Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Project P30 Building a ‘better’ tank - Part 2.

When I last posted about my Demon Tank the project was running in the background alongside preparations for Golden Demon and my Troggoth workshop. I’d already sculpted a head and begun construction on the core of the tank. My efforts were then focused on the Tank elements as I’d reached the stage where I needed to start adapting them to fit my concept.

The Plagueburst Crawler features a heavy dozer blade but I’d decided not to include this. Without the blade the front of the tank has a rounded ‘bellied’ front, which was perfect for my project, as it would blend with the belly of the Great Unclean One that I was using. I had some major plans for the belly but first I had to remove the fixings for the dozer blade on the front of the tank. This was a fairly simple matter of removing two supporting struts but the side panels required a little more finesse.

The supporting struts are moulded onto the side panels and are recessed on the back. The first thing I did was to fill these recesses with milliput. Once that had fully set, I carved the struts away with a Dremmel tool. This exposed the milliput and all I had to do then was make sure the new surface of the side panel was smooth and even.

With the dozer blade removed, I thought I could begin to tackle the union of the tank and the Great Unclean One. But while I’d been working on the side panels I’d had the time to reconsider the work I’d done on the head. I was pleased with my sculpting overall but I felt that the head and face were lacking animation! The entire head sat on the body in a four-square manner much like my original Tank. In this respect I’d made my new Demon far too similar to the old one. From the very start of this project I’ve been certain that I needed to create a more dynamic model and composition than my 1990 original.

The solution was simple enough but required a little nerve. I prized the head off the body and repositioned it. By bringing the entire head forward and angling it round I’ve added a bit of a twist to the pose. This is a far more satisfying composition and helps to bring some life to my Demon. In addition I cut away the entire lower jaw and replaced it with one from a Mangler Squig. The new lower jaw is far more aggressive and the open mouth thus created made a much less passive face. I’m now far happier with how the head and face look and contribute to the overall composition of the Tank.

So finally I could turn my attention to how the Tank had been warped into the body of the Demon possessing it. That meant it was time for a big decision! A key feature of my old model is the gun and how it comes out of the Demon’s mouth. I definitely didn’t want to reproduce the exact same thing on my new model but I did want to pay homage to it. Many newer Nurgle models feature a gaping maw in their belly and this seemed to be the perfect solution. If I could create a gaping maw in my Demon’s belly I could place the plagueburst mortar right inside it.

This was going to involve some serious surgery to my kits and the prospect was a little daunting. If I got things wrong I would probably have to buy a new tank and start over again. I was also unsure as to how I could create the maw itself. I wanted teeth but it seemed unlikely I would find a kit with a mouth big enough to do the job. Such proved to be the case as my first attempt, using the Mangler Squig I later used in the face, failed. Then I spotted Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws from the Malign Sorcery boxed set and this definitely had potential.

So with a little wrangling (and ebay) I got my hands on the parts I wanted. Now came the bit that required nerve, as I had to cut away the entire front of the Tank with my Dremmel. This went far more easily than I expected and I was finally able to test fit the jaws. It was another nervous moment as I was going by instinct alone. My guess that the jaws would fit well into the space proved correct. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how well they would fit because the curvature of the lower jaw fitted perfectly to the curvature of the Tank’s front. It was with great relief that I realized my plans were working!

To fix the jaws in permanently I had to separate the upper and lower jaws and remove a lot of excess plastic. I did this slowly, a bit at a time, and with lots of test fittings to ensure I didn’t remove too much. This ensured a nice tight fit and made it possible to glue the jaws directly to the Tank. Once the glue was set I used milliput to reinforce the join and fill the gaps.

I was now able to test fit all the major elements of my new Tank and, for the first time, see them all together. The assembly is very rough, involving a lot of Blu Tack, but I can finally see my concept for the overall composition. While there is clearly a lot of sculpting needed to properly tie everything together this feels like a big step forward. Up until now this model has existed only in my head but now I can see how everything sits together and focus my efforts on successfully unifying the elements. The assembly is going to be a long job but at least it’s no longer theoretical.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was the need to paint sub assemblies but I’ve decided that this is the only way to deal with the inside of the mouth and the plagueburst mortar. So I’ve broken out the paints and got to grips with the mortar. Once that’s done I can work on the union of the Great Unclean One, the Tank and the gaping belly maw. It’s going to be quite a challenge to sculpt this area but one I’m excited to take on because it’s going to make a huge difference to the look of this model.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Sproket does Troggoths at Element Games.

