Monday, 30 January 2012

RIP Eiko Ishioka

Eiko Ishioka is rightly regarded as one of the late 20th Century's greatest costume designers. She died earlier this month, but leaves a legacy which will ensure she is remembered for years to come.

Born in Japan in 1939 she first designed costumes for the screen in 1985 for Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. It was her work on Coppola's flawed but beautiful Bram Stoker's Dracula that garnered her international acclaim. Her re-interpretation of what had become a hackneyed gothic yarn as an opulent, baroque and oriental fairytale rightly won her an Oscar. Her two most memorable costumes from the movie are the vampiric Lucy with her enormous wedding-cake ruff, and the mortal Dracula's strange suit of armour (resembling a skinned wolf with its muscles exposed). She later went on to work with Tarsem Singh on four movies - The Cell, The FallImmortals and Mirror Mirror.

I happen to know someone who worked closely with Ishioka for some years. She was reputedly a challenging colleague who concentrated on the conceptual side of the process. As a result, was reliant on a large support network to realise her complex designs. This would occasionally lead to tension as she sometimes failed to understand the technical constraints which her artizans faced. However, it cannot be denied that her creations were inspired, original and memorable. Cinema has lost one of its few superstar costume designers who could pull crowds with her name alone.

Via Muddy Colours

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Music: The Kiss by Randy Edelman

From the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

GMUNK's work for TRON Legacy

Amazing work from the super-talented GMUNK for TRON Legacy.

Music: The End by The Doors

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Thanks for the memories - the state of photography today

I have just read this fascinating article about the use of Citizen Journalists (CJs - essentially untrained, voluntary contributors) particularly in the field of photography. The piece reports the decision of a regional UK newspaper to reduce its photography staff, while setting up platforms for the public (the CJs in question) to submit photos. The argument cited is that it will encourage “news and pictures they wouldn’t otherwise get.” The comments section below the article is, unsurprisingly, filled with the howlings and gnashing of professionals who are feeling the icy hand of death.

The noble profession of photography has taken a beating in recent years. First it has witnessed the rise of the digital camera (and, latterly, the ‘phone cam), which has opened up the art to the masses. Hand in hand with this has come the ability for anyone with an internet connection and few scruples to steal and re-use photos ad infenitum. There was then the death of Diana which demonised the press photographer. Finally (and this is perhaps local to the UK) the new terror laws have put restrictions on taking photographs in public. All in all, things aren’t looking great for image-makers the world over.

I do agree that copyright infringement is a bad thing, particularly when self-employed small business men and women are the targets. I also think the Stalinist terror laws should be relaxed and happily there seems to be progress on this front. However, I approve of putting the tools of the trade into the hands of the masses and curbing the behaviour of the papparazzi. The first of these is something I believe in passionately. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it might strengthen the profession. Photographers will have to ‘up their game’ in the years to come if they want to make any money. We should ignore the bleatings because a business model no longer functionioning is not a good argument to regress to the old status quo. I think everyone should be able to enjoy photography and, if the amateur takes a great photo then it should only serve to riase the bar for those who want to get paid for it.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Check out my Gimme public firehose

Gimme Bar is proving to be one of my favourite new toys. I am amassing a good stash of stuff on my public album (known as the 'firehose') so check it out here.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Miniatures at the Wellcome Institute

Last week my friend FB and I spent a wonderful evening listening to a talk on miniatures at London's Wellcome Institute. The writer, philosopher, academic and thinker Stephen Connor delivered an excellent lecture on "the miniature" in all its forms and uses. His observations were witty and bolstered by humorous examples from pop culture, including The Simpson, Fantastic Voyage and The Twilight Zone.

His talk covered a lot of ground and his arguments were manifold. I won't try and recap the whole thing in this post, but I will touch on some of his more interesting points. He reasoned that we find accurate scale miniatures fascinating because they do not occur in nature. We are used to the laws of physics determining that large animals have stocky legs and small eyes, while small creatures have thin legs and large eyes (the result of the way gravity and light behave). Therefore when we see a reduction of a thing in perfect proportion, it is both unusual and unnatural. Interestingly, terms of endearment are usually in the diminutive - "You are my little flower" being a good example.

