dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Painting Page 1 of 3

Spring Update: “Bits & Pieces of Everything”

While things do progress apace on the painting front, I have been a thoroughly lax chronicler of my activity… In addition, I’ve been recalled to the classroom for in-person kindergarten. I have to be grateful — my family remained healthy, employed, and educated. But, alas, my glorious anno hobbyoso has come an abrupt end.

For the past year, I managed to squeeze in an hour — and often twice that — of hobby time daily. I completed a number of “sets” of miniatures, along with odd bits of terrain. I began a Hirst Arts “ruined church” inspired by this one and resumed 3D printing — until the heat bed on my Monoprice Mini finally succumbed to a well-documented design flaw. I even built a battleship, based upon Bob Cordery’s directions.

I picked up the History of Wargaming Project reprint of Joseph Morschauser’s How to Play War Games in Miniature. I love his clear and engaging writing style, but was stung a bit by the lines:

It is up to you to decide which type and scale you prefer. Consider carefully all the advantages and disadvantages of each. Then, when you make your decision and start building up your collection, stick to your choice until you have two complete war game armies. If you start making changes mid-point in your program, you will end up with bits and pieces of everything, and nothing complete.

It is quite possible and perhaps desirable to own a number of different sets of armies, each of a different type, scale, and historical period. Many war gamers do. But collect them one at a time. Mid-point change is costly and wasteful.

Joseph Morschauser’s How to Play War Games in Miniature, p. 21.

The above heterogeneous mess represents a significant portion of my hobby labor over the past year. Some intention and persistence is evident; but also, alas, too much caprice.

The excellent Graham’s Wargames blog is entirely responsible for this flight of fancy. His “canal city” setup was just too, too tempting. The buildings are from TT Combat (I have some modern buildings of theirs) which is acquired through eBay. I’m planning a moire extensive “MDF Roundup” to review my purchases from various companies.

Here’s my Bob Cordery battleship, before painting. He built his by laminating many, many pieces of basswood. I took the measurements and attempted to cobble it together from scraps in the workshop. I’m going to make one or two adjustments on this one, and have another go to see if I can do it better.

The painted miniatures range from some 54s, a lot of 28s (mainly Reaper Bones, Super Dungeon Explore, and Zombicide), to the 1:700-ish ships from the Armada Starter Set. I did my Orc sails in dark blue rather than red (to make them look more raggedy) but I believe it was a poor decision.

I’ll put together a more thorough tour of this stuff in the near future.

Packing Away the Year

This one has been a mess for so many. I feel fortunate to have remained healthy, employed, and amongst family. I hope the new year brings better things to everyone.

Here is a good bit of my painting progress of late:

The Cthulhu Collection, Reaper Bones all.
A lovely suite of torturing stuff; also from Reaper.
Weird-lookin’ columns; Reaper.
Scatter terrain from Super Dungeon Explore.
This stuff sat primed for a LONG time!
Super Dungeon Explore kobolds and kobold-ogres.
I hate “mimic” monsters, but they make sense for SDE I guess.
I tried to go full “silly” by painting the handles to look like eyes.
Here’s the whole gang. People online describe them as “fun” to paint. I found this not to be so.
Another pair of poker players, from Monday Knight Productions, maybe? I shared the rest of the quartet awhile back.
Reaper Bones fantasy. Not bothered to straighten weapons, and ok with that …
Zombicide figures. These were kinda fun to paint.

Hobby Giving

Heretofore, hobbying has been a personal pursuit for me. The vast majority of my time is consumed by painting miniatures, building terrain, and questing for the perfect organizational system for same. Occasionally I get in a game.

This year, my heart apparently expanded like the Grinch’s, and I was possessed to offer some of my work as gifts. Someone’s post on The Miniatures Page (I believe it was) alerted me to the existence of minis representing the cast of a favorite TV program from my youth.

While painting them, musing that they would likely be for display only as I wouldn’t have much of a gaming use for them, I was thunderstruck. My elder son is also a M*A*S*H* fan, and might enjoy the novelty of possessing these as his first miniatures.

A bit of spray-paint and a sadly-rendered door, and I had a suitable “Swamp.” Owing to the fact that I already possessed all the pieces for this gift, it was completed by the Big Day.

Inquiries uncovered that my son’s girlfriend is a fan of a show with which I am, alas, unfamiliar.

