Sunday, 31 July 2011

Uzay - Star Wars knock-offs

Today the random clickerty-click world of the internet revealed to me the awesomeness that are Star Wars knock-offs. These are known generally as "Uzay". Uzay is the Turkish word for "space" and it graced the imitation figure's card designs from that region. Uzay sprung up in countries where Fox could not, or chose not to, license Star Wars merchandise (typically Eastern bloc nations and Turkey). Because nature abhors a vacuum (and loves R2-D2) enterprising locals began producing copies of figures, games, books and anything else which they could plaster Lucas' IP onto.

Although the figures themselves range from the interesting to the hilarious, what has really grabbed me is the card designs for the Turkish imitations. The designers produced simple, low-fi layouts based on the official schemes. Rather than using stills from the films as the main artwork as their licensed competitors did, they instead shot the figures themselves. These portraits are extremely pleasing and often feature refreshingly plain cycloramas or minimalist landscapes. They remind me of the portraits which graced the Zoid boxes in the range's early days (see the bottom image).

In a world where the 80s are mined with knowing fondness, Ashley Wood's ultra-hip company 3A has based the cards for their figures on Kenner's early designs too. The modern efforts, however, resemble Uzays more than anything. Also, one cannot look at the Uzay figures and not think of Suckadelic's modern, ironic take on the genre.

In the words of Yogurt, "moi-chandize".

Friday, 29 July 2011

Cleo and the collar

Later that night it all went a bit Terry Richardson...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ian Miller - an introduction

Ian Miller is one of the most prolific, successful and widely-published illustrators of the late 20th century. In my mind his oeuvre sits beside that of the amazing John Blanche as, perhaps, a cackling two-headed crow might sit beside a robotic floating skull. They have both contributed heavily to illustrative aspect of RPG and tabletop games and were teamed briefly in their dual-monograph Ratspike.

Miller was born in 1946 but the post-war austerity of his childhood was eased by his mother's involvement in theatre. Her dressing-up box was an endless source of entertainment. As a child he would draw scenes populated by Apaches, Egyptians and so forth, which culminated in him going on to study at Central St Martin's School of Art (arguably Britain's foremost art college). His trademark style of tightly woven, mesh-like pen-and-ink lines evokes memories of the great engravers like Durer while the stark tones hark back to German Expressionism.

His body of work is huge and has been a defining voice in late 20th century science fiction and fantasy visual culture. It is now impossible to think of Gormenghast without remembering Miller's depictions of the rotting edifice or to read Lovecraft and not see his bulbous, amorphous, vegetable forms. It was Miller who was key to defining the bleak aspects of Warhammer 40,000. While some of the illustrations in the original Rogue Trader rulebook are straight out of the pages of a happy-go-lucky 80s sci-fi comic, Miller's plates for the tome are populated with broken, sallow-faced infantrymen, half-starved and shivering from shell shock. In the two original Realm of Chaos bibles (which were a landmark in quality and volume) Miller's contribution stands proud. His illustrations are rightly given pride-of-place opening chapters and they nail the surreal, terrifying and demoniac world that is described. His rendering of the Chaos icons are canon and still used to this day.

I shall leave you with a small selection of Miller's work. This post is the first in a series on Miller and in the future I will write more about his publications, examine specific works and tell you about the severed leg wrapped in string he gave me.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Volomir's High Elf Sea Guard stage-by-stage

I came across Volomir's excellent stage-by-stage article on how he painted his Sea Guard. It was of particular interest as he uses an airbrush extensively during the process, and talks at length about how the tool is incorporated into his work flow. I am rather enamored by airbrush use in general, so it was fascinating to see how Volomir works. I was surprised to see how little masking he did, and how quickly he achieved stunning results on metals with the thing.

Check out some of his WIP shots below.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


I am sharing my increasingly regular stays in Huntingdon with a rather virulent vine. The thing has grown with preternatural speed over the last few weeks with all the heat and rain. I am rather fascinated by the grasping tendrils it throws out, which grope for footholds in a manner which is as terrifying as it is gentle.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The 2011 Chap Olympiad

Last weekend saw the return of the satirical Chap magazine annual summer knees-up. Their 'Olympiads' (which I have mentioned briefly before) mix irreverent and bizarre sporting events with the genteel atmosphere of a traditional English garden party. At least, they do when its sunny. Which it was very definitely not this year.

