Saturday, November 16, 2013

Denizens of the swamp

Painted: Lizardmen

I've posted pics of these lizardmen before but I haven't done a proper post about them.

Lizardmen Miniatures

Here's where I say a few words about how I came to paint Grenadier AD&D lizardmen over the other choices out there. First off, Lizardmen have got plenty of love over the years. Grenadier did no less than four versions of them, and I've collected all of them. Ral partha did them at least times as well and I have one set of these, the Guthrie ones. Citadel did them for D&D in the preslotta days and I have some of those too. There are some in the Dungeon Dwellers range. Otherworld makes some particularly good ones sculpted by Paul Muller and hewing really close to the design in the original Monster Manual, and I was sorely tempted by them. And there are plenty of other choices as well.

Originally my mandate for the D&D project was to collect each monster once in a quantity large enough for an appropriately sized encounter group, but you can judge by how many groups of lizardmen I have that I pretty much failed in that regard. This is the real danger for me in collecting vintage figures. The figures are far cheaper individually but there are so many varieties out there it's easy to wind up collecting a lot more than you intended. It's also easy to make up excuses for buying more as your finger hovers over the bid button, such as these Dragon Lords Grenadier lizardmen can represent a different tribe. The Citadel ones can be adolescents. If the Citadel ones are adolescents, then the Partha ones can be... ok, I never figured out what to do with those. I can say the Lost Lands Grenadier Lizardmen produces were from the beginning earmarked for troglodytes, which are another can of worms I'll tackle later.

Anyway, the Grenadier ones I have to show today, the first ones to see paint, are part of the AD&D "Solid Gold Line" from about 1980. It's my opinion Andrew Chernak got his sculpting chops up to speed in the course of the AD&D range, with the figures held over from the earlier Wizzards & Warriors range being fairly crude and the later (I assume) blister packs having some really wonderfully done figures, notably the goblins, kobolds, xorn and adventurers. These lizardmen are somewhere in the middle and still exhibit naivete. The tails in particular are crudely done, looking like little more than a big sausage of putty with some spots pressed deeply into them. But they have good presence (and are really the 7" feet tall the MM says they are, unlike the puny Partha and Citadel ones) and a fantastic likeness to the Monster Manual illustration.

All told four lizardman sculpts were produced for the AD&D range and from these I produced the conversions you see in the group above. A sword-armed lizardman was sold in the (2010) Denizens of the Swamp set, an the Axe-armed lizardman was sold in the (104) Lizardmen blister, and a club-armed lizardman was sold in either of the above. The champion is from the (8002) Action Art : Monsters box set. I painted these in 2011 and there are at least two stragglers, still unpainted, that will hopefully round out the group to at least ten t some point in the future.

The spear-armed lizardman is converted from the club variant. The center figure is the axe-armed variant but the axe has been swapped for a club.

The left most figure is stock save the axe came pressed up against the body to meet the demands of one-piece casting, and had to be cut away to straighten it, and the gap detail sculpted back in. The center figure had it's sword replaced with a sturdier falchion. The right figure is stock.

The champion originally had a lance, which was swapped for a sword. The tongue and several front teeth have been resculpted as they were bit oversized in the original casting. You've got to love the Kermit the Frog style leaf fringe around the neck.

Showing the prodigious size of these creatures, fully the 7' specified in the Monster Manual


I think I painted these after the goblins, and when I did the goblins I realized originally I wanted some more garish colors on these and the goblins were done fairly realistically. So for these Lizardmen I painted them green full stop. Not brownish green or yellow green but 8-pack crayon green.

Actually, to be honest, no matter how badly I try to paint naively I really can't. For example knowing what I needed to get the particular effect I had in my mind's eye I started by mixing turquoise-green (Vallejo Jade Green) into the base green so they would have slightly bluish undertones. From there I definitely used a mix of a number of greens. I think there was some GW Orkhide shade in there. The middle layers had some GW Goblin Green and Scorpion Green and no doubt some P3 Necrotite Green, which is almost day-glow toxic and a little bit is a great way to get greens to pop. The lightest bits I add some khaki or some other dull, light neutral. I also glazed these with a little green ink and lots of matte medium to increase the depth of color. These were painted over dark gray Dupli-Color primer.

The back ridges might have started goblin green and gone up to GW scorpion green. Vallejo Jade green is a really cool turquoise I like for jewelry, and in this case I added some GW Ice blue for the highlights. Jade green mixed with dark green is also the base for the head ridges.