Connor explored the established observation that miniatures give us a sense of God-like mastery. This can often lead to a desire to be 'in' a miniature. We are able to create models of places and buildings and we have a tendency to want to be in these tiny locations. However, he extrapolated from this that our bodies (which, of course, begin as miniatures) are one of those rare things we both regard as possessing and which we are 'in'.

Food for thought...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hitler Moves East - war in miniature

I remember coming across David Levinthal's work with miniatures when I was at University. He is most famous for his fine art photographs exploring the themes of voyeurism, pop culture and media in America with the use of miniatures. However, it was only recently that I discovered his collaborative book Hitler Moves East: A Graphic Chronicle, 1941-43 (with Garry Trudeau) on the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

I would like to think I am fairy familiar with photographs of miniatures, but it took me a moment to clock that the Wehrmacht soldiers in this book are all tiny models. The authors studied archival material from the period in order to capture the look of vintage photographs. They cleverly hide their subjects' scale by playing with blurring, exposure and cropping. Their images have the look of the hurried snaps taken by a twitchy combat photographer from the German press corps.

I was struck by the similarities between Hitler Moves East, and the Chapman Brothers' Hell sculpture. It seems war (and in particular the atrocities of the Second World War) hold a fasination for artists working in miniature. The very male interests of conflict, collection and cataloguing are able to explored very satisfyingly through military miniatures.


Friday, 20 January 2012

Music: I Put A Spell on You - SPLATINUM dubstep remix

Genius or sacrilege? You decide.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Music: What's a Girl To Do by Bat for Lashes

When I was young BMX rides were never this surreal...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Dennis Wheatley's house

The British author Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977) is remembered fondly for his lurid novels of witchcraft, satanism and gothic horror. I say 'fondly' because his work is nowhere near as popular today as it was during his lifetime. His stories of the devilish dabblings of the gentry in placid inter-war England seem somewhat hackneyed by modern standards.

His fall from (dis)grace has been variously laid at the feet of several phenomena. His work was popular until the 1960s and the Hammer Horror adaptation of The Devil Rides Out is rightly regarded as a classic of British horror movies. However, his stories became less attractive in the 70s when the horror market shifted its focus from the literal to the psychological. The devil and his minions were now feared because of the havoc they wrecked from within. Rosemary carried her blasphemous baby, Leatherface and his clan were clearly insane and Freddy was just a dream. In addition, it has been argued that Wheatley had been so successful in embedding his ideas in the public consciousness that it's hard for modern audiences to see just how innovative and ground-breaking his work was.

Wheatley settled in a house called Clinton in the London borough of Lambeth. When he lived there the road on which it sat was gated and guarded by a porter and it was in impressive edifice. It looked like one of the wealthy abodes he liked to include in his tales - a grand aspect, neoclassical ornamentation, balconies and very English gables. Sadly it is no longer inhabited and has now fallen into disrepair. It is a forlorn sight, and its sad end perhaps mirrors the fate of the stories penned by its most memorable occupant.

Sources here and here and thanks to Paulo for putting me on the trail.

Music: My Body's a Zombie for You by Dead Man's Bones

From the amazing band founded by actor Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Lana Sator - ace explorer

Ms Sator has come to the attention of both the 'urb-exp' community and Russian authorities alike. She is a daring Urban Explorer whose exploits have highlighted the terrifying lack of security surrounding one of Russia's rocket factories.

The plucky girl broke into one of NPO Energomash's factories outside Moscow in order to explore the site and take photographs. This seems to have been possible simply by jumping one fence. Which is mildly disturbing given that the site houses some pretty serious looking kit.

Her photographs of the installation are truly awesome. They resemble something out of Alien or Brazil. I love the way the flourescent strip lights give a lurid green cast to their surroundings, while dust hangs in the air of the flooded chambers.

It seems the Russian authorities are pursuing the girl for breaches of security. I guess the moral of the story is: Don't try this at home, kids.

Via Gizmodo

Monday, 16 January 2012

Mantic Elves

Following my last mini post I thought I'd show you some Mantic elves I painted using the techniques I was honing on my Marauders.

