Who needs models when you have vegetables?

Since my last post, I’ve finished off the android and I’m pretty happy with how he came out:

He’s up on Putty and Paint, too, if you’re interested.

I’ve also finally finished all of my commission pieces with this recreation of the mallards:

They’ll be getting packed up and sent off to their new owner later this month, along with the scaups, whio, wood ducks and the dog on jetty.

So, what’s up next?

As those of you who follow me on Facebook might have noticed, I’ve been posting cryptically about vegetables. In particular, I’d been sculpting tiny, tiny carrots and potatoes and the like. These could be useful for any number of purposes, and I imagine a lot of people have probably done the same before for their dioramas and vignettes. I can’t think of too many models that would benefit from carrots, but I’m probably just oblivious.

Anyway, I thought I’d explain myself a bit, starting by showing off the result. Note that this is really just a proof of concept rather than a ‘finished’ work. The composition is pretty terrible and the painting was rushed, but I wanted to assess whether the idea was sound:

Hopefully it’s fairly obvious that I was aiming for a still life.

I’ve actually been thinking about doing still lifes for some time, but it turns out no one really does loose fruit and vegetable models (or at least not at the scale I like to work at – there are probably 120mm scale things around). The thing that grabs me about them is the ability to set a scene that has no characters in it. You can extend this idea to create scenes that imply someone’s presence, which is something I think I’ll try out for the next one, but I do like the simplicity and peace evoked by something like this.

I obviously also need to work on the composition. I’ve chosen to use the same plinth I put the ducks on for this one, but it could be that a slightly larger area will give me a bit more freedom and force me to really clutter it up carefully.

For anyone interested in how I made things, it’s all pretty simple.

Cloth was made by rolling a sheet of magic sculpt with some talcum powder. This stops it sticking to anything and means you can handle it without leaving fingerprints. I made a rectangular sheet and draped it over the base, which is just the plinth with a bit of sculptiboard stuck on. It was possibly a little too thick, so I had to force some of the folds into it (most folds are around the back) with a paintbrush handle.

Carrots were made by rolling some magic sculpt into a rough carrot shape over three short strands of copper wire. I don’t remember what gauge the wire is (maybe 0.25mm?) because I bought it about 15 years ago. If you check out craft websites, it’s easy enough to find and you’ll get more than you could ever possibly use. The leaves are fronds cut from some paper ferns and glued to the copper wire with PVA.

Cabbage is just a ball of magicsculpt with some strips of paper glued on in overlapping sections, then a bit of magic sculpt to round it out and tidy up.

The potatoes and radishes are just rough shapes that anyone can probably do better. If you’re interested in making your own vegetables, I recommend doing something more interesting than potatoes. You can always knock out some spuds with whatever putty you have left over at the end.

Super green

For once, I’m updating to post about only one model. It’s not that I’m without other projects at the moment – that would be laughable – but that I’m mildly consumed by the project I’m working on.

I should probably finish up the last ducks for the commission, but they’re a distraction. They’re currently just a couple of undercoated figures and a blob of magic sculpt on a plinth, so not much to talk about, either.

Anyway, the project I’m finding so engrossing – which you might have seen on Facebook or Instagram – is an android soldier from Mr Lee’s Minis, sculpted by Christoph Eichhorn (perhaps better known as Trovarion). Several years back, I painted the other android Christoph has in his range on Mr Lee’s Minis, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m not sure what put me off getting this one, but I’m quite pleased I did, because I can now apply all the stuff I’ve learned since then.

This piece is also a good example of showing how sometimes my ideas evolve as I’m working on a piece.

To start with: the inspiration. I bought the model with only a vague idea. I wanted to make it almost an anti-war model, taking the clearly military gear from the front and subverting it. The gear on the back is a little less uniform, which ties into that. Running with this idea, I thought it would be neat to take some of Joker’s motifs from Full Metal Jacket and apply them to the figure.

As you can see from this early shot, that didn’t really work out:

For those who haven’t seen the film, Joker is a soldier assigned to the journalism corps in Vietnam, and he enjoys displaying things like ‘Born to kill’ on his helmet right next to a badge with the peace symbol. I attempted to put the slogan over a shiny face plate initially, thinking that this would provide enough contrast to be readable, but it unfortunately just highlights how artificial the text is. Back to the drawing board for me.

