me, so I decided to do my own take on Aiyana & Holt.

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Starting with Aiyana, I decided that I wanted to give her a dark skin tone.  I’ve got plenty of caucasian models in my army and have had plenty of practice on light skin tones at this scale, so I wanted to do something a little different to both up the diversity of my army, and get some practice painting dark skin (my first attempt ended up looking more Drow than African-Khadoran).  However, I also like to have some sharp contrast between skin and hair colour, so I decided that a bright pink would make a nice hair colour for her, giving me both that contrast I was looking for and a sort of cyberpunk aesthetic which I’m a fan of.

Next, I had to do the rest of her without clashing.  Settling on a colour scheme was a challenge, but I figured that, to complete the cyberpunk look, some shiny black leather would be necessary, so I started there by working that into the boots, leggings, and the sides of her top.  From there, it was a matter of choosing colours that were different enough to distinguish the several different parts of her outfit and different material types (smooth leather, cloth, metallics, fur), while also not clashing with each other.  To accomplish this, I stayed in the cool end of the spectrum, going for blues, greens and purples, with just a bit of warm gold on some of the highlights to get that cold/warm contrast.  I used P3’s Coal Black for the base colour inside of the cape, which is just a great bluish, greenish, blackish colour in general and one of the few colours that I will accept Privateer Press’ terrible, terrible paint pot design and dip into P3s range to pick up.  The cloth hanging from her waist was based with Reaper’s Amethyst Purple, a nice light purple that I use a lot for highlights on my warjacks.  Throw in some blues and greens, and we’ve got a colour scheme going.

Then we have her companion and bodyguard, Master Holt.  Ironically, for someone who plays Khador, I haven’t had much experience painting reds (see: my irrational avoidance of studio schemes), so I decided to do him up as a redcoat.  The majority of the jacket ended up red, with some black in different areas to break it up and prevent the red from being too overwhelming.  The white trim was added to give some bright contrast and make the miniature pop even from across a table.  Finally, a pink scarf was added, to match Aiyana’s hair and help tie these two models together.

Overall, I was very satisfied with how these models turned out, however there are two parts that I wanted to highlight in particular:  The bases, and some of the colour theory I applied to my highlights and shadows.

Basing

On these models, one of the questions that I’ve been getting a lot was how I did the base, where I got it, and so on.

First off, these aren’t premade bases or base inserts, so anyone looking to just spend money to replicate this effect is out of luck.  While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that using a base insert is cheating, I find that I much prefer doing my own thing.  Custom basing is one of my favourite parts of this hobby, and just sticking a premade base on, I feel, takes away from that.

For Aiyana & Holt, I decided that I wanted to do an urban scene, but I also wanted to give them a little bit of height on their base so they stand out on a table.  As such, I decided to do a cross-section of a city street or alley, with them standing on a stone surface.

Each of these bases are three layers.  The first is simply the standard, round, 30mm, Privateer Press base that we are all familiar with.  On top of that, I used gel super glue to attach a piece of cork ripped from some dollar store cork board.  Cork is a useful basing material, which is good for creating cross-sections of earth, but one of the tricks to it is that it has these unnatural-looking perfectly flat surfaces. so you usually have to do some work to it.  However, since I was planning to build on top of this, it wasn’t a problem in this case.

Next, I had some tiny bricks that I had picked up somewhere; while I didn’t make them myself, I believe they were made from Hirst Arts molds and some sort of plaster.  These were simply broken up around the edges with some of my sculpting tools and glued in place with the same gel super glue as I used on the cork.

To add a little more texture onto the cork, I used a coarse pumice artist medium.  You can use sand and glue, which may be a bit cheaper of an option, but I’ve been moving to textured artist mediums for this sort of thing because I’m sick of cleaning sand out of my apartment, and because you can mix craft paint into those artist mediums to colour them as you apply them and skip a step in the process of painting your base.

Beyond that, it is mostly a matter of the usual base coat, wash, drybrush technique.  The stones were base coated in a stone grey colour, washed with a black wash, and then drybrushed up all the way to Reaper’s Misty Grey, which is very close to white.  Then, to add a little colour and visual interest to the piece, I brushed on some dry pigments from Vallejo and Secret Weapon.  These are a recent addition to my hobby arsenal, but I’ve found that they are particularly useful for adding a touch of colour to stone and brickwork.  Finally, I drybrushed it with a little more misty grey, just because some of the pigments took off the brightest highlights on the cracked and broken stone edges and I wanted to bring that back up.

To attach the models, I simply drilled into their feet and drilled a hole all the way down into the base and pinned them in place.  One important thing with these bases is that I specifically chose not to place the models in such a position that they would be parallel to or at a 90-degree angle to any of the bricks, and instead went for something in the 30 to 45 degree range.  When you are doing basing, you always want to add an element of randomness to it as nature is by definition pretty random.  Even in an urban setting, I felt that having the models perfectly aligned with the bricks would interfere with that randomness and end up looking unnatural.

Colour Theory

Finally, I wanted to draw some attention to some of the choices I made on these miniatures when it came to things like highlights, shadows, and colour theory.  As I’ve said before, painting miniatures is often a study of light and shadow and trying to replicate that on a small scale, and there are a number of things I did on these models that I may not have known to do when I was first starting out.

