Light Miniatures

Never be afraid to paint outside the lines

Category: Showcase (page 1 of 3)

Come back to me, my love…

Adriana and Nymera’s relationship with the other villagers had always been poor. Two women living together inevitably branded the pair outcasts and brought on whisperings of witchcraft. In this case, the rumors were true. Not that they had ever used their powers to harm anyone. In fact, on two separate occasions, villagers had miraculous recoveries from death’s doorstep thanks to Adriana’s unseen interventions. But far from helping the couple’s reputation in the village, these miracles had instead cemented the power of the rabble-rousing preacher Fillius. As his sermons against the witches became filled with fire and brimstone, Nymera and Adriana made preparations to find a new home.

* * *

When Adriana approached the house and saw the door ajar, a spear of ice stabbed her heart. Silently chanting, “please, no, please, no,” she peered through the doorway. The disarray inside confirmed her worst fears. Turning on her heel, she rushed towards the church. Maybe there was still time to save her love. The blackened stake in front of the church burned that last hope to cinders, replacing the ice in her heart with fire.

Listlessly, not knowing her purpose, she sifted through the charred wood and ashes. When she found the bones she needed, she realized why she had been searching. There was a book she had read in her youthful researches: one filled with spells she had sworn she would never use. One spell in particular, blacker than the darkest night, required a human heart for its workings. Life could be restored, but only at deadly cost.

She knew just whose heart she would use…

This was a really fun project. When I was thinking about ReaperCon projects this year, and settled on painting this lovely necromancer (03784: D’Vandra Lukesia by Bobby Jackson), I decided to do something a bit ambitious. D’Vandra comes equipped with a shovel, and something about a shovel-wielding necromancer just cries out to be raising the dead. I began mentally composing a graveyard scene, but in the end I decided that I just didn’t want to deal with all that dirt. So I swapped the shovel for a ritual blade, and replaced the graveyard with an unholy altar, upon which our heroine would resurrect her lost love.

With the exception of the two figures and the urns, the scene is entirely scratch-built. The altar is composed of PC-Lumber two-part epoxy putty over a frame of cork tile. I like to use cork tile to test out shapes quickly and easily, and also save on putty. PC-Lumber is a great putty to use for terrain construction. It hardens very quickly, it cures rock hard, and it holds texture reasonably well. Its hardness makes it ideal for structural use, where a more flexible material like green stuff would bend slightly. It also means it holds crisp corners, which is useful for doing architectural details. For stone work, I like to alternate between adding material and subtractive sculpting, where I carve or break away material. I find that this process results in more natural shapes and textures. Because this particular putty cures hard enough to carve in about 45 minutes, I can do several cycles of this alternation in a day’s work.

The torches themselves are green stuff, as you can see in the photo above. Originally, I tied them to the stone pillars with thread, which is what you see in the photo. However, the thread was noticeably fuzzy when primed, so in the end I had to replace it with green stuff ties.

I used zenithal priming for both necromancer and base, as I do for most of my figures. With the base, I did an intermediate step with a red oxide primer, after the black and before the white. I deliberately made the red oxide primer fuzzy and lumpy, by holding the nozzle of the paint can only part-way down. This makes the paint spray in larger droplets, creating a texture over the surface. This texture would be a disaster when priming a figure, but actually works quite well for rock and corroded metal. It was a bit of a problem for the flames however, and I ended up needing to use gloss varnish to smooth out the texture on the flames before painting them. Were I to do this over again, I would cover the flames with little blobs of blue tac when priming, in order to avoid that problem.

I started painting with just the basic structure in place, and added more details as I went, such as the resurrected body, urns, and books. Partly that was because things were easier to paint separately, but mostly it was because I didn’t have the parts I needed for the corpse when I started working on the project, and I didn’t get the idea for the books until half-way through painting.

The corpse is converted from 03639: Bella, Succubus by Patrick Keith, and Secret Weapon’s skeleton kit. The spell effect I used to merge the two, showing flesh forming over bone out of ectoplasm, is made from putty over a brass wire armature.

