Saturday 31 January 2009

I Hate Kobolds

For the record, I hate Kobolds. Especially when they fight back. And even more especially when they start winning! Last night was just such a woeful tale of defeat and ignominy. For last night was the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers regular D&D session. Here you see GM (or Evil Master of Ceremonies as we like to call him) planning and plotting.
Fortunately he seemed to mislay his evil genius persona somewhere in the pile of paper known as his 'campaign notes'.
We fought gallantly and killed many Kobolds as the battle raged through a suite of rooms in an abandoned underground palace. However it soon became clear that the Palace was 'infested' with the critters and we were surrounded.
No amount of searching through the PHB could help me or my companions defeat them and eventually we had to retreat in the face of overwhelming numbers. Thus we escaped TPK (Total Party Kill for the uninitiated)... but only just.

In between painting and blogging I do occasionally find time to actually play. Most of the miniatures I paint are destined for the games table although I have been doing more display models in recent years.

Larry Leadhead Comic Strip

The Special Larry Leadhead Comic Strip has arrived at BigLee's Painting Blog! Check it out at the bottom of the page below the blog posts. Larry has been making me laugh (at myself mostly) for many years and is dedicated "to all gamers who really love their hobby, but don't take it too seriously!"

Friday 30 January 2009

The Daydreaming Mini Painter

I do a lot of daydreaming. At work, in the car, while eating lunch, doing the washing up, and particularly while painting miniatures. In fact psychologists have estimated that on average we humans spend as much as one third of our waking lives daydreaming. Despite this daydreaming has got a bad rap over the years and is usually considered the product of a weak and idle mind. Maybe this is because in our productivity obsessed society we fail to see the benefits of ‘doing nothing’. And this attitude seems to miss the point that benefits do exist and daydreaming is far from a waste of time.

Recent research suggests that daydreaming can boost productivity and provide a number of other beneficial effects from aiding relaxation to preparing us to deal with conflicts. Organised daydreaming (known as ‘Visualisation’) helps us work through complex problems or difficult situations without the negative consequences of failure. It’s this risk free element that is important for us gamers and painters because it liberates our potential to be creative. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Daydreams allow us to drift through half formed and unrelated ideas and concepts making connections that would not otherwise be evident. It is the essence of the abstract and imaginative process that is the cornerstone of and artist’s creativity.

Brain scans of test subjects have found that daydreaming is actually the ‘natural state’ of our minds (sort of like the default setting) which is punctuated by prolonged periods of concentration and organised thought. So the next time you find yourself drifting off into your own inner world populated by Dragons, Goblins, Space Marines, Vikings or 18th century Prussians, don’t feel guilty. Don’t fight millions of years of evolution. You’re practising something that our brains are hardwired to be good at and will ultimately benefit your life and your hobby.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Poll Results - January 09

The January Poll - How many Miniatures did you paint last month? - has closed prematurely (because I messed with the HTML... Doh!). Twelve respondents voted (out of 1000+ visitors) plus myself makes lucky thirteen. However the following results are still quite informative.

Less than 1 = 1
Between 1-2 = 2
Between 3-5 = 4
More than 5 = 6

For the record, I painted 4 mini's in December. I have already exceeded that amount in January so I guess this blog is achieving the desired effect on me after all!

There is now a New Poll for February:

How often do you paint?
Every day
At least twice a week
Once a week
At least once a Month
Less than once a month

Please take part in this less than scientific 'geeksocial' experiment to understand my readers and of course I'll discuss the results at the end of February when the Poll closes.

A short lived experiment

The 3 Column Template is dead, long live the 2 Column Template!!

For a few hours there it was "alive!". I got the new template up and running but there were just too many little 'faults' with it. Some of the formatting was off centre; I couldn't restore my Header picture; the submit comments button was missing from the posts...

None made the blog unworkable but after three hours of fiddling with the HTML I realised I was being seriously distracted from the real purpose of this blog: Painting Miniatures.

