Bucket list

As many of you have probably seen, I posted the ducks on Facebook as part of the ‘models for x days’ thing in response to Sascha Herm nominating me. I don’t normally get in on things like that, but the ducks needed a photo shoot so I could put them on Putty and Paint.

I’m quite pleased I did, and have been overwhelmed by the response:

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Editors’ Choice? I’ll tick that one off the bucket list!

In other news, I’ve continued being productive. Firstly, the Kiowa demi-ronde is all finished:
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This was a really interesting exercise on quite a challenging piece. In some places, the sculpting really works against you (the otter-fur braid wrappings are really designed for drybrushing, which is obviously quite a messy process), in others you have to kind of paint around things (his chin, which I assume is uneven as part of the slight angle to his face).

Nearly every part of him got painted three or four times, but I’m pleased I put the effort in. I reckon he’s a decent piece. Still room for improvement in some places, but I’ll note those for future projects.

Secondly, I’ve been working on one of the Operation Knox pieces from Mr Lee’s Minis. Arbiter in particular really reminded me of the old Aeon Flux animations on MTV (Public Health Warning: Do not watch the film version from 2005). I’m not sure whether they were broadcast in the UK, or how widely they were watched, but I enjoyed them greatly. Anyway, I thought I’d do Arbiter as a sort of homage to that. It turns out that my memory of the colours in Aeon Flux is much brighter than reality because I expected to use quite bright colours.

Image of the antagonist, Trevor Goodchild, from the animations:
TrevorGoodchild3-e1557777737404(Note that this is a fairly wholesome image of Trevor. If you look up pictures of him, you’ll see him in lots of less than sanitary, presumably erotic activities involving eyes and spines.)

Anyway, I could’ve gone with an accurate palette, but I wanted to sort of update the image and account for the more cyberpunk details in the sculpt. Hence, as he is in progress:

Ignore the rubbed off primer – that’s just me being a little too hands-on as I paint. I’ve been working my way back from the extremities so that I can avoid touching finished parts, because I usually only need to brace the model against my skin when doing those.

Anyway, other than the undercoated (or bare resin) parts, the armour on his arm isn’t finished – I’m waiting on a paint delivery so I can finish that up and then smooth it out a touch, but the light is generally about right, I think.

What you might be thinking is “Fet, I thought you hated NMM!” and you’d be completely right. I don’t typically like NMM in most uses because it feels strongly like pandering to the camera rather than recognising that the model is, in fact, a three-dimensional object that people want to look at in person. Good NMM, to me, works both in the hand and in photographs. Some NMM is, of course, good on that basis. Other stuff just doesn’t work for me (impressive as the technical skill may be).

Anyway, I’d normally shy away from NMM for these reasons, but for this piece it really felt essential. The cyberpunk influence and the source material (Aeon Flux) kind of demand NMM, and I have a sort of get-out-of-hypocrisy free card in that I can argue that none of these are metal surfaces as we might think of them. They’re plastic, or something. Definitely something like that.

As a result, I thought it was about time I actually did quite a lot of NMM. In the past, I’ve typically relegated it to trims and whatnot. Here it’s very much front and centre. It is, of course, still a pain in the arse.

In order to do penance for this outrage, I’m now thinking about getting another bust from the range and doing it in a really gritty, real metallics style. I think Fox Jupiter would suit that. She can be the Aeon Flux to this Trevor Goodchild.

Trying to be productive

As previously noted, I’ve not been terribly productive on the painting front this year, which is really unforgivable when this year presents a prime opportunity to do very little except paint. I’m still working, so I’m not completely freed from other obligations, but I don’t have my usual commute, I can’t spend time in the pub and we haven’t travelled since getting back from New Zealand in January.

As I say, I’ve really had no real excuses.

However, I’m now running out of other distractions and I’ve been quite surprisingly productive in the last couple of weeks. Firstly, Putin is finished except for a plaque. I’ll get that sorted out when I have a few more to order at once. It’s not like there’s any particular rush.

Secondly, the dour medieval chap is also done. He was a fun bit of work just playing around with paint and textures and stuff. For those of you not following along on Facebook, here’s how he came out:

When I can be bothered dealing with couriers, he’ll be winging his way off to a friend.

