Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Project P30 - Part 8. Lets get the painting started!

I wondered if I’d ever get to this stage but, at long last, I’m painting my Demon Tank! However, before the ‘fun’ could start, there was one last little bit of preparation to be done. I had to wash the model prior to priming it. This was to remove any grease and dust that had built up during the construction of the model. It’s essential to have a clean surface before you apply any paint. I first masked off the belly-mouth and then set to with an electric toothbrush and dish soap. Once I’d given the model a careful scrub, I gently rinsed it off under cool running water. This was a terrifying process as it had the potential to do quite a bit of damage but everything went very well.

The size of this model presented a challenge to me in that I would have to handle it quite a bit during painting. That, combined with the large surface area, meant that priming the model would be essential! I first gave the underside and deeper recesses a coat of black and then sprayed the whole model with several light coats of Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. This is another potentially tricky job but the primer gave me an excellent result!


And so to painting!

Painting this model feels like going on a bit of an adventure. The physical challenges presented by the size of the model are something totally new to me. Add to that the nostalgia, and expectations involved in revisiting my first great success, and the result is a project unlike any I’ve taken on before! That’s the main reason why my colour palette uses a lot of tried and tested favourites. I do believe that stepping out of your comfort zone provides a positive challenge, but I like to pick my challenges carefully. The size and scope of the model is a major challenge in itself. By using a tried and tested palette of colours I’ll be able to draw on my experience with them to resolve the overall paint scheme. After all the entire point of this project is that it’s a coming together of old and new.

As I’ve said I’d expected the size of the model to be something of a challenge and I wasn’t wrong! I started off by attaching a painting handle to the model but took that off straight away. It shifted the centre of balance and made the model too big and awkward to hold during painting. So I am carefully holding the model in my gloved hand while I paint it. The tank weighs very little, which is a great help, but I’ve had to adapt my painting technique and posture to its size.

I’m used to working up close to the surface I’m painting. I usually brace my hand by holding the model on my desk and my brush hand is usually also braced on the desk, or sometimes against the hand holding the model. It’s a very stable set up and allows me a lot of control over my brush. However, in my usual painting position, there isn’t now enough space for the model and my hands between my eyes and the desk! I’ve had to get myself a taller stool so that I can sit a little higher. I also have to adapt to bracing my brush hand against the model rather than my desk.

This new set up is taking quite a bit of getting used to as it’s far more difficult to keep my hands stable during painting. There are some tricky angles involved in getting my brush into contact with the model’s surface and I have to handle the model while I paint it. Challenging as this may all be, I’d anticipated these issues as a part of the project and, so far, there has been nothing that a little patience and perseverance can’t overcome. In fact, I’m enjoying this project because of the challenges not in spite of them!

As usual I decided to start off by painting the face. This is going to set the tone and character of the model. It’s also a relatively small area that contains a lot of contrasting surfaces. So it will give me the opportunity to decide how I am going to resolve many of the material contrasts at an early stage. My usual habit is to work on a fairly small area at a time but, on a model of this size, I think that would be a mistake. Therefore, I decided to work over a larger area, which included the face and chest, by starting out fairly roughly and then gradually refining the painted surfaces as the project evolves. 


After painting a base of Rakarth Flesh, my first layers of paint were applied with a size 4 brush, roughing out the areas of light and shade. I then began to lay down a series of glazes to add and adjust the colour nuances. My next move was to focus on smaller areas to begin refining my work. However, I made sure to keep moving around the overall area I was painting, and not to linger on one spot for too long. This enabled me to balance things out over a larger area than I might normally do and resolve the overall skin tones.

By starting out big and bold I’ve been able to avoid getting stuck on one small area. My overall approach is one of going back and forth between different areas and different tones. This is a very different way of working from a structured step by step approach but it feels appropriate for this model.

I’m very glad that I’d taken the decision to think through my colour palette in advance because it saved me a lot of time and helped me to work swiftly at the early stages. However, as expected, once I started to work with my chosen palette I felt the need to adapt it. I had some definite ideas about the direction I was going to take but, as my work progressed, so did my ideas. As I’ve said before, the good thing about starting out with a plan is that it gives you a structure to work within but it also enables you to vary from that structure in an organised way.