The browns are P3 Gun Corps Brown and Bootstrap Leather, which are similar and both really nice paints.

In terms of technique I use a lot of matte medium, the wet pallet and lots of transparent layers to build up from dark to light and generally intuit what is needed and add a little here and there to mix as I go.

Parting thoughts

One, in painting these I realized they clearly have shoulder pads and armor made from the hides of other lizardmen. I tried out several possible explanations on my GF one commute home and the one she selected was that they honor the dead that way, and have a principle of let-nothing-go-to-waste. I wonder if thought was given to a reason as they were sculpted, or if it was more or less arbitrary.

Two, I really like the way the figures look photographed against a plane background the way I usually show them. That said, there is a much greater potential for miniatures magic if you stage them in dioramas. While I don't have any interest at present in gluing figures down in dedicated dioramas I am really interested in taking some more artful staged shots of the figures in environments with atmospheric lighting, etc. If and when I get to it the first ones will probably be in standard dungeons and outdoor settings, but bringing the idea back around to lizardmen, one day I would love to make a set of swamp terrain and photograph the lizardmen and a whole slew of other denizens in their natural habitat.

As always, the D&D collection and the rest are on flickr.


  1. Those old minis are fantastic, I'm currently trying to figure out if I should go with the Otherworld Lizardmen, the Grenadier Iguanids & Carocs, or Anti-matter Games Ridgeback Lizardmen (can't recall who produced them before off the top of my head).

    The tails of these ones remind me of stuffed stocking full of newspaper used for Primary School plays.

    1. Thanks! I hadn't heard the terms Iguanids & Carocs used for Grenadier figures so I did a search and see these and other lizardmen are back in production at Mirliton.... nice to see! The "Iquanids" were originally the Lost Lands lizardmen and those are the ones I'm going to use as troglodytes as they're a pretty good match for the original illustration in the Monster Manual. I'm also a fan of the Ridgeback ones (formerly Dragonblood I believe). It might work to go with the Grenadier ones as your rank and file (though they themselves are fairly large) and have the Dragonblood ones be an elite special breed.

      Incidentally those Lost Lands lizardmen had several sculpts done in the mid-80s and then an additional box set and supporting backs done later, and those later ones used to be incredibly rare on ebay. I was signed up for alerts and am generally pretty good and finding things and it was five years before I saw them for sale once!

      I also see Mirliton brought the frog men back in production too. I've spent some time trying to figure out what to do for bullywugs in the past and haven't found a solution so far. Maybe those frog men are it.

  2. Really very beautiful work, as always. I love the greens, and the conversions you did look very natural. Important to add a few conversions, too, I think, as there are so few variations in some of these lines.

    1. Cheers, thanks! And yeah a pack or two of any given type was the norm, and is the norm again today. Not many companies had the wherewithal do what Citadel did, or what Otherworld and a few others have done for a few of their figure types.

  3. Amazing treatment on these minis, terrific job!

  4. Great to see a full post on these guys, very nice work. I love the coloring and shading you've done on them as it really brings out the detail on these classic figs.

    I've had several of these lizardmen since their release in the 80's and they have been one of my favorite grenadier monsters as they were so close to the Monster Manual illustrations. Since seeing your initial post on them, I just had to get more and paint/repaint a larger group of them. So after plenty of ebay scouring, the group has grown to 19 models, which should be plenty for most encounters and allow for various weapon conversions. Now if only I can fit them in the painting project line up at some point and get them to look half as good as yours.

    I haven't used matte medium before and will have to check the interwebs for info on using it, but in your application are you mixing it with your paints in your wet pallet for an "ink" effect? Using it by itself as a sort of glaze to blend colors?

    -Thanks, and looking forward to seeing the next classic miniatures to be belched from the depths.

    1. Like I said on LAF thanks for the reminder about these guys and glad you like 'em. I do have the matte medium as a blob on my wet palette and mix some into most mixes as I'm building colors dark to light for the purpose of more transparent layers and better consistency. Once the highlights done I often but not always go back and mix some matte medium, paint and or ink into a glaze to enrich the color, pull back on the highlights. I don't use in a "wash" or "ink" effect, which I don't do very often outside of metallic surfaces and is usually just water, paint and or ink for me. The matte medium has a thicker consistency so isn't well suited for that. Future No Wax floor polish is better if you want to make a more transparent wash as it's very smooth and thin.

    2. *Although Future is gloss so be sure to be prepared to dullcoat afterward