Frozen Ninja 3D Cyborg Bust

Growing up as a Star Trek fan, I probably watched more than my share of episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. While they were in their last season when I started tuning in, the Space Channel was running reruns on a daily basis, so it wasn’t hard to get my fill of Delta Quadrant adventures with Janeway, Neelix, and the holographic doctor played by JohnnyCab from the Total Recall movie.

Of course, being a young man at the time, there was a certain character who was introduced a couple seasons in with the goal of appealing to my demographic. And to be honest, I’m not sure I can say it didn’t work. While the Borg had been kicking around since the days of Picard, and had by that time established themselves as the biggest and most fascinating bad guys in the galaxy, it was with Seven of Nine that we first got insight into how a person raised by the Borg would interact when no longer part of the Collective.

So, when I saw a kickstarter offering up a bust of a cyborg from Frozen Ninja 3D, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I would fail my will save and end up acquiring her.

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The Bust

Frozen Ninja 3D is a fairly new player in this game, using digital sculpting and 3D printing to make a master and casting resin copies based on that, which is the direction that the industry is going in. The company launched via kickstarter maybe a year ago. I’m not sure how much experience the prime sculptor has in the industry prior to launching this company though I did see him mention online somewhere that this is his first bust. Somehow, the model itself just has a certain feel to it that betrays its origins as a digitally sculpted model. It’s hard to put my finger on why exactly that is, but if it weren’t for the fact that the subject is up my alley, I might have taken a pass on it as it doesn’t quite have the same je ne sais quoi as some of the other busts in my collection.

I did make a few small modifications to the model. First, the original sculpt had a part of the hair that was really lacking any sort of detail, so in order to not have a big, smooth are where there should be strands of hair, I carved some detail into it. Next, I used half-round sections of plasticard and some glue and putty to add what are essentially glowing tubes or hoses of some sort into a couple of the wide gaps in her chest armour. Finally, I added an antenna to the cybernetic implant on the side of her head, which was just a piece of a paper clip cut down to size.

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Areas with modifications circled

And, of course, I did a zenithal prime with some cool shadows, as I do for most of my work. In this case, I left her head separate from her torso for the start of my painting, just to make the airbrushing easier and get under the hair.

Skin and Hair

For the skin tone, I wanted to do something a little different than my usual approach. Quite predictably, I chose to use Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager as my reference source. There are plenty of pictures available of her both in her Borg drone getup and half-deborgified from the episodes where she joined the crew, and a lot of them have been taken in the fairly neutral light of the starship Voyager as opposed to the overall darkness punctuated by green lights of a Borg cube.

The important piece of knowledge that I gathered from staring at pictures of Jeri Ryan (oh, the sacrifices I make for you people…) was that the skin had to look somewhat unnatural and have some cool tones in it to emphasize the artificial nature of the cybernetic implants. A Borg drone with rosy red cheeks and pink lips would just look odd. It also wasn’t smooth and uniform, having a lot of mottling and imperfections as dermatology and makeup aren’t huge priorities in the Borg Collective. I also wanted to go for something a little on the darker side as I knew I was going to be doing a lot of gunmetal and black leathery colours on this model, plus the facial structure implied to me that she may have been a little darker-skinned before being turned into a cyborg.

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what I did here. It involved a lot of airbrushing and playing around with different colours – blues, purples, greys, various skin tones, and I think I shaded it with some Payne’s Grey ink shot from below, as well as stippled on some little imperfections with a sponge. Once I got something I thought looked interesting and was happy with, I decided to leave it well enough alone and not touch it for the remainder of the project because like anything truly artistic, I wasn’t sure exactly what I did and didn’t think I could replicate the process.

As for the hair, I knew there were going to be a lot of green glowing parts on the final project, so colour theory demanded something reddish. So, I went for an orangeish strawberry blonde. As usual, I started with a wet blend to highlight the overall shape of the hair, working up from some orangey ochre tones like P3’s Bogrin Brown and Moldy Ochre, to highlight colours like Reaper’s Blond Hair. I then followed up with some quick dry brushing and washes to get some quick shadows and highlights on individual strands of hair, and followed up with some manual highlights and shading to reinforce what I had achieved with the basics.

True Metallic Metals

With the skin tones done, it was time to move on to something else. Readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of the extra pop you get from using True Metallic Metal (TMM) techniques, but that they are also quite difficult because most metal paints kind of suck. So, I basecoated it all in Vallejo Metal Color’s Gunmetal Grey and got to work.

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Half-done TMM

With a clean basecoat down, what I had to do to get the TMM effects was to use inks to darken the shadows and use VMC Silver to catch the highlights. I eventually hit on a good way to do this; start by applying the inks from dark to light, then throw down a little silver in your highlight area. By drawing the silver into the inks and then blending the whole thing together a little, you can get a decent quick blend. With the inks being less shiny than the metals, you get a cool effect where there is more sparkle in the highlights than there is in the shadows, as there should be.

As for the colours, I chose to sneak a little bit of purple into my metallics – not enough to read as some sort of funky purple metal, but just enough to add a hint of a different colour to them (which, of course, is also not enough to actually appear in any of my photos because I’m bad at photography). I chose purple for two reasons. First, I felt it would contrast nicely with the orange hair and green glowing bits, creating a nice triadic colour scheme. Second, I had plenty of purple artist ink on hand as that is a shade colour I use quite frequently.

So, the typical highlight went from Black to Payne’s Grey (a nice desaturated blue-black) to Dioxazine Purple inks, into VMC silver. That was all blended together, then I would go back in and reinforce the highlights. As for where I placed the highlights… well, that was a challenge with all the flat plates on her armour. It was done using Non-Metallic Metal (NMM) principles, and placing NMM highlights can be an article in itself, so if you are interested, find someone who is better than me and look up her tutorial.

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TMM recipe. Liquitex and FW inks are very similar, the only difference is Liquitex fits on my paint rack.

Finally, for some of the edge highlighting, I switched to Scale75 as their consistency is a little more natural for certain techniques, and their Speed Metal is whiter than anything in the VMC range so it makes a nice highest highlight.

