Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Review: Element Masterclass Brushes from Element Games

A few months ago I was contacted by Byron Orde from Element Games with regards to holding a painting class at his venue in Stockport on June 2 & 3. While we were arranging the class Byron asked me if I would be interested in trying out his Element Masterclass Brushes.

I’ve tried out several brands of brush over the years and none of them compared well with the Windsor and Newton Series 7 (W&N). However, that is not the case with the Element Masterclass Brushes and I am genuinely impressed with their quality and performance.

I’ve been using the brushes, on both my Orruk Megaboss and the Akito, bust, alongside a W&N. This has enabled me to make a direct comparison and I now feel I’ve been using them for long enough to share my opinion.

Examples of my work done using the Element Masterclass Brushes.

Element Masterclass Brushes come in three sizes Detail, Character and Regiment. The bristles on the Detail brush are a little short for my own taste but both the Character and Regiment sizes have been very useful. The Character brush is equivalent to a size 0 and I used it for a great deal of the texture on the Megaboss. The Regiment brush is equivalent to a size 1 and was particularly useful for the layered glazes on Akito.

The tips of the Element Games brushes come to an excellent crisp point, like a W&N brush. They have maintained their points throughout use and I’d venture to say that the W&N brush is wearing less well over time. Based on my use of them, so far, the Element Masterclass Brushes seem to be more durable than W&N.

The only possible down side I’ve encountered is that Element Masterclass Brushes felt a little stiffer than the W&N ones when in use. However, I wouldn’t describe this as a fault so much as a difference between two brands. It was a ‘problem’ for me simply because the brush felt different to what I had become used to. In fact what this means is that I use the Element Games brushes for different tasks to the W&N brushes. Element Masterclass Brushes are perfect for fine texture work where the W&N ones are just too soft for my taste.

I’m very impressed with the Element Masterclass Brushes, both in terms of quality and value for money, so much so that I’ve made them a permanent addition to my toolkit.

You can buy the Element Masterclass Brushes HERE.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Exploring Contrasts in Copenhagen

I’d like to thank Sonny Bundgaard for inviting me to Copenhagen to run a master class workshop exploring contrast in miniature painting over the Easter weekend. It was a great venue and a great bunch of participants!

The Easter Bunny in Copenhagen.
Not the Easter Bunny in Copenhagen.
Always adjust your marketing to reflect changed circumstances!
I’d been looking forward to this workshop for quite some time now! The scope of the class was far wider than I'd covered before, and I am inspired by using contrast in miniature painting. In my view it’s importance simply cannot be overstated. For this two-day workshop I set out to demonstrate my approach to this subject and how I apply it to my miniatures. The workshop consisted of a combination of theory, demonstrations and practical experience.

The focus for day one was on using colour and tone to create contrast, establishing global lighting and contrast, introducing colour theory and using it to create a colour scheme.

During day two we went on to explore other types of contrast using different techniques and materials like painting texture and detail, the use of true metallic versus non-metallic metals, applying matt, gloss and satin surface finishes, creating a focal point and, finally, adding textures and special effects to a painted miniature.

It was important to state right at the start that participants would probably not be going home with a beautiful finished mini. Instead they would acquire some useful theory, techniques and, most importantly, experience to apply to their own projects. Having said that I was impressed with just how much painting everyone managed to achieve!

The workshop ran from 10am to 6pm each day but with painters gathering from 9am, and several of them working on into the evening on Saturday; there was a lot of hard work and dedication put into the weekend.

I like to get everyone working on their miniatures as soon as possible so we began the workshop by looking at ways of adding texture contrasts to a mini during prep. I then discussed the importance of establishing global lighting and contrast and demonstrated some ways of achieving this. Then, to take us through the rest of the morning, I set everyone the task of painting a mini using just black and white. The aim of this quick ‘warm up’ exercise was to focus everyone on establishing tonal contrasts without the added complications of colour.

