Friday, 30 December 2016

Hawken

Hawken was in development for quite a while (I first blogged about it in 2012) after going through various devs and publishers. It's in open beta on Steam and I'm embarrassed to say that it's only now that I've actually played it. It was primarily the visual design which attracted my attention, so that's what I'm going to talk about here.

This mech FPS game does a great job at mining a decayed hard-sci-fi look which is popular at the moment - think Neill Blomkamp meets Kow Yokoyama with a bit of Star Wars thrown in. The arenas are wonderfully gritty with lots of hazard markings stencilled over rotting metal plates. There is a great level of atmospheric haze too which serves to add realism without obscuring the detail. In this interview lead developer Khang Le talks candidly about the pragmatism he employed when designing the look of the game and cites Yokoyama as a major influence for the mech design.

On this note, Le worked with artist John Park to conceptualise the mechs and the environments and you should definitely check out Park's portfolio page for Hawken. The mechs are satisfyingly clunky and realistic while retaining a charm that gets you attached to yours. They are compartmentalised so many of the assets can be swapped, which, far from being repetitive, actually gives them a real-world vibe of mass produced parts configured in radically different ways. This facilitates the almost infinite customisation which is fun (if a little impenetrable at times). Beyond your female trainer, the pilots are left unseen, though some ground crew in the hanger cinematics lead you to believe they might be faceless shemagh-wearing types which are in vogue at the moment.

Hawken is free on Steam, Xbox One and PS4. I'll leave you with some screenshots and some of John Park's awesome concepts.





Thursday, 29 December 2016

New tumblr theme

A while ago I opted for more of a linear tumblr theme with high-rez images vertically stacked, but ultimately I think some of the power of the collection was eroded. I've switched back to a mosaic so you can now enjoy the monochrome unity of the inside of my head.

View it here. The new theme is this one.


Super-Fan Builds D&D table

This is a great build of a fully fitted-out RPG table. What's fascinating is the fusion of modern and traditional craftsmanship. The team employs traditional carpentry, upholstery and physical sculpting with Z-Brush, laser cutting and 3D printing making it a truly hybrid work. It'll be really interesting to see over the coming decades if these new methods of fabrication become cheap enough to be employed to do any of the 'heavy lifting' and replace things like wood work.


Via

Saturday, 24 December 2016

2017... now in colour!

As 2016 draws to a close there are no doubt many people drawing a sigh of relief and hoping that '17 will be... well, just better. For my part I'm planning some big changes but I'll talk more about the if and when they happen. You're going to see a bit more about video games on this blog too.

In other news, those of you who remember my 'Blanchitsu' miniatures work will recall that most of it was decked out in vibrant and cheerful shades of black. The [Black:Clad] phase, as I've dubbed it, I think is over now. It's been a great aesthetic to explore but I'm feel like I'm done with it for the time being. I'm bouncing to the other end of the spectrum (no pun intended) and am more interested in saturation - the kind of colour combos that were popular in the '70s. Examples I'm drawn to are the work of Roger Dean, the films of Dario Argento and the graphic covers of non-fiction books of the day. On a tangential, but related note, there's a vein of very sophisticated 70s design (and in particular product and technology design) that I'm getting into - forget the vomit coloured flower prints and hand drawn owls of the period and think instead of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 (yeah, I know technically it's '68) interiors and the tech in Saul Bass' Phase IV.

I'll leave you with a few image mosaics - most (if not all) of the [Black:Clad] series, and some inspiration I'm mining for the future.

 


PS My tumblr is still almost entirely monochome. I'm not sure if this will change as I'm still enjoying posting to it. My Instagram is pretty polychrome though!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The films of Nicolas Winding Refn

It's rare for me to have a 'favourite director' as it often seems that directors I like change tack during their career and loose their appeal. Feature films are also complex, expansive beasts and are vulnerable to studio interference, marketing derailing and so forth all of which directors largely lack control over. Thus past favourites like David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Ridley Scott have produced varying fair during their careers. Lynch had a hard time after Fire Walk with Me, Cronenberg shifted his focus to more human dramas rather than the body horror I loved and Scott moved from sci-fi to big budget historical and military epics which are hulking, risky affairs that I've struggled with.

