Company of Iron: 28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps

Lately, it seems like more and more miniatures companies are moving into the skirmish game market, that is, games that require a lot fewer models than army-scale battles. With not everyone having the time and disposable income for army-scale gaming, reducing the barrier to entry in tabletop wargaming by having fewer models makes sense. Privateer Press is no exception, having released Company of Iron several weeks ago.

CoI is basically Warmachine/Hordes scaled down to the skirmish level. With no warcasters or large based models, the game focuses on solos and units, the grunts of the Iron Kingdoms who make up the majority of the armies, even if the warcasters and warlocks get all the glory. The game uses alternating activations rather than the I Go, You Go system in Warmachine and some of the rules have been tweaked in accordance with the smaller scale and alternating activations, but people who have played Warmachine will be able to pick it up in no time.

Anyways, I haven’t played it enough yet to write a detailed review, however I did manage to get a company painted up.  So, without further ado, I will introduce the 28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps…

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28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps

 

Commander:  Kovnik Aleksandra Volkov – Man-O-War Kovnik
Upgrade:  Ironhead Scrapper

Other Models:
Koldun Kovnik Olegna Yanova – Greylord Forge Seer
Sgt. Ilena Filippova & Pvts. Antonovich, Kotov, Petrova, and Yegorov – MoW Bombardiers

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Inside the dark interrogation chamber, Aleksandra Volkov clutched her side in pain. Her injuries were still raw, and though she had gotten a few bandages to stop the bleeding, she had been quickly arrested and whisked away by armed winter guards and thrown into the brig.

“Ms. Volkov, I grow weary of your protestations,” said the kommissar responsible for interrogations. “Perhaps if you cooperate, we may show some mercy…”

“Do your worst,” replied Aleksandra, still clutching her likely cracked rib.

The impatient kommissar raised his hand to strike, but before he could, he felt a powerful grip on his arm. “You are dismissed,” said the grizzled old voice, one that made Aleksandra look up in shock. She could see little more than the silhouette, but the heavy armour, bushy beard, and powerful voice could only belong to one man: Kommander Izak Harkevich, the Iron Wolf.

As soon as Harkevich released his grip, the kommissar scampered away, knowing his place.

“Ms. Volkov, I must admit, I’m surprised to find you here so soon after your repairs to Black Ivan,” mused Harkevich. Coming closer, the Iron Wolf leaned over and offered Alex a canteen of water, one the parched woman quickly accepted. “Now, why don’t you tell me what happened out there…”

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Kovnik Alexandra Volkov, after trading her wrench for an axe

Aleksandra “Alex” Volkov grew up around warjacks and other heavy machinery.  Her father was a member of the Khadoran mechanics assembly, and Alex would often sneak into his shop after school.  From a very young age, he had her gradually progress from an assistant handing her tools to an apprentice mechanic in her own right.  Following her father into the mechanics assembly, she found herself attracted to the maintenance and repair of warjacks.  Eager to prove herself in the male-dominated world of the mechaniks assembly, she donned a steamsuit and volunteered for the heaviest and most difficult work available – that of a heavy wrecker.

 

Soon, she was assigned to Llael, the frontlines of the battles to defend Khadoran territorial integrity and protect the new Llaelese provinces.  She was sent to a maintenance and repair facility near the fron, working with other mechaniks to keep the mighty steel machines of the empire running.  It was here that she first felt a connection to the mighty warjacks that she would marshal around the repair yard.

Llael was rough.  Though she was not often in the front lines, she had seen komrades come back from the battlefield, wounded and dying. However, in spite of the grisly backdrop, she also found love during the occupation.  It was Oksana Fyodorova, a sniper with dozens of kills to her name. For months, they grew closer, becoming each other’s one point of light in the grim darkness of war.

One day, she had the opportunity to repair a unique black destroyer, equipped with a claw, some additional spikes, and a few other accoutrements, which had taken hits from Cygnaran gunfire.  As she made her repairs to its boiler and stacks, she felt a special connection to the unique warjack, and after a few days work, she had it up and walking around the yard again before it was returned to service. Through her repair of Black Ivan, her abilities soon came to the attention of Kommander Harkevich, the supreme commander of all Khadoran forces in the region.

However, a few weeks later, tragedy struck.  In a tactical retreat, Oksana was left behind and reported missing in action and presumed dead or captured in the face of an overwhelming Protectorate assault force.  In response, Aleksandra suited up and headed towards the front lines to find her, stealing some weapons from the armoury on the way out.

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Koldun Kovnik Olegna Yanova provides arcane support

 

In the dead of night, Aleksandra frantically charged through the Llaelese countryside, looking for any sign of her lost lover. Oksana had been reported missing in action when her position was overrun. Alex knew that as a Widowmaker, one who dealt death from afar to the enemies of the empire, that if Oksana was taken alive, she would have had the worst punishments the Menites could deliver inflicted upon her.

But as she rounded a small outcropping, she heard a bloodcurdling scream of pain. It was what she had feared the most; there, up ahead, was a wrack with a female figure chained to it. As she got closer, her fears were confirmed; Oksana had been captured and wracked. Panicked, Aleksandra dashed towards her, desperate to get her down.

“Oksana!” she called out, the figure attempting to look down at the source of the shouting. “It’s going to be okay, I’m here…”

All Oksana could respond with was a scream of pain and a rattling of her chains.

“I’ll get you down, I’ll…”

“Halt!” On the crest of the hill stood a Protectorate commander, along with a couple cavalry and a dozen infantry. “Lay down your arms.”