In the end I decided to revert back to my original template for the simple reason that everything worked! I promise not to mess with the template again... or at least until I find one that works properly.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Interruption of service.....

My blog is getting a face lift after only a few weeks of activity. I have been looking for a 3 column template and now I have one. Some of the widgets need to be reset and hopefully this will be done shortly. I hope you like the changes!

Harpies from Hell

These are some Games Workshop Harpies that I painted for my D&D Campaign last year. I called them "The sisters of lamentation".
The Harpies were spies and gatherers of information in an evil city and as such were the main 'agent provocateurs' that propelled the story forward.
The Players met the Harpies at various locations within the city limits and each encounter provided more intrigue and tension than the last.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Bits and Bobs

I have been tidying up. OK not exactly an earth shatteringly exciting bit of news but there it is. I do, on occasion, tidy up after myself (if only I could teach this trick to my kids!). To be specific I have been tidying my model box and trying to clear a bit of space. This was prompted by my earlier recriminations and the rediscovery of a few neglected projects. I have started addressing the neglect and now its time to investigate the forgotten recesses of my model box....

That was a revelation! I'm more geeky than even I thought I was! I have found three (read it folks, three!) models that I have bought in duplicate on separate occasions. Which just goes to show that I didn't really know what I had in my unpainted pile. I have rediscovered a whole bunch of fantastic models that are wetting my creative juices (eek) just as they did when I first bought them many years before. I have also decided to pass a few of the less inspiring models to my kids as training mini's. Their sacrifice will help the next generation of painters.

On the whole its been a quite cathartic experience and has reaffirmed a desire to accomplish one of the primary goals of this blog: To paint more miniatures.

Monday 26 January 2009

Convention Calendar 2009

There are a few events each year that I never miss and usually a longer list of events I’d like to attend. My wish list for 2009 includes Wargames shows, RPG conventions and living history events. As in previous years I'll attend, digital camera in hand, and will post pictures here and on my Facebook Page. Aside from being fun days out these are the events that replenish my Lead Mountain, refill my painting supplies and provide inspiration and ideas for future projects.

28th March : Salute 09
London Excel Centre - The biggest one day event in the gaming calendar. Display games, loads of traders, a painting competition and lots more. This is my favourite event of the year and on my 'must not miss' list.

31st May: Firepower 2009
Woolwich Firepower Wargaming Event - Staged in association with the South East London War Games Group this is one event that I keep meaning to attend and always end up missing.

28th June: Rampage 09
All Saints School, Terling Road, Dagenham - This event includes Trade stands and a Bring & Buy stall. A small show but its local to me so I usually try to go along.

4-5th July: Bovington 2009
The Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset. - Run by Battlegroup South this is a show that I have long wanted to attend but always seem to miss.

25-26th July: To the Redoubt
Eastborne Redoubt - The 25th Anniversary show run by Redoubt Enterprises. I attended this show for the first time in 2008 and had a great time. Worth making the effort to attend.

29th-31st August: Military Odyssey
The Country's Largest Multi-Period Living History Event with a huge collectors market and hundreds of traders. Something here for everyone on the lookout for inspiration and ideas.

Oct: SELWG 09
This event has been off the calendar for a few years while Crystal Palace underwent a refurbishment (and removed Asbestos). The dates have yet to be confirmed but its usually mid October.

28th November: Dragonmeet 09
Kensington Town Hall, London - This is always one of the big events in the UK RPG calendar, with trade stands, panels, etc. I try to tie attending this event with a shopping trip to my favorite model shop in central london.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Cavern Worm

At last I have completed the Reaper Cavern Worm after years of neglect in the bottom of my model box. The 'drool' is two part epoxy resin that sets in 90 seconds. The window of use is limited but on the plus side it goes stringy and sets quick enough for effects like this.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Work in Progress

Just a quick post as things are a bit hectic today. Rest assured that I am finding time to get some painting done today. Here's a picture of my painting station as proof...
Note the Reaper Cavern Worm which I mentioned earlier in the week as a neglected project. Well its neglected no more and should be finished by tomorrow. I'll post a full sized picture when its complete.