First, let’s take a look at the green on Aiyana’s dress.  Green is an interesting colour to work with because of how it plays with highlights.  When I first started painting, when I wanted to highlight, I would just lighten the colour I was working in by mixing in a little white.  While this worked for some colours, it really broke down when it came to green.  In order to properly highlight green, you’re going to want to use yellow instead of white.  This does a couple things.  First, as a fairly warm colour, the yellow will make your highlights warmer, which tricks the eye a little.  Warm colours tend to come forward, so a warm highlight and cool shadow will make the miniature pop.  Second, adding white to green, especially the sort of drab, military-style greens we tend to use, can really desaturate the highlight, which is not what you are going for.

To illustrate this point, compare the highlights on Aiyana’s dress above with this Assault Kommando I painted before I learned about how to properly highlight green with yellow.  You can see that the former just looks so much better on a miniature.

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Unplayable trash?  I don’t think so.

I had a similar issue with Holt’s red coat.  Red is another colour where just adding black and white to do shadows and highlights doesn’t quite work.  First, as a warm colour, red really benefits from a cool shadow, such as a blue or green across the colour wheel from it.  Second, when you mix red and white, you end up with pink, which isn’t what you want.  Instead, red should be highlighted towards orange, which also has the benefit of being an even warmer colour and “popping” just like how yellow makes green “pop.”

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Not bad, but for my money, Julie Newmar is the only true Catwoman

Then we get to black.  Black is a very interesting colour to paint because it is defined as the absence of light.  However, when you look carefully at pictures of black, you will see that unless you have some sort of exotic material such as a Vantablack or a miniature black hole, what our brain tells us is black is very rarely actually black.

This is a little tricky to explain, but if you spend enough time staring at shiny black objects, you will start to see what I mean.  What our brain may tell us is a glossy black, like Michelle Pfeiffer’s outfit in Batman Returns, is actually the interplay of both black and the light reflecting off of it.  In this case, if we look carefully, we can see that a lot of the pixels in this image of her allegedly-black outfit are actually white, as these bits catch the light and reflect it directly into our eye.  A glossy latex catsuit may be an extreme example, but the same principle is at play with just about every black object; unless we’re staring down a black hole from which no light can escape, what our brain tells us is black actually still has some light reflecting off it.

So, what does this mean for miniature painters?  It means that when we are painting something black, we need to take into account the properties of the material that we are attempting to replicate and how it will catch and reflect the light, and try to replicate that at scale.  Simply slapping on a bunch of black paint all over the area that we want to represent a black item or piece of clothing just won’t do.  To see what I mean, compare the black on Holt’s coat partway through painting below with the finished product above.

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Holt, before shading and highlights

In the before picture, the black sections of the coat don’t really look like anything but a miniature that someone slapped some flat black paint on.  However, by adding some highlights, in the above case, some desaturated blues (P3’s Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite) near the front of the coat, it made it possible for me to really sell the effect of a black coat by showing some of that light reflecting off of it.  The same goes for Aiyana’s thigh-high leather boots, however to make them look shiny like the Catwoman outfit, I made the highlights smaller, brighter, and sharper, making it look as though the light was really reflecting off those small points where it is being caught and reflected into the viewer’s eye.

Got all that?

mv5bnzezmti2njeynf5bml5banbnxkftztcwnta0ote4oa-_v1_ux214_cr00214317_al_The same goes for black skin.  While I can’t say that I have a lot of experience with or have quite cracked the code on painting African-American (African-Iosan?) skin, one of the things I’ve gleaned from looking over reference material is that dark skin tends to be relatively smooth and reflective compared to other skin tones.  I believe the scientific term for this phenomenon is “Black don’t crack.”

Because of this, if you look carefully at a picture of a dark-skinned person, you will see highlights and reflections that have a touch of blue to them.  You can see this in this picture of Idris Elba; the cheekbones, the nose, and the top forehead are caught in the light and emanating that reflection, which is something that we will want to take into account when we paint our tiny, dark-skinned faces.

So, this is where our old friend, P3 Frostbite comes into play, as the perfect colour to mix into these highlights to get that reflection.  It’s hard to see in some of my pictures, but that touch of frostbite really helps make the highlights on Aiyana’s skin look a little more realistic and gives a little more contrast.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m very satisfied with how these two turned out, and I felt that being able to try out some different colours was a nice palate cleanser from my usual painting.  Despite being one of PP’s older sculpts, they are both very nice models, with plenty of character to draw out.  I already brought Aiyana to the Ottawa Figure Show, and I’m sure they will be seeing their fair share of table time at upcoming events.

Why I’m not a “gamer”

This is probably a surprising headline coming from a guy who writes a blog about his plastic wardollies, but lately, there have been a lot of things that have made me consider whether I should identify with the gamer community, or rather, just be a guy who plays games.

First off, I feel like “gamer” is kind of an odd identity.  I’m many things, and in my average day, I do plenty other than playing games.  I spend a lot more time in the average week being an economist and civil servant than I do playing games.  I also enjoy live theatre, music, food, watching Murdoch Mysteries, writing, non-gaming modelling, beer, and many other things.  I like to think of myself as a well-rounded individual, and I’m not totally comfortable collapsing that entire identity down to one label.  Further, it seems odd to me that so many gamers make that a cornerstone of their identity in a way that many other fandoms don’t.  People who like to watch TV in their spare time don’t introduce themselves as TV-watchers.

Further, as someone with some rather left-leaning political beliefs and a healthy suspicion of the whole capitalist shebang (did I mention I was an economist?), there is something that doesn’t quite sit right about basing my identity around the products I consume.  There are other, more important aspects to people’s lives than simply the amount of plasticrack they buy, and while there may be communities devoted to said plasticrack, it feels weird to identify so strongly with it that it becomes your whole identity.

