Monday, December 26, 2011

A Few Fantasy Miniatures

Though my other projects are still moving along, I must admit that my focus has shifted a bit into the realm of fantasy.  Many of those lonely primed miniatures that have been sitting in the queue for ages are finally getting some attention.  This week, despite Christmas and the craziness that goes along with the holidays, I managed to put the finishing touches on two such fantasy figures.

Both miniatures are from Reaper.  On the left is Klaus Copperthumb (03099) and on the right stands Alidee the bandit (03106).  I'm very much addicted to the hobby within the hobby of collecting miniatures, which very much explains the huge pile of lead I have that most likely will never be completed.  It's safe to say that I do have a problem in that I cannot control myself and buy mini after mini knowing that I'll never get around to painting them.  Despite my addiction to lead "crack", I do not buy indiscriminately.  Each figure in my collection was purchased for a specific reason and the two above are no exception.  I bought Klaus simply because the sculpt was atypical for a dwarf.  I liked the fact that unlike most dwarven miniatures, he was not armored to the teeth nor is there a battle axe in sight.  Alidee was purchased for a former project in which I was attempting to find and paint a miniature to represent the core group of adventurers in my Lord of the Rings Online Kinship.  She represents Myriade Hawkes of Dale, one of my long time roleplaying companions on the Landroval server.

Klaus will be the next miniature for my Legends of the Fall project.  I'm not sure what it is about him that suggests a high level character but I have chosen him to fill the thief slot nevertheless.

Werner Klocke has done a wonderful job with this sculpture.  I think it would be difficult to envision a short stocky subject like a dwarf in such a fluid graceful pose, but that's exactly what he has done with this miniature.  Klaus seems almost cat-like in his movement and looks as if he is about to pounce upon his prey.

Being a thief, and supposedly a skilled one at that, I needed to paint him in somewhat stealthy colors.  But he is still a dwarf and needed that quintessential dwarf look as well.  So to go along with the gray and greens, I mixed up an "ox blood" red for the leathers and added a bit of red pigment to the browns to give a more earthy tone to the tunic.  I wanted to do a bit of freehand and add runes to his bracers or his cloak but I decided against doing so at the last minute.  After all, a good thief does not draw unnecessary attention to himself.

As mentioned above, Alidee was part of another project and the only mini to be completed thus far.  Since I really no longer play LotRO, I doubt I will paint any more members of the Kinship.  For now, Alidee will make her way into a display case until she is needed for some game in the distant future.

Instead of a display case, she should actually go into a miniature Hall of Fame for the number of times repainted.  I must have started over at least six or seven times over a six month period.  The LotRO character that inspired this mini wears all black.  Black tunic, black britches, and a black cloak.  When I started the project I thought that an all black miniature would be super easy....kinda like painting a Nazgul.  Nope!  I was most definitely mistaken.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the blacks to work together.  I tried varying tones of highlights but despite my best efforts, the miniature looked bland and "plastic-y".  So I decided on a different color scheme altogether.

Though I did not know it at the time, the color scheme I chose was very appropriate for the character.  When I finally finished the figure, I sent a photo to the girl that played Myriade Hawkes in-game with a note explaining that I was unable to fully replicate her character due to my lack of ability to paint the color black.  I received a reply along with a photo of the new garb she had been wearing in the game.  The match was fairly close.  Wish I would have known earlier so that I could have avoided my loosing battle with the black clothing.

While I'm on the subject, do any of you have tips on painting mostly black subjects?  I'm running into the problem again as I paint up a few men of the Night's Watch and would be most interested in sound advice.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Inexpensive Miniature Display Solution

Now that I'm finally over the flu, I've been making up for lost time and busting out quite a few miniatures and working on several scenery projects.  It's amazing how much better one feels when fevers and chills do not dominate the day and my hobbies have certainly benefited from the extra energy.  I'll have photos of the new miniatures and projects in the next few days but first I wanted to alert those of you living near a Michaels craft store of a great miniature storage solution.

My apologies for the flash but you get the idea.....

I was walking through the store on my way to pick up more Testors Dullcote when I just happened to look down a random isle and noticed a huge sale sign by the display cases. If you're anything like me, then you probably have tons of miniatures sitting around in any available space just gathering dust and you're always on the lookout for a solution.  While I do have cases for storage, I actually like to look at my miniatures from time to time so I usually leave them out on open shelves....which is not the best scenario for longevity.  I've looked at display options online but everything seems to be so expensive.  Well, I'm glad I walked down the isle because I'm very happy with what I found.

The case with the cabinet close.  Don't mind the ghost taking the photo.....

This particular case is sold as a Golf Ball display but as you can see, it works quite well for miniatures.  They are regularly priced at $50 but this week Michaels is selling them for 40% off.  I walked away with two of them for under sixty dollars...much less than a single quality display case.  I'm not sure what company makes these cabinets.  The only identifying marks I could find on the package indicated that the cases are distributed solely through Michaels, so maybe it's a house brand.  The overall dimensions are:  14.8" high, 17.8" wide, and 3" deep.