Friday 23 January 2009

Seductress Dragon & Pets

This is an old Ral Partha model that I picked up in a shop in Guildford while visiting a good friend of mine. I painted this for a recent D&D game to represent a deceitful seductress and demoness by the name of Lady Van'Dathe. The original model came with wings but this didn't fit with my concept for the character so I left them off. The model stands about 70mm tall from base to eye level. Lady Van'Dathe was accompanied by her 'pets', a trio of Heresy Miniatures Giant Slugs sculpted by Paul Muller. All the models were varnished using GW Hardcoat for durability.

Thursday 22 January 2009

The guilt trip worked

After yesterdays recriminations I decided to finish off the Reaper Cavern Worm and the Salute 04 free figure, Hannibal. When I got home from work I had a big sort through my model box and made a shortlist of models to complete by the end of March. Why the end of March I hear you cry? The Salute show is my annual 'treat' (it usually falls close to my Birthday) and I never come away empty handed. And if I am to reduce my lead mountain then I need to get a head start now. The more I get painted by March 28th the more I can buy! I also have to complete my Painting Competition entry by that date but I'll reveal more on that when I get started.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Unpainted Lead

Now that I have finished painting my Buccaneer Captain I have been giving serious thought to what to do next. The only problem is I have far too much choice. Like many gamers I have a quite 'substantial' collection of unpainted miniatures gathering dust. To be fair I had a good clear out a few years ago but the collection still remains larger than my ability to finish painting. It has been said that if a gamer were to paint his last model he would probably expire on the spot. I'm not sure if that is true but my wife would probably want me checked out by the Doc to see if I was OK.

So what have I got lurking in my model box that begs attention? For a start I have two half finished projects that make me feel guilty whenever I look at them. The first is a Reaper Cavern Worm by Jason Wiebe. The second is the Salute 04 free figure, Hannibal, sculpted by Mark Sims. Both projects didn't get past base coating because other jobs (for upcoming games) took precedence.

Possibly my biggest crime of neglect goes to a set of Games Workshop LoTR figures that includes Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. I bought the Barrow Downs box set just for these two models and then didn't paint them. Also in my model box are a number of resin scenery and buildings, including some excellent neanderthal huts by Hovels Ltd. I also have a few barricades by Ainsty that I should have painted ages ago. Then there are the Amazon Warriors that I bought from the bring-and-buy stall at Salute, a Ral Partha Hydra given by a friend and a collection of early Space Marine models that I got at a local Boot Sale.

It's a sad litany of neglect and overspending that could go on and on. And I'd wager my best brushes that I'm not the only gamer out there with a similar story. Indeed this very subject was recently discussed on the blog A Year of Frugal Gaming. So, what am I going to do about this? For a start I'm going to ask myself some serious questions before buying new models. That's not to say I won't buy any (get real folks!) but I will try to buy quality rather than quantity. And I must also try to paint more miniatures this year and reduce that lead mountain... even if it is deleterious to my health.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Buccaneer Captain

My January Pledge is finished at last! This was a fun model to paint although I had trouble with the face. The eyes were the hardest bit to get right. I must have repainted the face about six times before I was happy with the finished result.

I'm done painting Pirates for a while. Their just so Arrrrred.... (sorry).

Monday 19 January 2009

Buccaneer Project Update

I've nearly finished the Buccaneer model that I started a couple of weeks ago. Progress has been slow for lots of good reasons, few of them to do with painting or gaming. The model didn't seem to be going very well until yesterday. I wasn't happy with the way it looked and then, all of a sudden, it seemed to come together and I was almost finished. The face has been the hardest part to do as the features were just so small compared to similar scale models.

