Sunday, 23 April 2017

Woad Kill

An admirably muscled Slaughterpriest stumbled into my clutches recently and inspiration hit. I had been looking at some old Bisley art and was reminded of his amazing colour palette. While there are some aspects of his work I'm not so keen on, Bisley's portrait of Slaine is just awesome. I also love his cover for The Bitmap Brothers' Gods, which again uses the same blues and oranges that vibrate against each other. At the same time I've been reading a bit about the Dying Earth genre with its post-apocalyptic-meets-fantasy vibe. All this went into the mental soup.

I figured this guy might be a wanderer in Aqshy, the Realm of Fire. His native land is a vast, dried sea that the flames of Aqshy have evaporated, leaving the denizens to walk the cracked crust of what was the sea floor. If you look closely you can just make out a few shells I've worked into his base. I unashamedly stole the technique for using them from the amazing Don Hans. The shells were kindly donated by the awesome Julian Bayliss, whose work you can see of Ex Profundis (IMHO one of the best hobby blogs around at the moment).

I chopped the Slaughterpriest up a bit and gave him some Seraphon bits. I love the primitive-but-ornate feeling that these items conjure. They give the exact post-apocalyptic, desert raider vibe I wanted. He's at the wash stage at the moment and will get brighter with subsequentl stages. I think he needs a bit more variety in his colours though. I'm might try some gold on his weapon, plus he'll get azure-blue woad daubings too. I might end up calling him the Max the Woad Warrior.

Sorry, I'll stop with the puns now.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Basement booty: Realm of Battle

I'm hoping I'm not alone in having a basement which mostly functions mostly as A Place Where Things Go to Die. During a recent expedition into the depths I discovered an old Realm of Battle tile. I'd been given some time ago and had always intended to paint the thing as a skirmish board. With the unusually fine weather upon us, I rolled up my sleeves, brushed off the spiders (from the board, not me) and got stuck in.

I decided I wanted it to be generic affair which could be put to all sorts of uses and opted for traditional greens. However, I really wanted the exposed rocks to have naturalistic variation of colour. I started by blocking in the colours and working wet-in-wet with the acrylics to achieve the kind of colour transitions I wanted. This was actually really good fun. Because the weather was warm you have to be quick with acrylics as they go tacky in a very short space of time.

Below are some shots when the painting is nearing completion. I worked inks into the recesses in the rocks to add some depth and tone.

Below are shots of the flocking in progress. Top tip: don't flock when it's breezy. It doesn't end well. I was trying to build up a variety of types of grass and so layering the different types of flock onto the landscape.

Below is a shot of the finished tile. The glue is actually drying at this point on some of the grass areas so they appear slightly lighter. I wasn't too pleased with the deep green which forms the bulk of the grass. I feel the colour of the flock is too 'mono'. It'd be cooler if there was more variety there. Ah well, I'll know for next time.

I'd love to take some shots of minis in action on this table, and maybe use it for a bit of photography for painted Oldhammer minis. In the meantime, I need to sweep up a load of escaped flock...

Monday, 17 April 2017

Don't get overly-familiar

The Familiars are some of my favourite miniatures from GW's 2016 Silver Tower boxed set. The high-fantasy world of Age of Sigmar gets even more trippy when Tzeentch, the nefarious Lord of Change gets involved. Magical familiars are not merely cats called Tom, but walking books... with tails.

These miniatures are an homage to some of Citadel's oldest and most beloved scultps from the late 80s, rendered in 21st century style with cutting-edge technology. I was kindly gifted a set and they were tremendous fun to paint. They are also rare examples of modern single-piece plastics, but are no less dynamic for that.

These are some of the last I did in the 'grey' style that I had been experimenting with. While it's been fun I have eventually found the tight palette too restrictive so have moved on to more colourful things. I am very much into miniatures functioning as miniatures. I like mine to be be recognisable and intelligible from a reasonable distance and this style lacks the contrast necessary to do that.

Enjoy! And did it take you as long as it did for me to notice that the walking fish is in the shape of Tzeentch's icon? Genius!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Purple Sex Marine

I painted this Renegade as a gift for a friend. I was pretty pleased how he came out (no pun intended).

He's actually one of the later resin casts and I think came in a pack of four, each being the classic Jes Goodwin model for each of the Chaos powers. I just love this Marine's pose. He is relaxed and haughty, demonstrating the arrogance and posturing of the Slaaneshi cult. Jes is a master of the one-piece sculpt and I just love painting casts like this.

The paint job was really simple. Leadbelcher spray over a black undercoat, then washes of ink on top for most of the plate. Additional details were blocked-in as necessary. I used the technique I'd established on my Harlequins for the pastel-pink whites. Base with a mix of white with a dash of red, wash the recesses with a darker mix, then highlight up to white. The green eyes and very simple green grass base were deliberately chosen to contrast against these warmer details.