Aleksandra looked up at Oksana, writhing in pain. Knowing there was no way to get her down, she offered her lover one last gift. Pulling out a blunderbuss, she took careful aim, closed her eyes, and pulled the trigger, releasing Oksana from her pain. As she dropped the weapon, Aleksandra looked back around at the charging Protectorate warriors. With fire in her eyes, she picked up her axe, promising herself she wouldn’t let them take her alive…

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Eventually, she did find her lover, chained to a wrack. She tried to save her, but with a Protectorate ambush force closing in, she did the only thing she could to ease the pain, and ended Oksana’s life with a well-placed shot from a hand cannon. In the ensuing brawl, she tore through wave after wave of Protectorate troops, until she finally collapsed near the Khadoran front lines and was dragged back to camp.

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Sgt. Ilena Filippova.  Yes, that’s a grenade launcher with a chainsaw for a bayonet. Any questions?

For several minutes, Harkevich listened to Alexandra’s tale. Everything she said was corroborated by the few scouts and sentries who had seen parts of her rampage; the fanciful speculations of the kommissar notwithstanding.

 

“You have been charged with a number of military offenses,” stated Harkevich matter-of-factly. “Stealing military equipment, insubordination, unauthorized interactions with the enemy…” he paused for a moment. “Normally, you would be court martialled for these offenses and sentenced to hard labour, but one of my Lieutenants had witnessed you tearing through an entire unit of Protectorate troops single-handedly and nominated you for a medal. So…”

Harkevich slowly stood up from the chair across from Alex. He knew that revenge was a good motivator, and anyone who was crazy enough to take on an entire company of enemy troops single-handedly, and a skilled enough combatant to live to tell the tale, would be a good soldier. “…it’s either a court martial, or a new assignment as an officer in the Armoured Korps. Your choice.”

Alex looked up at the Kommander, surprised at the offer. “Sir, I’d like to become a Man-O-War…”

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Given the option of court martial for insubordination (among other things) or being impressed into service in a Man-O-War suit, she chose the latter. Under the watchful eye of Kommander Harkevich, she came to command the 28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps, a unit consisting of herself, Koldun Kovnik Olegna Yanova providing arcane support, and five Man-O-Wars equipped with Bombardier grenade launchers:  Sgt. Ilena Filippova, and Pvts. Anonovich, Kotov, Petrova, and Yegorov.

Painting my Grolar, Part 2

With the easy part done, it was time to get started on the fun part — getting out the brushes and putting paint on the model.  In part one of this series, I had laid down the base colour scheme in purple and pink, using the airbrush to get some shadows and highlights on the various armour panels that make up this warjack. From there, the next step is to touch up a couple areas that I airbrushed and didn’t get quite right on the stripes, and then picking out the various other colours on the model.

White Trim

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Note the gradient on the shoulders and collar, from a cool grey to white.

Of course, with me, it’s never as simple as a paint by numbers. I had spent a fair bit of time with the airbrush trying to get the right shadows and highlights on the model, so if I had simply painted all these trim pieces in a flat, uniform white, it would look out of place next to the gradient of dark to light purple/pink on the main body. Another issue was that trying to paint white straight over purple with acrylic paints can be a little difficult, due to the purple underneath showing through.

Fortunately, both these issues can be solved the same way. To start painting my white, I undercoated with a grey, which due to having a bit better coverage, blocked out the underlying purple much better than had I tried to simply paint white over purple. Next, instead of painting the whole thing white, I built up the colour, using wet blending techniques to go from my grey up to white where the light is directly hitting it. I also added just a touch of P3’s Frostbite to my whites and greys, which is a very light, desaturated blue, just to make the white a little on the cool side because of colour theory.

Freehand

I also wanted to practice my freehand skills with this model, so I decided to try to paint a bear paw logo on the top of this warjack.

For a lot of people, this sort freehand can be a very intimidating technique. Especially when we are starting out, most of our hobbying consists of painting inside the lines — paint this panel red, that panel brass, that hose grey, etc., so it can be a big jump from simply following the detail on the model to creating your own detail.

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If you don’t have a wet palette, make one. Now.

However, simple shapes like this aren’t too hard once you’ve developed some brush control. I’ve found there to be three tricks to freehand: a reference image to look at while you work, the right brush, and the right consistency of paint. I could go on and on about brushes and paint consistency, but that could be a whole article in itself.  Suffice it to say you want a good brush, not too big and not too small, with a decent sized body and a nice tip. And for paint, you need it thin enough that it flows nicely off the brush and onto the model. And for the love of Bob Ross, our almighty god of painting, use a wet palette.

One little secret I will let you in on, however, is the use of acrylic inks to thin your paint as opposed to water. There are certain colours, such as white and yellow, which don’t have very good coverage over a dark basecoat, and thinning them down to the proper consistency reduced the coverage even further. You can counter this by using something like Holbien or FW artist ink as a thinning medium; these inks have a very thin consistency but a very high pigment density, so by mixing them with acrylic paints, you’re getting the consistency you want without sacrificing pigment density and coverage like you would be doing if you thinned with water.

Silver & Gold

Next up was metallics. As this is a cool steampunk robot, I have plenty of iron and brass to paint.  Vallejo’s Metal Colour Gunmetal Grey makes for a great base colour, covering like a dream, however as an airbrush paint, it can be a touch thin for brush painting, so I like to use P3’s silvers for some of the details where the VMC is just too thin to effectively pick out the details, like on the rivets.  For brass, again, I went to the P3 line and used Molten Bronze as my basecoat.

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Not cheating. Just make sure you know the difference between Nuln Oil and Nuln Oil Gloss when you’re shopping.

With the base coat on the whites and metallics all blocked in, it came time for a wash to add some definition. Which means it’s time to bust out our old friend, Nuln Oil. Now, Nuln Oil and some other GW washes (they call them shades) are, sometimes unfairly, referred to as “talent in a bottle.” I can see where they are coming from; a lot of the time, simply slathering a warrior model in Nuln Oil makes the paint job instantly adds the depth to a model that makes it get to the “hey, this isn’t bad” stage. And they are one of the few products that I will dip into GW’s range to pick up, because I don’t know exactly what it is, whether it is consistency, surface tension, or pigment density, but GW’s washes just work.