Spacing is perfect for 28mm miniatures.  The top and bottom shelves are 2.75 inches high while the middle three are 2.5".  All five shelves are 2.5 inches deep.  I had no trouble fitting figures with standard poses on any of the shelves.  Mounted miniatures and standard bearers fit best on the top and bottom shelves however.  Of my collection, the only minis that did not pass the fit test were GW Uruk-hai figures holding pikes straight up, GW Gandalf the White mounted with his staff held high, and a mounted Bretonnian with a large banner.  That's not bad considering the vast mountain of lead I've collected over the years.  Keep in mind however that I'm talking about standard miniatures and not war machines, etc...  Doing a quick count with my test minis, I think around 75 standard pose 28mm miniatures could fit comfortably in the display case.

The shelves allow plenty of room for standard 28mm miniatures

As far as quality goes, I'm quite pleased.  The wood is solid and sturdy and the two cases I chose were free of marks and dings.  The hinged door latches firmly on the side and swings open in a smooth fluid motion.  The glass seems fairly thick and exhibits excellent transparency.  And yes, I did say glass.  Many cheap display cases cut cost by using a lexan type material which definitely lacks in the aesthetics department.  There are two issues I found however.  For one, if the case is used freestanding, then opening the door causes quite a bit of weight to shift forward which in turn forces the entire case to lean in the same direction.  If not careful, it would be easy to dump an entire display full of minis over just by opening the cabinet.  However, by mounting the unit on the wall, this issue is eliminated completely.  The cabinet does come with wall mounting hardware already installed on the back making the hanging process much easier.

The golf ball divots....

The other issue is the fact that the cases were designed to hold golf balls.  Spaced about every 2.5 inches is a shallow depression or divot that keeps the balls from rolling.  I was aware of this when I purchased the case but I thought that I would simply cut thin strips of card to line the shelves and alleviate the problem.  After getting home and placing a few test miniatures inside, I decided that it wasn't necessary.  As it turns out, the divots are less than an inch wide and standard 25mm bases fit right into the upper portion of the depressions, locking them into place.  Smaller bases worked equally as well since the divots are quite shallow.

25mm bases placed in the divots.  The figure on the right is slanted for illustration purposes

I discovered another option when I went to the Michaels website to remind myself of the original pricing.  One reviewer that obviously discovered the case as a miniature storage solution as well, suggested turning the entire case upside down so that the divots are above the figures.  While there is a definite top and bottom to the case, I suppose that option would work, although the wall mounting hardware would have to be removed and repositioned on the new "top".

A group of test miniatures help fill out the cabinet

While not a perfect solution for miniature storage, if you're in the market, you might want to take a look at this one.  A lighted cabinet with a bit more height in places would be nice but for the price, it's very difficult to beat this display model.  So head down to your local Michaels and purchase a few before the price goes back up.  However, if you live anywhere near the Florida Keys, please do not take my advice.  I don't want them all to disappear before I get a chance to drive back up to the mainland and buy a few more.  Ha!

By the way, I would be interested to see/hear of any storage and display solutions you may have encountered or used.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Painting Nazgul and the Effects of the Black Breath

I am usually rather lucky in the fact that I rarely get sick.  The plague could be ravishing my neighborhood but somehow I would avoid the mess and go about my business.  Well, it seems that it's time to pay the piper.  The flu (or is it the Black Breath?) has taken its toll on me and wiped me out for over a week and dramatically reduced my hobby time.  Although I was out of work for a few days and suddenly found myself with extra free time, I rarely felt like sitting at the hobby desk and instead spent most of my time on the couch.  As a result, my plan to finish November with a high miniature output was completely dashed.

However, in between the fevers and coughs, I was able to work on a few things.  Two pirates and two fantasy miniatures received some of my limited attention but mostly I concentrated on finishing up a few GW Nazgul.

I've made mention before about my pathetically slow painting speed and the mountain of lead that I have waiting for me.  That I have just finished these guys is a perfect illustration and example of those facts.  I purchased the minis in late 2001 or early 2002 when GW was just starting to turn out LOTR figures.  That means that it has taken me ONLY ten years to complete five of the nine Nazgul.  How's that for speed?

Anyway, they were obviously simple to paint and that's exactly what I needed since I wasn't feeling well at all.  The only semi-difficult aspect was trying to give the swords a cold magical glow.  I wanted them to look as if they exuded some inner sorcery instead of plain steel.  To accomplish this, I applied several washes of blue and green along the blades and only highlighted the extreme edges with a mid-silver.  Though the photos do not really depict the effect very well, I am quite pleased with the outcome.

Since I was bored from sleeping so much, when I was taking the photos I tried to play around a bit and get creative.  I experimented with long shudder speeds and alternate focus points to try to give the photos a fuzzy/blurry quality, as if the Nazgul were not really completely in this world.  Well, some of it worked and some....not so much.  But it was fun and provided a little entertainment.  Next time I think I will just stick with photoshop though.

Not a scene I would want to be facing on a dark night......

