Thursday, January 22, 2015

Slan Craft II: An Amphibious Update

Those keeping up might recall that I discussed some Space Slann conversions I was working on in Slann Craft I: Fantasy Lead into Sic-Fi Gold. The wait is over. They are arriv├ęs, these frogs from espace.

They really are much much smaller than the Citadel toad, but he's one of the larger fellows in the range, and there's a lot of variation in size and color in the real critters as well. Here's a few closeups of the victims, if you wish to further scrutinize my hackjob.

As always, thanks for coming along. I hope we've all learned something from this experience. I've got a long way to go on my journey of what Jay would call "putty pushing," but I've at least stepped onto the trail.

The Composer

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

At the Century Mark: Taking Stock of the Leadpile

For those who keep track of such things, this is my hundredth post. I've had a couple things banging about for a little while, as I've finished some small terrain pieces and there's a pair of miniatures awaiting formal introduction to the world, but neither of these seems quite grand enough for the occasion. With apologies to Mr. Murray over at The Leadpile, which blog's brilliant name I am appropriating for this post, I decided to take a dive into my own model mountain.

All this began with a rather mundane trade request on the Oldhammer forums. Mr. Papafakis needed an orc hand and I have more than I'll likely use in a lifetime.

Asslessman, of Leadplague, beat me to the punch and he's probably closer to this particular modeling emergency so I'll let him handle it and wait for one in my own hemisphere. But in the middle of this Papafakis mentioned digging through his "leadpile" and Asslessman showed a little teaser picture of his workbench. You know the sort, where you're talking about working on one thing but there lurking in the background is this other thing with an equally interesting story all its own. Maybe something like this . . .

I usually try to crop down to what I'm writing about for the sake of focus . . .

. . . but I've probably been guilty of the same thing from time to time. It's almost inevitable, really, since our workspaces tend to be at least a little cluttered with several projects competing for time and attention.

Anyway, this hint of Asslessman's painting cue left me thinking that I'm long overdue for a decent consideration of the not in commission part of my own collection and maybe a little reorganization. (Only a very little. Don't get all worked up. I didn't want to be at it all week, but it's good to see what you've got and make sure you know where stuff is from time to time.)

So, without further ado, here's my 28mm "leadpile." 

Or at least most of it. (Every time I thought I had it I remembered more miniatures in another corner. I eventually gave up, figuring whatever was missing from the group shot was minor and could be added later to the "closeups.") That's only the 28ish mm stuff. It includes none of the bits or materials, no smaller scales, and none of the related hobbies that lack war, gaming, or both. I know this isn't the largest pile out there, but it's still impressive when you spread it all out. Lots of dusty and lots of old.

To get a better handle on things I've sorted it somewhat approximately by "army" or "collection." Let's work backwards from most recent to oldest.

First, here's some EM4 I picked up . . .

(With one odd lot included that apparently isn't the mech I thought it was but probably also isn't EM4.) That's 19 typical miniatures and one largish one. No big deal.

Next up we have a small but growing collection of unpainted Ramshackle. 

8 large castings and 13 normal ones bringing us to 32 regular and 9 large.

Add to that an assortment of Spacelords, two "Slann" to be, some missed Ramshackle monkeys, and a group of miniatures I . . . uh . . . well, I don't show those to my wife.

Not even absolutely clear where they all came from. (Well, e-bay, but not sure who made them.) That's 21 more for running totals of 51 regular, 2 small, and 9 large.

To this we can add some random Citadel imperials, pirates, adventurers, and oddities.

I'm tempted to skip robo-bacon, since he's technically a "vehicle" for another miniature, but when we get that far this count will have become silly, so let's count him for now. 10 regular, 2 large, 4 small, and one mount for 63-11-6-1 (RLSM). That's getting to be enough to keep one painting for a while.

Here things get more temporally complicated . . .

The bulk of my guard I bought recently, but you can see some "brutal childhood paintjobs of the '80s" there. (These are, incidentally, the first wearing my own paint on this list, though they will be FAR from the last.) So that's 15 regulars, 3 larges (R+M=L, right?) and one midget for 78-14-7-1.

Now we're starting to get into acquisitions that might even be two years old (which is good): genestealers . . .

I'm counting 31 and a Zoat, so let's call our totals 109-15-7-1.

 Next up, Eldar . . .

