A sense of scale

Work continues on Project Duck with the addition of some Very Serious Dutch hookbills and a wee family of whio. All ducks also now have name plates, which I think add to the sort of museum-like presentation. Anyway, here’s the whole lot so far:


And a close-up of the whio (which still needs some water added to the creek at the front of the base) with a penny for scale, as I suspect many of you have never actually seen what size these are (and especially the tiny, tiny ducklings):


The whio is an endangered duck from New Zealand, and are notable for their bluish feathers (they’re often called ‘blue ducks’ in New Zealand) and red markings. I’ve exaggerated the blue a little for this one to make her stand out a little more.

New Zealand, if you’re unaware, has a huge range of birds because until humans arrived about a thousand years ago, birds were the top of the food chain. The only mammals in the country were a couple of species of bat, as well as aquatic mammals like dolphins, whales and seals. As such, birds adapted to fill pretty much every other niche – famously including the now-extinct moa and Haast’s egale. This means that, to this day, there’s a crazy range of birds that don’t seem well adapted to much at all in the modern day – the kakapo is probably the most famous example.

Anyway, the massive variety of birds means that they’re generally pretty popular with the public, and there’s even an annual Bird of the Year competition, which now features smack-talk memes between the various camps that support different birds. I typically back the kea (which is, without a doubt, the coolest bird in the world), but this year the title was stolen by the kereru (a.k.a. wood pigeon), which has the dubious distinction of being famously stupid. In fact, the Guardian’s article announcing the victory even hailed its “drunk, gluttonous” nature.

So, when the competition rolls around next year, do consider the whio for a vote (anyone can vote – you don’t have to be a kiwi!), or perhaps the pateke (brown teal), the papango (New Zealand scaup), or one of the penguins, or really any one of the other options – we have some pretty cool birds.

In other news, we should soon be moving to a larger house, which will mean more space for painting, which will mean faster progress on Project Duck – I aim to have around 20-30 of these done for Duke of Bavaria in April, as well as any communist ducks I can manage for the fantasy category.

Ducks of all feathers

Last week’s post was by far the most successful I’ve had. In fact, I think it may equal every other post combined. It turns out there’s an extremely active forum for historical painters over in the US (Timelines), who were all very, very eager to see pictures from SMC. 8,000 hits later, somehow I haven’t run out of bandwidth.

Anyway, since then, I’ve done a little bit more with the ducks, and now I have a respectably growing set of quackers, much to my wife’s delight. First up, a pair of ringed teal, which I think I mentioned previously. The plant is a paper fescue from Green Line, I believe. I’m very pleased with how that came out, and the ducks look pretty good, too.

I’ve also finished off the magpie duck, although I think I may yet add some dry grass to keep the basing interesting:


And finally a pair of ‘celebrity’ ducks that my wife follows on Facebook. If you’re interested, they even have a website: Dusty and Otter Duck. I’m told that Dusty (the white duck) is a tufted pekin and Otter is a cayuga. I’ll probably do a couple of male cayugas in the future, as they’re a really lovely glossy green.


Dusty especially loves mud, as you may be able to see.

So, with this batch done, behold the current horde:


Obviously I still need to make a couple of nameplates, but hopefully you can see the sort of direction I’m going with the project.

Up next will be a small family of scaups, which are pretty adorable diving ducks, and set of three very serious Dutch hookbills. This is a breed I only came across recently, but they always look hilariously dour. Viz:


This duck has had enough of your shit.

Scale Model Challenge 2018

Once again, a huge batch of photos from a very, very good show. Pictures (nearly 300! I didn’t accidentally leave the camera on overnight, and I had a spare battery just in case) first for the lazy, with words to follow. Remember that all of the thumbnails can be opened to larger pics.

I’d also like to highlight this piece, which was my favourite entry in the historial masters category (extra larger picture):


Anyway, some discussion of the show.

  1. It was a great competition again. Perhaps slightly smaller than last year in terms of entries, but with the size of the show generally, that’s actually not saying a lot – there were still 300+ entries in historical masters, for instance, which is larger than a lot of shows get in total.
  2. The venue is still lacking something. My favourite show of the year is probably Duke of Bavaria/Herzog von Bayern because it has easy access to a really nice town, so you’re not pinned down to the show. The convention centre at Eindhoven is twenty minutes from the city centre by bus, and there’s not really anywhere to eat or grab a drink nearby, which means you’re stuck with the on-site facilities. This would be fine if it didn’t mean that upwards of a thousand people are all trying to use those same facilities, which puts a huge strain on the venue and results in some pretty horrendous queues. Eindhoven itself is a brilliant city – there’s a really thriving city centre full of bars, cafes and restaurants, there’s great architecture (and I mean really great – I’m a big fan), and at least one fantastic hotel that I’ve stayed at twice now.
    With the World Expo coming to Eindhoven in two years, I think it would be really valuable to look into venues in the city itself. As far as I can tell, the city is basically a former industrial centre that has remoulded itself into a cultural and art hub (quite a famous design university there now), and I imagine there has to be at least one of the factories that has retained the large open interior spaces and could be turned into a much more convenient location. The World Expo’s I’ve been to (Montreux and Stresa) were marked by access to sites outside the venue where you could hang out with other painters – you could also reasonably bring family and not worry about locking them into a nerd prison, which also made them into a combined model show and holiday.
    Having said that, the organisers clearly know their stuff, and they have exactly that planned, or other plans to improve the available facilities on site.