One final thought on the Nazgul.  I typically name most of my miniatures for ease of tracking in games (except large rank and file minis which I simply number).  Plus, to me, it gives each individual miniature a bit of personality and separates them from the mass of lead on the shelf or table.  Since only two Nazgul were given names by Tolkien (The Witch-King and Khamul the Easterling) I wonder what other gamers use to distinguish the other seven.  There are several options out there that have proliferated on the web over the years such as the names used by Iron Crown Enterprises in MERP (Murazor, Akhorahil, etc..) or those used by Decipher in their collectible card game (Ularie Nelya, Ularie Cantea, etc..).  Some time back, GW also invented identifiers (The Dark Marshal, The Shadow Lord, etc..) but some of the names seem boring, except for The Dwimmerlaik, which I very much like.  I guess a fourth option would be to simply number them which is essentially what Decipher did except that they based their numbers off of the Quenya system.  So what do you use for the Nazgul?  Do use one of the methods above or some other system? you bother to do so at all?

For gaming purposes (and since I'm feeling a little better and actually have a bit of energy tonight), I'll leave you with a list of possible names for the Nazgul.....keeping in mind Tolkien only mentioned two of them by name.

1.  The Witch-King of Angmar   aka Er Murazor
2.  Khamul the Easterling
3.  Dwar of Waw
4.  Ji Indur Dawndeath
5.  Akhorahil
6.  Hoarmurath of Dir
7.  Adunaphel the Quiet (female)
8.  Ren the Unclean
9.  Uvatha the Horseman

1.  The Witch-King of Angmar
2.  Khamul   aka Ularie Attea
3.  Ularie Nelya
4.  Ularie Cantea
5.  Ularie Lemenya
6.  Ularie Enquea
7.  Ularie Ostea
8.  Ularie Toldea
9.  Ularie Nertea

Games Workshop
1. The Witch-King of Angmar
2.  Khamul the Easterling
3.  The Dark Marshal
4.  The Shadow Lord
5.  The Undying
6.  The Tainted
7.  The Betrayer
8.  The Knight of Umbar
9.  The Dwimmerlaik

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Elise the Witch - Better Late Than Never

Fifteen days after Halloween, I finally have my Halloween project finished.  I would like to use my normal excuse of real life stuff getting in the way but unfortunately the delay was mostly due to a very stubborn color - orange.  Oh, and maybe just a bit of that other stuff like, you know, work and such.


I finished Elise rather quickly since the color selection was fairly simple.  Hat, shirt, thong, stockings, and boots are all that covers the little witch.  But when it came to the pumpkin, I hit a stumbling block.   I really had not used orange before except to help highlight reds but since I basecoated with a light brown, I didn't think I'd encounter any issues.  Boy was I ever wrong!  I must have repainted that bloody pumpkin seven or eight times without ever getting results I was happy with.  Finally I simply gave up and let it be as is and came to the conclusion that I hate using orange....even more so than reds and yellows.  I think from now on, I will do whatever I can to avoid using that blasted color.

Is it just me and my poor painting skills or does anyone else have issues with orange?

Anyway, other than orange getting the better of me, Elise the Witch (Reaper 65015) was fun to paint.  I was drawn to the sexy seductive bearing of Elise over the more traditional Halloween witch and waited for the months to pass by after buying her so that she could find herself in the painting queue just in time for the spooky month.  I knew she would be a striking miniature when completed due to the simplicity of the sculpt.  And with her so scantily clad, I also knew I would be given the opportunity to work on my flesh tones (an area where I really need to improve).

The only problem I had with the miniature itself was that a portion of the right side of her face was degraded and somewhat missing.  I wish I had known before I started painting but the defect was hidden by the shadow of the form and camouflaged by the black primer.  Until I put on the basecoat on her face, I was unaware of the issue.  No worries though.  I now have an excuse to purchase another Elise and maybe conquer the dreaded orange pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Trying to Find Legends of the Old West

The title of this post says it all.  I am trying to track down a copy of Warhammer Historical Legends of the Old West but I am having ZERO luck. 

Does anyone know how to find a copy in the States?  Actually, a copy anywhere would be acceptable. 

Also, I see that the title is sold out and/or out of print on the Warhammer Historical website.  Does anyone know if GW plans to reprint the book?

A huge thanks in advance for anyone that can help me on this matter.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween Witch - Dragon Magazine Style

Happy Halloween everyone.  It's probably my favorite holiday of the year...a chance to dress up in a silly costume and act like a kid again, no matter how old we really are.

To help celebrate the night of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, I've been working on a few witch miniatures.  Unfortunately they are not quite finished yet (despite my best efforts) but photos will be coming soon.  But I didn't want to strike out on a Halloween themed post so I thought I'd throw up a photo of one of my favorite Dragon Magazine issues.

The issue is number 114 from October of 1986.  The cover features a scantily clad female witch perched atop a positively evil looking stone monument.  Actually, "skyclad" or nude would be a better description since the only article of clothing is a sheer robe or cape.  The painting for the cover was done by David Martin and titled "Spirit of the Night."  I think his quote from the magazine in describing his work perfectly translates the image to words:  "In a shower of moonlight, a lone figure kneels in supplication to the image of a god worshiped long ago.  Aroused, the elemental nightwind rises up, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the dead city.  It carries the smells of the forest, invisible, yet potent as a prayer in the silence."  Indeed!