Like many I discovered the Dane Refn after his 2011 hit Drive with its awesome soundtrack by Kavinsky. The images of a timeless, lurid neon LA complete with low-life criminals and movie stunt men captured the 80s retro junket we've been on for the last decade. I've gradually explored the rest of his catalogue and, with his most recent offering, The Neon Demon, I have to say I'm now hooked.

His use of cinematography and particularly colour is stunning, and he has the Kubrick-ian ability to create cult images which not only capture the zeitgeist but survive to become embedded in popular culture. As Clockwork Orange's mascara'd eye and bowler hat will sum up the violence of dystopian-scarred-youth, the back of Refn's silent, scorpion-embroidered-baseball-jacketed anti-hero from Drive will be associated with car crime for decades to come. I believe Tarantino has this quality too (think thugs in black suits with skinny black ties) but that's a topic for another post.

What a lot of my favourites share is mixed reaction - they are often 'Marmite' and Refn is no exception. If you don't like slow, production-design-driven movies featuring are long periods of silence then his work is not for you. The Neon Demon has really divided critics and it's an excruciating watch at times to be sure, but that only made me love it more. It's also a very good film about women, albeit the most dreadful and dangerous kind you're likely to meet.

I'll leave you with some images from his movies and hope you'll give his work a try. But don't blame me if you don't like it.

Bronson, 2008, where English eccentricity meets ultra-violence courtesy of a feral performance from Tom Hardy
 
Valhalla Rising, 2009, sees Mads Mikkelsen chew his way through one of the most bleak and terrifying visions of the dark ages committed to film.

Drive, 2011, with that jacket. And that soundtrack. Languid neon low-life in a bleak, late 20th century hinterland.

Only God Forgives, 2013, swaps LA for Bangkok and techno for karaoke. Seen here is a beautiful mural that epitomises the set design.
 
The Neon Demon, 2016, where the violence against and between women is taken to an extreme and beyond into a sickening realm of gothic horror.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Blood Angels Razorback

After a few games with my growing army I decided I needed some more mobile firepower and the Razorback is an ideal solution for what is still a small force. I was really inspired by Andy Hoare's Rhino which is a gritty re-imagining of a very old Rogue Trader-era scheme. This fusion of old IP with a modernising twist is something that Forge World does so well. I decided to attempt something similar.

One of the aspects of the Oldhammer side of the hobby I enjoy is looking for precedents. This may seem like a rather odd thing to do, but I enjoy the challenge of digging through old publications to look for a jumping-off point. To this end I had a rummage and came up with the perfect solution: the Blood Angels camouflage from their assault on Bantax. So, not only was this colourway Chapter Approved, the predominantly yellow hue would complement the yellow spot colour I was already employing for my force (in the same way as the base white of Andy's tank matches his White Scars).



I set to my kit and subjected it to all manner of weathering techniques. I tried to keep the pin washes, airbrush-dustings, streaks and powders varied so there was never just one hue being used. This variety is what gives the result a bit of life. I dug out a variety of decals too, both old and new, which give the machine that Rogue Trader look, and these included one of my custom RT-era Blood Angel icons. One of my most cherished discoveries is that GW's Lahmian Medium is the best matting agent to run through an airbrush. I've had so many issues with spray or airbrushed matte varnishes in the past, but Lahmian goes through the machine like a dream and gently matts the surface without any chalking, streaking or other nonsense.




An alternative build as a Rhino.

I was pretty pleased with how it turned out and I feel I learned a lot about weathering. I like how what might have been a really eye-watering scheme has been knocked back and the form of the machine underneath is now quite defined. The danger with camo at scale is that its just too disruptive and your highly detailed miniature just becomes, optically, a broken mess. I think some of the metallics look a bit odd though and that's something I'd like to address in future. I'm thinking of doing a combat squad based on the old three-tone camo sported by the Blood Angel Captain in Rogue Trader in such a way that it matches the vehicle.


