Sunday, 30 October 2016

More Hardware

Long-time readers will know of my love for Richard Stanley's 1990 dystopian masterpiece Hardware. I was googling away recently and found that new photos of the Mark 13 prop have been uploaded to the internets. They are below, but come from this site here.

Stanley wisely followed in Ridley Scott's footsteps and kept the killer robot in the shadows, in pieces or confined by close-up shots. It's therefore difficult to ascertain the exact nature of the beast so the emergence of these photos is quite exciting. The page is cautious in the language it employs, being careful not to claim that it's a screen original but it certainly does look very accurate. You can make out some tiny 'dings' on the bridge of the nose which match those in the screengrab below I made from the movie.

It's long been common knowledge that Hardware was 'inspired' by a 1981 2000AD strip called Shok! I had never seen the strip before, but found it in its entirety here. It's interesting to note some of the aesthetic similarities between the strip and the movie - the curly-haired protagonist, the head-up-display images, the skeletal robot missing its legs with its weird dragonfly larvae underslung mandibles. Most notably, the robot's claw-like hand appears almost verbatim in the movie, and indeed plays quite a part in the film's more expanded plot.

Returning to the prop, for me there's something timeless about the stars and stripes graffiti. I clearly remember the skull being used as a marketing image for the movie and it's one of those powerful visuals I'll always carry with me. It nicely sums up much of the setting - a dystopian future in which the American dream has died but its carcass (a nuclear war and the automata which it spawned) continues to maim humanity in the same way the robot just won't die.

In the words of Angry Bob, "Rise and shine, folks, it’s a beautiful day… just look at that sky, it’s a work of art!"

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Finished Blood Angel Terminator Captain

I finished this guy off today and am pretty happy with him. I was a bit worried the banner design lacked some Blanche weirdness, but I think keeping it plain and avoiding white focuses the eye more on the armour, which is what I wanted.

The little inset shot shows a smaller scale image of his back. You can see it's quite cluttered, with lots of accouterments he carries about. These actually hide the gaping hole where the cloak meets the carapace, as I am no where near enough of a good sculptor to make such joins seamless with green stuff.

I've made a start on the last half of the Tactical Squad. I'm also looking forward to posting some 'family photos' with the whole collection when the last boys are done.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The Children of Green Knowe

Suffering from low-level flu is generally made better by watching something retro and supernatural, so given my current infectious state I've ploughed through the 1986 BBC version of the Green Knowe story. I must confess, although I have very vague memories of it from my childhood, I had lost track of it since and was surprised to rediscover it.

The story carries quite a few elements common to a lot of the rural horror renaissance we're seeing at the moment - a haunted house, evil walking trees, an animated statue and time-slides taking the viewer back to a bucolic vision of the 17th century. However, the BBC adaption is rather less dramatic than this description might at first seem (and I'll come onto that in a moment). It has none of the ominous terror of Children of the Stones or emotional pull of The Moondial, and somehow feels a bit more like the more gentle Five Children and It. As I've just alluded to, the main issue is a general lack of drama - there is little real conflict in the story and, while the main protagonist is quite likable, he has no character arc. I actually found the flashbacks more interesting and was disappointed that the fate of the ancestors (which you learn early on) is not explored at all. This may be an expression of something quite common in 80s childrens' dramas (and the Doctor Who of the era), which is too little story spread over too much airtime so things really plod along.

So it's worth a watch if you're painting and want something on in the background. The sets and some of the visual compositions are nice as are the 17th century costumes (something the BBC always excels at). I also found there's a much more recent Julain "Downton" Fellows movie based on the second book of the series, From Time to Time. I'm quite a fan of his work, and Dame Maggie Smith is awesome, so might check this out.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Link roundup

Some werid and wonderful stuff from across the internets to keep you occupied this weekend:

[Above] Movie posters by Dan Mumford

The World of Tim Burton - a line of 6″ vinyl crossover figures.

Emily Witt’s “Future Sex” is a report on an experiment with alternative sexuality. 

Journeys in Calligraphy: Inspiring Scripts from Around the World.

Bea Nettles - Mountain Dream Tarot: A Deck of 78 Photographic Cards.

MaKtoberfest brings a parade of LEGO creations inspired by the distinctive near-future aesthetic of Maschinen Krieger sci-fi.

Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World.
The next time you are thinking of handing over $15 to watch yet another film about victims of a haunted house, vampires, or a Ouija board, and who can only be saved by a priest and his magic water, ask yourself why you still find this stuff scary—and what dangerous ideas you are financially endorsing in the pursuit of a good adrenaline rush. 
- DAZED Digital gets on the 70s witch bandwagon with this article, while VICE poses that many horror films are acually Christian propaganda.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Finished Death Company dreadnaught

I was pretty pleased with this guy in the end and feel he bridges the gap between the heavily decorated Blanche-ian Tactical squad and my earlier and rather more restrained Death Company assault squad. In hind sight it might have been cooler to use a blank tilting plate and paint on more heraldic iconography seeing how well that worked on the Mk7 Marines. Oh well.

The airbrushing and pin washing worked well and defined the forms without having to resort to line highlighting, which I'm slow and fairly cack-handed at. The highlighting of the reds is fairly subtle too which I like.

I'm still working on the Captain and he should be done in the next week or so.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Some finished Blood Angels

This is the first of the two combat squads and I'm fairly pleased with it. The airbrush zenith highlights and pin wash have worked quite well to define the forms, and I didn't feel the need to edge highlight the pauldron trim. Annoyingly they are a tad darker than the RTB01s but for the time saved that's probably a worthy sacrifice.

I invested the saved capacity in the heraldry which has turned out pretty well. The blue cheques (a big feature of the Blanche Terminator box art I was referencing) really pop and serve to lift what could have been quite a dark, warm coloured squad. The sunburst arm designs on the greaves and occasional pauldron were actually a lot easier to do than I thought.

I've completed the dreadnaught too and will be posting him over the next day or so. I'm painting the Captain now as a bit of a reward before moving onto the other combat squad.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Space wrecks

A collection from the excellent SpaceWreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts of Space book, part of the Terran Trade Authority series written by Stuart Cowley. I remember seeing this book when I was very young and its dystopian visions left a massive impression on me. In days of yore before the internets I forgot the title and never could find it again. I was so pleased when I rediscovered it!


Monday, 10 October 2016

All the Eldar so far

Long time readers will remember that I started painting a retro-clone Eldar army way back in 2011. I've been adding a squad, a character or a vehicle here and there over the years. With a recent clear-out in advance of some redecoration at home I realised just how many of the pointy-eared fellows I'd amassed. I thought I'd repost the lot, especially as some have never appeared on this blog.

I've got a few things in mind to add. A Falcon grav tank now I'm better at painting larger vehicles, and some more Apect Warriors. Now I've got my core units done, I really enjoy adding odds and sods as my whim dictates.

Apologies for the varying quality of the photography. I'd love to do some 'family photos' with them on terrain at some point, but that'll take some time. Oh, looking at these I also realise I don't have any shots of my seven jetbikes.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Moonclan Grot Poker

I finished this little guy a few weeks ago. I am really enjoying Age of Sigmar as a spark to just paint lots of 'odds and sods'.

He's one of the older single-piece minis from the 7th edition of Warhammer. I love these guys as they have so much character, despite being one-piece sculpts. I wanted to see how my grey technique might work on cloth, and for that reason needed to alter the traditional skin tone. With a more traditional skin colour I feared his flesh would have just sunk back and there would be less contrast in the miniature. I'm not sure the icon on his shield works though. I did think about painting it yellow, but feared it would distract from his face, but I'm not sure grey was the way to go.

I'm thinking about doing some terrain for this grisaille series, but we'll see if that comes to pass. I also want to test if I can get bronze or brass into the mix, despite retaining the NMM grey for other metals.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Cthulhu Fhtagn!

I've been following the excellent site Propnomicon for some years now and it never fails to deliver quality reportage on the Lovecraftian craft/maker community. The blog tends to eschew things like the Cthulhu-plushy phenomena and concentrate on serious props, LARP items and RPG hand-outs. One of its regular posts, dubbed Cthulhu Fhtagn!, profiles sculpts based on Lovecraft's description of the Cthulhu idol in his classic tale The Call of Cthulhu...
[The statue was] between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship. It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way clown toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher's elevated knees. The aspect of the whole was abnormally life-like, and the more subtly fearful because its source was so totally unknown. Its vast, awesome, and incalculable age was unmistakable; yet not one link did it shew with any known type of art belonging to civilisation's youth - or indeed to any other time. Totally separate and apart, its very material was a mystery; for the soapy, greenish-black stone with its golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled nothing familiar to geology or mineralogy.
Propnomicon has profiled some astounding interpretations over the years and it's been interesting to see the different artistic styles used - some are primitive, some quite Modernist while others are just a bit bonkers. Here are some of my favourites:

By Mid-South Effects

By Scarecrow Studios

An interesting interpretation by Temir7

A really cool African interpretation by Rick Sardinha

This rather grumpy little fellow is by Alice Tochilovski

Finally, although it's not strictly a statue, I really love this sculpt of the big guy himself by Paul Komoda. He's really nailed the pulsating, invertebrate-out-of-water feel to all those tentacles and ink sacks.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Harry Potter studio tour

I've just returned from a great weekend during which we visited The Making of Harry Potter. I was a little too old for the books when they became famous, so the Potter phenomena somewhat passed me by. I've seen all the movies and appreciated their craft, but have to confess I wasn't really grabbed by the franchise. So the fact I implore you to visit this attraction is testament to just how good it is.

The collection of sets, props and costumes is nothing short of magical, and deftly presented in a way that captivates the young and old alike. The staff and tour guides are all clearly Potter fans and infect the audience with their own genuine excitement. The ingenuity, skill and thought which has gone into the design of the artifacts is jaw dropping, and there are so many instances of props which were commissioned to help build the on-set immersion which were never seen. My favourite were the little posters and notices which grace the pin-boards in the Hogwart's common rooms that the production design team invited school children to make.

Over the years I've been lucky enough to see the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars prop shows when they came to this country. I have to say that the Potter experience eclipses these. It's sited on two of the sound stages where the film was shot and consequently is able to include full sets (the Hogwart's dining hall is breathtaking). This puts it head and shoulders above any travelling collection.

I've got to say I'm now itching to re-watch the movies as my appreciated for the world they are set in has been ignited. While I would have dismissed it, I'm now eagerly waiting to see the forthcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The Hogwart's crest from the Great Hall. There is another at the back of the fire place which is never seen in the film because the fire is always lit.

Aged and weathered murals from the Great Hall. The stone work itself is utterly believable, and it's a surprise when you first see the rear of a structure to find that it's all plaster.

The decorative centrepiece from the winter ball.

You can just make out some portraits over this giant cauldron. I had no idea that so many portraits and paintings were commissioned for the movies. They are stunning and both the brush work and subsequent ageing makes them seem hundreds of years old. A few feature painted names or captions and the typography of these annotations was some of my favourite work.

Sections of the exhibition resemble something akin to an ancestral attic filled with forgotten antiques. The bejewelled skeletons grabbed my eye.

Bottles from the potions classroom set. The set as a whole had a bulbous shape, reminiscent of a pressure chamber or cistern.

I hadn't realised how much real-world occult iconography had been harvested for the production. Sigils and glyphs are reimagined for many magical items.

Although it had many moving parts, much of this intricate vault door mechanism was actually made of resin.

I more-than-slightly terrifying coffin/iron maiden. I can't remember how this features in the movies but it's beautiful.

There was a section on graphic design including many printed and hand-made items. Here is a fascinating interview with the design duo responsible for this work.

A sculpture from the creature section. I was surprised at how many times I read that beasts were first sculpted physically (and perhaps painted) before being scanned-in for CGI. It seems that many beasts were first attempted as physical models, then largely replaced by CG versions. As the films were released over a ten-year period CG got a lot better and cheaper.

There was a collection of paper models used to block out the forms of various locations. Despite being maquettes the level of detail is stunning. The unpainted surfaces also focus your attention on the beauty of the underlying forms. There was an accompanying room filled with technical drawings which were exquisite.

The scale miniature of Hogwarts itself is vast and fills a cavernous room. It, along with the Great Hall, bookend the tour and are the showstoppers. There was actually a dinky little white-card model of the same location (at something like 1/1000 scale) which was equally cool.

A note on these photos - I chose to take my antiquated Nikon D100 on this trip and paired it with with my manual Ai 1.8 50mm lens. The lens has no processor, so does not 'talk' to the body. It's therefore a case of 'guess the exposure'. Even at full aperture this combination meant that my photos were rather gloomy, but I feel this is rather in keeping with much of the subject matter.