After anchoring the wire to the corpse, I ended up playing with it quite a bit in order to find a design I was happy with. Originally it was spiraling out from left to right, but I decided I wanted more interaction between the corpse and the necromancer. Then it went through a phase where it it was coming in from her general direction in thin wisps.

One problem I had to solve was how to ensure the viewer interpreted the spell being cast as resurrection, and not disintegrate. I combined several ideas in order to make this as unambiguous as possible. The first idea was to have the body forming from left-to-right in the main view, since English readers are used to things starting on the left. The second idea was using a cloudy spell effect, which I thought would look more like matter being formed from vapor, rather than being blasted into dust. I was also happier with the spell effect once I added a bit more structure to it, making it look like clouds rather than wires. The third idea (suggested by Chris Suhre) was to make the flesh parts quite red and lively looking. And the fourth was to put roses in the corpse’s hand, which fits well with the theme and should dispel any notion of violence.

Making the roses was actually surprisingly easy. I just bent some brass wire (since stems are never perfectly straight) and sculpted the leaves and petals with color shapers.

In addition to sculpting the spell effect, I also had to sculpt the corpses hands and collar-bones, since those are not part of the Secret Weapon kit.

It was a bit of a disappointment to go from a miniature were all surfaces were decently far along to one with bare metal and green stuff, so it was a huge relief when I had everything covered in paint again.

The colors changed many times as I was feeling my way towards a composition I was happy with. Sometimes you just have to try stuff out and see how it looks to see what you’re happy with, as visualizing miniatures in your mind’s eye can only go so far. Even though I was fairly happy at this point, significant changes were still in store, including completely redoing the top surfaces of the rock, changing the color of the spell effect, and adding the books.

Both books are scratchbuilt, using thin plastic card and a hint of putty for the covers, and parchment paper for the pages. Parchment paper, in addition to being smoother than normal paper, is more durable, and slightly translucent. I was lucky enough to have some brown parchment lying around which was a perfect color for old, worn pages.

Lots of careful tweezer work during construction! Getting all of the pages the same size and lined up was a bit of a pain, but worth it.

Of course painting these was extremely fiddly as well. This is damn close to the maximum resolution I can wield a brush at.

With the addition of the books and some final work to bring everything together, I was ready to call her finished. But I’m also a big believer in critiques, so I circulated photos to a number of my mini painter friends in order to get their takes, before calling things finished.

The resounding comment from everyone I showed photos to was that they wanted some OSL. Even though there were four torches and a spell effect that could be casting light, I had depicted the scene as if the ambient light was bright enough to overpower the object sources. Ben Kantor’s critique, in particular, was extremely helpful. He used photoshop to suggest a darker, grittier ambience, with much more of the light coming from the sources in the scene. I debated back and forth whether I should follow this advice, but in the end I decided to go for it.

In order to make the OSL work, I needed to make the stone work much darker, with a bit of a greenish hue from the spell effect. This actually was not hard to accomplish: I grabbed a large brush, mixed some Reaper green liner with black pigment, and put a thin glaze over almost all of the stone. I avoided covering the upper parts of the columns with the torches, as I imagined they would receive some orange light from the torch glow to cancel out the green. I also used nightshade purple instead of green liner in the glaze in the places where the green light from the spell effect wouldn’t reach.

I also added a label to the base. This has two purposes: it clearly indicates what side is the front, and it informs the viewer of the title of the piece, which adds to the story. On the occasions when I include a title plaque, I try to tie it in with the piece somehow. In this case, I painted it as if it were a handwritten note from the necromancer to her beloved.

I tried to squeeze in a lot of storytelling elements, which rewards the attentive viewer.

I kept the OSL itself relatively subtle, in order to keep the focus on other elements. I made it most noticeable on the hair. It makes sense to do that because hair is shiny and tends to reflect light, and it’s an effective thing to do because it makes the head more of a focus.

