Build Update – AMG Bf.109B (1/48)

This is a project that has been on and off my table for a while since I picked up the kit almost a year ago. For a few months, I would take it out, look at the sprues, then put it back, close the box, and back away slowly. Eventually, I got it started, but then I kept getting distracted with gaming pieces that I wanted to either clear off my shelf of shame, or get painted up for demos or tournaments. Because I suppose is theoretically possible that I could go to another tournament.

The theme of the contest I’m building for is “In Enemy Hands.” So, as a tip of the hat to the Spanish Republicans and because I love their red-yellow-purple scheme, I’m doing the one Bf.109 that they managed to capture. The challenges of this project started early; I thought it would be fairly easy to find a Bf.109, but the only kit that I could find of a 109B (or any early 109 with the Jumo engine) was the AMG kit in 1/48 scale.

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Now, I’m not sure that I’ve built enough model kits that I can offer a fair assessment of the fit and finish of the kit, and I definitely haven’t done enough research to determine if it has the correct number of rivets along the upper lower left panel line second from the front on the cowling or if the johnson rod is a hair out of scale. However, my impression is that this is not a kit for the faint of heart. There are a lot of photoetch details, particularly in the cockpit, and it comes with resin and rubber parts as well, not to mention a commensurately large pricetag. There are also a lot of small parts, and the sprues aren’t exactly Bandai or Games Workshop quality, though they are a step up from the 1960s kits from behind the iron curtain that I’m used to. Notably, there are a lot of places where the engineering is such that you don’t have much in the way of locating pins and tabs to help you align the parts.

But, if you’re too much of a hipster to build a popular subject like I am, sometimes you have to take what you can get.

My Progress

So far, I managed to muddle my way through the infuriating photoetch on the cockpit, painted it up, and got the two halves of the fuselage together. I did depart from the official instructions, gluing the side panels into the fuselage first rather than gluing them onto the floor of the cockpit and hoping that they somehow fit flush against the inside of the fuselage. The two halves of the fuselage went together fairly well, though there was some filling, sanding, and re-scribing necessary.

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Cockpit detail

Departing from the instructions again, I installed the tail wheel before putting the fuselage halves together. While I did end up accidentally snapping it off later, I was able to drill out a hole for a brass rod on both ends of the break so it should be a simple repair that will probably end up with something that, with the brass rod at its core, is stronger than the original.

From there, I taped over the cockpit so I don’t mess it up and started getting the big pieces together – wings, control surfaces, etc., so it would look like a plane. I did paint up and weather the engine, only to nearly completely cover it up. At least I know it’s there.

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All this work… for nothing

The nose in particular was a challenging affair. On this kit, the nose consists of eight pieces. With so many pieces, most of which are connected by simple butt joints, one has to be very careful to get the fit just right. Otherwise, the slightest error will carry over and be magnified with each subsequent piece and you will need to use a lot of putty to get everything looking okay in the end. Further, the seam along the top of the cowling is difficult to fill and sand without accidentally obliterating the detail around the guns.

With all the filling and sanding done on the main structure, it is starting to look like a plane. I’m thinking of hitting it with some Stynylrez black before I start putting all the small, fiddly bits on and covering up some areas around the radiatior that I should paint before I assemble. I find it difficult to really see how well you did with fixing the seams until you actually prime it, and if it turns out after the primer that I didn’t do a good job, I want to have a chance to fix it without snapping off the pitot tube and other small pieces.

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My goal is to finish this thing for a contest in early March. I feel like this isn’t an unreasonable goal, so long as I don’t run into any major hiccups. And, while things are starting to come together, there are a number of places in this project where things can go wrong. First, I think landing gear is going to be a challenge. With the narrow track of the landing gear on the 109, the slightest misalignment could result in one wing being much lower than the other, and this kit doesn’t exactly have the most builder-friendly engineering to start with.

Next, the canopy could potentially be an issue. You have to be very careful when working with clear parts because you can’t just paint over mistakes, and there is potential for issues like glue fogging the canopy. I’d like to display it with the canopy open, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. And, there is also some of the aforementioned photoetch on the canopy as well.

Finally, my scheme involves a natural metal finish. While I’m not stranger to painting some shiny metal bits on models, I haven’t done an entire model in a natural metal finish. Obviously, I’m going to use Vallejo Metal Color, but I will probably need to head to the hobby store and pick up one of the 16 shades of grey metal that I don’t already have in order to get it historically accurate. Further, while the scheme itself isn’t too complex and can mostly be achieved through masking and spraying, I am a little concerned with decal application as that is new to me and I’ve seen enough silvered decals to worry about my chances.

That said, I’m really excited to get the thing together and primed and get started on the fun part. I can’t wait to start painting in the red-yellow-purple of the tail. And, none of these challenges are insurmountable. I believe in painting bravely, which is why I do stupid things like trying a resin pour for the first time on a display piece.

