Monday, 4 June 2018

Behind these doors...

I'm back!
At last my enforced absence is over. As regular readers will know, my personal life has been somewhat chaotic of late and I've taken some time out to sort a lot of stuff out in the real world and to process stuff in my own head. I'm incredibly grateful of the help I've had from my family during this time. I hadn't realised what a strain thins had become until a lot of the weight had been lifted off me.
One of the more pressing physical issues I had was, with my dad going into a care home, was that I was going to lose my workshop (up until then located in the back of his garage.) The original plan for this eventuality had been to move into a shed, that had been bought for me a year and a half ago by my good friend Shiva, but I was worried that this wasn't going to be big enough so I began searching for alternatives.
As a few promising leads fell through it was increasingly becoming clear that adequate space was either not available or too expensive so the shed became my only option. If it meant some downsizing was in order, then so be it.
With the help of my brother David and nephew Michael (and some favourable weather), we got the shed built and fitted out and, after a brief but exciting adventure with expanding foam I was ready to move my stuff in. Now, I'm pretty good at making good use of small spaces but, with the floor area of the shed being roughly one third of my old workshop, I really did wonder if everything was going to fit.
I needn't have worried. With a few days of moving stuff, and a few more of shifting stuff around, and a few more still of final fineagling and fettling, it's all in! It's amazing what you can fit into 7'x6'...
It's snug but by no means cramped and everything is accessible, with plenty of space for me to work. And it's just at the bottom of the garden, so my penchant for working at odd times of the day are not going to be a problem.
I couldn't be happier but, again, I have to say how grateful I am to my family for helping me get this all set up.
So, here's the new home of Sublime Brushwork, in all it's aluminium glory...

She might not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid...

Magazines, books and boxes full of miniatures, the cursed hoard of any miniature painter...
The WIP shelves, both my own stuff and commissions I'm working on...
The desk, including homemade computer shelf! (I dun diy..!)
The obligatory workspace shot. The tidiest it will ever be...
So, there we are, I'm good to go and I can't wait to get back to work. You'll start seeing the fruits of my labours from what I am already referring to as The Hatcave (although I'm open to suggestions regarding the name...) pretty soon. 
Oh, and one final word of thanks to my wonderfully patient and understanding clients for putting up with my constant delays, particularly over the last few months. While I can't guarantee that I'm going to become Superpainter overnight, I'm really hoping (nay, confident) that my new situation is going to result in me being a better, more reliable and more efficient operator.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Road To Coventry...epilogue

So the dust has settled on another Warhammer Fest and, this year, I had to come away empty-handed. Still, lesson learned. Next year I will be better-prepared and (hoopefully) Real Life will be a bit more forgiving and I won't have to leave things to the last minute.
Looking at my work in the cold light of a new day, I'm not entirely displeased with what I did. It wasn't awful but it wasn't ready to be called finished, either. The gold needed tidying up, the silver on the loincloth wasn't finished properly, I needed more contrast on the armour to make the highlights pop a bit, the basing was an afterthought, the list goes on. The idea was a good one but I simply didn't have the time to finish it to the required standard. And what a standard! Hats off to those who won this year (and not just in my category) -the quality of work was exceptional across the competition. At my best, I'd have struggled to place. There's no doubt about it I'm going to have to up my game if I'm going to be able to compete going forward. There really is no room for half-measures.
So, heartfelt congratulations to the winners. I'm looking forward to seeing the official photos of the winning works, as there's really no chance to properly take them in at the event itself.
As for the rest of the event...Well, I'm sure others will have done much more detailed write-ups of what went on. I'd planned to take lots of photos and do a full report but that went out of the window as soon as I got there and did my usual trick of wandering around, aimlessly looking at whatever caught my attention, having the occasional pint of cider, and chatting to whomever I could.
It was great to catch up with a few people I hadn't chatted to for years, engage in real-life with people I'd only previously spoken to online (I finally got to meet Dave Taylor from Eavier Metal, who I've been working with, on their 20 Year painting competition, for years, but never met in person before) and get introduced to some completely new faces.
As far as new products goes, the impending new edition of Age of Sigmar looks very interesting indeed but, I have to admit, it's the new version of Adeptus Titanicus that has me foaming at the mouth ever so slightly. If I get my new playroom it's going to be pretty high on my "must-buy" list. Those new Titan models are bloody superb.
As usual, there wasn't enough time to see everything and everyone. I never did make it back to the gaming hall to look closer at the videogames, as I'd promised myself I would, and I missed out on picking up that looks-like-huge-fun Gretchin racing game that I wanted to go go back and pick up.
Maybe next year I'll go for the whole weekend...

