Thursday, 9 January 2020

Rockgut Troggoth – Part 7. The Troggoth is done so it's time to start my Goblin.

This is the time of the year when I often think about endings and beginnings which, as it happens, is not an inappropriate attitude for my Troggoth project. I’d wanted to finish the Troggoth before Christmas and, having established a productive painting routine, I was able to achieve my goal!

Most of the work was involved in painting the second hand and this went more quickly, if not more easily, than the first. Having established my approach the first time around it was a matter of making the hands match, but with just a little variation so as to look more natural.

After the hands there were a number of small details to finish. Most these were rocks and leather straps and I had to force myself to slow down and paint them carefully. As a model nears completion I feel a strong urge to hurry up and get the job done. It’s important to resist this urge as it’s all too easy to spoil good work. This is also the time to take a good long look at the model as a whole and decide if any of the earlier work needs to be adjusted in the context of the overall scheme.

In the case of my Troggoth I decided to change the colour of a couple of the stone amulets he is wearing. I wanted to use just a little more green on the model to contrast with the overall red/brown warm tone. In addition to that the extra green, along with the moss and grass on his back, will tie the model in with the environment I’m setting him in.

With the Troggoth done I’ve turned my attention to the Goblin. I’d been unable to find a miniature in the exact pose I wanted! To be honest I hadn’t really expected to so I’d settled on the notion of converting a miniature. This would help me to tell the story I was creating. After searching through the range of Games Workshop’s Goblins I decided upon Zarbag from Zarbag’s Gitz. His pose had the potential to be converted with the minimum of fuss into what I wanted. The crucial change was to swap the hand carrying the lantern for one pointing.

I’d decided upon what hand to use as soon as I had the idea to have my Goblin pointing. I was already familiar with the pointing hand on the Poxbringer, Herald of Nurgle and this seemed perfect. Or so I thought until the hand turned out to be much larger than the one it was replacing. There was also the matter of it only having three fingers as opposed to the four on the Goblin’s hand.

My solution involved reducing the size of the hand with a lot of cutting and scraping, and swapping the hand holding the weapon for the other hand from the Poxbringer. Fiddly work for sure but it’s always worth the effort.

I’d also decided to remove the cauldron hanging on Zarbag’s weapon. This was an unnecessary detail for my concept and it’s removal allowed me to have Zarbag raising his weapon off the ground in a more active pose that felt more appropriate for his new context.

I don’t often base coat all my colours as a first stage but, as the model is so small, I decided to do so this time. This seemed the most straightforward way to go about things and it also helped me to visualize my overall colour composition. With the base colours down I can set about working the separate areas up to a finished state. I don’t anticipate this model taking me all that much time to paint, although experience adds a note of caution to that statement. The Goblin consists of four main colour blocks: the flesh, the hood, the robes and the weapon. I will paint the Goblin using colours from the same palette as the Troggoth to tie the models together!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Dirt, damage and decay - weathering a Kastelan Robot.

I am pleased to announce I will be back at Element Games in Stockport with another masterclass on the 23rd and 24th May 2020!!

The chosen model for this two-day master class is an Adeptus Mechanicus Kastelan Robot from Games Workshop. There will be an emphasis on the techniques I use to paint textured damage and corrosion over a variety of surfaces and materials.

Topics & techniques to be covered will include:

  • Assembly and preparation including the addition of real surface textures to a model;
  • Priming a model and choosing a base colour;
  • An overview of contrast and colour theory, and their application to creating a successful paint scheme;
  • Painting volumes and forms;
  • Painting true metallic metals;
  • Creating and enhancing painted texture - stippling, dry brushing and freehand textures;
  • Weathering effects including battle damage, corrosion and staining;
  • Adding finishing touches and special effects to a painted miniature.

For more information and to book a place please follow the link to Element Games

Monday, 2 December 2019

Rockgut Troggoth – Part 6. Some thoughts about painting hands.

For the best part of a year I’ve had difficulty in establishing a regular painting routine. That hasn’t prevented me from making progress but it’s been coming in fits and spurts. Now life is settling into a more regular pattern I’ve been able to focus my energies back onto my hobby and, over the last week, I’ve made a point of painting every day. Taking a ‘little but often’ approach is a very good way of getting back into the swing of things. I think its far better to break out the brushes for an hour or so every day than to attempting some sort of marathon painting binge!