I have given the finished paint job a couple of coats of Vallejo Matt varnish and tonight I'll dress the base. All going well I should have a finished photo up tomorrow.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Inspiration from Frank Frazetta

Most of the miniatures I paint are fantasy rather than historical or sci-fi in theme. One of my favorite painters in this genre, and therefore one of my biggest influences when thinking about colour schemes, is Frank Frazetta. Born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York City his artistic skills were recognised at an early age. At 16 he was earning a living drawing for various comic books and his career included album covers, movie poster and most significantly (for me) covers to the the sword-and-sorcery Conan collection of stories by Robert E. Howard.
It was covers like the one above that drew me into the world of fantasy and adventure. And from there it was a small step into D&D and Miniatures painting. The work of Frank Frazetta continues to inspire my imagination and I often turn to my old Conan covers when thinking about paint schemes. So who inspires you when you pick up a brush?

Saturday 17 January 2009

Dragonborn Fighter Conversion

This is a recent conversion project I completed. My D&D gaming group, the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers, started playing a 4E campaign last year. I chose to play a Dragonborn Warlord character and began hunting around for a suitable model. I pretty soon found that my choices were limited by the fact that there were very few Dragonborn models to choose from. The best I could find was one of the plastic, pre painted mini's from the D&D Miniatures range.

The Dragoborn Fighter is part of the War of the Dragon Queen set and like all the minis in the set comes pre painted. It also sported a wobbly plastic axe that just didn't fit the character concept I was working towards. MY character, Uthek Van'tar, wielded a mighty war hammer... not a floppy axe. Conversion was the only option if I was to field a painted mini when the game commenced. I found a suitable hammer from a sprue of weapons in my bits-box and set about cutting away the redundant weapon on the plastic mini. I then used a pin drill (for accuracy and control) to bore through the centre of the clenched fist. It was then a simple process to glue the metal weapon into the plastic hand. I then cleaned and primed the model before repainting it entirely.
OK, I admit that this probably wasn't the most ambitious conversion of all time but I am very happy with finished miniature. I have converted a number of D&D Mini's in recent years and the one lesson I have learned is to be patient and think through the conversion before you start. The plastic is often 'soft' and doesn't take kindly to radical conversion. Soft plastic can be very dificult to cut or drill so it's essential to take extra care when working on these models.

Friday 16 January 2009


Once again I have dug into the vault to find a model that I painted many years ago. This is a Reaper Miniatures Owlbear sculpted by Jason Wiebe. that I bought from Orcs Nest. The Owlbear is a magical beast in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. These fierce creatures attack on sight and always fight to the death - usually their own when they encounter a group of adventurers.

This was a model painted specifically as a game piece and when I painted it (probably five or six years ago) I was quite happy with the end result. But looking back I can see lots of ways to improve the model. Using a wash would have helped bring the model together for instance. Also I usually finish with a Matt varnish on my display models, but in this case I used a gloss varnish for toughness. I also experimented with a sculpted rather than dressed base. This was fine for a model expected to have a lot of handling but isn't as good to look at.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Salute 2009

I'm glad I'm not the only person already looking forward to SALUTE 09. It seems the buzz has already started and, like me, people are already saving and planning. Check out this Message Board discussion on TMP.


This is another old paintjob (probably painted this ten years ago) that was specifically for a D&D game. I think this was a Reaper Miniature but I can't be sure after all this time.

I rearly ought to revisit this model and do something about the plain and boreing base. However I still think that as gaming peice this works well and has stood the test of time.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Masters Brush Cleaner

First let me start this article be saying that this is neither a comprehensive look at brush cleaning products nor a scientific comparison. I have only recently discovered Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver and was so impressed with the results that I decided to give it a proper review.

The first thing you notice when you pick up the pot is the artwork on the cover. It's reminiscent of various 'snake oil' products you'd expect to buy in the old west (strange how my mind works but there you have it). Once opened the citrus smell of the brush soap is immediately evident and the product itself is a creamy white in colour.

