Return of the Quack

Despite a dearth of updates, I have actually been working on more ducks. Probably not as much as I should because I foolishly purchased a PS4, which has been a terrible distraction. Also, I’ve been running out of plinths and waiting for Martin to make me some more, so I’ve been rationalising my excess gaming as a way of filling in some time while I wait for those. It’s a perfectly reasonable excuse, obviously.

Anyway, I’ve done a few things with the ducks. First up, the runner ducks are done, as is their grape vine:

It’s not really an ideal composition, I don’t think, but it’s more difficult to work with ducks that are so solidly dedicated to being vertical. The other ducks are all somewhere between horizontal and vertical, or at least have some notion of motion, which makes it much easier to compose them. Still, I’m quite pleased with the scene as it’s very different from all of the others.

Up next, I followed Mike the Kiwi’s suggestion and added a male to the paradise duck scene. I opted to have him snoozing in the crate, and I think it really adds a lot of character to the piece. It might well be one of my favourites now.

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As I mentioned previously, the males of this particular breed are very dull, which really goes against the grain for most varieties of duck. They’re largely a dark blue-grey, with blackish head, a slightly red-brown chest and little flecks of colour on the wings, most of which disappears into a haze of dark blue-grey…

Finally, I’ve worked up an eider. Eiders are pretty badass ducks. They live in the Arctic circle for a start, live on shellfish that they pull up from the seabed, get hunted by arseholes who want comfy duvets, and sound like middle-aged women seeing a very handsome young man (as this video/audio establishes, they do so sarcastically).

The conversion was relatively straightforward: they’re notable mostly for the extra structure around the bill, but they also have slightly elongated tail feathers and surprisingly sturdy necks (which presumably helps them wrench shellfish off the sea floor). They’re also quite pretty, and I think this might be my best black and white duck yet (pardon the lack of base, but someone – *cough* Martin *cough* – still hasn’t made my last few plinths):

I’ll also need to figure out how to do snow for this one, but that should actually be a pretty fun experiment. I’ll see if I can get pictures and a range of supplies to see which is the best solution.

MAFVA Nationals 2019

A couple of weeks back I thought I’d take in a relatively local show, which turned out to be the MAFVA (pronounced ‘Mafia’, as it turns out) Nationals. MAFVA is the Model Armoured Fighting Vehicles Association, and – as you might know or have gathered – I don’t really do vehicles. I quite like looking at them, but I have very little desire to paint a tank or anything like that. For me, a vehicle is basically scenery. That’s not to say that I don’t think there’s anything interesting about them, just that they’re really not for me.

Anyway, this meant that the show didn’t really have much for me beyond the competition – there were a lot of traders, but I don’t need to buy sets of tracks or etched brass rivets. Funnily enough.

Beyond that, it was a good opportunity to go to the Other St Ives. Many more people will know about St Ives, Cornwall, but St Ives, Cambridgeshire, is also a very pretty town, and I’ve not been there for years and my wife has never been, so it was a good opportunity for that. Also, there were ducklings on the river, which kept us very entertained when we went out for lunch. So, first up, a couple of pictures of the locale:

The town proudly displays its history with Cromwell, who points accusingly at everyone in the market square, and the nearby bridge has a built-in chapel, which I can only assume is for ease of baptism/witch dunking.

So, on to the competition pictures:

As you’ll note, there are very few figures. In fact, from 23 categories to enter, only one was dedicated to figures and I turned up with four and took up half of it. So, if you’re a figure painter and not interested in vehicles, this is not the show for you. On the other hand, if you like tanks and trucks and so on, it’s probably not a bad show. I don’t really know enough about that part of the hobby to judge. As I say, there were quite a lot of traders, and it seemed very friendly.

In the end, I took a silver (for the Burgundian halberdier) and two bronzes (for the Occitan knight and the ruddy duck – as promised, I didn’t bring the full display). My android bust got nothing, which I suspect is down to a dislike of fantasy. I did note that even in the categories that permitted sci-fi/fantasy vehicles there were only paper panzers.

I understand there’s a figure-focused show at the same venue in September, so I’ll likely be back for that, although it does clash with Scale Scotland, which I’d been thinking about heading to.

