Saturday, 22 February 2020

Rockgut Troggoth (and Zarbag the Goblin) – Part 8.

It feels very good to get back to some painting after the upheaval of Dad’s death and funeral. I’d like to say that everything is back to normal but of course nothing will be quite the same again and it will take time to figure out what the new normal is.

Together at last! Testing the composition
for the Troggoth & Zarbag.

I left Zarbag just as his paint job began to come together but also as I came across my first problem: my palette of colours for Zarbag was the same as for my Troggoth. This made good sense as they are going on the same base and exist in the same environment. The difference is in the proportions of those colours. On my Troggoth the reds, greens and grey/blacks are secondary colours to the flesh tones but on Zarbag they are dominant. The highlight and shade colours are common to both minis.

The problem occurred with the red. On the Troggoth I used P3 Skorne Red in the flesh tones and it brings a lot of warmth and life to an otherwise cool and desaturated palette. Skorne Red is a great shade but the formulation has a soft shine when dry. This was fine on my Troggoth but on Zarbag’s robes it looked horrible! First of all it was too shiny for fabric but even worse the shine meant that it was difficult to see the blending while I was painting. This resulted in a slightly patchy and uneven finish.

The solution came in the form of AK Interactive Ultra Matte Varnish. So far this stuff has worked like magic for me! One thinly applied coat and the surface takes on a beautifully even ultra matt finish. I was then able to retouch my painting on the hood using Scale Colour paints to refine the highlights and shading to my satisfaction.

The red hood before and after the matte varnish.

The hands and feet were fiddly but otherwise straightforward as I was working with the same flesh tones that I’d used on the face. Although Zarbag’s flesh looks, naturally enough, predominantly green, the shadows are a warm red/brown. This gives added depth and nuance to his flesh but it also helps to tie him together with the Troggoth. In addition I’ve glazed some subtle blue tones onto the yellow/green flesh. This helps to create a range of warm and cool greens.

The colours used for Zarbag's flesh tones.

The other main area of note is Zarbag’s sickle, which deserved special attention. I decided to use true metallics for the blade, as the shine of the metal would create an interesting material contrast with the other surfaces. In addition, the verdigris effects I planned to use look especially good against true metallics. I painted the blade with a warm coppery gold and then worked up to a yellow gold mid-tone and then to a cooler silvery gold highlight. I then used some Citadel Colour Contrast Paints to glaze over the blade. The Contrast Paints tied everything together and softened the shine.

The metallics used on Zarbag's sickle.

The verdigris is the fun bit! Using a very dilute blue/green, I applied blobs and spots of colour to the blade. Before that was fully dry I removed the paint with a clean wet brush. This will leave stains and tide marks where the edges of the paint started to dry. I repeated this process several times with varying blue/green shades. I then glazed over the verdigris with a dark green to soften the effect.

I repeated a similar process with dark brown on Zarbag’s red robes to create some unpleasant looking stains which were further enhanced with the addition of some brown texture paint. This was created with a mix of paint, chinchilla sand and matt varnish.

Zarbag is such a small mini that I’ve been able to finish him with in a few days. All together I painted him in about a week although that’s been split up and spread out over time.

With Zarbag done I could then turn my attention to the base but, before I started painting, I had to get the back and side surfaces flush and seamless. Although not complicated it was a frustrating task. I’d used a mixture of materials to build the base including plaster, plastic, MDF and Milliput. The varying degrees of hardness meant that even when sanded flush the boundaries between the different materials could be seen and felt. The solution was to prime the base and then gently wet sand the seams - multiple times! A seamless surface can be created this way but it’s frustrating because I had to keep checking my work in different lighting to be sure I was successful.

With the base as well finished as I am ever going to get it (there is no such thing as perfection) it was time to test fit my models onto it. This would be the first time I’d been able to put the two models together in the context they are intended for. With a little fiddling the composition came together exactly as I wanted. This is a great relief as it means I can move on to painting the base with a degree of confidence that the overall project will come together well!

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Remembering Dad

Robert George Soper “Bob”  

9th September 1938 – 10th January 2020

Family and friends came together yesterday at Test Valley Crematorium to remember Dad. He was taken from us by circumstances that were tragic and sudden. It was my honour to be able to pay tribute to Dad as a part of the service held in his memory. I would like to share my words and a few pictures of Dad on this blog.

Dad’s death was an overwhelming shock and, for a time, it drove out all other thoughts and feelings. But as I’ve prepared for today I’ve been able to reflect on my memories of Dad and that’s helped me to put his death in its proper place in relation to his life.

Some of my memories of Dad may seem a little random, and maybe even inconsequential but they’re all precious; and anyway that’s how memories work. I’d like to share a just a handful of them with you.

It was Dad who gave me my nickname of Sproket.

I remember Dad’s penknife. Always in his pocket and ready when needed. I remembered the snap as it cut through the twine on a hay bale. But it was much more than a work tool used on the farm. On Sunday mornings dad would take my brother Richard and I up the lane to visit Nan Soper. As we walked he would fill his pockets with Hazelnuts picked fresh from the hedgerows. With a twist of his knife the shells were opened and the nuts shared as we walked along.

On those same walks he’d casually chop the tops off the giant hogweed as we went along. Penknife held at arms length, never missing and (almost) always managing the feat with a single practiced stroke.

That penknife would help build our incredible dens, slice an apple or carve and shape a walking stick. In memory it seemes like an inseparable part of Dad.

Dad had a soft spot for chimpanzees. Not so much the real animals as presented by the likes of Sir David Attenborough but rather the comedy kind and most especially Cheeta. The real star of the Tarzan movies from the 1930s and 40s.

I have vague memories of a rubber chimp mask that Dad put to good use when playing pranks. But I most clearly remember watching ‘Tarzan's New York Adventure’ with dad when I was small, and our shared delight in Cheetas antics. Dad was a connoisseur of mischief and Cheeta was at the top of his list!

In more recent years when ever looking for a birthday or Father’s day card I always knew I couldn’t go wrong with a comedy chimp.

Time passed and as I reached my teens my relationship with dad became more complicated. I was moving towards a very different world and life than the one Dad knew and we sometimes clashed.

Most of my style choices caused him no little concern but it was the pink mohawk in 1983 that finally pushed him over the edge. I will just say that, for all the embarrassment I undoubtedly caused him, he was more than able to even the score. That sense of mischief meant that, one way or another, he could always get the better of me!

College followed school and the time eventually came for me to leave home and make my own way in the world. That was a tricky transition and it was certainly an emotional one. But I’ll never forget that it was Dad who calmed the stormy waters and helped me take my first steps into the adult world.

I already had much to be grateful for but life was to blessed me with so much more. It gave me the opportunity to know Dad as one adult to another. I got to see him grow happier and more contented as he moved through his life. I’ve been given the time to understand his views and values and to realize that, naturally enough, we have much in common.

I learned (eventually)to take delight in his humour, to admire his once embarrassing sense of mischief and his strength of character! He showed me how being comfortable enough with yourself to sometimes act foolishly does not make you a fool – quite the opposite!

Dad and Mum on the day of their engagement.
Together for 58 years

We never said ‘I love you’ to one another! Do I regret that – not in the least! Because the years we had gave us the opportunity to know and understand each other Father and Son. I was able to say ‘thank you’ and to show my love for him. And to recognize the love in all his actions. From the least little hazelnut to the long hours of hard work that supported me through my education.

Dad was taken away too suddenly and too soon but I am forever grateful for the man who was my farther and for all the years I had with him.

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.