Saturday 28 February 2009

February Poll Results

The February Poll "How often do you paint?" has now closed and these are the results:

Every Day 3 (23%)
At Least Twice a Week 2 (15%)
At Least Once a Week 1 (7%)
At least Once a Month 1 (7%)
Less than once a Month 4 (30%)
Never 2 (15%)

For the record I sit down to paint four or five times a week but often this is just 15-20 minute sessions. However I do have longer sessions (in excess of an hour) at least twice a week.

I was interested to see that 45% of respondents paint less than once a month or even never.

Anyway I'll be setting up a new poll later today so keep an eye out for it.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Last nights D&D game was cancelled and I've already got withdrawal symptoms. Our group, the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers, is scattered across the country and organising games is difficult at best. But when work and illness conspire against us its sometimes just prudent to cut our losses and cancel.

Now I'm pacing up and down counting the days till the next game. I had promised my Dragonborn's warhammer a date with a Kolbolds skull and I don't like breaking my promises.

Friday 27 February 2009

Toray 'hair' Brushes

Warlord Games have a spotlight article on the new range of The Army Painter brushes. Developed especially for both beginners and experienced painters these brushes are made from Toray hair and feature triangular handles. I'm not a huge fan of these type of handles but I guess in that respect I'm a bit of a traditionalist.

Toray 'hair' is actually a synthetic fibre designed to replicate the flexibility and strength of natural hair. I've never used it myself but I may pick up a brace of these at Salute to give them a try.

Kluruch Wraithlord

This is a rather awful photo of my Kluruch Wraithlord from the Celtos range of Fir Bolg. I'm not overly happy with finished model but it's destined as a game piece rather than for display.
I rushed the picture so its not as good as I would have liked. Thats what I get for trying to squeeze things in before leaving for work.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Flow Improver

Just a quick post today but I wanted to share a recent 'discovery' of mine.
A few months ago I bought some Acrylic Flow Improver by Winsor & Newton. This was the first time I'd bought a product like this. Previously I had used washing up liquid (!) to break the surface tension of washes. The obvious problem with that method was the tendency for the resulting mix to be soapy and frothy. Needless to say this was not good for smooth finishes. Often I would find 'tide' marks where washes had pooled in recesses or mottled surfaces where bubbles had formed. More than one model need to be reworked to correct problems with my technique.

I had read about flow improver's but hadn't really understood their capabilities. Then last summer I found another article about flow improver and felt it was time to make a leap of faith and try one out. I opted for Winsor & Newton simply because I trust the brand.

To use simply mix a ratio of water and flow improver. The resultant water mix can be used to dilute paints either for blending or creating washes and glazes. Again I fell back on various literature for instructions on what ratio of flow improver and water to use. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be any clear guidance so I decided to experiment and work it out for myself.

I won't bore you with the details of my experiments but what I eventually settled on was the following. Mix 20% Flow Improver with 80% Water (Ratio of 1:4). I made up a dropper bottle with about 16ml in it for ease of use. For layering I use 4 parts water to one part paint. For washes the ratio is 10 parts water to one part paint. Theses are rough guidelines as the consistency of paints can vary and exact dilution needs to be determined at the time of use.
When creating washes I find it best to create a mixture that looks a little like water paint. One tip I picked up was to use a bit of wash on newsprint. If you can just see the text beneath the wash then the consistency is correct.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Cheep Nylon Brushes

I bought a load of cheep brushes recently to use for Dry brushing. I wanted to hold off until I could get to a good art shop and buy a quality brush but I couldn't put it off any longer. What I wanted was a couple of small square headed brushes specifically for dry brushing small areas. The last time I bought a brush like this is cost me ten quid (GBP £10.00). These were a LOT cheaper (four for £4) but I figured that they were going to get some rough treatment so why waste money on expensive brushes.

