Friday, December 13, 2013

The Desolation of Smaug - My Spoiler Free Review

I watched The Desolation of Smaug today and I must say I was pleased with the movie.  As long as one remembers some of the first words that pop up on the screen after the movie concludes - "BASED [my emphasis] on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien", then the artistic differences introduced by Peter Jackson can be forgiven and even applauded.  The filler material from the LotR appendices along with Jackson's own creations actually make the movie much more enjoyable than the book.  His additions drive the plot more vigorously than just the children's story hooks that Tolkien employs and brings the movie in line more with the adult feel of the previous trilogy. 

Those differences actually had me on the edge of my seat a few times.  Of course we all know how the story goes and how it ends, but not knowing the direction Jackson was taking with the individual elements created excitement that would not have existed had he simply followed the novel point by point.  The destination and the outcome will still be the same but the journey, the part that really counts, is refreshingly new.

Without spoiling the details, what did I like most?  For one, I very much enjoyed Jackson's version of Bard.  In the book he is very one dimensional and quite frankly, rather boring.  Now we not only get an interesting back story but a plot twist that is quite unexpected.  I also enjoyed Tauriel.  Despite some initial misgivings, I found myself not only approving of her inclusion but heavily focused on, and involved  with her story.  I do not know what Sir Peter has in store for her but I can't wait to find out.  Well played Mr. Jackson.  Well played indeed.  You have me hooked. 

And how could I forget Smaug?  I was worried about how the "chiefest calamity" of the time would be portrayed.  After all, the quest and essentially the entire story revolves around his overwhelming presence.  Ruin Smaug and the entire trilogy falls as well.  Well, I can say that my fears were unfounded.  With a few minor exceptions (which I can easily overlook), Smaug was everything I had hoped for. 

Not everything was perfect though.  DoS suffers from a serious case of "power creep."  The martial and acrobatic abilities of Legolas and the elves are over the top and borderline silly.  And the orcs are repetitive and predictable as are the evil bosses.  Azog and Bolg utter the same commands, "kill them" and "it is over" ad nauseam. 

Overall the movie was worth the wait.  The story is familiar yet new, the plot moves along much more quickly than the first movie, and the characters draw you in and make you care about them.  In addition, Smaug was truly stupendous!  Sure the movie is not exactly like the book.  But the book as written would not translate into a good movie.  I think Jackson made the movie that Tolkien wishes he could have written after the success of The Lord of the Rings novels and the (further) creation of his mythology/legendarium (yes, Tolkien did want to rewrite The Hobbit to make it more consistent with his later creations). Despite what some (self-proclaimed) Tolkien purists spew about Peter Jackson, it should be obvious that he truly cares about the story and the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien.  With The Desolation of Smaug, I think Jackson has paid great respect and homage to the Professor and his story.  Go see it!

If you have watched the movie, what did you think?

Monday, December 09, 2013

On the Horizon - December 2013

It has been quite a while since I've done an On the Horizon post (hell, it's been a long time since I've written any posts). I'm not sure why I got out of the habit of writing my monthly work in progress report. Posting what I will be working on for the upcoming month always helped me plan out my projects and get my materials in order.  Doing so also forced me to clean up my hobby desk for photography purposes.  As a final benefit, it was fun to reread my column at the end of the month to see how miserably I failed my plan.

So here we go again as I try to revive my monthly column.  I have changed up the format a bit however.  In the past I would take lots of photos of every mini currently in the queue.  Sometimes that would add up to nearly fifty miniatures.  I can barely paint fifty miniatures in a year so it was unrealistic of me to even partially entertain the idea of finishing more than a few in a month's time.  With the new format, I will only focus on a few models at a time.  The featured minis will be those that are nearly complete or suddenly important to me for whatever reason.

December's queue

As you can see from the photo above, December looks to be a busy month.  I currently have sixty-one miniatures mounted for work on my hobby desk (only twenty-five are pictured) but I will only be concentrating on ten.  If I can finish even half of these I will be pleased with my progress.