That's 40ish with ten or so slated for deaccession. (That's a fancy museum term for "sale or trade.") Still, at present that leaves us in the neighborhood of 149-15-7-1. That's more significant digits than we're entitled to, but we'll round off at the end of the show.

At this point we move out of the modern era and back into childhood or at least early adulthood. Five dragon kings (to the tune of the twelve days of Christmas) . . .

. . . brings us up to 149-20-7-1.

About the same time I started buying dragons I also bought into Necromunda.

That's 22 more regulars (if you can call the Goliaths regular), though at most only 13 of the are likely to get paint. (The rest are really donors in waiting.) 171-20-7-1, if you care to know.

And then there were squats . . .

I'd estimate there are about 45 stunties there with maybe five in the discard pile. We'll count the bike with ancestor sidecar (how is that not painted yet?) as one large for 215-21-7-1. (Calling squats "regular" might be somewhat controversial, but they're close enough to be the same amount of work. Really so was the ratling earlier, but we'll call him small as he's special.) 

And this is where we stretch the ability to estimate from pictures . . . 

Let's call it 120 orks, a dozen snots and grots, and a half dozen bikes. Oh, and assorted parts. (The modern "ork" models belong to this category and not in the totals, I think. They were a gift from a friend.) So wow, that made a difference. 335-27-19-1

And now we get REALLY silly . . .

Yeah, I quit counting now. Let's just say lots and call it a day. Gard, but there's several dozen TERMINATORS in that box. I have a companies worth of brutal childhood termies. Ahyup. Now, to be completely fair the brutal childhood paint isn't all my own, but most of it (the dark stuff in particular) is. I don't really know precisely what's there. Maybe a hundred beakies, fifty lead marines (most actually lead even), a solid few dozen terminators (no kidding, I loved the things), five old jetbikes (one with rider), a "new" one (with rider), a dreadnought, two land speeders (with crew), four vehicles (old spice counts, right?), a half dzen wolves, and lots of parts. That's where I really ought to make a deaccession list, but I haven't yet. So lets say that's 180-5-6-4 grand totaling (to one significant digit) the 28mil sci-fi out at 500-30-30-5-4 (LRSMV). Or a really grand total of nigh on 600 things to paint. Yowza!

Mind you, I started with D&D (of course) so last but not least are the TRULY brutal paintjobs.

And I failed to include my 25mm Medievals, which really ought to be there, since there's a fair bit of 25mil in the dungeon crawl mix. But hey, who's counting?

Oh, wait . . . where was I? Lost count.

To finish this odd quest, here's a few shots of my painting and gaming territory.

Workspace with lots-o-lights.

The pile in it's natural habitat.

Materials storage and auxiliary workspace.

Materials and parts.

And a place to call home.

(Which is where I keep and store most of the models actually wearing paint.)

Thanks for coming with me. I hope you'll come along for another century of modeling, music, and mystery. (I'll keep the music to a minimum.)

The Composer

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Slann Craft I: Fantasy Lead Into Sci-Fi Gold

I've always liked frogs. I haven't always liked Slann. That probably changed about the same time that they disappeared from the official 40K story. I'd say this is sour grapes, but I've been slow to warm to virtually everything GW almost from day one. When my adolescent friends bought their first beakies I hated 'em. Probably took me a few months before I decided I needed my own. Couldn't stand the exageration of the Imperial humans, the grotesque distortion of chaos, the foppy hats of the elves . . . the only units I liked from the get-go were probably the old Imperial Army and the sacred dwarves in space. Some things I learned to appreciate timely. Others I did not. So let's say that my interest in Slann was untimely. They're out there, but they're devilishly hard to find unless you want to mortgage an organ or two. Thus far I've bought . . . one. And I probably overpaid for that.
So where does that leave us? Proxies. Or sculpting. Or a combination of the two. I've gone for the last. While 40K Slann are tough to come by, there are other other anthropomorphic frogs out there. Fantasy frogmen seem to have been rather popular in a way that frogs in space never were. Citadel made quite a lot and may still make some in fantasy plastics, Reaper makes at least a few, and Grenadier made some at the very least. There were doubtless others. (Maybe RP made some, or Rafm.) I chose to start with the Grenadier sculpts. An Italian company called Mirliton Miniatures has them as a part of their Lost Lizardmen range and I found them at a reasonable-ish price.