Colour theory and how to use it in creating contrast was the focus for the rest of day one. Instead of diving right in to painting minis, I set the task of creating two or three different colour schemes on paper. I’d prepared a line drawing of a plague bearer for this exercise and for the next forty minutes or so we enjoyed a little colouring in! The point of this exercise was to encourage everyone to experiment with applying some colour theory to their paint choices and to see how those colours would interact. Trying things out on paper first enabled the painters to take a few risks and try colour combinations they might not normally consider.

I then asked the painters to pick one of the colour schemes they had created and apply it to a miniature. Through the rest of day one and into day two we continued to explore and experiment with our paint schemes, developing contrasts all the time.

During day two I demonstrated techniques and materials that could be used to introduce and enhance other types of contrast. All the time we were maintaining and developing the tonal and colour contrasts that form the backbone of a paint job. As the workshop drew to a close, we examined several of my projects to identify the types of contrast I had created and how they worked within the context of the overall paint scheme.

The colour schemes devised by the group included adventurous combinationd like red/green, red/pink, yellow/purple and grey/purple. In addition to the use of contrasting and/or complementary colour schemes, the painters experimented with saturation and tone to create a strikingly diverse group of minis.

Beyond the colour contrasts the schemes exhibited a range of texture contrasts and surface finishes; and there was, of course, a fair splattering of slime baking soda and microbeads!

The painters in the group were such a great bunch of guys and, of course, had greatly differing levels of experience covering commission painting, hobby painting, army painting and competition painting. What everyone had in common, however, was a willingness to step out of their comfort zones and get stuck into the workshop. It was a pleasure to work with the group and see their paint schemes develop. I was genuinely impressed with the progress all the painters achieved on their plaguebearers!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

‘Alas, poor Gutrot! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.’

The Tragedy of Sproket, Prince of Denmark Act 5, scene 1. 
 I’m something of a nervous traveller, especially so when it come to transporting my miniatures. But with the exception of my Nurgle Predator, which arrived at the 1990 Golden Demons with a broken banner, I’ve been lucky enough to have transported my minis without any mishaps. Until now that is!

I knew there would be an element of risk involved in taking Gutrot Spume with me to Copenhagen last weekend. But Gutrot was the best choice to bring as an example of how I brought together different types of contrast on one mini, so I took a deep breath and packed him up with all the care I could. I’d purchased an ‘Art Bin’ to transport my models in and, although this proved to be an excellent practical choice, I think it was also my undoing!

The damage was done before I even left Heathrow Airport. Going through Airport Security I’d placed my Art Bin on the conveyor to be scanned. There was then the usual business of going through security myself and then having to put my belt and shoes back on. I looked up from this to see my Art Bin being held up and shaken from side to side by one of the security officers! The whole thing happened very quickly but my partner witnessed the tragedy play out. It was turned around, tipped and then turned completely upside down before the shaking was administered. It was then shoved back onto the conveyor belt and scanned where it was, of course, deemed safe and harmless!

I can only think that my Art Bin drew this attention because it was an unusual looking piece of hand luggage, which is fair enough. I appreciate that the security checks are vital and are as much in my own interest as anyone else’s. What I don’t understand is why it was necessary to treat my Art Bin so roughly! Based on the treatment it received it was clearly deemed unusual rather than dangerous. After all why would anyone, let alone a trained security officer, pick up and shake something they considered a potential hazard!

The security staff all have a very important job to do and are far too busy to pander to the concerns of an uptight miniature painter. But I can’t see any good justification for such careless and, quite frankly, aggressive treatment of a person’s property. The staff at Copenhagen airport were no less busy and just as vigilant but they managed to carry out their duties in a way that treated both passengers and their property with respect.

Now I’ve got that off my chest my ranting is over and my priority is getting Gutrot back to his gruesome best.