I received many nice complements for this piece at ReaperCon, and was lucky enough to end up with runner-up for Reaper Best of Show, and gold Sophie for best Reaper Diorama. I was hoping to improve upon the bronze Sophies I received in the last two years, so I was super excited to end up with not only a gold Sophie, but actually snagged one of the best-of-show awards, finishing after the legendary Doug Cohen. You can see all the entries and awards here.

Number of blood sacrifices involved in constructing Come back to me, my love…: One. Of course I sliced my thumb open at one point, since that’s pretty much inevitable for any serious miniature project. I think it was while I was building the base. And of course I made sure to spill some on the model. For luck, and/or to appease the dread god Osiris. Shockingly, no blood sacrifices were needed to construct either Codex Daemonicus or Codex Necronomicon (the two books).

The Alchemist

The sculpt is “The Wizard of Agni,” by Ben Komets Miniatures (sculpted by Lucas Pina Penichet), but I call my version The Alchemist. This was one of those figures that I fell in love with the second I saw it, and immediately knew how I wanted to paint it. The figure practically screams for OSL, and with the magical, alchemical vibe he gives off, using a magical flame color just seemed natural.

When OSL is one of the main light sources, you can get very different results depending on whether the light is a natural light source (like fire, which gives off all colors of light) or a colored artificial light source, and if it’s colored, whether it’s a primary or secondary color. Using a light source of a secondary color, like the green fire I used for The Alchemist, lends itself to simple color schemes with a very limited color palette. This is because when green (or another secondary color) mixes with other colors, you will either end up with something quite similar to the original color, or a desaturated, muddy color.

For The Alchemist, I decided to pair a strong saturated yellow-green with mostly desaturated colors, generally reddish and purplish browns in order to play with complementary colors. I also made very limited use of a saturated orange in just a few places: the eyes of the monkey and alchemist, the monkey’s pipe, and the bead in the alchemist’s beard.

With a very large scale figure like a bust, you have the opportunity to add far more detail than you can in 25 or 30mm scale. So I think it’s important to play with textures and freehands to take advantage of that opportunity. I generally like to do some of each. I had a lot of fun with the textures, especially the monkey fur and wrinkled hands. The monkey fur was very simple to do, just lots of little lines, but came out extremely well. The sculpt even has a tiny bit of fur sculpted in some places, to suggest the direction. I found the appearance was better if I painted the fur to be a bit matted, rather than smooth.

For the freehands, I went with muslim geometric patterns, which I very much like and have used before. Not only do they go well with the Turkish vibe of the sculpt, they also fit the subject matter: alchemy and chemistry have a long history in the muslim world, and even the world alchemy derives from the Arabic al-kīmiyā’ (الكيمياء‎). The pattern on the alchemist’s shirt was a bit of a pain to get right, since the lines need to be very precise due to all the regularity. I started with a square grid, then added the triangles, and had to do a number of minor adjustments to fix imperfections. On the other hand, the border on the vest was simple and easy. Both were painted before adding the beard and arms to allow easy access for all that precision work.

I entered “The Alchemist” into the painting competition at Kublacon, and was lucky enough to take best of show amidst some of the stiffest competition I’ve seen there. If you would care to voice your own opinion, he’s up on Putty & Paint and CoolMiniOrNot, or leave a note in the comments!

J’ork Sparrow

I finished J’ork Sparrow just in time for Crystal Brush—literally. I did a few final touches the day of the deadline, and was even painting at the airport a bit on the way to Chicago.

When I last posted about Mr. Sparrow, he was mostly finished, but still missing his flintlock pistol. That was the slowest part of the project, as I am the world’s slowest sculptor. It was fun though – in addition to checking flintlock reference photos, I also read up on how flintlocks work so I could accurately depict the mechanism. I depicted it ready for loading, with the hammer down and the frizzen open, which I think is appropriate for a holstered ‘lock—but please correct me if I’m mistaken!

I sculpted more of the flintlock than I needed, so I could leave a crisp plane where I cut it off. I also sculpted the parts of the mechanism separately. This not only made it easier to get some of the shapes, it also let me glue on the pieces and have them really look like distinct parts.

