A variety of scales

This week, it seems I’ve been working in a whole range of different scales – from the very large flat down to a teeny-tiny 32mm-scale schoolgirl. Not that this is a particular indicator of excellent progress – everything is still a bit rough and isn’t coming across well in the photos, but oh, well.

So, first up, progress on the halberdier:


As you can see, he’s come along quite a way, although much of that is rough and difficult to read properly. The orange, in particular, has caused me grief. There were about four attempts at it before this, and I’m now inclined to leave it there. I might hit some higher spots on it, though, it make it look silkier, but the general gist is as it will be.

The helmet is the most recent part, and it looks considerably better in the hand. I think I need to go back in with some black ink to improve the coverage, as too much of it is just a sort of muddy blue at the moment.

Beyond that, it’s really only his frilly shirt collar, the halberd and the dirt, and then he’ll be ready for mounting. I’m thinking of a pretty tight frame for this one, as he’s already sort of spread out, and giving too much space around him will make the frame both massive and astonishingly empty.

Up next, some heels for Lady Gaga:

There’s obviously not a lot of change here, except that she now appears to have ice skates. Those are just blocks of sculptiboard that will form the core of the platforms. This should make sure they’re equal heights, which can be a little problematic when only one foot is really in contact with the ground.

I am, of course, petrified at the idea of sculpting her hair. I have a sort of plan for it, but we’ll have to see how that works out.

Finally, the tiny creepy schoolgirl:


This is really just a bit of fun with a slight purpose. My old wargaming club has started having an annual tournament/get together, which I obviously can’t attend (I mean, I guess it’s technically possible for me to fly around the world for a weekend of beer and Warhammer, but that doesn’t seem the most fiscally responsible thing to do) so I instead provide some trophies and prizes.

Last year, I sort of cleaned out all the old stuff I’m not too attached to anymore, so this year I’m making a custom trophy, which will feature this wee sweetheart. I’ll chuck some other stuff in the package, too, just to make the postage worthwhile. Anyway, she won’t take much longer, so expect finished pics in the next update.

In other news, I’ll be attending Iron Skull down in London in a couple of weeks, which should be interesting. If I’m honest, I’m not expecting much from the show – it seems to have positioned itself as a painting competition aligned with wargaming, much like Golden Demon and Salute, so I expect to see a lot of last year’s Golden Demon entries and stuff like that. I also don’t really have anything new to take, so I’ll just drag along a couple of older pieces and see how they do.

Martin is, of course, taking everything he’s painted for the last six years (yes, the minotaur is apparently attending – just in case you somehow hadn’t seen it yet).

Back to it

It’s been some time since I’ve posted, which is because it’s been some time since I’ve done any hobby stuff. Partially, this is because I took a long holiday to the Antipodes, which was very pleasant, but also reminded me why I don’t live there anymore (SPORTS, MATE).

Mostly, however, it’s been the accursed Playstation. That, and Witcher 3, which I finally got around to playing. A word to the wise: if you’re prone to getting sucked into games and find it difficult to drag yourself away until they’re finished, don’t play games with more than a hundred hours of content.

Anyway, Geralt has now saved the world (and defeated some sort of demon in a battle of wits, not to mention saving totally-not-France from a vengeful vampire), so I can get back to what I should be doing.

First up, some progress on the flat:


I’m not totally sold on the trousers, but they’re good enough for now. I’ll probably come back to them later to sort them out a little more. The NMM I’m reasonably pleased with. I was going for a black lacquered sort of effect, and I think this is a competent effort. I’ll see out it works out once the breastplate and helmet are done, too. The fancy guard still needs some work, I think. Needs more colour and light on the upper section.

And that brings me to Lady Gaga:

As much as I despise sculpting, I do think this is coming along. I’ve sorted out a few of the issues I was having – reduced the size of her chest and resculpted the beef there, added to the shanks on her legs to make them a little less even, narrowed the waist a touch, added to her nose and given her slightly more prominent cheekbones. There are still some bits to resolve:

  • The fillets at her waist I think need to blend up over her chest. It looks a little too empire line at the moment.
  • Straps on the back need to be tidied up.
  • Beef booties need to go a little higher, and – of course – the steak platforms need to go under those.
  • Her neck needs to be filed down, as she’ll be getting a choker, and I need to make sure it doesn’t make her neck bigger than her head.

Still, all things considered, she’s coming along nicely. She should be a pretty quick paintjob, but obviously I don’t want to be struggling against the sculpt when the sculpt is my own doing.


As those of you who pay any attention to me on Facebook will be aware, I’ve finished Graham and Trevor, and they do look handsome:


There are a lot of things that could do with more work – the NMM is a bit lacklustre in the hand (although I’m very happy with the axe head), the algae on the boat isn’t terribly prominent or obvious, lots of bits are rough, etc.

However, this was really a practice piece to get me into flats – figuring out how the light works, and all that – and I’m really happy with the result for a first effort. I’m especially pleased with how the water came out – that’s not part of the piece, but I thought it would help sell the scene.