These fellows were very quick and satisfying to paint. I began with a white undercoat, then carefully applied Citadel Badab Black wash to the recesses. This gives you a black-lined look. I then washed Winsor & Newton inks over this. There was very little other work. I did wipe off some of the W&N from the uppermost areas when it was dry, which one is able to do by virtue of it not being permanent.

I was really keen to keep the colour schemes simple. I think they work well, and I like the way the basing on the uppermost chap matches his accessories.

I enjoyed playing with the bases a bit, giving them metallic rims and then adding glitter and Swarovski stones. This gives them an Old Skool dungeon-crawl feel!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

threeA cosplay

If the name Ashley Wood is not one that you recognise, then shame on you! The Australian artist has carved out his niche as one of the world's most sought-after creatives in the field of comic and concept art. He is perhaps most famous for his depictions of clunky-but-believable robots and their scantily-clad female companions in his trademark loose, impressionistic, impasto style.

Mr Wood teamed up with a Hong Kong production house in 2008 to launch threeA - a brand of luxury action figures. These creations are at the cutting edge of the trend of high-end toys for adult collectors. Many are very "Weird War II" in feel and have a wonderfully ragged look. My favourite is the threeA Barguest de Plume. And because I'm me I decided to put together an outfit based on the figure.

I bagged a French WWII gas mask, pouches and fatigues from a military fair and combined these with a tube and a sallet-style helmet I just happened to have hanging around (if you ever get to visit my abode you'll see how plausible this is). I also brought my newly repainted Mauser pistol with me. I joined forces with my esteemed photographer-friend Tom Medwell and took a trip to Epping Forest to brave the midges (and scare the locals) for a shoot one afternoon.

You can see the results below. Tom got some wonderful images and I love the slight vignetting and the desaturated tone. Thanks Tom!

Friday, 13 January 2012

=][=MVNDA Valerius mini and proxy

I have finally got around to finishing the mini for the character Valerius in my =][=MVNDA campaign. Click here to see his background entry.

Although he turned out somewhat different from how I expected, I am still pretty pleased with him. The doner models are a Mordheim gang member and an Empire pistolier. It's a bit hard to get a good photo of him as he is so dynamic that a single angle doesn't really do him justice.

I painted him using the techniques Steve Buddle has been at the vanguard of. Viz - the awesome Citadel washes of fairly flat base colours with selective highlights. I was very pleased with how well his padded tunic came out - the Gryphonne Sepia provided some wonderful shading. The hue of his flowing jacket was based on the colour scheme employed by the great Migsula on his XX LEGION marines. I loved the way the dirty turquoise transitions to a lurid yellow.

Valerius' proxy is a rank pip from a military uniform.

Portrait to coming soon.

Music: Cat People (Putting Out Fire) by David Bowie

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Clearly "I have arrived". No sooner have I announced that I'll be going to GW the rumor mill has cranked out some poppycock.

Thanks to Steve for alerting me to this. Mucho hilarious!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Halls of Horror

I have just spend a lovely couple of days in Paris. I stayed in a wonderful apartment in the Montmartre area. However, as we left one evening my stomach lurched and I realized we had entered the Halls of Horror!

GW collectors will remeber this was the name of a fantastic boxed set of floorplans the company produced in the 80s. I was aghast to see that the floor of the corridors I trod closely resembled those in the tile set. You can be sure I was vigilant lest all manner of beasties accosted me during my stay.

The future of this blog

I want to thank you all for your kind comments on my last post. The general consensus seems to be that I should carry on this blog, which I must confess I am very pleased to do. There will be a few topics I need to avoid, but I hope to continue to entertain you all with all the remaining meanderings of my mind.

On that note I want to leave you with something awesome I found the other day: the Aphex Twin Star Wars mash-up. Enjoy!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Tears of Envy is closing

The last few months have been a real roller coaster for me and they have culminated in a decision to close my design business. This is, however, for the best of reasons. I am extremely proud to announce that I have accepted the offer of a full time post as a Book Designer with Games Workshop.

Unfortunately it will  not be possible for me to continue my freelance work. I won’t be accepting any more commissions after the middle of March. However, you lucky kids will still be able to get your mitts on my designs via the GW product line.