The decals are actually from super-old sheets printed in the early 90s. I still have all my old sheets in all their shabby, cut-up glory. I'm pleasantly surprised how well they still work after 25 years.

Secretly I imagine that when he talks, this Marine sounds like Kenneth Williams.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Hang on to your biomass - an Eldar VS Tyranids battle report

Posting has been a bit slow of late due to Life getting in the way. But at least the planet hasn't been consumed by a star-faring race of biomass guzzlers. On that note, I played a game of 40K yesterday against my long-term opponent and his Tyranids.

I brought my Rogue Trader-inspired Eldar to the party. It turned out we had both inadvertently dressed to match our factions. I wore a mustard yellow top, and Mr T had a shirt and jeans that matched Hive Fleet Behemoth. I am going to make sure this is a new rule that goes into the next edition of 40k.

We opted to play along the length of the table and, with a swish of their skirts, my space elves eased their crinoline into various ruins. Space elves in the open don't last long. My Hemlock Wraithfighter was so cunningly camouflaged you could hardly see it against the grass it hovered over.

Mr T's bugs thought they had been invited to a game of British Bull Dog. They lined up appropriately, ready to dash headlong into the fun that is Eldar munitions.

The game started off pretty badly for me. In true British fashion I blamed the dice, declared that I was underpowered and it was totally not fair. As the game wore on I decided to actually read the rules for my units. I discovered they can do all sorts of nasty things. At which point the tide turned and some of the chitinous beasties succumbed. This didn't stop Mr T's Termagants sweeping, Gallimimus-like, around the objective. Damn.

Gradually a combination of firepower and psychics whittled down the Tyranids. We each lost our warlords. Both our armies looked on in horror as their leaders were hacked down, then shrugged, carried on, and wondered why they took orders from those jerks anyway.

My Warlocks eventually got fed up of the Carnifex who kept rolling around like a puppy in your laundry. They whipped out their witchblades and Magic Dave the Warlock took him down. And everyone cheered.

This was the state of play at the end of the game. Mr T claimed the objective (darn!) but there were plenty of space elves left to boo at the Termagants. Props if you can spot the Hemlock. Very few people can.

All told this was a great game and we're both inspired to paint more. I had finished another five Dire Avengers beforehand and will post photos of them soon. I also realised I'd never shot my Warlocks, so I'll take some snaps of them at the same time. I think I might paint another squad of Rogue Trader Harlequins soon as well so they can become a playable force on their own. Looted Imperial Robots anyone?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Ruiner: You are being played

Ruiner is a forthcoming cyberpunk RPG shooter from Reikon Games. It looks like an awesome mash-up of Akira, Hotline Miami and Daft Punk with a dose of Only God Forgives. Best of all it features some utterly amazing environment artwork on a par Otomo's 1988 anime classic. Some gameplay videos have dropped recently, one of which is below.

I love the bold typography too.

Definitely one to keep an eye on. As the game's strapline declairs, "You are being played."

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Are you American? Then I think you're creepy and kooky.

Lately I've been delving into representations of the gothic in American culture. For us Brits, gothic America is a slightly uncanny place - many of the cultural mainstays are alien and don't resonate in quite the same way. A good example of this is the classic American haunted house - a tall, faded, wooden clapboard structure. We have very few examples of clapboard constructions in the UK so these buildings immediately strike us as 'alien' and 'other'. There is no sense of familiarity about them. Good examples of such houses in pop culture are the Bates house in Psycho, and the Addams Family mansion. It's the latter I want to delve into, particularly because of the franchise's pedigree.

Created by cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938, the fictional family continued to appear in printed cartoons until 1988. They have been the stars of numerous TV shows, cartoons, movies and video games, as well as featuring in other universes like Scooby-Doo. Throughout, their residence has been described as a 'mansion' and its depiction has stayed pretty consistent.

The mansion in a panel by creator Charles Addams 

Another Addams panel, giving a view down from the central tower. This scene with the boiling oil is recreated in the opening of the 1992 movie.

The facade of the mansion from the 60s TV show

The box cover of the 60s plastic model kit by Aurora, later re-issued by Polar Lights

The house in the 1992-3 (I think) cartoon

The set at Toluca Lake for the 1991 and 1993 movie adaptions

The mansion in a SNES video game
(I'm not sure which of the four games this is, all were released by Ocean between 1992 and 1995)

This is an unofficial and speculative plan of the mansion from The site says:
The Addams Family Home Floor Plan was drawn by Mark Bennett.  Mark Bennett has been drawing floor plans of TV homes and offices for years.  The floor plan appeared in the LA Times Magazine on September 10, 1995.
Timber became increasingly uncommon as a construction material in Britain as the centuries passed. We destroyed many of the forests which covered our island. Land was converted to agriculture or the wood used for buildings, industry and the fabrication of ships to fight the French and Spanish. Brick and stone have been common for several hundred years. These materials also have the benefit of being less combustible, as fire was a constant threat in dense, cramped cities like London. America has had no shortage of wood (especially split oak, pine and spruce which are ideal for construction), nor space on which to build and so wood has persisted in vernacular architecture. The clapboard style has come to resonate as historic and is therefore a common signifier of a 'haunted' house. Indeed, the faded grey of the Addams' mansion is a natural consequence of the tannin being washed out of the clapboards as the years pass.