I bought two types, one in white Nylon and another in coloured nylon. The white brushes have angled heads so I can use them to get into awkward spots like underarms and inside cloaks. I finally got to use them yesterday and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The nylon 'hairs' were flexible and didn't loose their elasticity once wet. At the same time they were still stiff enough to rub across texture and do a good job as dry brushes. Of course I will try and get some quality brushes at a later stage but I think that for a reasonable £6 investment I have picked up some useful tools.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Forest Nymph

This model is a Dark Nymph by Foundry Miniatures. However I have painted it in the style of a Forest Nymph or Wood Elf. The miniature is marketed as 28mm but actually stands 30mm from the base of its feet to eye level and 46mm to the tip of the spear.
Having recently completed a rather swarthy skinned Hannibal I wanted to tackle something a little more subtle and smooth toned. I have been concentrating on models recently that have allowed me to practice different types of flesh, and you don't get much more practice than with a semi naked Nymph! I used Vallejo Paints exclusively for this project. When painting the skin of the Nymph I started with Bronze Fleshtone(no.36) as the basecoat with a succession of Bonewhite (No.34) glazes and Dark Fleshtone (No.44) washes used to build up highlights and shade.
For the green spear shaft and headdress I used Dark Green (No.28) & Livery Green (No.33). I then gave it a wash of Dark Fleshtone to bring down the highlights a little.
To contrast with the pale flesh tones and green headdress I decided to make the jewelry and belt a rich blue. I was inspired here by some Lapis lazuli necklaces I saw some years ago in the British Museum. I used Ultramarine Blue (No. 22) as a base and highlighted with Electric Blue (No.23) with Electric Blue and White for the extreme highlights.
Unlike previous projects the eyes worked first time and needed very little additional work. I normally use a slightly off white colour for the whites of the eyes but in this case I wanted a bright, alert look. The fact that the eyes were small and narrow meant that I could get away with using pure white without them overwhelming the face.

I am very happy with the way this model turned out. The paint job was deceptively difficult but gave me ample opportunity to practice with blending techniques on large areas of bare flesh. I hope you like it.

Monday 23 February 2009

Nearly there...

I've had a busy weekend and got a fair bit of work done. I have almost finished my current projects (the Dark Nymph and Wraithlord). The painting is finished but now comes the slow process of varnishing, dressing the base and then photographing the finished model. I like to leave models 24hrs before I apply any varnish to ensure the acrylic has fully dried and cured hard. I then apply two or three coats of varnish over a further 24hrs. I should have the varnishing and bases completed by tonight and will photograph the finished models tomorrow.

Once these are finished I'll be starting on my competition piece... oooooo scary!

Sunday 22 February 2009

Game Night by Jonny Nexus

If you like the off centre humour of Terry Pratchett and the improbable inventiveness of Douglas Adams you’ll like this book. I was laughing from the first page and could see my own gaming group, the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers, in all the characters (sorry guys). Written in the best tradition of English satire it will appeal to anyone who has ever used a d6 in anger.
The story consists of two overlapping threads. On face value it is about the heroic (or not) actions of a group of adventurers in their bid to save the world. But their narrative is constantly inter cut with the squabbling of the six gods sitting round a games table controlling those heroes. And patiently trying to keep the story on track is the creator of that world, the All-Father. This archetypal GM is reduced to distraction as the world he created and the story he is trying to tell gets abused and trampled on by his players. The squabbling of the gods often reduced me to out loud laughter as they took back actions, sniped and bitched at each other and rules-lawyered on an epic scale. Yes it is an extreme caricature of a gaming group, but it is grounded in examples every gamer will recognise.

The author, Johnny Nexus, was a regular columnist for the magazines Valkyrie and Signs & Portents and is the editor and chief writer of the cult webzine Critical Miss. This book was given the well deserved honour of being nominated for a Gen Con ENnie and you can see a free preview of the first chapter here [ chapter one ].

