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