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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My Wishlist from Privateer Press

butcher_klus.jpgIn the spirit of the holidays, I thought it might be nice to put together a little Christmas list for Butcher Klaus regarding what I would like to see from Privateer Press in 2019. While not all of these are necessarily within the realm of reason, neither are half the things people ask for in their next CID. And, of course, I’m far from an influential figure in the Warmachine community and I’m pretty sure Matt Wilson doesn’t read my blog, but I figured I might as well commit these to writing anyways.

1. Dropper Bottles

Yeah, I know, it’s not easy to change up your entire paint production line and everything that supports it. Especially if you contract out your paint production like so many companies do. But seriously, you have a good paint handicapped by the fact that it comes in a delivery system that is competing with GW for the title of worst in the industry. And, this is my wishlist so I can be as unrealistic as I want.

Dropper bottles are so much better than paint pots. It’s easier to put a drop on your pallet, or especially in your airbrush. Further, since they are generally taller but with a smaller footprint, they are more efficient in terms of storage on your paint rack. Any paint buildup around the nozzle can be easily taken care of with a safety pin or a paper clip, unlike paint pots where you can get dried paint all around the lip. Dried paint which can make it hard to open and close the lid, or cause it to crack. Or paint that gets on your finger when you’re trying to open the pot, and then gets transferred to the model.

Droppers are better than paint pots. It would be really nice if PP could get with the times on this one. And while they’re at it, throw in a nice heavy agitator that doesn’t corrode as well.

2. Better QC on resin models

Privateer Press has really great customer service. Unfortunately, the reason I know this is because I’ve had to interact with them on a number of occasions regarding miscast resin pieces.

I get it, nobody’s perfect, and there will always be bad product that slips out the door. I’ve also seen some serious improvement on that front over the past year or two, so credit where credit is due. And I understand that taking care of mold lines is part of this hobby. But I used to work in aerospace manufacturing, and while airplane parts are generally a little more mission critical than wardollies, one of the big lessons there is that the best way to improve your productivity is to do things the right way the first time. Having to ship individual replacement parts out to people can’t be good for the bottom line.

Especially on things like mini-crates and busts — these are limited edition collector pieces that are often going to be painted up for display. You can’t get away with the sort of imperfections on these models that you might be able to get away with on random grunt #7 who is likely to never be touched by a brush.

3. Better international distribution on BAHI

When Black Anchor Heavy Industries was first announced, I was one of the few that thought it made a lot of sense. SKU bloat is a problem for retailers, and I’ve seen some retailers take on stock only to have it sit on the shelf because that model is seen as non-competitive. And having to sell a huge based model at a loss after it has sat on a store shelf collecting dust for four years really stings.

So, for PP to take on selling some huge based models directly and make things easier on distributors and retailers makes sense. Unfortunately, where it starts to become an issue is when it comes to international distribution. Between shipping, taxes, and customs, models can start to get prohibitively expensive, especially in Europe. It’s been getting controversial as of late, and a lot of European players are frustrated and looking for alternatives. While I don’t condone using proxies in official tournaments or going to (scum of the earth) recasters, the price tag on something like a Hooch Hauler is starting to get a little eye-watering for our friends across the pond.

4. A smaller format

I actually liked the Rumble format, but judging by the commentary on the internet, I was the only one. Rumble, for those of you who don’t know, was a format in the back of the steamroller packet for 35 point games played on a 30×30″ board.

While I only got a few games in, I thought it was a great idea. A small battle of Warmachine that could be over and done with in an hour or hour and a half is a great idea, as is a 30″x30″ board because that’s how wide a standard table is. Simpler scenarios made it a great option, particularly for newer players who aren’t quite ready for a 35 point brawl yet. Even as a somewhat experienced player who hasn’t memorized all the opposing models from all the factions, reducing the model count makes figuring out an opponent’s list less overwhelming.

Unfortunately, given some of the combos available, it was a little to easy to break the game. If you have an assassination run with a 31″ threat, it’s gets real tricky to avoid that on a 30″ board. However, if you put in the right amount of restrictions — perhaps restrict it to battlebox casters and a few others in each faction that aren’t able to bully an entire 30×30, and keep huge bases out of it — you could fix a lot of the problems and make the learning curve a bit less of a brick wall. This might even be a good place for a no-theme format as well, as some theme benefits may be a touch problematic.