Let's see, October of 1986...that would make me around fifteen years old.  No wonder I liked the cover so much.  But in all honesty, I have very fond memories of the cover, not only because I had a mostly nude female on the cover of my favorite magazine but also due to the painting itself.  The "cool" colors used to cover most of the canvas makes me think of a chilly autumn night while the full moon definitely portrays a late October evening.  As I mentioned in my last entry, autumn is a special time for me and anything that reminds me of that time of year is bound to fall into favor.  And maybe it's the use of an old broken statue to represent an ancient being or something else entirely, but the painting simply screams AD&D to me.

The articles inside were just as good as the cover.  (Yes!  I do read it for the articles!  Ha!)  To go along with the Halloween theme, a wonderful rewrite of the Witch NPC class served as the centerpiece while a small section entitled "Grave Encounters" offered several tables to help generate inhabitants of cemeteries, graveyards, and crypts.  I also particularly enjoyed the Elven Cavalier article on page 26.

Although I rank this as one of my top ten Dragon Magazine covers ever, not every subscriber and reader was happy with the issue.  In fact, number 114 caused quite a scandal.  The cover reignited a debate about the depiction of females in the game and in artwork and one reader went as far as to call it "soft-core pornography."  I wonder how many subscriptions were cancelled after that issue?  I also wonder how many new subscriptions were ordered?  After all, a cover like Mr. Martin's could be considered cutting edge at the time.

Though certainly not the intent of this post, I can't help but wonder where the gaming community stands now on such issues as scantily clad females on covers or their general depiction in gaming.  Do you have an opinion?  Is it acceptable in today's media or are females being done an injustice?  I'd like to know what you think......

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Legends of the Fall - part 1

Although a few more months will have to pass before we get any relief from the tropical heat and humidity in the Florida Keys, the calendar indicates that autumn has definitely arrived.  And with the arrival of fall, thoughts of adventure in mythical lands begin to fill my head.  Perhaps this call to adventure comes from the fact that beginning in every September, I reread The Lord of the Rings (this will be my 27th rereading) and get caught up in Tolkien's ability to stir the soul to wander. Or maybe it's nothing more than some residual trait from childhood camping trips.  Whatever the case, the spell has been laid upon me and I think it's even more potent this year since I'm also in the process of rereading the original Dragonlance trilogy, which certainly has a link to the autumn season.

Unfortunately, I live on an island and can't go tramping through the woods and mountains so the adventure must take place in my head and imagination.  And when that happens, another hobby project tends to form.  Such is the case with Legends of the Fall.

The plan for this project is simple.  I'm in the process of creating a fantasy adventuring party in miniature (the first member of which can be seen above).  I envision a well-balanced group of five to eight adventurers representing most of the common fantasy RPG class archetypes.  After painting, they will all be based with a autumn foliage/terrain theme to tie the group together visually and satisfy my current fall-based need for adventure.  More than likely they will all receive some kind of background and back story that will reflect the sculpt of the miniature and connect each individual with the group as well.

As the title of the project suggests, each miniature will be an experienced adventurer and rather legendary in their chosen class.  The sculpts that I choose will have to reflect that trait both in the overall demeanor of the figure along with the equipment and weapons carried.  While painting these minis should be fun, I think the process of picking the individual models to represent the different classes will be one of the best aspects.  I will not limit myself to any one range or brand, so the sky is the limit.  I also plan on seeking suggestions from readers and guests on how to fill those roles and hope to find myself considering models that I would never have found on my own.

As you can see from the photos above and below, the first two slots have already been chosen.  One model has already been completed while the other is waiting for a few more highlights and an appropriate base.

The miniature above is from the Visions in Fantasy line from Dark Sword Miniatures.  Looking through my mountain of unpainted lead, it quickly becomes apparent that I'm a huge fan of DSM and it's only appropriate that a mini from the company fills my first Legend spot.  According to the website, she is titled Female Warrior With Longsword and Shield (DSM7210) but right away I envisioned her as a female paladin. 

The sculpt is quite lovely and exudes an air of strength and leadership while still preserving a feminine aspect.  The color scheme I used was already in my head even before I placed the order - white to symbolize the purity of a paladin with floral shades of pink/purple to emphasize her gender.  I initially thought to give her darker hair however, to create a bit of mystery about her, but a lighter tone fit better with the color of her cloak and the metal of her armor.

Speaking of the armor, I really wanted to go non-metallic but I found the contrast too weak between the robes and the armor.  Plus, to be honest, I'm still learning the whole NMM technique and find myself struggling at times to create realistic effects.  I'm limited to decent looking swords right now and fear that I have some ways to go before I can tackle larger, more complex objects like armor.

As for her background, I only have a name to go along with her class for now.  At some point in the last few years I came across the name Liandra and immediately fell in love with it.  I've used a version of it (Liandrha) in a few other projects and short stories and think the name very appropriate for this character.  I have a few ideas for a surname or epithet, along with a very rough sketch for a background, but those details will have to wait until the next post on the project.