Take the brush to be cleaned and rinse it thoroughly to remove all liquid paint from the hairs. Then take the still wet brush and rub in the Brush Preserver. Always draw the brush in the direction of the hairs and don't press down too hard or you may damage the tip. Once the brush head has a fair amount of lather on it, work this in by rubbing the brush in a crease in your palm. At first the lather should contain a lot of paint even from a supposedly 'clean' brush. Rinse and repeat two or three times until the lather is no longer discoloured.

The brush hairs should now be allowed to dry. Do not place the brush head up in a stand as water will seep down into the ferrule and unseat the hair. At this stage you can rub an additional small ammount of the soap onto the hairs and leave in to dry. This will help keep and maintain a tip whilst not in use.

I have only been using this product for a few months but have already been very impressed with the results. The life expectancy of my main painting brushes (even the cheep ones) has gone up. And old dry brushing brushes that I considered pretty much past it have been brought back to life. I'm kicking myself for not having invested in a brush soap a long time ago because I'm pretty sure it would have paid for itself by now. This product - or one of the other brush cleaners on the market such as Winsor and Newton - should be used as part of a regular cleaning regime.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Fallen One

I painted this model for my D&D Campaign. It is a multi part model sculpted by Andy Foster and produced by Heresy Miniatures. I bought it at Salute 07 and started work on it the very next day. This was quite a challenging model to construct as well as paint but I am very happy with the end result. Having said that I think I could have done the base differently. I have seen a number of bases on other models representing glowing coals or lava. I started with a black base and dry brushed the coals in layers of red, orange and yellow. However a more realistic looking effect can be achieved by making the exposed coals black (because they have cooled) and making the cracks between them glowing red and orange.

Able Seamen or Dastardly Pirates?

In keeping with the theme of pirates (sort of) here are a group of Able Seamen I recently completed. These are pewter models from an unknown range. I bought them from a bargain bin the blister pack wasn't labeled). They came with an assortment weapons but I decided not to use them. This was the first time I experimented with dark flesh tones and I was rather pleased with the results. Faces are still a bit hit and miss but practice makes perfect!

Monday 12 January 2009

Thrud the Barbarian

This is a model I completed last year and one that harks back to the early days of my hobby. Thrud the Barbarian was created by Carl Critchlow in 1981 and stalked the pages of White Dwarf Magazine in the early 80's.

This model is a multi part figure sculpted by Andy Foster and made by Heresy Miniatures. I actually bought two of these models by mistake (how dim is that?). The second one now rests in my model case awaiting a 'special' paint job at some point in the future.

Dave Stokes Sketch Blog: Seven Pounds

Check out my mates blog. His artwork is AWESOME!

Gelatinous Cube

From time to time I intend to post articles about old projects of mine. Hopefully most of the these will be projects that had a fruitful and successful end result. However I promise (dear reader) that I won't shy away from showing you projects that went horribly wrong. The woeful tale of the Gelatinous Cube is one such project.

A few years ago I was running a D&D campaign and desperately wanted to feature one of my all time favorite monsters, the aforementioned Cube. I hunted around for a suitable model but quickly came to realise that none were made commercially (this has since changed with the introduction of the Gelatinous Cube in the D&D Miniatures Desert of Desolation set). I did however find a couple of home made cubes and instructions on how to make them (Here & Here). I was inspired and set out to make one of my own.

I started by making a block from Lego bricks that was slightly smaller than the cube I wanted to make. I then covered the outside with clay and fixed the whole thing to an old CD case. As I found out later the clay needed to be very smooth indeed, as any imperfection in its surface was picked up in the latex mold.