I decided to wait until I got to my hotel before I opened everything up to see the damage. I suppose things could have been a whole lot worse considering the rough treatment but the sight that awaited me sent my blood pressure through the roof! The prongs on Gutrot’s trident have all been snapped off. Mercifully the breaks are clean and at the base of the prongs where it should be possible to reattach then. I should then be able to reinforce and cover up the join with a little extra corrosion. More problematic is the damage to Gutrot’s helmet, as the tip of it’s crest has been snapped off. I will see if I can rebuild this tiny part but it may be necessary to trim the crest down to a new, shorter point.

On reflection I got off lightly, as the breaks are clean and only affect the extremities. It’s a massive relief that the paintwork has suffered no damage beyond those breaks!

I now understand exactly why some painters bolt their minis into place for transportation and I will be leaving nothing to chance next time. I hope my mistakes serve as a warning to anyone transporting their minis. Leave nothing to chance and make sure your minis are totally secure for transportation! 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Busy Times!

The last few weeks have provided an unusual experience with regards to my hobby as although I’m very busy I have little to show for it! As I predicted earlier this year I’m deeply involved in preparing for my Copenhagen workshop over the coming Easter weekend. Demo minis have been prepped and painted, notes have been written, a resourses folder compiled and minis selected for the trip. And jolly good fun it’s all been too but there’s nothing to show for it on this blog!

Apart from my workshop preparations, I’ve found a little more time to work on Akito and develop the flesh tones on her torso. I’ve found it especially challenging to achieve a realistic balance of smooth flesh tones and strong, but subtle, contrasts. Unlike painting monsterous flesh there is no way to hide any imperfections behind textures or special effects! But I feel that I’m getting there and just need to be patient and persistent.

The following weeks are also likely to be a bit of an odd time for me hobby wise. On the weekend after my Copenhagen workshop it’s Salute, at Excell in London, and I’ll finally get the chance to enter my Abalam bust into a painting comp. It will be interesting to see how he does as I feel I’m still something of a novice with regards to painting busts, and there is a lot for me to learn.

After that I’m going to be at Warhammer Southampton, on Saturday 29th April, where I’ll be showcasing my miniatures and running some demonstrations of the techniques I’ve used on my Golden Demon winners. I will also be judging a painting competition!

Looking further ahead still there is the Golden Demon Classic at Warhammer Fest on 28th May. My Megaboss is ready and waiting which is just as well because I don’t think I’m going to have spare time to get anything else painted ready for Golden Demon this year. That’s because I’ve two more painting workshops lined up for this Summer and I’ll be gearing up for the first of those pretty soon.

This will be at Element Games, in Stockport, on the 3rd and 4th June. The subject of the workshop will be aged and distressed non-metallic metal armour, like that painted on my Megaboss. There will be a focus on using Scale colour paints and the workshop model will be the Abyssal Warlord by Scale 75.

And there’s more because on the weekend of August 5th and 6th, I will be in Hull for the Weekend Workshop. I will be breaking out the Plaguebearers again for a weekend of painting monster flesh. Expect microbeads, baking soda and slime effects to feature!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Painting Flesh Tones with Layered Glazes - Step-by-Step

Jay Martin has given me the opportunity to share my experience of painting Akito on his excellent site Figure Mentors. Part one looks at how I used layers of glazed acrilics to paint her flesh tones. You can find it HERE.

Friday, 10 March 2017

C-Girl Akito Part 1

I’m currently busy preparing for my painting workshop in Copenhagen but I’ve also started a new painting project. I decided some time ago that once the Megaboss was finished I would like to paint a bust.

Just as the Megaboss project was in it’s final stages I was contacted by Piotrek (Peter) Czajka. Peter is the man behind Neko Galaxy and he asked me if I would be interested in having a copy of his C- Girl Akito bust to paint. I’d seen, and been most impressed by, the stunning version of this bust painted by Krzysztof Kobalczyk. Now this is a lovely bust but I had to think carefully before accepting, as it’s not the type of subject I would have normally considered painting. Then it struck me that that was exactly why I should paint it! It’s time to step out of my comfort zone and push myself by painting a new type of subject.