Saturday 21 February 2009

D&D Players Handbook 2

Wizards of the Coast have published some excerpts from the soon to be released Players Handbook 2 for the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying game. As usual they include some stunning artwork.

I keep telling myself that I won't get sucked into the Wizards marketing machine but I just...can't...resist.

OMG I want one!!!

Friday 20 February 2009

A very old Halfling

I was sorting through my painted models last night and found this little fella. I painted this years and years ago when I first got started in roleplaying games like D&D. It's not a great paint job but not bad considering how inexperienced I was at the time. I recall being very happy with the finished model and I still view it with affection all these years later. However I think I'll have a go at decorating the base just to 'finish' it properly.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Blogging is Brain Food

Exercise isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I was never into sports as a kid and my hobbies have always been of a sedentary nature. Over the years I have turned into the cliched gamer, overweight and balding. I’m trying to change the former and am not bothered by the latter. However there is one type of exercise that I do engage in every day.

Keeping the brain active is one of the less recognised ways of keeping fit. It’s easy to slip into a daily routine that is completely devoid of mental challenge and like any muscle the mind withers through lack of use. I’ve always enjoyed cerebral challenges and my hobby has been at the forefront of that exercise regimen. At times this has seen me throwing myself into world building or writing a D&D Campaign. Other times I have put my efforts into painting or building projects. And most recently this has all been brought together writing this Blog.

I have set myself the aim of updating every day. So far I have only missed one day so I think that’s not a bad record. Some days its hard finding something to write about but other days it’s easy. I usually have one or two half written articles in reserve for dry days and I have been taking pictures of everything. Odd pictures, like one of a clay D6 Sarah made me years ago, have spawned some of my best (i.e. most popular) blog entries.

Keeping up with a Blog is certainly hard work but its proving to be a very enjoyable experience. I ‘came out the closet’ about my hobby a couple of years ago. Everyone in work now knows about it. I spent years keeping my hobby a secret under the false impression it would somehow damage my career. I guess part of getting older is I’m less bothered by what other people think about me. Experience has taught me that people are less interested in what you do in your spare time than they are with how you do your job in the real world. I know it’s corny but ‘I am a gamer and I’m proud’. The blog is just the latest expression of this recent desire to tell everyone who I really am.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Tempus Fugit

Its been a busy week again. I say this so much it's almost become a family motto. I'll have to get it inscribed on my headstone... "Here lays a Dork, It was a busy week". Anyway, I digress. Progress on my current projects has been slow so there's not much to show. Here are the latest pictures.
I've got a bit of time this weekend so I'm hoping to get them completed soon.
When I post the completed pictures I'll run through the paints and colours I used. Thanks to Tony at for alerting me to the fact that this might be of interest to readers of this blog.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Liar Liar, Pants on Fire

According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary a Liar is a person who knowingly utters falsehoods. So when I stated unequivocally in my earlier post that I had no pictures of my early games I wasn't technically lying. I spent some time over the weekend sorting through all my old photo albums. I have been trying (for some months now) to digitalise my old print photos that were taken before the advent of Digital camera's. And guess what I found....

This was an Epic 40k game c1995. Note the oval shaped table pressed into service as a games table. Note also the 'high tech' scenery in the form of felt rivers and painted styrene hills. This picture shows my friend Andrew pondering his soon to be overrun positions.
Another good friend, Peter, moving his Eldar into position for the killing blow. It must have been a stealth move because Andrew seems oblivious to the impending disaster. Both these guys are still part of my current gaming group, the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers.

Another Epic game this time on the floor of a friends house and utilising a more traditional rectangular battlefield. Space was always an issue when we played. We rarely had a suitable table on which to play and it was common for us to spend games crawling round the floor. My knees ache just looking at this photo!
I think this is an even earlier game - this time Warhammer - from about 1989. This is the only picture I have of my beloved Undead Army. We used cut up floor tiles for terrain but they were very heavy to transport and were soon replaced.