However, we don’t want to simply apply it using the “slather the entire model with a big brush” method. This is for a couple reasons. First, I spend a lot of time airbrushing this model, and I liked the vibrant highlights. I didn’t want to dull them down with a layer of Nuln Oil all over. Second, there are a lot of large, smooth surfaces on this model, and slathering them with an acrylic wash will undoubtedly create some unsightly “coffee stain” type marks, especially on the whites that I had worked on blending and would end up having to repaint if they got too much wash on them.

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After the wash, but before re-highlighting the metals.  Note that the washes had done the shadows, but ended up making the metallics a little too dark and dull.  Also check out the freehand bear paw logo.

So, I chose to be a little more targeted with my wash, applying the Nuln Oil to all the metallic parts, as well as into some of the recesses and around things like rivets and spikes, in order to get that shade without ruining the big flat areas of my model. Once that dried, I pulled out GW’s Druchii Violet, the purple version of Nuln Oil, and applied that to all the brass bits. This seems a little odd, but consider the colour wheel. Purple is directly across from gold on the colour wheel, so making those shadows on the brass have a purple tint does a few cool things, increasing your contrast and making the eventual highlights pop more.

The washes take care of the shadows, but with them done, we have to highlight the metals back up.  I used P3’s Pig Iron, Cold Steel, and Quick Silver on the metals, progressively highlighting up using layering, blending (as best as I could), and a bit of careful dry-brushing on areas like the punchy fists.  For the brass, I did something similar, highlighting up through Molten Bronze, Rhulic Gold, Solid gold, and a touch of something like silver or Vallejo’s Bright Brass as the very highest highlight. With these multiple layers of highlights, you can get a real nice true metallic metal (TMM) effect that is pleasing to the eye.

Final Highlights & Touchups

With the metals highlighted back up and the freehand done, we’ve only got a couple steps left. First, I took some very thin black paint and slipped it into some of the vents and perforations on the models, and places such as the top of the smokestacks; basically anywhere there was something that was supposed to be a slit or a whole on the model.

Finally, it was time for an edge highlight.  This is little trick to give the model volume and make it easier for the eye to recognize the shape.  It’s simply a very thin highlight, brighter than the surrounding area, along the upper edges of the model, which is the final step in really making this model pop at a distance of more than a foot or two away.

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Look at how much brighter the brass bits are with the highlights, and note the edge highlights all over.

Now we have a beautiful looking Grolar, that has only one problem — it’s too beautiful. This Grolar has seen some action in the trenches of Llael; it shouldn’t look like it’s fresh out of the factory and perfectly clean.  So stay tuned next time for some weathering and finishing touches!

Painting my Grolar, Part 1

November has been a busy hobby month for me.  I started off the month with a lot of stuff on my hobby table, and have been trying to finish it off and give myself a bit of breathing room on my desk for me to scatter dozens upon dozens of little bottles of acrylic paint.

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The studio scheme.  Note: I don’t believe in studio schemes.

One of the things I’ve managed to finish was the Grolar/Kodiak multikit from Privateer Press, which I decided to magnetize to make it possible to use it as both variants in my games (even though the Grolar just looks way cooler).

As shown in the previous article, I managed to get him assembled, magnetized, and the gaps filled around the beginning of the month.  While the position of the legs was pretty much set, and without major conversions it would be difficult to do a repose, the given position is at least a dynamic one, with one foot in front of the other, unlike a number of PP’s older warjack kits.  The arms, on the other hand, had ball joints at both the shoulders and elbows, so there was some room for posability there, though one had to be careful with the Grolar that the back of the hammer wasn’t whacking himself in the shoulder.  I decided to pose him such that the left arm was slightly back and the right arm slightly forward, as though he were striding across the battlefield, and I did have to make the point of contact for the Grolar’s hammer slightly off-center to give it some clearance between the back of the hammer and the front of his shoulder.

Airbrush time!

Anyways, with the model all assembled, it was airbrush time!  Lately I’ve been experimenting with airbrush priming to good results.  I like to use an old single-action airbrush to prime, using the same logic for the airbrush that I use for my regular brushes — don’t use a nice brush for anything that isn’t paint, such as primer, varnish, etc. So I put together my airbrush setup, loaded my Badger 350 with white Stynylrez primer, and got to work.  At this point, the model was still in multiple sub-assemblies to make painting easier. I had pulled off all the magnetized bits, and I hadn’t glued the hips to the torso assembly yet.

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As an aside, Stynylrez has been my favourite primer lately.  At $10 for a 60 mL (2 oz) bottle, the price is right (compared to $4-5 for a 1/2 oz bottle of something like Vallejo or Reaper), and it’s thin enough out of the bottle to just drop in the airbrush and shoot with no thinners necessary.  It seems to stick well to all materials, and I have yet to have any problems with it not sticking to and chipping easily from metal figures like I have had with Vallejo’s primer. And, I’m lucky enough to have a hobby shop that carries it nearby.

Anyways, once I had a bunch of white primed doodads that vaguely resembled robot parts, it was time to start putting colour on the model.  I knew I wanted to do a pink striped pattern, partly because I thought it would look cool and partly because this is my second one of these and I wanted to be able to easily distinguish the two on the gaming table. So, I pulled out my good, dual-action airbrush and got to work. With a bit of thinning and the right additives (Vallejo Airbrush Thinner and Airbrush Flow Improver), Reaper MSP paints can be easily shot through an airbrush to good effect.

