Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Jon Law's miniature photos

I have just discovered the miniature photos of Jon Law via the Games Workshop website.

Jon takes amazing shots of GW minis shrouded in mist and often with incidental lighting. What really strikes me about his shots is that, unlike the photos that appear in the Forgeworld books, Jon makes no attempt to disguise the fact that his miniatures are just that. Their bases are present and correct, and sometimes the edges of the games tables are visible. This makes his images somewhat more 'honest' than those which strive to disguise the scale of their subjects.

Added to this, he has a wonderful sense of composition, lighting and colour. I love the way his minis loom out of the mist. He uses silhouette to great effect too, especially on his 'Nid images.

I highly recommend you check out his flickr set.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

V for Vendetta, Alan Moore and me

'Good evening, London. I thought it time we had a little talk...'

I first got seriously into comics (or 'graphic novels' if they're pretentious) when I was at university. I had always been turned off them as a child as the glossy, beautifully rendered covers raised my expectations to a level where the interior artwork unceasingly disappointed. Also, I find the super hero genre baffling and that renders most of the American and British output incomprehensible to me. My uni friends recommended The Greats of the genre, and so I unploughed through the cartoon canon. Alan Moore's work was, predictably, on the list. Thus I encounter V, the verbose and poetic anti-hero with his vendetta. I was struck by the iconography of the tale - the graphic graffiti he would leave, his calling-card roses and, most of all, his impassive, sneering mask.

I was indifferent to the V for Vendetta film when it was released. All of my 'Christ - why did they have to fuck it up so badly?' bile had been consumed by the god-awful From Hell and League films. What annoyed me most, though, was that Time Warner produced a cheap V mask, which sold rather well. While at uni I spent a lot of my (ample) spare time making masks. There was a vacform machine in the architecture workshops and I put it to use on molds I had sculpted. I produced a rather good V mask and for about six years I was the proud (and slightly smug) owner of the only V mask I knew of. And then along came Time Warner. I was pissed off. Not only had they messed up a story which had a lot of meaning for me, they were now churning out masks which meant I wasn't the only person with one.

The reason for this rant is that the Guardian as just published a fascinating piece on Alan Moore's reaction to the phenomena of the V masks being used by anti-capitalist protesters. I would highly recommend reading the full article rather than just relying on my ramblings, but in short he has mixed emotions about the situation. However, he has a lot more reason to be pissed off about than I do and he's clearly more contemplative and measured in his approach than I am. Consequently, I feel I ought to stop whining and dust off my V mask and give it some air-time.

'Everybody is special. Everybody.'

My V mask. This is actually a really bad shot taken with an old digital camera about six years ago. It looks a bit better in real life. The lens aberration distorts it somewhat here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

John Blanche's desk!!!

I have a very special post for you today. John Blanche (=[The Man]=) has sent through a photo of his desk for your enjoyment.

I am sure you'll all be as surprised as I was to see he does not work in a crumbling attic full of cobwebs, bottled homunculi and the bones of heretics. He explains that he hates clutter and tries to pair his kit only down to the essential components. The desk itself is a simple oak affair topped by an Edwardian teacher's writing box.  Beside this sits his MacBook Pro and a wooden tea box in which he keeps his miniatures. He prefers to paint by natural north light, but has an anglepoise daylight lamp for occasional use.

This spartan set-up is complemented by a general lack of miniatures on display. JB explains that he has gradually reduced his collection over the years and retains only a few pieces. On the wall hangs an illustration by Ian Miller, 13th century vellum Bible page and a Frederick the Great-era cavalry pistol. In front of the desk is a hard wooden stool. JB doesn't use this work station for illustration - he prefers to stand while painting as it evades problems like neck and back ache.

I hope you've enjoyed this insight into JB's working practices and thanks the The Rat King himself for sending though this enlightening image.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

New work: World of Twilight faction logos

Below are the three faction logos I have recently finished for the talented Mike Thorp who has created The World of Twilight game.

Mike supplied rough sketches for these, and I fleshed them out and rendered them. I am really proud of the textures in these.

I am endlessly impressed with Mike's work and can't wait to see what he produces next.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Awesome steampunk WWI Gundam

Check out the amusingly named Mousemuffins' steampunk Gundam WWI kit on Cool Mini Or Not?

Monday, 21 November 2011

The church of St John

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I visited Nottingham I stayed next to a ruined haunted church. I spent two lovely morning, bell, book and camera in hand exploring the roofless edifice in search of lost souls.

The silent stones are walled off from the hotel and road and the atmosphere is quiet and still. Ivy covers the masonry. There are signs of human activity here and there. A custodian obviously mows the grass in the graveyard and someone had lit tea light candles, the remains of which were still sitting in niches in the door jambs.

A woman in white allegedly haunts the ruin. It would appear she is not too lonely as the specter of a man has been seen at the altar. There are also ghosts in the nearby woods and in the neighboring hall itself.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ghost costume sketch

I have just completed this sketch of a ghost costume. Clearly I've missed Hallowe'en but in my head IT'S ALWAYS HALLOWEEN! Or maybe I could use it as a Christmas costume and be the Ghost of Christmas Past.