Finally, I feel like the “gamer” identity has gotten a negative connotation as of late, and I’m not sure I don’t want to be associated with those stereotypes.  Now, I’m not talking about the stereotype of the cheeto-fingered, Mountain Dew swilling, basement-dwelling nerdlinger.  That’s a stereotype that I can handle.  What I am referring to are the gamergaters, MRAs, and other alt-right fucknuts who are trying to turn gaming from something inclusive into a quasi-fascist boys club.

(Note:  I will say that this is something that I’ve found rears its ugly head on the internet more than in real life.  I suspect part of this is because I’m a white male so I may not notice it, and part of it is because it is far easier for these jerkwads to threaten women on the internet than to express their vile opinions in real life)

Gaming has a problem.  In fairness, our whole society has a problem when it’s 2017 and we can’t all agree that women are people and Nazis are bad, but it feels like gaming is a place that is particularly bad for this sort of thing.  I could speculate as to the deep-seated psychological reasons why so many gamers end up being misogynist jerkwads, but I’ll just say that in certain segments of the community, you can’t throw a stone without hitting someone whining that “SJWs” are ruining everything by asking to have their identities included and validated in the fiction of our shared worlds, or that having one badass female character in a story is proof of a systematic global conspiracy to oppress white men.

Want proof?  Just look at the response to the creation of the days-old Feminist 40K group and all the trolls who came out of the woodwork on that one.  Or the anger from some members of the community when Privateer Press removed the juvenile, needlessly sexist, Page 5 from the Warmachine Mk.III books and replaced it with something a little more welcoming.  Or just spend some time on the internet and you will come across people complaining that “SJWs” are ruining everything they like and that certain aspects of their hobby should remain stuck in the 1980s because they can imagine all kinds of fantastical creatures and races like dragons and dwarves, but somehow aren’t creative enough to conceive of a strong female character.

Now, I’m not trying to paint everyone who plays tabletop games with this broad brush.  And you might say that it’s not fair for me to write off all of gamerdom as horribly sexist.  You might have a point, but it’s also not fair for female gamers to face additional barriers to get into the hobby, and occasionally be harassed and terrorized out of the gaming community.

Gaming should be a welcoming, diverse community.  Our games themselves must be inclusive, or else we have a problem.  Given where the community is at right now, while I’m still going to play games and I’m going to try to welcome people to and interact with the community, I’m not sure I feel comfortable calling myself a “gamer” anymore and placing myself in the same category as the gamergate doofuses.

Ottawa Figure Show 2017 Recap

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Ottawa Figure Show, which was hosted by Figurinistes de l’Outaouais, and not held in Ottawa at all.

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Just like at CapCon, I was in the situation where I didn’t have a purely display model to enter, so I had to bring the best, recent work on my army. However, unlike CapCon where there were dozens of categories and a competition for first, second, and third place, this show used the open judging system. This means that you are given a participation cerficiate, bronze, silver, or gold based on the quality of your models on display, so depending on the quality on display that day, there could be one gold winner, eight gold winners, or no gold winners. It also means that you aren’t competing against anyone but yourself, and the awards you take home don’t depend on who else shows up that day.

To be honest, I like this system. Competing against each other to see who is the best goes so much against the spirit of the hobby, and comparing yourself to others is the fastest way for new painters to get frustrated and quit. This allows you to set a personal goal and try to achieve it, rather than directly competing against other participants.

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Plus I don’t autolose because some guy shows up with something like this

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Kommander Strakhov:  Master of Disguise

So, after staying up until about 3:30 am putting the finishing touches on Lady Aiyana, I packed the best models I could find and ventured across the river into La belle province. The Lady Forge Seer who scored Bronze in the fantasy figure category at CapCon went into the case, as well as Victor, the Black Dragon Spriggan, Assault Kommander Olga Strakhov and her Kommandos, Markov, Aiyana, Eilish, and a Field Gun. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what the standards were, and I just went to have a good time. I didn’t think I had a serious chance of scoring at the highest of levels because my models were all gaming pieces with plain, arc-marked bases. No fancy plinths here, just gaming bases and very thick layers of varnish.

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Dueling Eilishes:  George’s (left) and mine (right)

It was held at a comic book and miniature store, and brought out perhaps 20 entrants, including folks from across the Ottawa-Gatineau area, some guests from Montreal, and couple of the Moose.  There was a good mix of people, including those doing historicals, fantasy, and gaming figures.  In addition to the gold/silver/bronze, there were five awards — Best in Show (as decided by the judges), Best Judge’s Model (which consisted of the work of the judges, which was voted on by the other entrants), and Best Knight Miniatures, Privateer Press, and Games Workshop model. Warmachine players had a good showing, but surprisingly, there was only one entrant repping GW. Taking up most of the day, there was display, judging, classes, and a speedpainting contest.  I did skip the speedpainting contest for a tutorial on weathering, which George from Moosemachine won using the cunning strategy of “hog the Agrax Earthshade and don’t let anyone else have any.”