First up this month is a special edition model from Dark Sword Miniatures.  I'm a big fan of Halloween, so every year I like to paint up a Halloween specific model to celebrate the season.  This year I chose the 2009 Halloween Witch & Blackcat sculpted by Jeff Grace (DSM7506).  Unfortunately Halloween came and went with the model remaining unfinished.  I'm determined to finish her before the year ends though.  Just like the ones I have done in years past, this is not really a spooky/scary miniature.  Instead it's a rather whimsical model of a witch summoning her spectral servant.

I would say she is mostly finished.  Most of the model has received a base color but only portions have been highlighted and shaded (hat and skirt).  I have chosen fall colors to accentuate the theme I was going for and for the most part, I am pleased with the choices.  I am having trouble with the orange on her skirt though.  I'm fairly happy with the highlights I have added (though I may do one more round) but the shadows are not what I'd like to see.  When I try to darken the shadows I end up with a dirty brownish orange that nearly ruins the effect of the miniature.  I have very little experience working with orange so suggestions from readers would be most welcome!

Trouble with orange shadows

Miniature:  Halloween Witch and Black Cat DSM7506  
Status: Highlighting and shading
Progress:  85% complete

Next is a male mage from Dark Sword Miniatures (DSM4105).  This model first drew my eye due to the simplicity of the lines.  It should be no secret by now to those that visit this blog that I am not a fan of "busy" miniatures.  I strongly dislike all the crap some companies like to throw on to a 28mm piece of lead (or resin or plastic).  Well this mini is the complete opposite and I can't wait to finish him.  I think once completed he will join the ranks of my Level One Adventurers project.

Miniature:  Male Mage DSM4105
Status:  Bascoating
Progress:  20%

If I like the previous miniature for its simplicity then I must like this one for her boobs simplicity as well.  This model comes from Reaper's skirmish game line (Handmaiden of Keskura, Icingstead 14579).  I have never played Warlord and probably never will, but I have purchased several models from that line in the past and have been quite happy with the quality of the sculpts.

All joking aside, I like this miniature for the fluid sense of motion and the facial features (especially the hair).  I knew right away that she would be a redhead but I am still undecided on the exact color scheme for the rest of the miniature.  The basecoats seen above are not set in stone by any means.  Don't be surprised to see something completely different when I finally get around to completing her.

By the way, the base is from Secret Weapon Miniatures.  If you're not familiar with the company you should definitely check them out.  I've purchased several bottles of wash from them and they perform every bit as well as, or better than GW washes.  Plus they have a great selection of resin bases.

Miniature:  Handmaiden of Keskura, Icingstead 14579
Status:  Basecoating
Progress: 35%

This cleric is also fairly simple in design yet she has a striking pose.  This one comes from Dark Sword Miniatures as well (DSM4107).  Once completed, she too will join the ranks of my Level One Adventurers.

Miniature:  Female Cleric DSM4107
Status:  Basecoating
Progress: 15%

I've been gearing up for more Legends of the High Seas action and wanted another model wielding a blunderbuss... so I picked up this guy.  He is part of the Rogues I blister (PIR1) from Black Scorpion Miniatures.  I have purchased and painted quite a few models from Black Scorpion (about 20 I think) but I rarely do so these days.  The company switched from metal to resin two years ago and since then, I have found the quality of the casts fairly poor in quality.  It's a shame...I really liked the pirate and old west lines.  Occasionally metal versions can still be found by resellers online, so if you're interested, keep looking.

Miniature:  Rogue
Status:  Basecoating
Progress: 30%

Readers, meet Dima (HFO 007) from Hasslefree Miniatures.  The entire collection of fantasy models from Hasslefree are wonderful but I'm especially taken with their line of orcs and goblins.  I've managed to collect most of them over the last year.  The first Hasslefree goblin I painted can be found here.  With this particular goblin I wanted to continue to experiment with non-traditional goblin skin tones like I did with the first.  So far I must say I'm quite happy.  If the shading and highlighting continue to work out I'll be sure to post the color scheme once he is finished.

Miniature:  Dima HFO007
Status:  Shading, highlighting, and clean up
Progress:  80%

Next is yet another miniature from DSM.  Although still in basecoat mode, this female fighter (DSM4115) is coming along nicely.  Apart from the simplicity of the model, the feature that attracted me most was her likeness to the cleric that appeared in the intro adventure included in the D&D Red Box Basic Set (Alanah or Alena I think).  It's been years since I've looked at my copy so I may be mistaken with her name and the resemblance, but that's the first thing I thought of when I first saw her.  I think I need to dig out that box and do some research.