It's based on a wonderful mini from Smart Max. As soon as I saw the sculpt, I thought it'd make a great real-life costume. Not only is the figure dynamic, but its design taps into the archetypal hallmarks of a phantom - chains, billowing white dress, candelabra etc.

I'm not very happy with the borders of my illustration. Watercolour pencils, although portable and handy, are not good when you need to cover areas of more than an inch or so square. In addition, and as I've mentioned before, the pages of Moleskines don't hold liquids that well. Nonetheless, I do enjoy having a Moleskine as a repository for my work. They do make versions with watercolour block pages, so I may investigate.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Emperor's Will review

I am shame-faced that I have not managed to post this review until now, but better late than never...

The Emperor's Will is the new art book from GW's Black Library publishing arm. It should be considered the latest John Blanche portfolio, which is the perspective from which I will write this review. Happily it is also a contender for the title of "best Blanche tome".

The book is a hefty hardback volume typical of the new standard of book design emerging from the Nottingham studio. The binding is solid, the paper heavy, the print quality excellent and it even has a place-marker ribbon. Physically, therefore, its a winner and much better than, say, The Inquisitor Sketchbook.

The book profiles the servants of the Imperium through Blanche's own drawings and other artists' work he has selected (including Clint Langley, Kevin Chin, Dave Gallagher and all the other GW heavyweights). Blanche's offerings are the most numerous and comprise over a half of the book. Most (but I don't think all) of the work has been seen before, but these reproductions are enlarged and sometimes in colour for the first time.

On the subject on enlargement, the layout of the book is similar to other new GW titles. It eschews the bordered and maximal  design of the early noughties in favour of the full-bleed images and uncluttered layout we've seen in more recent publications. In fact, it takes this to an extreme. There is almost no text and we are simply treated to page-after-page of full-bleed and often full-colour artwork free from annotation and even page numbers. The designers have made the novel decision to crop many works to emphasise the Imperial characters. Consequently the overall compositions are sometimes lost, but readers get a refreshingly close-up of the artwork revealing brush strokes, pen lines and the smudge of ink. As a designer myself, the insight this magnification provides is startling.

Though newer images dominate the compilation, there are drawings dating back to the Rogue Trader era of the 40K universe (including seminal images by the likes of Will Rees and Jes Goodwin). Some of Blanche's original plates for the first 40K rulebook are present, as are a few of his pencil sketches for the Confrontation project that followed. These latter images are reproduced larger than ever before making the tome an essential addition to the library of a Blanche fan.
In short the book is a triumph and I hope we'll see more art books in this vein. An interesting footnote is that I have just noticed an iPad version is available, perhaps marking the first of what might prove more regular forays into digital-art-compilations from GW.

Friday, 18 November 2011

New geek furniture

Purple Pawn has an excellent post about furniture for geeks, including some wonderful miniature cabinets.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Adventures in Nottingham

Last weekend was the culmination of a slightly epic trip to Nottingham. Here is what I got up to...

On my way there I encountered this odd little face peering at me from a motorway bridge. Is the M25 regressing to a pre-Christian state of earth-worship?

Before I checked into my hotel I stopped at the amazing Anchor Supplies. They sell all manner of forces surplus kit. Visiting their stores (they have two) is always akin to entering an Alladin's cave of awesome hardware, clothes and gear. I picked up a lovely shemagh scarf.

I stayed in the amazing Colwick Hall (pronounced "colic"). The place is reputedly haunted by several ghosts. The autumnal morning were very damp and, as I emerged for breakfast, the mist rolled in and I could well believe it shrouded all manner of specters and ghasts.

I was delighted to discover that next to the hotel stood the ruined church of St John. I spent two wonderful mornings looking for undead minions amidst the broken stones and shattered graves. I'll post more photos of the church and the hotel once I've processed them.

I met up with my good friend Spyglass and we spent a fascinating day exploring the fringes of science and nature. We began our quest at the Hemlock Stone. This is a massive outcrop of sedimentary rock which looms atop a wooded hill just to the South West of Nottingham. It is reputed to have been a place of Druid worship and has been a central in local folklore ever since.

We then made our way to the village of Gotham. This village has an interesting history and is almost certainly the origin of the name of Batman's home city. We huddled away from the cold and damp amidst the warm glow of the Cookoo Bush Inn.

Upon our return to the city we stopped off at GW HQ and caught up with John Blanche and Jes Goodwin in Bugmans. I became increasingly distracted by a pile of boxes in the corner of the bar which looked remarkably like Old Skool supplements GW released in the early 90s. Closer inspection proved my geek detector reliable. Staff had discovered the stock in an archive room and were selling off the copies!