Accompanying Liandrha the paladin in the above photo is my choice for the mage in the group.  With my love of Tolkien, it was very tempting to choose an iconic old wizard with a long beard for the magic-user of the group but I wanted to emphasize the fact that this group of adventurers were a force to be reckoned with and in the prime of their careers.  Also, I think I may have been influenced by visions of Raistlin, the gold-skinned mage from the Dragonlance setting.  I do want to point out however that while he is indeed wearing red robes and has white hair, all resemblance to the much loved/hated character ends there. I have other ideas for this guy once he is finally completed.

The miniature is from Reaper and is called by them, Anirion, Wood Elf Wizard (03491).  The sculpt is very simple but the luxurious flowing robes provides lots of space for shading and highlighting.  Very little of the face can be seen beneath the cowl of his hood but that adds to the air of mystery about him.  I will have more photos of the mage as soon as I finish the final highlight coat and base him.

The next step for me is to chose the cleric/healer of the group.  For this choice I would like to seek some suggestions from you, good readers.  I'm open to any company and gender but the sculpt should be in the 28mm range and reflect a higher level character.  I'm very much looking forward to the possible suggestions and thank participants in advance for the help.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Optivisor - Answering My Own Question

A while back I was doing a bit of research and considering purchasing an Optivisor to help with painting my miniatures.  In doing so, I solicited advice from other painters who use an Optivisor, and though I received several emails stating interest in also purchasing one, actual advice or reviews from current users were lacking.  Well, I did a little more research and purchased one a few weeks ago.  And now that I've had some time to get used to the added magnification and its effect on my painting, I thought I would post a review to help others who may be considering a similar purchase.

A #2 Optivisor
There are several different styles of Optivisors on the market (and other companies make similar devices).  Some are lighted while others have additional attachments, etc...  I really didn't need anything special so I decided to go with the basic model.  The one I purchased consists of a comfortable headband adjustable to any size via a rotating knob on the back and a swivel mounted visor containing the lenses that is easily moved out of the way for normal painting.  Despite a good amount of time on the internet researching the appropriate magnification for painting miniatures, I was unable to find a solid answer.  So basically I just made a slightly educated guess and ordered a model with 1.5 times magnification.  Other flavors include magnification that goes from 1.5 to over 3 times normal size.  My eyes are still in very good shape though and I only needed a bit of help for the tiny details that grace today's intricate models, so I went with the lower power visor.

The Optivisor in action on a Halloween WIP

I have not tried any of the higher power lenses so my review may be biased, but I am quite happy with the purchase.  With the aid of the Optivisor, I've noticed an increase in the detail on my minis and the ability to place paint in the smallest of areas.  I'm also able to make less of a mess when I need to outline or freehand.  The additional magnification has also helped me avoid finding flaws in the metal AFTER I've primed and base coated.  I absolutely hate having to go back and file or fill a spot after I've already started painting.  Note:  I hate prepping miniatures anyhow.  I wish they came ready to paint!

A word of warning though.  Until you get used to the additional magnification, be very careful with brush placement.  I had several accidents where I thought the brush was further from the model than it actually was and ended up putting a blob of paint in random spots.  After a few days of use however, those little incidents vanished.

A privateer WIP seen at 1.5 times magnification

Though the focal length listed for the #2 model is listed at 20", I find that measurement difficult to believe.  Through careful measurements, I've found that the miniatures come into focus around 6 inches from the lens and begin to blur when moved closer than 3 inches.  Now I'm not an optometrist and do not know what other factors may effect focal length, but these are the numbers that work for me.  It's fortunate that the numbers are what they are since that is about where I hold my miniatures when I paint anyhow.

Another WIP seen through the lens

I was concerned about the comfort of wearing the visor while painting but I've adjusted quite easily.  Since I do not use the magnification the entire time I'm painting, I have had no issues with eye strain. I do leave the visor on my head though and just flip the lenses out of the way when not in use.  At first I would get little headaches from the pressure of the headband but either they have loosened a bit or I've simply become used to it because I no longer even feel the unit on my head.

So in conclusion, I'm quite happy with my purchase.  Though I'm certainly not the best painter out there (or even close), I've been able to take my miniatures up a notch with a fairly inexpensive investment and that is always a good thing.  It would be nice to try some of the higher power models though, just to see what they are like, but for now I'll make do with these.  After using them for some time now, I feel good about recommending this particular model to other miniatures painters.  But remember, however, that depending on your eye sight, your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Talk Like A Pirate Day - Pirate Project Update

I had hoped to get this posted last night in honor of Talk Like A Pirate Day but real life got in the way as it always seems to do.  However, when you live in the Florida Keys, one can hear pirate speak almost every day so in that respect, I'm right on time.

Though my posting frequency has been lower than normal lately, I have not been idle by any means on the hobby front.  In fact, it's due to the focus I've placed on my hobby projects lately that has left little time for blogging.  I'll try to get a general update posted in the very near future to showcase some of the other undertakings, but for now I want to concentrate on the pirate project.

Port Largo is coming along nicely.  I've been able to shape the terrain boards to my liking and add a bit of elevation here and there.  Since the first part of the campaign will take place mostly in town, I will be adding two boards behind the existing ones to showcase more of the island.  Once the crews manage to gain access to larger ships, the back boards can be removed to give more room for ship maneuvering.