The last month has seen me the busiest I’ve been in a long time with Golden Demon at Warhammer Fest and my Troggoth workshop in Stockport. Having said that I’ve just had a quiet week to take stock and make some plans for my Nurgle demon tank, which is finally seeing some activity (at long last!). That will be the topic of my next post.

For the moment it’s time to look back at my Troggoth workshop. Rather than rolling out something already prepared like my Plaguebearers ‘contrast’ workshop I’d decided to focus on a newer model. This certainly made for more preparation but I think it’s important to keep things fresh and not fall back on old favourites too easily.

In truth I had a few misgivings about using Troggoths for a workshop! From the painting perspective I was confident that they would be a successful subject, but the new Troggoths require quite a bit of construction before you can get down to the painting. While I hoped that participants would be able to arrive with a Troggoth pre-assembled and ready to paint, I assumed that not everyone would have the time or opportunity to do so.

Such proved to be the case but I’d factored some flexibility into my schedule and by lunchtime on Saturday everyone was painting. By the end of the day all the Troggoths were at roughly the same stage. This is a credit to all the participants who put some serious effort into their painting and kept the pace up over both days!

Painting was at the core of my workshop and the Troggoths proved to be an even better subject than I hoped they would be. With widely differing front and back sides they provide the opportunity to explore a range of forms, volumes and textures. They also pose a challenge with regards to the transitions between these contrasting areas. Best of all the Troggoths are large enough that there is a good amount of surface area for a painter to get to grips with all the challenges posed.

I prefer participants to be comfortable working at their own pace but I think it was a testament to their dedication that, by the end of play on Sunday, we had a remarkably consistent line up of Troggoths. Everyone focused on slightly different aspects of the miniature but I had the pleasure of seeing real progress in all cases. I might have had my doubts beforehand but the Troggoths are a definite winner when it comes to workshop miniatures!

More Troggoths!

I’m very happy to say that my Troggoth Workshop looks likely to be making a swift comeback. Final details are awaiting confirmation but I can give a heads up that, all going well, I will be running the workshop plus an evening presentation ‘Top Ten Tips, Tricks and Techniques’ in Nottingham on the 28 and 29 September. I will be posting more details ASAP!

Friday, 17 May 2019

Comming soon ‘Sproket does Troggoths’ Workshop at Element Games June 1 & 2

Golden Demon may be all done and dusted but there’s no time to ease the pace as I’ve gone straight into workshop preparation mode! My ‘Sproket does Troggoths’ workshop will be running on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd June at Element Games in Stockport. There will, of course, be the chance to explore the painting of textures and ‘life-like’ flesh tones but these models also offer the chance to get to grips with painting volumes and forms in a way that many smaller minis don’t.

In addition I’ll be presenting my ‘10 Top Tips Tricks & Techniques’ on the Saturday evening. This is a three hour seminar where I reveal, among other things, the secret of the microbead and the art of making professional looking labels for your display plinths.
Tickets are available on the Element Games website.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Golden Demon 2019. My thoughts, feelings and a (slightly) shameful confession!

Warhammer Fest and Golden Demon felt bigger this year, a lot bigger! It’s the first time I’ve had to queue outside the Ricoh Arena to get in and the queue was long. Thankfully it was also pretty fast moving. Once inside there were more queues first to register for Golden Demon, which is usual, and then to get the minis into the cabinets. That’s something I’ve not seen before on such a scale and it was a clear indicator of just how busy the competition was this year.

At this point I really wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy the day. That was partly due to competition nerves but mostly the crowds! I’m deaf in my left ear, and while that’s a minor inconvenience most of the time, I don’t cope very well in situations with a lot of background noise. All sounds come at me through my right ear and I’ve no way of telling where they come from. On top of that, if there is a lot of background noise, I can be totally oblivious of anyone speaking to me on my left side if I’m not looking right at them. I can get a bit stressful and does no good for my anxiety!