There were four miniatures in the pack in three poses: two different spearmen and two copies of a swordsman. I started with the spearman who was holding his spear upright. I decided I'd make him a standard bearer and to that end cut off the top half of his spear and replaced it with a banner pole fabricated from styrene. Of course, what to use as a space slann banner was something of a problem. The space slann draw heavily on Meso-American art, so that seemed a logical place to turn. Genuine Aztec standards appear to have been a carved staff with some dangly bits at the end, perhaps feathers. I decided I'd go with a sort of shield hanging from a stick approach. I don't know that this is terribly authentic, but it's at least in keeping with the style and these are slann, not Aztecs, so they needn't be precisely the same. Next to the frogman you can see my first crude attempt at a shield curing on the benchtop.

The second attempt was a marked improvement, but still not quite where I wanted it. You can see some clear common elements between the two: both have a row of small circular detail around the rim of the shield, surrounding a row of interlace patterns I took from a Quetzalcoatl relief. Both also have a space in the middle. I had a vague idea that perhaps I could fill the space, but it also seemed possible that the shield could be a sun symbol needing no center detail.

One small flash of insight I had while making these was the realization that things out of scale often look quite different. My WWII naval readers will know that I squash cast small repeated details. I decided that a quick way to busy the shields up was with medium AA molds. They leave the gun surrounded by flash, which builds into a large circular ridge at the edges. To make the molds I press a ball of green stuff (kneadtite) onto the end of a stick, wet it, and push it down onto the master. Even the best sculpted 1/2400 AA guns are really just vague linear shapes. You wouldn't recognize them as guns if you didn't know that's what they were in the first place. Given all of that, if you leave them surrounded by flash they look more like flower petals than guns. (Albeit flower petals with little lines in the middle.) Bingo! That's a detail I can use.

In addition to the shield, I also wanted some small items to hang at the ends of the cross arms. I used debris I had sitting about for one of them (another low relief 1/2400 AA gun) but I wanted feathers. These I sculpted from still more green stuff. For the more detailed feather I actually did both sides separately. After the first dried I flipped it, added more green stuff, and sculpted the back. I'm still learning the ways of keadtite, so this is just starter grade stuff, but for a first ever feather I'm fairly pleased.

To the right and above the feather, just below two pieces of sprue that are about to become a replacement gun for a space monkey, you can see a low relief Aztec jaguar head. That was my next step. It was too big to fit in my second shield, so I had to make yet another. Below is my third, and hopefully final attempt curing on the marble where I created it. One more innovation was adding the chain BEFORE letting it cure. Not sure why I didn't think of that earlier.

While frog one's details were curing I set about making frog two. The first step was removing his right arm, which was quickly accomplished by nibbling it off with diagonal cutters. Second was adding a helmet. I found a lovely piece of suggestive debris (actually bottom part of the yoke from a 1/48 WWII bomber) and incorporated it as a crest. I then fashioned a new pommel for the sword. (Well, refashioned. I did the pommel first, but kept messing it up while I did the helm, so I just pulled it off and redid it after.) Finally, I glued in wire to serve as an armature for the missing limb.

That accomplished, I glued the cured details to frog one's  flagpole.

Of course no space frog warrior is complete without a weapon. Our standard bearer has his holstered behind him. The gun is a collection of debris from 1/2400 modeling, sprue, and kneadtite. For fun and practice I also gave him a belt and a pack. It lends just that much more of an oldhammer feel.

And there he stands for present. Hopefully by the end of the afternoon he'll be enough cured I can add the shield and begin painting. Check back. And thanks for joining me.

The Composer

. . .

Note: To see the outcome of this project, please take a peek at Slan Craft II.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Madmen of the Moab Wastes

The growing story of Moab III has been begging for more characters. Today I bring you the first of several spaceport dicks, a pair of mad wastelanders, Kitty Lee's new beau, and a frog in space. Let's start with the spaceport dick and the mad hermits . . .

I first discussed Ramshackle miniatures last year. The fellow in the high tech red onesie comes from their metal range of post-nuclear survivors. Like everything from Ramshackle he's heavy on both the mass and the character. Like an old Bob Olley sculpt he's exaggerated in a way that almost seems cartoonish, or more accurately comic-bookish, but just believable and dark enough to make him really stinking interesting. Why is this crazy dude running around in space pyjamas anyway? Is he a miner who's had a little too much moonshine? (Awfully big gun for such an occasion.) Is that the world's tightest vac-suit? Is he mad genius or just mad? You have to paint him up to decide. I like that in a miniature.

