Monday, September 17, 2012

Elmore Female Wild Elf - NSFW

Larry Elmore has long been one of my favorite fantasy artists.  His images march along hand in hand with my memories of playing D&D back in the 1980's.  In a way, his vision, along with some of my other favorites like Caldwell, Parkinson, and Easley, probably define my very outlook and view on what fantasy worlds, characters, monsters, and scenes should look like. So it should come as no surprise that those very same images still captivate me today.

The sculptors at Dark Sword Miniatures have done a wonderful job bringing the iconic fantasy art from the above mentioned artists to life.  They produce several lines of figures drawn from, and inspired by, the works of Larry Elmore and the others.  I have been a fan of them for some time now and own quite a collection of those miniatures.  Now I have yet another to add to the metal horde.

Pictured above is a Female Wild Elf (DSM1164) from the Elmore Masterworks line.  The sculpt is from Jeff Grace who is quickly becoming one of my favorite miniature sculptors out there.  The mini came to me with excellent detail and required very little prep work before painting.  That's important to me since I absolutely hate spending large amounts of my limited free time prepping a model before I can even start with the fun stuff.  Most of the models I purchase from DSM have been the same with only a few exceptions.

Painting was fairly straightforward as long as you don't mind working with fleshtones.  I used mostly Reaper paints for this model with Tanned Flesh (09044) being the basecoat that I worked from.  I toned the skin down a bit however, from what I normally paint my female miniatures to reflect her time in the sun with little covering.  I had originally envisioned her more as a sea elf variant so I definitely wanted some blues to suggest her association with the water and to create a bit of contrast with the mostly warm colors of the rest of the model.  As for the leather and hair, it was pretty standard stuff.

I actually finished her late last month but have just gotten around to posting the completed project.  The delay had to do with basing issues.  As mentioned above, I wanted to create a sea elf character.  I had a great basing idea set up but unfortunately tropical storm Isaac changed my plans.  There is a little island that sits about a 45min boat ride from me.  On this little deserted island I have found wonderful miniature whelk shells littering the beach.  The size would have been perfect for decorating the sandy base I had created on the mini.  Well, the storm winds did a number on the sand and the heavy rains actually raised the water quite a bit around the island so I couldn't reach my prize.  Finally I gave up, removed the sand, added flock and leaves, and called it a day.  So now I'm back to a wild elf until I get a chance to find some shells....

I've included the original artwork to show how faithful to the details the sculptor was in creating the miniature.  Showcasing this piece does bring up an interesting question that I would like to pose to the few of you that stop by this blog from time to time.  While the sketch above can, without a doubt, be considered art, does the same hold true for miniatures?  Do you consider your finished miniatures art or would you call it something else?  If so, what?  Just wondering.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

On The Horizon - September 2012

Even though it's more than a week into the new month, I suppose it's still not too late for another edition of On The Horizon.  I didn't post an update last month due to time constraints and the fact that quite frankly, very little of the painting queue had changed since the previous one in July.  The last half of August was rather productive for me however and this month's edition should have quite a few changes for those that follow along.

Warning:  This post is long and probably quite boring so feel free to breeze right through it or ignore it completely.  The On The Horizon posts are meant mainly for myself to help me organize my project queue and visualize my progress.  Actually, the entire blog is mostly meant for the same purpose and to serve as a online project journal of sorts.  And to be honest, I'm still surprised that others even stop by the blog to read the updates.  So much the better!

On to the update.... As you can see, my hobby station is bustling with activity this month with ongoing projects in many different stages of completion.  To control the chaos and help with photography for this post, I've broken down the miniatures on the desk and grouped them together either by theme or by nearness to completion.  Feel free to flip through the photos to see what's brewing for the new month and maybe find a mini or two that you can't live without.

The first and second photos below were taken from a section on the desk that I have humorously dubbed the "imminent completion" rack.  These are miniatures that are close to completion and should recieve most of my attention, but rarely do.  Sometimes these minis sit there for longer than ones that I have not even started yet.  And, as you can see, sometimes brand new shiny minis find their way to that rack and displace ones that are almost done.  It's definitely my hobby A.D.D. acting up!

All of the miniatures in the "imminent completion" rack are fantasy figures, except one.  I have not given up on any of my other projects; it's just that these are the ones I happen to be working on at the moment.  From left to right:  Autumn Bronzeleaf (03492) is the first mini.  Though the name Reaper Miniatures has given her would suggest otherwise, she is in the process of being painted with bright spring-like colors.  I just wanted to do something different with her than the other painted versions I have seen around the internet.  Next to her is Kurff the Swift (02034), also from Reaper.  He will make a nice thief addition to the collection. If you fancy this sculpt from Sandra Garrity, you may want to pick up a copy soon.  The Reaper website states that he is out of general distribution but is still available for now on the website.  Next to Kurff is another Reaper mini called Anwyn (03080).  I very much like the pose and can't wait to finish her up and add her to my Level One Adventurers collection/project.  Next in line is a miniature only available through the CoolMiniOrNot webstore.  Alejandra (CMN0020) is a resin version of a previous metal mini that apparently is no longer available.  Although I really dislike working with resin, I loved the sculpt so much that I simply could not resist the purchase.  The last mini from this group is Shae.  She is a Steve Buddle sculpt, of former Spyglass/Eolith miniatures fame (now with GW from what I understand), and like many of the minis from his past, she is both simple and elegant at the same time.  Heresy miniatures acquired the rights to some of Steve's minis in 2011 and I believe Shae can be purchased there.