Miniature:  Female Fighter with Longsword DSM4115
Status:  Basecoating
Progress: 35%

Everyone should be familiar with this Hobbit.  Why it's Meriodoc Brandybuck!  I started painting this version of Merry from GW's Merry and Pippin vs. Grishnakh blister last year.  He was to be part of a diorama in honor of Hobbit Day 2012.  Not only did I not finish him (or the diorama) last year, I missed this year as well.  I did try however and got pretty darn close to completion.  All that is left is to finish his cloak then add a few more details to his vest and hair.  Maybe I will be able to show him off next year for Hobbit Day 2014!

Miniature:  Merry
Status:  Shading, highlighting, and detailing
Progress: 90%

Lobelia was/is also part of the planned Hobbit Day diorama.  She has languished unfinished in the queue as well but not for much longer.  She has only been basecoated but I think the highlighting and shading should progress rather quickly due to the lack of complexity of her garb and the simple color scheme I have chosen for her.

Miniature:  Lobelia
Status:  Basecoating
Progress:  35%

Finally I come to another goblin from Hasslefree Miniatures.  This is Mikal (HFO 004).  He is very much in an uncompleted state but I had to include him since this miniature is my current "ooh shiny" distraction. What brought him from the bottom of a very long queue to my must complete pile was his particular his snarl.  I don't know why I haven't noticed it before but I instantly fell in love with it and wanted to paint him right away.  He obvoulsly has a long way to go but don't be surprised to find him finished before the others.  My hobby A.D.D. causes me to do strange things like put aside miniatures that are 99% complete in favor of another that has been barely started. 

Miniature:  Mikal  HFO004
Status:  Basecoating
Progress: 15%

OK.  That's it for this month.  I need to stop writing and start painting.  There are ten miniatures that desperately need my attention.

As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I'm still officially on a break from my Thorin & Co. project.  But when I sat down at the desk the other night to finish my previous miniature, I realized that Bombur was nearly complete.  All I needed to do was add a few highlights to move him out of the painting queue.  So I made an exception to my forced hiatus from those pesky Tolkien dwarves and polished off the big guy.

Bombur had zero lines in the theatrical release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (perhaps that will change with the upcoming extended edition).  It seems like all he did was eat.  Just like the lines on that jolly dwarve's script, my screen is pretty much blank when it comes to talking about the miniature.  It's a fine sculpt, for sure, and GW did a good job rendering the likeness of Bombur onto the mini, but that's all I got.  There's simply nothing special about Bombur or my paint job.  So instead of my usual running commentary, I'll just end here and leave visitors with a few more photos. 

I need some inspiration to finish off the last four dwarves.  Any ideas to get my dwarven groove going?

As always though, thanks for reading!!!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Athelglyth the Warrior-Maiden

Athelglyth the warrior-maiden is done.  After sitting in the painting queue for nearly a year (Nov 2012), she is finally complete.  She also brings to a close a fairly lengthy period of inactivity at the hobby desk.  The little guy has been keeping me quite busy and painting has been non-existent for weeks.  I cannot begin to explain how good it felt to sit down and paint again!  I think I'm on a roll...

I have no idea what took me so long to finish her.  Looking at the photos, I now realize she is a fairly simple miniature.  Sure, there is lots of skin tones to paint and a few small items, but for the most part the mini is not all that detailed or intricate.  I think my inability to complete Aethelglyth was mainly due to pure laziness.  I just couldn't bring myself to pick her up whenever I found myself with the free time to paint.  It's a poor excuse I know, but an honest one.  It wasn't until this year that I found myself with a good great excuse.

Aethelglyth is a former Maelstrom Games product.  I say former because apparently the company is no longer in business.  I'm sure this is old news for most of you but I only found out just last night.  No worries though.  I wasn't a huge fan of the line anyhow.  I think I purchased one or two other miniatures from them last year but that's it.  However, if you fancy yourself an Aethelglyth of your very own another company has picked up the line.  She can be found here.