When the bust arrived it was just as good in reality as it looked on screen. I’m still something of a newbie with regards to resin busts, so I was very glad that the clean-up was very straight forward with only a few slight mould lines to clean up.

I’ll confess that I was daunted by the prospect of painting a young human female as I’m far more used to taking on the monstrous likes of Nurgle. However I sat myself down, took a good long look at the bust, and began to figure out how I wanted to paint her.

I quickly realized that this bust offers tremendous opportunities for painting contrasting textures and I fully intend to make the most of that. I’ve decided to paint Akito’s costume as dark leather to contrast against the flesh tones. I’ll use true metallics, as with my previous busts, because I prefer them to NMM when I’m working in this scale. I want to give Akito a bit of a punky feel so I’m taking inspiration from the current fashion for bright multi-colored hair which will provide an ‘interesting’ painting challenge.

I’m sure my plans will evolve as the project progresses but, with my planning done, it was time to dive in and get painting. As is usual for me, I decided to start with the face. The flesh tones seemed to be the most logical starting point on this bust and, as the focal point of the piece, the face would set up the personality of the piece. I’ve said it before but if you can’t get the face right, it doesn’t matter how well the rest of the piece is painted it will all look ‘off’!

I wasn’t initially sure how to go about painting a youthful human flesh tone but quickly realized that my method of painting monster flesh would do the job. Starting off with a base of GW’s Rakrth Flesh I carefully built up glazed layers of my various flesh tones. Applying the color this way makes use of the translucent qualities of diluted acrylics. This helps to give the flesh tones a luminous quality and, hopefully, a life-like appearance.

I’m very happy with how things are going so far and I’m surprised at how much I’ve achieved (for me) in just one day’s painting. This project is proving to be exactly the challenge I needed and I’m feeling pretty excited about it’s potential!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Ironjaws Megaboss part 11- Blood and yet more blood!

In truth I’ve not added much extra blood to what was there before but I’ve reworked it to look a bit more bloody. I realised that I had botched my blood mix and used red ink instead of Tamiya clear red. I think the Tamiya makes a huge difference – it’s mixed with GW’s Bardab Black wash.

I also repainted the neck stump on the Dracoth to bring out the sculpted detail. I think it looks a lot more ‘meaty’ now and I’m very happy with the result.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Ironjaws Megaboss part 10

So I’ve got a Megaboss with what amounts to one base stuck onto another and a dirty great gap between them! Obviously I had to fill in the gap with a texture that would blend seamlessly into the existing base work. The problem is that the earth texture was made at the start of the project using garden soil and superglue. This gives an excellent result but there is no way I’d risk it on a painted mini. The fumes given off by superglue can cause white fogging on painted surfaces.

I decided to experiment with Games Workshop’s texture paints and I’m very glad I did! I invested in a few pots and tried out various combinations. In all cases I found that the results were excellent! Each type of paint behaved as promised and the final results were both stable and easy to paint onto. Best of all I could detect no signs of shrinkage, which meant I could use the texture paint to fill the gap.

I decided that Stirland Battlemire was the best option for my Megaboss and, sure enough, the final texture matches the pre-existing texture very well. Like other Games Workshop products, these are not the cheapest option available; but the ease of use and finished quality mean I’ll be making the texture paints a regular part of my basing kit. I’m impressed!

With the gap filled and the base now a seamless whole, I had just a few little touches to attend to. Although the scene calls for a certain amount of blood and gore, I’ve decided to keep it to the minimum. With all the severed heads it would not be inappropriate to produce a version of this model that was literally blood drenched, but that’s not what I want. For one thing, in my mind, the heads were not severed at this spot but brought here from elsewhere and have had most of the blood drained out of them on the battlefield. More importantly, I didn’t want an over-the-top gory feel to this piece as I think that would be distracting from the overall composition.