5. Bring back painting requirements

2018 saw some changes to the Steamroller, Masters, and Champions packet. One of these changes was that the painting requirement was not only dropped from Champions, but it was worded in such a way that a painting requirement isn’t even an option at an officially sanctioned Masters or Champions event.

While I get that a limited format and a painting requirement aren’t necessarily the best combination, almost completely eliminating painting requirements is a strong signal from the top that reinforces the sadly all too common idea that the hobby aspect of the game is an afterthought which does not and should not matter. Painting does matter; aesthetics are an important part of wargaming for a lot of people, and are why we play with models rather than playing with pogs or chits.

I’m not saying every event should have a painting requirement. But for me, I’ve been going to the Southern Ontario Open for the past two years, and one of the highlights of my year in Warmachine was getting to play in a tournament where I can play five or six games in a row with and against fully painted armies. That basically never happens out in the wild, and now that painting requirements have gone the way of the dodo, the only way I would be able to have that experience again is to qualify for something like the WTC or the Iron Gauntlet, neither of which is ever going to happen. Being able to go to one or two events a year and get a lot of fully painted games in would be nice.

Perhaps Masters would be a good place for a painting requirement? With no model restrictions, hobbyists can put together whatever cool army they want, and you don’t need to worry about the format limiting you to only the models you haven’t painted yet like with Champions.

6. Ease up on conversion rules

Just about every time I see someone post an amazing conversion on facebook, I see the same response: “that’s cool, but is it tournament legal?”

For the most part, I think PP’s conversion rules are reasonable. No proxies, nothing too confusing, and mostly PP parts. Yeah, I get it, you need to keep things somewhat identifiable and PP needs to sell models so the Wills can get paid. However, there are a couple areas where I feel a little more flexibility could go a long way.

First, cavalry models are in a bit of a tricky place because if you want to do a mount swap, unless you can find another PP model that represents what you want, you’re pretty much immediately running afoul of the 50% rule because the mount is generally more than 50% of the volume of the model by itself. So, no Owlbear cavalry for you, even though a Man-O-War Drakhun riding an Owlbear into battle would literally be the coolest thing ever. Perhaps either exempting cavalry models from the 50% rule completely, or saying that cavalry only have to be 25% PP parts could unleash some creative freedom?

Second, what if we allowed an exception for a small portion of a player’s army? Say that at least 90% of your army must follow the conversion rules, but if you have a sufficiently badass idea for a cool centerpiece model, go nuts.

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My conversion strategy

While clearly, as evidenced by the BAHI Europe brouhaha, TOs have some latitude to say that a cool-ass conversion that is only 49% Privateer Press parts is kosher at their tournament, the fact that the initial reaction to any cool conversion is “but is it tournament legal?” creates a bit of a stifling atmosphere for those of us who like to take out a jeweler’s saw and ruin multiple perfectly good models in a quixotic attempt to make one cool looking model.

7. No Quarter Online?

With the demise of No Quarter Prime after only six issues, there is a void that is going to need to be filled. NQP was supposed to be a one stop shop for fluff, hobby content, new IKRPG rules, etc. Now that it’s gone, that stuff has to go somewhere.

Losing the physical magazine kind of sucks. However, this is also an opportunity. The internet allows for things to be categorized and tagged a differently than a dead tree format. You could have all the hobby articles in one place, or all the scenarios that have a more interesting narrative element to them than standing in random circles to win, or create a database of canonical alternative paint schemes for inspiration.

And, while we’re at it, maybe run a few contests to engage the hobby community? The Company of Iron contest was fun; something like that in the online replacement for NQP once in a while might be nice?

8. Riot Quest!

At the last Lock & Load keynote, we were treated to a video for an upcoming product called “Riot Quest.” Said video was kind of cheesy and went over like a wet fart, which means it’s probably the worst thing to happen at an L&L keynote since, well, 2016.

However, cheesy video aside, we did spot some pretty cool art near the end, like what looked like Boomhowler with a gatling gun and some interesting characters. Unfortunately, the video left us with more questions than answers. Questions like “what is Riot Quest,” and “so, what’s the difference between this and Necromunda?”

I think for the longevity of both Warmachine and Privateer Press, it would be great if PP had some more diversified revenue streams. Kaiju isn’t my jam so I’m not really interested in MonPoc, but I really hope it is successful, if only because I want PP to be around for a while and I want them to have products that appeal to people other than the hardcore Warmachine tournament crowd. Same goes for Riot Quest — I find it intriguing, and even if it ends up not being my thing, I really hope it is successful.

Also, Riot Quest.