The other main element I added since the last WIP is the label on the base. I usually don’t place title plaques on my figures, but for this one I wanted to highlight the Jack Sparrow connection, and I also thought it would be fun to do a little treasure map as the label. The map is sculpted out of green stuff and torn slightly, in an attempt to get a naturally weathered appearance. The map and lettering are freehand, which is why my kerning is slightly off and my glyphs aren’t nearly as perfect as I’d like them to be. I’ve never been a good calligrapher.

I added a couple of other pieces to reinforce the Jack Sparrow connection: Jack’s sparrow tattoo, which also serves to add interest to the ork’s otherwise rather plain back, and the bone shard on his head, which was another very simple sculpt. Other than that, the only changes since the last WIP are a bit of refining here and there, and obviously much better photographs. They really do a wonderful job of photography at Crystal Brush, and my poor home photo setup cannot really compare.

I’m really pleased with how this piece came out in the end. I think the sculpted additions I made are both characterful and also help to add some interest to the silhouette, and I think the piece works well compositionally, with a face that really grabs and holds your focus, but enough interest elsewhere.

Voting links: Putty & Paint, CoolMiniOrNot

Scythe

Scythe is one of those board games where playing it once can be enough to make you run out and buy it, and that was definitely the case with me. I think this is especially true for those of us who are both board gamers and mini painters, since the figures just cry out to be painted. Plus it gave me a chance to show off my work to a different audience—friends who are board gamers but not mini painters.

Since these are first and foremost gaming figures, I made sure to use each faction’s color prominently in the color scheme for the figure, as well as keeping the base rim the color of the faction. This makes it easy to see at a glance where each faction’s pieces are on the board.

My favorite figure of the bunch is Zehra & Kar. The pose with the eagle is great, and the figure itself has both enough detail to be interesting and plenty of room for freehand. As a result, it was the only figure I spent two days on (~7 hours total), which is why she is the most refined of the group. All of the other figures were done in just a day of painting (roughly 3-5 hours each).

The figures themselves are cast in that annoying PVC material which doesn’t hold detail well, and which gets the worst mold lines (that are impossible to remove also). I ended up doing a fair amount of “resculpting with paint” to fix some of the casting issues, and practically had to freehand the face on Olga (the red faction leader). Zehra has a maroon scarf at her waist, which you can just see under her quiver. It was not part of the sculpt, and I freehanded it so I could use its edge to hide a particularly annoying mold line.

For the rest of the figures I kept my painting fast and expressive, which is how I like to paint figures that are meant for gaming. There’s no point in putting 20 hours into a figure which is going to get regularly handled. Fast expressive painting is a fun change of pace between more fastidiously painted figures, and helps one work on establishing overall light, composition, and volumes, which are after all more important skills than the ability to do smooth, careful detail work.

I’m a huge fan of Scythe and think it’s a great game, but it’s even more fun now that the faction leaders are all fully painted!

The Psychic’s Dream

After I went for the first time last year, Reapercon immediately became my favorite convention to attend. It has a 100% miniatures focus, everyone is very friendly, and it is small enough that you can actually get to know a decent number of the attendees. Reaper is very welcoming of other manufacturers at their convention. Their painting contest is open to entries from any manufacturer and genre, and they have a number of awards for miniatures by other manufacturers, such as Dark Sword, Bombshell, and Scale 75. Nevertheless, I like to paint something by Reaper for the convention, partly to show my support, but mostly because they make some nice minis! Also, it makes you eligible to win Reaper Sophie trophies, which are pretty awesome. I chose to use Rivani, Iconic Psychic, sculpted by Bobby Jackson, for my entry this year.

I like to start all of my miniatures by building the base, before I do any painting and often before I even start planning the painting. This allows me to do a lot of test fitting without handling a painted miniature (always a bad idea for competition pieces), and allows me to plan the lighting in the scene with both the miniature and base in mind, which is important.