Other Details

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There were some parts of her armour that looked less metallic than others – areas like her stomach and some areas on her upper chest, around her collar. These I chose to do as some sort of futuristic non-metallic synthetic leather-like material. Whatever you might call it, I started from Nightshade Purple in the deepest shadows to have a subtle tie-in with the metals, then worked up to Reaper MSP Coal Black and P3 Coal Black, mixing in some P3 Menoth White Highlight into the highest highlight. It may seem strange to use the same colour from two different brands, but these actually have a different tone. While the hue is similar, P3’s take on Coal Black is a little lighter and more saturated than Reaper’s version so it is good as a higher highlight over a base of Reaper’s version.

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“Leather” and hair colours

In most of these areas, I applied this with the brush, blending my highlights and adding edge highlights. However, there were a couple areas where I wanted to get some different texture so I decided to do a little basic stencil work, using a piece of aluminum mesh to make a diamond pattern that I could airbrush over.

Finally, I added some glow effects around some of the lights and switches on her suit, making sure to make the source of the light the brightest area and glazing some green glow effects around where the surface might catch the light.

Final Thoughts

This was an interesting project. Not being one to play the more out there fantasy races when I do wargaming, I haven’t really done much in the way of unnatural skin tones. So that made for an interesting challenge. While it worked out on this project, it is still a little beyond my comfort zone as as soon as I got something that I liked, I immediately hit the eject button and decided that I wouldn’t risk screwing it up.

As for the TMM, this project did end up demanding a lot from me, and I’m still not sure I’m at the point where I’m getting perfectly smooth blends with metallic paints. They are just always tricky to work with, and perhaps I should have gone for NMM on this project instead. Working on the TMM really tested my endurance as it took a lot of pushing to get past the phase where your model looks like crap and you hate it, and in that phase I was getting frustrated with trying to blend metal paints.

But, whether it is one of my best works or not, I made it over the hill and down the other side. And that’s really what matters at the end of the day.

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Bonus Content: Cup Noodle Gunpla!

So, I had somehow managed to acquire a couple tiny, special edition Gundam models that were produced for the 40th anniversary of Cup Noodle, a Japanese company making ready to make cups of noodles. So, here is Char’s Zaku and a Gelgoog in all their tiny glory.

Bustin’ a Move with Nancy and Sorscha

To paraphrase the esteemed Sir Mix-A-Lot, I like big busts and I cannot lie. When it comes to painting figures, I think the 1/12 bust is my favourite scale. 1/12 is a big enough scale to incorporate some really nice details and textures, especially on the skin and eyes. However, being a bust, that means I can get the large scale which enables a lot of detail work without having as large or expensive of a model as if it were a full figure. Plus, painting pants and boots can be kind of boring, and a bust focuses on only the interesting parts.

Starting out

I had mentioned them on this blog before, but had done two busts recently: the Sorscha bust from Privateer Press, and Nancy Steelpunch from Scale75. Both were high quality resin pieces, and cleanup was pretty minimal, with a little bit of work required on Sorscha and not much at all on Nancy. Both were assembled and then zenithal primed with Stynylrez white over black, going heavy on the white as is my usual approach.

Next, I laid in some airbrushed base coats on the skin. I started with blue, as that is my deepest shadow and it is generally easier to work from shadow to highlight with the airbrush. From there, I went into skin tones, working up from my deepest shade of Reaper MSP Soft Blue to my highest highlight of a very fair skin tone. The goal here isn’t to get everything perfect, rather, it’s just a quick way to lay in a nice base and get about 80% there, from where I can manually paint and glaze additional layers overtop.

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Skin airbrushed over a zenithal highlight

Sorscha

Here is where the process started to diverge. Nancy had a lot of skin showing, so I figured I was finished with the airbrush on her for the time being. Sorscha, however, was mostly pink armour. So, masking off her face with a bit of silly putty, I worked up from a shadow colour of Reaper MSP Nightshade Purple mixed with Punk Rock Pink, up to neat Punk Rock Pink, then Blush Pink and finally some Braaaaiins Pink for the highest highlight.

Next was some texturing techniques that I picked up in a class I had taken with Aaron Lovejoy a little while ago. I went over the airbrushed base coat with a bunch of stippling, using the base coats to guide me as to where I should stipple what colour. Once it was all stippled and I had the texture laid in, it was time for some airbrush glazing – mix up some very thin paints in your airbrush, and just barely pull the trigger back, depositing a thin glaze over your stippled texture. It will blend all your stippling back together, but so long as you aren’t too heavy and start laying down opaque coats, you will still have some texture from the stippling showing through. I started with some Nightshade Purple shot up from below to reinforce the shadows, then came from above with my pink highlight colours. I may have been a little heavier than intended on the highlight colours as the more pastel pinks have a lot of white in them contributing to more opacity than I anticipated, but the end result was good enough for me and I wasn’t about to spend another few hours re-stippling everything just because things ended up being a little more subtle than intended.

For the white trim, I used a similar but slightly different process. I started with a basecoat of Reaper’s Stormy Grey, then covered it with a wet blend from Stormy Grey up to Misty Grey. From there, I stippled in the texture and brushed on the glazes instead of using an airbrush because there is no way I’m going to do that much masking. I also added texture to the leather straps in a similar manner, adding some fine details then using glazes and washes to blend them all together with the rest of the leather.

The hair was base coated in a deep walnut brown, and highlighted with a series of desaturated blues. However, I also added in a touch of a light, desaturated purple in the highlights. This helps blend the hair into all the pink, and also represents a bit of reflection of light from her pink armour off her hair. For the hat, I did it in two phases. First, to get the general highlights and shadows, I basecoated and wet-blended the grey, ignoring the fur texture and using your wet-blending to roughly highlight and shade it as though it were simple, flat cloth. From there, I used washes and dry-brushing to highlight the actual fur, with a little bit of manual edge highlighting of individual tufts of fur applied afterwards just to kick it up a notch. For my shade colour, I wanted to stick to a cool grey, so I went with primarily GW’s Drakenhof Nightshade, however I also added the slightest hint of various coloured GW washes to give a little colour variation to it because grey is boring.

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Hair — note the blue reflections and the hints of purple in the highest highlights.

