Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Painting Classes That Never Were, or Hello Miss Jessica?

Life sometimes gets in the way of my hobbies.  I hate it when that happens.  As I described on my other blog, I had to cancel my GenCon 2014 trip at the last minute.  In doing so, I lost out on money, planning, and expectations.  I also lost a chance to take a few miniature painting classes - something I've been wanting to do for a long time now.


Although I'm not a terrible painter, my work definitely leaves open room for improvement.  What I've learned has been mostly from looking at blogs or experimenting on my own.  I've never taken a formal instructional class or even painted with other hobbyists.  I wanted to change that at GenCon.  Amongst some of the activities I scheduled were the two painting classes pictured above: The Art of Painting Skintones and Painting Pretty Faces.  I wanted to sign up for more (so many to choose from!) but I kept encountering timing conflicts with other things I wanted to see and do.  The scheduling issues turned out to be a good thing I guess, since in the end I was unable to attend and would have lost out on even more money.

So while feeling sorry for myself and pouting from having to cancel my GenCon trip, I was cruising the internet to cheer myself up when I stumbled upon a new painting instruction video offered by Dark Sword Miniatures:  Masterworks Miniature Painting with Jessica Rich.  Though the price was a bit steep I decided to buy it.  Damnit, if I can't go to GenCon and take a few miniature painting classes there, I'll just bring the instructor to the comfort of my own home.  And what a choice of instructors:  Jessica Rich!  I have admired her work for some time now, especially her George R. R. Martin miniatures.  So yeah, I made a date with Jessica and asked her to come to my house....kinda.



I really didn't know what to expect when I began watching the DVDs.  I had watched bits and pieces of other videos on YouTube but wasn't all that impressed with them.  Most were just okay as far as video quality goes; nothing to write home about.  And that's unfortunate.  Painting is obviously a visual skill and without being able to see clearly what the instructor is doing, the usefulness of the lesson becomes somewhat dubious.

I'm happy to say that the DVD so far has exceeded my expectations.  The images are not exactly high definition but you can definitely see what's going on.  Jim (the owner of Dark Sword Miniatures) and Jessica seem to go to great lengths to ensure that the camera is positioned perfectly to allow the viewer ultimate access to the miniature being painted.  I would imagine that even in a classroom setting it would be difficult to get any closer than what the DVD shows.

I haven't finished the DVD set yet.  It's over 20 hours of instruction.  What I have completed has been a great help in refining my skill however.  I highly recommend the set to any miniature painter that wants to better their painting skills.  I think it has already helped improve my craft.

Here is a final thought on the DVDs.  They are not cheap at $60.  But after doing the math I found that it's actually an incredible deal.  The two classes that I signed up for at GenCon cost me $46 total.  Assuming that I could have arranged my schedule to include one more class at a similar price, I would have paid $69 for three classes and three hours of instruction.  By purchasing the DVD set, I not only saved $9, but I gained about 17 extra hours of one-on-one instruction on a variety of different topics by one of the industry's best painters.  Even if I group the chapters into like categories, the DVDs offer twenty different classes.  At $20 a pop....well, you can do the math.  I'm thinking that DVD instruction (if done correctly) is a much better bargain than attending a class.  Of course you do lose the interactive aspect of a live instructor.  It's beyond difficult to ask Jessica a question (she never answers).  At least if I need something repeated she's right there waiting for me at the push of a button though!

Here are the topics covered in the DVD set.

Disc 1
*  Introductions
*  Tools
*  Mini Prep
*  Color Theory
*  Base Coating and Blending (highlighting and shading)
*  Female Skin Tones & Features - Fair Skin

Disc 2
*  Female Skin Tones & Faces - Ruddy Skin
*  Female Fair Skin Face
*  Male Skin Tones and Faces
*  Painting Hair - White Hair
*  Painting Hair - Auburn Hair
*  Painting Hair - Black Hair

Disc 3
*  Dark Elf skin Tones & Faces
*  Difficult Colors - Painting Black
*  Difficult Colors - Painting Red
*  Painting Critter Fur
*  Painting Critter Eyes
*  Painting Wood Grain
*  Painting Feathers

Disc 4
*  Painting Sheer Fabric
*  Painting NMM - Gold Armor
*  Painting NMM - Steel Sword
*  Painting Blood and Gore
*  Painting Dingy and Weathered Clothes
*  Painting Flames and Fire
*  Painting Gems

Disc 5
*  Painting OSL and a Magic Sword
*  Painting with a Limited Color Palette
*  Freehand - Tone on Tone Damask
*  Freehand - Brocade Borders

Disc 6
*  Freehand - Painting Tiny Portraits
*  Freehand - Painting Tiny Portraits Slideshow
*  Finishing Touches - Sealers and Basing
*  Jess Conclusion
*  Jess Dark Sword Gallery
*  Jess Other Manufacturer Gallery
*  Dark Sword Gallery

I hope you enjoyed my little DVD review.  Let me close with a few questions:

*  Have you ever taken a live painting class?  Was it worth it?
*  What are your thoughts on video instruction?
*  What (if any) other video courses would you recommend?