No man is an island

The other interesting thing is that this project really shows how the internet has helped connect modellers. First, when I googled pictures of finished scale models of the 109B, I found one made by fellow local figure painter. His is from an older kit, and is painted up in the colours of the bad guys, but I did get a chance to chat with him a bit about things like the proper colour for a Jumo-engined 109 and which seam lines are supposed to be panel lines and which need to be filled.

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Fun fact: Jean is better than me at both aircraft AND painting figures

Second, I’m part of a facebook group for Spanish Civil War modelling, and recently, someone posted their rendition of this plane. Not this type of plane, but this specific aircraft. While my initial reaction was to be disappointed that my idea is clearly not as original as I thought it was, seeing his rendition was a great help in figuring out things like what colours should go where. Also, he linked to a veritable treasure trove of reference material. Couple that with some other pictures of people’s takes on not just the 109B, but any of the early Jumo-engined 109s, and I’ve got some reference material which, if not authoritative, is a big help to me as someone working on a more obscure aircraft.

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Hey look, someone took my idea… only to do it first and probably better than I can

Conclusion

This kit is… well, it’s somewhere between a Bandai Gundam kit and a communist bloc 1960s kit in terms of engineering, details, and ease of assembly. I think I can finish this thing in time for the contest. The sprues are starting to get pretty bare, and the plane actually kind of looks like a plane. So long as I don’t get distracted, I should be able to… hey look, something shiny!

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Warhammer School Clubs, Part 3: Setup for Success, OR The Calm Before the Storm

The following article was written by a friend who works as an Early Child Educator in a before and after school program. It is about his participation in the Warhammer School Clubs program, a program by Games Workshop intended to promote the hobby within schools. This article is part two; see part one and part two.

In the last two articles, we unboxed our kit and addressed any concerns that people may have with the Warhammer School Clubs program. Now, it’s time to get ready to get this club going. I decided that, for the size of group that I had and the large variance in age range, there was some modifications I had to make to the official “curriculum” that Games Workshop sent us. This mostly had to do with some of the tools that wouldn’t be harder to use in our program, like allowing the children to use super glue, or using primer (I don’t trust using Abbadon Black base paint as a “primer”, after all).

The plan was to introduce the Warhammer Club to the children after December and the winter break. For the entire Christmas season we were swamped with making gifts, doing charity fundraisers, and putting on holiday plays, so there was little time to go full force into a big project like this. The two week winter break, however, allowed me some time to prepare for the big roll-out so that everything went as smooth as possible.

There were some small moments before the break to get things started with the kids; on the few blizzardy nights in December when there was only one child left in our room late in the evening, I would bring out the models. On those days we had a chance to start piecing the models together. One young man especially was active in helping put the models together.

Some tips on that: be prepared to glue pieces together  Although the First Strike and Storm Strike boxes have the models listed as “snap fit” and thus are theoretically easier for young adults to put together, in our experience some of the snap fit pieces tended to be a little loose. Also, sometimes the kids missed their marks when snipping out the figures from the sprue, which meant that the “snap fit” end didn’t have a connector to go with it.

The models themselves were relatively easy to put together, however.  We had the most trouble with the Space Marines not fitting perfectly and being wobbly or falling apart easily, but the handful of children who helped where able to figure it out. Although the curriculum says to do this with the kids as a workshop day, the reality is that there wouldn’t be enough sprues to go around, so doing them ahead of time with a very limited group of children made it easier and allowed us to have everything prepared for when it was time to get the program up in earnest.

Organizing

With all the figures put together, I went about organizing them all.  I got three containers from the dollar store, and with fifteen models each they easily fit inside. Being the Christmas season, I had some Ferrero Rocher packaging, which I cut into smaller sections  to make a holder so most of the models would stand up rather then roll around willy-nilly. The only ones that didn’t fit in the Ferrero Rocher packaging were the larger based Stormcast Eternals.

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The entire 40K “First Strike” box fit into the container.  The “Storm Strike” box had large rulebooks, so only the warscrolls fit in the box.  However, the “Storm Strike” box did fit all the other kinds of papers, terrain  and magazines that came in the kit.

The paints and hobbying material fit in its own box as well.  I went out and got some extra dollar store paint brushes so that everyone would have one, not just the six or so that GW sent us.  Our before and after program serves applesauce for snacks sometimes, so when that happens save and clean out the empty applesauce containers for water pots.  Some cut up clamshell packaging to make little palletes for each kid and it’s the perfect setup for hobbying goodness.