The second group on the priority rack are mostly fantasy as well.  The first is an unprimed miniature from Reaper.  The Handmaiden of Keskura (14579) is from the Warlord line of minis, their in-house skirmish wargame.  While I have no experience with the game itself, I do have several figures from the line and have been happy with them all.  Next to the topless barbarian is yet another pirate from Black Scorpion miniatures.  He can be found in the Rogues #2 blister.  Black Scorpion recently switched over to resin but if you look hard enough, you can still find this intimidating fellow in metal.  Next to the pirate is a female fighter from Dark Sword Miniatures (DSM4115).  She is part of the Visions in Fantasy line that I have come to love over the last few years.  The concept art was taken from fantasy artist Jeff Easley but oddly enough, she is not part of the Easley Masterworks line.  Fourth from the left is Aethelglyth, Warrior-Maiden of Mercia (BNL-023), the first mini I've purchased from the Bane Legions system.  It's a rather strange line of minis but I was taken by this particular sculpt and had to try it.  It may be my last however due to the fact that everything is resin and I HATE resin and all the extra work that goes along with it (green stuff fills all the little air holes in the mini).  The last mini is Nienna (02909) from Reaper.  She's a ranger-ish elf with an action pose....both of which I love, so it's no surprise that she's here in the queue.

Now on to the great Aragorn project of 2012.  In the ultimate definition of efficiency, I'm painting every Aragorn pose at the same time (with the exception of a certain version that came in the Mines of Moria set that shall never be named due to the horrible sculpt).  I've painted several of these poses before, but I thought it would be fun to do them all at the same time.  So after buying duplicates of my already painted versions, here they are all lined up and ready for attention.

From top to bottom, left to right:  The first sculpt is from the Heroes of the West set.  This is one of the versions I had previously painted so it will be interesting to see how the two compare upon completion. In the middle on the upper row is Aragorn from The Three Hunters blister.  This is one of my favorite Strider sculpts.  Rounding out the top row is the sculpt from the Attack at Weathertop boxed set. A version from Breaking of the Fellowship starts out the middle row followed by one from the Ambush at Amon Hen box. One of the better Aragorn sculpts is from the Heroes of Helm's Deep collection, seen here on the end of the second row.  Finally, on the bottom row is version 1 from the original Fellowship of the Ring set (another previously painted version), next to the elusive Defenders of Rohan model, and a mounted version from the Warg Attack boxed set.  Happy Aragorn painting indeed!

This section of the queue all hail from the pirates line of Black Scorpion Miniatures. The bulk of the minis are from the Royal Marines #2 and #3 blisters.  They are flanked by a Royal Navy Officer on the left and a Navy Captain on the right.  They are all destined to take part in my Legends of the High Seas campaign.

Now for the ladies that will be joining the same LotHS campaign.  The two primed figures on either end both come from the villagers line of Fenryll Miniatures.  They are plastic but still exhibit good detail so I did not mind adding them to the collection.  Second from the left is a strumpet from Hasslefree Miniatures (HFV003).  She has been in the queue for quite some time but is finally seeing some progress.  Next to her is a serving wench from Reaper.  She can be found in the Townsfolk I blister (02583) along with another serving lass and a barkeep which I have completed earlier.  Next in line is a "madam" from the Townsfolk III blister (02655).  You can imagine what she will be representing in my game.  The Governor's daughter from Black Scorpion finishes out this section.

I've got a few more pirates in this section of the queue.  The first two are from the Pirate Captains pack from Old Glory Miniatures.  Next to them is yet another miniature from Black Scorpion.  He can be found in the Pirates #2 blister.

Now for a few more fantasy miniatures that are in the initial stages of completion.  The first from the left is another bard from Reaper.  Druss Darkblighter (03136) is the winning entry from the Design Your Own Miniature contest.  It's an interesting sculpt in the fact that no weapons are visible and he seems to be depicted in the middle of some mundane action....such as speaking to a passerby or perhaps reciting verse to a crowd in a tavern.  He's different and I like it.  Next to Druss is a warhorse from a Bretonnian force.  The project where I've been converting Bretonian knights to the different noble houses of Westeros is finally moving forward again.  Another GW mini is next to the horse.  I've been doing several test models of GW High Elves to complete a diorama of a scene from The Silmarillion.  I'm a bit happier with this color combo so far and may actually complete this model.  Last in line is Artemis (HFH036) from Hasslefree.  The skin and metallics have been basecoated and both are ready for shading and highlighting.