It’s a less punishing approach and it works very well for me because, if things don’t go so well, I can simply put my brushes down and try again tomorrow. I usually find that after a couple of days I get into the flow and end up painting for three to four hours a day. Such has been the case and it’s resulted in some satisfying and productive painting.

Which is just as well because it was time to turn my attention to one of the potentially tricky parts of the model. Hands may not be quite as difficult to paint as faces but I’m undecided about that! A model’s face is usually its focal point and a major element in creating the illusion of a living being, but don’t ever overlook the hands. Hands are used to communicate and they can be just as expressive as a face. They are usually a key element in a model’s pose - be that making a specific gesture, holding a weapon or as part of a greater action. Hands will always be doing something, even if it’s something subtle.

On top of those considerations hands have a lot going on in terms of their form and structure. Fingers are not simply fleshy sausages (unless you are having a very bad painting day) but contain bones, joints and tendons all of which affect the overall form. It’s important to have an awareness of the structures inside a hand in order to paint the outside surface.

In addition to that some of the structures inside a hand, like the veins and joints, may be visible through the skin. As if things aren’t complicated enough you also need to consider how the character’s age, gender, ethnicity and species will affect your painting choices. In short hands can be extremely complex to paint and, like a face, if you get them wrong they will undermine everything else!

Which should all go towards explaining why I’ve taken the best part of a week to paint one hand on my Troggoth! It’s particularly important to take the time and effort in this case because the hands are, literally, a huge part of the Troggoth. The hands are at least as big as the model’s head and feature the distinctive stony scales that are a defining element of the Rockgut Troggoth.

My colour palette for the hands is the same as for the fleshy parts of the Troggoth. I‘d considered painting the hands in the same grey/brown colours as the stony back. But I felt they would not stand out against the boulder they were holding if I did this. I also wanted to create some variation within the stony textures on this model to describe the transition between rock and flesh. To do this I’ve painted the stony parts of the hands and forearms in my flesh colours. So, although painted with the same sharp highlights, the ‘pinker’ stone parts look a little softer than the grey stone parts.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Sproket's Troggoth Masterclass - January 25th & 26th 2020

The Troggoth Masterclass has proven to be my most popular painting class so I’m delighted to be returning to Lead Belt Studio in Nottingham, to run it once more! This will be the last opportunity to attend my Troggoth Masterclass before I announce a new workshop in 2020.

For further details and booking info go to the Lead Belt Studio website.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Adding plant effects to a model. Or, the grass is always greener on the other side of the Troggoth!

Now that the paint job on my Troggoth is progressing I’ve been able to implement something I’ve had planned from the start. That’s the addition of grass, moss and lichen to the rocks on the Troggoth’s back. I consider these sorts of additions to be ‘special effects’ and, done successfully, they can add extra layers of texture, detail and interest to a painted mini. The addition of plant effects to my Troggoth will also help to tie him in more closely with the environment and narrative I’m going to create on the base.

There were a couple of factors I had to take into consideration and the most important by far was scale. It’s all too easy to blow the scale of an effect by making it too big. This applies to drips and splashes as well as it does to vegetation and, if such additions are too big, they will look unrealistic and cartoony at best! As a rough guide I tend to make these effects half as small again as I think they will need to be. This usually works out about right but, if you feel you are going too small, remember it’s easier to add more later on than it is to remove it and start again.

The second factor is specific to adding plant effects to a model. Over the years I’ve decided that my plant effects look better if I combined several different types. This is based on observation as you nearly always find a mixture of plants growing together. Even a simple area of grass can contain a wide variety of species. On a miniature this approach will result in a more realistic effect creating a varied texture that adds a lot of interest!


In the case of my Troggoth I wanted the plants to look like they were growing in the cracks between the rocks on his back. The first step was to use grass tufts. However, grass tufts can often look a bit too dense when used straight out of the pack. What’s more even the smallest of the tufts were far too big for my purposes because I most definitely did not want to create a heavy mane of foliage.

I always pick through grass tufts removing any lose or oddly angled fibres to thin them out a little. In addition I usually cut my grass tufts down to the required size. These steps will create a more natural, less regular, appearance. A surgical scalpel was perfect for this as it enabled precision and control. There is no getting away from the fact that this sort of work is extremely fiddly but I think it’s well worth the effort!

