Monday, 27 May 2019

Whether to weather?

If you follow me on Twitter, or you caught my previous post, you may have noticed that I've started dabbling with my Warhammer 40,000 Enforcers again. My Adeptus Arbites sanctioned, Judge Dredd inspired Enforcers who police the mean streets of the hive city, Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda.

I've started painting them, and have found myself tweaking the colour scheme in ways I didn't expect.

In the Judge Dredd comic, along with their red-rimmed helmets and gold shoulder pads, the Judges of Mega-City One sport several green items on their uniform – boots, gloves, knee pads, elbow pads and pouches. In the 2012 Carl Urban film they clearly felt this approach wasn't going to be gritty enough, so although they kept some of the green details, the colour was made so much darker that it was hardly noticeable in the final grade of the movie.

When I started on my troopers, I wanted them to look like the darker, almost-entirely black-uniformed movie version, but decided to switch out the dark green altogether in favour of a dark tan, leather colour that would probably make for a more easily identifiable texture in miniature form.

And with that I eventually got to the above stage where the test model is just about complete.

Or is he?

Originally, several years ago, when I first envisioned this project, my plan was to make my Enforcers look more worn. A little beaten up. Dusty, battered and generally in-use.

Like these guys

But now I've got this far, I'm not sure the model will really benefit from a lot of weathering. The dust might blur the already difficult to detect line between the harder body armour and the slightly softer black leather jacket and trousers. So I'm faced with a bit of a dilemma. Do I push ahead, sticking to the original plan, and run the risk of making an irreversible mistake, or just stick with what I've got, and let the weathering go the way of the green boots?

The answer is I'm just not sure yet.

REMAINING: 44 or 45?

Friday, 10 May 2019

Wheels of judgement

One hundred years ago, I pledged, on this blog, to build a couple of unique models. Ones that would combine a character from a film, with a vehicle from a comic, and infuse them both with a hint of WH40K flavour.

But only a mere few days into the project, I got to a stage that had me stumped. I put the fledgling models to one side, promising myself that I'd return to them soon, once I'd mulled over how to go about finishing them.

Fast forward those hundred years, and I was finally struck by the urge to complete them. In reality I was less driven by the desire to finish them that I was by the guilt of having abandoned them.

And today I think I'm finally at a place where I can share them.

Perps, jimps, futsies and stookie runners*, may I present to you the LexDominum urban patrol bike.

Although they don't look all that complicated, these bikes were a real headache to construct. I worked on them, on and off, for about two and half years, doing tiny, incremental stages every few weeks, then abandoning them for months on end. But I took a few photos along the way, so I can share some of the major leaps forward. 

Before I do that, I'll just share a quick reminder of my original brief. You can see it in full here, but quite simply it was as follows.

Start with this bike as the major ingredient...

... but add the lights from this design...

... to create something a little like this...

... then sprinkle in a hint of the armoured feel of these bikes...

... but base the whole thing on this model

This meant I was starting with two of the Space Marine Scout Bikes, which I cut at the join between the front forks and the main body of the bike.

I started by rearranging the angle and length of the front forks, using plasticard and putty...

... before smoothing off the putty and adding more plasticard to create the basic shape of the front fairing

I then added some simple detail to the reverse of the front section

The guns, rims, rivets, baggage and lights, came next, while I also brought the rider in line with the earlier troops

I bought the lights from Zinge Industries, who have an incredible range of tiny detailed parts for exactly this kind of conversion work (I think it was these ones). However, even though they seem to come in sets of five, and from looking at the photo below I clearly had at least six, I somehow didn't end up with enough to complete the job. So rather than risk interrupting my flow while I waited for a new order to arrive, I decided to cast the missing two with Instant Mold and green stuff. (I talked a bit more about that process when I created the Judges' shoulderpads here.)

Next up: repeat the previous stage on the other bike, but go for a different overall pose

Add the basic shape of a badge in plasticard

Then cut some details from Forge World brass etched eagles...

... to be glued to the front of the badge

Sculpt in the hint of some wings on the eagle badge

Then add final detail to the reverse of the bike

These two bikes finally complete the construction of my entire Judicial Enforcer Squad, a process I started back in the first post of this blog, nearly four years ago. That's slow, but its not my slowest project ever. Not by a long shot**. 

Besides, the real challenge is to see if I can get them painted a little bit quicker. So here's to hoping I can finish them before April 2023.

