Shnoz

Since the last update, I’ve managed quite a bit of progress – the eider, mergansers and shoveler are all done, and I’ve also finished up a pink-eared duck with ducklings. This leaves two ducks for the whole display, and then I can move on with my life and paint something weird.

So, the eider, crested mergansers and shoveler, with water finished up:

I’m pretty happy with how the shoveler’s splashdown came out – it was sort of an extension of the splashing that I’d put on the torrent ducks’ base: bits of acetate attached with sculptable water, then coated with more (especially on the edges and corners) to make it more natural.

The pink-eared duck is a strange one, but what else would expect from an Australian bird? The name comes from the small, bright pink spots behind its eyes, which has to be unique among ducks. On top of this, they’re zebra-striped and, like the shoveler, have a massive shnoz. They also have really sturdy neck, almost like body builders. As I say, they’re weird. However, all the weirdness did make it pretty enjoyable. If anyone needs a duck for a fantasy scene, may I recommend the pink-eared duck.

I imagined it was in a sort of canal setting, or perhaps an old park. They’re apparently common even in urban areas in Australia, so it seemed appropriate. It also gave a nice opportunity to put the very pale ducklings against a relatively dark scene. Lots of the ducklings elsewhere in my collection are almost hidden, but these are less timid.

Finally, Martin has made the display base for the whole collection, which is pretty fantastic:

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It’s a solid lump of plastic. The corner was chipped, so I’ve patched that with a bit of milliput. It’ll be sprayed black and varnished, so don’t worry about the garish blue.

Of course, now that it’s in my possession, I had to try it out – which also shows just how close I am to finishing up:

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Caveat: This isn’t the actual order they’ll be laid out. I’ll need to decide the best way to display them and write that out so I don’t forget.

Needless to say, I’m quite excited to take them all to SMC, although I am a little concerned that the whole thing might take up quite a bit of space in a relatively cramped competition. Having said that, it’s only 20cm square, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I also won’t be gluing them to the display, so I guess I can always just cram them in together (although I dread to think of the potential damage as judges move things around and other contestants shuffle models to make space).

I’m also hoping there’s a wildlife category at the World Expo next year (there was at Stresa in 2014) because I think it’d be nice to see them surrounded by other works of the same type, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.

So, the last two ducks will be a musk duck (IT HAS A NECK SCROTUM) and a wigeon (because that has to be the silliest name for a duck I’ve ever heard), and then it’s finally time to move on…

Back on track

It’s been some time since I’ve done any work on the ducks, but Martin has finally delivered a new shipment of plinths, so I can get back to it and finish them up for SMC in October. That gives me about two months to do the last few, which should be more than enough, especially as two of those only need their bases.

The first of those, the eider, is pretty much done – just needs some water to fill in the space and he’ll be finished.

You can’t quite see, but I used the duck footprint stamp to add a couple of steps behind him. Hopefully they’ll survive the snow setting.

Speaking of which, before doing the snow I tested it out, because I haven’t done anything with snow in close to twenty years. Somehow. Not sure how that happened, but it did. Anyway, many years ago, I bought some Gale Force 9 snow effect that I’d never used. Rather than going out and seeing what else is available, I thought I might as well test it out, and I’m pretty happy I did.

The test was over grey (so you can actually see the snow, and to test its coverage over colour) on a sheet of plasticard. I tested three methods:

  1. Sprinkled over PVA
  2. Mixed into PVA, then with extra sprinkled over top
  3. Mixed with PVA, no sprinkling

The results:

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What’s really pleasing is that all of them work pretty well for different types of effect. I can see 1 working well for frost or a very light dusting of snow, 2 for nice powder, and 3 for partially melted or icy snow. It also has the benefit that it’s quite sparkly without having to deal with crushed glass or microballoons, which come with not insignificant health risks.

The other thing I got to try out was my new set of ‘Scalecolour Artist’ paints, which I finally got from the Kickstarter a couple of weeks back. I used these to paint the eider’s base (and contrary to appearances, there’s a lot of blue and green in there; it’s not greyscale – blame the lighting and the fact that it’s mostly in shadow). I was a little concerned as I’d not seen anyone talk about them online, and I know some people got them well before me. I suppose in the meantime the GW Contrast paints had come out, and maybe that just drowned them out. Or maybe everyone’s still hyped about the Kimera Kolors.

I can, however, unequivocally state that I love the Scalecolour paints. They’re exactly what I should have been using years ago. I have no idea why it took so long to move to tube paints, other than that it just didn’t occur to me because all of the ‘hobby acrylics’ are bottled. I still like normal Scalecolour paints and Vallejos, and I have a few from other manufacturers, but the Artist range is definitely going to take over a lot of roles.

So, my key thoughts on them:

  1. The body is excellent. I ended up using them almost neat and wet blending a lot, which isn’t something I usually do. I’m pretty excited to try some basically impasto painting with them. They also appear to thin down really nicely if you prefer to glaze your blends in.
  2. They have a nice ‘brush feel’. I found that I had better control over them because I had a better idea of how they’d flow off the brush.
  3. The coverage is great – although I’ve not tested how well white, yellow or red (the usual ‘poor coverage’ suspects) cover. I suspect the white is actually pretty decent just from its behaviour on the palette, but the yellow will probably need an ochre base to really work.
  4. Primarily, the paints really suit my techniques and preferred ways of painting – this might not be the case for everyone. I did a lot of art all the way through school, and it turns out I’m still pretty comfortable with tube acrylics (although a lot of the stuff I did used a lot of texture from building up the paints, a bit like heavy oils, which probably isn’t something I’ll do a lot of with models).

Anyway, hopefully I’ll get to use them on something that doesn’t end up hiding in the shadows soon. It feels almost criminal to use them for basing.

Up next, basing for the crested mergansers and I’m building a shoveler duck, which has a massive shnoz.

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.