I was debating weathering her armour, but at the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. First, I thought it looked nice clean and was a little afraid that weathering would ruin it. Second, I was also concerned that with all the work I did to add texture, painting on a bunch of chipping and scratches on the armour would add just so much contrast that it would just completely overshadow and wipe out the more subtle texturing effects. Finally, I decided to rationalize it by figuring that Sorscha probably isn’t going to be wearing that much makeup to war, and dirty, heavily chipped armour would clash with lipstick and eyeshadow. As such, I figured that I would go with a “parade clean” scheme, where Sorscha is trying to look her best to show off her pride in the Khadoran military (and, perhaps make Vlad feel a few pangs of regret over dumping her and marrying the Empress).

This take on Sorscha doesn’t have a whole lot of colour variation, interesting freehand, or the like, but I think she stands out for two reasons. First, with the pink being such a bright, intense colour and the way I took a little artistic license with the lighting to draw the viewer into the face, it can suck an observer in from several feet away. Second, once you come in closer, you start seeing some of the texture variation across the model. Even without weathering, there are just so many textures on this simple bust – skin, hair/fur, cloth, leather, painted metal, and shiny metal – that there is a lot going on even without the addition of any sort of freehand or the like.

At the end of the day though, Sorscha is my favourite character from the Iron Kingdoms universe, and I think I did her justice here, even if she didn’t place at the last competition I brought her to.

Nancy

As for Nancy, my colour choice was already set. I painted a miniature of her last year, with red and black clothes in a vaguely Harley Quinn inspired theme and blue hair. I tweaked a couple little things from the miniature version because it wasn’t quite working at 1/12, most notably, I changed the necklace from a silver to a gold metal to incorporate a bit better colour balance.

The two challenging things on Nancy were the tattoos and the true metallic metals on the fist. For the tattoos, I wanted to tell a story. The idea was that Nancy here is a steampunk mechanic who lost her hands in an industrial accident thanks to Victorian-era workplace health and safety regulations. Of course, as any steampunk mechanic worth her salt would do, she simply invented a pair of giant mechano-hands.

In order to literally spell it out for the viewer, I decided to tattoo the phrase “What doesn’t kill you…” on her chest. In this case, the phrase is taken quite literally as what doesn’t kill you actually does make you stronger when you replace your hands with giant mechanical fists. I also added tattoos of gears and other mechanical bits on the side of her head to represent her chosen career path, as well as some random tattoos here and there just to balance it all out.

There are a couple tricks to tattoos. First, black tattoo ink often has a bit of blue to it for some reason, so it’s a good idea to use a blue-black like Payne’s Grey inks or Reaper’s Blue Liner paint. Second, unless a tattoo has been just applied, it needs to be blended into the skin as it fades a little as it heals. To do this, I made a glaze in one of my flesh tones and simply applied it over the areas with the tattoo, knocking back the contrast between it and the skin.

Beyond that, it is simply an exercise in fine freehand, so get yourself a good brush in your steady hand, and use thin paints with plenty of flow improver so they flow smoothly and consistently off your brush. I’m not sure I’ve quite mastered it, but I think the tattoos here at least look somewhat realistic.

For the hands, I decided to go with true metallic metals because I appreciate the shine. For the uninitiated, there is a technique called non-metallic metal (NMM) where you paint in highlights, shadows, glints of light and reflections using matte paints in order to portray metal. That is often used on box art and competition pieces because it looks really good in photos. True metallic metals is the use of metallic paints, but instead of just painting the whole thing in the same tone of silver or gold, you apply some of those non-metallic metal techniques of shading and highlights. This way, you get both the intense shadows and highlight of NMM, and a bit of shine from your metallic paints, which, although it is trickier to photograph well, I think helps add some pop to the real life model.

The tricky thing with TMM is that metallic paints are a bastard to blend. Vallejo Metal Color is workable, but even it isn’t as nice as blending with regular paints. As for gold paints, there isn’t much on the market for gold acrylic paints that don’t suck. Not to mention that you can’t use your expensive sable brushes here as metallic paints chew up natural hair brushes very quickly. I used P3 golds, which I find to be decent have a fairly tone on, but the gold paint still leaves a lot to be desired (In fairness, so do just about all of their competitors).

The other challenge was simply deciding where to put the highlights and shadows. With all the big flat surfaces, it was tricky figuring out exactly where to put the glints of light. I’m not sure I completely nailed it – there are a couple places on the fist where I think adding another highlight or adjusting the brightness here and there might help kick the metals up a notch. That said, I am loath to rework a model once I’ve called it finished and put it on a plinth because I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of trying to fix up all my old models and having nothing ever be truly finished. I may touch it up before the next big show, but it’s good enough for now.

One additional thing — late in the game, something about the colour balance seemed off. I conferred with some of my associates and they recommended that I repaint the poofy shoulder things yellow. I decided to take their advice into account, and promptly ignored it in favour of doing something else. Instead of repainting those poofy arm things, I chose to redo her necklace, swapping the silver metallic for gold, thus balancing out some of the colours on her body and bringing in a bit more of a “callback” on her body to the extensive brass bits on her mechano-fist. This definitely helped, fixing some of the colour balance issues that made it look a little off.

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The finished version above looks so much better with the gold necklace instead of silver

Conclusions

I’ve said it before, but painting busts poses a lot more interesting challenges than 30mm miniatures. The shortcuts you use on small miniatures like washes just don’t work at that scale. On the flip side, the relatively large size means you can incorporate more details than you can on a miniature. I’m sure Nancy and Sorscha won’t be my last busts; in fact, I have one on my bench right now…

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Bust a move with Amy Johnson

Lately, as I’ve been experimenting with larger scale pieces, I’ve been painting some busts. My Mary Read 1/12 scale bust from Scale75 was an absolute joy to paint and really came together nicely in the end, and I’ve got a lot more in my stash to start up at any time.

Busts offer some interesting advantages over full figures. They allow the modeller to focus on the most interesting and characterful parts of the model such as the face and upper torso, while not requiring them to spend a lot of time on boring parts like boots and pants. Further, a bust is to a much larger scale than a full figure of equivalent size (and, presumably, price), which allows the painter to incorporate more accurate details, especially on things like the face and the eyes. Finally, they really push the painter to get things right, especially with the skin tones. At this scale, you can’t just get away with slapping on some Citadel shades and call it a day; you need to know what you’re doing.