Anyway, I'll sign off for now with some decent pictures of my Stormcast. As I said, lessons learnt.
Here's to next year! I'm now taking some time out to sort out my dad's stuff and try and get a new work space organised.

Oh yeah- one final thing.
I will be going back to Coventry next year. I may go for the whole weekend. What I am damn sure about is that we won't be staying at the bloody Brittania Royal Court Hotel (link included so you don't make the same mistake we did- you have been warned...) Horrible bed (which triggered my bad back), average food at best, catastrophic breakfast service and a postage-stamp-sized tv in the room that didn't work half the time. Oh and, in this day and age, having to pay for wi-fi (£7 per day PER DEVICE) is a f***ing joke. The only thing I could recommend about the place was the spa facilities. And you had to pay extra for those, too...

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Road To Coventry...part five

So it's done, and by the skin of my teeth.
Next time I swear I'm going to be better prepared.
Sorry I haven't posted any more WIP stages but I simply haven't had the time. It was touch and go as to whether I was going to finish in time anyway but here it is, done and ready to go. I'll get some better pictures of it as soon as I can, too.

So it's off to Coventry and Warhammer Fest we go and let's see what happens.
Am I happy with it?, of course not. All I can see are the bits that I'd re-do if only I had the time but, frankly, I'd probably do that even if I had another six months to finish it off. There's bits that don't look smooth to me, bits that look unfinished, extra bits I wanted to do but didn't...self-criticism is a never-ending path.
But, it'll do. It'll be a miracle if it does anything more than place in the finals but I said that last time and came home with a bronze trophy so you never know. What really matters is the taking part. I genuinely believe that. Going to the Fest, meeting great people, seeing cool stuff and taking part in the competition- it's impossible to overstate how much I'm looking forward to it. Someone on Facebook said, yesterday, that he feels like he used to as a little kid before Christmas. Yeah, I get that.
Plus, it's the first weekend away me and the better half have had since last year's Warhammer Fest, so there's that...

Oh, a final word for the organisers of Golden Demon, if any of them happen to be reading this:

Next year, could we possibly have a Masters Category miniature with a face? Painting the eyes, inside the eyesockets of the helmet, on the bugger was a real pain in the arse and I'd rather not have to do that again...

See y'all at Warhammer Fest on Sunday!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Road To Coventry...part four

Well, things have gone to hell in a handcart since my last post. My 86-year-old dad, who has been in and out of hospital for the last couple of years, finally (and rather abruptly) decided that he wanted to move into a care home. While this is very good news for him (and, without putting too fine a point on it, for me also) it has thrown things into turmoil over the last couple of weeks. Emails, phone calls, visits, care workers, looking round homes and a dozen other things have eaten into my time so much that I've had to call a halt to any commission work I have going on, and it's severely curtailed my free time that can be used on my Golden Demon entry. Basically it's going to be touch and go as to whether I get it finished in time. Thankfully, my brother has come over from the other end of the country to help with dad and lighten my load as much as possible, so there's light at the end of the tunnel...
Still, time's a-marching on.
Here's where I'm at now.

