Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hill Giant #2 (scratch-build)

How do you like my new hill giant?

Scratch-built Hill Giant

Scratch-built Hill Giant

I sculpted him over a Reaper Bones ogre. I got it to test the material and I have to say I was less than impressed. I have a bunch of prepaints I've collected over the years mainly to use for parts, and they tend to be much sturdier and with a material that takes paint a better. From sturdiest to most bendy the progression goes Pathfinder > Heroclix > D&D prepaints > Reaper Bones (though I only have 1 pathfinder figure to go by). You could easily put one finger on the base of this ogre and holding it thusly against a surface you could press his head down to touch it's forehead to the surface using very little pressure.

I also didn't care for the figure very much. The proportions in particular were egregiously wonky. But I noticed it was roughly the same size as the Otherworld hill giant, for whom I had wanted to make a partner in crime, so I wound up doing this to it:

That's concrete patch. If you know me, you know I like concrete patch, so much so I even sculpt with it. I find it pretty handy to quickly bulk out mass areas with. I would be hesitant to use it on figures that would be vulcanized during a molding process but for one-offs, it's great. It sticks like glue to most surfaces and dries rock hard. No kneeding, mixing or baking, and if you have bucket of it for terrain purposes using in minute amounts like this is essentially free.

Hill Giant Scratch Build WIP Hill Giant Scratch Build WIP Hill Giant Scratch Build WIP

I decided against the comb-over in the end. I can't say I really recommend this approach I took. It's a lot of work and had I just gone the extra mile and did the hands and feet, etc, I might have something worth casting. I'm pretty happy with it, though. And I have to say, although Paul Muller's giant is awesome and I have a very long way to go to get to that level, there's one bit, the fur, where I can say I like mine quite a bit better.

I took the idea for the armor plates from the following illustration by Gustaf Tenggren. Making whole sculpts after these giants would be a lot of fun!

I also wasn't entirely satisfied with the paint job on the first giant so I reworked it. Here's the final version of him along with a group shot.

Otherworld Hill Giant

Hill Giants

You'll notice I didn't go all out on the second one with the baked-in-the-sun skin tones. A bit of that is laziness but it's also that the Bones surface just doesn't take paint right. It's just not a good experience painting it, and I had a strong sense it wasn't up to taking glazes, and that it would risk making a mess. It marks them a bit apart from each other, but oh well, overall I'm pretty happy.

There's also no way it's going to bend any more. It's got an inch or so of tire wire going up through either leg. Which I guess would be a potential solution to other Bones figures that may be giving you trouble. Cut them apart and glue back together with tire wire.

By the way, being how I am I've decided that I'm not satisfied with this being my only take on hill giants. For example I have a Dungeon Dwellers one here cleaned up and ready for priming. And a bunch of giants elsewhere.

a quickr pickr post

There are more shots of these on flickr.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Miniatures to prime when the weather turns warm

Miniatures to prime when the weather turns warm

The weather is too cold to prime these days and the minis in need of priming have been piling up. Amongst these are hobgoblin reinforcements, hellhouds, saracens, undead, harpies, giants, adventurers, and various beasts and monsters. Honestly cleaning, fixing and restoring figures is not my favorite part of the hobby. Much of these have been languishing in various "on the workbench" trays. In some cases as I was sorting through them I had the thought, why did I choose to start on this particular miniature out of the thousands unstarted? Most of these I look forward to painting, however, especially the harpies, hobgoblins and that big giant.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant

Today I get to show you one of my favorite miniatures from my collection.

Scratch-bult Sword for Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant
Scratch-bult Sword for Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant
Scratch-bult Sword for Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant

Manufacturer: Heritage USA
Line: Dungeon Dwellers
Figure: 1231 Fire Giant
Release date: 1979
Date painted: 2014

The Dungeon Dwellers line has a special place in the history of D&D, and lately I've been adding a few figures here and there to my Dungeon Dwellers collection (which is respectable at this point but far from comprehensive). While we Dungeon Dwellers fans can admit the figures that make up the line tend toward the crude or primitive end of the miniatures spectrum, this figure is an unqualified success and a real gem in the line as far as I'm concerned and rivaled only by the Asmodeus and Orcus figures. Here the art brut sculpting style works to advantage, giving the figure a savage, menacing presence. Like those two the fire giant captures the essence of the creature described in the monster manual as well as the factual details. However, the expression and dynamic pose of the fire giant lend it more power than the other two. The expression on this figure is fantastic. The angry, googly eyes, the gritted teeth, the fiery beard, all of it. Honestly it's one of my all-time favorite D&D figures in my collection and amongst fire giant miniatures I think it perhaps second only to that by Paul Muller for Otherworld (got it and will get to it eventually). It's been a few years now over which I have gotten him out every now and then and looked forward to doing him justice with paint.