The two fellows with him are from different EM4 ranges. The gent in blue is one of their plastic troopers and the fellow in green one of their metal scavengers. I particularly like the scavenger. But reviews later. First some size comparisons . . .

In this third shot I've included some Citadel miniatures of different ages for scale. On the outside are two older Rogue Trader era adventurers, one smallish and the other more typical. In the center is a smallish late edition Imperial Guard. The EM4 miniatures size up well enough while being a bit more delicate. The Ramshackle fellow is large even by recent Citadel standards. The scavenger is incredibly detailed and very cleanly cast. If there's any drawback at all it's that the amount of detail work for such a tiny miniature is really quite high. Keep your triple 0 dotter handy. The Ramshackle survivor, by comparison, is surprisingly plain at first glance. For a figure of his bulk, he's actually more subtle than you would expect.

The one disappointing note in the group comes from the plastic trooper. I bought these fellows to play the role of the local law, as inspired by Cheetor's campaign. (And not having the luck or budget to come into old Citadel Paranoia miniatures, though I'd love to have 'em if someone feels like sending a late Christmas present.) The EM4 troopers seemed like a perfect fit, and the price was terrific. They're intended to be SWAT style cops in the slum of the future. However in retrospect I think they might be a little more game marker and less miniature. Don't get me wrong, they're great for what they are, but as models they leave just a bit to be desired. 

I suspect EM4 was aiming at a relatively young audience. The miniatures are cast from a hard styrene plastic that would be much more familiar to aircraft and automobile modelers. Unlike the better vehicle kits, but quite akin to starter types, they are snap-fit, requiring no glue. The torso is cast in two pieces, front and back. The arms are cast together and sandwich into a slot. The head is integral to the torso front and the legs to the rear. The backpack is a fourth and final piece. Styrene plastic is typically injection molded into steel forms, which I believe is the case here. This means you can't have any negative space. (Relative to the mold, anyway.) The typical modeler solution to this is to cast lots and lots of parts, which isn't so young kid friendly. To keep them simple many sacrifices in detail were required and snap-fit leads to some large and unattractive gaps that need filling.

In fact, I was quite unable to fill the shoulder gap in a convincing way, so I sculpted some crude shoulder pads and moved on. I suppose for the price, less than a dollar a figure, they're not too bad. They should serve as useful starting points for later conversions. And EM4 is kind enough to sell some very nice conversion parts I will try out shortly. So with that one minor hiccup I'd still say I'm fairly pleased with EM4. The metal is splendid and the prices are great.

Below them are a miniature many will recognize as a space slann, an EM4 rebel I've nicknamed Blake Walker, and Kitty Lee whom you have met before. Believe it or not I didn't set out to match Kitty and Blake, but they did rather come out that way, which only seems appropriate as they two met on an FTLnet dating service a few years back and are now happily and productively involved. They make a cute couple, don't they?

Not unlike the pairing of the mad hermits, Blake and the frog, whom I shall call Constantine (the world's most dangerous frog) since my wife asked me if he was a Muppet, are a study in contrasts. The old Citadel sculpt is large and fairly simple with lots of relatively blank surfaces. In spite of this it has enormous character. The EM4 miniature is both much busier and daintier. (If you can safely call a man with three guns, a boot knife, and a dangerous attitude dainty.) Painting Blake was something of a technical challenge, since there's so much stuff squeezed together. There are both mechanical issues in painting such fine detail and artistic ones in making it all stand out. The frog, by contrast required considerable inventiveness and creativity. There's an enormous amount of exposed skin and some of the details are less than clear.

It's not incredibly obvious anymore, but half hidden below a layer of heavy yellow highlights you might just be able to make out a brown mottled pattern. I made a stab at trying to make him look like a real frog, or more accurately toad. His coloration is meant to approximate a red spotted toad. I painted black spots and short stripes all over him and then added a reddish brown above that. I then highlighted the whole thing with a dark golden yellow to blend it all together and make the pattern more subtle. I think maybe it made it too subtle, but live and learn. And either way, I'm pleased enough with the effect.

Also for the record, the three miniatures at the beginning were the last of 2014 and the last two are the first of 2015, so Happy New Year all, and happy painting.

The Composer