For me, bases are roughly equal parts composition and storytelling. I always start by thinking about what sort of story I want to tell. For Psychic, because the psychic herself is floating, I decided to emphasize that by building a base which feels like it is just hanging there, oblivious to the laws of physics. I built a ruined church, but consciously did it in a way that a real ruin could never happen. Large parts of the structure are missing, and yet the remaining parts somehow stick around exactly where they started even though they lack support.

Once I have my concept in mind, I start thinking about how to best convey that concept in miniature. This usually involves building components I think will be useful for that concept, and then testing out compositions with those components until I have something where the composition works, and the scene is sufficiently detailed and confined.

The base is basically scratch built, using juweela bricks, textured plastic card (stonework and bricks), cork tile, putty, roots, and a couple of paperclips to provide armatures for more fragile components, atop a Secret Weapon resin cube. I did use two off-the-shelf components: the stained glass support structure (the cames), and one of Scibor’s resin cast stone faces. The stained glass cames is a plasticard cutout from a prototype product line that a friend of mine, Seth Amsden, is working on, to be called “Sensei’s Scenics.” It will be available before the holidays, and you can find out more by following Seth on Instagram.

This picture, with my jeans in the background and lots of blue tac, shows the test fit where I finalized the basic composition of the piece.  I think I nailed the front view, with the figure nicely framed by the elements behind her, while leaving enough unusual angles and gaps to keep things interesting from other views.

In order to get the sides perfectly smooth, I built the central part of the base and the protruding elements as separate pieces, with lots of test fitting. That way I could sand all of the walls of the central part until they were nice and flat. This sometimes involves a couple of rounds of sanding, priming, and sanding more, since priming will reveal flaws that you didn’t know were there.

Once you have those nice flush sides, it’s best to get a nice thick coat of black primer and then a clear coat, with no brush-applied paint. This keeps things nice and smooth, and also primer & clear coat will stand up to handling better than brushed-on paint. The downside is you need to be careful not to mar the surface, as you will never be able to replicate that finish once the piece is completely assembled and painted.

I chose to prime the psychic herself white, in order to get nice bright colors, while pre-shading the base with two-tone priming. This helps the psychic herself pop from a distance, and stand out from the base. I kept the psychic as a separate piece for painting, to allow easy access to all angles, and mounted her on one of the stone blocks from the base so I could easily mate the two parts when finished.

The painting itself was very quick, so unfortunately I only have three work-in-progress photos. Some painters like to keep the miniature very clean from start to finish, starting with very uniform base coats and building from there in a very controlled fashion. This is not my approach at all. I like to create contrast and overall impact quickly, which leaves lots of signs of my process, such as visible brushstrokes and “tide marks” from washes. Both types of process have their own pros and cons, but for me a more chaotic process is simply more fun, and that wins.

I initially planned a strong translucency effect for the psychic’s veil, so this early sketch from the back mainly depicts the psychic’s clothing under the veil, rather than the veil itself. As painting progressed, the veil ended up being much less translucent than my initial vision, although you can still definitely see through it in places.

One of the great things about Bobby’s sculpt is the number of smooth, relatively flat areas he left for freehand. Miniatures that leave some flat surfaces give the painter more flexibility than miniatures which are extremely detailed everywhere. I tend to prefer more geometrical freehands, so that’s mostly what I did. I also freehanded-in some folds in the fabric where I thought the sculpt was a bit too smooth.

The stained glass itself is made out of Uhu, the german glue brand that some folks like to use for blood and goo effects. It is clear and sufficiently durable to hold its shape when covering windows like this. When used to create flat sheets, like I’ve done here, it picks up lots of bubbles and has extremely variable thickness. For some applications this would be a problem, but I think it works wonderfully for this sort of medieval glass window where the quality of the glassmaking would be somewhat primitive.

I colored the glass by waiting for the Uhu to dry, and then painting over it with a mixture of Tamiya clear yellow and Daler Rowney orange ink. By varying the mixture between orange ink and clear yellow, and the thickness of the paint over the Uhu, I was able to vary the color a bit, adding to the non-uniform appearance of the glass. Rather than worrying about painting inside the lines for this, I simply covered everything using a brush that was big and cheap (that tamiya stuff is bad for your brushes). I then went back with an off-black and carefully repainted the cames.

