Friday, 28 October 2011

Mantic open day

I will be at the Mantic open day in Nottingham, so if you're around on the 12th come and say hi and celebrate the much-anticipated launch of Warpath!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

More Eldar

Below are some shots of two more squads I shot recently. These were painted before I nailed my airbrush technique, so were done in a more traditional wash-and-highlight manner. This is most noticable on the yellow, which I think is not as good as on their airbrushed counterparts.

I am particularly fond of the Ranger (or "Scout", as they were known back-in-the-day) models. They have always struck me as being some of the best sculpts of their generation. They lack the ungainliness that occasionally hampered some of the guardians from that era. I also like the background to them. Refined Eldar "gone native" and living off the land, tracking and hunting is a great. Their billowing camouflage frock coats and long boots are wonderful.

The Dark Reaper Exarch that I am using as a Guardian squad leader has a pose which is beautifully thought-out. Look at the way his right leg is at the same angle as his Web of Skulls and pistol, while his arms are at ninety degrees to this. The front of his helmet is also the same angle as his left foot. Very satisfying!

These models were shot with the aid of The BoX.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Does anyone out there understand CSS and HTML?

I am trying to build a 'sticky footer' for a little site and it's proving tricky. If you think you might be able to help I'd be ever so grateful if you could drop me a line at mail at tearsofenvy dot com.




A few years ago I came across some very out-of-date polaroid film. The films proceeded to sit around for a few more years until recently when I discovered an early 80s Polaroid camera in my parents' loft. Having loaded the machine I took it off to nearby Shoreditch, swaggering for all the world like some retro-tastic-hipster-@&%*.

The results are quite magical. The ghostly images evoke a London of yester-year. Peering at these little opalescent prints one gets the impression the camera is seeing more than we do. Perhaps the blur is caused by events, past, present and future, resonating inside the whirring, spitting box-of-a-camera?

Sunday, 23 October 2011


I have been getting more and more into sketching this past year. I have not blogged about it for the simple reason that Canon were lining their pockets via enforced obsolescence and they didn't produce a driver for my old scanner. They seem to have got their act together so now I can use my antiquated but perfectly good bit of kit with my iMac.

Below is a sketch of a fox skull I did when I was in Derbyshire earlier this summer.  At the time I was using pen, pencil and traditional watercolours (I have now moved onto the most excellent watercolour pencils). The white is from a Uni-Ball Signo. I discovered them after reading Ben Templesmith sing their praises. These little gel pens are amazing and are a much more portable and user-friendly than traditional brush-paints. I have also tried white Pentel Hybrid Gel pens but the 'flow' does not seem quite so good on them.

The yellow ground you see is the paper from a trusty old Moleskine. I really loved the hue of these pages but, alas, the latest batch of books I've seen seem to have much whiter paper.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Out and about #3

Continuing my series of posts about life in London here is what I have been up to this week...

So let me start by saying that I AM NOT A SCIENTOLOGIST. I also don't have a massive problem with them either. I ended up at an annual Scientology gig in Gatwick by a circuitous means. It was fascinating to see the religion/cult/club/call-it-what-you-will at play. I couldn't for the life of me fathom whether it was a party, recruitment gig or conference. I was equally bemused by the faux-medieval headquarters, the clarion-call aesthetic and their choice of bands. It was, however, An Experience.

I joined my amazingly talented fashion-designer friend Ada Zanditon for her birthday dinner in the Tokyo Diner (confusingly on the border of London's China Town). Amongst my companions were the super-stylish singer Bishi and the ace hairdresser Christian Landon.

Now I know these blurry photos scream "no, really, it IS Bigfoot", but you have to believe me when I say I did go and see best-selling fantasy author Terry Pratchett talk about his new book Snuff. Though he is suffering from Parkinson's disease, he is mentally very agile and still a great wit. He regaled us with numerous anecdotes, including stories about his trip to the set of Hobbiton in New Zealand. "When you go to Australia you sort of have to go to New Zealand too, otherwise they sulk" he explained.

Baker Street Tube station. One of the oldest underground stations in the world.

The City Basin lock in Islington one sunny morning.