The next step was the application of the latex to make the mold itself. I used Gedeo Latex which came in a 1 ltr tub. This material needs to be applied in a series of thin layers with each subsequent layer being added when the previous one has dried. The instructions suggest as little as 4 layers are needed to make a mold but as I wanted to be able to reuse this several times so I eventually used 8 layers. Its worth mentioning at this stage that this stuff is quite smelly - it resembles Copydex glue - and the layering process should be completed in a well ventilated area. If you can find a warm place to store it this will also speed up the curing time. Once all the layers were completed it was a simple process to peal the mold from the underlying block.
I then mounted the mold inside a block of Lego bricks (I've always liked Lego) to support the sides so that when filled with resin the whole thing would retain its... cubishness. For resin I again turned to Gedeo and their Crystal Resin. This two part liquid imitates glass paste forming a solid and transparent material within a few minutes of mixing. Prior to mixing I painted a plastic skeleton figure to drop into the liquid to represent an unlucky adventurer - the Cubes last meal.

This is where things started to go wrong. The Resin needs to be mixed quickly and thoroughly but without making air bubbles. This is no easy task if you haven't done this before. Also the mixed product sets relatively quickly - you have between 5 and ten minutes at most. I suspect that I didn't mix the product properly but whatever I did wrong I ended up with a distinctly yellow finish. Plus the plastic model didn't sink into the resin, it floated! I was also disappointed with the rather Matt finish to the surface of resin (in part because I didn't line the mold with Demoulding Vaseline).

I made two cubes but both fell far short of my desired objective. I had other models that needed completion so I never made any more and left this project feeling slightly dejected. Having said that both models saw active service in my D&D campaign, chasing hapless adventurers through a labyrinth of tunnels. Sadly neither cube fed on adventurer.

Sunday 11 January 2009

Family Painting Session

This is why it takes me so long to get anything painted. I have to fight for resources (namely table space). But I can't complain. For one blissful hour silence reigned. My eldest was painting scenery for a D&D game and my youngest was painting...well, everything. What she lacks in accuracy she makes up for in enthusiasm.

Progress Report - Buccaneer

This is a quick post to report that I'm starting to make some progress with the buccaneer / pirate model I began earlier in the week.

It still looks pretty rough at the moment but I've found that happens with most of my projects. I tend to work on the larger areas before moving in to do the inner detail (contrary to the advice given in various tutorials). I'm not sure if its a bad habit or an as yet to be appreciated new technique! Time will tell.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Lead Rot - Myth or Reality

In the twenty odd years I've been collecting and painting miniatures I've heard lots of horror stories about Lead Rot. This 'disease' can allegedly eat its way through a whole collection like some ravenous B-Movie monster. As a painter I want my models to have the best surface possible on which to work. I certainly don’t want to see a well painted model disintegrate before my eyes. So, is Lead Rot a real problem or a mini painter’s old wives tale?

The first step is to try to understand what Rot looks like. Some painters describe powdery discolouration ranging from green through brown and grey. However the most common description is of in a whitish grey surface ‘bloom’. In severe cases the surface of a miniature can actually be pitted and rough to the touch. The picture shows a catastrophic case of rot in three models (not my own, thankfully. I got this here). As a collector this picture makes my toes curl but is this actually a disease or merely some form of corrosion? And once ‘infected’ can a model be saved?

One explanation I read suggested that this was Lead rust. Iron rusts red and lead white. However this isn’t the case. Neither is it a disease or a fungus as has also been suggested. The white powdery bloom is actually Lead Carbonate and is in fact a chemical reaction, a form of corrosion that requires lead to be in contact with acid and carbon dioxide to act as a catalyst.

Sources of acid include PVA glue, enamel or oil based paints, and even some varnishes (if applied directly to unpainted metal). Carbon dioxide is everywhere of course but storing miniatures in well ventilated locations does seem to help retard the chemical reaction. Its worth adding at this point that most (but not all) modern miniatures have a relatively low lead content, being a pewter mix of one type or another. As such they are much less prone to this reaction than older models which were often cast from 100% lead. If, like me, you have a large unpainted mountain of models, it’s likely that some of them will be older types and therefore at risk.