Priming

This is where most of the work went into during the winter break. Again, Games Workshop sent Abbadon Black as a “base coat”, without any sort of primer.  While I assume that it was intended to be used for priming, I was concerned that this might be inadequate. Priming without a real primer will most likely lead to a lot of chipped miniatures and a bunch of frustrated kids.   And as much as I would like to spray prime with the children, the limitations of my school, and the fact that it is winter limit my ability.

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Instead, my family went to Brian’s house, and we used his airbrush to prime everything after Christmas (along with some of my Warmachine collection).  The airbrush we used was a badger Xtreme Patriot 105, and we used badger Stynylrez primer in black and white.  We laid down a black base first covering the entire set of models.

We then started putting on the white, spraying down overtop in the zenithal style. Brian has talked about zenithal before, so I won’t really talk about it too much, but I will say that I think it will help the children differentiate different areas and really pick out details in a way that if the model was all one base colour (black or white) they might miss.  

It worked well, though we did run into a few issues when we were spraying the white primer. The black sprayed okay, but on the white, we kept on getting clogging in the nozzle, which probably had to do with the fact that the needle we were using was smaller than recommended for priming.

However frustrating it was finishing up the white, we got it all done.  After a day to cure they were all ready to be packed up and ready for the children to paint. Thanks Brian!

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Paperwork

The final pieces to get together was the paperwork. I wrote up a signup sheet and the ‘by-laws’ of the school club, leaving areas blank so that the kids could participate in filling them in. The signup sheet has whether or not the children want to volunteer for a “Student led role”, so those children who want to do something extra know ahead of time that it is an option.

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Honestly, although the curriculum calls for making the rules and roles up on paper, I feel like it may be a bit of extra work – the “coach” (ie adult organizer) of the club can simply do all these things, and have it all under their authority rather then bogging the children down in by-law writing. Maybe this is a holdover from school group expectations in the UK, but I don’t know if it’s as applicable in the North American school context, especially for middle/grade schools.

With that all being said, I am excited to have the children be more involved in writing the rules and taking on student lead roles. It’s often been a dream of mine to add a more democratic culture where the kids are engaged in their own learning and development, but that approach is not really one generally found in North America. Maybe this can be a way to start developing the democratic decision making skills with a group of children.

I also wrote a new permission letter to the parents. The GW written letter in BOOK ONE was fine enough, so I mostly copied those words. I did add the date, time and length expectations in the letter though. A lot of our children get picked up early from our after school session, and for those children who do want to participate but also get picked up early, the parents needed to know that they would be required to stay a bit longer than usual on those days.

Another thing I printed out was two sets of references for the game rules for 40K and AoS. Even some adults get lost in the thick of the rules of a rulebook, and while I expect my children to get the ‘how to play’ after a demonstration, they are prone to forget things. So having an easy flowchart or each of the steps of a game condensed into one page will no doubt help them out when it comes time to teach them how to play the game.

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Getting Started

Over the past couple weeks, children have signed up and the parents permission have gone out. We have 15 children participating (out of a classroom of 30) with the majority of them volunteering for some sort of student led role within the club! I’m excited to get started, as are the kids. The next post will be about how our first two sessions went.

Citadel Product Review – Mouldline Remover and Water Pot

When it comes to hobby tools such as paint brushes and knives, I tend to avoid the Citadel/Games Workshop family of products. Generally, it feels like I’m paying a premium for official GW products, and I’m not getting anything better than if I went to an art or hobby store. For example, I’m not sure who in their right mind would pay $36 for a hobby knife.

However, once in a while, the industrial designers at GW manage to hit a home run, making a good product at a not-unreasonable price that makes it onto my workbench. The latest two I’ve picked up have been their Mouldline Remover tool and their Water Pot.

Mouldline Remover

Citadel’s Mouldline Remover is about $20 and can be found at your local purveyor of Games Workshop products. Essentially, it’s a scraper that does what it says on the tin – by running it over mold lines and applying a touch of pressure, you can scrape them off.

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The concave curve on the inside in action!

The tool is a stiff scraping blade a couple millimetres thick, with a handle screwed on either side. As it is pretty much just a big chunk of metal, it feels pretty solid in the hand. The edges of the blade are square and crisp and work well for what they do. The blade has three main shapes to it: A flat backside, a rounded tip, and a concave curve on the front. This allows the modeller to choose the shape that best matches the part he is working on. The inside, for example, would be useful for scraping mold lines off pipes and tubes without leaving flat spots.

It works on both resin and plastic, as well as certain filler putties, and in addition to removing mold lines, it can be used to even out slightly misaligned parts. The nice, stiff blade is easy to control and it makes the task of getting rid of mold lines easy.

The one downside is that it is a little big for certain jobs. It may be perfect for things like Sector Mechanicus terrain and tanks, but on a small, highly detailed model like an Escher gang member, it’s probably just a little too big for some of the work and you should resort to something like the back of a hobby knife blade.