The model

Amy_Johnson_portraitAmy Johnson, born in 1903, was a pioneering British aviatrix from the golden age of flight. In the 1930s, she set many aviation records, including becoming the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. Sadly, her flying career was cut short during World War II. While serving with the Air Transport Auxiliary, her Airspeed Oxford went down in the Thames Estuary. There is some controversy as to the exact circumstances of her death, but that’s too much for me to get into; suffice it to say, it was a sad day for the aviation world when we lost her.

The bust itself is a 1/10 scale resin kit from Bad Squiddo Games, sculpted by Przemysław Szymczyka. Bad Squiddo is an interesting one-woman company out of Nottingham, founded by Annie Norman with the explicit goal of increasing female representation in tabletop wargaming. I ended up purchasing this bust several months ago with the goal of completing it for the local club’s “Anything British” themed contest. She didn’t quite win, however she did manage to pull a silver at the Sword and Brush competition in Toronto this past weekend, which I was quite overjoyed to receive.

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Assembly

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Head piece – note damage to rims of goggles

This kit comes in two resin pieces, with the head and neck separate from the rest of the body, so assembly was nice and simple. I chose to keep them separate for most of the painting process, as there were some areas around the neck where it would have been tricky to get a brush in there, especially as the fur would probably require some dry brushing. I mounted the head on a paper clip taped to the side of a pill bottle, and matching hole was drilled into the neck of the body (which itself was also temporarily mounted to a pill bottle) so that when I finished the head I could just snip the paper clip and drop it in.

The one other piece of assembly I had to do before painting was to repair the rims of the goggles. The detail in that area was fairly small, hard and brittle, and I suspect that it was damaged in transit as the two pieces bumped up against each other in the package. Since I didn’t feel like asking for a replacement, I simply sliced the remainder of the rims off and resculpted them with aluminum putty and milliput.

Edit: Annie confirmed after I wrote this article that there are plans to strengthen the goggles to prevent this problem from happening.

Preparing to paint

Before I put brush to model, I had a couple decisions to make. I chose to paint the jacket and the cap as leather, but decided that I wanted them to be slightly different shades as they are not necessarily part of a matching outfit. For the fur, I had a few options but I decided to do a neutral to cool grey in order to contrast all the warm tones in the leather.

However, as figure painting is often the art of placing shadows and highlights, the most important decision was light placement. I wanted to really play with directional light and play with light and shadow on this project, so I chose to have her painted as though she was lit from her top front right quarter. With the angle of the head relative to the body, I felt this would make for a good choice, as it would imply that she is turning her head towards the light.

So, while I primed the head white to make a better undertone for the skin tones, I chose to use the zenithal priming technique on the body. This is where you initially prime in black, then spray white overtop from the direction of the light. By using your airbrush to represent a light source, the incoming white spray will approximate incoming rays of light. As such, the lighter paint will fall onto areas where the light should hit the model, which does two things. First, it naturally preshades the model, and second, it helps the painter understand which areas of the model should be lit and which areas should be shadowed.

The face

This was my first attempt at painting flesh with my airbrush; normally, I brush paint my skin tones, but I figured this would be a good time to start airbrushing. So, I began by laying down a base coat of blue. I started with blue for a few reasons, the first of which is that skin is a semi-transparent sack of meat and bone, and if you look closely, there is actually a lot of blue underneath the skin in certain areas.

The second reason why I started with blue has to do with colour theory. As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to play with lighting and shadow with this piece. As such, I knew that blue would be the perfect shadow colour to contrast the highlights. First, it’s more or less across the colour wheel from a lot of my skin tones, so it’s going to generate some sharp contrast. Second, we also have the warm/cool contrast between the warm pinks and reds in some of the skin tones and the blue in the shadows. When you have warm colours in the highlights and cool colours in the shadows, it makes the highlights “pop” a little more.

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Why do I start with blue? Well, it worked for her…

One of my favourite examples to illustrate this principle is actually a canvas painting. Prudence Heward’s “Girl in Yellow Sweater” on display at the National Gallery of Canada is an excellent display of light and shadow. If you look carefully at it, you can see a lot of interesting colour choices the artist utilized to create the shadows and give it a three-dimensional appearance. The blues in the skin tones, the purples and greens on the yellow sweater… if you want to get better at painting figures, you would be well-served by studying this and other paintings made by artists who are clearly good enough to have their work on display in a national gallery.

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Amy, after airbrushing the first layer of skin tone

Anyways, with the blue down, I followed up with a lighter skin tone. Similar to the zenithal priming technique used on the body, I used my airbrush as a light source, focusing my fire on the areas under direct light. The end result was an interesting transition from a base flesh tone into the blue shadows.

With the airbrushing done, it was now time to do some brush painting. There were two main things that I felt I needed to do with the skin tone — bring up the highlights a little more, and make the transition between the blue and the skin tone a little better. For the highlights, I applied some very fair flesh tone on the areas where the light would hit it, blending out the edges to make a smooth transition. For this technique, a wet palette is mandatory. Also, some additives can help — I like to use my airbrush flow improver to extend the dry time of my paint and make it easier to feather the edges of the paint out or mix them together on the model.

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Highlights and glazes applied. Note the highlights on the right side of her forehead, as well as the hints of Khardic Flesh adding life to the model

In order to smooth out the transition from the blue into the skin tone, I mixed up a glaze out of P3 Khardic Flesh (a very pink skin tone) and some Vallejo Glaze Medium (though you can just use any acrylic matte artist medium from an art store as well). This medium is essentially paint without pigment, so mixing paint and medium will reduce the opacity of the paint as there is less pigment and more medium, while not breaking it down or changing some of the properties like viscosity and surface tension too much like if you thinned with too much water. As the glaze is basically just more transparent paint, it will tint the underlying layers. Glazes also can help smooth out transitions, so they are useful for either making the model have less of that airbrushed look, or smoothing out blends that aren’t quite perfect.

In this case, with a glaze of a very pinkish flesh tone, not only does it add a transition that was kind of missing before, it also adds a little more life to the model which was previously lacking some of that rosy glow. As before, I blended out the edges both into the highlight and into the shadows, ensuring a smooth transition from the blue shadows, to the pinkish midtones, to the lighter highlights.

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Some paints I used for the flesh. Soft Blue from Reaper was my undertone. The one on the right was my glaze colour. I also added a bit of white to the Fair Skin for the highest highlights.