I should say somewhere, this being as good a place as any, that this a considerable chunk of lead. Hailing from an era where sculptors would skimp on giants this is fully up to Monster Manual spec in terms of dimensions, and is one of few fire giants from the original years of D&D figures whose sculptor took to heart the part about them being "very broad (about 6' at the shoulders), looking almost like dwarves."

Does anyone know who sculpted it, BTW?

I got it for literally two bucks at a flea market a few years back, though it was missing the sword and the I'd say I invested about what a complete one is worth in energy fabricating a new one from brass sheet and brown/green stuff. Later I saw a complete, pristine-looking one for $22 buy it now on Ebay and had to fight the impulse to pick up a spare. I regret a bit now that I didn't get it but hopefully it found a good home. The sword is carefully based on actual measurements I took from a photograph of a complete figure, though mine turned out a millimeter longer and a bit wider. It's also of uniform width where the original is narrower at the base and it flanges at he point, and the decoration is a bit different.

Scratch-bult Sword for Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant

If you compare the unpainted above with the painted below you'll also see I added gauntlets between the times the pictures were taken. The figure is so cool I wanted to keep it as original as possible, but on the other hand this guy doesn't look like a fool, and it'd be foolish to be armored up like that and leave your hands exposed right at the level where humans tend to stab and slash. The style of the figure is obviously fairly stylized, abstract, cartoon-like, what have you, and I wanted to find a way to abstract the gauntlet concept, but I just couldn't figure out how to do it and wound up sculpting each overlapping plate distinctly. Something of a chore (for a one-off) as I believe there are six plates per finger plus several more to cover the hand.

There was also what looked like an empty socket in the knife hilt so I dropped in another gem.

In the pics above you can spot how I polished it with a brass brush in the dremel to make the armor smooth. The original surface was a little rough and would have dulled the effect of any metallic paint applied over it.

And here it is painted.

Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant
Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant
Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant (detail)
Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant
Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant
Dungeon Dwellers Fire Giant

Obviously, when it comes to painting, the focal point is the face set off by the beard, and these need to be just right. The beard has to be a burst of flame around the ebony face, with smoldering red eyes. After a red basecoat on the beard I undercoated most it with dozens of coats of white to get it has white as humanly possible, then many coats bringing it up to yellow, and then alternating glazes and highlights until it was as bright as I thought I could get it. Same with the eyes.

The face, meanwhile has no highlights at all. It's pure black. Many painters feel they need to highlight black the way they do other colors, and especially on creatures that are to have black flesh, like fire giants and drow, the painted result is usually gray, purple or blue. But that's not how black flesh works. Flesh has small, specular highlights that are only readily apparent under certain conditions. Meanwhile, I'm in control of the actual reflectiveness of the surface of the miniature through the use of varnishes, and I trusted that when I was done the flesh would produce it's own natural highlights.

I couldn't be happier with the results and am glad I fought down the urge to highlight. This was a nice trial run in the lead up to an encounter group of drow, which whose flesh I'll also leave pure black. Generally speaking I think painters should consider how glossy or matt the surface represented on the particular thing being painted and vary their highlighting scheme accordingly. As for the varnishes on this one, after the standard coats of "matte" Rust-oleum Ultra Cover clear (actually satin) and Testors Dullcoat I went back to brush the gems with Testors gloss-coat. I was being conservative and thinned the gloss a little, and the result was a bit more conservative than I was aiming for, even after ~ten coats, but eventually I built up a pretty good lustre. Next time I might try it full strength.