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My Field Gun

Unfortunately, the tutorials didn’t get a whole lot of uptake, but fortunately for me, that meant I had some opportunity to receive some one-on-one instruction. I took a class on weathering, and saw some new techniques in play such as the hairspray technique and weathering with oil-based paints. These are techniques that I hope to try out sometime in the future, however adding oils to my repertoire is going to be a bit of a jump. The class on groundwork was great, and I was able to snag some of my models off the table for some one-on-one constructive criticism. The guy running it also gave me a lot of really good advice for composition and dioramas, which is great because I plan to do one in the new year and don’t 100% know where to start when it comes to things like composition.

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The quality on display was simply amazing. I’ve sprinked a few photos in, but even though the photography was great, there are some miniatures where they just don’t do them justice. My favourite pieces were an Elven archer holding the bird, and a bust of a tattooed blonde woman.  There was also a very well-done Cygnaran warjack, though I can’t say much more because its… ugh… Cygnar.

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Lady Forge Seer, repping Khador

I managed to take home a bronze for the Forge Seer, though one of the judges mentioned that I was very close to the silver level.  Without having the experience to judge miniature painting, I think that is a fair assessment — these are gaming pieces, after all, and I have to get a fair bit of time at the painting desk before I can say I’ve mastered the art of getting smooth blends.  My goal next year will be to snag a silver, and I will be going all-out on at least one or two models; likely something in 30mm scale, a bust, and perhaps a diorama.  But the more I think about it, the more satisfied I am with the bronze.  Some of my techniques haven’t quite been fully developed yet, and winning a bronze this year means that I now have a measurable goal to work towards for next year.

The feedback I got was also valuable. One of the judges commented positively on the bold colour choice, to which I think he meant the pink on the Forge Seer. I would tend to agree with that; I’ve been very satisfied with the bits of pink that have made their way into the colour scheme of my army. It’s a very vibrant colour, one that most painters probably don’t reach for right away. It’s seen as overly feminine in today’s society, which given the dudebro nature of large sections of the wargaming community may make it seem like an odd choice, but there is actually some interesting history in the colour pink and its associations with masculinity and warfare right up until the 1950s.. Besides, does anyone really want to say anything about pink armour to the Butcher of Khardov’s face?

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Will’s Borka, which won him a Silver

Beyond that, I think my next steps are going to be just getting some practice in on various techniques which I’ve learned but have yet to master, work on building my understanding of light and how it interacts with a miniature and the real thing, and maybe kick up the contrast and highlights even more than I’m already doing.  I have plans to get some practice in, however the next couple weeks are going to be dedicated to just banging out some dudes for my army.

Overall, the Ottawa Figure Show is something that all local painters should strive to attend.  While attendance wasn’t huge this year, the quality of figures on display more than made up for that and seeing what is possible with these figures can inspire you to want to take your painting to the next level. It’s also just a great opportunity to get feedback on your painting, learn additional techniques, and hang out with some fellow miniature painters.

Hope to see you all next year!

How to paint (Caucasian, 28ish mm scale) faces

When we are looking at another person, we have been hard-wired through millions of years of evolution to look at their faces in order to recognize and identify that person.  Miniatures are no different, in that faces are one of the first things to catch the eye.  As such, the paint job on the face goes a long way in making or breaking a miniature.

Many companies make skin-coloured paints or crayons or what have you.  The catch with these is that they won’t actually match the colour of your skin because skin is complex.  Your skin is not one solid colour like the paint on the side of a tank; it is a somewhat translucent bag of flesh stretched over some red and blue stuff, which due to its shape is generally having different amounts of light hitting different places.  If you look at someone’s face, you can see that there is a lot going on there underneath the skin.

Additionally, when painting miniatures, you need to use paint to replicate the effects of light and shadow at the smaller scale.  For example, a billowing red cape will need to have shadows and highlights painted on in order to give the impression of a billowing cape in 28mm scale rather than a tiny, vaguely cape-shaped piece of plastic painted red.

All this means that just covering everything with a paint that includes the word “skin” in the colour name won’t work because not only will you miss out on all those details like the variations in skin tone on different areas of the face, you will also miss out on the interaction of light and shadow that enables you create realistic representations of objects at 28mm scale.  So, how do we do it?

What you will need:

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  1. A good brush, in about a 00 or 0 size. The subject of what is a good brush and why you should get one could be an article in and of itself, but for this sort of work, a quality Kolinsky Sable such as a Winsor & Newton Series 7 is the best.  It’s pricy, but if you take care of it properly and don’t use it on techniques which destroy brushes, it will last you a while.  Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need a tiny tiny brush like a 10/0 to paint faces.  What you really need is a small, but not too small, high-quality brush with a nice sharp tip.
  2. A wet palette. You can buy one or make one at home for really cheap, and if you’re working with acrylics, you should probably have one anyways.  For this sort of work, it is pretty much mandatory, as you will need to control your paint consistency and be able to mix up colours and keep it from drying.
  3. A few paint colours. White and a dark brown or blue or black for the eyeballs, a couple skin tones (a lighter and a darker tone) and a medium-dark somewhat desaturated blue.  Brand doesn’t matter; just about all the hobby acrylic paints on the market are good and will have multiple skin tones in their line.
  4. Possibly a touch of airbrush flow improver to thin your paints and make them easier to work with.
  5. Your usual painting supplies — jar of water, brush cleaner, paper towel, etc.

Process

Once you have your figure primed (not in black!) and ready to paint, we’re going to start with the eyes and work outwards.  I find this to be easier because at this scale, it is very difficult to paint the shape of an eye.  However, if we start at the eye and work outwards, we can slap on a splotch of white paint in the general area of the eyeball, and then shape the eye by painting the skin around it.  Additionally, since the eye sockets tend to be shadowed, this allows us to do the eye, then start with our darkest shadows and work up to our brightest highlights.