Glazes are also useful for doing makeup or adding in shadows. In this case, I wanted to give her a little blue eyeshadow, so I mixed up a glaze out of some desaturated blue and some medium. Because the glaze is more transparent, a glaze applied over skin tones will be more of a subtle effect that doesn’t resemble Mimi from the Drew Carey show.

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No. Just… no.

The eyes have it…

Oh boy. The eyes were easily the most difficult part of this project. I had to repaint them a couple times because I just couldn’t get them lined up right; this is a larger scale than I’m used to.

Anyways, on small scales, I like to start from the eyes and work out, but in this case, the model was big enough that I could just paint the eyes directly. So, I started with a light grey, with just a hint of flesh tone mixed in to paint the whites of the eyes. It’s important here to not just paint them white; if you look closely, the whites of people’s eyes aren’t actually white, and if you do do them in white, they end up popping and the model looks surprised.

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Reference material, courtesy of the first result on a google image search for “blue eye”

With the whites done, I did some research to see what colour Amy’s eyes actually were, and thanks some paintings I found online, the answer was blue. However, because this is figure painting, the answer is never quite as simple as “just paint them in a uniform blue colour.”

If we look closely at a blue eye, we see some interesting things going on. While we obviously can’t show every little striation in the muscle of the iris at this scale, we can see some patterns here. First, the iris is darker near the outer edge and lighter closer to the pupil. Second, the way the light filters through the cornea, the bottom tends to appear a little lighter, similar to the sort of effect you get with things like gems on fantasy models. So, in painting my iris, I wanted to make sure to incorporate that highlight and that dark area around the outer edge of the iris.

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Note: I did touch up the eyeliner after; there was a little too much on the bottom.

Similarly, while I painted the pupils in black, if you really want to make the eyes come alive, you need to add that little tiny dot of near-white in the pupil to represent the reflection. That little point of light is really important; it’s what really makes the eye come alive at these scales.

Leather, fur and goggles

For the leather, my initial idea was to start by airbrushing on the shadows and highlights; basically redoing the zenithal priming technique but with browns and a hint of light blue in the areas where the light would be reflecting off of it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t working out, though it did leave me with not a bad base colour. As I was looking at it, what I realized I had to do was to get the texture first, then glaze in the shadows and highlights.

With plenty of leftover pluck foam kicking around, it wasn’t hard to find an applicator. Using the spongy material, I dabbed on various shades of brown, working up from a dark Walnut Brown into some midtone and lighter browns, and occasionally adding a stroke or two with a liner brush to represent creases in the leather.

With that done, I had a nice texture, but I had lost the shadows and highlights from the airbrushing. Here is where our old friend blending comes in again. By making a blue-black glaze out of some glaze medium and a tiny amount of Scale75 black and blue inks, I can come back in and reinforce the shadows in the wrinkles and near the bottom of the model, while still maintaining some of the texture.

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A sample of paints used for the leather; inks to make the glaze in the shadows are on the right.

For the fur, I am not ashamed to say that I used Citadel shades and dry brushing to get the effect. Citadel shades are sometimes considered to be “talent in a bottle,” and some people turn their nose up at dry brushing as a technique for newbies, but it still can be a useful technique if used properly and in the right place.

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Note the texture in the leather and the fur

However, what I started with was some wet blending — placing light paint on the highlights and dark paint in the shadows, and mixing them together on the model while the paint is still wet. Opposite to how I did the leather, in this case, I did the lighting first, then added the texture later with controlled washes with Citadel shades (both Nuln Oil and Drakenhof Nightshade) and dry-brushing light grey and white onto the raised areas of the fur.

Finally, er get to the goggles, I knew I had to do something to represent the reflection. To do so, I painted the lenses of the goggles in a very dark blue, and added a diagonal line of a sky blue colour. This represents a point on the goggles where the reflection of the light source off the curved surface might catch the viewer’s eye. I did blend out the edges to get a smooth transition from dark to light, however one of the keys to painting reflective surfaces is sharp highlights, so I went from a very dark blue to a very light blue over a very small distance. I continued that technique on to the rims, using true metallic metal techniques whereby I had dark metallic paints over most of the area, and bright silver where the light is hitting it and reflecting off.

Mounting

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Hehehe… I have wood for busts…

For this project, I ended up making a plinth out of a cherry wood block that I had sourced from a fellow IPMS member. A hole was drilled in the top, and after applying some cherry stain and three coats of polyurethane varnish, I had a nice looking piece of wood to mount her on. With her head angled to her right, I intentionally positioned her on an angle such that the front of the plinth was facing somewhere between the angle of her head and the angle of her body.

 

To make the sign, I simply made up a quick little text box in Microsoft Word and printed it on plain paper. To get an aged look, I shot a few different warm off-white colours of paints and inks through my airbrush at it in a random, mottled pattern, with the paints thinned such that they are very transparent and shooting just enough to tint the white of the paper, while not appreciably affecting the black printer ink. I then used some thinned white glue to attach the paper to the wood, and laid one more coat of varnish on to protect it and give it that gloss look.

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Conclusion

This was an interesting project for a lot of reasons. First, I don’t normally do a lot of historical figures, tending to lean more to the fantasy side, but something about Amy Johnson and her story really grabbed me.

I feel like while this bust may be less flashy than a lot of fantasy figures, it posed an interesting challenge. Because there aren’t a lot of the sort of fancy accoutrements which are present in a lot of fantasy worlds, and because her hair is concealed by her flying cap, the painter is challenged to do what they can with textures and shadows to make a somewhat mundane bust look interesting.

I think it’s fair to say that I rose to those challenges, and that this bust does represent progression on my hobby journey. Between the techniques that I used to create the leather texture, the glistening light on the goggles and the eyeballs, and the use of directional lighting, I really pushed myself on this model. Not to mention the work that went into the plinth, as woodworking is far outside the realm of my usual hobby work.

This was a fun project, and will go in a place of pride on my shelf, which, at the end of the day, is really all one can ask for in any modelling and painting endeavour.

Paintlog: Mary Read

So, this was something that I had been working on for a while and I’ve alluded to in previous posts, but I think it’s time to do a paintlog of my Mary Read bust from Scale75. This was my first bust, and my first crack at something in 1/12 scale, though I did do a Reaper figure in an intermediate scale as practice for levelling up from 30mm to 1/12, and I’d say it turned out pretty good, in spite of me breaking my hand partway through and having to paint one-handed.