So, rather than dealing with sculpting, I thought I’d do another flat, hopefully putting all the things I’ve learnt into practice. After a few sessions, I have this:


So far, the face, stockings, gloves and his left leg are done, although I’ll probably keep poking at them as the piece progresses and I get a better idea about how the colours balance and how the light should fall across the piece.

Anyway, I began this piece assuming he (Dave) was Spanish, based almost solely on the wee goatee and some vague memories of conquistadors dressing like this. However, when I went to look for some reference images to pick colours, it turned out I was dead wrong.

This is where research comes in. In historical painting, research is very important, especially for competitions.* If you don’t know the right colours and materials, you’re liable to do something based on what you think it should be, and it’s reasonable to assume that a judge knows, for a definite fact, what it should be, and that’s where you lose points.

Beyond just pleasing the judges, part of the reason a lot of people paint historical pieces is out of some respect for the past, and often for the characters they’re painting (I’d like to think there’s less of that when painting Nazis and Confederates, but the jury is still out on that one…). As such, it’s really more respectful to try to faithfully recreate the uniform and setting.

* A caveat: I do think the ‘rule of cool’ should pretty much always win – after all, a lot of the pieces that end up being made into models are based on artwork, and the artists who painted these things are as prone to interpretation and adaptation as the rest of us. Not to mention that, when a piece is based on a famous figure from history, the art is usually commissioned by that person, and the artist really wants to get paid and not beheaded, so there’s often a degree of polishing to make sure the portrait or sculpture is suitably flattering.

So, when I realised that this bloke was indeed not a Spaniard, I had to figure out what he could be, and that’s where the internet really comes in handy. I don’t have a complete library of Osprey references to rummage through, but the internet does.

The first thing, of course, was to try to narrow my searches down from just ‘halberdier’. Halberds, as you might have some inkling, were popular weapons for an astonishingly long time. For that, you need to pay some attention to the piece you’re painting and focus on key details that might be regionally or historically distinct. I’ve marked the key things I was looking at in glorious technicolour below:


These are the sorts of things that, from my experience, are pretty clear markers of times and/or locations.

The halberd head is a good one to start with, because you can look at the design, do a quick Google image search for ‘halberd heads’ and find something that’s either exactly right or pretty similar. What I came across was an ornate one from the guard of Emperor Matthias of the Holy Roman Empire. He was around in the early 17th century, which seemed about right for the rest of the figure, so I set about trying to find some references for it. Sadly, the helmets didn’t match.

In the 17th century, a lot of soldiers were still fairly irregular, so uniforms were whatever they had to hand or whatever their boss was willing to buy for them, so I might’ve gotten away with it, except that Matthias’s guard was obviously a professional unit and wore matching uniforms, as befits someone whose death was about to kick off the Thirty Years’ War (which started with the infamous Defenestration of Prague).

So, I moved on to identifying the helmet, which turned out to be a burgonet. These were popular around the same time, so I was able to reasonably assume that this guy was a soldier in the Thirty Years’ War.

As I looked through images of soldiers from that war, however, I came across a few pictures that were pretty much right – notably down to the sword and shoes, and some displaying a sash, too. It turns out they weren’t pictures of the Thirty Years’ War at all, but Dutch soldiers from the Eighty Years’ War, which was the Dutch war for independence from Spain and happened at about the same time.

So, in the end, not only was this guy not Spanish at all (although I suppose the Spanish at the time probably considered them Spanish – or at least part of Spain), he was, in fact, fighting against Spain. I was simultaneously completely wrong and so very, very close.

Based on that, I saw an outfit I liked the look of and decided to dress Dave in that. I’m sure he’ll look suitably handsome and rebellious.

Caveat: I could be completely wrong, but I spent literally hours doing this research and Dave was naked. If anyone knows better, please let me know. I might still have time to correct things.

A few of my least favourite things

In addition to musicals, there are a number of things that fall into my ‘fuck everything about that’ list. Notably, these are sculpting (as you might have gathered from some of my previous posts) and NMM (non-metallic metal, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about and are just here for the pictures and the swearing). Of late, I’ve been forced to do both.

Well, it’s not really ‘forced’ if it was my own idea, but whatever.

Anyway, the NMM. I dislike NMM for a few reasons:

  1. It forces the canvas into two dimensions. That’s not to say it’s impossible to get it to work in three dimensions, but it’s forcing a miniature, which is inherently three dimensional, to bow to a different set of rules.
  2. This leads into the second point: it works really well in photographs, which are obviously two dimensional. I’ve always felt that this is somehow deceitful. To be fair, metallics never look right in photographs, either.
  3. A lot of the really top-tier NMM going round in the last few years doesn’t even remotely look like metal once you see it in the round. In photographs, it’s remarkable – highly realistic reflections, specularity – all that. Incredible stuff. Until you see it in person and it doesn’t look like anything at all (with some exceptions – I really liked the gold on one of Kirill Kanaev’s recent pieces¬†when I saw that in person).

Basically, my issue with NMM is that it’s ideal for models that you don’t actually have in front of you, which makes it perfect for box art. It shows off some incredible blending, and in extreme cases an astonishing appreciation for light and surfaces. However, I paint for myself and I like to look at my models with my eyes rather than through a phone camera.