However, I did decide to add a little more blood hear and there. Not least to the Dracoth’s neck as the cut was just a little too clean.

With the Megaboss now done, except for a plinth, it’s time to put him away in the cabinet for a while. I always like to do this with a newly ‘finished’ mini as I’m far too close to the project to be able to view it objectively at this stage. In truth, I’m sick of the sight of the Megaboss at the moment but that’s a symptom of the ‘fatigue’ I’ve been feeling with this project and a little time away from it will do the world of good. But, I’m very glad I persevered and finished it!

So what is next?

The reveal of the finished Megaboss will have to wait for a while until he is mounted on a plinth. My immediate priority is the upcoming workshop in Copenhagen and I’m preparing a few bits and pieces in readyness for that.

However, my next painting project is also underway. I can guarantee that it is unlike anything I’ve ever painted before!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Ironjaws Megaboss part 9

It’s been a long time coming but the end of the project is finally in sight!

In order to finish the Megaboss I had to complete his base and that was quite a project in itself. As well as the severed dracoth head there were several skulls attached to the base, but they were not going to be the only such additions. I intended the base to be piled up with severed heads, using a mix of Orruk and human heads, as well as a couple of more skulls. This would give the base a look of a trophy mound with the combination of skulls, and more recently severed heads, telling a story of many victories over a period of time.

Painting the heads went very smoothly, although it was very fiddly work. The desaturated flesh tones I have used on the severed heads helps to convey the impression of death and prevent them from drawing too much focus from the Megaboss. For the same reason, I put a little more work into the dracoth head to darken and desaturate it.

Once the heads were painted, I glued them onto the base using PVA woodworking glue. This is an excellent adhesive for small lightweight parts that do not need to be held in place while the glue dries. It avoids the potential mess of epoxy glue, and the problems of fogging and positioning that can come with superglue. With PVA, parts can be nudged into place and any excess can be cleaned away with a clean damp paintbrush.

Then it was time to add a few sparse grass tufts and, after the addition of a little extra dirt effects, the Megaboss would be finished – or so I thought!

I’d been having those nagging doubts I sometimes get. This time I felt that something wasn’t quite right with the Megaboss but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what the problem was. It might just have been last minute jitters, as the project came together, but the feeling got stronger and stronger.

The answer came from sitting back and taking a good long look at the model. All the details were as good as I could make them but the overall impression lacked impact. Something was off with the positioning and composition of the Megaboss on his base!

He looked very awkward from certain angles and from others seemed to be about to topple backwards, right off the rear of the base. Cue panic, swiftly followed by black despair!

However, all was not lost! I could remember a similar situation with my Dark Eldar diorama. The solution, which came as they often do in the middle of the night, was the same as before. I would have to remodel the base.

This was not something I undertook lightly and it took several hours to psych myself up to it! If I got it wrong I’d be in a much worse position than before.

To begin with I used a pair of clippers to snip away the edges of the plastic base and some of the ‘soil’ from the lower edges. Next I took my Dremmel and sanded away the milliput from under the front edge of the base. This covered the entire model in a heavy layer of milliput dust that had to be meticulously cleaned off. It was, to say the least, a horrible job; but at least I could then move on and start reconstructing the base.

I took a new 60mm plastic base and filled the underside with milliput for weight and stability. Once this hardened I glued the old, trimmed down, base onto it. But I didn’t glue it down flat. Instead I inserted a wedge of cork between the old and new bases at the rear. This had the effect of raising up the back edge of the base and radically altering the relative angles of both the Megaboss and the ground. The gaps were then roughly filled in with green stuff.

The change has made a massive difference to the Megaboss and his base! The positioning and composition now feel right to me. But the biggest change is that the Megaboss now feels ‘alive’! His posture looks balanced and dynamic and this, together with the added height, has given the piece much greater impact.