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Anyways, just to get it out of the way first, there was a bit of controversy with this kit. This was one of the busts from their Naughty Gears kickstarter campaign, and I got it (among a few others) as part of this campaign. Scale75 had initially shown a very different model in their concept art, however shortly after the campaign closed and they took everyone’s money, they informed backers that the original Mary Read was no longer available due to a copyright issue, and that they were going to be offering a completely different model in her stead. After getting a bit of flak from their backers, Scale75 relented and created a new sculpt of Mary Read, changing her just enough to avoid any sort of copyright issue.

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Original (left) and actual product (right). That hair, yo…

I have to admit, I was initially a little disappointed with the new sculpt when Scale75 first showed the photos of it. The original had some pretty awesome elements that I was looking forward to painting, particularly the hair, which really sold me on upping my pledge level and getting this model. However, the new sculpt had grown on me, particularly once I started getting some flesh tones down, and looking at the finished product, I have to say that it may be a little cheescakey with the amount of exposed skin, but I really like her sculpt. Her expression exudes the right amount of confidence and badassery appropriate for a pirate captain, particularly one who can pull off that corset.

This kit comes in about six or so pieces and is made out of a grey resin. Some of the pieces are small and fragile, such as the two dreadlocks hanging down by her face or, as I was to learn the hard way, the feet of the parrot. This kit includes two options for her right arm; one holding a gun and one holding a piece of fruit. The parrot on the right shoulder is optional, and one could with just a little bit of filling leave off the two deadlocks hanging down next to her face or the gun at her waist if you so desire.

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For someone who is used to assembling mid-quality miniatures from companies like PP, this one went together like a dream. Mold lines ranged from tiny to nonexistent, and there weren’t any alignment issues to speak of. There were some tiny bubbles in the resin, but they were easily covered by even a thin layer of primer. I did a tiny bit of sanding and filling, but the precision of the fit probably means that except for maybe where the arm fits to the body, you could get away with just gluing it together and getting straight on to priming. The model is also fairly well-engineered, in that the seam between the right arm and the body is somewhat concealed by the bandages on her right arm. As someone who doesn’t like assembly and fixing up gaps and seams and just wants to get on with the painting, I was really happy with how nicely she went together.

Once the kit was (mostly) put together, I primed it with the airbrush with white Stynylrez. In case I haven’t mentioned it, Stynylrez is a great primer for plastic and resin miniatures, and since it’s made by Badger of airbrush fame, you can basically just drop in in your airbrush and shoot. Once that had fully cured, I pulled out the airbrush once more to paint the corset. This corset was something that I thought I might have trouble placing the highlights and shadows on, and it was something I didn’t think I got quite right on Yephima, my practice model, so I figured by doing it with the airbrush, I could use the zenithal method of spraying from the angle that the light is coming from and that would be a lot easier than trying to place my highlights manually and blending them in.

So, out came the airbrush, and with a little bit of help from a colour chart and a quick stop at my friendly local game store to get the one colour I was missing, I figured out the exact colours to use. I started with Coal Black as the deepest shadow colour, which is one of the really good colours in P3’s range. It’s a blackish, bluish, greenish colour which works really nicely as a shadow colour either straight or mixed with your base colour. Or just for anything where you don’t want to go to straight black because of colour theory.

Once I laid down the Coal Black into all the shadows, I moved on to Sanguine Base, covering up most of the Coal Black but letting it show through in the deepest recesses. Then onto Sanguine Highlight, and finally mixing in a little Menoth White Highlight, a warm, cream-coloured off-white, to get the highest highlight without making it look too pinkish, as it would have if I went for straight white as my highlight colour to mix in.

P3 paints thin down quite nicely for use in an airbrush, but they do need to be transferred into dropper bottles because their paint pots are quite possibly the worst in the business and dropper bottles are so much more convenient for airbrush work.

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Dear Privateer Press: Forget the game rules, please do a CID on your horrible, horrible paint pots so I don’t have to transfer your paint into dropper bottles. Also, while you’re at it, make my Assault Kommandos great again.

As for the skin tone, my chronic inability to follow a studio scheme is well-documented, so when I saw something in their “Steampunk in Miniature” painting guide about how steampunk models should traditionally have pale skin, I immediately know what to do. In true George Costanza fashion, I chose to do the opposite.

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Initial painting of skin, and my wet palette at work as I mixed the colours to paint her.

This skin tone involved a lot of colours and a lot of wet blending. First, I base coated it with Reaper’s Soft Blue, which I find to be a good base coat for skin because of a bunch of reasons that have to do with colour theory, shadows, and the nature of the translucent sacks of meat that we walk around in every day. Next up was Idrian Flesh from P3, which I love for medium-dark skin tones, and which I applied in a couple coats, covering up almost all of the blue, but letting it show through in the deepest shadows. Also on my palette, I can see some Tanned Skin and Fair Skin from Reaper, as well as Khardic Flesh and Ryn Flesh from P3, all of which went into my highlights in various amounts as I mixed them on a palette and applied them in ever-increasing highlights. This isn’t the end of my painting flesh; I would touch it up in a few areas as the project progressed, as well as applying a glaze of Idrian Flesh and Vallejo Glaze Medium to bring it all together and smooth out my blends.

If you want more information about my process for painting skin, see my presentation to a local IPMS group.

For the lips, I went with a dark makeup of Red Shadow from Reaper, which just a little bit of a sharp highlight on the lower lip to convey volume and reflection. For the eyes, I went in with Walnut Brown from Reaper for the liner and pupil, and Misty Grey with a hint of a flesh tone for the whites. Generally when painting whites (or painting figures in general) you don’t want to go all the way to a straight white. This is because the whites of the eyes aren’t actually white, and if you paint them like that, your figure will look surprised and googly-eyed, and a messed up eyeball is going to be the first thing that a viewer is going to notice. The eyes on this figure are probably a little whiter than would be realistic (I used a very light grey, with just a touch of flesh tone in it) but that is a deliberate choice that I made. With her darker skin, I wanted to put a little extra contrast in the eyes just to make them look a more intense, as well as draw the eye of the viewer upwards away from the chest and balance out some of the light trim on the corset. Whether a competition judge would agree with that decision remains to be seen, but it’s one that I’m happy with.

