Friday, August 18, 2017

Statue Scatter Terrain

Even with the current hysteria surrounding statues here in the US at the moment, it was actually by complete coincidence that I finished these pieces this week. I recently came into possession of a lot of modeling stuff since a distant relative passed away who was also a long-time historical modeler. Among all the different models, were a small collection of 54mm figures that were rather old and not very well cast, so I decided to give them a new lease on life. I cleaned each of them up, cut up some wood for plinths, and put them all together.

To paint them, I tried a very different technique than the one I normally use, most recently on my Hungarian statue. This time I primed the plinths with gesso and used a tan-colored chalk paint for the color and texture, highlighting with white mixes, washing with Vallejo European Earth, and finally adding some light earth color with a dry pigment wash of Yellow Earth. The statues themselves were primed grey, basecoated in Pavement grey, with successive drybrushing of a blue-green paint mix. Unlike most earlier statues, I tried to to leave the dark grey base showing through in areas of shadow and focused the verdigris more on the blue side of the color wheel. What really helped was a good wash of Secret Weapon Cool Grey which helped to mellow the colors (which I also carried into parts of the plinth to imitate weathering). I also added some whitish discoloration on horizontal surfaces to simulate the effects of bird poop. All in all, I really like the final effect and will use it going forward.

Included in the set are two Napoleonic statues, an American Revolution statue, a Confederate soldier statue, and a Spanish-American War soldier statue.

The two statues below (one Spanish-American War, one Napoleonic) are for sale for $25 each. Drop me an email if you're interested in buying one or both.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Commission Work: Orwell's Soviet Cavalry

I was contacted by one of my long-time clients to do a platoon of Soviet cavalry for Flames of War...but with a little twist. As an homage to Orwell's Animal Farm, he wanted to include some pigs on the stands - a clever in-joke and something right up my alley.

The cavalry itself is straightforward. Uniforms are Vallejo Russian Uniform, highlighted with a 50/50 Russian Uniform/Antique White mix, then washed with GW Green wash. Off-white/White isn't something I normally mix to lighten colors, as it tends to dull the base color. However, used sparingly, in a heavily worn military uniform it actually adds to the faded appearance. Skin is Vallejo Flat Flesh washed with GW Ogryn Flesh, kit is Burnt Umber, boots are Pure Black, sword hilts are Granite Grey with a highlight of 50/50 Granite Grey/Pure White, rifles are Vallejo Dark Brown with Pavement barrels.

The horses themselves are all ever so slightly different mixtures of browns, red-browns, tans, and greys. As I do more work painting horses, it's actually very interesting to learn just how different their coats really are, so I try to reflect that by painting each a little differently. Tack is a base of Pure Black, overcoated in certain place with Moss Green, then washed with Vallejo Olive Green wash. For the pigs, I attempted to do a dappled coat of a mid-tone grey mixed with patches of grey/pink, then washed with Vallejo Grey wash. 15mm pigs are hard to paint.

The client also asked for an upgraded IL-2 Shturmovik M to be painted identically to its basic cousin which I did here.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Frostwallon Skeletons

First, apologies in advance for the poor photos. It took me about 2 hours to photograph these skeletons because my normal procedure was either making them brilliant white or washing them out entirely. At the absolute end of my rope with the camera, I did the exact opposite of what I normally do and darkened the exposure compensation to its maximum. So, if you're ever shooting white miniatures, that seems to be the trick...

These are a group of skeletons for Frostwallon, originally Rackham Morbid Puppets. These seem to be pretty rare to find these days and I'm really happy I was able to track them down because they have a certain dynamism that most 28mm skeletons lack. I especially love the "en garde" skeleton and the tired, crouching skeleton. Pictures (as I mentioned) don't really do these guys justice and I tried a few new techniques on them. For the bones, I basecoated everything in Antique White, did a first highlight in 50/50 Antique White/White mix, and then did a heavy wash of Vallejo Grey wash, then picked out areas of deep shadow by doing a selective wash of P3 Armor wash, and finally came back and highlighted select areas with pure White. This gives a nice aged appearance to the bone that simply washing with browns or tans would fail to achieve.

Otherwise, there isn't much else to them, but I tried to keep the palette limited to earthy tones - browns, greens, and greys - on the tattered scraps of clothing present, with liberal washes of Vallejo European Dirt wash. The armor was (as normal) painted in GW Boltgun Metal and Testors Steel. However, I wanted a heavily rusted appearance, so I tried a new technique. Using acrylics as washes, I laid down several washes of Testors Rust, Vallejo Red Brown, and Chocolate Brown. After sealing, I then came back with dry pigments but applied them as washes by diluting them in Isopropyl alcohol, which I really like the effect of. I also did a similar effect with the dirt on the bases.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Movie (Mini-) Review: Dunkirk

I was lucky enough to just get out of an advance screening for Dunkirk just a few minutes ago and thought I'd write up a short review of the movie for those of you who are interested in the period, but are unsure about spending the money to see it in theaters. I will point out that I do like most of Christopher Nolan's work, so if you aren't, you should likely take this review with a grain of salt.

