Catching up

In a single, monstrous post I shall endeavour to make up for all the posts I’ve neglected over the last few months. For aid of reading, I shall even use subheadings, so you can pretend you’re reading several distinct posts.


POP is as complete as it’s going to be. As noted in a previous blog, I had to surrender to the fact that Kate wasn’t really paintable. It’s annoying, but not a complete disaster. I honestly think the three pieces look great together and it doesn’t look obvious that anything is missing.

Plaques are from Name It Plates, who have always been very accommodating for my weird requirements, strange font choices, etc. They’re also surprisingly affordable, which is obviously a bonus.

As you can see, I also managed to get all of them in front of relevant scenes. The stylised cityscape behind Bowie is based on the stage set for the Diamond Dogs tour. If you look it up, you’ll see it’s a bit different, but making something accurate that also fit within the space would mean having a weird grey wall with maybe a bizarre pool of blood. Not sure that would have really looked like anything. This way, hopefully, it looks like it’s intended to be a stage set.

For Freddie, I simplified the house he’s vacuuming in the music video for “I want to break free”. I was torn back and forth over whether to paint a pattern onto the wallpaper, but in the end, I suspect it would have drawn too much attention away from the model. I also deliberately placed a sort of spotlight effect over it to help focus on Freddie.

Overall I’m very pleased with the project, but it’s certainly not something I want to try again. I got very little enjoyment from the sculpting, and a lot of the painting process was marred by having to deal with some of the shoddier parts of that sculpting.

A quick bit of fun and some experiments

While I was waiting on the plinths for Bowie and Freddie, I had a couple of weeks with nothing to do. That, of course, would have been a terrible waste, so I had a look around for something I thought I could knock out quickly and have a bit of fun with. That led me to Nuts Planet’s Trigger range, which is a nice sort of semi-realistic post-apocalyptic setting. I’d been wanting to do something in that vein for quite a while simply because I’ve not really done it before.

Trigger also has the advantage that it’s available in different scales – it’s mostly a 75mm range, but some figures are available larger or smaller. 54mm is really my favourite scale for humans, so I had a rummage around for something that appealed and ended up picking a gangster, mostly because his weird infected arm looked interesting and I thought the pose was neutral enough that I could come up with just about any scene I wanted. The scene:

I wanted to depart from the usual dusty, ruined city look that dominates in the post-apocalyptic section at shows (there’s not normally a section for this, but somehow they all seem to gravitate together). I could have gone that way, but I feel like it’s been done and the best way to sell it seems to be with posters stuck on walls, lots of dry pigments and some models of incredibly mundane items like post boxes and bollards. I also wanted to draw on the idea of the infection in his arm – as if it could be something that doesn’t just affect people, but the whole world. I liked the idea that the infection was re-greening the world, sort of turning the ‘infection’ title back on the humans.

I then threw in some ideas from Fallout (the lectern is specifically based on the one that’s present in every church in Fallout 4) because I love those games.

The plants are all etched brass from Chichkov Shop, which I now have quite a stash of because they’re so good.

Painting the gangster was really straightforward, but pleasantly varied. I wanted a range of different textures, and the folds on the trousers begged to be treated as denim, which I don’t think I’ve done before.

My biggest issue with painting the figure was trying to figure out the colours so that they wouldn’t overwhelm the green on the base but would somehow still allow focus to be drawn as necessary. In the end, I remembered that most people wear fairly nondescript colours, so a dash of spot colour on the bandana and hat would to an admirable job of drawing attention.

One thing I should note is that because the sculpts are designed for 75mm, some of the details at 54mm are insanely tiny. I nearly went blind dealing with the drip bag and vials on his torso.

Overall, very pleased with how he came out. When you work on large projects that take a long time, you’re sort of restricted to painting to a standard that you set with the first piece or element. This is magnified when you have to apply that standard to figures sculpted by me. It was really enjoyable flexing the painting muscles a bit more on this piece, not least because the size meant I could get it all done fairly quickly.

Birds of New Zealand

I obviously have a sort of reputation for painting birds. “What? Not a duck?” is a pretty common comment on one of my non-bird pieces (even though the duck project was finished more than two years ago now…). I don’t mind the reputation especially, but I do feel like I need to do more to get away from it.

Obviously, I decided to paint some more birds.

I’ve had a plan for a while to recreate a series of New Zealand stamps as models – it’s a fairly famous stamp series that must have been in circulation for a decade or so (or felt like it, anyway) and depicted a range of native birds. NZ’s birds are pretty awesome, too.

Notably, however, the series does not include two of my favourite native birds: the kea and the pīwakawaka.

The kea is the world’s only alpine parrot and is astonishingly clever. They’re now mostly famous for destroying cars and being a bit cheeky, but back in the day they were blamed for everything that could possibly go wrong in the South Island – predominantly killing sheep. I believe the jury is still out on whether they actually did this in any real numbers or were just scavengers, but they were also once described as “A terrible man-eating parrot which devours human flesh with evident enjoyment” (Oregon Sunday Journal, 1914), which should go some way towards showing what people thought of them. Anyway, as a result of some really terrible press, kea were hunted mercilessly, right to the edge of extinction. The NZ government used to pay a bounty on kea beaks. You can read more about how the kea barely clung onto existence in this fairly long but very interesting article from Stuff.

The pīwakawaka (or fantail), meanwhile, is fairly common throughout New Zealand. They behave a bit like robins, and seem very friendly to humans when you’re out tramping through the bush. This is actually because your movements stir up the tiny insects that fantails love to eat. So I suppose they probably do quite like humans.

Anyway, back to the toys. I had bought a set of birds from HonourGuard in 75mm scale, figuring they might be useful for something sometime, and they’d been staring at me across my desk. A quick couple of tweaks, and two of them now pretty closely resembled my favourite NZ birds.

The painting was fairly straightforward, and the settings seemed obvious enough to me: alpine rocks and tussocks for the kea, undergrowth in a native forest for the fantail. The main issue with the fantail was that his size and relatively beige colouring risked having him disappear into the details. I got around this with a couple of simple tricks:

  1. Almost everything else is variations on the same green. This means that anything that isn’t green instantly has some kind of contrast.
  2. I focused the light around the fantail, sort of like a spotlight. This is a very basic trick to draw the eye. The last thing I’d want is a really bright spot out on the periphery.

Anyway, here’s the result:

I’ll now put the actual birds of NZ project on the backburner. Might come back to it in a few years.

The History of Pazuzu

So, what’s next? It’s a bit of a weird one. Eight small dioramas in 10mm scale, each depicting a scene at various moments in the history of a culture that worships Pazuzu (the demon that possesses Regan in The Exorcist). There’s a long explanation of how I came up with the idea, but I’ll leave that for next time.

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