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Next up was the hair. I base coated it in Walnut Brown from Reaper, which is a very near-black brown. I don’t remember the exact combination of washes and glazes and whatnot that went into it, but one of the keys to painting dark hair is the highlights. Hair is naturally oily, and those oils are reflective, so some very sharp highlights are necessary to convey the shape of the hair and the light reflecting off of it. When it comes to dark hair, I like to use desaturated blues as my highlight colour, in this case going all the way up to P3’s Frostbite, which is a very light, faded blue which is one of my personal go-to colours in P3’s line. I also did some washes and glazes to blend it all together; when it comes to hair, a black wash can help in the shadows, and a nice glaze can help pull all your highlights back together.

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Hair, before and after highlights. Also, see a before and after of the glaze on the stocks of the guns and the leather sash.

Also in the above pictures, you can see some of the work on the corset. While there was some detail sculpted onto the corset of the figure, it was pretty fine and hard to make out, so I ended up more or less freehand painting the patterns on, using the box art as reference. Of course, I also kept with the studio colour scheme for this filigree, as gold and purple go together quite nicely. For work like this, the secret is simple — a good brush with a fine tip and some nice, thin paints which flow smoothly off the brush with the lightest touch. Either a 00 or a 10/0 liner will work for something like this, and if you haven’t built up the brush control necessary to pull this off yet, you will with some practice.

The leather sash was something that I also went back and forth a little on, eventually deciding to go with Reaper’s Oiled Leather as a base colour. I painted on a couple scratches, and then used a couple of dark washes and glazes with a hint of blue in the shadows to give it that worn, beaten look. Finally, I used the technique I wrote about last week for painting woodgrains on the stocks of the pistols; the glossy nature of the Scale75 glazes work perfectly to represent a fine, varnished wooden stock.

After finishing painting the rest of the bits, using my true metallic metal techniques on the metals and plenty of blending and edge highlighting on the rest, it came to time to put the parrot on. And here is where I ran into a bit of a problem. When I started this project, I figured I would paint the parrot and the head separately, otherwise it would be impossible to get in there with the brush. Unfortuantely, here is where a little problem came in. I had fractured my hand falling down some stairs partway through this project, which meant that while I could continue to hold the figure with the cast and paint her with my good hand, painting the parrot and gluing it on was out of the question until the cast came off and I got a bit of dexterity back.

Normally that wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but remember how I said that some of these parts were fragile? Well, at some point while this project was off on the side of my workbench, both the legs had broken off the parrot and disappeared.

So, I had some sculpting to do. After cleaning off the nubs where the legs broke off, I took my pin vise and some brass rod and drilled and pinned the bird to the shoulder, with the brass rod representing where the legs would go. From there, I took some epoxy putty (I believe it was Brown Stuff from Green Stuff World) and sculpted the legs and feet around the brass rod. A bit of primer and some paint, and it was good as new, or at least good enough that most people probably won’t notice.

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There, good as new

From there, it was just a matter of some blacklining in the cracks, a few touch ups here and there, popping her off the pill bottle and onto the display base, and making up a little display sign for her out of a primed piece of a miniature blister pack. After priming and base coating the piece in black with my airbrush, I drew out my design with a pen and paper a few times until I was comfortable with it, and then brought out the brushes and did it for real. A drop of super glue, and Mary Read was complete.

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Conclusion

Busts are fun. Because of the nature of the piece, you get to focus your painting on areas like the head, face, etc., where you have the most interesting parts of the miniature, and not have to worry about painting boring stuff like pants. While busts are traditionally cut off at the arms and purists may decry the choice of including a little more than on a traditional bust, I think Scale75 made the right call in including either one or both arms on these models; just having one arm holding an object like a gun or a blacksmith’s hammer can really add some character to the figure that wouldn’t necessarily be present otherwise.

This was an important milestone on my hobby journey. First, the result is something that I am quite proud of, and I’m looking forward to putting her on the table for some competitions and get some feedback on her. Second, this was my first bust and my first project in this scale, so it was nice to know that I can do something in a scale way bigger than 30mm and work on a project where I have enough surface area to really explore all the highlights, shadows, and freehand details. Finally, I feel that this project represents a true evolution from an army painter who rocks an above-average army while losing at Warmachine to a true display quality painter. She may not be perfect, especially when she is put next to the work of some Crystal Brush winning professional painter, but she represents a huge step on my journey as a painter. And, really, that’s what it’s all about — your personal journey as a hobbyist.

“I painted that one-handed…”

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I recently suffered a fracture to my hand, which knocked me out of gaming and typing for about a month. The only silver lining was that as the pill bottles I use as miniature holders fit in my cast rather nicely, so I could still make some hobby progress. Assembly and major conversions were out of the question, but I was able to put a large dent in my shelf of shame.

Laril Silverhand

IMG_2480.JPGI mentioned in a previous post that I had started on Laril Silverhand (03803) from Reaper. Well, I managed to finish her up. I didn’t quite go for the full-on dark moonlit night as I originally planned, but I do think the OSL on the sword does a good job of conveying the scene and the heat of the sword as it was just pulled out of the furnace. Reaper minis tend to be a touch smaller than what I’m used to from Privateer Press, but not too much; Laril here was perhaps 10% smaller than the equivalent PP mini.

Anyways, for this OSL, what I did was I started by basecoating the sword with Vallejo Metal Color Gunmetal Grey. This is the darkest silver paint I own, and the VMC metals are nice and smooth. For the sword itself, I applied layers of red and bright orange, blending them out so they smoothly transition from bright, hot orange to warm red to cold steel. On top of that, I did a yellow edge highlight along the edges of the blade to convey its shape. For the glow, I started by figuring out where the glow of the sword would hit her apron, anvil, arm, etc. Then, I applied the highlights as glazes, starting with red and working up to brighter oranges and yellows as we get closer to the sword.