Anyways, I started with the pink, simply because pink is one of those colours like yellow which is far easier to lay over white than over a dark colour, and by doing the pink first, it would reduce the amount of masking I would have to do and worrying about overspray. I started out with 09268 Punk Rock Pink as a base coat on the areas that I wanted to do the stripes on, then worked up into 09262 Blush Pink and finally 09281 Brains Pink for the highest highlights.

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The moment of truth

After waiting for the pink to dry, I used Tamiya masking tape, which is available in a variety of widths from about 2mm upwards, and is perfect for doing things like hazard stripes at this scale.  After masking off the stripes, it was time to pull out the airbrush again and break out the purple.  I used my usual purple recipe, Reaper’s triad of Nightshade (9022), Imperial (9023) and Amethyst (9024) purple and got to work.  First, I loaded the brush with Nightshade Purple, the darkest shade, and covered the entire model, making sure not to miss any spots.

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With the Nightshade Purple laid down, I assembled the hip joint and stuck the model to the base. By having it more or less fully assembled, I could more easily see which angle the light source was coming from on pieces such as the arms and place my highlights appropriately. I then moved onto Imperial Purple, getting probably most of the upper surfaces, and then going to Amethyst Purple for the highest highlights.  In the picture, you can see that the highlights were placed with consideration of both what areas of the model will be hit by the sun, and also how to create some contrast between light and dark on the sharp edges on the torso.

The moment of truth came when I pulled up the tape.  There was a little bit of bleeding and whatnot (which was probably mostly my fault), particularly on the left shoulder where there were a lot of rivets interfering with getting the tape down nicely, but nothing I couldn’t touch up with a brush.

So, with that done, it was time to put away the airbrush and bust out my brushes and wet palette, because I still had a lot of traditional painting to do…

 

Hobby update — PZL P.11 (1:72)

Since childhood, when I would spend hours upon hours studying the aircraft of World War I, I’ve had a keen fascination with airplanes.  As a young child, I built model airplanes with all the skill and enthusiasm of my eleven year old self.  Fortunately, my workmanship at this sort of thing improved before my stint working at the largest aerospace company in the world, however that was a hobby that I sort of trailed off from by the time I hit high school.

IMG_2179.JPGAnyways, a couple years ago, I picked up a couple model airplanes on a whim, for about $5 at a comic con. Of course, because I’m kind of a hipster, instead of picking up the usual P-51 or Spitfire, I went for a PZL P.11. And then promptly forgot about it. A while later, as I was getting into airbrushing, I decided to quickly slap it together and use it as a target for my airbrush practice. I sprayed some green and sky blue on it, matching the historical colours with the closest Vallejo equivalent, and then… forgot about it again.

So, after moving across the country, I was left with this half-finished plane sitting on a shelf, staring at me. After attending CapCon, and hanging around with the local IPMS chapter, I was motivated to finally finish it off.

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I have more of these kicking around than I care to admit.

First off, apparently one of the rules of building model airplanes is that sometimes, you get what you pay for when it comes to kits. This kit had some issues, some of which went beyond my somewhat haphazard assembly. First, being a Polish plane, the instructions were naturally in Polish. Fortunately, there were enough pictures that I eventually figured out how to get it together, and used google images to figure out the paint scheme rather than trying to guess what colour “czerwony” is.

Next, the clear windscreen part was missing. To solve that, I figured I would try to scratchbuild something. Fortunately, the windscreen was all flat panels, and you can buy clear plastic from Privateer Press, which comes free with a miniature inside! I cut out a bit of plastic from an old blister pack I had lying around, scored it, and folded it into a shape approximating that of a windshield.

So, with the windscreen replaced, it came time to get my paint on. The base colour, which I had done a not so great job of airbrushing on a year prior, was Vallejo Model Colour Green Brown, with some Light Sea Grey on the underside.  There were some black bits, like the radiator, tires, and machine guns, and some brownish red, which I mixed up, around the cowling. Overall, nothing too challenging; no interior detail or anything like that on this kit, and I had no intention of browsing aftermarket bits suppliers to spruce that up. Anyways, once I finished that little bit of painting, it came time to do the decals. Easy peasy, right?

Unfortunately, that posed some problems as well. When a model kit has been sitting around for as long as this one has, there is bound to be some deterioration of the decal paper. So, when I placed the first decal in water and went to slide it off, it simply disintegrated.

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Decals? Those are for cheaters…

So, in a stroke of either genius or stupidity, I decided to go with Plan B. I’m pretty good at freehand, so I’ll just hand paint all the markings on!

While it was a little time consuming, this actually wasn’t that terrible. I started with the white squares, for what is perhaps obvious reasons, then did the red, careful not to do the Polish air force symbol backwards (red goes on top left!). Finally, I added in all the other markings like the number, stripe, and squadron insignia. For the squadron insignia, I did a whole bunch of historical research (by which I mean I google image searched it) and eventually chose to represent the squadron that I thought had the easiest insignia to draw.

Anyways, there are a few tricks to this sort of freehand.

  1. Use a wet palette. Trying to do something like this on a traditional palette would be close to impossible; the paint would dry out on you and you would just have a bad time.
  2. Use the right brush. People think that to do fine detail, you need a tiny, tiny, brush like a 10/0. Unfortunately, tiny, tiny brushes don’t hold a lot of paint. What you really need is a brush with a fine tip, but a bit of belly to it as well so it can hold paint. For this reason, I usually stick to size 0 and 1, and don’t go any smaller than an 00, though I do have a 10/0 rigger brush which, due to its longer bristles, can hold a lot more paint than a regular 10/0, and occasionally comes in handy.
  3. Thin your paints. Freehand requires thin paints in order to get the paints to flow off the brush nicely. Again, the wet palette comes in handy here. You don’t need too many fancy additives, however one trick I have found for painting colours like white is to use an artist acrylic ink instead of water for your thinning. The artist acrylic ink has the consistency of water, but a very high pigment density, so for colours that don’t have very good coverage, using it as a thinning medium allows you to get the consistency you want without sacrificing pigment density

I got a few comments on the decals at the build day at which I was working on this project, which I thought was kind of cute, before I brought it home and proceeded onto the final step: weathering.