Thirdly, I decided to enter Massive Voodoo’s Beyond Your Imagination competition. I didn’t even realise there was a competition for a while – I just really liked the model Roman had painted up and wanted to give it a go myself, so I headed over to Mr Lee’s to get the set and discovered it was sold out. And then sold out again. And then on the third release, I managed to get them. (They are currently, I’m sure you’ll be astonished to discover, sold out.)

When I finally got them, I already had a few ideas, but so far three of those ideas haven’t been realised but deserve to be, so I think I may need another set. Anyway, working quickly with what I had to hand, I came up with this:

For the record, I have now spent far too much time focusing on rotund astronaut buttocks. They’re quite prominent.

Anyway, there will probably be at least one more of these, if not three more…

Finally, I’ve been working quite steadily on the native American:

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I’m pretty happy to call his face done now, and I’ve made a small start on his scarf. Speaking of which, if you look back at the previous blog, you’ll note that I’ve made a small change to it. The original was all folds, which I guess might be fine, but in my research I found that these scarves were generally quite brightly coloured and patterned, so all those folds would make that more difficult to get across; as such, I’ve smoothed it out quite a lot and made it a bit broader in places.

My research also found that he’s a Kiowa (the fur-wrapped braids was the giveaway), which is a tribe that’s often described as being very much what you expect of ‘stereotypical’ native Americans. They lived semi-nomadically in tipis, rode horses, hunted bison, did the Sun Dance, etc. If you’re particularly interested, the actual sculpt appears to be based on a photograph of Chief Running Deer.

Finally, I beheaded Lady Gaga and replaced it with a much improved head from Hornet. I still have to resculpt the hair, though, so there’s not really much to show for that.

Now I blame Borderlands

It’s been quite a while since my last post because I haven’t done a huge amount of painting, despite nearly everyone else using their lockdown time productively. I blame Borderlands 3 this time.

Anyway, I haven’t been completely inactive, and have now basically finished Putin:

I’m really happy with how he’s come out, and with the addition of a ‘CENSORED’ plaque, he’ll be all finished up.

Those of you following along on Facebook will remember that I had some issues with his background not being suitably erect, which I resolved with a bit of 0.8mm brass strip (thanks for the idea, Bob!), which should be sturdy enough to keep the very thin plasticard in place. It’s not a pretty solution (I will, of course, improve matters by repainting the back), but it is effective:

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Meanwhile, the lack of shows to give me a deadline has sort of pushed me into just doing some fun pieces to try things out. First up is a bust I’ve been playing around with to test some things:

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Of particular note is the helmet, which didn’t actually start out intending to be NMM. I was actually trying to do a matte metal, like a lot of worn iron you see around. Of course, one thing led to another, and now it looks like (dodgy) NMM. I suppose it’s good practice.

I’m quite happy with half of the helmet, but the other half needs a bit more light in a few spots. What’s really interesting, is that the two halves actually work quite well independently of each other, they just don’t quite work as a whole. Viz:

The next project I’ve started is a demi-ronde I picked up from Bash Models for the bargain sum of £4 (well, £20, but only because I bought 5 of them). As you might expect for that price, there are a few issues with the casting – lots of bubble holes, uneven back, etc., but nothing beyond an hour or so filling and fixing.

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What I’m also doing is changing his shoulder to make it a little more interesting. Originally, it was all tassels, but I think it’s reasonable to have some of the suede/leather of the jacket visible there. There are a few other spots I’ll do a bit more with, too, like evening out his hair on the left.

Finally, you might be wondering what’s up with Lady Gaga. Well, she’s not in my good books at the moment. Aside from repainting the stockings on her legs about five times, I decided to have a poke at her face to give me a break from that. This is when I realised that the original face is basically non-existent. There’s nothing to work with. There’s a gesture at eyes and lips, and other than that, it’s just a swathe of smooth surface, and not really in the right scale.

As a result, I’m now looking for 54mm female heads. I’ve seen a Hornet set that might be useful, and I had also wondered if 32mm heroic heads might work (which would open up a huge range of options), but if you know of anything that could be suitable, do let me know.