Dashing to the web for research and commerce, I was able to locate their iconic vehicle in two scales (1:64 and 1:43). To my surprise, Hasslefree do passably recognizable versions of the stars as well. Ordered in November, they remain, purportedly, winging their way across the seas.

My younger son has invariably drawn sustenance from Scooby-Doo. As recently as last month, when he spent both Thanksgiving and his 20th birthday isolating with a (thankfully) mild case of COVID-19, he could be found curled up in bed watching the original TV show.

A simple visit to Wal-Mart provided appropriate “wheels,” and as fate had it, Hasslefree also do appropriate miniatures, in both “stock” and “post-apocalyptic” poses.

Once the package arrives, I’m not entirely sure what will be inside. Several characters were marked “out of stock” and others as “pre-orders.” They did take my money for what I attempted to order, so we shall see. This gift may have to continue on to next Christmas …

Wisdom of the Ages (WotA)

This purposely portentous category will be a catch-all for the occasional gleanings of guidance I run across on the web. I’ll begin with two nuggets of wisdom that have guided me for years, and one that may guide me in the future.

The first comes from a foundational text of my wargaming: viz: David Helber’s Major General Tremorden Rederring’s Colonial-era Wargames Page. Mr. Helber formed and continues to shape my aesthetic sense of how a properly laid-out wargames table should appear.

In miniature gaming, structures should be as small as they can be without looking ridiculous.

David Helber, Building Construction for Colonial Wargaming, Major General Tremorden Rederring’s Colonial-era Wargames Page
Template belongs to David Helber.

The Major General’s site is a treasure trove of inspiration and counsel. I have printed out most of the pages, gathering them in a binder for perusal. I’ve read that some gamers use buildings of one scale smaller than their figures. That makes sense, but to my eyes, seems too board-gamey. If you look at David’s structures, they look appropriate next to the troops, but you can fit more of them on your table. And, they’re easier to store. I’ve loved the mdf stuff I purchased from TT combat, but, good golly, those are immense.


The site that likely persuaded me to begin collecting 15mm (really 18mm) figures, lo those many years ago, was Bryan Brooks’ DyeHard’s Victorian & Edwardian Science Fiction page. In addition to his Helber-like tutorials and guidance, Brooks freed me from the shackles of “dead matte” miniatures. No matter the make of spray varnish I used — including the venerable Dullcote — my figures always retained a bit of a shine.

Bryan used the stain method of dipping, rather than my Chick Lewis Future Wash, but the final appearance is similar.

I was very skeptical about this dipping method at first, but now I love the effect. I have even grown to love the candy coat shine over time. I use to be a dead flat paint kind a guy, and one could go back a spray on a layer of Dull-Coat to reduce the gloss effect. After mounting the figures on bases and adding some grass flock, I do give them a quick spray to cut the shine just a little. Beyond the shading effect, the dip also will provide a very strong protective coat over your paint job.

Picture belongs to Bryan Brooks

Here you can see how the technique brings out the details like buttons and metals on a figure, while adding shading to folds in the uniform. Also, despite the focus, you can see the contrast of the dead matte paint of [the] side of the landship and the gloss of the figure. To my eyes, it makes the figure look more animated. [Emphasis added]

Bryan ” Dyehard” Brooks, The Dip Method of Shading, 15mm VSF

And I just have to agree with Mr. Brooks. The slight glow evinces each miniature’s élan vital — the spark of life.


Today’s final bit of philosophy was shared recently by a miniature painter whose work I admire: Chris Palmer of All Bones About It. Chris has been intrepid in his endeavor to paint all the figures in the Reaper Bones I Kickstarter, and subsequent editions as well. He’s been unfailingly generous in sharing details of his process, decisions, and techniques. I only began painting eyes following his tutorial.

Lately he mused after completing some unsatisfying gnomes:

Well, there they are.  They turned out okay, but my heart wasn’t in them.  I have decided life’s too short for me to paint stuff I really don’t like, so the remainder of the set, is going in my sale/trade box. 

Chris Palmer, All Bones About It, Monday, September 21, 2020

This one remains more of an aspiration than a practice for me. I have 1 gazillion unpainted metal and plastic miniatures, including most of ALL OF THE Bones kickstarters … [sigh]. I’ve painted more than ever while working from home during the pandemic. Some miniatures I like, some I grow to like while painting them. Some I don’t like at all, but I soldier through … The lesson of my Warhammer boxed set keeps me from giving them all away, though — it took me 15+ years to realize I did like those figures. And, it doesn’t cost me anything to store them.