Here, I decided to do it in three stages. First, I used the sponge technique with some dark metallic colours to simulate paint chipping, focusing on areas such as the leading edge of the wings and propellers, which would likely take the most beating. Then, I followed up with some washes, both to give the model some depth and visual interest, and with the goal of darkening it. I also added some GW Typhus Corrosion on and around the wheels to simulate mud and the like. Finally, to finish it off, I added some very dark grey dry pigment, focusing on areas such as around the exhaust and guns, which would be stained with soot and gunpowder residue and the like.

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A spritz of dullcote, and I had finished my first model airplane in 15 years. To be honest, I have some mixed feelings about this model. On the one hand, I think it has some problems with the paint. The washes, in particular, didn’t quite give the effect that I wanted to, pooling in a couple of places and showing off some imperfections. I really should have mixed up a glaze, or tried out an oil-based wash, rather than trying to use a GW shade for a purpose it wasn’t really suited for. The assembly wasn’t great, but again, I did it kind of haphazardly and didn’t do a great job on filling gaps and that sort of thing, and I also didn’t have all that much to work with, as shown by the missing windscreen. Finally, there were a couple of places where I think I may have overdid the weathering.

On the other hand, I think the freehand turned out pretty nice, and overall it looks pretty good as long as you don’t get too close. And it’s a unique subject; not many people spend a lot of time building Polish warbirds. I think my final assessment is that while I am happy to have it done, and while I think I didn’t do too bad considering it was my first model airplane in 15 years, this was more of a learning experience than a true exhibition of what I am capable of as a hobbyist.

And maybe sometime I will tackle that P.23 sitting on the shelf…

“I could never paint like that” — Yes, you can

Because I love painting miniatures and models, I tend to tell people about it at the slightest hint of possible interest. Or disinterest, because I’m bad at reading social cues. Regardless, one of the comments that I occasionally receive, especially when I show off a picture of one of my figures to a “normie” who hasn’t been sucked into the hobby is something to the effect of “That’s amazing! I could never paint like that.”

I really hate it when people say that.

Now, it’s not because I am uncomfortable when people praise my work. That, I can handle.  The thing I really dislike is hearing people say they could never paint like that, as though miniature painting is some sort of unique talent that you are either born with or not, and they just can’t because they don’t have the talent.

Yes, you can

Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof: I can do it, and I’m not that smart or talented or whatever.

The secret is that here is not a lot of innate talent involved in any of this.

I’ve been painting miniatures for a couple years now, and I have yet to come across a technique that is truly hard. Washing, glazing, blending, weathering; these are all techniques that the average person, with a bit of practice and a bit of knowledge (which, in the age of the internet, is easier to come by than ever) can learn, do and master. Even high-level artistic stuff like colour theory and composition is something that can be studied and learned.

c4072f39be17ef8efb0a1ca2a7298848-painting-lessons-painting-techniquesThe same goes for other things in life. My sister is quite artistic, and she has done some pretty amazing pencil sketches. She didn’t get there by just popping out of the womb with pencil-sketching talents. It’s not something genetic, because if it is, it’s probably a talent that I would have as well. She put in the time, did the practice, and did the research necessary to hone her techniques and improve her skills. I can’t make a sketch as good as one of hers, but maybe if I put in as much time as she did, perhaps I could.

Once in a while, I will look at some amazing miniature online and be utterly gobsmacked by the quality on display. It might even be so good that it almost makes me want to throw out my brushes and give up. But then I look at it closer, and realize that the artist behind the work probably painted hours each day for decades. So, instead of throwing out my brushes, I tell myself that, while I might not be there yet, if I keep it up, maybe, one day, I can do something like that.

Talent versus practice

The other thing is, whenever someone says “I could never do X,” they are in some sense devaluing the hard work that one put into developing their skills. Getting to where I am today took almost two years of painting, learning, practicing, and (hopefully) mastering new techniques with every new piece I churn out.

Imagine if since childhood, you spent your whole life learning to master the oboe. You took oboe lessons from a young age, played oboe in the high school band, and studied music in university, focusing on the oboe. After which, you spent years playing the oboe in a symphony, and have become a master oboist. If someone says “I could never play the oboe like you,” that is implying that you have a natural talent playing the oboe.

Doesn’t the implication that your oboe skills are the result of innate talent and not practice in some way devalue the countless hours you put in playing the oboe? When people say something like “I could never do that thing,” what they don’t realize is that they are dismissing all the work and practiced skill that went into the thing.

I could be a brain surgeon. But I’m not, because I didn’t put in the work in university to go into a pre-med program, get a 4.5 GPA, pass an MCAT, get into a medical school, study hard enough to get a medical degree, then put in 100 hour weeks for years in my residency, and at some point overcome my queasiness at the sight of blood, to finally, after over a decade of schooling and residence, become a fully qualified neurosurgeon.

That means I respect brain surgeons more, because their success in a challenging field is the result of oodles and oodles of hours of hard work.

Except maybe Ben “The pyramids were built to store grain” Carson.

But what if you really, legitimately, physically, can’t?

When I was writing this article, I started out by giving the example that I’m probably too short to play in the NBA, and barring some sort of medical breakthrough, nothing I do can change that. But I can still, with plenty of practice, get good at basketball and, if not become an NBA all-star, at the very least be able to play basketball at a high level.