If I turn up any more pictures of these old games I'll post them as well.

Monday 16 February 2009

When Worlds Collide

I didn't get any painting done this weekend. Instead I have been bogged down in paperwork. I'm currently my D&D groups Chronicler, which means I write and distribute notes from the previous game. This job is often carried out by different members depending on who is GM'ing at the time. Currently it's my responsibility. So instead of painting I spent a large chuck of my spare time this weekend writing up the notes and updating character sheets after Friday's game.

All this adds up to a long winded excuse for not posting any progress on my current projects. I promise to get back to painting tonight and should have some new pictures up in a day or two.

Sunday 15 February 2009

Digital Divas

Fellow blogger and good friend Dave Stokes has produced a book of his artwork. I had the privilege of getting a sneak peek and I do not exaggerate when I say this is very, VERY impressive stuff. I don't have full details of how to purchase it yet but when I get a link I will post it here.
Dave's artwork is made of awesome and this book includes some of his best work. You can see some of his other pictures at his blog

Edit: You can now Purchase a Copy of his book at the Blurb Bookstore. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Origins pt 2

Following on from my entry On the Origin of Gamers earlier in the week I found an interesting photo from the 'old' days. I think this picture was taken in the early 80's and of course the game was D&D. How time fly's when your having fun.

Kobolds 1 - Adventurers 1

Last night the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers gathered together for their regular bi weekly D&D night. Once more our Characters ventured into the Kobold infested Palace of the city of Friesteck, scene of our previous ignominious defeat. This time we fought better (lucky dice), used better strategy (got lucky) and defeated our enemy (at last).

Our heroic characters caught a small group of the scaly critters by surprise and was able to overwhelm them within a few rounds.
Having eliminated the Kobolds in that room without alerting the whole clan, we carefully explored some of the adjacent rooms.

Fortunately our GM is generous with his rewards (unlike some) and we discovered a locked chest filled with treasure. As always much fun was had by all and our game was filled as much with the sound of laughter as the clash of swords.

Friday 13 February 2009

I'm a Troll, fol-de-rol!

No painting tonight because its D&D night. Yippee!
Once again the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers will get together for chaos, mayhem and slaughter. Ours mainly.

Thursday 12 February 2009

The Turquoise Death

This weeks Larry Leadhead special cartoon [see it at the bottom of this Blog] had me laughing out loud today. It reminded me of a good friends Space Marine army, many years ago when we played Epic 40k. Epic derived from the earlier Games Workshop games Adeptus Titanicus and Space Marine and was based on the 40k universe but using 6mm scale models.

I fielded a largely Blood Angel Space Marine army and tried wherever possible to only use painted models when I played. One of my regular opponents played an Orc army and despite the predominance of bare metal in his fielded miniatures he nearly always won (the injustice!!). Then there was "The Turquoise Death". This was a space marine army painted in vivid Turquoise. They struck fear into the hearts of... well nobody actually... except perhaps Trinny and Susannah. But despite the fact that they looked awful and never won a battle we all still remember that army. Which just goes to show that even a badly painted army or model has more impact than a bare metal one.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Word Cloud

I have just been looking at a site called Wordle. It contains a web toy for generating “word clouds” from selected text or the URL of a Blog that the visitor provides. The cloud gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Here's what my blog looks like. No big surprises with words like Games, Painting and Models featuring prominently. However I was interested to see Time recognised as a commonly used word. Maybe I'm wasting too much of it on pointless distractions like wordle!

Salute 2009 Tickets

I've ordered my tickets for Salute. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is my favorite convention/show of the year. For me its the best mix of traders, display games, clubs and reenactment groups to be found at a single event. Plus its just down the road at Docklands ExCel, so bringing home the days 'loot' is much easier than when it was held at Olympia. I'll be posting loads of pictures of this event so keep an eye out after March 28th.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

On the Origin of Gamers

I was chatting to a college yesterday about my hobbies and it got me thinking about how I got into gaming and painting. What are my gaming origins? [screen fades to sepia images of 'the old days'].....