Now I have to reapply and paint the soil effects but the end really is in sight … honest.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Ironjaws Megaboss part 8

I mentioned earlier on that I was going to add some freehand designs to the Megaboss’s armour. But did I really want to cover up my hard work on the painted textures? I decided to go for it but my plans for the freehands had to change.

I’d originally intended to paint designs inspired by Native American artworks. Once the Megaboss was near completion, I could see this was not going to work. The type of designs I intended to paint would be too lightweight to stand out on the chunky textured armour, as I’ve painted it. Also the Native American designs would not be anything like ‘Orky’ enough for this model. 

The solution was, as is often the case, staring me in the face. I would use the established GW iconography for the Orruks. The jagged lightning/flame designs painted on GW’s Orruks were perfect. These designs are often painted in yellow and black. As I was painting them in a less contrasting bone white on red, I had to make the designs a little bolder. This also helped them to stand out against the textures.

In addition to the jagged designs, I decided to add a skull design to the back of the mini. I felt something bold was needed to break up this large area of red armour. In addition, the colour on the freehands tones in with the large skull and balances out the overall colour palette. 

With the freehands done, it was time to paint the Megaboss’s base, and I was ready for the challenge. I expected it to take quite some time and effort, but I didn’t realise how much! The last couple of weeks have been a hard slog at the painting desk. I’ve had to curb my impatience in wanting to see the job finished as, in order to do it right, I have put the hours in. Added to that I’ve struggled to get the overall colour balance right. I’m suffering from Megaboss fatigue.

I really want to see the end of this project and to move on to something new. But I’m not going to do a rush job just for the sake of finishing it off. I’m very pleased with the work I’ve done on the Megaboss and I’m now going to give him the base he deserves!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Blasts from the Past

I’ve recently completed the seven day art challenge on Facebook. Each day, for seven days, I had to post three pictures of my work. I decided to have a strong focus on some of my older, and more obscure, projects as my recent work has had plenty of coverage.

I’ve been a little cautious about dwelling on the past but that’s not to say I don’t value my mini painting past. I strongly believe that to know where you are going you have to understand where you have come from.

In that spirit, I’ve decided to compile these pictures of my older work and post them here. All of the photographs are taken recently. The miniatures were painted between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. They include the minis I painted before the first Golden Demon painting competitions, my entries to the first four Golden Demons, from 1987 to 1990, and the miniatures I painted in the years after.

I’ve given dates and descriptions for the models that are as accurate as memory allows.

Games Workshop Early 1980s

Games Workshop Early 1980s

Death Giant
Grenadier Early1980s

Troll Champion in Classical Armour
Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1987 entry

Eldar Warrior
Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1988
Gold - Single Miniature

Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1988
Gold - Monster

Space Wolves Rhino
Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1989
Gold - 40k Vehicle

Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1989
Gold - Monster

Champion of Slaanesh vs Bloodletter
Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1989 entry

Nurgle Predator conversion
Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1990
Gold - 40k Vehicle & Slayer Sword

Eldar Death Jester
Games Workshop - Golden Demon 1990 entry

Champion of Nurgle
Games Workshop - 1990

Champion of Tzeentch conversion
Games Workshop - Early 1990s

Eldar Fire Dragon
Games Workshop - Early 1990s

Eldar Gaurdians
Games Workshop - Early 1990s

Games Workshop - Early 1990s

Eldar Warlock
Games Workshop - Early 1990s

Skaven Assasin
Games Workshop - Early 1990s

Silver Helm
Games Workshop - Mid 1990s

Wood Elf Champion
Games Workshop - Mid 1990s

Dragon Prince
Games Workshop - Mid 1990s

Swooping Hawk
Games Workshop - Mid 1990s

Ariel & Wardancers
Games Workshop - Late 1990s

Jain Zar
Games Workshop - Late 1990s

Dark Eldar Incubi
Games Workshop - Late 1990s