The resulting micro tufts often comprise of only a few fibres but they are perfectly in-scale for use on the Troggoth’s back. To apply them I pick each tuft up using needle nosed tweezers and carefully dip the rooted end into Vallejo Matt Varnish. I then position them onto the model where the matt varnish will hold them into place. Do not leave the model unattended because the surface tension of the adhesive can sometimes pull such small items out of position. If this happens nudge the tufts back into position using the tip of a clean dry paintbrush.

I’ve found that Vallejo Matt Varnish is an excellent adhesive for fixing small, lightweight, elements onto a model. Once dry it has a clear matt finish that effectively disappears on a painted surface. Just as importantly, if things go wrong, the varnish can be removed, before it dries, with a clean damp paintbrush leaving no visible traces. I’ve used Vallejo Matt Varnish to fix grass tufts, laser cut leaves, cotton wool tufts and microbeads onto my models.

You can further enhance the natural appearance of grass tufts by adding individual stems made from old paintbrush bristles. This gives the effect of different varieties growing together and creates a more varied grass texture with different lengths. My preferred source for the bristles is an old natural bristle paintbrush. The ends of the worn bristles are tapered and sometimes split making them ideal for use as grass stems.

The bristles can be painted, stained or left natural depending on the look you want to create. I trim the bristles to length and then dip the root end into matt varnish. That end is then inserted down into the grass tuft creating the effect of a longer coarser stem growing up through the tuft. This is something I nearly always do when I’m using grass tufts.

Moss and Lichen

I think the grass looks good on my Troggoth but the addition of a little moss and lichen would greatly enhance it! The first part of this process was done using tiny wisps of sponge. These were picked off a piece of synthetic sponge using my tweezers and then torn into even smaller pieces. I did say this was fiddly!

The resulting wisps are VERY small but have a convincing plant texture. The next step is to paint them green and I did this by dabbing them with a paintbrush. Do not dunk the sponge wisps into your paint. You need all over coverage but must avoid saturating the sponge and filling in the cells. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step.

Once again I used the matt varnish as an adhesive. In this case I applied a small dot of varnish to the model and then fixed the sponge to that. As with the grass tufts, keep an eye on it as it dries.

The third type of plant texture is made using chinchilla sand. I made up a mix of the chinchilla sand, green paint and matt varnish. The varnish makes the mix bond together once dry and stops it crumbling off the model. This was applied, with a brush, into the crevices on the Troggoth’s back. Remember my warning about keeping effects in scale and only apply a tiny amount at a time. When I use this mix I am often quite literally pushing it around one grain at a time. Now that’s REALLY what I call fiddly, but it makes a difference!

Muddy Roots

I’ve also added grass, moss and lichen to the rock the Troggoth is holding. I want it to look as if it has just been picked up off the ground. To further enhance this effect I’ve added roots and soil to the underside of the rock. The roots are taken from some bamboo growing in my, overgrown, garden. I stuck the roots on to the rock with PVA glue because this has a stronger bond than the varnish.

When the PVA was dry I add my 'soil' mix of chinchilla sand, Scalecolour brown leather and a couple of drops of Valleyo Matt Varnish. The chinchilla sand is my current choice for making a fine texture paste. It has many similar qualities to baking soda not least its’ ability to absorb colour. So far it has proved to be more stable than baking soda so I’m beginning to use it more extensively. Only time will tell if it remains stable in the long term but it’s a risk I’m ready to take.

Once the soil mix was dry I glazed some dilute brown leather into the surrounding areas to blend the edges a little. I then added a few dollops of the soil mix to the roots to make them look as if they had just been pulled up.

For the time being I’m very happy with how the plant effects have worked out on my Troggoth. Once he is based up I may add a little more to him but I need to get an idea of the overall composition before I make a final decision.

At this point I want to say that in my view using ‘special effects’ on a miniature should be approached with some consideration and caution. Special effects can enhance a miniature by contrasting with the painted surfaces. They should only be used when and if their addition is appropriate to the miniature and not simply because they look ‘cool’.

Special effects will not make a weak paintjob better but, if used unsuccessfully, they could ruin a good paintjob. Having said that the successful use of these effects can bring a painted miniature up to a new level of technical skill and greatly enhance its atmosphere and narrative!