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.

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