So, with that failure out the way, I re-evaluated what I was aiming for and – crucially – the model I was actually painting. While a shiny face plate is a cool idea – it makes it look more like a visor, which is an interesting take on the model – it doesn’t actually work terribly well because the surface itself isn’t smooth enough. I had a hell of a time trying to get the shiny effect because the way light actually interacts with it doesn’t support the illusion.

I also realised that the model has already done part of the work for me with regard to subversion. As noted previously, the back of the model already has extra gear that doesn’t entirely gel with the idea of a dedicated soldier. I suppose you could make them work, but the badges and patches beg for something more – and something that stands out a little.

So, with this in mind, I decided to stick with the general Vietnam theme for the military stuff and have ended up with possibly the greenest model I’ve ever done.

I think the pair of pouches are the only parts so far that don’t have any green in them, other than the splash of orange on his antenna, and they still have that green strap.

It’s been a fun exercise trying to differentiate the really green parts, especially as they’re all based on different mixes of the same few paints (old GW Dark Angels Green, VMC Military Green and VMC US Dark Green).

I still don’t quite know how he’ll evolve, but I’m enjoying the journey a lot. In the end, how green will he be?

The woe of the modern bourgeoisie

Although I was reminded that I haven’t posted here for a while a couple of weeks ago, I somehow still managed to put off updating the blog until today. It’s not that I’ve been wholly unproductive – there are a few finished pieces since the last post – it’s more that I’ve been distracted by shooting people in a fictional version of the Old West (Red Dead Redemption 2, if you hadn’t figured it out). I should probably not buy large, immersive games too often. My painting would certainly benefit.

Anyway, as is usual, here’s an update on all the finished pieces. First up, the hobo nickels are all done and framed up, and they look pretty spiffy (except for the one on the left, which is pretty rubbish, but the overall effect is still decent):

They’re also on Putty and Paint if you fancy giving them a vote or whatever (although I don’t think they need it – they’re doing surprisingly well).

I was really pleased with the result, if I’m honest. I was hoping to do something a bit different from traditional flats in terms of both ‘object’ and style, while having a strong theme to hang everything on. I also gave Martin a spare coin and a couple of other people were apparently inspired, so we’ll see if it turns out I’ve created a new fad.

Up next are the commissions I’ve been working on:

The wood ducks aren’t in place as the client wants to keep them separate for transit. They’ve also asked for one more duck scene: the mallards. I’m mostly glad it’s not another one with water.

Finally, I also finished up the astronaut on battleduck:

While I don’t think it’s as effective as the astronaut pursued by a cat, I think it carries the narrative reasonably well. It also shows that I can, in fact, sculpt things that don’t look like I did it behind my back in the dark with my thumbs.

So, what’s up next, then?

First of all, I got another bust. Not one of the Operation Knox busts, however, just an android soldier sort of thing. I didn’t really have any strong ideas initially, so it’s taken me a while to figure out what to do with it. As it stands, it’ll be focused around the faceplate, which will feature ‘Born to kill’ (which you may or may not remember from Joker’s helmet in Full Metal Jacket). Beyond that, I’m going to try to keep it relatively free-form. I do know, however, that I want to mix both NMM and true metallics, again using the caveat that the NMM won’t actually be metal so much as strange composite materials.

To that end, I started out by doing the faceplate in metallics, thinking I’d then mask the edges, paint green and chip back (picture pre-green):

This did not work out as intended, so I’ve started again. I’ve now gone with a relatively reflective surface, which may not suit chipping too much, but we’ll see how I like it once it’s a bit further underway.

I want to say that the reflective area on the mask needs to spread further across towards the eye lens, but I’m wary of it ceasing to be green and messing with my idea of having text over it. I’ve also put in the lens just to make the face a bit more readable. (Note: I was originally going to have a wee glow on that, but it really wouldn’t make sense for a soldier to have a spotlight saying ‘please shoot here to get it all over with’.)

As you can also see, I’ve kept the gas mask thing in metallics. A little more work needed there to add a tint of colour and finish it up, but I think it’ll add a nice complement to the rest of the model.

A brobningnagian update of astonishing malarkey

The onslaught of inspiration continues, and I’ve managed to knock out a few pieces in relatively short order, most of which have featured here as in-progress works.

First up, the finished whio for commission:

I’m very happy with how this came out in the end – I think it improves upon the original in a number of ways. The client is also happy with the pictures and asked for a couple more pieces, so they’ll be turning up here in the coming weeks.

I also finished off Aeon, who is also now up on Putty and Paint, if you’re inclined to vote.