The movie revolves around the experiences of six "main" characters during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the port of Dunkirk, France. A very unique aspect of the narrative is that it is told in three distinct parts - 1. The Mole - One Week (referring to the eastern sea wall Capt. William Tennant used as a makeshift pier), 2. The Sea - One Day, & 3. The Air - One Hour. At first, it's very confusing about what exactly is going on as events in each "part" don't always occur linearly. While it eventually becomes apparent how each "part" is laid out sequentially, the key is referring to the subtitle of each "part". The characters' experiences in The Mole take one week, in The Sea one day, and in The Sky one hour. I really enjoyed this aspect of the narrative, since it wasn't something I'd seen used successfully since Pulp Fiction.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the plot seems to be very factual and, for the most part, does follow the overall historical event quite closely. Obviously, this being modern cinema, there are some fabrications and anachronisms, but nothing that takes you out of the movie. The one criticism I would have is that the defense of the Dunkirk perimeter isn't really shown and the danger of being truly surrounded is only hinted at. I feel like if Nolan were to have focused on this more in the prologue, that casual viewers would really get a better sense of how dire the situation truly was. Nolan does, however, do an amazing job of ramping up the tension - not too fast, not too slow.

The visuals are absolutely stunning. In a year where CGI-laden, post-processed movies are the norm, it was fantastic to see a movie that (to my eye) relied on no CG special effects. The aerial dogfights in particular are the star of the show and, if you're a plane buff, I urge you to go see the movie in cinema format - the planes are gorgeous, especially against the backdrop of grey skies and green-blue ocean. Nolan also captures the opposing dread of being caught wide open on a beach or stuck inside the hold of a sinking ship.

The acting is top notch....with my one big criticism of the movie being that the dialogue was often unintelligible. I wasn't sure if that was an audio issue or intentional on part of the crew (or as part of the narrative). Casual viewers are going to have a very difficult time understanding what orders are being given as, even with a good idea of military orders, even I had a tough time trying to decipher what was actually said. Tom Hardy plays Spitfire pilot Farrier...but he's really just channeling a WW2 version of Mad Max (which, having loved Fury Road, I was totally OK with). Mark Rylance as small boat captain Mr. Dawson is probably the stand-out actor as he does an amazing job acting a wide variety of emotions, often non-verbally (if you like him in this and like historical dramas, I also recommend checking out his role as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall. While I didn't love the series - period dramas about British royalty are more my wife's passion - I did like his portrayal.

The sound (except for the dialogue) was also fairly good. The Stukas, while having their tell-tale diving drone, also have an odd, slightly unnerving shriek as they level off. Gunshots and explosions are deafening, and are well contrasted by the quiet beaches (early on) and the crashing waves (later).

All in all, I'd say - unless you truly hate Nolan's work - go see it in theaters. It's worth it and, if it grosses highly enough, will hopefully prompt the studios to do more of these types of historical action dramas.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frostwallon Terrain - Burnt Out Ruins

I've wanted to try my hand at doing some terrain using Hirst Arts molds for years, probably as far back as when I first started gaming, but I always balked at the pricing. Luckily, I have a friend with a nice collection of them who let me borrow a couple to try out. Using Fieldstone Molds #70 & 75 (and Tile mold #200, which I eventually plan to use for a sewer board), I cast up about 4lbs. of a 50/50 mix of Plaster and Rock Putty and put together a bunch of ruined buildings. After casting, I assembled all the pieces using construction adhesive, cut out some MDF bases, and added basswood floors and rubble piles. Once dry, I undercoated everything with flat Grey latex paint, as recommended on the Hirst site. I then used various shades of greys, browns, and tans to add some variation in color. Though I like the end product, the casting process was really labor intensive and (coupled with drying times) was quite time consuming. If you are interested in using Hirst molds, here are a few pointers I learned:
  • Use a plastic or disposable container to mix the plaster that can be bent to pop out any dried plaster before the next mix
  • Rock putty is a good cheap alternative to dental plaster but is too brittle alone. Mix with equal parts of regular plaster.
  • Mixing the plaster too fast causes excess air bubbles to develop
  • While lightly tapping the molds helps, I found having a toothpick on hand (to stir the plaster inside each mold and to pop any bubbles) was better
  • Even after allowing the plaster to dry before demolding, let it dry it for 24-48 hours before trying to build with it
  • Construction adhesive is awesome for locking bricks together
  • Latex paint can be bought in small "sample" jars and tinted any color you want. Check your local hardware store.

The intent was to use them for Frostgrave, but I left out any snow or elaborate fantasy bitz, so they could also be used historical or even science fiction gaming.