So, that’s our first step — paint a couple big white splotches over the general area of the eyeball.  Don’t bother being careful, just cover the general area of the eye.  Next, we’re going to dot the eyeball.  At this scale, painting an iris is very difficult and probably unnecessary, so we’re just going to use a touch of dark, dark brown to dot the eyeball.  There are two ways you can do this – either by painting a dot where the pupil will go, or a vertical line across the eye, intersecting the location of the pupil.  Either way works; whether to do a dot or a line is just a matter of what works for you on the miniature in question.  It can be tricky to get it right on your first few miniatures, but try to get the pupils in the right place so your mini isn’t all goofy-eyed, and if you screw up, it’s easy  at this stage to go back with the white paint and fix it.

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Next up, were going to mix up a little blue into our dark skin tone colour.  Why blue, you may ask?  Well, there are three good reasons:

  1. If you look carefully at someone’s face, you will see a hint of blue in places such as around the eyes, beside the nose, etc.
  2. It is good to have a darker colour like a dark blue around the eye so that the whites contrast more. If you just went straight from white to a light peach colour, the observer’s eye has a hard time seeing where the eyeball stops and the skin around the eyes begins.
  3. When it comes to shadows, sometimes you can make your highlights pop more and your shadows look deeper by using a cold, complementary colour. I use this a lot on brass, where I shade with a hint of purple, because it is across the colour wheel.  The same principle is at play here, where areas such as the eye sockets are shaded in a cold colour to trick the eye.

Take that colour and paint all the exposed skin on the model.  When you get close to the eyes, you can shape the eye by covering up the big white splotches and vertical lines from previous steps, and painting up to the edge where the skin stops and the eyeball starts.  Again, using your shadowed skin colour to shape the eye which already has the pupils painted in is much easier and less nerve-wracking than trying to paint the perfect eyeball shape in one try at the end, and then trying to perfectly dot the eye.

Now that we’ve got a bluish face, it is simply a matter of highlighting up from your darkest shadows, which you will leave in this bluish colour, to your brightest highlights.  Using the wet palette, it’s easy to mix colours so you can layer and blend all the way from your darker skin colour up to your light skin colour.

To do this, start with your dark skin tone and cover most of the face, leaving some blue showing in certain areas such as around the eyes and beside the nose.  Then maybe mix in some light skin tone and go over it again, this time focusing on areas you will want to highlight like the bridge of the nose, the cheekbones, the forehead, and the chin.  Then go to straight light skin tone and highlight areas like the cheekbones and the forehead again, working your way up from dark to light.

Once we’ve gone to our light skin tone, I like to go even further, mixing a little white into my light skin tone and getting the highest highlight on the tip of the nose and where the sun would be reflecting off the forehead.  The point here is that with every step into a lighter colour, you’re painting less and less of the surface area of the face.

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There should be another step in between the first and second, which I forgot to take a picture of.

And there you have it!  A basic, simple face.  If you feel it is lacking depth, you can add a wash to the shadows, but be careful.  If you just slather it on, it will end up pooling in the eye sockets and ruining those eyeballs you worked so hard on.  From there, you can also add various features such as facial hair, scars, tattoos, etc. if you so desire, but our friend Eilish here tends to be clean-shaven and doesn’t have any facial scars aside from that one pesky mold line on the side of his head, so I’m going to leave it here.

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Okay, it’s not quite perfect, but the face isn’t bad for maybe a half hour of work.  Also, just saying, painting yellow sucks.

And there you have it!  Since faces are one of the first things that someone looks at when they see a figure, by applying these techniques and devoting a little bit of extra time to making your faces look good, you can make a serious improvement in the quality of your figures.

Good luck and happy painting!

No Quarter Prime #1 — A quick review

Last week, I picked up the much-awaited first issue of No Quarter Prime, Privateer Press‘ reboot of their long-running No Quarter magazine. For about $10 CAD, you get 112 pages of ad-free content and artwork, as well as a free bonus miniature.

Packed full of content, the table of contents shows long sections on Company of Iron, Trenchers, an IKRPG module, and the story of first battles in the liberation of East Khador (or, as the despicable swans and ungrateful eastern bandits call it, the “occupation” of Llael)

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All right, but apart from public order, infrastructure, protection from the Menites, jobs in the warjack repair depots, and removal of the corrupt nobles, what have the Khadorans ever given us?

The section on the opening stages of war is a great read.  Privateer Press has decided, since Warmachine has massively increased in popularity and experienced a lot of churn since it was first launched, to retell the story of how the Iron Kingdoms got to be in the situation they are in Mk.III.  I think this is a great idea; it gives newer players an accessible way to get caught up on the fluff behind the game.

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Much of the story is written from the perspective of the Khadoran warcasters who led the invasion, and as a Khador player, I think they did a good job of offering a balanced portrayal of the motherland, rather than falling on tropes of Cygnar as the good guys and Khador as the evil Russkies.  And the fact that they had a teamup of my two favourite characters in the Iron Kingdoms (Harkevich and Sorscha) was a particular highlight for me.

Another long section is on Company of Iron, which is their new skirmish-level version of Warmachine.  It comes with a couple pages of fluff about Agata & Lt. Gwen Keller, some inspiration for alternate colour schemes, three scenarios, and a writeup on strategies to use with the models in the Company of Iron box.  With CoI releasing in three weeks, I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but the scenarios do look like the sort of interesting, narratively-based scenarios that I think Warmachine could use more of, rather than “stand in this big circle to get points to win.”