Overhead view of Port Largo

In the view below, one can see the general layout of the town proper.  The docks are now apparent though the actual piers are still under construction.  Several of the buildings are starting to take shape as well, with the inn in the foreground to the right.  I've been trying several different techniques to simulate the classical Caribbean building style and have almost settled on a favored solution.  One method that I will no longer employ however is to use spackle over the foamboard to provide texture.  Not only does it take way too long, but it's quite messy and creates rather heavy structures.  The current winner is to use textured spray paint as a primer then apply colors and washes over that layer.

View of the east side of town

Not shown are the barracks, the blacksmith's shop, and several of the lesser homes that will line the street.  They are sitting on the workbench with clamps holding the sides together to allow the glue to dry.  I'm also working on a gallows that will sit seaward of the tower fort at the southernmost point of the island.  Does anyone know where I can find a miniature to represent a hanged pirate?

The ships are coming along nicely as well.  One of the completed smaller vessels can be seen sailing the Caribbean blue waters below while other unstarted ships can be seen sitting at the docks for scale.  Not shown are the two sloops under construction on the work bench right now.  While it will be some time before the crews are ready to take to the high seas, I do want several watercraft available for scenery and possibly for escapes.

Ships along the waterfront of Port Antigua

I took a break from painting the normal inhabitants of Port Antigua to return to the fighting folk.  I've started a new round of soldiers and a few commanders to go along.  A few pirates and privateers are also primed and ready to go.  All of the miniatures below are from the Black Scorpion line of pirates except for the little guy that belongs to Old Glory.  I've become quite a fan of Black Scorpion over the last year and highly  recommend them for their clean lines, interesting poses, and general good looks.

Pirates in progress

Well, that's about it for the pirates for now.  Projects await......

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Ladies of Port Largo - Part 2

Hurricane Irene thankfully spared the Florida Keys (though my thoughts are with family and friends in the Carolinas) with a timely right turn up the East Coast but ventured close enough to scare away all the tourists for most of the week.  With no boat trips to run and unexpected free time on my hands, I've been able to catch up on some long overdue hobby projects and painting.

The denizens and inhabitants of Port Largo remain near the top of the to-do list and they've seen quite a bit of attention lately...especially the ladies that call the port home.  Two more "maidens" have moved out of the painting queue and are now available for game play.  Watch your coins sir for you are about to be parted from them by their not-so-subtle feminine wiles.

Both figures are available from the Reaper Townsfolk collection.  The miniature on the left, called Maggie by the inhabitants of Port Largo, is from the Townsfolk III pack.  She is a local girl, part of the first generation to be born on the island.  Her father was some sailor or buccaneer, or at least that is the story that has been told to her from time to time.  Her mother wanted to be nothing more than a sailor's bedwarmer and was want to disappear now and then with some salty ner-do-well only to reappear with more lines on her face and another babe in her belly.  Four years ago she did not return at all and Maggie found that she did not grieve for her.  Instead, she found work at the inn, first as a serving girl then as...entertainment.

Maggie of Port Antigua

She is amongst the favorites at The Wind and Whistle and has a smile and a wink ready for all who enter.  Though friendly and flirtatious, she does not suffer the unclean.  A large copper pot sits in the corner of her room and the water is changed often....more so when a ship has come to port. It is said you can always tell the man in the street that just left Maggie's arms by his freshly washed look and grin on his face.

All is not well with Maggie however.  She was recently beaten by a mate from Captain Barkley's sloop and some of her saved coin stolen.  If the tales be true, she has taken to hiding a dagger under her pillow and tells the other girls that when His Majesty's warship arrives, she plans to become quite friendly with the crew so as to gain a bit of protection from the sorry lot the Governor has been allowing to walk the streets.

Caroline Walsh, formerly of Charles Towne

Next is a miniature that I call Caroline.  She is from the Townsfolk II package but can also be found in the Village of Kullhaven boxed set.  Unlike Maggie, she is new to Port Largo, having arrived only four months ago with her elderly Grandfather.  It is no secret that they both came from Charles Towne in Carolina from a family with some wealth.  It is said that Willard was sent by his son to help set up trade between the booming island economy and the family business in Charles Towne but that Caroline was whisked away with the elder Willard due to some scandalous behavior on her part.

Things have changed for the two in the few short months they have been in Port Largo.  Willard's health is failing quickly and what money the two brought with them is rapidly running out.  Either the family business is not going well back in Charles Towne or the younger Willard has disowned them both.  As for Caroline, she has taken work at The Wind and Whistle to help care for her Grandfather.  As to what that work might be, she has kept to herself and away from the ears of Old Man Willard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ladies of Port Largo - Part 1

While the title of this post may sound like a bad calendar idea or worse yet, something you might find on cable TV late at night, it's actually something much more benign.  My slow but steady painting methodology has been moving right along (at a snail's pace) and another batch is ready to join the action on the gaming table.  Since I have quite a few pirate and naval miniatures already completed, I wanted to start fleshing out the inhabitants of Port Largo and what better place to start than with the tavern --- the place where adventure, intrigue, and more than a few fights always seem to start. 