Psychic’s Dream won a gold medal in the open judging at Reapercon, and placed third overall in the Reaper painter’s competition.

IPIK-7 (Steamthing)

IPIK had never been so far from his home. Food was getting harder and harder to find, even though only a handful of survivors of The Fall were still around scavenging. In the century since civilization collapsed, every home, grocer, or other potential stockpile of sustenance had been picked clean. The elders claimed that once upon a time, food grew by itself, but IPIK had never witnessed this. It sounded like a myth. But now there was a small green strand poking through the sand. What could it be?

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on the blog. Sorry about that! I went a little convention crazy this year with Crystal Brush, Kublacon, World Expo, Gen Con, and Reapercon. I’ve been so busy working on my entries for the various competitions (and, y’know, life) that I haven’t had much time to write about minis.

Now that I’ve finished all but one of my competitions of the year, I wanted to take some time to update the blog. First up is my main entry from Gen Con this year, Patrick Masson’s “Barney the Steamthing” bust.

I have been wanting to paint this bust ever since I first saw it on CoolMiniOrNot way back in 2009. However, the sculptor, Patrick Masson, said at the time that it couldn’t be cast. “Don’t think there is a chance to make a cast. Unfortunately there are a lot of uncastable areas. I should change too much things. The next one will be.” So I was very happy when I came across it recently in Patrick’s Putty & Paint gallery, here, and saw that casts are available. You just have to contact him through his website, Artik Toys.

I posted some early WIP photos in April; at the time he was all black in white as I started painting the bust in Matt DiPietro’s “sketch” class using the value sketch technique he teaches in the class. This mini continues to show the influence of the classes I’ve been taking, especially Alfonso Giraldes and Kirill Kanaev, along with Matt. It definitely borrows from Alfonso’s “fuck smoothness” approach and Kirill’s teachings on textures. As Alfonso correctly points out, most of the objects we encounter in our lives do not appear as smooth color transitions, but rather as textures of one kind or another.

In total, I painted fifteen different textures on different areas of IPIK. There’s the woven burlap of his head, the shiny metal of his eyes, the corroded metal of his arms, the dirt-covered but still shiny coke can, the chipped paint of his shoulders, the cracked leather straps supporting his backpacks, and so on. Try to spot all fifteen!

In addition to the textures, I also had a lot of fun with the various freehands all around, especially the repurposed materials. As a post-apocalyptic scrounger, IPIK is all about recycling. His head covering is made from burlap potato sacks. If you look closely, you can make out the texts: “NAME BRAND POTATOES” and “100 LBS PRODUCT OF USA.” The oxygen bottle on his back even has the correct NFPA 704 warning symbol for oxygen. My absolute favorite bit of IPIK is the coke can. Painting a scavenger who repurposes everyday objects opens up a lot of opportunities, and few everyday objects are more iconic than the coke can.

Figures tend to be about character, and this is especially true for busts. This can make painting figures with helmets, masks, or other head coverings a bit tricky. Patrick (and his brother Thierry who did the concept) did a really good job on Steamthing’s face, putting a lot of life and expression into what is really just some stitched-together fabric, but it still poses a bit of a challenge for the painter. One of the ways I addressed this was putting the reflection of the plant in IPIK’s eyes. It’s a bit of a cheat—from most angles, the reflection of the plant would not be visible. But as soon as I saw the effect in the first sketch I did, I knew it was the right thing to do.

The White Orc

This is the third and final installment of my series on my entries into Crystal Brush. Make sure to check out part 1 and part 2.

“The White Orc” was my main entry into the Crystal Brush competition this year, the one I spent by far the most time on.

Sometimes a miniature just goes right from the start, and this was one of those miniatures. I started the bust not long after taking a class with Alfonso Giraldes, and had a chance to watch him execute his style of sketching, and gradually turning the sketch into a finished painting. It was quite inspiring to watch, and I knew I wanted to have a go at it; this bust was the result.