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This tool is definitely a good addition to my hobby arsenal. Nice and sturdy, it does what it says on the tin. It’s great for erasing mold lines and evening out misaligned panels. Also, this would be a good tool for younger modellers who might not be ready for a knife yet.

Water Pot

Normally, I wouldn’t spend $10 on a simple water pot. However, I had seen it on the desk of a couple twitch streamers and heard good things, so when I was negotiating a trade with a friend who works at the LGS and we were getting close to a mutually acceptable deal, I said “throw in one of these and we’ll call it even.”

I’m a little persnickety about my painting area, always experimenting with ways to more efficiently sort things out. This probably goes back to my time working in aerospace where a clean and well-organized workspace was essential because you really don’t want to lose a tool only for it to be found bouncing around inside a jet engine at 30,000 feet. Also, I don’t exactly have a large hobby space, having to keep most of my hobbying confined to a small LINNMON table from Ikea. As such, I like products where some thought was given to maximize functionality and ergonomics — a tool that has three uses takes up less space than three separate tools, and every square inch I save on my desk is another square inch that I can clutter up with works in progress.

This is one of those products. I mean, Citadel could have just taken a coffee mug, slapped their logo on it, and raised the price by 400%. But they didn’t do that. They crammed this thing full of little features that may not be apparent at first glance, but that painters will appreciate.

First, the shape of the thing. It is about the size of a large coffee cup, however it is wider at the bottom than it is at the top. This means that it is not likely to tip over like so many bottles of Nuln Oil. Further, with the unique shape, it is unlikely that you will mix up your paint water and your drink.

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Citadel Water Pot: ribbed for your pleasure?

On the inside, it has a number of ridges that make cleaning paint off the brush easier. The sides of the cup are gently ribbed, which should help knock stubborn paint out, while the bottom has some sharper ribs. While you probably don’t want to be grinding a kolinsky sable brush against the bottom, these ribs are useful for things like knocking paint out of your beater brushes and cleaning off the makeup brushes I use for dry brushing. Since cleaning your brushes out is important to make them last longer, anything that helps make cleaning easier and more efficient is a welcome feature.

Speaking  of cleaning your brushes, the top has a curve molded into it so that you can place your brush sideways on top without it rolling off. This is actually a good idea for when you’re finishing a painting session. You don’t want to leave a wet brush point up, as that will encourage the water and any debris in it to migrate down into the ferrule. This curve allows you to, at the end of your session, place your brush down on top of the water cup and let it dry out sideways.

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Brush holder in action

 

Finally, there are a series of grooves cut into one side. By running a brush through these grooves, they allow you to reform the point of the brush. This gives you an option to quickly reform the point without eating paint. While this works good in theory, old habits die hard, and I’m still licking my brush and using the corner of my mouth, so I would rather Citadel just focus on making their washes taste better. Further, I’m not sure they work for all sizes of brushes, so it might have been good for them to have an array of different sized grooves so you can use it to form the tip on your big beater brushes you use for terrain.

My only gripe, and this is minor, is that I wonder if it would have been better to cast it in a clear plastic. That way, you can somewhat see the ribs do their work, and it’s easier to tell looking from the side when it’s time to clean your water. On the other hand, it might be hard to see anything anyways with the refraction of light on the water, and the cruddy water look may not have been what they were going for.

Of course, similar to the Redgrass Games Everlasting Wet Palette, the main issue is that it’s hard to compete on value when your main competition is essentially free. Yes, this product has some nice features, but you can probably get away with using any old container or jar indefinitely and save yourself $10, so long as you are careful to choose a container that isn’t too similar to your coffee cup. Still, if you have a bit of cash burning a hole in your pocket and you’re at the LGS, you could do far worse. Like spending $36 on a hobby knife.

Conclusion

I am far from a GW fanboy, and don’t see the need to use official Citadel-brand products very often in my painting. However, I do like both of these products. If I had to give them a letter grade, I would give the mouldline remover an A, while the water cup would probably get a B+, only because although it’s not that expensive, it can’t compete on price with free alternatives.

 

Warhammer School Clubs, Part 2: War, what is it good for?

The following article was written by a friend who works as an Early Child Educator in a before and after school program. It is about his participation in the Warhammer School Clubs program, a program by Games Workshop intended to promote the hobby within schools. This article is part two; see part one here.

So you’re thinking about starting a Warhammer School Club in your school.  Maybe you’re an experienced gamer and educator wanting to bring your love for the hobby in, or maybe it’s your first time and some kid has brought this odd little game to your classroom and wants support from you to help start a club.  You go to your organization’s coordinator or the school administrator and share this idea. What happens when they aren’t really sold on it?

For a lot of administrators, this is new territory. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and what it can bring to the educational experience.  We need to be able to make the case for the educational benefits of miniature wargaming in the classroom as well as address any misgivings administrators may have. And convincing administrators is the first step before needing to convince parents to allow their children to participate.