Saturday, 10 December 2016

Finished Heresy Blood Angles squad


Having honed my technique for painting Blood Angles over the past few months these guys proved an ideal canvass to see how quickly it can be rolled out. Things were made a lot easier by the superb engineering and tooling of this new kit. As I mentioned when I posted my Stormcast, the new GW sprues are, without fail, exceptionally sharp and there are almost no mold lines. The fidelity also aids painting, so picking out the shoulder trims and whatnot was a doddle.

I'm also pretty pleased at how the custom decals worked out. The carrier film is thicker than commercial transfers, and in some cases its edge is a visible but its not too detracting. I'm also happy with the tiny yellow stripe (a 'pale' in heraldic nomenclature) which adds a bit of visual interest and ties these guys in with the rest of the army. As iconography it feels suitably 'Heresy', but it is also the designator of the 2nd Company which these guys were, presumably, later folded-into after the internecine conflict ended.

I added a little more weathering too. Because: Heresy. I didn't want to take it too far, and deliberated about adding the silver chips to the pauldron rims, but this actually worked out better than I expected and serves to lift what might otherwise by slightly dull miniatures. I might try silver rather than gold next time for Mr Bling's shoulder trim. That said, the new GW Gloss Shades are awesome and the patina is super-easy to achieve while retaining the shine.

I also decided to take these guys on patrol to one of the boards at Warhammer World. The reds really pop against the natural tones of the table.




Monday, 5 December 2016

More Hardware: now in CGI

I've blogged about Richard Stanley's Hardware a few times now. It turns out a rather talented 3D artist going by the handle kjell has worked up the Mark 13 robot in eye-watering detail. You can see his renders below. He's clearly examined the footage very carefully as he's captured the weird skull with it's under-slung-dragonfly-larvae-jaw perfectly.

I've been doing more 3D work myself recently, but am nowhere near the level of this guy. Great inspiration as to what can be achieved today especially with the latest generation of render engines.





Sunday, 4 December 2016

Finished Blood Angles Librarian Terminator

As well as my Heresy-era squad, I completed thid little guy in the week just gone.


I looked at a lot of the original reference material for the general scheme and chose a colourway that is hopefully faithful but also in keeping with my whole army. In this era, Librarians weren't blue and were identified by their Aegis hood, force weapons and the variant Crux Terminatus on their shoulder. I also opted for a custom decal which evokes the Chapter icon design of the time. Actually the promo minis sported hand-painted Blood Angel icons which are a little goofy to our eyes today, so I didn't feel too bad giving him this slightly more refined variant icon.

I used the same technique I've used on the rest of the rank-and-file, save for the addition of more blended highlights. I've also avoided painting any mottos onto the the scrolls as I'm just not very good at this. I feel they look better blank rather than appearing as if some demented five year old with a box of crayons has been scrawling away whilst wearing boxing gloves. The soft detailing of these older casts makes painting the details a real challenge. I'm not very pleased with the Crux Terminatus as this is a bit muddy.

I painted this guy up to give me a psychic presence in my army as I'm fed up of getting mauled by Tyranid mind attacks. However, I am lucky enough to own a complete, original Terminator boxed set of metal minis and I'm now intending to paint them all.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

WIP Heresy Blood Angels

Due to a Brazil-like administrative error, I was gifted a squad of MKIV plastic Marines which I'm adding to my growing Blood Angels collection. Here is the first combat squad, which are mid-way through their painting. I'm currently neatening up the black ready for highlighting, and adding all the other details.


Below is a close-up of two of them showing the custom decals I made for their iconography. You might be able to make out in the shot above that they also have small 'IX' Legion numeral icons here and there. These add a nice little Classical flourish which helps to ground them in the 30K universe.


In my previous Tactical squad it was all the bonkers heraldry and whatnot which took the time. I am hoping to complete these boys in a much quicker fashion as they won't have such complex detailing. I recall an excellent seminar given by Forge World's Mark Bedford during which he talked a bit about the psychology of painting armies. In a nut shell - don't tackle it all at once and try complete a five-man squad every weekend using techniques which balance maximum results with minimum time. Most importantly put each completed squad on display with your growing army as this will inspire you to paint the next lot.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Miniature odds and sods

Between slightly larger projects I often dabble with a couple of minis in order to experiment. Sometimes I have an idea for a collection and they're colourway tests, in other cases the subjects are opportunities to try painting techniques. Here are two little guys which volunteered for such a dubious honour.