I decided to paint the orc’s skin a light, neutral color that would be strongly influenced by his environment, and do a warm/cold ambiance. I really like complicated lighting situations, and study the way light is used in film in order to later recreate interesting situations with paint. Light neutral tones are perfect when you are playing with complicated lighting situations, since they will be most influenced by the light. I placed a strong white light almost directly overhead, with a warm ambiance from one side, and a cold ambiance on the other. The warm/cold contrast is extremely strong in the initial sketch. I eventually decided the contrast was too strong, and added more warmth to the cool side with some purple. The contrast is still quite apparent if you’re looking for it, but is now subtle enough that you might not notice it.

The shield was a lot of fun to paint, with all the battered wood texture. The freehand was one of the parts I struggled with a bit. I started out painting a bloody handprint, and it was just awful. I wasn’t the least bit happy with it, so started Googling alternative ideas for inspiration. Once I hit upon the idea of doing Celtic knot-work for the shield it all fell into place.

I like to get a lot of critiques on my miniatures, as other people often spot things I miss or have ideas I didn’t think of. One of the comments that kept coming up again and again in critiques was, the shield is too clean! So I kept dinging it up more and more. In the end, it ended up really with a really interesting weathered appearance.

It’s interesting to compare the initial face sketch with the finished product. I actually left a lot of the sketchiness in, especially in the cheeks. I tend to focus a lot more effort on areas that are meant to be focal points—the forehead, eyes, and mouth in this case—and leave things sketchier in areas which are less important. That may have been a mistake in retrospect, since I think it was one of the things the judges dinged me for, and may be part of why he finished just out of the medals. (My understanding is he finished 4th in his category.) I do plan to fix a few things that were bugging me in the photos (mostly where the neck meets the chest) and then enter him in another competition, so hopefully he’ll win some awards before too long. But in the end, I paint for me, not for the judges.

On a more positive note, he’s currently my top ranked model on CoolMiniOrNot, and even made the top 10 of the year as the score fluctuated between 9.5 and 9.6. That made me pretty happy.

The bust is by Hera Models, which has a fantastic little line of sci-fi and fantasy busts. They also make Abalam, which I painted last year. The miniature is now sold out; apparently it sold out in the last couple of weeks, after I presented my own version at Crystal Brush. I like to think I sold at least a few copies, wink.

Even though this bust is sold out, Hera’s “academic orc” bust is still available, and is a modified version of the same bust, without the armor. I can definitely recommend it, as the face is extremely well sculpted and a joy to paint.

Voting links, for those so inclined:

Crystal Brush Entries, part 2

Today I’m continuing my three-part series on my Crystal Brush entries with my single figure entry. If you missed part 1, please check it out here. This figure is titled “Space Pirate Kaelyssa.”

The figure is Kaelyssa, from Privateer Press’ steampunk game Warmachine. I got a big kick out of doing her up in true sci-fi fashion, not at all steampunk. Since she belongs to the Retribution faction, which already have a rather sci-fi look, this was quite easy. All I did was a very simple conversion to add a hose connecting her gun and backpack. The only other thing it took was paint. I was amused how many people asked me if it was an Infinity figure.

Part of the inspiration came from James Wappel’s excellent Professor Karrick. I absolutely love dramatic lighting and glow effects, and James’ take on Professor Karrick’s two light sources is excellent. The base he did complements it really well, providing a nice backdrop to catch the light. For my version, I kept the base but used a different figure from the same sculptor (Patrick Keith), converting it slightly to have a similar hose.

I tend to do simpler color-schemes on most of my figures, with two or three main colors dominating. In my experience, the easiest color-schemes to pull off are those that have at most two bright colors in them, and the rest of the colors are more muted. Here I was able to come up with a more complicated color scheme, with many very saturated colors in it, and I still think it works.

I was really surprised when Kaelyssa didn’t make first cut. I spoke with one of the judges, and he said that she was right on the bubble but the judges felt that the blending on the orange was not smooth enough and that kept her out. I’ve never been the smoothest blender, preferring to take my time creating textures and dramatic ambiance rather than glazing and glazing until I have really really ridiculously smooth blends. I think that hurt me here.