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Here.  Now there is no excuse to play unpainted.

There is a brief section on the Tower Judgement, a massive Protectorate fortification, temple, and torture chamber, which features prominently in a custom four-player scenario that includes custom terrain features and guides on how to make them.  A long section on an IKRPG module I mostly skipped over, just because when it comes to RPGs, I’m not a huge fan of the ’90s style D&D 3.5e inspired tomes with tons of tables to roll on and hyper-detailed rules governing things as simple as climbing up a rope.  Give me the freeform nature of the Savage Worlds system any day…

But back to the magazine, there are guides on how to paint warjacks and warbeasts from every faction using simple five-step processes, which means that while it may not be a top quality paint job, new players can easily get something that kind of resembles the box art.

A large portion of the issue is devoted to trenchers, both a review of the CID process and a long section on Trencher lore, equipment, etc.  The lore section is packed with detail about these tough bastards, and as a fan of steampunk guns, the artwork included there really jumps out at me.  Details on alternate colour schemes are also included, as well as three scenarios.  My only criticism here is that they included a couple pages with pictures of all the new cards, which was nice, but I think it would have been better if they had the new cards all on a couple pages at the back and formatted in such a way that you could cut them out, sleeve them, and use them in play.

Overall, NQP has some great content.  Aside from the tiny issue with the cards, the only other thing I would have liked to have seen is perhaps a little hobby content on how to make some trenchworks or other terrain pieces relating to the trencher theme.  But with all the content crammed into only 112 pages, I can see why it might not have fit.  I think my favourite part, aside from all the Khador parts, was the alternate colour scheme ideas.

IMG_2089.JPGAnd did I mention the free miniature? You get Eilish Garrity, who comes on a resin sprue with the base. There is some flash and mold lines to clean up, but apart from that, there is plenty of nice, crisp detail that is going to be good for painting. Eilish is a mercenary who will work for any faction, and he provides upkeep removal, which given how much Denny1 is stomping the meta right now, means that you will see him hit the table just to get rid of Crippling Grasp. Puppet Master is also great, and I can definitely see him getting a lot of play in Khador because for five points, he gives us two things which are not easily available in-faction, and inability to remove enemy upkeeps from our models (aside from beating it off with Ruin’s mace) is one of our weaknesses in a Denny1 world.  I suspect that people could buy NQP just to get the miniature, tosss out the magazine, and still not be disappointed.

In conclusion, NQP #1 is a must-buy for anyone interested in Privateer Press products. With a boatload of content and a free miniature, how could you go wrong?

CapCon 2017 — Craftsmanship on display

This past weekend I went to CapCon 2017, hosted by IPMS Ottawa, and held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  CapCon 2017 was a great collection of scale modellers, figure painters, and diorama builders.  There were categories and subcategories for pretty much everything, including cars, planes, tanks, ships and figures, and each entry was examined and judged by experts.

Since my PZL P.11 remains half-finished on the shelf, and I haven’t actually finished a scale model kit since I used to build model airplanes with all the enthusiasm and skill of my twelve year old self, I figured there might be some categories that my gaming pieces might be appropriate for.  Fantasy Figures (under 54mm) would be good for my infantry, and there was a category for Mecha & Robots, which I figured that a steam-powered warjack would fit quite nicely under.

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Uhlan Kovnik Markov

So, I decided to pack my figure case with five entries: three in fantasy figures (my headswapped version of the Greylord Forge Seer, Uhlan Kovnik Markov, and Olga Strakhov & her Kommandos), and two in Mecha & Robots (my Black Dragon Spriggan, as well as my Victor).  I went more with the intention of seeing what I could learn than trying to compete with others, as while it is nice to win, miniature painting and scale modelling are the sort of hobbies where the primary rewards are intrinsic — that little rush of endorphins you get when you finish up a model and place it on your shelf, the joy you get from levelling up your skills, and the pride you take in your own craftsmanship when you show them off are all more important than any plaque or trophy that you may receive for the final result.

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That’s MR. Some Space Marine Guy to you!

That said, I did pretty well for myself when it came to awards — In the Mecha & Robots category, Victor got 1st place and the Black Dragon Spriggan came in 3rd, despite being physically dwarfed by some of the much larger mechs on the table.  The fantasy figures category had some very stiff competition, including a very nice… some Space Marine guy, I don’t know, I don’t play Warhammer… on a plinth with a stained glass window behind him, and I was pleasantly surprised to bring home 3rd place with my Lady Forge Seer.

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Lady Forge Seer — my take on the Greylord Forge Seer

The venue was perfect.  Being held in the War Museum, it was possible to look at a model tank on the table, and literally turn around to see the 1:1 scale version.  Also, it provided attendees with an opportunity to take a break from the showroom floor and take a look at the museum, which was full of inspiration.  Things like pictures of trenchwork, nose art, and all the military vehicles on display really made the day complete.

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Seriously, dude, you should learn to use an airbrush to apply camo… that brushwork just looks sloppy.

There was also a great silent auction with something like 180 prizes.  Though I put in some bids on a Blohm + Voss BV141 and a Hanriot HD.1 (because I’m too much of a hipster to assemble and paint something normal like a P-51) as well as a couple of books, I didn’t come away with anything.  Which was probably for the best, given my current backlog.