Thanks for your comments and most of all, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Peter Jackson's New Movie Poster

Peter Jackson just posted a teaser movie poster for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on his Facebook page.  All I can say is WOW!




Thoughts??


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Save vs. a Cold or Suffer 1d6+2 Days of Misery

The title says it all.  I went away for a short mini-vacation and brought home a souvenir I neither wanted nor expected - a summer cold.  For the next week that little cold exploded into a major ailment and brought me to my knees.  Either it had some super secret ingredient to make it more potent or maybe I'm just getting older and unable to recover as quickly.  Either way, I felt terrible and spent my free time resting on the couch or going to bed early.  Needless to say, both of my blogs suffered from my inactivity (apologies for the crosspost if you arrived here from the other blog).  My cold is gone now though and I feel like a new man.  It's time for a blog update.

*  I'm working on a few pirate ships for Legends of the High Seas.  I purchased them as a Christmas gift for myself but I am only now getting around to them.  They are from Laser Dream Works and so far I think they will be quite nice.  I'll write a post in the near future reviewing both of the ships I purchased:  HMS Fly and USS Lee.

*  With the nostalgic resurgence of D&D taking over much of my hobby time, I have found myself spending more time painting various miniatures from Otherworld Miniatures.  I love working on minis with an old school feel without dealing with the poor quality of true old school miniatures.  I am using the elven fighter/magic user to represent my character in a Moldvay Basic D&D campaign I'm currently playing in.  The plan is to finish him first then move on to a group of pig-faced hobgoblins.

*  Finally, though it's not related to D&D, I have another hobby item to share.  I've been interested in photography for a long time and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to enjoy taking photos.  I've wanted to try aerial photography for a while now but the cost has always been too steep for me to justify.  No longer... Prices are now a bit more reasonable so I just dropped some cash on a new quadracopter and have been experiencing an entirely new side of photography.  Allow me to share one of my early practice photos.  Here is a shot of my neighborhood taken from 130 feet of altitude.  We can call it a "dragon's eye view" photo to help tie in this blatantly unrelated photo to D&D.


Monday, June 09, 2014

Meriadoc Brandybuck: Fictional Dioramas & Functional Usage

File this miniature under the 'better late than never' category.  I started this particular Meriadoc Brandybuck mini well over a year ago for a Hobbit Day diorama I was working on at the time.  Hobbit Day 2012 came and went with only Bilbo Baggins complete, so I abandoned Merry and onto the queue shelf he went.  Months later, I picked him up again with the goal of finishing the now near mythical diorama for Hobbit Day 2013.  That day too came and went without a completed miniature. Back on the shelf he went.  Finally, I was able to finish him last week.  Maybe, just maybe, Hobbit Day 2014 will see a completed diorama.



The planned diorama was to depict Merry spying on Bilbo in the Shire.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins approaches Bilbo from a distance.  Not wanting to deal with her antics, Bilbo quietly slips on his magical ring and disappears until Lobelia has safely passed him by.  Bilbo then reappears and goes about his day, oblivious to the extra company hidden beside the road.  According to the text, this event was the downfall of Bilbo's well-kept secret and a catalyst to forming the 'conspiracy' that was finally unmasked years later when Frodo tries to leave Crickhollow without his friends.


When completed (if that ever happens), Lobelia will be positioned near the bottom of a small rise continuing her walk down the lane towards Hobbiton.  Bilbo will be positioned in the lane some distance behind her, holding his trusty ring in the palm of his hand with an obviously pleased look upon his face for having avoided the dreadful creature.  Merry will be off the side of the road hidden amongst the brush and grass, not quite believing what he just witnessed.  If done correctly, I think the diorama will depict the scene from the book quite faithfully.


This version of Merry (from the Merry and Pippin vs. Grishnákh blister) is the perfect mini for the job.  He is already kneeling/hiding so no conversion was necessary.  More importantly, the look upon his face, while originally sculpted to show fear of Grishnákh, seems to show surprise as well....perfect for my project!


I'm a firm believer of double-duty miniatures.  As such, I did not want to paint and base Merry solely on the description of the Shire encounter.  I also wanted to be able to use the model for additional encounters.  I painted Merry in his Fellowship attire, including the Lothlorien cloak.  The look was flexible though.  To me, the color scheme could just as easily fit the well-tended fields of The Shire (for the diorama) as well as the wilds of Middle-earth (for gaming in general).  The main alternate use of the mini would be for its intended purpose.  The encounter that the blister was meant to depict occurred in Rohan near the eves of Fangorn Forest.  It was easy to adopt the imagery Peter Jackson used for Rohan in the movies and tie it in with The Shire with just a little stretch of the imagination.  The base could be cultivated winter wheat or natural grassland, both of which work for either use.  Now, instead of just sitting in a diorama, I can pull him out and use Merry on the game table.

There is one part of the  model that would preclude Merry from being in Rohan (as depicted in the book and movie) but it takes a sharp eye to find it.  I'll leave that one detail open to guesses in the comments section.