But happily things quickly improved and I was able to adjust to the situation. Once again the best part of the day, by far, was getting to meet and chat with so many fellow painters. Meeting old friends and making new ones is one of the best reasons for attending an event like this. I’m always delighted, and more than a little surprised, to meet people who follow my blog and enjoy the content I create for it. Nicest of all was the number of people who asked after Mark and I’d like to say “thank you” on his behalf to all the well wishers!

As usual my main focus for the day was Golden Demon but it was obvious that Games Workshop have continued to develop Warhammer Fest. My overall impression was that all the space was being used and to better effect than previous years. The Studio area now filled all the available space and felt much slicker and more professional as did the main hall on the ground floor, and I felt it was a good development

The middle floor was pretty much given over to the launch of the new Citadel Colour Contrast paints. Marketed as a fast way to get minis ‘battle ready’ in one thick coat they certainly performed as advertised. But I think they may well prove to be a useful addition to any painter’s palette. They’re a range of thick washes that tend to stay where you put them while drying. The colour range is great and for the most part features some lovely saturated hues. I had a quick trial with them and can already see myself using them in my own painting process.

This year’s Golden Demon was the biggest and busiest one I’ve seen. There was a buzz to it that reminded me of the early years and especially Derby 1990 when the comp first really began to grow. The only draw back was the difficulty in getting close enough to the cabinets to see all the entries. But from what I could see it was very clear that the number of entries and the standard of painting had gone through the roof! My first impression was that there were far too many well painted minis for all of them to be winning trophies. Some years there are clear winners but this year I think it was almost impossible to predict the outcome. It was all very exciting in a nerve wracking way!

I think both of my entries involved different elements of risk. I felt my Sloppity Bilepiper was the stronger of my two minis but he had already won a Gold at Salute. In my own mind this meant that the best I could do was equal the achievement with another Gold and anything else would be a bit of a let down. This is not the best attitude to have and it’s the main reason that I don’t usually enter a mini again in another comp if it has already won a gold. I adopt a philosophy of quit while you are winning and move on to something new. However I decided to risk potential disappointment as I was very pleased with how Sloppity turned out and felt he was good enough to have a chance at a Demon trophy.

My Tidecaster is another matter altogether. For one thing I felt I was taking a risk of sorts with all the water effects I’d added to her. While she was not converted I had, in a way, added to her. But I was pleased with my painting and I’ve always looked on ‘special effects’ as an extension of my painting. I just wasn’t sure how the judges would regard it. Secondly I’d reworked parts of the Tidecaster and in doing so I had come very close to ruining her. I’ll now confess that I had to repaint the face three times before I was satisfied. I found the repainting to be a traumatic experience and I really hadn’t had time to reflect on the changes. I was left with some doubts about how well I’d done them.

When the time came to see which minis had made it to the finals I found both my entries on the top shelf! I had two trophies but what would they be? First to be announced was Age of Sigmar single mini and I’ll admit to feeling a twinge of disappointment when Sloppity won Silver. This is the shameful bit because that’s not a sentiment I’m proud of! I think it’s one of the dangers of having a lot of success. It’s very important to be able to reflect upon and enjoy what you’ve achieved, rather than what you think you didn’t!

Luckily when I went to collect my minis I ended up next to Yohan Leduc and he was kind enough to let me take a long, close look at his Gold winning Plaguebearer. Any lingering disappointment at winning Silver evaporated pretty much instantly. Yohan’s Plaguebearer is a beautiful piece of work and totally inspirational! Without a doubt the Gold standard is getting higher and I’m proud to get Silver amongst such tough competition!

Of course I still had my Tidecaster in the ‘Eavy Metal Paint Masters category but I was alongside Angelo Di Chello and Patric Sand in the top three. So it was a ‘hold your breath’ and wait to see moment. I’m so proud that my Tidecaster took the Gold. My gamble with repainting her had paid off and it’s a lesson learned (once again) about holding my nerve and trusting to my instincts.

I’ve come away from this year’s Golden Demon feeling incredibly energized and inspired. It’s clear to me that if I want to keep painting minis to the Gold standard I have to up my game. I’m not going to win anything by resting on my laurels and aiming to win is a great way to push my painting and improve my skills. There’s an ebb and flow to painting competitions but at the moment the Golden Demons appear to be going from strength to strength. It makes for an exciting challenge and long may it continue!