With that in mind, here are some objections that I’ve personally experienced as well as some that I’ve heard from others.

Settings

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The first thing I want to bring up is how the settings of the universes affect how they might be received by administrators. I fully admit that this maybe some of my personal bias, but I find the setting of Age of Sigmar to be less problematic than the world of 40K. Let me explain…

As previously discussed on this blog, there’s something a little too real about wargaming in conflicts that are more recent. I feel a similar (but different) unease about the nature of the 40K universe. Fantasy as a setting is backward looking – It takes a view that our past glories are behind us, and that the worlds of fantasy are one of mythic heroes of the gods that we will never live up too. They are worlds of mysticism where impossible magics and long antiqued weaponry rule.

Science Fiction on the other hand is forward looking – it starts out as an attempt to anticipate scientific and technological advances. So rather then taking a starting point of a long past historical period and adding the fantastical, science fiction takes our now, and extrapolates what may happen in the far off future.  And the far future of 40K is a grimdark reflection of our own.

While the over-the-top grimdark-ness was originally meant to satirize the tropes often seen in science fiction, the satire of it all is often missed with members of community, and will no doubt be missed by the children and school administrators in the school. That’s why a lot the problems that will be brought up are likely to exist solely with the 40K setting, and are maybe lessened from the world of AoS, which has a clearer morality.    because of this, I believe that starting with AoS will be easier to present to administrators and parents at the beginning then the world of 40K.

The starters that come in the box put this into contrast.  The AoS box (Storm Strike) comes with Stormcast Eternals and Nighthaunts.  The 40K box (First Strike) comes with UltraMarines and Death Guard Plague Marines and Poxwalkers.  When presenting these two boxes to administrators and parents, it would probably be an easier sell to present “Heroic Knights” vs “Ghosts” then “Storm Troopers” vs “puss covered, guts-falling-out Space Zombies”.  

That is not to say that 40K cannot be a part of the experience of the school club, rather it would be easier to slowly introduce and carefully curate what parts of 40K you’re using after introducing the administrators, parents and children into AoS.

Violence

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This chainsword is a purely non-lethal weapon…

No matter what the setting though, you’re going to get pushback on the “violence” of the subject matter. After all, the first things parents and administrators will be hearing is the WAR in Warhammer, whether it is the fantasy or sci-fi version of it. The biggest concern will always be about promoting the unending conflict, and whether or not that unending conflict will spill from the game world into the real world between the children.

It is important to recognize that Warhammer is probably not the only war game that the children are playing in school. When seen within a different context, most games with rules children play are simulations of battle. The classic dodgeball is a perfect example – two opposing sides volley projectiles at each other with the goal of removing the opposing team from the field of conflict, with some variations having different roles (like medics to bring into players back into the game) that reflect the roles one would have in a military.

We allow games like dodgeball and football to be played in schools because the “violence” and “war” of it all is abstracted and contextualized in a different way.  Warhammer and wargaming is no more violent than chess; it’s dice and game pieces on a table. Dodgeball is arguably a much more violent game, with the potential of real world injury.  The only way wargaming is more “violent” is that the game pieces are sculpted and presented with weapons or gore. The “violence” is all in narrative, and the School program curriculum does a good deal at contextualizing and discussing the ethics of warfare.

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If there is concern that the “play violence” will spill out from the game into actual violence, then we have to ask yourself the question: Why? Children who act out violently have not developed the self-control skills to communicate the feelings they are experiencing and they use violence as a nonverbal way to show how they are feeling, be it frustration, anger, sadness, etc. By the time the children are being introduced to WarHammer school club (around age 12 and above), most children should have the social and self-control skills to cope with and self-express feelings of frustration or anger verbally and not physicially.

But even as adults, in the heat of the moment have lapses, and for those few children that still have difficulty with self-control around those strong emotions and ‘lash out’, the game can be a way to teach and develop those self-control skills.  The game provides a framework and boundaries, and the curriculum provided by GW places a heavy focus of fair play and personal code of conduct, thus developing the self-control social skills same children may be still developing.

Guns

The biggest issue your probably going to run into is the inclusion of models that carry guns.

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‘Guns in school’, broadly speaking, is an extremely serious subject. The impact of actual firearms within schools should not be contested or belittled. Nor does suggesting that teachers who include ‘gun play’ in school diminish the strong work that students, parents and groups are doing to keep guns out of schools, or suggest that the problem to gun violence in schools is to have more guns in school. We should rightly reject actual firearms in our schools and, in the case of America, where there is a school shooting pandemic, actively resist the culture of gun violence in our schools.

With all that being said, it’s important to recognize the separation between actual ‘gun violence’ and the kind of ‘gun play’ that children are involved in. It goes to a fundamental question: Why do children play?