The armour is mostly done. I've applied the basic shading and highlighting. The highlights were very thinned Blue Horror, applied in multiple layers to build up the opacity and give it that sheen. The shade was a mix of various blue and red washes, mixed with a little black, again applied in thin layers to build up the depth of shade. I will finish off the deepest shadows and spot highlights once I have the model put together, so that I know where to place them.
So, there we are. The race is on to get this ready in time for next Saturday when we leave for the wilds of the Midlands.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The road to Coventry...part three

Okeydokeydoo, starting over.
This time, I've gone for a much thinned-down mix of Guass Blaster Green and Baharroth Blue as the base colour, stippled on randomly letting the white undercoat show through, and I'm much happier with the result.
A happy accident of the white undercoat not being 100% whiter-than-white has also allowed a little texture from the combination of white paint and grey plastic to show through, giving the whole thing a little more texture than originally planned. It doesn't really show in the photographs but you can see the subtleties in real life. I wish I could say that that's exactly as planned, but I have to be honest and say it wasn't! Still, these little occurrences are part of the painting process. Sometimes they work in your favour, sometimes not.

I've followed the basecoat up with a couple of passes of a thinned Guilliman Blue/Waywatcher Green mix to strengthen the colour, create more random patterns and to give a bit of shading to the armour. Overall it's a much more satisfactory result, and almost exactly how I'd envisioned it before painting.

Next comes the fun/horribly frustrating and time-consuming bit (delete as applicable, depending on how much you like really fiddly stuff.) I want to add a veining running all through the turquoise, so I've used a mix of the old Citadel black ink (the really opaque, nasty-tasting stuff in the transparent bolter-shell pots- Daler-Rowney do a good alternative in their FW range) and a bit of Mephiston Red. This is painted veeeewy cawefuwwy with a Citadel XS Artificier Layer brush*. The lower edges of these lines are then given a fine highlight of White Scar**.

It is a fiddly and time-consuming process but, after some hours all the armour is done. I then gave it a final glaze of REALLY thinned Guilliman Blue/Waywatcher Green to knock the white highlights back a bit and I'm calling the armour colours done. The next stage is to shade and highlight the armour to finish it off.

Finally, before I go on this entry, I've just one more picture to show. If I have time I'm going to enter another model into this year's competition in the Duel category. It's unlikely that I'll get it finished in time, so it may have to hold over into the rescheduled Age of Sigmar Open Day later in the year, but you never know...Anyway, here's a sneak preview... 😉 More soon!

* A note on brushes. I use (almost exclusively) Windsor & Newton Series 7 brushes sizes 2, 1, and 0, and occasionally a size 00 for really fine detail. I know there's all sorts of other brushes out there that everybody says are just as good and cheaper than those but I've never yet found anything that matches the Series 7s and certainly nothing that's convinced me to change. However, a while back I needed a really fine brush and couldn't wait for a new size 00 to arrive so I bought the GW brush and I have to say it's been excellent. I have a sneaking suspicion it may be a W&N S7 miniature 00 brush with a rebrand, as it seems very similar and I know that the old GW Artificier brushes were S7 rebrands...
**I use the Air version of the paint for fine highlights like this. Pre-thinned, how useful is that?

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Blastings From The Pastings...

That all-round good chap and pillar of the wargaming community, Art Steventon, has recently been posting some images of the superb Eldar army he's working on at the moment. This included some pictures of a conversion he did inspired by Geoff Taylor's artwork for the second edition 40k Eldar Codex and by the conversion that Mike McVey did, and I painted, for the 'Eavy Metal Converting Miniatures book waaay back in the mid-90's. His article can be found here.
As he only had a scan from that book to illustrate his idea I thought I'd take a few piccies of the original for him, especially as some of the details of the paintjob have never really been seen in public. While I was retrieved aforesaid Eldar from my cabinet I thought to myself, "Why not drag a few more of the old bits and bobs out for an airing?"
So, here's the Eldar. I painted a few of the models for the book at the time but, unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the book any more, so I can't say exactly which ones. I remember painting a Chaos Spawn, and a couple of other conversions that Mike did, but the old memories are hazy... I remember, with this one, really trying to match the details of the artwork as closely as I could. At the time, I was insanely proud of it but it doesn't really stand up to modern standards. One day I'll have another go and do a new conversion, like Art has done.