The Addams mansion is in the Empire style - neoclassical inspired by French architecture under Napoleon. This aesthetic was popular in America from about 1810. Charles Addams had probably seen the SK Pierce mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts. This is one of America's most famous 'haunted' houses. Built in about 1880 it later fell into disrepair and was the site of various alleged murders, deaths and suicides.

The SK Pierce Mansion. Its bay windows and central tower make it a likely source for the Addams' residence.

In 2013 Tim Burton was attached to an animated reboot of The Addams Family, but, to date, this hasn't come to fruition. It would be fascinating to see how me might have re imagined the franchise and its mansion, especially given how he overhauled Batman in the 1989 movie. Alas I can't find any concept art for this aborted version.

I'll leave you with this great bit of fan art of the mansion by IrenHorrors:

Monday, 13 February 2017

Land of Hope and Glory? Not in Wisconsin...

Dangerous Minds has just posted an excellent piece on the infamous Black River Falls in Wisconsin. The bleak history of this mining town was profiled in a 1973 book Wisconsin Death Trip and then, later in 1999, an excellent documentary of the same name. Being an avid film buff at university at the time of release, I remember the piece as being quite a landmark. It's shot almost entirely in gorgeous black and white and features a haunting soundtrack.

Someone has uploaded the whole thing to YouTube and I've embedded it below. I'm not sure how long it'll be around so I'd recommend watching it sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Heavens above! An interview with Makoto Kobayashi

I've mentioned mecha designer Makoto Kobayashi before on this blog but haven't written about him in great detail. His work is utterly stunning and up there with the great Kow Yokoyama. Indeed, there's a lot of commonality between their styles. They both represent the best of that 80s niche vogue for organic mecha and tech design.

I've only just found that Forbes published an excellent interview with Kobayashi last year. It's a wonderful read. Amusingly, it reveals that some of his most iconic work was done under pressure when commercial plans went wrong and he was asked to provide solutions.

Kobayashi is perhaps best known for his anime Dragon's Heaven. With its unique design and live-action title sequence it's remembered fondly. He has also been featured in numerous editions of high-end Japanese modelling magazines, including Hyperweapon. In the interview he describes how many of his models were kitbashes he made when asked to pitch to large anime studios. Alas, these magazines are almost impossible to find in hard copy in the West, and one has to make do with the odd scan that pops up online.

I'll leave you with a small selection of his work.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Blood Angel Scout squad

Due to life being a little busy it's taken me rather a while to complete these guys. They are the second iteration of Space Marine Scouts and are some of my favourite ever miniatures. They come from that wonderful period when Games Workshop was pushing into really weird, baroque territory. These guys are a bonkers-crazy mash-up of Landschneckt sleeves, Adam Ant makeup and mohawk hair cuts.

They were actually really tricky to paint for two reasons. These old casts lack some detail along the axis where the two halves of the mould meet. I found myself having to paint in the detail around the bits of armour that cross this axis. I'm so used to the amazing detailing on GW's current plastics that I'm not very practised at this. Second, the wide variety of colours means you can't 'spray and pray' as I've done with most of my other Marines. I opted to zenith spray these guys white over a black base, and then block in the other colours. I didn't do too well with the recess washes so spent a lot of time tidying things up. I got so fed up of this I baulked at painting the slashes on the sleeves black, which in hind sight, I'm disappointed about.

I took inspiration for the colour placement from Fangorn's amazing Advanced Space Crusade cover and some reference shots of the original plastic minis in Bryan Ansell's collection. I thought about adding more contrast to things like the knees, but ended up keeping them mono. I also changed the red shoes and knives because they seem too toy-like.

Photo borrowed from Eldritch Epistles

I've got one of the Made to Order Assassin casts on the go at the moment. The guy's a dream to paint and I'll soon have some polymorphine-fuelled help for the Scouts.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Trainers on film: Highlander

I re watched the original Highlander recently and was reminded that it's both beautiful and cheesy in equal measure. Had the execs spent as much time and money on the script as they did on the production design it would be a masterpiece. Nonetheless it was a sleeper hit whose appeal grew with the home video market of the late 80s.