Before I settled on Stormtonnians as my AoS army, I mooted a dirty Skaven brigade based on the classic Andy Chambers army from the early 90s (you can find out more about this seminal collection here). His collection reeked of mould and the rather dirty infantry were accompanied by some amazing banners. I wanted to ape this combination and endeavoured to use a lot of dry brushing on the guy above. It's really only his hood and his flesh which is layer-highlighted. I also threw on some more modern rust and blood effects. I liked this guy, but felt the colours were a little dull and couldn't really muster the enthusiasm to do a whole army.


Mr Tzaangor here was a spare from the excellent Silver Tower. I've had the feeling for some time that my minis are lacking a bit of vibrancy so he is an experiment to make things a bit brighter. I rather feel there are two extremes when it comes to miniatures painting - those who strive for accurate naturalism and scale effects and those who embrace the fiction of a miniature and paint each element the colour they imagine it to be (and there are, of course, many point along this continuum too). I'm not explaining this eloquently, but hopefully you catch my drift.  There are challenges and pitfalls with both approaches, but I think I'm shifting to the latter camp. Hence the white undercoat here and the super-vibrant base colours. Since this snap was taken I re-undercoated the grey sections black to give more contrast. I have some hopes for him and will post a shot of him when he's finished.

I've also been bulking out my Blood Angels with a Heresy-era combat squad and a terminator Librarian, but more on those soon.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Blood Angels at war

Last week I took my new Blood Angels army out on patrol. There had been some worrying reports of a Xenos incursion into Warhammer World, and the boys in red were on hand to stymie any theft of biomass. To add some complexity the wicked hand of fate determined that there was a relic that the Sons of Sanguinius should save from any invaders. Thus they arrayed themselves in a battle line as their many-limbed enemies scurried into view...


The force deployed for battle. It turns out that putting your combat squad with the heavy weapon behind a massive hill isn't such a great plan.


The enemy, with all their limbs on show. One of the Termagants was named 'Toto'. He took out a Taurox with a Fleshborer in a previous engagement. Smug little git.


The Death Company sweep in the retrieve to catch the pigeon relic. If only there was an option to equip then with jump packs! Oh, wait... Dready Mc Dreadface supplies covering fire but it transpires that a Multi Melta only has a range of 24". Onwards he toddles.


A 'dynamic' shot of the denouement. The Death Company keep shouting "Feel no pain!" like drunks on a stag do and win the day. My Captain, cunningly disguised by his giant, flashing banner, takes out two Tyranid Warriors by punching them with his foam Chainfist. Yay! Take that. And that.

I won the battle, more through luck then anything else. Alas it turned out that the 'relic' was a space hopper covered in KitKat wrappers. The Blood Angels are understandably miffed (and they can't even play with the hopper as bouncing makes them feel queasy). Next time they plan to bring a Librarian so I don't just get mauled in the psychic phase, and maybe later a Predator or Razorback as 'move or fire' does not make for a dynamic game.

For the Emperor!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Stormtonnians

Age of Sigmar is what all the cool kids are playing these days and I decided I want to join in. I mooted several factions but was ultimately inspired to do some Stormcast with a twist. You can see the first results below.


I figured that as Sigmar draws his Stormcast from various populations of surviving humans, some may retain a little of their former culture which permeates their Stormhost. Hence we have a Stormhost formed from some rather feudal, gallant, Grail-worshipping survivors from the World That Was. I'm not naming names.

I have been reading a bit about heraldry and have become quite fascinated by the systems and language which has grown up around it. I also love the way that heraldry functions really well on miniatures, serving to inject colour, pattern and individuality into troops. A friend had also introduced me to the work of artist Kekai Kotaki who has done some really dynamic portraits of knights who have stepped out of a bonkers JRPG.