In other news, I have been painting more ducks, although a dearth of plinths has been holding me back. I’ve just insisted that Martin provide more, so I should have some new additions to the duck display shortly.

Of ducks and wine and waste

I’ve been rather lazy of late and not done a lot of work on Project Duck. Part of this was simply being very busy, but that’s really a bit of a shit excuse when painting a duck only takes 40 minutes or so. The real reason, I suppose, is that it’s equally very difficult to work yourself up to paint (setting up the wet palette, etc.) when all you’re going to do is 40 minutes of painting. That, really, is the challenge when you’re doing very, very small things. For this reason, I am thoroughly looking forward to my next project.

Anyway, I’ve finally done a bit of work on the running ducks:

What you see here are two Indian runner ducks and the beginning of a vineyard. Runner ducks were bred for pest control, unlike most other domestic breeds, which were either bred for meat or for eggs. Traditionally, runner ducks lived around rice paddies and ate whatever bugs would prey on the rice. Rice paddies are actually pretty interesting because they don’t actually need all the water – it’s simply that the rice can survive being waterlogged, and doing so minimises the parasites and bugs, and once you introduce runner ducks, you get rid of the few pests that remain. It’s all very environmentally pleasant compared to a lot of other crops.

Anyway, runner ducks, it turns out, are so good at that job – and so fixated on eating bugs – that some vineyards actually use them for the same purpose. I recommend looking up videos of ducks in vineyards, because it’s quite entertaining watching them run about through the grapevines. So, to this end, I’ve opted for that setting and created what I hope looks enough like a vineyard. It’s not finished yet, obviously – I’ve simply made something and airbrushed the basic colours in. I’m not a particularly proficient airbrush painter, but I like that I can use it to quickly coat a complex shape like this and then get the colours and light in place. It shouldn’t take long to sort it all out.

In other painting news, it occurred to me that I haven’t posted any decent pics of the latest batch of ducks: the northern pintail, shelduck and paradise duck:

The paradise duck’s and shelduck’s scenes were chosen as a sort of ‘ducks having to deal with human waste’ sort of theme. When I first came to Britain, I was genuinely astonished with the amount of rubbish I saw. The first pile of cans I saw on the verge when I was on a bus stuck in traffic on the M25, I assumed must have been somewhere that teenagers went to get trashed. I wish I was right – instead, the rubbish just continued for mile after mile. It was enormously depressing.

This isn’t to say that New Zealand is actually much better – we just don’t have as many people. The last time I was there, I walked along a beautiful beach in Russell picking up rubbish as I went. There was nowhere on this beach further than 20 metres from a bin.

Anyway, for the Shelduck, I opted for a McDonald’s bag because that’s a particular plague where I live. The local McDonald’s opened a few years ago and, even though it’s on the edge of town, the increase in rubbish on the streets has been remarkable. The Irn Bru can is much more benign: I have a Geordie friend and I thought it would amuse him.

The paradise duck, meanwhile, is mounted on a beer crate. Beer crates are pretty common thing in Australia and New Zealand, and it took all my willpower (and sensibility) not to put “Speight’s” (Some People Enjoy It, God Hates The Stuff) on the side. Aside from that, paradise ducks are native to New Zealand, and the butterfly she’s attempting to eat is based on the forest ringlet, which is an endangered New Zealand butterfly. Mike the Kiwi, a painter friend from – of all places – New Zealand, has suggested adding a male paradise duck because, as he reminds me, they do mate for life. I’ll probably try to make a sleeping drake and put him inside the crate.

Euro Miniature Expo 2019

Another week, another show – the last couple of months have obviously been a busy part of the calendar, and this spurt of the show season has ended with one of my favourite shows: Euro.

There’s obviously the usual stuff to talk about, but first, the pictures (with usual “I’m a bad photographer and the light in the hall makes me worse” excuses):

As for myself, I was over the moon to get gold for the ducks, the Oakwood Studios prize and nominated for best of show. Despite Paul announcing that I didn’t even use wooden plinths, I will point out that the board they’re mounted on is, in fact, made of wood (although I think it’s just pine). So, my delicious trophies:

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Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk about the attendance, which was certainly down. Golden Demon was on the same day, which I assume took away a lot of the fantasy figure painters and all of the fantasy vehicles. It’s a real shame, because it’s great when the hall is full and there are no empty tables, but the show circuit is busy at this time of year and other (political) shenanigans almost certainly kept some of the Europeans away.