Though the time frame of completion may indicate otherwise, I actually enjoyed painting this miniature.  This sculpt predates GW Finecast and represents the good ole' days when GW LotR SBG products were worth the money.  The lines are clean and the details crisp.   If I remember correctly, I had very little prepping to complet before priming and painting.  That's never the case with Finecast miniatures.  Though I have plenty of GW LotR lead still to paint, working on this miniature made me miss the days when I eagerly awaited the next issue of White Dwarf to see what LotR goodies were coming out the following month.


Ending Note:  I apologize for the photos.  I tried a new lens on my camera for this session.  While the lens does a great job in other areas, close-up photography is not one of them.  The photos look very fuzzy and not at all sharp.  I could have retaken the photos but I was feeling much too lazy, just like a fat hobbit!


Don't forget to provide your guesses below.  I wonder how long it will take to spot it.  As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

DSM Dragon Diorama WIP: Please Don't Make Me Paint More Coins

OK.  This is it.  This post will be the last WIP for the base.  The next will not go up until the base is completely finished and the dragon is ready to be mounted.

All the gold coins have been painted.  Each and every little coin was done by hand.  Though I was tempted (OK, very tempted at the end), I was able to avoid drybrushing.  It took forever but I'm glad I stuck with my original plan.  


All that is left to do now is go back and change a few of the gold coins to silver to break up the monotony of gold.  That shouldn't take me very long.  A good number were already completed at the last WIP post.  Plus I'm keeping the total number of silver coins fairly low.

A bit more work does need to be done to the rest of the base, however.  The stone needs two additional layers of highlighting and then some weathering.  The weapons have only received basecoats so they will need some more work as well.  The gravel will require the most attention though.  I plan to layer up to a rather light brown then attach a significant amount of flock and foliage.


Though I did not take photos, the dragon has also received several basecoats.  Whenever I needed to rest my poor eyes from painting tiny coins I would work on the dragon.  Before I knew it the dragon was prepped, primed, and coated in dark red.  I like it when work gets done without effort.  I just wish that would happen more often.  Once the base is finished I will start working on him full time.  He is MASSIVE!

This project is taking up a large portion of my hobby time but I have not abandoned the rest of my miniatures.  I just completed a hobbit for the LotR SBG and a pirate for LotHS.  I'll post photos of both minis soon.

Thanks for checking in on the WIP and thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dark Sword Miniatures G.R.R.M. Masterworks Kickstarter Loot

I received my Kickstarter loot from Dark Sword Miniatures on Monday.  The box actually arrived on Saturday but I wasn't home to sign for it so I had to wait.  After getting my greedy hands on the package and ripping into the blisters, I found that the wait was definitely worth while.  The new G.R.R.M. Masterworks miniatures are absolutely beautiful.  I received 28 total miniatures (exact contents are listed at the bottom of this post).  Unfortunately I had to pass on most of the add-ons because I already had many of the selected miniatures in my collection (not a bad problem to have).  Overall I still got a great deal on the minis though and I can't wait to get my brush on them!


Just like the previous Kickstarter by DSM, Jim and his crew certainly had their act together.  Immediately after the project ended I received a backer survey in the mail.  I submitted my choices then waited.  The wait was not long however, unlike many other Kickstarter projects.  The time between the end of the fundraising period until I received my backer's reward was less than 2 months.  The estimated delivery date was right on target.  Well done guys!


In addition to the great miniatures, I also received this nice document signed by Jim Ludwig (the president of DSM), Tom Meier (the sculptor) and Mr. George R. R. Martin himself.  Of course the miniatures were the reason I backed the project.  Little extras like this however, prove that the company cares about the hobby and about their customers.

Here is everything displayed all together for a photo.

Once again I am very happy with both the company and their Kickstarter project.  I will not hesitate to back any future efforts.


Reward Contents

Pack 1 of 10
  Jeor Mormont
  Davos Seaworth
  Arianne Martelle

Pack 2 of 10
  Viserys
  Brynden Tully
  Limited Edition Sorceress

Pack 3 of 10
  Maester Pycelle
  Barristan Selmy
  Chataya

Pack 4 of 10
  Prince Joffrey
  Male & Female Minstrels

Pack 5 of 10
  Mounted Khal Drogo

Pack 6 of 10
  Mounted Ser Loras Tyrell

Pack 7 of 10
  Lady in Waiting
  Septa
  Brothel Worker

Pack 8 of 10
  Scribe of Westeros at Writing Desk

Pack 9 of 10
  Cocky Young Hedge Knight x2

Pack 10 of 10
  Brothers of the Knights Watch

Add Ons
  Exclusive Variant Sculpt of the Scribe of Westeros at Writing Desk
  Kev & Tre Tribute Sculpts


Anyone else back this project?  If so, are you happy with the quality of the miniatures and the speed in which the rewards were delivered?

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Game of Thrones Theme on Wine Glasses

I simply could not resist posting this video.  This guy has talent.  When I have my wine at dinner tomorrow night I'm sure to be tapping out a rhythm.

Enjoy...