A brief word on the gemstones. They are done in the style Mike McVey popularized in the nineties and which has become the standard, but I try never to lose sight of the fact I'm representing an actual object, and I always use reference. The tendency with gem stones is to push the contrast, so you have black at the top fading through red to white at the bottom. But this gives you an effect that looks like glass, rather than a gem, and honestly if you successfully sell it as glass it looks cheap, rather than like treasure. The ones I did have less contrast and have speckled gold at the bottom of the gem and result is something that glitters and shines but is not transparent. It's not a cut, clear stone like a ruby.

Next up here are three true giant types I've covered so far, frost, fire and hill. I've also done a verbeeg, which is a slightly lesser giant, but I'm aiming first to cover the major types in the Monster Manual before I start including the lesser types in the family photos. BTW I have the Paul Muller Otherworld stone giant about 90% done, which is also one of my favorite D&D figures of all (and hands down the best D&D stone giant full stop). The other two have been shown before, but I reworked the hill giant since I put him up.

Giants Group Shot

As always, the collection can be viewed in its entirety at flickr.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Crooked Claw Goblins WIP

It's been awhile so to tide you over until a proper post here are some Oldhammer goblins I'm painting at the moment. Kev Adams sculpts available from Crooked Claw. Picked up the whole range to date awhile back and am really glad I did—huge variety, beautiful sculpts and beautiful castings!

Edit: Oh, and I was reminded in the comments I wanted to say about the painting: I often I paint straight dark to light over black primer but here I brush painted a white undercoat over the skin first and did the classic goblin green, ink wash and then my normal highlight procedure. I made up a custom batch of very yellow-green highlight for the purpose as it's a color not like any of seen in a range. Sounds fiddly but I wanted to see if I could get extra pop, and it's actually less work overall than what I was doing... going through many intermediate shades. Also less work than "zenithal" airbrush, which less chance of overs-praying the chainmail. Simple, old school stuff I guess.

Speaking of which, I can clearly remember in an old Citadel painting guide the black prime then white over the flesh being demonstrated on a Marauder dwarf iron breaker. And now some of you are recalling it too I bet. ;)

As always, the collection can be viewed in its entirety at flickr.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kublacon 2014

Last minute, but by any chance are you gonna be at Kublacon this year? Let's meet and say hey. Drop me a line, my handle at Yahoo. While not smart phone equipped, should have a few opportunities to check mail. See also:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Grenadier AD&D "Solid Gold" Line Box Art and Insert Scans Part II

New scans by m4jumbo

In Part I I put out a call for anyone with other Grenadier box sets they'd be willing to scan, and m4jumbo of LAF and elsewhere stepped up and contributed the following, and was kind enough to let me add them to the archive I started on Flickr. I'm pretty excited to show these and very grateful.

Here also is the AD&D Action Art Painting Guide that went with the 8001 set above in a few flavors of PDF for you to choose from. The clean print and reader copies have the contrasts boosted and the color removed, and the only difference between the two is that in the reader copy a sideways-oriented chart has been rotated so you can read it on your screen. The archive copy has the scan contrast and colors preserved. All copies have OCR.

Per usual you can also see these on flickr

And anyone got any of the others? We're doing pretty well here and it would be great to edge toward a full set!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grenadier AD&D "Solid Gold" Line Box Art and Insert Scans

For posterity and the good of the community I scanned my Grenadier AD&D box sets and inserts. Art by Ray Rubin and figures by Andrew Chernak.

I also made some cropped shots of a view of these sans lettering in case they prove useful.

These are on flickr where you can download high res copies (trickier now since the latest flickr facelift but still possible, don't give up!).

If you have other sets, would you consider scanning them at 300dpi or above as well and would you let me know if you do? I don't need a full collection of figures but I'd love to have a full collection of decent pics. And if you don't want to go to the trouble to host them I'd love to put them on Flickr and credit you in whatever way you want.

I also contributed these where appropriate to the Lost Minis Wiki, which has mostly fairly poor copies of the box art so far:

Finally, I'd love to hear what you think of these! For me they rank high among the reasons I started an American style 25mm fantasy collection in the first place and my sense of nostalgia viewing these is pure and strong. I love the graphic design, the painting technique and the degree of unintentional camp. The magic user explorer is a classic, the demon's fur pants are out of control, the female thief third from right is expressing what is hands down the height of fashion in my campaign world, and seeing the renditions of the lizardman and shambling mound make me wish Rubin had had the chance to put his hand to every monster in the books.