This new role is a dream job. Not only is it at a company which, in many ways, is a spiritual home for me, it also represents a massive career and life change. Many of you know that I don’t do design full-time. I spend my days as a project manager in the UK’s National Health Service. On top of this, I have no formal art or design training whatsoever. None. Consequently I am flattered that anyone, least of all GW, would offer me work as a creative. So, not only will I be moving from a corporate business environment to a creative studio, I’ll be moving from London to Nottingham.

The massive change is in no small part due to the support that I have received from the industry over the years. I would like to thank (in alphabetical order):
  • Adam Clarke for his friendship and trust in letting me monkey about with his business (and, indeed, bestowing a monkey with a pistol on me),
  • Alessio Cavatore for being a fine fellow who knows a thing or two about setting up Macs,
  • Chris Palmer at Mantic who has always made sure I’m OK at their open days,
  • Ian Miller for being utterly bonkers and giving me a leg (yes, a leg),
  • Jake Thornton for his unceasingly witty conversation,
  • Jakob Nielsen for his encouragement and his immense intelligence,
  • Jeff Wilhelm who supported me early on and who I count as a true friend,
  • Jim Bailey who gave me such scope in Incursion and let me run riot with Genie Weave,
  • Mike McVey for his continuing patronage and his wonderful ability to articulate complex briefs,
  • Mike Thorpe for allowing me into his mind-blowing World of Twilight,
  • Peter Gifford for his support and intelligent criticism,
  • Ronnie Renton for putting his trust in me and letting me build one dungeon after another,
  • Seth Nash for being an awesome comrade and helping me when I was down,
  • Steve Buddle for being a wonderful friend, client and follow explorer of the strange (and for sending me the ad for the job!)
  • Zoe Wedderburn for being such an awesome project manager and looking after me at Games Day
There are also all my clients over the years - you are too many to mention but you’ve helped me get where I am today for which I am unending grateful! I also want to thank all my blog readers too, whose comments and emails make posting so rewarding. I love you all!

Last but not least I want to mention John Blanche. It’s now trite, as a gamer, painter or illustrator to say he has influenced one’s work. However, the fact its a hackneyed expression is testament to him being a true visionary who has shown us the light (or the LVX MVNDI). Frankly, none of us would be doing what we do, the way we do it, without him. He has placed immense trust in me, shown unending patience with me and been extremely generous with his time over the years and I am chuffed to bits to be invited ‘home’ to Lenton to become part of his nefarious cadre.

There remains the question of what to do with this blog. At present I am unsure of its future, and indeed the issue may prove to be out of my hands.


Image from here.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


Do you remember those really odd animations you saw as a child which were made in Eastern Block countries in, like, the 60s? After watching them do you remember, even at that young age, thinking to yourself, "Wow, now I need either a really stiff drink or the number of a good psychiatrist"? Well, I suspect this video will make you feel the same way:

SEED from Seed Movie on Vimeo.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Hoplites are famous!!!

Earlier this year I was very sorry to miss out on a trip the Hoplite Association made to Greece. This wasn't any old jaunt - they went to participate in the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon! They had a rollocking good time and there was a great deal of press interest. The profile of our little group has increased greatly as a result. The scan below is a profile from an Australian publication (it was published shortly before the event).

We have plans to return to Greece in future years for more reenactments, and I very much hope I can join my comrades on these escapades!

The Power Of The Witch - British Witchcraft documentary, 1971

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Miniature experiments

I have been experimenting a bit with painting techniques on some excellent Mantic Orx and thought I would share the results with you. I have been very inspired by two artists; Steve Buddle (now of GW fame) who is rightly held as somewhat of a pioneer of the use of the new Citadel washes, and the less well known Massimo Colombari. Massimo's work was featured waaaay back in White Dwarf 152. He paints using very bright colours, which I am increasingly fond of on miniatures as it is in keeping with their 'jewel-like' nature.

I painted this cheery fellow during Mantic's Warpath launch day with the help and advice of Tommie from the excellent Golem Painting Studio. I used a lot of Citadel Devlan Mud to achieve the shading and the green was the result of using Testors' Clear Green applied over a black base with white drybrushing. Although this chap is passable, I am not keen on how dull and dark he is.