As I said, the rest of the line really doesn't do it for me but I very much like this particular sculpt.  I'm not sure of the lore behind Maelstrom's miniature game but to me, this model certainly exudes an Anglo-Saxon/viking aura.  I immediately took a liking to her and was happy to add the mini to my collection.

As for the miniature itself, I'm mostly pleased with the product.  The lines are clean, the weapons and parts in proportion, and the stance interesting.  The details, although sparse, are appropriate and more than enough to fit the Dark Age theme I find so entrancing.  But this model was not perfect.  As I've said many times before, I strongly dislike resin miniatures.  They are too frail and usually come with various imperfections in the form of holes and divots...which of course are always in the most obvious places.  Aethelglyth was no exception.  I broke off her sword at least six times during the painting process and nearly destroyed her axe.  She also sported several holes in the resin that I had to fill in and resculpt.  Unfortunately one of those holes, the one right on her chin (naturally!!)  opened back up when I was nearly finished with the model.  I could have refilled it with green stuff and started over but by that point I was unwilling to do so.  When I'm mentally done with a model, that's it!  I want nothing more to do with it.  Such was the case with Aethelglyth.

All in all however, I'm still happy with the miniature.  I like the sculpt and I'm fairly pleased with the finished product.  I just wish she would have been available in a metal version.

I'll sign off now rather than ramble on and allow those of you still here to see the rest of the photos undisturbed.  But first, as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dark Sword Miniatures Kickstarter Loot

It's been like a Kickstarter Christmas at home lately.  First my Bones shipment finally arrived and now I hear that the Larry Elmore art book I backed will be here in the not too distant future.  And just last week I received a large box from Dark Sword Miniatures.  Yep, my Elmore miniature diorama arrived along with lots of other goodies!

The photo above shows my loot/Kickstarter reward.  Along with the dragon and two associated miniatures for the diorama, I got thirty-five additional metal miniatures for a very reasonable overall price.  The treasure in the box included the following miniatures:

Elmore Masterworks Line
1101 Green Witch
1149 Female Warrior
1168 Evil Female Mage
1177 Female Shaman
1148 Female Magic User
1311 Crouching Female Warrior
1151 Female Dual-Wield Fighter
1114 Female Archer

Easley Masterworks Line
4108 Female Assassin
4109 Male Cleric
4110 Female Bard with Lute
4112 Female Ranger
4114 Female Paladin w/Sword & Shield

GRRM Masterworks Line
5027 Tyrion
5052 Bronn

Visions in Fantasy
7424 Male Dual-Wield Assassin
7404 Female Paladin with Morning Star
7406 Male Dark Elf Warrior w/Double Bladed Sword
7409 Female Ranger w/Falcon & Longsword
7414 Female High Elf Warrior
7415 Female Assassin
7416 Male Warrior w/Bastard Sword
7418 Female Blind Warrior
7419 Female Elven Warrior
7420 Male Wood Elf Archer
7423 Male High Elf Warrior
7427 Male Warrior w/Battle Axe
7436 Female Mage
7517 Thief of Hearts #5
7901 Frog Jester

KSCONV3 Male & Female Mages (alternate sculpts)

A few of the included miniatures are duplicates of ones that I already own or have painted so that does bring down the overall value a bit.  The collector part of me is more than OK with that though. It's always a good idea to have additional copies available for repairs, conversion, or just to have an extra. Plus, I like to try different color themes on the same miniature.

I have already started working on the base.  Just this part of the dragon will take me some time to complete.  As you can see in the photo below, the detail is quite impressive and that means additional painting time.  Near the overhang on the front of the stand is a partially spilled chest of treasure.  It seems that I have tons of little gold and silver coins to paint in my near future.  Tedious indeed!

This will be the largest miniature by far that I have ever attempted to paint.  Before this, the GW Balrog held that distinction.  It took me a month to paint the Balrog.  I have no idea what to expect with this monster of a mini but I will try to post updates now and then as progress is made.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sorting and Reading the Bones

I finally got all of my Bones unpacked.  As you can see, there are a heap of minis on the desk (the Chronoscope and modern minis are not pictured except for those that can be used for my Legends of the Old West campaign. I will probably sell the rest).  With my particular package, I received well over two hundred Bones miniatures ranging in size from tiny rats to dragons and giants.  For the most part, I am pleased with the outcome. 