The end of the 2019 Golden Demons marks the start of what I consider to be the 30th anniversary year of my first Slayer Sword. The challenge I’m facing, if I want continued competition success, feels exactly the same as the one I faced after the 1989 Golden Demons. That’s not something I’d anticipated but I know what I have to do so now I’ve got to pull my finger out and try to do it!

Friday, 10 May 2019

Turning the Tide(caster)

I finished painting my Tidecaster back in July just as Mark began to feel unwell. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the start of the infection that would land him in hospital for a month. Naturally enough I put the Tidecaster away and got on with life. But she has always felt like a little bit of unfinished business. I never had the opportunity to give the mini that final finesse that can often make all the difference. I definitely had the feeling that something was missing from the overall paint scheme but I didn’t have the time to give it my full attention. When Mark came home and I returned to painting I wanted a fresh new project, so I broke out the Sloppity Bilepiper.

But now I have the time, and a very good reason, to take another look at my Tidecaster. When I started painting her it was simply because I liked the mini and that’s always the best reason to paint. But, in the time since I started, the Tidecaster was announced as the chosen miniature for the ‘Eavy Metal Paint Masters category in the 2019 Golden Demon. At that time I didn’t expect to be going to Golden Demon so I was a little disgruntled. However due to Mark’s improving health I am now able to attend and my Tidecaster will be coming with me!

I certainly wasn’t unhappy with what I’d achieved but I had that all too familiar nagging feeling that I could do a bit more. After careful consideration, and the advice of a few fellow painters, I decided to do the following:
  • Rework the Tidecaster’s face;
  • Add texture to the coral;
  • Tweak some of the highlights;
  • Add water effects to the fish.

The face

This was the single biggest issue and the trickiest change to make. I painted the face first and, as the overall scheme and contrast developed, it became clear that the face was too dark. It just didn’t stand out enough. In addition I felt my painting could be softer and smoother. My initial painting of the face felt a little harsh and I wanted something that would look both more passive and feminine. The Tidecaster is notable for having a very calm face counterpointing an active stance. She even has her eyes closed. I felt that her face should, quite literally be the calm focus at the center of the storm.

I had to go in with some very subtle glazes and soften out the transitions on her face. This was especially fiddly because I was also lightening her face to the point of having almost pure white highlights. In addition I worked a little blue into her jaw line and the space above her eyes. I had to take a couple of passes at all of this but I’m glad I stuck it out. I’m now much happier with my Tidecaster’s face and feel it’s appropriate to the nature of the character, as I perceive it.

The coral

This had the opposite problem to the face. My initial painting of the coral was too smooth to the point that it looked bland and unfinished. The solution was to add some texture. Rather than just stippling the coral I decided to paint some striated bands. This had the double benefit of adding a texture and increasing contrast. The final effect is quite subtle but I think it somehow brings the coral to life.

The highlights

This was the subtlest of the changes I made and although it probably makes no great difference I at least know that I’ve refined everything to the best of my ability. I smoothed out some of the highlights on her cloak and sharpened some of the highlights on her armour. Never forget to adjust your painting to reflect the type of material you are trying to represent. Material contrasts are just as important as hue, tone, and saturation! I also added a touch more saturation to the highlights in the gold trim on her cloak.

The fish

This was definitely the least subtle of the changes I made! I based the paint scheme for the fish on a striped marlin and, although I liked the colour and pattern, I felt it looked somehow a bit unfinished. Even worse, to my eye, the fish didn’t quite belong with the rest of the mini. The solution I came up with was to make my fish look wet. I’ve had issues with painting aquatic and semi-aquatic animals before and I wasn’t going to be called out for having a dry fish!

Three coats of high gloss varnish have transformed my fish to something that now looks wet and sleek as it glides through the air. I’ve enhanced this with the addition of a few droplets and streamers of water trailing from the tail and fins. These emphasize the movement in the fish but also add a visual link to the base and tie the fish into the same environment as the Tidecaster.

Overall none of the changes I’ve made to my Tidecaster are that major but they do all make a difference. I now feel I’ve done the best job I can on this mini and she’s as ready as she can be for the Golden Demons!