Children’s play is a process of developing an understanding of themselves and the world around them. As Melinda Walden, an Early Childhood Education teacher at Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada, who focus on risky and controversial play explains in an interview about her own experiences with developing a curriculum around gun play, “A child is just figuring out the world and the things in it through play because that is how they learn, and guns are a part of our world, so how else are they going to learn about it?”

As we continue see conflict unfortunately raging around the world, children need a device to understand why that conflict happens, and even if we think we are shield them from it, they still are passively absorbing everything around them. Some of the parents in our schools may be police officers or military who need to use a gun as a tool in their jobs. By playing with imaginary guns, they are engaging with “a form of socio-dramatic play“  where children can place themselves in the role of ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’ to better understand those concepts.

Demons

Another controversy the could arise is the inclusion of demonic or ghoulish subject matter. GW’s hobby line mascot is a demon, it’s major award is the Golden Demon, and the yellow ‘painting daemon’ is all over the hobbyist packaging and promotional material. Depending on community standards, this can become an issue in needing of explaining to parents and administrators.

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The simplest solution to this is to reframe our look from the ‘Adult perspective’ to the ‘Child perspective’. While we as adults may put a lot of weight on the demonic, depending on our community, children are do not have the context that we have developed. They are approaching these monsters, and understand that due to parent reaction are ‘bad’ but have not developed the understanding of what bad is in context of demons. They with to understand what makes them bad, or scary, or demonic, and the way that children do that is through play.

Let us hypothesize that you are in a school in a community where religion is very important to the identities of the families of the children we interact with.  Our children are going to Church and hearing stories about good vs evil, are being told stories about the devil, hell, demons and sin. That creates an interest in the children about demons and evil, as they are told about how bad and to stay away from these the demonic. What child wouldn’t then have an interest in something forbidden and mysterious?  

Thus we are responding to the children’s fascination in the demonic, allowing them to engage in socio-dramatic play to help the children put themselves into the perspective both of good and evil (and, again, I think AoS is stronger in having more thoroughly “Good” characters compared to the main factions in 40K). They can experience ‘demons’ in the safe boundaries of a tabletop game, giving them a better understanding of the negatives of it.

At least that’s what my argument would be. The truth is, some parents and administrators won’t be sold on pedagogical arguments, especially when it comes to areas of faith. And that’s fine; whether it is on the violence, gunplay, or demonism, some of your co-workers, parents or administrators won’t be 100% on board. If you cannot get people on board 100%, then the best way forward is to organize the club around them.

For parents, the school club is voluntary, and thus need parents permission, so while we know that the child will suffer from not participating, a parent who wishes to not have their children in it just won’t have their child participate.  

For co-workers who are not on board, it simply means putting the work on yourself. Assure them that it is in their rights to disagree, but that it is important to you and that you will be the one organizing and ensuring that it runs well by yourself.  

For Administrators, while risky, there is truth in the adage ‘it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission.’ When I began to bring war gaming into the classroom, it was in the form of those cheap green army guys. We received two bins for two rooms. The younger room snipped off all the guns, while my room did not. There was discussion with the administrator about whether or not they all had to, but I didn’t feel that a decision was made. In that uncertainty, I started my curriculum with guns intact – and the curriculum manager saw and was upset. There was a testy discussion, but keeping them on had already moved the ‘realities on the ground’, and the genie couldn’t be put back in the bottle.

Why do we do it?

The reality is, we are doing this because we believe that it will be a educational and social benefit of the children (be it literacy, mathematics, artistic, technology, etc) in this hobby. There are no alternative motives, like to make children more violent, gun prone or devotees of Satan. We know that this community can make help improve the lives of the children; it is the reason we became educators in the first place. Against all objections, that should be our argument: we are here for the youth we care for

Sketch style: How to paint miniatures backwards

I have long suspected that one of the reasons why some people dislike painting is because they set themselves up to fail. Without knowing any better, they end up doing things like trying to paint yellow straight over black primer then getting frustrated when they don’t get good results. That is not unexpected; we all make elementary mistakes just starting out (I did my fair share of mediocre colour schemes and trying to paint white straight over dark colours, and my first attempts at painting yellow were a nightmare) and it’s not fair to expect people who are just starting out to know not to use horribly inefficient processes. However, I feel like if more people knew how to set themselves up for success from the start, people would enjoy themselves more, accomplish more with their painting, and we would see more painted models on the table.

Which brings me to “sketch style,” a style of painting that was popularized by Matt DiPietro of Contrast Miniatures. This is a style that was all the rage about a year or two ago, but I never said I was always up on the latest trends. Basically, this style turns the traditional “base coat, shade, highlight” approach that companies like Games Workshop have promoted for decades and turns it on its head.