Some of the other highlights for me were:

The craftsmanship in general.  The level of competition in some of these categories was pretty fierce, and there were many highly detailed models that just blew my mind.  Particularly in the naval section; all the little details and the rigging on those ships was very impressive.

IMG_2023.JPGThe Diorama section was great, and I found myself staring at them a lot, trying to see how they did certain things and what I can pick up from them for my basing or my future diorama projects.  In particular, there was one titled “Last Stand in Berlin” that showed a lot of figures engaged in very dynamic poses, shooting each other, whacking each other with shovels, that sort of thing.  As well, a Marder II in front of a half-collapsed Belgian building was incredibly detailed and gave me some ideas for rubble bases.  As well, some of the scale trenchwork was pretty nice, and since messing up Cygnaran trenchers is a theme of my army, some of the stuff on display gave me a lot of ideas.

IMG_2038.JPGThere was a very well-done P-51 with all the access panels open and plenty of weathering.  All the dirt and smoke and grime tarnishing the silver and covering the markings on this model made for a very realistic piece with a lot of visual interest.  It was my candidate for the people’s choice award, as I felt the visual interest generated by the all the soot and grime really went a long way in making it look less like a model and more like the real thing.

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The Irish Hurricane IIC

A couple of aircraft with unusual markings also stood out for me.  Because we’ve all seen the American Mustangs and the German -109s, I like seeing aircraft of that era either produced by relatively minor powers such as Poland or Romania, or marked in roundels that make you go “hmmmm, now what country is that?” (because again, I’m kind of a hipster).  There was an Irish Hawker Hurricane that was very well done, as well as a Latvian fighter (I think it was a Junkers D.I) from the immediate post-WWI era.

The weathering on the armour was also something that I can take some inspiration from.  I’m starting to do more and more weathering on my pieces, and one of the goals for me was to learn to get better at it, and I do think I got some ideas from staring at all the Panzers and Shermans on display.

And of course, figures.  As someone who is primarily a figure painter, and who is looking at getting into busts and larger scales, there were some pretty fine figures to take inspiration from.

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Did someone say “busts”?  Or “fine figures”?

But seriously, there were some amazing pieces on display, both fantasy and historical, and at some points, I had to remind myself that my stuff, while maybe not up to their level, is good enough to be on the table beside theirs.

All in all, CapCon 2017 was a blast.  I am going to try to get out to some more IPMS events locally, even if they require waking up early on weekends and heading to places with not-so-great bus access, something I’m typically loath to do.  I think there are things that miniature painters, gamers, and scale modellers can learn from each other, and it’s a pity that there isn’t that much crossover between these groups.  And maybe by the time CapCon 2019 rolls around, I will have finally finished that P.11… or maybe not, considering the kit is decades-old, was missing parts when I bought it, and I already bungled a few things on the assembly…

Hot Take: Khador theme drop

After frantically checking War Room for updates every five minutes for the past week or so, the new content that we have been waiting for has finally arrived.  New themes for every model in every faction of the game, and old themes tweaked with the addition of mercenaries.  It’s Christmas come early for Warmachine players.

In Khador, we had both of our new themes spoiled already, and I already did a hot take on the Man-O-War theme, so I’m not going into too much detail on that one.  Suffice it to say that it lets you run a brick of MoW Shocktroopers, and we won’t find out its true potential until we get our new toys sometime in 2018.

Anyways, let’s take a look here, starting with our new Greylord theme…

Wolves of Winter

wolves.pngLet’s get this out of the way first:  Unfortunately, you can’t start the game with upkeeps on your Doom Reavers.  It is a bit of a shame, and does put a damper on the dream of what a Doomie Spam list can do with an upkeep-heavy caster like Strakhov2, but there might still be some game in this theme.  Unfortanately, I’m kind of an axe to face guy, so I don’t have the experience with the Greylord side of Khador to comment with too much expertise on this, but that hasn’t stopped me before.  Let’s see if we can have some fun list-building with this…

List:  Vlad3 is good, right?
Theme:  Wolves of Winter

Vladimir Tzepesci, Great Prince of Umbrey (Vlad3)
– Drago
– Juggy

Fenris
Greylord Forge Seer (free)
Greylord Forge Seer (free)
Koldun Lord (free)

Doom Reaver Swordsmen
Doom Reaver Swordsmen
Greylord Outriders
Greylord Outriders

vlad3-pic-large.pngVlad3 isn’t usually considered a competitive caster, with the general consensus being that he’s not bad, he’s just the third-best Vlad.  Still, there may be something here, at least for a funsies list.  Since you can start with your upkeeps out, Hand of Fate is great on Greylord Outriders because of the sheer amount of extra dice you are chucking with those sprays.  Infernal machine can go on either of your warjacks.  Wind Wall can help protect a unit of Doomies on the advance from getting shot down on the way in, and between Apparition and Dash, your Doomies can threat 14 inches, which according to my math, is legit.  Murdering everything with sprayponies with Hand of Fate and sending in a bunch of Doomies to finish off whatever is left seems fun.  Vlad’s feat can affect the Outriders and Fenris, priming them to strike again after the initial alpha, or retreat off to some annoying position on the flank where they are going to be hard to deal with.  Competitive?  Not sure yet.  Fun?  Well, I’m going to be hitting the painting table…

Theme tweaks

In addition to the new themes, we’ve got a few tweaks to our existing themes.  In general, the big addition to our existing theme forces is the addition of mercenaries.  This is huge for Khador; there are a number of merc solos out there that for a few points, can patch some holes in our lists and fix some struggles we’ve been having lately with certain armies that have been challenging matchups for us (hello, Ghost Fleet and Gremlin Swarms).