Good to Know

Gadding about the internet, as one does, he daily encounters innumerable morsels of guidance and advice. Some are retained for later use; others flutter harmlessly through the void betwixt the ears.

My first-ever purchased 54mm figures from Armies in Plastic were Zulu War artillery (who, as I know check, are apparently no longer available from AIP [!]). I acquired them during my Square Pegs phase, in order to have a model for scratch-building a 6-pounder and Gatling gun. I’ll also note these fellows annoy me to no end due to their state of inexcusable deshabille. Even in the heat of Southern Africa, I firmly believe that no proper toy soldier should be seen sans tunic!

Anyhoo, when I spray varnished them, owing to some hopefully-unreproducible atmospheric vagary, they got a slight whitish “frosting.” Because they were so unloved, I decided to decide that the frost was dust and left them as such. (Note, I also slopped a bit when drybrushing of the base color on his left trouser leg hem. That, too, I elected to ignore).

While scanning the Miniature Page one day awhile back, someone asked for guidance with a similar varnish mishap. I regularly use Krylon Fusion grey primer, which I will attest is so good it almost jumps out the can onto miniatures without my help. I have gotten spoiled and thus a bit lazy about shaking the can — it’s that good.

Kyylon Matte finish is less amenable, however. It never seems to be very flat / matte, which usually doesn’t bother me overmuch as I like a lively, toy-soldiery look. The chap on the miniatures page asserted that one had to shake the can of spray finish for an inordinately long time in order for it to have the desired effect. When someone bemoaned a “frosting” such as my troops had, another chap remarked that he solved the problem by spraying them again with varnish!

Now, doing the same thing that caused a problem to resolve it seemed counter-intuitive to me, but I apparently filed it away. I did immediately begin shaking the can of varnish for a full minute beforehand, and periodically throughout the spraying, and my figures these days have been a bit “flatter.”

A month or so later, I decided to see what could be done with the artillerymen. I gave one a well-shaken spritz, resulting in the expected wet gloss. When it had dried, however, the frosting was gone! [The lighting in the picture is bad, and his hem is still stained, but the frost has vanished).

Thus, another hobbying trick for the bag. I hope that taking more care along the way won’t necessitate its use. But, should I frost them again, I know what to do.

Sweet Jane

Here’s a roundup of some recent completions. First up is what I consider to be one of those silly Reaper fantasy figures that I will likely never use. A bard, I presume, whose “axe” is every bit a modern-day guitar, with a bunch of extra bass strings you could probably pick out were I a better painter. ‘Tis a better picture of the Stutz from my last post, though.

“Ridin’ in a Stutz Bearcat, Jim,
Those were different times…”

Next we have some sort of steampunky-chronomancer type fellow wearing a big Power Hand and goggles. Again, seems a bit silly. I did stick the steely-eyed gaze.

Two final Reapers for this post— tough lasses. I gave the witch really big yellow eyes, which make her otherworldly. Other painted examples of her online did the dress more elaborately, so I guess I took the easy way out on this one.

A fine pair.

On to a bit of history. Three fellows from Foundry’s Darkest Africa collection. I’m going to put the whole band together for my next post.

An Old Glory pirate captain, poorly lit.

Avast! This light is horrible!

And at long last, my Thos. Foss largess is complete. Two 10mm cardstock horse and wagons and one 54mm 18th Century chap. It seems the Skull & Crown store is up and running again. Alas, the comrades for this fellow or Queen Victoria’s Robot Wars remain elusive …

Ascaria

Part I: Ascodal

I mentioned in my last post the bags of random figures I received in my Christmas Haul from Armies in Plastic. Amongst them were a smattering of Napoleonics, an era which has never, for some reason, “grabbed” me. Serendipity struck me when Mark, the Man of Tin’s recently mentioned Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town. I had already picked up the Oxford World Classics collection of the Brontës’ juvenilia on his recommendation, which I have been dipping in and out of.

Some of the Random Fellows

As I was unlikely to ever take up Napoleonics in a serious way, and as the Brontë’s Imagi-nation was rooted in that era, I decided that these Random Fellows should be drafted to serve in the army of a new, imaginary land.