It, or at least the bastardization of the process that I use, rests on two assumptions. First, paint leaving an airbrush or rattle can travelling in a straight line can roughly represent rays of light emanating from a light source. Second, paint doesn’t have 100% opaque coverage.

Okay, so what is sketch style

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Munsell colour system – a system that can describe any colour by three axes: Hue, value, and chroma (which is similar to saturation)

Before I start, I think it is good to have a brief interlude about what makes a colour. In certain models for colour theory, every shade of every colour can be described according to three properties: hue, value, and saturation (or chroma, which is similar but different in a way people who actually went to art school may be able to describe). Hue describes the general colour of the rainbow or the colour wheel, whether it is red or blue or green or something in between. Value describes the lightness or darkness of the colour, with one extreme being black and the other being white. Sky blue, for example, has a much higher value than navy blue.

Finally, saturation describes the intensity of the colour and runs from completely desaturated neutral greys all the way out to really bright reds and greens and blues and whatevers. A bright blue is going to be much more intense than a dull, greyish blue. With these three variables, we can describe basically any colour that exists.

No, really, what is sketch style

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The “Citadel Paint System” — start with a base, hit it with a wash, then either layer or dry-brush the highlights

Think for a moment of the traditional way most of us learn to paint miniatures. If you’ve followed something like Duncan’s videos on Warhammer TV, you’re familiar with this approach. Typically, you start by base coating your miniature in the desired colour, using two thin coats to ensure you get smooth, even coverage. From there, apply some dark washes into the shadows and then hit it with a dry-brush of a lighter colour to pick out the highlights.

Now, let’s think about this in terms of the Hue/Value/Saturation. What we are essentially doing when we follow the traditional Warhammer method is laying down our desired hue and saturation with a uniform base coat some funnnily-named colour like Wazdakka Red, and then using washes, dry-brushing, and other techniques to increase the value in the highlights (eg: lighten them) or decrease the value in the shadows (eg: darken them), leaving us with a completed miniature with highlights and shading at the end.

Seriously, what the hell is sketch style already?

Sketch style basically turns this around. Instead of starting out with our hue by laying down an opaque basecoat, we start out by sketching in the value using black and white. Generally, we want more black in the shadows and white in the highlights.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to do this – a technique called zenithal priming, which I have discussed a few times before. Left to its own devices, light tends to emanate from a point and travel in a straight line until it hits something. As does paint coming out of an airbrush. So, by priming the entire miniature black, then loading up with white primer, holding the airbrush in the general location where the light source would be, and spraying your miniature from that angle, you can get a good start on your value sketch.

Take, for example, a miniature who is meant to represent your average soldier outside during the day. The main source of light on him is going to be the sun. So, figure out where you want the sun to be (generally somewhere in front of the miniature, though not necessarily straight on, coming down at maybe a 45 degree angle), hold your airbrush there, point it at the miniature, and spray it with white primer. That white primer will naturally come straight out your airbrush and land in areas on the model where the sun would hit the real thing, and leave the areas which would remain in shadow in black.

I like to especially focus fire on the face of a miniature, as that is generally the focus of a piece. I also like to add a secondary light source at about 180 degrees from the original light source, not as bright as the primary light source but still there. This is just so the back of the miniature isn’t completely black and you have some visual interest on both sides. While this may be taking some artistic license, you will never see both the front and the back of the miniature at the same time. And for wargamers, unless you’re playing a Warmachine game against Haley2, you’re going to be seeing the back of your miniatures a lot so you might as well use that secondary light source to make it look just as good from the back as it does from the front.

Note: You can use a rattle can for this, however an airbrush loaded with Stynylrez primer is my preferred tool as the airbrush offers more precise control over your spray, I don’t have issues with rattle cans in the long, cold, Canadian winter, and Stynylrez is an awesome airbrush primer.

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Value sketch on a miniature; ignore the purple wash in some areas (I got a little ahead of myself before I took the picture) and the white dot on the cape (that was a mistake that I covered up with dark purple paint after the value sketch)

While zenithal priming gives us a good start, for this technique to work to its maximum effectiveness, we need to kick it up a notch. By doing a quick dry brush, we can catch the edges and highest highlights of the model. The best paint for this is available not at your model or game store, but at the art store. Get yourself a tube of artist acrylic heavy body titanium white paint. Not only is it a nice consistency for dry brushing, but titanium white is the whitest white paint you can get. It’s basically the Mike Pence of paint.

So, once we’ve loaded up a makeup brush (which are the best dry brushes) with our white and gone to town, the end result should be a black and white miniature which is dark in the shadows and light in the highlights — basically, a value sketch with no hue or saturation.

Adding hue and saturation

Now that we’ve established our values, it’s time to add colour. What we want to do is tint the model with semi-transparent layers of colour; layers that are opaque enough that they add some hue and saturation, but transparent enough that they don’t completely cover up the underlying value sketch.