Saturday saw the much-anticipated release of Warpath - Mantic's new sci-fi tabletop game. I joined the Mantic crew in their Barker Gate HQ and spent a lovely day chatting to fans, showing off the tiles to Dwarf King's Hold 3 and watching the demos. It was great to hang out with hobby luminaries like Jake Thornton, Alessio Cavatore, the Golem crew, Bob Naismith, Ninjabread and Leonidas (the publisher of Ravage, who was over from France for the day). Ronnie was on fine form and I can assure you that the contents of Mantic's secret room are very exciting.

All in all it was a wonderful trip.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

=][=MVNDA Gropius portrait

Last night I finished the portrait for Gropius, one of the characters in the Leviathan Cycle of my =][=MVNDA project. I was pretty pleased with him so thought I'd post the image before I manipulate it.

He was drawn in my Moleskine sketchbook, hence the yellow cast to the paper. I tried to use Winsor & Newton inks to colour him at first, but was swiftly reminded how badly they sit on the paper in Moleskines. The pigment leeches into the paper and blotches horribly. The blue is the result of this aborted experiment. I instead turned to my newly beloved watercolour pencils (Derwent Inktense). They seem to work better as they require less fluid and so don't penetrate the surface quite as much. This was also my first use of a black pen for some time (a Steadtler 0.05mm liner). I usually use a brown Pilot but now I'm using colour more black seems more satisfying. The white is from a wonderful Uni-Ball Signo.

I hope to post the composited card soon.

Monday, 14 November 2011

I made Ninjabread...

Curis at the awesome (and slightly bonkers) Ninjabread has uploaded an excellent review of the Mantic Warpath launch party. He has seen fit to immortalize me as a hybrid of Doctor Who and Lady Gaga. Now that's something!!!

Check out his awesome site and I highly recommend his mental Ork Genestealer Cult Clan.

My review of the day (and my other adventures in Nottingham) is coming soon.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Speedfreek's Harlequinade Macabre

I happened across the Warseer WIP thread detailing Speedfreek's amazing Harlequin conversions. He's been building a massive Harle force using only plastic components (mainly Dark Eldar, but with lots of other Elf and Eldar bits worked in). I am sure you'll agree that both his modelling work and wonderfully pastel paint jobs are stunning.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Slow posting

I will be away for a few days, attending the Warpath launch party amongst other things.

I'll post again next week.

In the meantime here's a wonderful vintage featurette on a town not far from where I grew up. Check out those clothes and haircuts!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Out and about #4

This time of year is always busy as there are so many birthdays and parties to go to as well as festivals like Hallowe'en and Guy Fawkes night. Here's what I've been up to...

Sunday saw the return of Kashpoint, the flamboyant London club night which takes on the UK mantle of the Club Kids scene which originated in New York in the late 80s. Completely bonkers costumes are de-rigueur. 

On Saturday I was totally blown away by the Glitch Mob at their gig in Brixton in South London.

My Hallowe'en culminated in the a wonderful night at White Mischief - the UK's premier Steampunk party. The place was full of undead nurses, sinister fortune-tellers and masked pulp heroes.

In the day on the Hallowe'en weekend I performed with The House of Fairy Tales. We entertained children with a humorous mock seance where the kids were encouraged to leave the circle and become a ghost to scare the remaining participants.

The previous weekend I was lucky enough to attend The Minotaur show in the Old Vic Tunnels under Waterloo station. Strange and nefarious exhibits filled the cavernous brick-lined spaces and loomed at us out of the darkness.

I went to go and see a stage adaption of Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror. I'll post a review soon. Don't get your hopes up.

Some elegant Georgian villas in London's Isington district.

One of the few remaining vintage stores in London. Many have been priced out by rising property costs. This one is on the Holloway Road.

I spent a really lovely evening with my pal Tomki in this pub in Islington after work. Pubs are an essential feature of British social life and the best are lovely and cosy places to be on winter nights.

It rains a lot here in the UK. We occasionally get nice rainbows though.

The sketches from an informal life-drawing group I attend. I must post scans of my recent sketches soon.

The Atlantis bookshop in the Holborn area of London. This is (probably) the oldest occult bookshop in the UK and has an amazing range of titles covering all aspects of the subject. There are guides to vampires, Egyptian mysticism, esoterica and wicca all side-by-side in a wonderful traditional shop interior. The staff are very friendly too.

A ghost walk in London's Bloomsbury district. The area is a lot more haunted than I ever images it might be!

Two pigeons loitering outside my office window.

The Russell Square festival featured some wonderful outdoor installations, like this peotry parade with hundreds of streamers fluttering in the Autumn breeze.

These two photos are from a pair of exhibitions at London's excellent Wellcome Collection. One was of Mexican religious votives - these were offerings made to saints to beg for and give thanks for interventions in times of need. The other was a fascinating display of pre-20th century charms. Such trinkets were very common. They took various forms (like pierced coins, bits of string and so forth) and were believed to ward off sickness and afford protection against bad luck. The culture of charms was strongest amongst the very poor. Consequently few records survive and so little is known about the conventions and customs surrounding these little items.