I’d planned to use a cooler blue/green hue on much of the model but, as I progressed, that felt wrong. So I’ve used more of the yellow/green hues from my palette in the flesh tones. I turned to my old favourite of Bering Blue to bring some subtle blue tones to the flesh. I think is a more successful choice than my original option of turquoise. However, I think the blue/green hues will come into play as the project progresses. 


I’d thought that the overall look and feel of my colour palette would be very different to anything I’d done before but, in reality, it’s turning out to have a familiar feel to it. As has already been pointed out on Instagram, my flesh tones have much in common with both my Plaguebearers and my Troggoth. Although it’s not what I’d intended to do, I’m actually very happy with this. It feels like a more natural progression from my earlier work and a truer reflection of my style and instincts.

This project has been in planning for many years so it’s been on my mind as I’ve worked on many other models. Consequently many of my models contain things that I was trying out in preparation for the Demon Tank. My Death Guard, Horticulus Slimux, Kastelan Robot and Sloppity Bile Piper may all have an influence before I’m finished. I don’t want this project to nothing more than a ‘Sproket’s greatest hits’ but it is intended to look back over my past work while, hopefully, continuing my journey to be a better painter. 


I think I’m off to a good start but there is a long way to go yet!

Friday, 5 February 2021

Project P30 - Part 7

So here we are in 2021 and let’s all hope it’s a better year than 2020! For the last few months I’ve been very quiet with regards to painting sculpting and being online because I simply wasn’t ‘in the mood’. That’s not to say I was down or depressed but rather my energy and enthusiasm were directed elsewhere. I rediscovered my love for Lego and spent a lot of my time building a version of Hogwarts Castle to sit on the top shelf of my desk. I didn’t especially need a new hobby but lockdown seemed like a good time to start one. 

I chose a crazy time to put my tank onto the back burner because I was on the verge of completing the construction/sculpting phase. However, I think this pause proved to be an unexpectedly good thing because this was exactly the right time to stop and think. Not that I haven’t spent an awful lot of time thinking about this model already, but this was different. 

Up to this point my design for the tank had existed as an idea but not a completed three-dimensional object. But now I was able to have the entire model in my hands and, as a result, my plans began to evolve.

With the addition of the long awaited chimneys I finally had the overall composition fixed. This meant that I was able to consider all the elements of the model in context. I quickly decided to adjust the angle of the arm swinging the bell. By doing this I was able to raise the bell up. It was a relatively simple change but it opens up the overall composition and makes the pose look more active. After all, if your model is ringing a dirty great bell you want it to look like its giving it some welly! 

My idea had been to paint an updated version of my 1990 Nurgle Predator’s paint scheme. It would consist of a stippled green flesh tone with metallic details. However, I began to feel that this would not be enough. Regardless of how well I painted the model I think it would look very basic in the 1990 scheme.

Miniature painting has come a long way since 1990 and I need to reflect that in my new paint scheme. I want to create a scheme with more drama and contrast than the old one. The new scheme will reflect the range of materials and surfaces present on the model and most especially the transitions between machine and flesh. These areas will be treated differently in terms of colour and texture and the transitions between them should help to tell the story of a Demon engine manifesting itself as flesh.

The next step was to create an initial colour palette. Things will probably change as the project progresses but I need a starting point. The colours in my palette need to fulfil the following roles:
Base colour,
Spot colours,
Nuance colours,
Metallic colours,

Bearing all of this in mind I began by lining up the colours I thought I might use. I then set about testing different combinations in my notebook. You can see my test swatches in the photo below. The first is at the bottom and they progress up the page. 

As you can see, it was during this process that I moved away from my mostly green 1990 colour palette. My new palette gradually became more varied and saturated as my ideas developed. I’ve decided to create a much paler flesh tone than I’d initially planned and graduate this into a dark (almost black) colour on the tank parts. I will also use a cooler palette of greens than I did on my old tank. The overall colour palette will have a lot more variety than my 1990 one but this is a large model and it can take it.

The next step was to paint a full-page colour swatch to see all my colours together. My initial reaction was to realize how similar this scheme looks to the one I used on Gutrot Spume. However this is a misleading impression. It doesn’t reflect the intended paint scheme in terms of the relative proportions of the colours or how the colours will mix together. Many of the subtler relationships between the colours will have to be resolved during painting. I think my colour selection will give me a good starting point to work from but it’s important to be flexible! 