So what can you do to prevent the ‘rot’ setting in? Get painting! Once a model has been sealed properly with an undercoat (don’t forget the underside of the base) then no CO² can get to the surface and the chemical process cannot begin. For display models try to use plastic or glass shelves rather than varnished wooden ones. And whatever display case you use try to maintain good ventilation.

If you have a model that is showing signs of lead rot its not too late to salvage the situation. Clean the surface of the model but avoid anything acidic as a cleaning agent (one source I read suggested using vinegar!!!). Any areas that have pitting can be cleaned up with a needle file or for more severe damage removed with a craft drill. Once all sign of rot has been removed seal the surface with an undercoat of acrylic paint and then store in a dry environment until ready to paint. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor happy in the knowledge that your new ‘little friend’ will be around for some time to come.

Friday 9 January 2009

More Pirates

Following on from yesterdays post about uniforms I thought it worth sharing a couple of excellent sources on the web. “Pirates & Sea Dogs” has lots of excellent pictures and I found it to be both informative and inspirational when starting painting ships crewmen.

Another excellent source document is Cut-throats; The Piratical History of Tortuga an article by By Chris Rule and Originally published in Wargames Illustrated 137.

These sources have loads of interesting and less well know facts pertaining to the "Golden Age of Piracy". For instance most clothing worn by pirates was taken as plunder but no pirate would be caught wearing the striped shirt worn by British sailors (known as "slops").

The Jolly Roger, or skull and crossed bones we identify as "the" pirate flag was, in fact, one of many flags. Each pirate captain created their own flag, unique to his command. An interesting selection of pirate flags can be found here.

The Future of the Hobby

Let’s get this straight from the beginning. I’m and old fart. Pretty soon I’ll be 40 something, I’m overweight and most of my friends are in cyberspace. That makes me a Geek/Nerd/Dork (delete as applicable) of epic proportions. In fact it’s become something of an in-joke that all gamers (and by extension miniatures painters) are middle-aged fat white blokes. Which leads me to wonder what the future of our hobby might be?

Well I’m an optimist. I go to a lot of games conventions here in the UK and one of the things I’ve noticed over recent years are the increasing number of children (and in particular girls) at these events. It seems all those middle aged gamers finally found time for a family and now they are introducing their kids to this great hobby. And I’m one of them. I’ve already got my eldest daughter interested in D&D and Mini Painting and now I’m working on my little’un.

I don't think she's quite ready for complex techniques like drybrushing, highlighting or Washes, but who cares. Of course the downside was the paint she got all over herself.... the table... the floor... the WALLS! But its a small price to pay if this is the start of a new generation of gamers and painters.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Naval Uniform

Just to prove that I have started here’s a quick picture I took this morning. The plan with this model is to give him a dark blue ‘Navy’ style coat with a red waistcoat and white trousers. The button holes will be picked out in gold braid. I may also add more braid to the trim of the coat but I'll make a decision on this later as the model comes together.

One of the things I like to do when painting semi-historical models is look for pictures and descriptions in books and on the Internet to help with colour schemes. Osprey do an excellent series of books (including a new publication specifically about Piracy) but there is also a lot of free source material to be found on the web. The National Maritime Museum currently has an exhibition of early Navy uniforms and I have drawn inspiration from some of the examples on display.

However because this is a buccaneer I wanted a little bit of ‘flashiness’ about the character and this will be exhibited in his red undercoat and even redder sash.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

January Pledge - Buccaneer

I took a break from painting over Christmas (…the dining table was needed for other things!) but its time for me to get back to work. I have a long to-do list for this year and first on that list is a nice Buccaneer Captain that I bought last summer. I also have a load of other pirate crew models (Plastic Corsairs of Umbar from the Games Workshop LOTR range) to complete but this model is my main target.