Despite that, I still had a great time at the show – I think the extra space in the trading hall being used for demos was a really good idea. It made the whole thing feel much less mercenary than it has in past years, when you’ve struggled to move because the traders’ tables were crammed in.

I’d also point out that the quality at the top end was still right up there – Euro still has a reputation as a tough show, which I think brings out that competitive streak. I remember back in the day, the ‘Euro gold’ was almost legendary; it’s perhaps lost a little of that glamour as the numbers have dwindled, but you do still see much of the same level of work on display. I can also say that the judging was still very tough because I was judging the fantasy figures and I’m a complete bastard.

As with all shows, it’ll live or die on the punters turning up – I know that I think it’s important for the UK to have a ‘big’ show that’s reasonably accessible to other parts of Europe to bring people in. At the moment, Euro is really the only show to do that (I discount GD because it’s restricted to GW, which means it’s cutting out huge parts of the hobby – historical figures, flats, etc.). Perhaps another one will turn up, but I’ll support Euro for as long as I can.

I do think that a change of venue could really benefit the show, especially if it can be moved somewhere with a larger appeal – perhaps somewhere with a castle, or a particularly nice town square. Something really British (ideally not Jeremy-Kyle-and-Eastenders British). The shows I’ve most enjoyed attending have all had something to do outside the show, especially cafes and bars to sit in the sun and talk nerd-things with other nerds.

So, with Euro out of the way, I believe the next show I’m planning to attend is a little show in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, in June. It’s mostly vehicles as far as I can tell (like, 23 categories of vehicles and one for figures), but I thought I’d check it out anyway. I might not drag the ducks to that.

BMSS Annual Show 2019

Last week, I took wee Martin down to London for the BMSS Annual Show. I was there last year and enjoyed it, and he was keen to collect some trophies (because that’s all that motivates him nowadays – where did I go wrong?). Unfortunately, I managed to forget the camera, so I only have a few very dodgy phone pictures, which really don’t do justice to any of the pieces.

These are the only pictures that are even remotely worth including – the rest were even worse. In my defence, the lighting in there is utterly terrible. I think moving the tables to the opposite wall would instantly improve things.

I had taken the WWI chap and the ducks down, thinking that perhaps this would be the show that the private from Lincolnshire might finally get some recognition, but he had other plans and failed to make it to the show intact. In fact, the whole wine and cheese shop decided to break in half. I have no idea how it managed to do this, but suffice it to say that he’s retired now. Long may he be miserable.

The ducks, meanwhile, got a gold and an honourable mention for the President’s Medal, which was pretty cool. Martin, of course, took everything he’d painted for the last six years and was very pleased with himself.

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Isn’t he special.

Meanwhile, I realised that I needed to polish up the ducks a bit – the homemade plaques are really rough, and the pics I’ve seen online highlight that. So I went ahead and got in touch with Name It Plates and had some done professionally:

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I think these work considerably better. Name It were incredibly helpful – these are a custom size and needed a pretty quick turnaround, and they were faster than I expected (about four days from initial contact to having the plaques in my hands!), and they even gave me a discount for bulk. I’d recommend them to anyone.

You might notice that Dusty and Otter aren’t in there – Dusty was coming loose, so I had to make a slight repair. They’ll be back in the display for Euro. You might also notice that there are a couple more – a shelduck and a paradise duck. Paradise ducks are native to New Zealand and actually buck the trend of females being less colourful. This one isn’t quite finished, but is complete enough to join in the fashion parade here.

Along with the northern pintail I’m working on, that will bring me up to 18 ducks, leaving only seven or so to go. I know I want to do runner ducks, an eider and some crested mergansers, but I’m not sure about the last few after that. If you happen to have a favourite duck, I’d be keen to hear. Might knock something loose.