It was waaaaaay back in the very early 80’s as a teenager that I had my first encounter with the Sword & Sorcery genre. I read a compilation book of stories by Robert E. Howard, featuring characters like Conan & King Kull. I was enthralled and excited by these books, but even then I knew that I wanted more. Then one of my friends gave me a copy of a new type of game, a Fighting Fantasy book (Warlock of Firetop Mountain) by Ian Livingstone.

It was a short step from the Fighting Fantasy books to proper role-playing in the form of the D&D Basic Set. I can still vividly remember my first D&D game and the Carrion Crawler my character - a barbarian of course - killed in a pitched battle. This game undoubtedly changed my life and set me on the path I am still on nearly 30 years later. I painted my first model back then – a Knight in black armour with gold trim – It was an awful paint job but I was still very proud of it. I recall I used enamel paint and I was one of only a handful of player's to use fully painted miniature in those early games.
Later we moved to Advanced D&D, Call of Cthulhu & Ravenloft but I did very little painting back then being focused on role-playing. The revolution came with our introduction to Warhammer 40,000 with my first Space Marine model. I went on to paint various models in the 28mm range. From there I went on to play Warhammer Fantasy Battles & 40K ‘Epic’ and always prided myself on fielding fully painted armies whenever possible. Sadly it never occurred to me or my friends to photograph our games and my Undead army has long since been passed on to another player.
It was with my return to D&D (this time 3rd edition) that my painting became more serious and I tried to improve my skills. As a player I have always liked to paint a good character model but when I became a GM I transferred that enthusiasm to painting scenery, monsters and NPC’s.

Over the last three decades I have played lots of other games, from historical wargames to CCG's. For much of that time I have played with a core of close friends that now form a gaming group collectively known as the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers. Between us we have spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours gaming and painted lots of miniatures. Time well spent? Absolutely!

Monday 9 February 2009

Slow Painter

I am a VERY slow painter. Over the weekend I started two new models and despite having time on my hands I made only minimal progress with them.

Saturday 7 February 2009

February Pledge

I have started to prep a couple of models as my next projects. The First is a Dark Nymph - Princess Araucaria by Foundry Miniatures. The other model is a Kluruch Wraithlord from the Celtos range of Fir Bolg.

I often work on two models at the same time because I find it more interesting and because I can work on one while the other is drying. So far all I have done is clean off the flash and casting lines and fixed them to bases. I then normally use a black undercoat (my preference) but for the nymph I think I will use white for a change. The light skin tones I intend to use will benefit from a white base and should result in a brighter finish.

Friday 6 February 2009

Scenic Water

I have been a bit quite on the painting front this week, but I haven't been idle. I have been prepping some new models to work on (more on that in a later post) but I have also been experimenting with a new (to me at least) product.

I bought a tub of Scenic Water by Deluxe Materials a few weeks ago from 4D Model Shop and have been wanting to try it out before using it on a finished model. This material is like a rubbery gel and can be melted, poured, set and remelted as needed. I found that I could put a required amount of gel in a small ceramic tub and melt it either as suggested by placing the tub in hot water or by nuking it in the microwave for 5 seconds. I also conducted a few experiments adding colour (acrylic paint) to the liquid to create a slightly more opaque finish. I'm not entirely happy with the end result so more experiments are needed until I get the desired result.

Deluxe Materials also do a two part crystal clear resin that might be better suited to my needs. I have used resin in the past (see Gelatinous Cube) although I found the whole process rather 'messy'.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Favorite Dice

Like many gamers I seem to have a weakness for Dice. I never (and I mean NEVER) come away from a convention without a new set of dice. I now have hundreds of them and my 'dice fetish' is as strong as ever. I have sets of rune covered dice; dice with numbers; dice with symbols; and dice with nothing on them. However my favorite dice are the odd ones. The freebies that commemorate a particular show or are just unique in some way. And you don't get much more unique that a hand made, one of a kind d6. Made from Fimo modeling clay by my daughter Sarah many years ago. I suspect its not quite balanced but I don't care.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Nerd, Geek or Dork?