The Uniform

I began my Imagi-nation, as one does, with the uniform. Picking through the pile of figures, I located about 10 who wore a pleasing uniform. But what color to paint them?

I paged through the section on Napoleonic uniforms in Battledress for inspiration, but found myself stupefied by the multiplicity. I have no idea how these people would have known who was on the same team! I decided instead to use a color combination I keep returning to — crimson and cream.

A brace of biplanes

Years ago, I built a couple of clothespin biplanes, using plans purchased from Mr. Kenneth Van Pelt at The Penny Whistle. In looking for a color scheme for my Albatross D.V, I must have come across a picture of the that flown by Manfred von Richthofen. I loved the crimson and cream combo, though mine seems a bit more maroon. Anyhoo, I’ve used that color pairing on several miniatures I’ve painted recently.

The midnight blue shako and facings is the color I use for my Prussians’ dunkelblau. The light blue plume was an extra flourish.

The Flag

Next order of business: a flag. As I frequently hurl myself into the “letting perfect be the enemy of the good” trap, I decided to preclude agonizing by using online random generators. I’ve looked at Scrontch’s Flag Designer before, but I wanted more control over the colors. Then I discovered Tennessine. I found a flag I liked (The “Flag of Maydrine by Ken”) and subbed in the colors from my uniforms. Looked good.

Just before downloading your creation, one has a choice of several filters. I was intrigued by “Negative,” clicked on it, and thus my flag was born. It’s quite similar to the flag of the Dominican Republic, where I lived for a year when my wife-to-be was in the Peace Corps. Thomas Foss has one like it with a bee for one of his Imagi-nations. I find it quite striking. I may also use the original flag for regimental colors.

I recalled that in the 19th century, “command” often wore different uniforms from rank-and-file troops. I had also been free-associating some adjectives for this new land — “effete, fragile, exclusive, polished.” Returning to the pile of random figures, I located a few more with an older looking uniform, all epaulettes and tailed coats.

This standard-bearer began life as a chap reloading his musket. He is my first-ever 54mm conversion. I trimmed away the weapon, drilled out the hands, and inserted a wire flagpole.

And here’s the commanding officer, a medal pinned to his tailed coat — perfection! The full set of these chaps include a drummer, so my unit will one day field a musician.

The Royal Æwon Regiment, 4th Regiment of Foot

The Name

Continuing to rely upon the random, I somehow stumbled upon a new generator for the names. Emily’s Fantasy Names Generators — particularly the Country/Nation Names generator — came to my rescue. I clicked and clicked, scribbling the names that struck my fancy.

The land would be called Ascodal, with Eighvale as the capitol. Cities of note include Barnsley, Ashbourne, Ely, Pitmerden, Seameet, Redwater, Three Streams, Iyera, Liofen, Iustrul, Estana, Agrya, Æwon (I believe some or all of these came from a different generator — the site has myriad).

Doodling in my journal, I realized that, of course, the Ascodali would employ the “long s” for formal writing. I can’t at this moment find a font that produces the descending s I imagine, but I’ve learned a bit about unicode, so I can settle for a “printers” version: A?codal.

I’ve started writing a bit of the history. We have a queen — Elspeth — and her only son, Prince Leander. Sticking with the Brontëan inspiration, I believe there will be a Gothic romance vibe amongst the battles.

Next time — Part II: ℨафрария.

A bit of a jag

Even before the recent “sheltering in place,” I seem to have gone on a bit of a painting jag — the term is, apparently, an Americanism: “a bout of unrestrained activity or emotion, especially drinking, crying, or laughing.” There is no rhyme or reason, just a gentle swirl through the unpainted masses. In the spirit of sharing, we have:

This fellow was a gift from him creator, Thomas Foss. I’ve noticed that his Skull and Crown web store is unavailable; hopefully indicative of a big relaunch. I’ve been hoping more of these fellows to become available.

Let us stay with the big boys. These are the first five Franco-Prussian War Prussians. They are to serve as stock villains for my Isla Victoria VSF setting.

Next up, my current “new shiny object.” When I acquired my Vintage Christmas Haul of Armies in Plastic 54s, one benefit of buying in bulk (in addition to free shipping) was the extra bags of random miniatures. I had long thought that I would press some of these lads into service in an Imagi-Nation. That plan has been set into motion.