There are a few things to note though. First, you can take mercs that have the Partisan (Khador) rule, which means that you can add a unit of Kayazys to your theme force of choice.  Second, Valachev is available as an attachment to a merc unit, so you can make them friendly Faction.

Most curiously, a couple of themes restrict the mercenaries you can take to non-character solos (Winter Guard Kommand) or units (Legion of Steel).  From what I can tell, Khador is the only faction that is faced with this restriction, which makes sense, because you know how all the other factions get when we get nice things.  I’m guessing there must have been some sort of completely broken combination in there, though I haven’t quite figured out what it would have been yet.

The Good

The thing that I am most excited about in this theme drop is the potential to take mercenary units in Winter Guard Kommand, particularly Lady Aiyana & Master Holt.  One of the major weaknesses with WGK which was really showing in a world of Ghost Fleet and Gremlin Swarms was a total lack of magic weapons aside from your caster and Andy, who ideally should be nowhere near combat anyways.  With Aiyana’s ability to make the weapons of a model/unit magical, incorporeal opponents like Gremlin Swarms and Blackbane’s Raiders can be easily countered.  Fortunately, we now have an answer to this…

 

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My Sorscha2 conversion — because Irusk2 wasn’t top-heavy enough of a model

List:  Suck it, Ghost Fleet
Theme:  Winter Guard Kommand

 

Forward Kommander Sorscha
– Spriggan
– Marauder

Kovnik Joe

Winter Guard Rifle Corps
– Rocketeers x3
Winter Guard Rifle Corps
– Rocketeers x3
Winter Guard Infantry
– WGI Officer & Standard (free)
– Rocketeers x3
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (free)

Aiyana & Holt
– Valachev

As you can tell, this list is designed to do one thing and one thing only:  Make Ghost Fleet players cry.  By hot-swapping shatterstorm between the two units of Rifle Corps, you can threaten to RFP from 22″ away (with Desperate Pace).  Since RFPed stuff doesn’t come back, you can shut down the Cryx recursion engine pretty quickly, and you won’t have to worry about Tough if they drop their Bane list.  Spriggan is there to threaten to drop a flare on Denny1 and take away her Stealth, and Aiyana & Holt can hand out magic weapons so you can take out the Wraith Engine and Blackbane’s Raiders.

The Meh

Jaws of the Wolf, the theme that I’ve been using most often, got a bit of a sidegrade.  In addition to the mercs now available in-theme, we are now able to take Yuri the Axe as a free model.  At six points, Yuri was kind of expensive for what he did, and a key linchpin of the Yuri/Manhunters/Kossites package.  Being able to take him for free is going to make that package a little more attractive.

Unfortunately, we lost the ability to deny Advance Deploy to our opponents, trading it instead for denying Ambush.  Right now, this feels like a downgrade because there is a lot more AD out there than Ambush.  While the stock on this may go up as more themes grant ambush to more units, units which may do a lot more damage than our ambushing units (sorry, Kossites)

The Disappointments

There was one big disappointment for me, and that is Assault Kommandos.  They got added to the Winter Guard theme, however they gain no benefits and offer no benefits to the theme, and feel like more of an afterthought than anything.  They just don’t fit in, either thematically, or from a list design perspective.

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Hope you like that shelf…

Honestly, I think they got put in the wrong theme.  Had they been placed in Jaws, you would be able to make some pretty interesting Strakhov1 lists, the sort that I was running before the rise of thememachine.  Right now, the only reason I can possibly think to use them would be if you’re playing Vlad1 and you’re really really worried about cloudwalls.  But even then…ugh…

What else is out there?

Cygnar got their trencher theme, so expect to see Haley3 making a comeback. If only we had some sort of Kommando unit that would be good at Assaulting trenchers… Cryx also got a couple new themes, so that could mix up their usual Ghost Fleet/Dark Host pairing and since they’re the one you have to tech for these days, it could pose new challenges.  Apart from that, I haven’t looked at what all the other factions have gotten and am probably not good enough at this game to understand what it means, but I’m sure the meta will settle out and find some broken-ass theme that is going to dominate for the next couple months.

Conclusions

These changes have been hyped for a while, and it was inevitable that we would find something that wouldn’t live up to the hype and be disappointed.  I will admit to being excited about Assault Kommandos finally having their place only to have them remain on my shelf until they get a theme force or UA or something.  That said, I don’t think it was a bad day for Khador.  Just from the ability to include mercs in our theme forces, we gained a lot and got a lot of difficult matchups fixed.  models like Aiyana & Holt can fill holes in many of our lists and make things that were a challenge for us to deal with previously trivially easy.

I see some salt out there on the Khador facebook group, and to my comrades, I have one thing to say.

This is Khador.  We of the north do not turn green with envy at the luxuries of others.  We are made of tougher stuff than that.  We redouble our efforts and fight harder; we don’t go around crying about things like a bunch of whiny Cygnar players.  There is still tech to be unlocked and future releases to come out, and I’m sure everything will be all right, so long as we have our axes to insert into the faces of those who oppose the motherland.

With this release, it feels like we’re finally in Warmachine Mk.III as intended.  We can use just about every model on the shelf in some way, and I’m sure we will find some fun, powerful lists in this release — as will our opponents!