At this point I would have liked to have said who the model was made by… but I threw the packaging away and can’t for the life of me remember the manufacturer. (Note to self: Don’t do that!!). I think its part of the Black Scorpion range but it’s not pictured on their website. This model is approximately 32mm tall (29mm to eyes) and quite slender compared to some ranges. The detail is very fine but despite this the moulding is crisp and there were few cast lines or areas of flash to clean up. Other manufacturers of good pirate models include Crusader Miniatures and Freebooter Miniatures. I've bought minis from both in the past and been impressed with the quality of the castings.

I started by cleaning the model is a soapy solution and used an old toothbrush to get any mould release and skin grease off the surface. I let it dry thoroughly and then gave the model a black base coat. When I started painting miniatures – way back when I was a wee lad - it was commonly recommended for models to be given a white base coat. However over the years I have found that I prefer to start with black. I slightly dilute the paint 4:1 with water to ensure smooth coverage that doesn’t obscure the details. Sometimes a second coat is needed to fill in missed areas. I feel that this technique can give a model more depth and certainly makes black-lining easier (provided you have a steady hand and patience during the base coat stage).

I will post more pictures as I progress with this project and hope to finish with a model that stands out on the games table.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Something Old - Celtic Warrior

This is a paint job I did about four or five years ago for a Lord of the Rings RPG. This model is Taranis the Gael from the Celtos range of Urban Mammoth. Celtos is a warband level fantasy miniatures wargame now owned by Brigade Models and inspired primarily by Celtic myth and legendary.

When I painted it I was impressed with the clean lines and fine casting of the Mini. There was minimal flash and no casting lines. The sculpt is well defined and was easy to paint. My only gripe with the model is the size of the sword. If you like cricket bat sized weapons this range is for you.
Looking back at the paint job I did I'm still happy with it. Although I wish I had cut down the sword and put more detail on the kilt. I've seen other painters versions of this models and some of the tartan patterns were exceptional. At the time I was painting the model for use in an RPG but if I was to revisit this project I'd have a go at painting a tartan myself.

I think this was also one of my first attempts as using Static Grass. I love this stuff and it can bring a base to life. Overuse can also kill a model as I've learned to my dismay.

My review of this this paint job
What do I like about it? The bloodied sword worked out well although I could try using a more viscous material so the blood literally 'dripped' from the blade.

What could I improve? The hair color. I wanted a stereotypical Nordic blond but it just ended up yellow. I've since read a couple of articles on
how to paint blond hair.

Monday 5 January 2009

First Blood - Father Christmas

OK, lets start this blog with my latest project. I bought this mini during the summer at the Eastbourne Redoubt games show. The aim was to paint and photograph the mini for use in a home made Christmas card. I left it a bit late but was able to complete the project just in time for Christmas.

The Mini is a little over 28mm scale so the toys were a challenge to paint. I'm particularly happy with the face and eyes. Maybe not as jovial as St Nick should be but I was still happy non-the-less. This is the first time I can say that I felt using a 'wash' improved the model. This is definitely an area of technique that I need to work on.

A new blog is born

I've been playing D&D and painting miniatures for over 25 years. During that time I have come to thouroughly enjoy the art of miniatures painting. I think i've achieved a reasonable standard but I know there is a long way to go. Call this my 'mid life crisis' but i'm nearing 40 and sudenly realised I could be doing so much more with my hobby. So In late 2008 I started to make a concerted effort to 'up my game' with painting. And in 2009 I want to take things even further.

The aim of this Blog is to encourage myself to paint more and raise my standards by posting pictures online. The theory is that puting my 'art' out in the public domain will focus my attention on improving both my painting skills and my photography. If I feel particuarly brave I may even post a tutorial or two along the way. I aim to add a new photo each week (more if possible) to show the progrss of my work.

I’m going to ‘bite the bullet’ and enter a painting competition this year (that’s my 2009 New Years resolution). I have no allusions as to my chances but I want to take part without embarrassing myself. The standard of painting out there is astounding. If I can achieve only part of that I’ll be very happy indeed.