Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Michael's Models - World Aids Day

You may ask what aids has to do with painting and mucking about with little men. For most people, it has zero connection. However, in my case, it has a massive part of how my hobby and personal landscape was formed. My Mum was and still is a community nurse (correction, community matron and a very good one at that!) and she was one of the first people in our old area to look after a patient that was dying of aids. At that point, there was a lot of stigma around the disease and the work my Mum did went a long way into structuring the process of palliative care people suffering from aids received. The guy she cared for was in his early 30s, and was named Michael; apart from a story about how he and his partner showed my Mum with beer one Christmas as a surprise, I sadly know little more about him. I imagine my Mum spoke to him about my hobby of painting little men at the time because he did the same thing. Micheal had a large collection of mostly Mithril Lord of the Rings miniatures, but with a selection of Grenadier, Prince August and Citadel figures too. They were all painted in a neat, matte style and some with carefully colour-coded bases. These, alongside a hardback copy of Lord of the Rings were gifted by him to me as the disease robbed him of his sight.

Every tray of this case is filled, in some cases, with more than one model per slot.

Small example of the Mithril LOTR range. Bonus Ring-Wraith lurking in the back!

Nasty little Hobbitses. Love the little dioramas that Mithril do - the Gollum and Bilbo one on the right of this is awesome.

I imagine that for someone so talented with a brush, to loose his vision must have been unbearable. Sadly, I don't think I appreciated this fact at the time. For a narrow-minded kid of 11 whose only example of fantasy miniatures were in the Citadel style, I didn't know quite what to do with them. There was also a horrid shadow of schoolyard homophobia that lurked over me at that age. Being a skinny see-through white kid who was no good at sports meant I over compensated somewhat in the pre-pubescent big-mouth masculinity stakes. Thank the gods skateboarding was to come and save me from team sport mentality only a few years later. Of course I was grateful to receive all these models alongside a book that would shape my taste in fantasy literature for life, but the enormity of this gift didn't strike home for a long time afterward. At that point in time, the gift as well as the context in which it was received just didn't fit my soft-eggshell world. However, their arrival in my life was the nudge I needed to reconsider many previously held thoughts and beleifs.

Most of the Citadel figures - those Dwarf adventurers are sick, although my addition of  the painted eyes leaves a little to be desired.

Mithril Orcs - Stoked on the mixture of Mordor and Isenguard guys here! The diorama is proper grim too!

A selection of the Prince August sculpts - these are really nice models.

Thankfully, I had sense enough to store these models in the best way I could at the time. I took a long break from any kind of painting from the age of 13 and Michael's collection was stored in the attic along with my other models. When I returned to the hobby (being slightly older and wiser and with multiple readings of LOTR under my belt) I knew I had to make sure these figures were stored safely. They now all belong together in a hard case, but sadly many of them were damaged during the interim storage years and it'll be a project to restore and repaint where necessary in the future.

Another selection of Mithril LOTR figures - the armoured elf and the Iceni-esque female fighter are great  sculpts.

This fucking book. Micheal's references are on the right. One day I'm just going to bake a load of biscuits and go walking just to see where the road takes me. Then I'll meet some Elves and get drunk - it'll be awesome.

I have no idea what life must be like to have the main boulevard of creative output removed from existence. What I do know is that Michael's gift made me a better person in more ways than one. Firstly, they helped make my world bigger. They made me realise that there's more out there than just what I'd hear at school or see in magazines. Secondly, they opened me up to different ways of painting. These figures were some of the first that had a sense of personal style to them and also the first that used fictional references for colour schemes. Lastly, they helped me to overcome my preconceptions of people with different lifestyles. I acknowledge that it should have never taken something like this in order to do so (you and me both want to give 11 year old me a proper kick in) but that's how it happened. I hope Micheal would be happy that his work is still thought of and continuing to inspire me to this day. Be sure to drop some cash into the donation tin during world aids day and remember Michael's work when you do.

Cheers fella.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Armies on Parade in a Space Hulk

Agh, can't believe that the Armies on Parade comp was over three weeks ago now! Thankfully I managed to get everything finished in time and I was pretty pleased with the board in the end, having successfully managed to play with some weathering powders to create some different effects. Again, our local store had the most entries on the planet, beating Warhammer World itself as well as the previous record set last year. The entries were fantastic, so many different styles of painting, force composition and narrative on display. My particular favourite was a multi-level Genestealer Cult vs Inquisitorial force, complete with atmospheric lighting! I didn't manage to take any of my own photees, so I've nabbed them from the local shop Facebook page.

Who's competing with that? So sick!

There were so many other great entries too, standouts including Lewis's fantastic Vampire Counts army complete  with a towering, skeleton festooned tree, Gaz's Orcs with a beast of a Mawcrusher and a great narrative board based on the film Zulu, featuring the excellent and under-exposed Praetorian Guard regiment against some brutal looking Orks which came complete with a soundtrack! An honourable mention goes out to the excellent Helm's Deep diorama, a Khorne / Nurgle Daemon army which featured some excellent freehand and loads of sculpted eyeballs and the the pictured Imperial Guard / Mechanicus force that had some great airbrush and weathering work.

Such symmetry, very balanced, much pleasing to my OCD.

Here's my entry, in it's final form.  kind of wish I could have done a little more the the board, but overall I'm really happy with it. I particularly enjoyed painting up the battered gold Shrine of the Aquila and working out how to do scorch-marks with the sooty weathering powders. It was awesome to get good feedback too, I was a little worried that after the varnish frosting incident the army would look a little dull.

The faithful few of Istvaan.

I've already got plans for next year and I'm hoping to pull off a narrative board, based on a battle between my half completed second edition Tyranids and another force I've yet to decide upon. Either way, it's going to be super fun to do. In the meantime, there's a fun little mini competition coming up in December based on whatever you can fit onto one of the larger model bases - I'm hoping to use that as an incentive to finish off the Emperor's Children force. Since finishing off the Armies on Parade project, I've returned to painting up more terminators. I've pretty much finished the RTB09 boxed set and saved the best of the classic figures for last - the Captain and Librarian.

Nearly thirty years old and still rad as fuck.

These are figures that have been on the 'always wanted to paint' list. I think I've painted the Librarian before, but the Captain was certainly a first. Sadly, the Captain's left shoulder icon was a little battered, but aside from that, both models were still pretty sharp casts. The Librarian provided a great excuse to try out contrasting colour highlights on the weapon, something I may play around with more in the future!

In the 41st Millennium, 80's Van Damme haircuts are legit.

The Captain stands out as one of Jes Goodwin's (have I mentioned how much I love Jes recently? Because I do) most iconic sculpts. There's something so solid about the composition and feel of this figure. Despite it being a relatively simple three-piece model, it oozes presence and character. One of my old friends had this miniature and I always loved the way he'd painted it. Whilst it's not an exact replica ( I seem to recall more yellow / white on his) it's definitely a little nod to the past.

Iconography based on the sculpted kneepad
May add more to this one, feels like there's too much blue space now!

I'm really pleased at how the freehand on the right shoulders turned out. I've recently changed brushes and I'm having much better results with the new ones as they hold a point without splitting and seem to be a little more robust than the older ones I've used. So now I've only another squad of five of these to do and I can officially play nearly all of the original Space Hulk scenarios! I'm also currently working on a squad of five second edition Deathwing as well as finishing off the five Emperor's Children Cataphractii terminators. It's amazing to see how much the scale of these figures has changed so much over the last three decades whilst still remaining some of the greatest models to paint. I hope to have all of these project wrapped up before Christmas so I can start on something different in the new year - need to get a move on!