This is all a very long way of saying “I’m really bad at NMM, but it’s just because I don’t like it on philosophical grounds, and also I’m out of practice blending anything because I spent a year painting tiny ducks that hardly needed to be blended at all”.

[I will note that there are strong arguments in favour of NMM as more realistic than normal metallics in the round, because you’re already forcing the lighting simply by painting the figure, and therefore the additional reflectivity of metallic paint is actually less realistic, etc., etc. Paint what you want, and paint it however you like.]

So, for the Normans (Graham and Trevor), NMM was unfortunately kind of a necessity – flats are, well, flat, so you need to force the light anyway, and they also feel much more like canvas painting, which demands NMM (although now I want to do a Klimt flat with lots of metallics). So, with all that out of the way, behold my abomination (spearhead and Graham’s shield currently unfinished):


You’re all very lucky that this is a photograph, because the NMM looks considerably worse in person.

On to sculpting. I don’t think I need to explain again why I hate sculpting, but I will.

  1. It takes absolutely forever.
  2. Putty enjoys sticking to everything.
  3. Putty hates me.
  4. I always mix up too much putty and end up wasting loads of it.
  5. Sometimes I think “I’ll just mix up a little less putty”, and then mix too little and fail to get anything done.
  6. I buy models so that I don’t have to sculpt. Anything that forces me to sculpt is, therefore, somehow inadequate and I feel cheated for having spent money on something inadequate. (Note that this is almost always my own fault for having a Good Idea that requires sculpting.)

Unfortunately, I’ve had a number of Good Ideas over the last year, and this is the first of them and the first part of my next major project. On the plus side, I didn’t have to sculpt everything on this – the main body is a mannequin from Michael Kontraros (now out of production, I believe) – so I suppose I should be a little grateful that I don’t have to contend with anatomy and all that.

Before I tell you what it is, I’ll post the picture and you should all attempt to guess what it’s meant to be in order to assess my skills. (Remember that I didn’t do the basic figure, just the decoration so far.)


That’s right, it’s Lady Gaga in her famous meat dress.

Unfortunately, the mannequin is a little too endowed up top, so I need to remove the boob-steaks, file her down a bit and then make new, less voluminous boob-steaks. I obviously also need to give her hair and a beef-yarmulke, medallion-boots, etc.

I’m also half tempted to just rip all the putty off and do the whole dress out of pieces of pewter sheet, but I think that’ll just lead to even more swearing.

Scale Model Challenge 2019

I’m back from Eindhoven and have finally finished going through my pictures. Sadly, they’re worse than usual for one key reason: I bought a secondhand camera so I wouldn’t have to keep nicking my wife’s camera (and worrying that I might lose it), and the display doesn’t work on it, so I wasn’t able to check the pictures as I was taking them. I’d tested the camera before leaving to assess ideal conditions (how well it captures detail, at what sort of distance, lighting, flash, etc.) and thought I’d had it figured out, but it turns out it’s quite a bit more picky than I’d realised. Still, it’ll be fine for landscape and architecture stuff when I’m on holiday, so I suppose it’s not a complete loss (and it was very cheap for what it is).

Anyway, with the usual excuses out of the way, here are the pics I’ve managed to salvage:

So, despite all that, I did manage to get nearly 300 pictures close to my usual standard of photography (which I would charitably call ‘adequate’).

As to results: the ducks did very well, nabbing a bronze medal in masters’ historical painting as well as a lovely trophy from the people who organise Ruby Sphere, which is a competition held in Moscow. That was a real surprise, because it wasn’t actually there when I first checked whether they’d got anything in the morning. It was only later when I was trying to get some more photos that I saw it. BEHOLD:


So, the show itself. I believe attendance was down on last year, which isn’t hugely surprising with the World Expo there in July next year – I imagine a lot of people are saving their money for that trip, and quite a few will also be working on special projects. Having said that, there were still 1500 entries, which is no small number.

I managed to actually spend very little this year, which was also quite nice. Given my new approach to painting – plan out a whole display and just work on that – my actual needs are much more focused, so I only buy things that will generally contribute to the next project. As that project is a little weird, there’s not really much I was going to find at the show. As a result, I only picked up a couple of plinths, a couple of flats (for practice), some more Scale Colour Artist paints and a pair of bulls.

I also gave away most of my spare waterfowls now that the duck project is complete (I’ll do a proper photo shoot for them and get some nice pictures up as soon as I can be bothered unpacking them). There are some lucky people who now have geese, ducks and/or ducklings. I look forward to seeing what they do with them.

Ben also was lucky enough to be the world’s only owner of an authentic Fet waterfowl outside the Fet Family Collection. He’d sent me a picture of the Untitled Goose wielding a Klingon bat’leth with the simple instruction “Make. It. Happen.” So I did.


The Untitled Goose then spent the rest of the show hanging out in the judges’ display because Ben presumably wanted to show him off to the world, and not at all because he didn’t have his case on him.

So, with SMC out of the way, I believe the next show on the itinerary will be Bugle Call over near Bristol next month. It’ll be a very quick trip and probably exhausting.

Next update, however, will return to talking about my daft projects. The next one is properly daft. Probably.