One of the things I enjoy about 80s movies is the costumes. Partly because my memories of the decade are hazy and movies tend to fill in the blanks, but also I love retro-clones and am always mining for material. Hence I was interested in Russell Nash's trainers, which are featured rather heavily and stand out a mile.

Just to get as much product placement as you can into a shot, you see him crush a Coke can with his lovely sneakers.

After a bit of googling I think Diadora Borg Elites are a good contender for the shoes. The distinctive forward-facing Y-band is a giveaway. Subsequently I found this post on Reddit which seems to agree.

From the website END.:

The signature silhouette of coveted Swedish tennis pro, Bjorn Borg, the Diadora Borg Elite was an instant cult-classic upon its launch back in 1978. Renowned for being as popular on-court as it was off throughout the 1980’s...
This website also has a detailed entry. It seems there was a 'gold' variant of the shoe made from kangaroo leather (and possibly this is the one in the shots on white above), but the movie stills imply that actor Christoper Lambert wore a grey-stripe version.

There's no real reference to the grey-stripe Borg Elites being massively expensive. So what does that say about Lambert's character Nash? That he's fashionable, but deliberately un-ostentatious to keep his profile low. Perhaps with kangaroo skin shoes the Kurgan would have sniffed him out quicker?

On a side note, The Prop Gallery has an entry for Lambert's trench coat, which it lists as custom made. While Nash might have opted for this more subtle form of bespoke tailoring, there may have been a practical reason to avoid an off-the-shelf garment. The coat needed to give the actor great freedom of movement and look good under wind turbines, and no commercial jacket was found to do this.

There can be only one.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Gangs of Commorragh

Games Workshop has just released the excellent Gangs of Commorragh game and I was lucky enough to be on the playtest team when it was in development. Check out a post about the gang I created on the Warhammer Community website.

Here are some more photos of the minis.

These are the handy reference cards that I refer to in the post.

Below are some shots of the gang in action on the playtest mat I made depicting the noxious, smog-filled skies over Commorragh.

Gangs of Commorragh is an awesome game and a great addition to the lore of the Dark Eldar race. You'll find yourself banking at breakneck speed around spires, trying to hang on your target's tail while desperately avoiding being a quarry yourself. Between games you'll be tooling up your gang members in an attempt to squeeze every last bit of ounce of killing power during their next clandestine run. I can highly recommend the life of a gang leader in the Dark City!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Reigns review

Reigns is a casual app game which has been getting great reviews. You play a medieval king who must rule his subjects wisely and avoid the many pitfalls that will beset you. Its mechanic is simple - it's a choose-your-own-adventure with a Tinder-style swipe-left or swipe-right system for making decisions. You have four resources to manage - the Church (bless em'), the people (damn 'em!), your army (yessah!) and your treasury (ker-ching!). When any of these drops to zero, you loose.

What caught my attention about it was its unique art style. It uses super-lo-fi vexels for pretty much everything including the beautiful little portraits of all the protagonists. It's amazing to see how much character can be imbued with so little detail. Each person's appearance is accompanied by a short sound effect (a kind of mumbling pseudo-voice) which further gives them life.

The game isn't easy. You're going to die. A lot. But one of the game's strengths is its entertaining failures. Your death is unfailingly amusing and you're going to end up chuckling to yourself on the bus as your corpse is thrown to the dogs by angry mobs because you let the plague take root in your capital city. You idiot. Indeed, there is a quirky sense of humour that pervades the whole game. The writing reminds me a bit of the excellent Sword & Sworcery - you'll constantly be thinking "Whaaaaat?" to yourself.

It's a great little game and may even teach you something about the complexities of ruling a nation.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Epic Heresy-era Imperial Fists

I was super excited when it was announced that Adeptus Titanicus would be returning. Some friends and I decided to have a game of Epic Armageddon and I put together a small force of Imperial Fists for this purpose.

There's been a small but lively epic scale scene doing cool stuff ever since the game was published and one of the things that excited me about this small project was making the individual units more dynamic. To this end I copied some of the best examples out there by landscaping the bases. This works really well for the troops in particular and I was pleased with how the little vignettes turned out. I have also seen some utterly gorgeous examples of epic scale weathering and, part of the reason I chose Fists, was to enable the chipping to pop. I was pretty satisfied with the results, although I'm not sure how well it works on the dreadnoughts.

I made custom decals for the markings and banners. I really love banners for epic scale as they not only aid gameplay but they seem to capture the ostentatious nature of the Marines. The dinky little battlefield role icons on the vehicle also help to give them scale.

I'm not planning to add to much to the infantry, but I would like to paint up a maniple of titans at some point to support these guys. I am thinking Legio Gryphonicus (because: yellow) but I also love the use of the WWI German lozenge camo on some of the very early published titans so I might incorporate that.