I’ve found there are two approaches which work well for this. The first, and generally my preferred method, is to use inks. You can use inks made by the usual suspects like Vallejo, P3 and Scale75, or acrylic artist inks made by folks like Daler & Rowney or Liquitex. While inks are very pigment-dense, they are also incredibly thin, almost like water. As such, a thin layer of ink often adds the perfect amount of colour, and one or maybe two coats should suffice to get to the desired level of saturation.

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A small sample of inks

The second option, if inks aren’t available, is to thin down some regular paint with a matte medium. While it can go by many names, especially if you buy it from a miniature paint line rather than the art store, matte medium is basically paint without pigment. This allows you to reduce the pigment density but not affect the consistency of the paint as if you just added water. This means the surface tension is such that you can apply a uniform coat as a glaze, instead of having it sink into the recesses like a wash. While this approach does work, it does take more coats than the inks to build up your colour, so unless you’re painting in such a large batch that your first model is dry by the time you make it to the end, having a blowdryer on hand to speed up the drying process can really help.

And that’s it. Using our inks or glazes, we can add colour to our value sketch in a sort of paint by numbers approach. Cover a blue cape with blue ink, leather straps with brown ink, and so on. Because we’ve already put in our highlights and shadows in the value sketch process, we don’t need to go back and hit it with things like washes and highlights if we don’t have to.

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Thrall warriors in just about every colour of the rainbow. Some sponge chipping was added to the armour, and brown washes to the bottom of the capes because re-animated skeletons are generally fairly dirty.

Colouring your shadows

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First Mate Hawk, with Drakenhof Nightshade (eg: dark blue) shade

Astute readers may notice that this runs slightly contrary to something that I often preach. By using black and white as a base for our value sketch, this means we are effectively shading and highlighting by adding black or white to the base colour. This works well for certain colours like blues and purples, but there are a lot of colours out there where colour theory dictates that there should be some variation in the hue as well as we move from shadows to highlights. Greens, for example, should move towards blue in the shadows and yellow in the highlights. Warm colours like to be shaded with cool colours, and mixing white into red can end up pushing your highlights towards pink.

While I wasn’t smart enough to get a good picture before I covered them with chipping and muck, we can see this issue in some of my rainbow thrall warriors. The red, yellow, and orange just doesn’t quite work as well as some other colours.

However, there is a way to address this somewhat. After establishing the value sketch but before laying down the colours, you can hit the model with a wash in a cool colour like blue or purple. As usual, Citadel’s shades are my go-to for this. Once dry, you can re-establish the highest highlight by giving the white dry brush another go. This will leave the cool colours in the midtones and the shadows, and give you a little bit of that cool to warm transition that we tend to like as we go from shadows to highlights after the application of your colour.

Going from here

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Ragman – mostly a sketch style then slathered with Nuln Oil to add a dirty look

Of course, once you have your ink slapped on, you can call it done, or you can go a little further. On my Ragman, for example, I wanted him to look dirty and shadowy, so I brought out my good old friend Nuln Oil and gave him a nice shade with the brown-black concoction. You can also apply washes and glazes to add weathering to things like capes.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with starting out with sketch style then going into more traditional techniques like blending and layering to reinforce shadows and highlights. I did this on my Orin Midwinter model, for example, using a bit of Drakenhof Nightshade in the shadows, and kicking up the highest highlight a little bit by mixing up an opaque highlight colour, applying it to the highlights, and feathering it out.

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Orin Midwinter – sketch style on the robes using P3 Sanguine Base, with highlights reinforced with a mix of Sanguine Highlight & Menoth White Highlight

Conclusions

When it comes to painting miniatures, there is very rarely one correct answer. Sketch style is not the solution to all your problems and for best results shouldn’t be applied everywhere all the time. I find it to work great for things like clothes and capes where a little roughness from the atomization of the white primer through the airbrush and the dry brushing can nicely represent the texture of the cloth. However, even when I’m using sketch style, I tend to revert to the traditional approach for things like armour plates and faces. And, of course, metallics are their own little ball of wax.

However, like most techniques out there, it’s worth a shot. Compared to the traditional approach, it can be very effective for quickly banging out good looking models. None of the techniques used to establish the value sketch are particularly demanding, and they’re all well-suited to batch paint dozens of models at once to quickly get an army painted. A spray from above in white and a quick dry brush with a detail brush is not particularly challenging. Adding colour only requires you to stay within the lines, but even that only requires some basic brush control.

Even if you don’t use it to bang out dozens of Trenchers in one sitting for your Cygnar army, dipping your toe into the water of sketch style can help you understand core concepts and make you a better painter.

And, it’s so easy that even my mom can do it.

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