This naughty Marauder was both a triumph and a failure. The white drybrushing over the black produces an abysmally chalky result which I hate. However, his flesh is much more pleasing and the result of using Windsor & Newton inks (see below). I love how bright it is, in contrast to his armour. The brass base and weapon also set off the skin nicely.

Although he's a bit 'all over the place' his cheeky chappy proved a successful experiment. He was my first use of Winsor & Newton inks on a mini. These inks provide quite even coverage (they don't pool like the new Citadel inks) and are very bright. Here I applied them straight over a white basecoat, and blended in yellow to the highlights on the skin and blue on the armour. The inks are also not entirely water-fast when they dry so the blending is quite smooth. I then applied a white acrylic highlight to the armour, into which the W&N inks bled, to form light blue highlights you see here.

To make an omelette you have to break some eggs, and this critter turned out to be a big old yolk. I was experimenting with a high-contrast cell-shaded look and it didn't go well. His right arm (facing us) was OK and did prove useful on two counts. I got an interesting result on the shoulder pad using the W&N inks, and discovered a good method for getting stark non-chalky b/w shading. On a textured surface like his arm, you base with black, drybrush with white, wash with Citadel Badab Black ink then selectively re-highlight with white. You end up with quite smooth shading from black to stark white, over which you can wash inks to get colour.

All these minis were shot using The BoX.

Music: On To The Next One by Jay-Z

Nice photography!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New work from John Blanche #10

The wonderful J.B. has sent through another magnificent piece so I can share it with you lucky folk.

The Dowager Deaconess poses for us in front of a classic sci-fi vista. You can imagine her asking, or rather telling, her portrait maker to capture her 'from her best side'. The side which partially hides the artificial eye which gleams in its socket of necrotic flesh. Her stern, upright pose might make you think that she has squeezed into her most resplendent corset for this occasion. Her mane of copper cables has been arranged with delicate precision for best effect, perhaps by her dutifully attendant servo-skull we see to her left. Clearly she is in charge, as she wears a 'beard' akin to that sported by the ancient Hatshepsut who wore a similar accoutrement to prove she was as good as any man.

In a magnanimous gesture she makes a little room for the landscape behind her. A neighboring orbital giant looms through the leprous gloom to silhouette a hive of immense - one might say 'Blanche-ian' proportions. It would be as well to pity the poor cutters who reside at the foot of that immense, crushing edifice.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

40K lore in (about) a minute

Mass linkage

Standard warning: some content might be NSFW.

LA Tribune font
Model agency 1948
Nice texture
Ornatique font
Badass commandos
Neil Krug photos
Japanese family crests
Fantastic Character Design by Arnold Tsang
Street Fighter artwork
Tony Roberts
Amazing classic sci-fi art blog
How to work from home without going insane

Hello 2012

Following from my last post it would be uncharitable not to look forward to what's in store for 2012 (Mayan apocalypse aside).

This is somewhat of a difficult task for me as I wholly agree with the sentiments of the Victorian philanthropist Henry Wellcome who proclaimed, "Never tell anyone what you propose to do until you have done it." Suffice it to say that I intend 2012 to be a year of radical change and this will be reflected on both the creative and personal fronts. All I can say is there's some profound things in the works. What I can reveal is that I have nearly completed a commercial project which you will see later this year.

There are quite a few cultural events I am looking forward to. 2012 will see the release of Ridlet Scott's hotly anticipated Prometheus and a trip back to Middle Earth in the form of the first part of The Hobbit. I don't like indulging in rumors about what GW will produce next, but it's looking like there might be a new edition of 40K which, in my book, is always an exciting event. Kallamity's Abakan 2288 will be released, which I am very much looking forward to. I am somewhat curmudgeonly about the Olympics - they have and will bring welcome regeneration the East End and trade to this country in what are difficult times, but the fuss and bother leave me cold. I am always kicking myself that I am not more abreast of video games and anime so I am not sure what's emerging there. Perhaps it should be a resolution of mine to stay in touch with these cultures?

Today I have just shot a great number of minis, both old and new, so please stay tuned for forthcoming posts.

I wish you all a happy and productive 2012!