The Stormcast were perfect donors as they have a lot of the movement and refined bulk that so key to these images. Their shields would also provide great surfaces to apply the heraldry. I managed to file them down with varying degrees of success, which is why I chose to add a bit of weathering to disguise any imperfections. The weathering also helps to fool the eye into thinking the overall paint job is rather more detailed than it really is. The armour is just zenith silver spray washed with GW's amazing Gloss Nuln Oil and nothing more. The new sculpted AoS bases look great and are an amazing time-saver. Some awesome hobby friends recommended the colourway. Clearly these chaps are knocking about in the Realm of Fire, and the warm, dark base offsets the cooler, lighter miniature. The lava in the deepest recesses adds a tiny bit of interest.

I can't take too much credit for the conversions, as there are some great examples of Stormcast-Bretonnian (damn - I said the word) hybrids on the interwebs. Suffice it to say I'm stealing from the best and hopefully incrementally improving on the work of others.

I've got a load of ideas in my head for both future units and more background. I'll blog these as they come to fruition. I'm really keen to incorporate ideas that, while this Stormhost might superficially appear chivalric and Gallic, they have a deeper core of weird Cymric mythology. Fisher Princes, Poor Knights, Kelpies, Questing Beasts and Sigmar as the Mab Darogan.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Creative used of Altoids tins

Large objects scare me. I don't know what it is about them, but my mistrust of anything big probably goes a long way to explaining why I love miniatures. Consequently I also adore the many and varied solutions for compactness and Altoids tins spawn.

These diminutive tins are somewhat of a cultural icon, and I am sure we've all used them (or something similar) to store things like hooks, pins and buttons. But there are creative folk out there who are putting them to really interesting uses.



For quite a while I've seen DIY watercolour travel kits made from Altoids tins. Now, with 3D printing becoming more readily available you can order watercolour holders designed to fit inside the tins. This kind of add-on industry is a really interesting direction for 3D prints and I'm sure excited to see how it develops.



While storage is a common use, aids for spiritual life are also possible. Some crafty witches have suggested that you build a travelling alter into your Altoids tin for those wicca emergencies when you're on the go.



On a similar note, if you find the need for contemplation you could always crack open your Zen Altoids tin. It contains a miniature garden which will no doubt be in need of a manicure if it's been bouncing around in your pocket since your last harrying day.



A solution which, refreshingly, makes no attempt to take itself seriously is the Minty Spinner. Again this is a 3D print solution. Reach for this during the coming evenings in the pub with your friends. Genius in a sweet tin.*

There are quite a few tech solutions out there too. Flashlights, amplifiers, speakers etc. have all been fitted into Altoids tins. A quick google will throw up a load. While these are cool, current advances in miniaturisation render them more novel retro items rather than groundbreaking solutions.

*Incidentally, I am pretty sure the spinner on the left points to the word "sing". However, to the native British it may, also, be a four letter word with a less salubrious meaning. Clue: Austen Powers.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Interview with Les Edwards

Richard Mckenna over at We Are the Mutants has just published a great interview with legendary artist Les Edwards.

Like many I encountered his work via his awesome contributions to the Games Workshop canon of classic images. It's a bit disappointing that his body of work for GW doesn't get any airtime in the interview as he created some stunning images for the company and gained a lot of fans as a well-deserved result. I thought I'd put up those images I could find which graced GW products including some White Dwarf covers. If I have missed any out, please shout in the comments.

I am lucky enough to own a copy of his monograph Blood & Iron which I highly recommend if you can find a copy at a reasonable price. In it there is a wonderful stage-by-stage series of photos an a commentary on his cover for Realm of Chaos; The Lost and the Damned (the last image in this post, sadly cropped to show only the book's front cover).

You can see Les' official site here.










Edit #1 - I had forgotten the Heroquest expansion Wizards of Morcar cover, which is by Les:


Edit #2 - this is the Ghoul piece reader The One has kindly pointed out was used by GW - he was on the cover of WD19. Weridly he seems to be flipped in some reproductions but I think this is the 'corrrect' orientation.