The first two ladies to grace Port Largo come from Reaper and Black Cat Bases.  Although I very much like both of the sculpts, the character of each could not be more different.  I'm always pleased at how some miniatures, just by the virtue of their sculpts, speak to me and guide my decisions on color scheme and background.  Anyone else ever experience this?

First up is a serving lass from the Reaper line of Townsfolk.  With her short hair and innocent looking face I simply could not paint her anything other than blonde.  Actually I tried initially.  I wanted all the women of Port Antigua to be more than a bit shady so I painted her hair jet black.  But I quickly changed my mind and reverted to a more open and less threatening color to do the figure justice (that's not to say that dark hair equals dark intentions though...Just for the record, I'm quite fond of brunettes).  With the fair face and hair, the dress had to match so I went with a "country lass" type scheme.

She was fairly easy to paint as all the features on the model were large and bold.  The only problem I encountered was the food that sits on top of the serving platter.  You can't see from the angle of the photo, but there is a bowl of soup and a plate of meats and vegetables resting on top.  I had a devil of a time trying to paint that food.  No matter what I did, all the colors seemed wrong and I must have changed my mind ten times before I found something that worked.  Go ahead and laugh if you like, but really, how often do wargamers have to paint food items?

Next is Catherine, or Cat, or sometimes known as Black Cat.  She's quite a striking sculpt from Black Cat Bases based out of the UK.  I first saw her in the Legends of the High Seas rulebook but no information about the model was provided.  I took to the internet in search of her and had a difficult time of it but finally stumbled upon Black Cat Bases.  If you're interested in finding her yourself, the name above is one I've given her.  She is listed under the Civilians and Townsfolk section and called quite simply "Wench".  Of course, I'll be nice and provide a direct link here.

To me she is a perfect sculpt for a pirate town.  The sculptor has managed to combine beauty, innocence, flirtation, seduction, and danger all in one model.  Well done I say!  I tried to paint her to accentuate some of those features.  The red dress signifies her devilish side while the whale bone corset shows that she is still a lady.  But beware gentlemen of fortune, though she is smiling and flirting, danger is oh so close.  Behind her back she wields a wicked dirk that could easily change a sailor's moment of rapture to one of death.

Three more ladies are very nearly complete with several more in the early stages.  Stay tuned for part 2 in the near future.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More Pirates Completed --- Finally...

As I was lamenting in another post, my painting style lends itself to protracted periods of seemingly endless inactivity.  My own style of batch painting slows down production to almost a standstill, especially when beginning a new batch. While it's more about the journey than the destination for me, seeing completed miniatures leave the painting queue provides both satisfaction and a bit of personal pride.  Those feelings tend to occur few and far between for me lately however.

While my own peculiar take on batch painting has many downfalls, occasionally the benefits start rolling in.  "Batches" of minis all started at the same time also near completion near simultaneously.     Such is the case this week.  I have several pirates and other miniatures all nearing completion together.  I want to share the first two with you.

Captain Hook and Melisande Wavecutter

Both of these piratical miniatures have been in the queue for quite some time.  I have an excuse for one and well, nothing for the other.  I am extremely glad they are both completed and ready for a bit of action in my Legend of the High Seas campaign.

Melisande Wavecutter from Reaper
Ladies first:  Melisande Wavecutter is a miniature from the Reaper "pirates" line.  I emphasize the word "pirate" because Reaper has put a decidedly fantasy twist to their swashbucklers.  Historical accuracy is obviously not their focus.  On some models the fantasy slant is very apparent but it's not so noticeable on Melisande.  Beyond the fact that she is a female and dressed as a captain, only the skulls on her boots belie the trend.

Miss Wavecutter has been in my collection for a very long time and in the painting queue since the first of the year.  I am terrible with female skin tones (especially facial features) and the fear of completely mucking her up has kept her from completion for months.  Sheer desperation finally allowed me to finish her but I'm still not happy with her face.  I simply cannot seem to get the subtle female shading correct no matter how hard I try.  Maybe the purchase of the OptiVisor I ordered will help me achieve better results.

More detail of the hat and coat

Though my meager painting skills did not do her justice, the miniature itself is a beautiful sculpt.  The hat, greatcoat, and the face make the mini stand out for me so I chose colors that would emphasize some of those features.  If I had more time I think I would have removed the skulls from the boots and possibly added a bit of trim around the coat though.  I'm fairly pleased with her overall however and look forward to using her in the next game.  As far as her backstory goes, I'll have to think on that a bit.

Captain Hook from Reaper

 Next up is Captain Hook, also from Reaper Miniatures.  He too suffers from the fantasy element that Reaper has imposed upon their pirate line...mainly in the size of his saber cutlass meatcleaver.  Just as Melisande has lingered in limbo for months, the captain has seen more than his share of time in the painting queue.  So what's his excuse?  I'm not really sure.  Though I'm not at all opposed to the miniature itself (after all, I did purchase it for a reason), I think over time he became one of those rare minis that I simply could not get into.  Perhaps it's the huge weapon or maybe it's the terrible color scheme I chose for him, but whenever I sat down to paint, my eyes would pass over him almost every time in favor of another model to work on.  I finally forced myself to wrestle with the inertia surrounding the good captain and he is now complete.  I wonder how he will fare in the next game of Legends of the High Seas.