My tank is now in the final stages of preparation for painting. I’ve photographed it for lighting reference. Washed it to remove any dust and grease, left over from its construction, and mounted it onto a painting handle. The final bit of preparation is to give it a light spraying of primer.

Then, finally, I will begin painting the tank! 

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Project P30 - Part 6. Back to business.


It’s been just over a year since I last posted anything about my Nurgle Tank Project. I had, of course, no idea of just how turbulent and troubled that year was going to be and all my, and everybody else’s, plans were turned upside-down! However the Tank was not forgotten and the project was on hold while other things took priority. It’s been sat on my desk all that time and I’ve often given it some serous consideration. Not least while painting the Kastelan Robot because I can now confess that the focus on extreme dirt, damage and decay that I put into the Kastelan, was in preparation for painting my Tank.

But before I can get (finally) down to painting the Tank I have to finish building it. This involves resolving the back of the model and, although I had a vague notion that it would involve chimneys and an engine, I was uncertain of exactly how to proceed. In truth I was dithering!

The answer was to break out the blu tack and experiment with the parts I was considering. My initial option was to have two chimneys bursting out of the Tank’s back as shown below. I liked this very much but it didn’t feel quite right. 

I definitely wanted to use the chimneys but I also wanted to have a bit more of an engine element to the rear. My gut feeling was that, in addition to the chimneys, I wanted some sort of exhaust and something that looked like it might be a fuel tank or boiler. So I continued to experiment with a combination of elements some can be seen below.

The part I chose for this was a section from a dome in the Alchomite Stack kit. I’d considered this part right at the start of the project but thought it too big to use. Now, with more of the model constructed, I could see how it would perfectly match the existing curvature of the body I was building. But with this element selected the chimneys would now be far too big and bulky. The solution was to cut the chimneys down into smaller elements. 

The cut-down chimneys are, in my opinion, a better fit with the new back section. The two large chimneys have become three smaller ones and I prefer the asymmetrical arrangement, which creates a more interesting composition of the elements at the back of the model. Three is, of course, a very Nurgle friendly number!

With my choice finally made I got on with the job of putting everything together properly. To do this I had to cut away a large section of the back using my Dremmel. This was an unpleasant job and had to be done very carefully to avoid cutting away too much material. However, the cautious approach paid off because I managed to achieve a near perfect fit.

Rather than trying to create some sort of smooth transition between the flesh and the metal, I decided upon a bubbly molten sort of texture for the flesh where it’s engulfing the engine section. This matches other parts of the model and keeps to a consistent palette of textures.

 That’s where I’m now at with this model. The next step is to incorporate the chimneys and, although it’s likely to be a fiddly job, I’m looking forward to it. After a long hiatus Project P30 is rolling forward again!

Monday, 21 September 2020

Basing the Kastelan Robot… oops I did it again!

The Kastelan Robot was painted as a demonstration model for my new weathering workshop. As such I hadn’t planned on basing the model. However, as the project progressed the model was turning out very nicely and it seemed like a wasted opportunity not to put it onto a base. So I began to consider my options and in the end I came down to just two:

  1. Fix the model onto a plain plastic gaming base, possibly with some minimal terrain detail. This basic option would serve the models function as a demonstration piece; or,
  2. Build up a more elaborate base to create an environment and narrative for the model. This would have the added advantage of turning the model into a potential competition piece.

Let’s be honest option two was always going to win out as that’s what I always end up doing. But I did seriously consider option one.

I think it’s best practice to consider your basing options right at the start of a project. That way your ideas for the environment and narrative can play a part in the development of the overall scheme. However, though not perfect, it is possible to paint a model and then think up a base for it.

The model had been painted to demonstrate weathering so I wanted to continue with this approach and feature some heavily weathered architectural elements on the base. I decided to build the majority of my base using Games Workshop’s Sector Imperialis Administratum kit.

My starting point was one of the broken columns and I built out from this using a selection of other ruinous elements. I wanted to have the Kastelan Robot framed by a combination of broken arches and windows. By using one of GW’s own kits I would also be setting my Robot in an apropriate environment.