*For more information see over 40 years of Judge Dredd comics.
**Remind me to tell you about my converted Scout Titan at some point.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Mechanicus approved, hard-shell, hazard-zone, close-protection servitors

Occasionally you see a model, and you just have to have it. No matter that it doesn't belong to any of your armies. No matter that there are no rules for it in your games systems. No matter that it has practically zero crossover with anything in your collection. 

And sometimes you see a model, 
like these Grymn Walkers, from Hasslefree Miniatures, and you just have to have two of them.

In situations like this I like to come up with a few ideas as to why these models should be on the same shelf as my other miniatures. In this case I felt they would be perfect for my city project. They would be close-protection gun-servitors, sealed for operations in hazardous environments. And they would probably belong to an individual, or perhaps a faction, rich enough to afford them, but not wanting too many people in their employ. Like a Rogue Trader who wants to keep his crew light, or a gang boss who doesn't want his grunts getting too close.

I liked the models so much that not only did I buy two of them, but I left them largely unconverted. I hardly touched them at all – building them almost entirely as they came. I think my only deviation from the kit was to add some spacers between the guns and their shields. And that was only to offer a little more strength and stability. In fact, if truth be told, I think I did more assembly and conversion work on their bases than I did on the models themselves. For example, on one of the bases, to add a bit more variation, I cut out a small section to create a recess in the ground. I think it could be a trick worth pursuing on other models in the future.

Once everything was constructed I decided it would be cool to try an urban camouflage scheme. I laid the original colours down quite some time ago, so I can't remember exactly how I did this, but the following steps seem to make sense. 

1) Spray the whole of each model with Mechanicus Standard Grey, followed immediately by a heavy zenithal highlight of Corax White. The speed allows the two colours to mix a bit, and the heavy zenithal highlight means the darker colour only remains on the hard to reach undersides that would naturally be in shadow. 

2) Make a cup of tea while both models dry thoroughly. Because we are about to stick things to this surface, it is vitally important that the paint is as tough as it can be. I think I left mine overnight, just to be sure.

3) Cut out tiny geometric shapes of masking tape and cover roughly one third of each model with them. A random third that is. A bit here, a bit there. I only did this to the armour panels where I wanted the camouflage pattern. I didn't stick any tape to the weapons or other areas that weren't getting the camouflage scheme.

4) Spray again. This time with a mid-tone colour. I probably used a directional spay of Chaos Black from beneath, followed quickly by Mechanicus Standard Grey from above.

5) Don't remove any of the masking tape yet. Instead leave everything to get really dry again. Maybe go to sleep for a bit. Or paint a different model.

6) Again, leave the tape on. And then start cutting out more pieces. Use these new bits to cover another third of each model. The new tape can overlap the previous bits of tape, but try to ensure that roughly an additional third of the armour is getting covered.

7) The final spray was a mix of Chaos Black (for the undersides) with Death Guard Green everywhere else, and a final, very light dusting of Chaos Black (everywhere).

8) Again, show some serious restraint by not removing any tape too soon. I don't know what would happen if you did, as I just walked away, but my worry is that it could create a bit of a mess that ruins all that hard-fought progress.

9) Once completely dry spend ages finding and removing every last scrap of tape.

10) Sometime later, once you're halfway through painting the finer details, discover several bits of tape that you missed in stage 9 and remove them too.

Those steps were the bulk of the work, but they only really got me as far as the base colours. To finish these off I painted the weapons, grills, lenses, markings and metallic areas, added a tiny decal to each model, edge highlighted some of the armour, washed some of the recesses and gave each model a smattering of weathering to tie everything together.


Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Addressing the undead battle mammoth in the room

Let's face it, I am neither a great painter, nor a quick one. I started cleaning and assembling the above model about halfway through last year – probably something like May or June. And although I whizzed through the preparation and construction phases, it's fair to say the painting has taken a little longer than expected. 

This model was one of two skeleton war mammoths, designed by Grenadier, that I've had lying around since probably not long after their release in the 1980s.

I wanted to add them to my Undead skirmish force as twin centrepieces – un-living battle tanks, able to plough through ranks of infantry, tearing the enemy apart with their sheer size and strength.

But there was something about them that immediately threw a spanner in the works. Instead of swiftly completing these and moving on to something new, I lost focus and started fiddling around with other projects. And to make matters worse, because I knew I was meant to be painting the mammoths, none of the other projects got my full attention either. I just kind of dithered. Meandered from one non-committed project to the next. Dilly-dallying. Exactly the kind of hobbying that gets you nowhere, fast.

Or even slow.

The other mammoth is still very much a work in progress, but I painted the crew from both beasts' howdahs at the same time.