Here's the results of my random rummaging from my collection of miniatures painted during my time at GW in the 90's.
This Marauder Skeleton was always a favourite of mine from the range, with his mutated legs, and was to be the start of my Skeleton army, that I had assembled and ranked up on my desk, in the studio, ready to be painted...
This was, inevitably, the only one that ever got painted, and is the only one left from that army...
Next up is a Daemonette. I can't remember why I painted this one. It may have been for an alternative colour scheme for a Warhammer Armies: Chaos book but I'm not entirely sure. It may have just been me messing about with an alternate colour scheme for the hell of it...
Finally, we have a plastic Space Marine, of the Lamenters Chapter, from the second edition 40k boxed set, I believe. Now, I think this one may have been done to illustrate a different chapter colour scheme for the Ultramarines Codex but, again, I'm not 100% sure on that. What I do know is this was done specifically to find a better way of painting yellow, without actually using any yellow paint. I find it difficult to understand the nostalgia around the old paints from the late 80's, early 90's. They were often a nightmare to work with, with a lot of the colours have very poor coverage and strength of pigment. Red was one particularly bad colour, but yellow was worse. This Marine was painted by using Hobgoblin Orange, highlighted to white and then glazed with yellow ink (the inks of that time, known as the Expert Paint Set, being the only paints from that era that were really outstanding) then finished off with sepia ink in the deepest shadows. This is basically the method I use for painting yellow to this day, even with the far superior paints that are available now.
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. It's nice to trot these old models out into the limelight again and I'll dig some more out soon.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The road to Coventry...part two.

So, it's time to make a start. I'd decided what I wanted to do was to give the armour the look of real turquoise, with a bit of texture and patterning to it, and maybe a bit of marbling too. Kind of like what I did many years ago with this Dark Eldar...
So, with a mixture of stippling and sponging, using various combinations of Ahriman Blue, Baharroth Blue and Guass Blaster Green I had this:
Then I played about with some darker tones, using washes applied carefully with a sponge, leaving it looking like this:
I then painted on a couple of layers of matt varnish to smooth it over and left it a couple of days to dry. 

Looking at it fresh a couple of days later I decided it wasn't going the way I wanted it to at all. I really wanted to introduce some marbling to it and the overall effect was too dark for that. Unfortunately, I'd put the paint on quite thick to get the textured effect and this, coupled with the layers of varnish, meant that it was not possible to simply paint over it to lighten it up so I decided to strip it and start over. It's drastic, I know, but better that than spend ages trying to salvage it and maybe having to strip it in the end. 
All is not lost, though, as it give me the opportunity to provide...


It's something that comes up over and over again wherever there is discussion on miniature painting: "How do you strip the paint off your models?" and all sorts of solutions are usually put forward, from the everyday household chemicals (Dettol, Biostrip, Simple Green*) to the downright dangerous (brake fluid.) Personally, I've been using Dettol for years and it does the job well, but it's a pain in the arse to use, expensive (you can only really use it once) and it stinks. Recently, however, one of the attendees of my local painting group (hi Seb!)put me on to this stuff from Superdrug
And it's bloody brilliant. It does the job faster and better than Dettol. Simply soak the miniature in it for a couple of hours (or overnight if you prefer- it won't hurt the model), scrub with a toothbrush and rinse off with warm water. The active ingredient is isopropyl alcohol so look out for any where that is the main ingredient. Even better is this one:
from Poundland, as it's pure isopropyl alcohol but, being Poundland, I can't find the stuff in there on a regular basis.
Anyway, isopropyl alcohol is now my go-to stuff for stripping miniatures. It's clean, re-useable, relatively safe to use and it's cheap. I've no doubt that, if you have a friendly or local industrial chemical supplier, you could buy it by the bucketload even cheaper. And, if you want proof that it works, here's my Questor after soaking overnight and a two-minute scrub:
So, it's back to the start we go...