(Can I also just point out now how much I hate the new WordPress gallery widget? In order to stop the last image being bizarrely inflated – rather than the first one, which is actually a larger image – I have to set these up as two separate galleries, because for some reason I can’t actually instruct it to either make all images the same size or to pick the image that gets embiggened. Bah.)

I’ve also been working on another commission (same person who ordered the ducks), which will feature a wee hound and a fish:

Not to be stopped there, I’ve also started a side project painting up casts of hobo nickels all with the theme of ‘death’ or something. I bought five of them, but we’ll see how many I do before I get sick of them. The first one is basically complete and just needs a little tidying and varnish to finish. The second is one of the hardest pieces to photograph properly that I’ve ever come across. Hopefully it’ll get easier once more of the black gets covered.

Painting these is like training yourself to go blind, but it’s also weirdly enjoyable. The one on the left was painted with La Marianne in mind, hence there are red, white and blue elements; the native American skull’s war bonnet is based on a Cherokee one I found online, which seemed to have the closest match to the design of the bonnet itself.

But wait, there’s more! Adventures with astronauts continue with this piece, which I’m calling ‘THE QUACK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH’.

Just as I enjoyed playing with scale with the first couple of these, I’ve now gone to the other extreme and depicted a giant astronaut riding a brobdingnagian duck over the ruins of a puny human city in the far future. May none of us live long enough to witness such horrors.

Latest escapades

Since my last post, I finished the wee spaceman scene, and I must say I’m quite pleased with it. It has a nice focus, while also feeling almost like a two-dimensional painting. I normally like the three-dimensionality of figures, and would usually try to create a scene that’s interesting from every angle (which can be difficult, as you can imagine) because they’re pieces that get picked up and turned around, but this one really sort of works for me.

Anyway, here’s the finished scene:

The fur was surprisingly straightforward, if a little repetitive. The spaceman, once again, was a very quick job. I have come to hate that wrinkle over their bellies, though. I find it’s disruptive to the lovely roundness of them, and I keep finding myself trying to accentuate the fold without losing the roundness, and it’s troublesome. The next one has already had the wrinkle shaved off.

I also decided to give the astronaut a digital faceplate as an excuse to give him an expression that enhances the posture. It’s a common problem with helmeted figures – you need to really work the pose to create the emotion otherwise it can fall a bit flat. You can also do things with lighting, etc., but I felt the spaceman has the right look to carry off the emoticon face.

Next on my plate was, of course, the slightly delayed but lovely Fox Jupiter, standing in for Aeon Flux. She’s proving quite paintable – much more so than Trevor, surprisingly – and I’ve made some pretty good progress:

To match Trevor’s shiny plastic armour, Aeon is getting a shiny vinyl jacket. Some parts are considerably less shiny than others because her arms and rifle will obscure things a touch (mostly on her right). I fully expect to discover that almost nothing is visible when they’re in place.

The logo on her jumper is (hopefully obviously) an anarchy symbol. Aeon in the animations was a sort of an anarchist – her role wasn’t to overthrow Trevor or to kill him (she actively went out of her way to save him several times), but to simply be a spanner in the works. She opposes the rigid order of Bregna and exists to disrupt it – without Bregna and Trevor, what would she do?

I also felt the anarchy symbol was a pretty obvious thing to include without having to come up with my own logo. The alternative was to try to suggest ‘No Gods, No Masters’, but I don’t think there’s enough space in there to have fit it in.

I’m mostly looking forward to getting onto the stuff on her back – it looks like a sort of quilted fabric that I’m keen to do in metallics, as if it’s a kind of shimmer field generator or something. That’ll also let me get some more greens and purples in there, hopefully without making it all a bit too monochrome.

I also still have to work on her arms, and I’m thinking tattoos could be interesting. I’ll have to google cyberpunk tattoos to see what sort of inspiration there is.

Finally, I was recently commissioned to do a couple of small animal scenes in the style of the ducks. I don’t normally do commissions because my painting time is really ‘me’ time, but I quite liked the idea of doing more tiny scenes, and they don’t take a lot of time at all in the grand scheme of things.

So, first up is a recreation of the whio scene. I’ve only really done the base so far, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to see if I can improve on the original with some more detail, textures and a touch more saturation – not too much, of course, because the whio itself is a pretty muted duck, and I obviously don’t want it to be drowned out.

The white fluid is the first layer of sculptable water. That’ll get built up a bit to create a stream. I’ll also need to bring out the colour of the rocks again, as the moss has kind of overwhelmed them a bit.