Then I realized that I’m about seven or eight inches taller than Muggsy Bogues.

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Oh really? Tell me again how you can’t paint…

One of the secrets to life is that just about anyone, with enough determination and enough practice, can do just about anything. Some people might have a harder road to follow and more obstacles in their way, but one of the defining features of humanity is that people are capable of some pretty amazing stuff when they put their mind to it.

Bob Ross once had a man come up to him and say that he couldn’t paint like him because he was colourblind.  In true Bob Ross fashion, he responded by painting a picture in greyscale, just to show him that he could.

Maybe there are some people who, due to medical conditions or being born differently, can’t do a certain thing, but those are a tiny minority of people who can’t do a tiny minority of things.

Final thought

“I could never paint like that”

Beethoven was deaf when he wrote his ninth symphony. What’s your excuse?

What’s on my table – the fifth of November

Generally, I like to have two projects on the go when it comes to painting miniatures.  In my opinion, two is the perfect number of pieces in progress to have.  If you only have one project, you end up with a lot of downtime waiting for paint, glue or putty to dry.  Having a second project on the go allows you to switch over and work on the paint job of your warjack while waiting for the basing material to dry on a solo miniature, which both improves your productivity and lets you get the most enjoyment out of your hobby time.  However, once you start getting past three, your workbench gets cluttered and you end up making not much progress on a lot of things rather than actually completing any one thing.  As a result, most of the time, I stick to two.

This is not one of those times.

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This is a bigger number than two…

Right now, I have five projects on the go:  A Grolar/Kodiak multikit and three Winter Guard Rocketeers for Warmachine, a unit of Man-O-War Bombardiers, di Wulfe in Sheep’s Clothing, and a PZL P.11 fighter.

Rocketeers

With all the hype around Vlad1 Rockets in the Southern Ontario Warmachine scene, I figured I would get on that hype train and get some more rocketeers painted up.  It’s a list that hasn’t quite hit the Ottawa meta yet, because as much as people in Ottawa like to complain about Khador, this is a powerful list that no one locally has been playing yet.

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Urgh…

Basically, the whole point of this army list is that you take Vlad1, go into the Winter Guard Kommand theme, and take three units of Winter Guard Rifle Corps or Infantry, each with three rocketeer attachments.  Add Juggernauts and Marauders to taste, and slap on some free Mortars from the theme, and your strategy is simple.  Cast Signs and Portents, and blow the opposing army off the table.  Then at some point, feat and send some Juggernauts and Marauders down their throat.

As a result, this means I have to paint some more rocketeers.  I managed to acquire some plastic ones, and let me tell you, this kit is not one of Privateer Press’ finest moments.  The ones I had acquired were the plastic version, and the mold lines on these are just a nightmare.  If you want to assemble a whole unit, best to clear your schedule for an evening and sit down in front of the TV with a hobby knife to clean them up, because it’s going to take a while.  PP has improved their model quality since then with some of their newer releases, but these are just a pain to clean up and get ready to paint.

So far, I’ve just got them cleaned, assembled, primed, mounted on pill bottles for painting, and a little bit of paint on their chestplates.  I was going to finish them off, but then other projects came along…

Grolar/Kodiak Multikit

The Grolar/Kodiak Multikit, released in early 2016,  is one of the first in Privateer Press’ line of new, hard plastic, injection-molded, sprue kits.  The model comes on four sprues and with a 50mm base and an instruction sheet tossed in, and parts are provided to make both the Grolar and the Kodiak variant on the same chassis.  The legs and body are the same for both, while the forearms, smokestacks, and heads are different and represent different weapon loadouts.

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Grolar/Kodiak sub-assemblies

This is my second of these kits, this one being a prize at the Capital City Bloodbath, and as I couldn’t decide between the two variants, so I ended up magnetizing these parts so I could swap between the two as my heart desires.  Magnetizing is pretty simple; it’s just the process of drilling into the plastic and installing some rare earth magnets so you can pop pieces off and on, as well as rotate them around the axis of the magnets.  This model has many hollow pieces, however, so if you plan to magnetize, stick a lump of green stuff inside the hollow area underneath where the magnet is going to go before you glue the pieces together, just because it’s a lot easier to insert the magnet when you don’t have to worry about drilling all the way through the plastic and the magnet not having anywhere to next.

Also, double, triple, and quadruple check the polarity whenever you are magnetizing.  Don’t ask me how I know.

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Grolar variant

The quality on these hard plastic models is a huge step up from some of PP’s earlier releases.  Simply compare the Grolar to an old Juggernaut and see the difference in mold lines, crispness of detail, and ease of assembly.  PP seems to be transitioning their larger warjacks into this material, which I think is definitely the right move on their part.

Anyways, the one catch with these hard plastic models is that while the mold lines are few and easy to clean, the way they go together can result in seams in awkward spots, like running right down the middle of the body.  This means that if we want to get really good results, we need to either do something about those seams, or cheat and hide them with weathering.

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Note the sanded plastic putty on the center of the hip joint, to smooth out the seam between the two halves of the hips.

I chose the former, which is where some Vallejo Plastic Putty comes in.  On my last model, I used Milliput Superfine for seam filling, but decided to try this out after seeing it on the shelf of a local hobby shop.  It comes in a tube with a small applicator tip, and it is easy to squeeze a little out onto the model and into the seam.  It takes at least a day to dry, and you many need a second application in larger seams.  So far, it seems to sand down quite nicely, and there is no fuss and muss involved with mixing two components to an epoxy putty.  It seems like a nice gap filler, and will surely find a place in my arsenal as it is easier to apply than Milliput, and much more sandable than Green Stuff.