In the end, I snagged a bronze in historical masters for my Occitan Knight, which I’m really pleased about. SMC is probably the biggest show of the year and is almost notorious for setting a high bar on the judging, so getting anything at all is quite a compliment. I got highly commended in the same category last year, so it’s also great to see some progress. We’ll see if the duckpocalypse pays dividends next year.

Euro Miniature Expo 2018

I’m now back from the show and I’ve edited my pictures, so here’s the usual report. First up, for the lazy people who don’t like to have to deal with words, the pictures:

As you can see, there’s some variety in the quality of the photos. There’s several reasons for this:

  1. Those damned windows. I was planning on bringing a sheet of baking paper or something this year to set behind models with the windows behind them, but I completely forgot and I was rushing around madly the whole time and didn’t have a chance to go out and buy some.
  2. I was rushing around madly trying to get photos when I had a chance, but early on there weren’t many entries, and then I was helping man the entry desk followed by shadowing the judges, so I only really had a chance after the judging was finished.
  3. I left the camera on over night and the battery was dead the next day. Oy vey. Serves me right for not packing the spare battery.

Anyway, point one above meant I couldn’t get a good shot of Mike Blank’s lovely vignette, but I figure there’s enough pictures of that (and a few other pieces you might notice are absent from this set) floating around that you’re not really missing anything here. I do like to get photos of pieces that I think might get overlooked despite being pretty lovely, as well as getting shots from all of the categories (because I note that a lot of people focus very heavily on just fantasy, just historical, just vehicles, etc., and I think that’s pretty narrow minded – there’s a lot that you can learn from all of the categories).

So, the show itself was pretty good. Not mind blowing, but it’s still trying to build up from the fresh start last year. It was very nice to see that feedback from last year had been taken on board and the registration process was significantly improved. I don’t think I heard a single person complain about it – although, having had to run back and forth to the photocopier because people didn’t leave two copies of the form with their entries leads me to believe that shows that use stickered entry numbers are really onto a good thing…

The judging was also generally on point. The old Euro always seemed to have one category that no one agreed with – I think at the last Euro Militaire it was historical busts that confused the bejesus out of everyone. I can only assume there was one very forceful judge who got passed around from year to year sowing havoc.

I do think there could be slightly more consistency within the larger categories because they’re judged by several separate groups, but it’s mostly very small differences. I suggested that there could be a ‘head of fantasy’ and ‘head of historical’ who can set the standards or oversee the different groups to make sure they’re consistent. As I say, however, it wasn’t really an issue and I think pretty much everyone went away satisfied that they’d been fairly judged.

In the end, I got commended for both fantasy and historical, which is pretty much what I expected. You always hope for more (except people who get gold, I guess?), but I know where my skills are at, and that’s a fair judgement.

SMC is up next month, and I fully expect to get thoroughly spanked. On the plus side, Martin and I are very excited that we’ll be able to have bitterballen. We’ll also be staying in Eindhoven itself again, and trying to encourage the nerds to get out of the conference centre for dinner. It’s a really lovely city, and it’s a real shame that so many people completely skip it so they can spend more time in, well, a conference centre.

The Quackening

The WWI chap isn’t quite finished, but it’s literally just a matter of one more element, then he can go on the base and it’ll be done. That single element is the exterior frame for the window – as you can see, the glass is in place, and I’m really very pleased with how it came out:


It’s just a piece of acetate with a hole punched through and some lines scored on (with the back of a fresh scalpel blade), and then I washed it with a pale grey/beige (VMC silver grey, in this case). When that was dry, I rubbed a bit of the paint off until I was happy with it, and there you have it: the fact that there’s not much behind it gets disguised, and you can still see the bottles, which helps carry the narrative.

Of course, with the soldier in front, it’s not like you’ll see much of it anyway…

So, on with the ducks. To start with, I added the mandarin’s feet and attached him to the bulrushes, and he’s now sitting across from me with the acetate in place, waiting for the PVA to dry so I can¬†ruin the model¬†successfully add the water effects.


Apologies for the lack of focus, but the camera really wasn’t cooperating.

With the mandarin in place, I thought I’d crack on with a few more ducks, so now I also have a ringed teal and a magpie duck. The ringed teal is a favourite of my wife – they’re very small ducks with pink feet and they waddle with tiny steps.

I’ve also started converting more of them. I recently bought ten packs of the ducks from Industria Mechanika, which means I have forty or so to work with. They should see me through a few months, at least.

EDIT: Just remembered that I hadn’t posted the pirate to Putty and Paint yet – so now he’s up. Give him a vote if you’re that way inclined.