I need to work on a good background for this miniature as well.  I really have not thought too much about it but I can assure you that his name will not be Captain Hook.  Arrrr....!!!

I have two other rogues to share as soon as the varnish is finished drying then it's time for the ladies.  Yep, the wenches I've been ignoring forever are nearing completion as well.  My pirates are thirsty and ready to spend some of their ill gotten gains.  Their arrival could not be more appropriate nor appreciated but pirates beware!  These ladies will have a few tricks up their...hmmm....bodices.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I am thinking about purchasing an OptiVisor for close detail work.  I currently have a magnification lamp on my hobby desk that provides great light and allows me to look at my not-so-handy work but I find it difficult to actually paint while looking through the glass.  The problem is that to get the right focus and magnification, I have to hold the miniature fairly close to the lens.  In doing so, the edge of the lamp often interferes with end of the paint brush and causes my carefully aimed spec of paint to go horribly astray.  Usually this happens when completing facial features and requires an awful lot of work to repair.

So, as I stated above, I am thinking of purchasing a head mounted option.  I am unsure of what power of magnification would be appropriate for painting 28mm miniatures.  Does anyone have an experience with the OptiVisor and if so, what model/magnification would you suggest? 

Thanks in advance for the advice. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hope for Anglalond

For some time now the men of Rohan have defended the lands from the increasing incursions of Scandinavian invaders.  Their blood has been spilled on foreign soil fighting savage northern heathens when they should be back in the Riddermark protecting their own folk from the forces of Saruman.  But they are an honorable people and refused to leave the field of battle ere reinforcements arrived.

That time is now.....

I've finally gotten my hands on a couple of boxes of Saxon warriors for my Age of Blood games.  I've been playing several scenarios (in between watching massive marathons of Tour de France footage) using my warriors of Rohan to represent the Anglo-Saxons in their struggle to resist the raiding hordes of Norsemen.  While the Rohirrim proved to be an acceptable proxy, the games simply did not feel right without proper models on the table.  That is soon to be rectified however.  Only one more night of cycling before I can get back to painting and hopefully get these brave warriors on the field before the next wave of longships appear on the horizon.

Speaking of the Tour de France, congratulations to Cadel Evans.  Well played Aussie.  Well played indeed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Batch Painting or My Inability to Complete Miniatures

To most miniature painters, batch painting is an incredibly efficient method of turning out large numbers of miniatures in minimal time.  A favorite of the wargaming crowd, entire units of spearmen or squads of infantrymen can progress from bare metal to tabletop gaming quality in short order using batch painting methods. Painting all similar items of a similar group of miniatures at once saves vast amounts of time and allows for impressive forces to be fielded with minimal effort.

Being more of a collector (or miniature hoarder rather), batch painting means something entirely different to me.  And my personal definition certainly does not include the words efficient, timely, nor any remotely similar verbiage.  Since I rarely paint more than one type of miniature at a time, batch painting to me simply means painting an unrelated group of miniatures (usually comprised of what can fit on my painting desk) during a common period.  For example, my current "batch" is comprised of a motley assortment of pirates, townsfolk, rangers, wizards, wildings, and Cadians.  The paint scheme of each could not be more different nor the assortment less appropriate for batch painting.  But hey, that's how I roll.

My current "batch".

My method of batch painting is incredibly slow and commonly delays a miniature from moving to a completed state for weeks or months at a time - hardly a model for efficiency.  Quite often I'll pick up a miniature with full intentions of finally finishing off the poor lingering half-completed model only to be sidetracked after completing one small detail.  Usually, the process goes something like this:

  1. Mix a really great shade to highlight an existing basecoat on a model.
  2. Finish said highlight with paint to spare.
  3. Notice that the spare paint would make an interesting basecoat on a different part of a different model.
  4. Paint new model with spare paint or until the paint is no longer spare.
  5. Either the remix paint to complete the unfinished part on the current model or more likely proceed to step 7.
  6. Complete the part on the new model then begin with highlights and decide that the new color would look nice on another miniature .  Repeat process starting with step 2.
  7. Remember that several miniatures needed flesh highlights.  No need to waste paint though.  Before highlighting minis that are ready, why not bring up a few more models and highlight them all at once?
  8. Begin several new miniatures.
  9. Ooooh, pretty color.  I wonder what it would look like on that model?
  10. Wash, rinse, repeat......

Meanwhile, during this viscous cycle, a miniature that is 99% complete lingers in the painting queue, forlorn and forgotten until another mini needing a similar quick step to finish comes due.  As I write this I am turning my head towards my hobby desk and counting no less than three figures that could be completed in less than a half hour's worth of work.  But why do that when I have about twenty-five other miniatures that I could "batch paint"?

Perhaps this is simply another facet of my Hobby A.D.D. or another defect that has not yet been discovered or documented.  Either way, it's no small wonder that I have loads of unpainted miniatures and numerous unfinished projects that are always just on the horizon.

So is this seemingly incurable ailment specific to me or do others suffer from a similar syndrome?  Am I the only painter with a totally incorrect notion of batch painting?  Please do discuss...