Three dilemmas

With the latest flat complete (and up on Putty and Paint over here), I don’t really have much of an excuse to not work on Lady Gaga – or do I?

The problem with my Good Ideas, is that nowadays I have one Grand Idea, which gives rise to several Good Ideas. The Grand Idea I’m working on is to recreate artworks as models, which doesn’t seem all that Grand, and certainly not original – I mean, I’m sure we’ve all seen at least two or three versions of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, and at least a couple more of Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, not to mention various Last Suppers, and so on.

However, of late, I’ve been interested in seeing how far away from ‘traditional’ historical entries I can go while still being indisputably historical. The ducks are a good example of this, simply because model shows are awash with military pieces, and civilians and wildlife make up a vanishingly small minority. So, this Grand Idea is to take some less traditional art topics and turn them into models. Lady Gaga is the first of these – the meat dress is a prime example of performance art. Some of the other pieces I’ll be working on are marginally less approachable, I suspect.

So, here’s the lineup so far:

From the left we have: a bull (obviously), Lady Gaga and Vladimir Putin. I’ve already explained Lady Gaga, so on to the others:

The bull will be one of a pair working as a sort of shorthand version of Picasso’s Bull, which depicts a bull in various stages of abstraction. This bull was one of a pair I picked up at SMC last year, and I’ll have to make the second one from scratch. More sculpting, alas, but at least an abstract bull doesn’t need to be particularly refined.

Putin will be a recreation of the apparently banned painting of Putin in drag (I say ‘apparently’ because the legal declaration taken as a ban doesn’t specifically identify the image). I’ll make a few changes to the original simply because some elements won’t really work on a model – tinting all the skin pink would probably just look awful, for instance.

I’d originally intended to do this simply as a greyscale piece with the tints supplied on clear acrylic sheets to make more of a point about censorship (when does the picture become objectionable? If any change at all is objectionable, does the artist have any real freedom?), but the more I thought about it, the more it felt like a gimmick (well, more of a gimmick than making the piece in the first place).

(Note: If anyone hears about a novichok attack in Cambridgeshire, it’s been nice knowing all of you.)

I bought Putin as a 3D print from Shapeways, and the quality is generally excellent. If you look at the full-size image, you should be able to see the printing lines, but they’re pretty minor. I did clean up a few of the more notable ones, but I’m happy to leave the rest and rely on the paint gradually sorting them out. I do have one issue, however: a porous section on top of his head:

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That darker area is rougher than the rest of the print and soaks up the paint, so I’ll need to fix that, probably with a thin layer of magicsculpt or milliput.

And finally, Lady Gaga has, in fact, progressed. She now has her booties and jewellery, and the start of her hair:

The hair is currently strips of pewter sheet, which has two advantage for me:

  1. It’s very thin, so I’m less concerned about the hair ending up too bulky.
  2. It’s rigid, so I can add the crimping now.

I’ll sculpt over this as thin as I can to build out the rest, fill in the gaps and add a little motion to it. This, of course, means that Lady Gaga is very nearly ready for paint – huzzah!

Iron Skull 2020

This weekend, Martin and I headed down to London for the first Iron Skull show. I honestly wasn’t expecting much: it’s a first-past-the-post competition with categories clearly built on the Golden Demon model – monsters, vehicles, squads, etc., and only a single category for historical (which, to be fair, is fine for the most part – very few painters take much interest in doing whole regiments for historical, and they allowed historical vehicles to be entered alongside fantasy and sci-fi ones).

Having a strong preference for open display competitions, I’m not generally convinced that squad/regiment entries are really much more than giving a nod to the wargaming roots of most fantasy and sci-fi painters. While this isn’t a necessarily bad thing, it does seem to me that in these cases painting is being treated as kind of subordinate to a wider hobby, rather than being something that really does stand on its own merits.

So I was generally expecting some of the painfully competitive types among a horde of GW fanboys. There were, of course, a lot of GW entries – there always will be at a show catering to sci-fi and fantasy – but I didn’t see any evidence of the petty competitiveness that I’ve seen far too often at other first-past-the-post shows, which was a pleasant surprise. In fact, the whole thing was very friendly and ended up being a pretty great day out.

So, assuming it’s still on next year, I’m pretty confident Martin and I will be back.