Picked from the fellows in the bags plus an additional bag of random AIP Napoleonics I purchased, I have the first unit of Ascodali infantry. I’ll do a subsequent post on what I’m dreaming up.

Now we’ll move on to smaller souls. I’ll note at the outset that my painting style (block colors with a wash) and my not-so-matte sealer make the minis appear a bit blotchy here on the silver screen. They look better— to my eyes, at least — in person.

Here are four adventurous ladies from Wargames Foundry’s Darkest Africa collection. I accidentally captured an appropriate mania in the missionary lass at left.

I tried to create a little vignette for this lone, piratical captive. (Old Glory). Would have been better if I put a little ship in the background, I suppose.

 

Here is a pulp-era Dame or Gun Moll, I suppose, looking quite blotchy. This was my second attempt at sheer fabric (her stockings) which look terrible in the photo and not much better in the flesh [sigh].

When I began painting this chap years ago, I didn’t understand who he was supposed to be. As often, it was likely Maestro Chris Palmer who informed me Reaper intends him to be “a hougan.” I’ve since become better acquainted with the Reaper Figure Finder for positive IDs.

Last historical stop, the Old West. A couple of entrepreneurs in dispute with a cow herder. No doubt, just a misunderstanding. (Foundry Old West figures).

On to the world of fantasy. The leader of my orc army along with a chariot, as yet un-crewed.

Some villagers (Reaper Bones) …

… and an elf, maybe? As I got into the color scheme, I imagined her as a fantasy Bridezilla. Perhaps adventurers will interrupt her nuptials and invoke her wrath …

This one is meant to be a paladin, I think. With my color choices, I asked: what would happen if the god she followed wasn’t obsessed with purity evinced by chastity? Hence, a “Hot Paladin.”

I don’t know if GW does any female dwarf characters at all. I imagined this young lady as a “Slayer-in-training.” Hence, not yet nude (a shirt skirt and training bra-type-thing you can’t see here) and just a bit of the orange dye in her hair.

This fellow has a silly, Peter Mullen-ish over the topness that appeals to me. I tried — and failed — to paint mystical swirlings on the crystal ball. Looks like a bad globe [sign, again].

The final two were “hate painting,” really, just to get them out of the queue. I recall that Chris Palmer didn’t like this lass when he painted her, either. She’s clearly running away from something — something BIG as she seems to be looking backwards and upwards. I’m hoping it’s whoever sold her that outfit …

Finally, Reaper’s “Mr. Bones.” I don’t get what this guy even is. Skull face, which Chris Palmer refers to as “a mask,” which, I guess, it is, as he has regular hands and feet. Who is he? What is he doing? WTF? I have the next-year’s-model on the desk now. At least he has boney hands and feet as well.

More GW Goblin Goodness … and a Guest

Fairly recent eBay sleuthing resulted in two pertinent finds, which I instantly acquired:

This Goblin Regiment was new, still in shrink-wrap, at a somewhat reasonable price.

Some may cry
A trio of Forest Goblins

The flanking fellows are — now that I think of it —my first, and so far only, metal GW minis. They were billed as Forest Goblin Standard Bearers. Anyhow, goofy and fun to paint. I imagine that my forest goblins catch and dismember colorful toucan-type birds, hence the brightly colored feathers.

The fellow in the middle comes from Shieldwolf Miniatures. I picked up a couple boxes of infantry (enough to make 50 goblins), a hero, master archer, and a master spearman. I’m looking to raise small armies of each goblin faction that I might hold a Gob Off, per the Hoodling’s Hole.

Random Progress

Rather than working steadily towards an attainable goal, I seem to pick up miniatures to paint as they strike my fancy. Those in the “done” box this weekend include:

Four of the 6 chibi adventurers from one of my many Reaper Bones kickstarters. Two more to go, then the entirety of the Super Dungeon Explore game I bought years ago…

A Reaper Bones rat ogre, who, along with my Mordheim skaven, comprise my nascent Skaven army.

And, finally, a potpourri of 28mms. Left to right, a Foundry Darkest Africa explorer, a Reaper jock, a Funky Skull street warrior, and a Reaper Bones ghoul (I would imagine).

My Krylon matte sealer is definitely a bit shiny, which messes with all my photos.

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