I found this amazing structure in Kilburn. It's a Sea Cadet Corps HQ, but bizarrely resembles a church made entirely out of corrugated iron. I would love to learn more about the history of the building.

I took a trip out East past the massive developments underway as part of the Olympic regeneration of the region. The UK is hosting the 2012 games and there has been much grumbling in our press about the cost and alleged benefits (we love to grumble).

A slightly wonky picture of the nice Giraffe cafe where I had breakfast.

A view from Hoxton Street towards the City - the financial centre of London. The City is called such as it is the epicentre from which the capital grew. Weirdly this nexus of wealth borders on the East End which is traditionally the poorest part of London. Over the past decade the wealth has crept out though and the East End is enjoying a new status as the fashionable hub of the capital.

The Big Red rock bar. Many beards and skull t-shirts.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Airsoft Mauser strip and respray

I have never really understood some people’s fascination with guns. Mind you, that goes for people’s fascinations with lots of things (like cars) so I’ve never dwelt on it. However, the gun thing changed when I discovered the Mauser C96 pistol. It’s forward-mounted magazine gives it a wonderful proportion and it looks much more “chunky” than the traditional pistol. I was a bit bemused by the weird resonance I felt looking at photos of C96s, then realised that they were the model upon which Han Solo’s pistol was based. And we all know he shot first…

There are a few companies producing replicas, many quite beautiful, but most rather expensive. After all, if I bought one it was only going to sit on a shelf somewhere. All this changed when I saw a metal-bodied airsoft version at a military fair for £12. It was about 30% too small, but a girl doesn’t want to carry a massive hand-cannon so this was fine. It was, however, bright blue. Damn! I bought it anyway and the helpful man who sold it to me explained that folk often strip such garishly coloured airsofts with a paint stripper going by the cheery name of “Nitromors”.

Off I trotted to the hardware shop to buy some allen keys and Nitromors. “Hold on.” I said to the man at the till, “I want to check the size of the keys on this.” at which point I produced my blue Mauser. “So…what are you going to use that for?” he asked, mentally calculating that paint stripper and blue gun equals repainted-gun-hold-up-heroine. “A…photo…shoot” I replied, before handing over the cash and running out the door.

The trickiest bit of the whole procedure was the dismantling of the gun. It evidently wasn’t intended to be taken apart and I ended up using what brute force I could muster to prize the plastic workings out, shattering much of it in the process. Once I had the metal in component parts I put them in a baking tray and poured on the Nitromors. I had wondered how long it might take to work, and was astounded that it did its job in about a minute flat. I was able to slough-off the peeling paint to reveal the bare metal below. I then sprayed the pieces with matte black acrylic. Reassembly was a veritable Mensa test but I eventually managed to salvage some of the inner workings so the housing still slides open on a spring to reveal the mock-chamber. I darkened the rather garish fake wood with black acrylic paint and was surprised at how authentic it looked.

I am rather proud of my Mauser now in all its flat-black glory. What’s more, I genuinely intend to use it for a photoshoot soon, so watch this space.

Some of the screws on a sketch so I know where they go.

The housing in bits.

Remnants of the disassembly carnage.

The tools of the trade. I moved from left to right as I got more annoyed with the thing.

The magic juice.

The housing now stripped of its comedy paint job.

The components sprayed black. I stuck the two smaller bits to the ends of paint brushes to make the spraying easier.

The fake wooden grip now with its black stain. It looks surprisingly realistic.

The final result. Note there are a few scratches to the paintwork. This was the result of taking the thing on a photo shoot. I don't mind the imperfections and I think they add to the aesthetic.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

V&A exterior

The wealthy London borough of Kensington is home to "museum row". The Natural History Museum (which I blogged about recently), its twin the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum (the V&A) all sit beside one another to form a marching-band of culture and learning.

The genesis of the V&A was the Great Exhibition of 1851 - a colossal cultural show famous for many reasons including the building in which it was housed. The first Director of the V&A helped to plan the Exhibition and the purchase of some of the show's artifacts formed the nucleus of the collection. From its outset the museum was egalitarian in its approach - it introduced gas lighting to allow evening openings as these were the hours that were "most convenient to the working classes".