Sadly, after all the work I've put into this – or more accurately all the time it's taken me to do that work – it's still only one completed model to knock off the list, so my Addiction Challenge score is looking remarkably un-dented. Hopefully with a little luck, and a little focus, some of that dilly-dallying will pay off later this month.


Saturday, 30 March 2019

The crow-walk modular wall section

The fantasy genre has occasionally offered us glimpses of strange and incredible cities. Urban environments that seem anchored in reality, but far outstrip anything we may have encountered in life. If you're interested in this kind of thing, you may have some favourite locations that really stand out in your memory. Fictional places where your explorations seemed so vivid, you can almost imagine you were there. For me it's towns like GormenghastKharé, New Crobuzon, Hammerhal and of course Mordheim. Twisting, dangerous municipalities, where the weird and exceptional is often considered entirely normal.

Cities like this may boast cobbled, winding streets that rarely lead where they seem, or endless seas of undulating rooftops, where chimney stacks create forests out of stone, or foreboding, crenellated walls that, as much as keeping intruders out, could equally be holding something darker and more nasty in.

Games Workshop has recently announced the release of its Age of Sigmar skirmish game, Warcry. This looks to be set in what could potentially be another of these exciting, visceral cities, Varanspire, and it seems there will be a new range of fantasy, urban terrain to accompany it.

Following on from last week's model tree, I thought now would be a good time to share another piece of my old, scratch-built Warhammer scenery. A modular wall-section that is very much based on how I imagine one of these cities may look.

All my fantasy terrain was conceived to sit together – or at least to not look totally out of place when next to one another. The idea was that I could use different combinations of pieces to build a variety of locations. I had hoped that one day I'd have enough bits to build anything from a graveyard to a farm, a small village, or the aforementioned, twisted, inner streets of one of those dark and oppressive cities.

Of course, like all my projects, much of this is still a dream, but that's not to say I didn't finish anything at all. This wall section, named the crow-walk by my six year old son, is meant to be part of castle, a citadel or a keep. I wanted it to be able to represent buildings in a variety of different states, so I settled on the idea of damaged roofs. When placed next to buildings in tip top condition, they will hopefully make it appear only slightly more run-down, but, with a little luck, when placed among ruins, the broken roofs should help portray the idea of a sacked or neglected settlement, or even one recently overrun by the forces of Chaos.

The model is based on a polyboard frame, that has been detailed with card and balsa wood, then textured in places with polyfilla mixed with sawdust. I added some barrels and ladders (that I picked up from a third party seller at Salute many years ago), and some tattered and torn posters that I slapped together in Photoshop and printed out for this purpose. The roofs are removable to allow access to the inside.

This is one of my larger models, but there are a few other bits and pieces in my back catalogue – including at least one that was designed as a counterpart to this, and may even be slightly larger. I'll try to share this and some of the other items over the next couple of months.

Friday, 22 March 2019

From tiny acorns...

Back in August, 2003, the above photo appeared on the back of White Dwarf magazine in the UK. Two months later, in issue 286, we were given a step-by-step guide showing us how Mark Jones, then studio scenery builder, had made the tree for the launch of the new Beastmen range. This was back in the days before Games Workshop's selection of plastic scenery was so all-encompassing (and you couldn't, for example, just buy a box of these), so scratch-building your terrain was still very much encouraged by the company.

Although the article was a little plain to look at, it broke the construction process down into easy-to-follow steps, and quickly became another of those White Dwarf articles that really resonated with me – inspiring me to build my own take on an old, scary-looking tree. But where Mark Jones' original tree was possessed by a malevolent Chaos force, I wanted mine to simply look like the kind of gnarled, old thing you might find in the centre of a graveyard. Where the original was being lifted off the ground by its roots, I wanted mine to look like the roots were instead enveloping and perhaps even choking the surrounding area. 

The original idea was that I might one day build a few other bases of graves and sepulchers, to create a wider cemetery to go around this, although, of course, me being me, I never really got around to this. But now that I'm desperately trying to finish my small selection of Undead models, accumulated over the last 30 years or so, having a little graveyard to sit them in is starting to look quite attractive again.

I built and painted this model many years ago, so, once again, my Addiction Challenge score remains sadly unchanged.

I'm really going to have to put some work in soon.


Thursday, 28 February 2019

Deffkopta jetbikes

I still haven't got anywhere on my various ongoing Undead projects, so today I'm going to share a few more models from my old Ork brigade – both finished and unfinished. But before I do that I want to start with an article from White Dwarf magazine that really resonated with me. This was just a single page, tucked into issue 304 of the UK magazine, released in early 2005, but it featured some of the best Ork conversions I have ever seen: three jetbikes made by Games Workshop artist Alex Boyd, to take the place of Deffkoptas in his army.