At present, I’m almost done the assembly, with just a little more sanding and finishing to do, mostly on the seams.  Aside from the magnetized bits, I’ve got it in two pieces, separated at the waist, to make it a little easier to paint before a final assembly.  Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to prime it and start painting this week…

MoW Bombarders

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Chainsaw grenade launchers…

With Privateer Press putting on a contest to forge your own Company of Iron and have it added to the lore, I figured it’s time to bust out my Man-O-War Bombardiers unit and start getting them done.  I had sprayed an initial basecoat on them, along with another dozen or two Men-and-Women-O-War shortly after the Armoured Korps theme force came out, but never got around to finishing them.  However, upon seeing the contest go up, I had a sudden flash of inspiration, and they found themselves once again on my painting table.

Also, people in steam-powered armour wielding grenade launchers with chainsaws for bayonets is awesome.

di Wulfe in Sheep’s Clothing

IMG_2178As mentioned last week, my plan is to take the Sexy Gorman MiniCrate mini up to a display level and really push my skills as a painter.  As a result, I’ve got an initial layer of primer on her.  I plan to start with the zenithal priming technique on her, so I’ve got an initial layer of black primer on her and will do a lighter colour from above, using Stynylrez through the airbrush.  Normally, I don’t bother with the zenithal technique, preferring to just prime in white and go from there, but in this case, I think it will work really well given the colour scheme I have in mind, and I want to put in the extra time to show off all my skill rather than doing a rush job.  The plan is to do the second layer of primer on her at the same time as I do the first layer on the Grolar.  I also have some plinths on order, so I’m excited to see what I can do with her.

PZL P.11

IMG_2179.JPGThis was a model kit that I bought over a year ago as something to test the airbrush on.  I spent $5 on it, and it came in a beat up box with pieces missing.  Upon opening it, I realized that the instructions which were conveniently written in Polish.  I managed to get it put together and sprayed it with the airbrush, making some mistakes and not doing that great on it, but lately, I’ve taken it off the shelf and I plan to finish this thing off.  It’s not going to be perfect, but given the massive backlog and the fact that I spent less than $10 on this model, it’s not really worth stripping off all the paint and starting over, so I’m just going to press on and at least finish something.  It’s been about 15 years since I last finished a model airplane, so I think I’m allowed to have something that isn’t perfect.

Conclusion

There we are.  Hopefully I can get one or two of these projects done over the next week or two so I can clear off some table space, but until then, I’m going to have to resist the siren’s call of another model to put on my workbench…

I buy stuff — Naughty Gears, MiniCrate, and Reaper

Like any good miniature painter, I buy more miniatures than I can possibly paint, and the backlog just keeps growing.  Over the past few weeks, my mailbox has been abuzz with activity, as orders from Scale75, Reaper, and Privateer Press have arrived and made their way into my ever-growing paint queue.

Scale75

scale75_brigitteDespite my ambivalence about the gaming and hobby industry’s move towards kickstarter, as soon as I saw the Naughty Gears models from Scale75, I knew I had to get in on it.  These are 1/12 busts of steampunk women, with some decidedly I’ve been wanting to move up from 30-ish mm scale to something bigger, and despite my best efforts, I eventually relented and went in on the Sexy level, selecting Mary Read, Helga Blitzhammer, Jessica Thunderhawk, and of course, Nancy Steelpunch, as well as a couple addons and other goodies.

Right off the bat, these models have some great character design to them.  Despite being decidedly pinup in nature when it comes to things like body proportions and the amount of skin showing (hey, Helga’s a blacksmith! It’s hot near her forge!), most of these models also exude a certain confidence and, dare I say, badassery in their sculpts.  A couple are a little much for me when it comes to the amount of skin showing, but as I am a sucker for both pinups and steampunk, I have to give these a ten out of ten for character design.

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There are a couple that I’m looking forward to painting in particular.  Nancy Steelpunch is just an amazing model that ticks all the right boxes for me.  Extraneous steampunk goggles, robotic arms, and a punkish undercut all combine to create what is sure to be a joy to paint and display.  Helga, as well, is a model where I think there is a lot one can do there.  You can add some soot and sweat stains on her shirt to make it look like she’s been working hard, and with some orange lighting in front of her to make it look like she is standing in font of a forge, basked in its orange glow, there’s a lot that one can do with the model.

IMG_2164When we get to the quality of the models, it’s just great all around.  They are all just some amazingly detailed models.  The straight lines are laser straight, the detail is crisp and bountiful, and the mold lines are practically nonexistant.  I did a dry fit, and the pieces just go together perfectly.  While they may be a little on the pricy side, the quality and the awesome character design easily justifies the cost.

My level on the kickstarter came with some additional goodies, the best being their book “Steampunk in Miniature” which has detailed instructions on how to paint these models up.  Aside from some not-so-great translations in the introduction section, the book is chock-full of great content to take you from the primer to the finishing touches.  Big pictures and detailed instructions will definitely help me transition to this much larger scale than I am used to, and one feature of the book that I really liked was that it catered to multiple different paint styles — airbrush users versus regular brush, and instructions for both non-metallic and true metallic metals.

Unfortunately, while the quality of the models was great, there were a couple of disappointments associated with the Scale75 kickstarter process that served to remind me why I’m not a huge fan of kickstarter, especially for established companies looking to expand their product line rather than startups.

 

First, there was the Mary Read debacle. For those of you who aren’t aware, shortly after the kickstarter ended, Scale75 ran into a copyright issue and could no longer produce the Mary Read figure they had advertised. They initially offered up Amelia Steam as a replacement, however their customers weren’t thrilled as Mary Read was one of the best and likely most popular sculpts.  Eventually, to mollify the people who went in for Mary Read, Scale75 offered up an alternate sculpt which was copyright-compliant. While it was nice to get a Mary Read, all the changes they had to make to avoid copyright issues really made it a completely different model.  The awesome hair of the original Mary Read was covered up by a bandanna, which meant that while the new sculpt wasn’t bad, what we actually got was a pale shadow of what could have been.