The museum moved locations several times until it arrived at the site on Brompton Row in 1857. The building was expanded progressively over the years as courts and wings were added. The architecture is in many ways hybrid with Romanesque, Classical and late Gothic features. I do not like it quite as much as the Natural History Museum, but nonetheless it's an imipressive monument to design and culture.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The BoX

I've mentioned The BoX in a few posts before. Here's the detail on how I made the micro-studio to help me photograph miniatures.

A disadvantage I feel every more acutely living in London is that property prices are insane. Consequently the flat I rent is tiny. Setting up to do even the simplest photography shoot takes about half an hour as I extract all the bits from their hidey-holes where I have stuffed them. The same is true of shooting minis, which I had always photographed in a rather traditional “studio product” way with two strobes (that’s "flashes" to you) on lighting stands. I decided there must be an easier and more compact way to achieve the same results, especially as minis are so tiny.

Product photography in its traditional form is all about diffusing the light evenly over the object (let’s leave more exciting stuff at the door for the moment). I reasoned that some sort of box could do this in a compact manner without the need for external lighting stands, diffusers, reflectors or soft boxes. After a fun 40 minutes with a cardboard box, some tape, white paper and a craft knife I had completed the prototype of The BoX (white version). The schematic below summarises how it works. It can be used with both a traditional anglepoise lamp or a flash (as long as the flash is remotely triggered). The suspended, domed “mezzanine” of tin foil reflects the light back up, it then bounces around the white walls before falling, diffused, on the mini.

I was stunned at how well the device worked from the outset. As I mentioned, I use a flash with a remote trigger to light mine. There are advantages and disadvantages to using a flash or continuous light source (like a lamp). The flash means you can hand-hold the camera but the lack of light in the box before you shoot can sometimes make focusing a pain. A lamp, on the other hand, will give you light to focus by but will generate a lot of heat and you’ll need to lock down your camera on a tripod for a long exposure. Seeing as I’m trying to avoid setting up lots of kit, I opted for the flash.

Next on the agenda is to make a second version which will be for shooting minis against black. I suspect this will be a lot more difficult as getting the balance between the mini being well-lit and the background not showing any highlights is always tricky.

A view from the front, with the front flap lifted for access. You can see the tinfoil dome. Crinkling the foil helps to diffuse the light.

A view from the top showing the flash. The thing to its left is the remote receiver which links to a trigger unit in my DSLR's hotshoe.

The BoX, closed, ready for shooting. I used a box which held reams of A4 printer paper. This proved to be the perfect size.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Out and about #2

This is what I have been up to and where over the last couple of weeks...

This little fellow has set up home outside my office window, which is pretty impressive given I'm three floors up. We spend a lot of time eying each other up - I wonder when he'll try and bust in so he can attack me.

The two photos above are of an amazing puppet performance I went to see with my pal Tomki. Boris and Serge are two diminutive "unspecific Eastern Europeans" who spend their nights fighting, drinking and, most bizarrely, reenacting David Lynch's The Elephant Man. Which is pretty awesome.

St Paul's Cathedral. Nice to know it's still standing.

Postman's Park - a raised burial ground in the City of London.

A set of Victorian mansions at the end of Columbia Road in East London. This whole area was a slum (or "rookery") until it was cleared in the late 1800s. I seem to remember a woman philanthropist built these dwellings when the area was gentrified.

ROA's rabbit graffiti on the Hackney Road in East London. The Council threatened to remove this mural but the decision was, thankfully, overturned following overwhelming public support to preserve the piece.

The Cass Art flagship store in Islington. I love this shop and it's where I go to get most of my supplies. It's got three floors of arty-awesomeness!

A late night opening at London's National Portrait Gallery. My friend Pigalle was running a night there called "The Glamor Factory" to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition of portraits of vintage Hollywood stars. Here my friend Mam'elle Maz draws around her hand on the 'walk of fame'. "Are you going to put this up when it's done?" I asked one of the attendants. "No, we're just going to chuck it in the bin." she replied, deadpan. Oh well...

Anthony and Miss Miranda at the NPG.

Bird boxes in Islington.