The heavens opened an hour before the event began and, bar one brief hour of respite, it rained throughout the whole day. But, in the great tradition of the British 'stiff upper lip' the Chaps and Chapettes continued with grand resolve and much fun was had. I aided Mr Gustav Temple with the ceremonies and was proud to carry the Olympiad tobacco pipe and then award the medals at the end. The winners were those who had shown the most tenacity and good-sportsmanship at contests like the arduous Moustache Tug-of-War, the high-octane Briefcase Phalanx and the frankly bizarre Shouting at Foreigners.

Although the competitions are delightfully raucous the real pull of the event is the crowd itself. An astute friend pointed out that the Olympiad is one of those rare parties where the men out-dress the women. There was a stunning array of tweed, Raj-era dress uniforms, Shadow-esque evil magicians and blazer-and-boater combos, many of which were complemented by equally adventurous facial hair.

Below are some of my best shots from the day. I would like to thank Gustav and B&H events for kindly inviting me along and I salute all those Chaps and Chapettes who cocked-a-snook at the weather and made the day such fun.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Finished work: Dwarf King's Hold 2 tile artwork

Now DKH2 is out in the wild I would like to share with you some of the artwork I created for the project. Below is a selection of my floorplans. You can see more on my website here.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Lolita in Wonderland II

I tangentially mentioned the irregular East London Lolita party in a previous post. I was fortunate enough to attend the sequel recently and took some snaps for you all to see. The Cosplay/Lolita movement is gaining more of a foothold in London and I increasingly kids out and about with the tell-tale wigs, robes and (let's face it) brave faces.

Lolita in Wonderland, as it is dubbed, was held in the excellent Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green. Most of the revelers seemed to be drinking tea as they paraded around in their eye-catching outfits. I made friends with the severed head of some poor animal and managed to escape without my super-cute anime sidekick being mauled.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Retro Royal Wedding

I am rather late in posting these, but if you live on planet earth and have an internet connection you will probably have heard that the second-in-line to the English throne got married at the end of April. Yeah, I know it was a while ago, but I've been busy.

I allowed myself some cautious celebration (I don't know the couple in question personally and am ambivalent about the whole idea of a monarchy) and joined a retro street party on the day. It was actually a really lovely experience being with people who just wanted to have fun and get together. As I cycled through the city to reach my party, the mood was one of genuine good-will towards one's fellow man. Whatever brings about such a positive spirit cannot be a bad thing.

Wills & Kate - don't know you but, in the unlikely event you see these, enjoy.

Patriotic beetroot and Dalek cake. Genius.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Grey Matter Musings

I stumbled across the work of the super-talented Brandon Palmer who operates under the banner of Grey Matter Musings. He paints armies. Big armies. Extremely well.

Check out his site to see the full range of his portfolio. His colour schemes are consistently pleasing, restrained and often humorous while his detailing is fantastic. He uses an airbrush and achieves amazing results.

I found out about his work as he is offering a DVD which profiles his techniques through CMON.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Mantic Games Open Day

Yesterday saw the second Open Day held by the tabletop games publisher Mantic. I have worked with them on three of their titles and they kindly invited my along to talk about my contributions to the visitors. The event was held in their new offices in Nottingham and drew a large and enthusiastic crowd. Things were particularly exciting because the event marked the official release of the second Dwarf King's Hold boxed set (suffixed Green Menace) and provided some sneak peeks of the forthcoming sci-fi game Warpath.

Rules authors, painters, sculptors and the Mantic staff were on-hand to talk about their work and folk came from as far afield as Germany to be a part of the event. There was no shortage of things to do as the packed schedule featured a painting competition, demo games, seminars and tours of the warehouse (which, Ronnie told me, was originally built to make coffins!).

I am not going to 'spill the beans' about Mantic's forthcoming projects as I am sure the forums will do a good job of reporting things. Instead I'll leave you with some snaps I took throughout the day. Big thanks to Chris Palmer for doing such a good job of organising the event.

The new Dwarf King's Hold; Green Menace boxed set contents

Jake Thornton, writer of both DKH 1 & 2, talking about the games

The Golem painting studio were on hand to give hints and tips

Alessio Cavatore, author of the Warpath and King's of War rules giving a demo

My pitch. Things got busier. Really.

The Mantic crew at the pub after the event