 

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Helga — note the difference in facial expression between her art and the model

Second, I was a little disappointed with the sculpt on Helga Blitzhammer.  I was sold on her based on the concept art, but when they sculpted her, the facial expression changed.  It went from the cold, stern expression to a big smile.  This changes the whole tone of the piece, going from a serious blacksmith at work to more of a smiling, cheesecakey model.  While I can’t complain too much because I believe the render was available before the kickstarter ended, it was a little frustrating to see the model not match the concept art which initially sold me on her.

That said, overall, these are still some great models and I’m looking forward to painting them and trying out a new scale.

Minicrate

I also received my first shipment from MiniCrate, Privateer Press’ new miniature subscription program.  For those who are not aware, the concept behind MiniCrate is that you sign up for a monthly subscription and each month you are sent an exclusive, limited-run miniature from PP.  Once they are all sent out, the tooling will be destroyed.  So far, all of the miniatures in MiniCrate that have been revealed are alternate sculpts of existing models in their inventory.

mc_wolf_in_sheep_squareIncluded in this box were both their Di Wulfe in Sheep’s Clothing (aka: Sexy Gorman) and the Swamp Siren.  The Sexy Gorman is a one piece metal model, representing a female version of their Gorman di Wulfe model, while the Swamp Siren comes in two pieces:  A resin piece making up the bulk of the model and a metal left arm.

Now, the sculpts on these are, and always will be, polarizing.  A lot of the MiniCrate models have gone the pinup route, so if you don’t like painting pinups for whatever reason, then you probably won’t like these.  Further, with the Sexy Gorman’s entire sculpt based around a pun, people are either going to love her or hate her and her sheep onesie.

Initially, I was in the camp that wasn’t sold on the Sexy Gorman model, and subscribed to get the Swamp Siren.  I thought the sheep onesie was just silly.  But, the more I look at it, the more the model has grown on me. Yes, it’s kind of silly, but in a fun, whimsical way.  And as someone who likes doing these sort of conversions to my models, I love the Privateer Press gender-bent alternate sculpts.  I’ve already got her cleaned and mounted on a pill bottle for painting, and have some plinths on order for her…

mc_swamp_horror_squareAs for the Swamp Siren, I absolutely love the design.  The fact that they could take their Swamp Horror and turn it into a pinup model, while keeping the feel and the distinctive elements of the original, is nothing short of amazing. They managed to incorporate all the tentacles, spikes, and chitinous plating of the original into a sculpt that is the right mix of horrible, Cthulhu-esque abomination and attractive lady. She’s an awesome sculpt, and one that is definitely going to be closer to the top than the bottom of my painting queue.

IMG_2167.JPGUnfortunately, the Swamp Siren suffers from some quality control issues.  While the model itself is made of good material and has some nice detail, and is generally similar in crispness, detail, quality of sculpt, etc., to Eilish Garritty from No Quarter Prime, my models had some severe problems.  Looking at the model, it’s clear that the two halves of the mold were misaligned pretty badly, leaving me with a massive mold line running all the way up one side of her body, up and down the right arm, over the neck and head, and back down the other side. Although some mold lines are expected and normally I wouldn’t complain about cleaning it up, the misalignment was such that I wouldn’t be able to get the head and neck to look as intended.

I did compare my Swamp Siren to one of my locals, and his seemed to be quite nice, with only some minor mold lines on the tentacles that are easy enough to clean up.  I suspect I just happened to get a bad mold, or perhaps something went wrong with the tooling partway through the run and some models that weren’t up to snuff slipped through QC.  Fortunately, Privateer Press’ customer service is great, a lot better than their quality control at times, and I got a replacement free of charge.  The replacement does still have some mold lines to trim and a little work to be done, but is far better than the initial model.

While I still think the MiniCrate service is a wonderful idea and I like these models, my one piece oadvice here would be to take a close look at the model as soon as you get it, as given the limited nature of the release, it may be difficult to get a replacement if you don’t notice the issues right away because you put it on the shelf without looking and didn’t get around to it for a year.  Especially if they destroy the tooling in a sufficiently spectacular way, as promised.

Reaper

It’s no secret that I like Reaper paints.  Unfortunately, I live in a city that doesn’t have any stores which carry Reaper paints.  Further, the city I live in gets cold during the winter, so I’m a little paranoid about ordering paints which could potentially freeze in transit.

As a result, noticing that I was running low on some of my bread and butter army colours, I put in a couple orders from Reaper recently.  So, aside from the paints, there were a couple figures that I wanted.  With The Old Witch of Khador sitting on my shelf and Old Witch 2 now sitting on the shelf at my FLGS, I figured now would be a good time to stock up on crows for conversions, so after ordering about a dozen of their Murder of Crows…

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ivanetta.jpgAnyways, I also picked up Ivanetta Kozlov, which is a pretty nice miniature that I figured would be a nice palate cleanser from painting up oodles and oodles of Privateer Press products.  She’s a solid miniature; this isn’t the cheap Bones plastic, it’s old-school metal, and the basing bits included make it a whole scene in a little package.  Mold lines do exist, but your standard cleanup protocol will apply. Plus, while the miniature definitely falls on the fantasy side of the fence, there is a bit of a historical nod towards some of the Soviet female snipers such as Lyudmila Pavlichenko who served in WWII, so that’s a nice touch.

And, of course, with Reaper’s October promotions, I got some bonus minis, including their 25th anniversary Lysette (who is also a nice metal mini), a few paints, and a little goody bag with some Halloween candy which I promptly ate.  All in all, it was a nice little haul.

So, looks like I’ve got a busy winter approaching…