While I think there are some weaker elements, like her left arm and sword, I’m really happy with how the ambience and light effect came out. I think that overall Kaelyssa is good work, but given her poor result in Crystal Brush I plan to rework some of the weaker elements and enter her in another competition in the future (probably the Privateer Press competition at Gen Con).

Kaelyssa is sculpted with some fairly simple, round armor plates. Simple surfaces can be wonderful for an ambitious miniature painter, because they provide a good opportunity to make them much more complicated and interesting using paint. I took the opportunity to do a comic-book-style chrome effect, reflecting the glowing sword and ray-gun. I think the comic-book style art complements the sci-fi vibe really well.

There are a lot of debates between non-metallic metals vs. the use of metallics in miniature painting, with hard-line adherents on either side arguing their way is “better”. Personally I use both, but I think this miniature is a good example of some of the advantages of non-metallic metals. I could never have portrayed the interaction of shiny metals and a light source using metallic paints, the way I was able to do it here using nmm.

Crystal Brush Entries, part 1

I’m back from Crystal Brush, and wanted to share my entries!

I came with a bust, a unit, and a sci-fi single, putting the most time into the bust. Disappointingly, the bust was the only one which made first cut. I think that means that when you go to Crystal Brush, either you need to go all-out on your entry, or you might as well not bring it! That seems fitting for a contest as competitive as it is.

In sharing my entries with the blog, I’m going to start with the unit, which was definitely the weakest of the three entries. These are really gaming models, although I do have high standards for my gaming models. I didn’t even do any basing for them, just painting the 25mm bases they come with and calling that good enough!

I went with a classic red-and-military-green color scheme, which is really a very effective color scheme (yay color theory!) For the reds, I went with a high-contrast NMM look, which I think works really well for infinity models. The green cloth is subtly textured to better complement the shiny metals.

I still have another 4 models from this group to paint, since I got the Operation: Icestorm box set. Doing small tabletop gaming figures can be a nice break from larger projects, so I will probably finish the unit gradually in between other projects.

Next up is my sci-fi single entry, which I’ll be posting later this week!

Gurka Firewater

A lot of people get in to miniature painting through RPGs. When you play the same character weekly in a regular game, it’s a good motivation for painting a figure to represent the character, and doing a good job on it.

This is Gurka Firewater, my character in a weekly Unleashed game. I was disappointed with the available pygmy troll options in the Privateer Press miniatures line, so ended up converting my own, using Captain Allister Caine as the starting point. Since I started with a human figure, this involved extension conversion work.

The head, arms, and feet are full scratch. I sculpted one of the hands around one of Caine’s pistols, but the kukri and the rifle on the base are also fully scratchbuilt. I used a rotary tool to remove the head and grind down the breastplate so I could sculpt a troll belly over it.

Yes, that’s a baguette sticking out of his backpack. In the lore, trolls eat a lot and tend to carry food with them everywhere they go. I guess they’re sort of the hobbits of the Iron Kingdoms? A baguette seemed like a fun and fitting way of giving him some extra character. Perhaps I should also have added a flask, given his name. 😉

I ended up doing a very gritty paint-job with lots of texture. Somehow that seemed appropriate for a bushwhacker character. No smooth blending for this guy.

I entered Gurka in the “open” category at ReaperCon. Usually when I enter competitions, I use stock or near-stock models that are judged only on the quality of the painting. In the “open” category, they give roughly equal weight to both sculpting and painting, making it a much more challenging category. This is especially true for me, as I’m a much better painter than I am a sculptor. Luckily I was able to compensate somewhat for my sculpting deficiencies through my paintwork, and managed to eke out a gold medal.

It’s always good to push yourself, as that’s the best way to improve. With this miniature, I pushed myself to do a much larger amount of sculpting than I had before on any model, and that was definitely a challenge. But it also gave me the confidence to tackle more challenging sculpting projects in the future, since now I know I can do a project that involves significant sculpting, and still end up with a decent result.

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