Most of this section of the queue is just getting started. I'll breeze right through them since more than likely we will see them again next month.  Top row, from left to right:  Visions in Fantasy Female Cleric (DSM4107), GRRM Masterworks Bronn (DSM5050), a halfling from Tercia Creativo, GRRM Masterworks Benjen Stark (DSM5051), Elmore Masterworks Female Elven Princess (DSM1167), and Elmore Masterworks Amazon (DSM1169).  Bottom row from left to right: three GW Cadian test models, a pirate with a blunderbuss from Black Scorpion's Rogues #1 blister, Gil-galad from Games Workshop, and Cyndria Stormcaller (02956) from Reaper.

Same story as above for this section.  Top row from left to right:  Easley Masterworks Male Mage (DSM4105), three AWESOME armored skeletons form Otherworld Miniatures, and Adrielle, High Elf Queen (65048) from Reaper.  The bottom row is all comprised of goblins from Hasslefree Miniatures.  I love these little guys.  They have an old school feel but definitely exhibit details and characteristics of modern miniatures.  Perfect combo!

Well, it's obvious that I have my work cut out for me this month so I better get started painting.  I wonder how different the painting queue will look in October?

Monday, September 03, 2012

Damian Helthorne from Reaper

I'm not a huge fan of heroic scale miniatures.  Maybe it's the GW effect that drives me away or perhaps the cartoon-like image that particular style of mini represents.  Whatever the case, the oversized weapons and features of heroic scale figures usually sends me running the other direction.  However, Damian Helthorne (03201) from Reaper Miniatures immediately caught my eye when I walked into a "local" (the nearest FLGS is a 48 mile one way trip) hobbyshop, despite featuring most everything I dislike about this type of miniature.

In this wonderful sculpt by Tre Manor, the oversized weapons and features just work for this miniature.  I don't know if I had a preconceived notion due to Reaper branding Damian as a bandit, but as soon as I saw him in the blister, I knew I had a roguish, dashing, charasmatic NPC that simply demanded a larger-than-life personae and effects.  I knew right away while staring at the bare metal how I wanted him to look as a painted miniature and act as a wargaming hero/leader or RPG NPC.  Any other style of mini simply would not do.

 The color choices for painting was easy.  He is a bandit...outlawed and hunted, so his garb should reflect his time in the forests and hills surrounding his former home.  Greens and browns dominated my palatte in the initial phases of painting.  However, the Damian Helthorne I envisioned simply would not go quietly into a life of forced banditry.  His ego and charisma would not allow it.  To illustrate this point I knew I had to go with a big bold color for his cape.  Red was my immediate thought.  I have no doubt that he would have acquired such an item when robbing one of the very nobles that had a hand in banishing him from his former life.  Despite the fact that his new cape doesn't even come close to blending in with his surroundings, he is very fond of it and now considers it a part of the legend that has sprung up around his exploits.

As I mentioned above, I knew right away how I wanted this miniature to look when I was finished painting....right down to the individual details.  However, the sigil on his shield is not what I had in mind.  What I originially wanted to do was paint a bit of heraldry from one of the noble families in the region and then add a worn faded effect to signify that the shield was stolen and perhaps "altered" a bit.  Unfortunately, I was unable to accomplish the desired effect.  Instead of a worn look, all I was able to achieve was a sigil that looked new but slightly unpainted.  I eventually gave up on the idea and went with Plan B.

Plan B consisted of taking a page from the pirates of the Golden Age.  In my ongoing research of piracy in the Caribbean to support my Legends of the High Seas campaign, I've read several great books.  The one I just finished, Colin Woodard's The Republic of Pirates, along with David Cordingly's Under the Black Flag, both go to great lengths to emphasize that pirates used a bit of early psychological warfare to frighten their quarry into submission.  Afterall, the pirates were after the cargo on board the vessel or sometimes the vessel itself.  Why damage the very things they are after?  Threat displays such as brandishing weapons or causing a rucous to seem more imtimadating were common.  Perhaps the most well known technique though was raising the company's flag...the infamous Jolly Roger, which through it's symbolism, had a definite meaning.  When an opposing ship's captain saw the black flag flapping in the wind, he knew he had a decision to make: fight the pirates and possibly risk his life, along with that of  his passengers and crew or strike his colors and most likely avoid an unfortunate fate.

I decided on a similar role for Damian's shield.  I figured that such a legendary figure would be well-known in the realm for his daring deeds.  Just a view of his shield would cause the unlucky victim to strongly reconsider a fight with such a worthy adversary when in all probability, all that was wanted was gold and goods.  The eye crying tears of blood into a stolen chalice was appropriate iconography for such a man and I'm mostly happy with the outcome.  

So, since I failed in my initial attempt on the shield, I'm definitely open to suggestions on how to achieve such an effect.  Comments are more than welcome!