As I said... for the most part. Unfortunately, many of the miniatures will need a bit of repair before they can be used.  A full third of the minis are bent in some form or another.  Weapons, arms, legs...the issues are many and varied.  Yes, I know that all it takes is a dip in boiling water then another in cold water to remedy the problem (I used to do that with my Axis and Allies War at Sea ships) but this is an additional step in the preparation process and one that I was not expecting (at least not on this scale).  Removing mold lines and flash, washing, and assembly - basically the entire prepping process, already ranks incredibly low on the ol' excitement meter.  This additional layer of no-fun really puts a damper on my purchase.

Perhaps my experience is not the norm and other shipments arrived in better condition.  And maybe the process of repairing nearly eighty miniatures will go much easier/quicker than I think.  So just maybe I'm writing a rather harsh review.  As it stands now however, I do not think I will be purchasing any more Bones miniatures unless I can actually see the product in the package and ensure the integrity of the model.  Living on an island and having a fifty-five mile one-way trip to the nearest hobby shop (that may or may not carry the mini I want) means that the likelihood of me acquiring more Bones will be quite small.

Despite my disappointment, I will let stand my initial review of the Kobold Bones back in March of 2012.  The integrity of those miniatures were spot on and I had no problems with bending.  What the difference between the two shipments is I do not know.  Bad luck?  Different material?  Poor packing?  Whatever the reason, my Reaper Bones Kickstarter Reward was not as I hoped and certainly not up to the standards of the original batches for sale.  Granted, the math says that I still received a great deal on so many models.  But time is money as they say and spending extra time repairing mistakes from Reaper lessens the overall value to the customer.

For those of you who took part in the Bones Kickstarter, what has been your experience?  In what condition did your miniatures arrive?  Are you generally pleased with the outcome or do you have issues as well?  Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Thanks for reading...

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Companions of the Lance: Old School Love

I've been doing a bit of shopping on eBay lately and managed to round up some semi-old school miniatures that depict the iconic characters of the Dragonlance saga.  All of the companions are here:  Tanis, Caramon, Sturm, Flint, Tasslehoff, Riverwind, Goldmoon, Laurana, and Tika.  All of them that is, except for Raistlin. 

I bought the miniatures in various stages of completion.  Some of them were almost like new while others had layers of gunky paint that needed stripping.  A good soaking in Simple Green and an attack by an old toothbrush removed most of the gunk.  As you can see above, they are all cleaned and prepped and ready to be primed.  Unfortunately, due to the high humidity down here this time of year, I'll have to go to my backup option for priming.  Hand priming with Guesso will add some time to the project, though.

As you can tell from my well-worn copy of the first book in the trilogy, I was, and still am, a big fan of the original Dragonlance books.  I placed emphasis on the word original because the later books were a bit of a disappointment for me.  I read the Legends trilogy when it was released and thought them just OK.  At about that time though, I dropped D&D, miniatures, and fantasy reading in general in favor of cars, girls, and college.  When I came back to the hobby in 2002 I tried a few of the new books and could not get into them.  At first I though that I had changed and that type of reading no longer interested me but that would not be true.  I still very much enjoy rereading the original series and have done so several times over the last ten years.

Anyhow, I now have most of the members of the Companions of the Lance and I'm ready to start painting.  I plan on using my beat up books as a guide for the color selection.  I will try to paint each miniature in the colors that the characters appear on the covers of the books.  For additional inspiration I will utilize some of the old module covers as well as my ancient copy of Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home.

Image courtesy of DnD Lead website

As I mentioned above, I have all of the main characters except Raistlin Majere.  It seems that this miniature is rather rare and difficult to find.  I routinely monitor eBay for a copy.  The best I have been able to find is a painted copy for $49 and an unpainted version for $100.  Now I have been known to blow my money on overpriced toys before but I think these two minis are out of my league.  One hundred dollars is entirely too much to pay for a 28mm tall chunk of lead.  They are apparently out of every other painters range as well since both listings have been active for a very long time. 

To complete my collection and not break the bank, I will have to hope to stumble upon a reasonable copy ($30 or less) or use a proxy from another company.  Dark Sword Miniatures has a nice version that I just purchased a few weeks ago as does Reaper (which I painted last year I think).  Unfortunately, both miniatures are the wrong scale and would not match up well with the others.  So the search will continue.