And this article is the inspiration for the models I want to share today. Three or four years after Alex Boyd's jetbikes appeared in White Dwarf, Games Workshop released the stunning Warhammer 40,000 starter set, Assault on Black Reach, and with it their first all-plastic Deffkoptas.

It's probably just me being a nerd, or maybe even ill-informed, but I've always had a bit of a problem with helicopter models where the blades look too short to lift the rest of the craft off the ground. My feeling is that it's cool to invent fictional technology that performs beyond current expectations, but it's not okay to say that something has changed physics.

So, I wasn't entirely taken with the Deffkopta models in the box, and decided to take a leaf out of Alex Boyd's book, cutting the rotors off and glueing a bloody great jet engine on the back instead.

However, after completing the first one, I scrabbled around in my bits box and realised I didn't have enough parts to do the same thing to the other two Deffkoptas.

Fast forward to just a couple of years ago and Ramshackle Games came to the rescue. Their Jet Bike Kickstarter campaign contained a multitude of air intakes, jet nozzles, engine blocks and other fantastic, sci-fi, aeronautical bits – enough to give me everything I needed to complete the project.

I wanted all three flying machines to appear similar, yet distinct – like the mekboy responsible for their construction got bored and tried to vary the design as he went on.

As it turns out, it's an idea that in the real world wasn't that far from the truth.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Giant Robo Alphabot, part twelve

Following on from my previous entry, last month, I'd like to share another poster. This time not about great movie pairings, but instead the culmination of the robot alphabet project that I've been banging on about since 2015.

We've finally reached the end now, so this will be my very last post on the subject. I promise. 

So much time has passed since I first explained it, way back here, that quite a few of the robots used in the project are now more commonly known from updated source material. What do I mean by this? Well, for example, since I compiled some of the original images, (before I even started writing this blog), we've had an updated Ultron in one of the Avengers movies, a new ED209 in the Robocop remake, and a new Warlord Titan from Forge World. In fact, with this last one, and the release of the Adeptus Titanicus game, we've technically had two updates, in different scales.

It's been a fun journey for me, not just compiling the robots and trying to come up with background styles that feel relevant to the subject, sufficiently different from one another, yet also somehow related, but also delving deep into the history of each of the subjects in order to write the blurb. And the best thing about it is I now have a Robot Alphabot poster ready to hang in the corner of my house where I pursue all things geek.

If you're interested you can see all the individual posters on Pinterest here, or read all the previous entries from this project here.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Why watch one, when two will do?

Words and pictures. That’s what I normally put up here. But today it’s slightly different. Today most of the words will be found in the pictures. Because today I’m sharing a poster I created for a prospective movie season a few years back.

I talk a lot about movies on here, not only because am I utterly fascinated by them – some may say obsessed – but also because they can offer substantive inspiration for the many modelling and gaming projects that form some of my other obsessions. For these reasons I usually try to focus on science fiction or fantasy films, but occasionally this may slide sideways into the sometimes equally relevant overlapping zones of the action or horror genres.

However, today, I’m going even further than that, doing something I don't normally do, by blasting the genres wide open and simply looking at pairs of movies, from any walk, that go together beautifully while delving deeply into their chosen subject.

So, with no further fanfare, let’s get on to the pictures. The ones with words in them.

And here are some close-ups (clicking on them should make them expand).

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Here comes the cadavalry

This week it's another quick progress report on my Undead horsemen. I've finished putting together the three final members of my six-strong unit, and have briefly revisited the first batch (from my previous post) to add a few more details – mainly in the form of straps and reins.

Working with the old plastic skeleton bodies (that were originally designed as foot troops) became an interesting challenge to find poses that looked natural on the back of a horse. In the picture below, the two on the outside seemed to lend themselves to dynamic action poses, with one leaning off to the side, ready to strike, and the other having the horse rear up on its back legs. But the third one, in the middle, was a little more complicated. I had to cut the skeleton at the waist, and drill and pin the two resultant halves in order to reposition the body at more of an angle, as if the rider is leaning into the gallop. A small detail, but I think that aiming for a touch of realism in among all the fantastical elements really aids the interpretation of a miniature – giving viewers something familiar to look at as a 'way in'.

So with the completion of these three and the minor tweaks to the earlier ones, I'm pretty happy with the look of the squad and ready to get some paint on them.