What are the definitions of a Nerd, a Geek or a Dork? Which label best describes gamers and mini painters? And which one am I?

Nerd is a relatively modern word whose entomology derives (it is believed) from the book If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss and published in 1950. By the late 1950’s 'Nerd' had come to mean a “square” or uncool person. This general definition stuck and is still used describe untrendy individuals. It often has a derogatory connotation that refers to a person who pursues intellectual activities or obscure interests that are considered age inappropriate (playing with toy soldiers anyone?). Nerds are stereotypically described as loners but in reality often associate in communities of like-minded people (clubs, online forums, conventions etc).

The word Geek has a much older origin, being commonly used as far back as the 1880’s to describe a fool or circus performer engaged in bizarre acts. Its current usage however often describes a computer expert or enthusiast. When a Geek uses the word it is considered a sign of pride but in general its usage has a derogatory connotation.

The dictionary definition of a Dork describes a socially inept person, or one who is out of touch with current trends. Contemporary usage is synonymous with Nerd and Geek and tends to refer to people of high intelligence but with hobbies or interests that make them social outsiders. I think that pretty much sums up gamers / mini painters / roleplayers pretty well. Usage of the work Dork to describe gamers in general has been popularised by the web comic Dork Tower.

These days I tend to describe myself as a Nerd or a Dork. I have taken a leaf from the Geeks and now use it as a badge of pride. I have spent far too many years keeping quiet about my hobbies and interests. That was back when I thought of myself as having a 'career' (oh youthful pride!). But over the last ten years or so I have made a conscious effort to be more open about my hobby. Mini painting & gaming is a very creative, intelligent, social (despite the stereotype) and highly rewarding hobby. I guess that as I have got older and wiser (the Jury is out on that last one) I have felt less need to conform in order to make my way in the world.

This gradual epiphany has manifested itself as a couple of moto's which I repeat to myself every day: "The Geeks shall inherit the Earth" and "I'm a Nerd and I'm Proud".

Tuesday 3 February 2009


Back to work today, via the ice rink known as the A13. Having had an unplanned day off work I am very busy today catching up. In the meantime I thought I would post this picture. I call him "The Assassin" and I painted this model about 5 years ago for a D&D game. The model is a Reaper Mini sculpted by Bobby Jackson and its official name is Franc Jeaunoir.

Looking back its not a very good paint job but as a gaming piece it served its purpose. I like the sculpt so I may pick up another and have a go at it a second time.

Monday 2 February 2009

Snow Day

I doubt if I'll get much painting done today even though I am off work. The south of England has just been hit by the deepest snow in over a decade. Most schools have been closed, all public transport has been suspended and most people are seem to be heeding the travel advice and staying at home. Of course what we call 'deep' snow here in the UK other people (I'm thinking of you lot on the continent or in the states) would call a 'light dusting'. But us Brits can't cope with weather so the whole country seems to have ground to a halt. Which means I get to spend the day playing in the garden with the kids.
It's ironic. I seem to have been painting a lot of snow themed miniatures lately - Father Christmas, Cavern Worm, Hannibal crossing the Alps- and now we get the real thing.
Have a good snow day, and be safe on the roads.

Sunday 1 February 2009

Hannibal Barca

I have finished another one of my neglected projects. The Salute 04 free figure, Hannibal, sculpted by Mark Sims.
Hannibal was the Carthaginian military commander who famously lead his army and their war elephants, over the Alps into northern Italy. His victory in 216 BC at Cannae against a numerically superior army of the Roman Republic is regarded as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history.