Anyway, on with the photos, and then some more commentary:

So. something you might note is that the pictures are uniquely terrible, even for me. This is where my commentary begins:

  1. Lighting
    The cabinets were the usual type you see at GD and Salute, and like both of those venues, somehow no one has yet figured out how to properly light them. These cabinets had hard lighting, and were lit from behind. Unless your figure was in a six-inch sweet spot on the third shelf down, it’d be lucky to look even remotely accurate. I couldn’t get a single shot of David Soper’s best of show piece because it was so atrociously lit.
    I’m also informed that the style of cabinet they used can be fitted with diffuse lighting.
    I can understand that the judges want to be able to see the models, but the judges had a separate table at the back with some very good lighting, and they could do exactly as Alan Merrett for years and bring a little torch if they need to.
    Alternatively, they could do exactly what all of the other major shows I attend do: just put the models on tables or shelves.
  2. Backpacks
    For the love of god, ban backpacks at model shows. Even though this show had the figures in cabinets, minimising the risk of damage to the models, people in a cramped area turning around and smacking me with their backpack is getting tiresome. They take up too much space, force everyone else to accommodate their need for whatever the hell they’re carrying around in there (rocks? Scaffolding? Who knows), and just piss me the hell off.
    Whenever I see someone with a backpack at a model show, I assume they’re a selfish arsehole with a severe Oedipus complex. Are you a selfish arsehole with a severe Oedipus complex? No? THEN DON’T WEAR YOUR BACKPACK.
    Ban backpacks. Ban backpacks. Ban backpacks.
  3. Cabinet arrangements
    Cabinets are always hell to get to at shows, but it’s not helped when they’re arranged in an L shape. This means that instead of, say, four people looking at each cabinet, you end up with a clot in the middle where you might get 2 people looking at each of the corner cabinets. This reduces overall traffic flow and increases the temperature.
    This really also comes back to my point about using tables or shelves. There was plenty of space in the hall to allow more room to view the entries.

So, while this sounds very negative, they’re actually quite minor points (except the lighting – I’m honestly perplexed as to how anyone can run a show (especially one they clearly invested so much money in) now without understanding the importance of good lighting. The hall itself was very well lit and didn’t have competing lighting coming in large windows, so it’s really the ideal venue to get that right).

Overall, it was a very good show, so it would be remiss to not mention the positives:

  1. BAR ON SITE
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    I might be slightly biased, but this is something a lot of shows don’t really take into account. Iron Skull had a small bar with some seating, so you could sit down, have a drink and talk smack about models. There weren’t many traders, so the hall was spacious. It was really pretty well laid out (except for the cabinets, obviously).
    Granted, quite a few shows have bars on site nowadays, but they’re often cramped, inconveniently located and/or horrendously expensive (I believe I paid £2.50 for a bottle of water at Euro). The bar here was pretty much exactly the right size for the show, and the seating was about right.
  2. Great trophies/badges
    The trophies and finalist pins are really nicely made. I have trophies from shows all over the place, and these are probably among the nicest ones I’ve seen. My finalist pin will look very good in the drawer, shaming the finalist pins/badges/bits of card I have from elsewhere.
  3. Little touches
    The show also had some really nice little things, like the quality of the entry card that sat under your model – they were actual card with rounded corners rather than a flimsy bit of paper or a number on a sticker stuck to your plinth. It’s not much, but I did think they were actually a nice little touch.
    The lanyard passes. Again, really basic, but much nicer than a stamp on your hand or one of those nigh-unbreakable bracelets.
  4. Location
    While the area doesn’t look like much, it was literally a few minutes’ walk from Liverpool Street, which was strangely convenient because trains weren’t running into King’s Cross. Martin and I also went off wandering to look for lunch and found an absolutely awesome tapas restaurant. We’re contemplating whether our better halves might want to come next year, if only for the lunch.

All in all, it was a great day out, and the competition was exactly the right size for the venue. I think the guys who organised it did an excellent job of gauging their needs and accommodating precisely. Sort out the lighting and ban backpacks, and bingo: you have a winner.

Oh, and Martin got some kind of trophy, I think. Just in case you hadn’t noticed him spamming it all over the Internet.