Instead of using a plain gaming base I chose one of the Sector Mechanicus bases and then built a raised floor above this to give the base some extra depth. The entire base was then finished off with some dirt and rubble.

I was quite pleased with the resulting base. But please take note of my use of the word ‘quite’. I had a few doubts about the overall proportions and composition of my base. This is in no small part down to the base being something of an afterthought to the painted model. However, I went ahead and began painting.

As usual I painted my base using the same palette of colours as the model but switched around the proportions of those colours. For example, I used a base/shade colour of Rhinox Hide but switched around the green and off white so that, on the base, the green was a dominant colour while the off white would only feature on the scattered skulls.

Painting was off to an OK start but my nagging doubts were now in full flow! Something about the base just felt wrong to me. It was time to stop work and think very carefully. If you are a long time follower of this blog you’ve probably guessed exactly where this is all going because we now get to the ‘oops I did it again’ bit.

The overall composition was too busy, obscured the Robot from several angles and was in danger of overpowering the model. In addition the design looked slightly clumsy and inelegant. I also felt that my decision to use pre-made building elements was a bit lazy and had influenced my design choices too much.

My solution was to start over again. This time I would construct a far simpler base that was less reliant on the Sector Imperialis Administratum kit. Construction began in the same way as the first base with a column. But the new base would not feature any of the wall or window elements. Instead I used plaster and Milliput to build a surface of broken slabs and rubble. I used a few bits of window frame from the building as further wreckage that, along with the column, would frame the Robot.

Straight away I was much happier with this more streamlined approach and, once I began painting, I found a whole new energy and enthusiasm for the project.

After painting the base, I pinned my Kastelan onto it and began work on the finishing touches. These consisted of the inevitable skulls and grass tufts but also some barbed wire to help give the base the feel of a warzone. The very last thing was the addition of some fine dirt and rubble around the feet and some subtle brown washes on the green slabs.

So once again I went over the top with my basing plans and then had to rein my ideas in. This doesn’t bother me too much because I think it’s preferable to tone down an OTT design than it is to have to go the other way.

The finished base feels like the same sort of environment that I tried to create with my first attempt; but it’s now done more simply and I think it’s more effective for it!

At the start of this post I mentioned my new weathering workshop. Sadly the current situation with Covid-19 means that I’ve had to cancel all of my workshop dates this year. I thought very hard about this but with the best will in the world, and as I have asthma, there is no way I could deliver a workshop to the standard I expect while keeping socially distanced.

Hopefully we can all get back to meeting at workshops and competitions some time next year but, in the meantime, let’s keep safe and keep painting!


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Weathering a Kastelan Robot – Part 2.

When lockdown started I assumed it would result in lots of painting time. But that isn’t the way things went for me. In reality navigating life in lockdown was a lot more complicated than anticipated and the past few months have seen a mix of highs and lows.

I decided to forget any pretentions of deadlines or schedules and take time out from blogging. I’ve spent my time reading, cooking, gardening, building Lego and (when I fancied it) painting my Kastelan. All in all it was a time to pause and reflect. However, as lockdown has eased and the pace of life has picked-up a little, I’ve begun painting more often and that has had results.

The Kastelan is finally finished and it’s about time too! I’ve very much enjoyed the process of painting this model. It’s given me an opportunity to develop my own approach to dirt, damage and corrosion. I started working on the Kastelan in March but it feels like I’ve been at it far longer. On top of that I painted this model during a difficult time in my life so it’s very rewarding to bring things to a satisfying conclusion.

As this stage of the project comes to an end I’ve been able to start looking forward and, in my head at least, I’m getting my future hobby schedule sorted out. The Kastelan needs a base and I’ve already begun to work on it so I can, hopefully, keep the momentum going. I will be posting a series of detailed tutorials on the painting techniques I used to create the dirt, damage and corrosion.

But before anything else I must write and post the third, final and, (in my view) most important, part of my series on creating a colour scheme. In  part one I looked at what to do with colour via an understanding of colour theory. In part two I showed how to do it by creating a colour palette. But now I need to talk about the rationale behind why we do those things. The reasons can be varied and often hard to pin down but without them all the theory and technique is meaningless!