Just out of curiosity, what is the most you have paid for a single regular sized miniature?  Am I wrong to think $50 - $100 is too much?

Thanks for reading....

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Excuse? Yes. But A Darn Good One!

I've never been a prolific blogger.  Try as I might, I have yet to even meet my simple goal of one post per week in the four years I've been writing.  Fifty-two entries is not a lofty goal by any means and is nothing more than a drop in the bucket for some of my favorite bloggers who routinely log two to three times as much. I think the most I could claim over a twelve month period is forty-six... a far cry from what would constitute an active and frequently updated blog.

It seems that I'm on track to miss my goal of fifty-two posts once again this year.  To date, not counting this entry, I can only boast of seventeen for 2013.  I started out posting on a fairly regular schedule but then real life took over (in a big way) and I had to put my hobbies on hold.  You see, I had that proverbial life-changing event take place and my world was turned upside down.  What was so momentous you may ask?  Well, back in mid April, my future gaming buddy was born!  After over seventeen hours of refusing to come out (poor Mommy), my little boy Cameron came into this world.

The little guy has his own brush and is ready to paint with his Daddy

To say that my life has changed would be a huge understatement.  My free time has all but vanished and sleep has become a luxury.  What little painting and hobby work I have completed has all been accomplished during the rare quiet time when the little guy is sleeping (not often).  I'm certainly not complaining though.  He is an absolute joy and just seeing him brings a smile to my face.  I've always heard that once you see your son/daughter for the first time that you instantly fall head over heels in love.  I can now say with absolute certainty, that is definitely the case.

Over three months have gone by since my little family increased by one.  Though he still keeps me quite busy (and happily so), the chaos of being a new father has gradually subsided.  We are starting to develop a bit of a routine and as his sleep pattern gets longer each night, I now find myself with a little more free time.  I've actually started a few new projects and hope to post my progress soon.  So please dear readers, don't delete me due to lack of activity.  This blog is not dead yet!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Bones Are Here! The Bones Are Here!

After waiting for what seemed like forever and fearing that I would be the very last person to receive a package from Reaper, UPS dropped off a box of goodies for me today.  The wait is over.  The Bones are here.

The contents of said package are:

1 - Vampire package
1 - Figure Case
1 - Hydra
1 - Spider Centaurs
1 - Red Dragon
1 - We Be Goblins
1 - Deathsleet
1 - There Be Dragons
1 - Mind your Manors
1 - Orcapocalypse
1 - Frost Giants
1 - Ebonwrath
1 - Fire Giants

Add it all together and it equals one very happy guy.

Now it's time to start unpacking everything.  I'll get photos of the loot posted soon.

Christmas in July indeed!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dark Sword Miniatures Kickstarter - A Big Dang Dragon

OK.  I will not bore you with yet another tale of why I like Dark Sword Miniatures so much.  But I do want to let readers know of an awesome Kickstarter opportunity DSM is offering.  Dark Sword is in the process of raising funds (in fact, they have already more than tripled their goal as of this writing) for a truly epic project. The link is below but before you go, just look at the size of this thing!

The dragon is absolutely gigantic. According to DSM, he stands over twelve inches tall (including the base). He will be cast in resin to keep down the weight while his two adversaries will be in pewter. The price is steep but considering the diorama will probably retail for over $300 once it is released, the opt in price is not so bad after all. And who knows what kind of stretch goal goodies we are likely to see to sweeten the deal along the way. My hobby budget just took a big hit tonight but this baby will be worth it.

I mentioned in my last post about having artwork from my glory days of D&D walk out of a painting and into miniature form. That statement could not be more true in this case.  My memories from the 80's will be flowing when I finally get to paint this beast come this September.

Here is the link to the DSM Kickstarter page.

And if you're new to the excellent products produced by Dark Sword Miniatures, take a look here.

And below is the artwork from Mr. Larry Elmore that inspired the miniatures. It's titled "Teamwork".
You can visit his site here.