Man-O-Wars

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Drakhuns with dismounted versions

With the Khador Man-O-War CID in full swing, I decided it was time to start putting a dent in to the large collection of assembled, primed, airbrushed Man-O-War models that were in my collection. Man-O-Wars are basically elite soldiers from the Khadoran army stuffed into steam-powered armoured suits which make them extremely tough and also occasionally malfunction and scald them to death. I decided to bang out two Drakhuns (cavalry models, mounted on the world’s unluckiest horses) and a Kovnik (officer with a flag).  The Drakhuns are dragoon solos for Warmachine, so each model comes with two versions — one mounted version, and one dismounted version which can continue the fight after being shot off his or her horse. So with two Drakhuns and one Kovnik, that’s five models total.

 

Now, these models are very detailed, including certain –ahem- anatomically correct bits on the horses. So they were a bit of a time consuming project, especially for someone like me whose style often involves a lot of contrast, a lot of picking out details, and a lot of heavy edge highlighting. To distinguish the two Drakhuns on the tabletop, I did a couple things. First, I painted one horse grey and the other brown. Second, I did a head swap for one of them. Instead of the standard helmet, I pinned the head from Alexia, Mistress of the Witchfire on there, which I had acquired from the PP bits store. I chose this head for two reasons. First, she’s got a cool angry expression on her face. Second, the motherland requires both its sons and daughters to carry on the struggle against the forces of Cygnar and Cryx, so I like to represent a bit more gender diversity in my army than is normally in the PP Khador line. With Man-O-War, since they are covered up by such big, bulky armoured suits, a simple head swap is all that is necessary to convert one into a Woman-O-War.

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Man-O-War Kovnik

For the Kovnik, I didn’t want to do a purple flag because it’s my second one and I want to be able to distinguish them on the tabletop. So, I went for pink, but I chose a bit different shade of pink for the cloth flag than I did for the armour, just to convey that they are made of different materials.

 

The other thing with these Man-O-War models is that some of the older sculpts are metal, and the newer ones are plastic. Which normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the reality of scale creep in PP’s sculpts. The old metal Man-O-War miniatures are just a little smaller than the newer plastic ones, so to make them look a little more consistent on the tabletop, I elevated them slightly, using a layer of cork between the feet and the base. It doesn’t totally fix the scale issue, but it at least makes the models a consistent, uniform height which works out well at a glance.

Sofya Skirova

IMG_2501.JPGKapitan Sofya Skirova is a badass. Let’s just get that out of the way first. As an officer in the Black Dragons, the most elite pikemen in all of Khador, she has to be. On the tabletop, she has a lot of special rules which mean that she just does not die and can tough out a lot of attacks and get back into the fight.

She was one of Privateer Press’ December releases as part of their new plan of giving every faction a little something around Christmas. I’ve been waiting for her to come out ever since they spoiled some of the character art in No Quarter, however I think it may have been a bit of a missed opportunity there; when I first saw her art, I was hoping that she would be either the daughter or the wife of Lord Kozlov, our new battlebox caster, but that’s something that I can just headcanon.

In order to convey this badassery, I decided to do something special for her base. First, it goes without saying that she needs to tower over lesser models on the tabletop, so she needs a little height on the base. This was easily accomplished with a lump of air drying clay, as well as my usual use of acrylic artist medium for texture.

Now, height is good, but to add a little badassery, I decided to turn it up a notch and throw on some debris — a couple shields from her fallen comrades that I had traded for, as well as some Menoth bits including a warjack head that someone threw in with a sale (protip: never say no to free bits). These were, of course, weathered up a bit to indicate the origin of said bits, and really help convey the message that Sofya is one tough cookie.

Iron Fangs

IMG_2491.JPGWhile I’m at it, I also banged out the Iron Fang Pikemen that I had previously assembled. Aside from the hell that is assembling, converting, and magnetizing a whole unit of metal pikemen, I decided to do a little bit of an experiment on these guys. Normally, I wouldn’t use my airbrush for models this small, but I figured that perhaps I could save some time and get good results by airbrushing the purple on, including the shadows and highlights, then going back and brush painting the chainmail with some nice, smooth VMC metals. The other thing I did was use very targeted washes. As I’ve gotten better and better at painting, I’ve been less and less reliant on slathering a mini in Nuln Oil. That is not to say that washes such as Nuln Oil are not useful, but there are a lot of times where you want to be more targeted with them than just an all-over wash. Here, I pretty much just washed the metals and fur and for the rest, just kept the airbrushed or blended highlights au naturel. Overall, this gave good results, and given the amount of time I’ve saved, I am definitely going to be doing a lot more airbrushing on smaller miniatures.

Still on the bench…

IMG_2509.JPGI have a couple projects still on my workbench. First off is Karchev the Terrible, or Special K as I call her. You will note my use of the feminine in this case; a friend had commented on my habit on doing gender-bending conversions in my army and, well, one thing led to another and next thing I knew, I was grabbing a jeweler’s saw and a Statuesque Miniatures head. She’s a woman in a machine, an old warrior kept alive by life support systems, magic, and the giant steam-powered warjack that she was bolted into because reasons. I’ve got all the base coats laid down, and the shading done on the base and legs, so I’m probably pretty close to done, all things considered.

IMG_2506.JPGFinally, my take on Scale75’s 1/12 scale Mary Read bust is almost done, after a little mishap with the parrot that ended up with me needing to break out the sculpting tools. I still need to highlight the metals, do a bit of work on the parrot, and do some miscellaneous touchups, hightlights, and shadows here and there, but she is getting close to done. This was a really fun project, so much that I spent more money than I care to admit on Scale75’s latest kickstarter. I’m hoping to be able to make it out to HeritageCon in Hamilton in a few weeks, and if so, I’m going to definitely enter her into the figures category and see how I do. That is, as long as I can get her done by then.

Conclusion

In spite of my busted up hand, it’s actually been a productive month in terms of my hobby progress, and I’ve happily finished a few things that have been on my shelf of shame for way too long. Something about not being able to go out gaming or do much of anything is one way to ensure you will get a lot of hours at the workbench, though I still wouldn’t recommend breaking your hand as a motivational technique.

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…

moleman

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…

CapCon 2017 — Craftsmanship on display

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

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

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Uhlan Kovnik Markov

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

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

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

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Lady Forge Seer — my take on the Greylord Forge Seer

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

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

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

Some of the other highlights for me were:

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

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

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

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The Irish Hurricane IIC

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

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

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

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

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

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