Thanks for reading...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Waiting for Shadamehr

I've been threatening to take a break from my Thorin & Company project for some time now. The monotony of painting dwarves over and over was beginning to drain the joy of painting from me.  I guess I really do have miniature A.D.D. and need variety to keep me entertained. Well I've finally put the little squats aside for a short while to tackle a few other projects. First up was completing a great sculpt from Dark Sword Miniatures - Waiting for Shadamehr.

I'm a huge fan of DSM. At last count I have over sixty of their miniatures. All are great sculpts, but the thing that keeps me coming back is the fact that a large portion of their line are adaptations of paintings from many of my favorite fantasy artists. I grew up playing D&D in the 80's and the images that graced the rulebooks, modules, and magazines of the era from artists such as Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, Clyde Caldwell, and Jeff Easley really define the fantasy genre for me. I still reminisce about endless hours of making characters and rolling dice when I see those images and recall the fond memories of those days long past.  To be able to actually paint miniatures that seem to have walked from those very pages of my past is a pure joy.

This particular miniature is taken from a Larry Elmore painting titled "Waiting for Shadamehr" (the image can be found at the bottom of this post). In it, a scantily clad female ranger/warrior kneels at the edge of a forest with her gnomish companion, while lands that beckon the adventurous fall away in a valley to the right. I never knew the title of the painting back then but I think it is perfectly named. In my mind, they were indeed waiting for someone, though whether that someone was friend of foe, I knew not. That, I think, was part of the allure of the painting. One could stare at the image for hours and conjure up a thousand different stories that could define Mr. Elmore's effort.

Sculptor Dennis Mize did a wonderful job capturing the essence of the painting and transferring it to the miniature. The similarities are striking, which is what drew me to the mini in the first place. Most every detail is present and well-executed. In my opinion, only her facial countenance differs. In the painting, she has such a stern expression while the miniature version seems to flash a sly smirk. It's not an unpleasant change by any means (perfect for a mini used for roleplaying) but it is a change nonetheless. Unfortunately her gnomish companion does not seem to be available. Too bad, as the addition of the gnome would make for a great diorama.

I thought of painting the miniature to match the colors of the painting itself. After starting, however, I realized that I had been using quite a bit of blues lately. I wanted to switch up the routine a bit to help shake off the Thorin & Company funk so I changed up the main colors to mainly green and red. Those colors always look good together but one has to be careful or else the final outcome starts looking like a Christmas decoration. By keeping my reds muted and the green bright, hopefully I dodged that fashion faux pas. I rarely paint large flat sections of my miniatures red because I have a hard time creating proper highlighting and shading in those circumstances. I couldn't resist this time, though. To camouflage my lack of skill with shading red, I drew up a nice pattern for the shield's heraldry then tried my luck with a bit of freehand. Not my best effort but certainly not my worst.

Just like many of the DSM models, Waiting for Shadamehr is shipped in multiple pieces (two in this case). Due to the high quality of their products, I rarely encounter problems with assembly. However, the sword arm on this model did not want to play nicely. A large gap was present after assembly and no amount of filing and repositioning would correct the issue. Finally I gave up and used liquid green stuff to fill the gap and sculpt in some of the missing detail. By looking closely at the photo below, you can see my poor attempt at sculpting just below and to the side of the bracer.

For the most part, I'm pleased with the outcome. Even had the miniature not turned out as she did, I still would not complain, though. Just to be painting something different than those blasted dwarves was pleasure enough. I think I'll polish off a few more projects before returning to the dwarves. By then I'll hopefully have renewed vigor to tackle the remaining companions of Thorin Oakenshield.

By the way, I'm really not sure who Shadamehr is. Any Larry Elmore fans out there know?

Thanks for reading...

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Stereoscopic Photography for Miniatures? Who Knew?

Messing about online the other night I discovered a neat little miniatures blog called the Wily Brush. Reading through the site I came across this particular post about stereoscopic photography for miniatures.  What a great idea!

While those of us of a certain age most likely played with a View-Master back in the day and are thus vaguely familiar with stereo photography, I never would have thought of using the technique to photograph miniatures.  I'm not sure how common the practice is or how useful it would be for showcasing painted miniatures, but it's worth a look... even if for nothing more than entertainment.  After following the link, stay around and explore the website for a bit.  The guy swings a mean brush!

Word of warning though.  Getting the images to "combine" and produce a 3D image was rather difficult.  I don't know if it was just me or if others have had issues.  The author gives a trick at the bottom of the page on how to get your eyes to work (reposted below) but I still had trouble.  What finally worked for me was following his instructions until just before the end.  Instead of trying to cross your eyes, try simply unfocusing them as if you were staring off into space.  Worked for me.  You mileage may vary though.

One tip if you’re having trouble seeing the 3d image. Close your right eye and cover the left image with your left hand (so you can only see the right image with your left eye). Then close your left eye and cover the right image with your right hand (so you only see the left image with your right eye). This will remove the ‘duplicate’ images, leaving the stereo image when you crosseye it. Hope that tip helps, even if you see the stereo image without it, it makes it look nicer.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Balin Fundinul Uzbad Khazad-Dûmu

Although work and life are keeping me busy in general, I have still been able to put in a few hours here and there at the hobby desk to work on several projects.  Even though I mentioned in the last two posts that I have lost a bit of steam with Thorin and Company, I continue to chip away at the dwarves little by little while working on other miniatures.  The latest of Thorin's companions to be completed is Balin, son of Fundin.

While Balin is not the best sculpt in the Escape from Goblin Town set, he is by no means the worst (that distinction still belongs to the hideous Fili sculpt).  The facial features of the mini are very well done and for the most part captures the look of the movie.  The garb is another high point of the sculpt.  Even thought the mini is plastic, GW managed to create a sense of multiple layers of fabric, which in turn gives a sense of richness of dress. 

The low points for me are the stance and the hands.  Something about Balin's pose just doesn't do it for me.  It almost seems unnatural the way he is holding his weapon as if ready to strike, yet appears to be in a relaxed mode.  I can't put a finger on it exactly what dampens my enthusiasm for the mini... unless perhaps the stance is lacking in kinetic energy.  I can however point out what bothers me about the hands.  They look huge compared to the rest of the mini.  I'm sure the disproportionate size has something to do with the limitation of plastic minis in general, so I'm not knocking the sculpt just on those grounds.  But it does bother me nonetheless.

Just like with Dori, I had a difficult time painting the many different shades of red in Balin's garb.  Looking at the movie stills, it's readily apparent that Balin is richly dressed with several layers of clothing.  Unfortunately, each layer seems to be only a slightly different shade of red, or the same shade but made of a different material.  Either way, the multiple layers of clothing on the screen is easy to discern.  Balin's garb presents as overall red but we all see the different layers with little effort.  On the miniature however, the eye would have trouble differentiating the subtle changes of shade. To account for this, I chose to change the colors around a bit and add in some freehand work to create distinct edges between the different garments.  While I'm not completely happy with the result, I can live with it for tabletop gaming.

I'm also not very pleased with the freehand on the collar and sleeve hems.  I use the term "freehand" very loosely by the way, since I have never been very good at it.  My attempt was to paint a vague dwarven geometric pattern in the form of reversed triangles.  In most cases the outcome was more like blobs of black paint instead of dwarvish design.  Not only did the pattern not come out as planned, I'm also disappointed in the starkness/contrast.  I should have used a burnt brown or similar color so that the overall effect would have been more subdued.  Instead, my dwarvish blobs scream "look at me!" More than likely, once I finally get all the dwarves completed, I will return to this miniature and repaint the collar and sleeves.

Anyhow, at least the miniature is now complete.  Soon he will join his companions on the table and win great renown.   In time, with many battles behind him, he will become Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria:  Balin Fundinul Uzbad Khazad-Dûmu

Friday, May 03, 2013

Dwalin the Dwarf

Another week, another dwarf.  Though I said I was going to take a break from the Thorin & Company project for a while, I was still able to complete yet another member and take one more step to finally putting the dwarves behind me.

I'm still in my little slump so just as with Dori, I will refrain from the painting cometary. There is not much to say about him beyond the fact that of the dwarves included in the set, Dwalin is one of my favorite sculpts.

Hopefully with the break I intend to take from Thorin & Company, I'll get some of my enthusiasm back for The Hobbit miniatures.  If not, I have tons of other painting projects to keep me busy for decades.

My apologies for the sluggishness of the posts and indifference to the material.

As always, thanks for reading.....