Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor, Not a Survivor

Captain's Log, Stardate 7201.3. This is Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy filling in for Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock. Both have gone missing together with 12 other crew members of the USS Enterprise during a seemingly harmless trip to a Minshara-class planet the locals call Dukkha. For now, all contact with the crew members on shore leave on the planet have been lost.

Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy, chief medical officer of the USS Enterprise

Surface scans of the planet came up with the images that show what the ship computer has identified as Commander Spock, Yeoman Tonia Barrows and Captain James T. Kirk although they bear no resemblance whatsoever to their original form. In fact, they look like monsters called zombies from an old earth movie from the ship's database. So until we know more, that's what I am calling them. 

Crew members of the Federation starship USS Enterprise have turned into zombies
Spock, Yeoman Tonia and Captain Kirk looking excited prior to the ill-fated shore leave
Back view of three crew members who have been plagued with an unknown vector

So far, I have not been able to find a cure for this mysterious plague affecting the three crew members away on shore leave. Although it has not been confirmed that the others on the planet have also turned into zombies, I wouldn't rule it out at this stage and am assuming the worse. Nonetheless, the ship's medical team is working around the clock to ascertain what's happening to Kirk and the others. 

Zombie Spock attempting unsuccessfully to make the Vulcan sign of greeting
Zombie Kirk may seem to have an effeminate demeanour but he is anything but
Zombie Tonia retains memories of her cheer-leading days hence this effort to spell out her name 

Zombification seems to have enhanced the green hues inherent within Spock's Vulcan physiology, more specifically in the skin. I haven't seen old pointy ears look so much like a hobgoblin since he tried drinking Nurse Christine Chapel's infamous chocolate marshmallow milk shake in the last Starfleet Officers New Year party. Also, further scans show that a fellow crew member may have tried using a Vulcan nerve pinch to bring zombie Spock down. However, by the look of the smudged hand print's position, I can safely surmise the attempt was incorrectly placed therefore unsuccessful.  

Spock deems his current state to be ... illogical
Pus in a wound to Spock's left arm suggests mode of infection could have been a bite
Hand print on Spock's back seem to indicate a failed attempt at applying a Vulcan nerve pinch

These changes in physiology apparently also affect humans as Yeoman Tonia's skin has darkened considerably as if due to accelerated onset of necrosis. In addition, her hair has gone from an original light brown to a brighter yellowish blonde, indicating a possibility that hair melanin is also affected. A bite mark in the region of her right knee provides a clue as to possible mode of infection. A similar bite mark is seen near the left elbow of Spock. Both wounds are filled with pus and blood.  

Yeoman Tonia Barrows has seen her hair take on a lighter hue while her skin got darker instead
A pus-filled bite mark on Tonia's right knee is another possible indication that bites are a mode of infection
Seeing that Tonia is a 'Red Shirt', it stands to reason she is most likely patient zero

Captain Kirk, his zombie version anyway, seems to have been shot at with phasers. Hopefully no serious irreversible injury has been inflicted on his internal organs that could prevent his healing if we manage to find a cure for this zombification disease. Interestingly enough, Kirk does not seem to sport any visible bite marks in the scans. Perhaps transmission was made via other bodily fluids.

Captain Kirk has retained his ab muscle tone despite zombification
A belt in the 23rd century? Kirk was always a rebel in fashion
Phasers set to kill seem to have little effect other than cause a small wound

Continuous efforts have been made to contact other crew members of the USS Enterprise on shore leave but to no avail. Meanwhile, something weird about the inhabitants of Dukkha has revealed itself to us. After a few days of shore leave, a a majority of the inhabitants started wearing clothes that mimic fashion prevalent on Earth during the 21st century. It's as if they have scanned, downloaded and utilised information from the ship's records. It looks like we will have to sent in two groups of a four-member away team, similarly dressed, in order to investigate this whole puzzling mystery.

USS Enterprise lies in orbit around a planet called Dukkha

Updates will be made as soon as possible. Chief Medical Officer McCoy out, computer ... end log.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Zombie Girl in a new light, and Last Night on Earth

What with Halloween around the corner, the Walking Dead Season 5 in full swing and the presence of so many wonderfully painted undead on show in the blogosphere during Zombtober 2014, it was inevitable that I would be bitten by the zombie bug. So I decided to revisit the Knight Models Zombie Girl which I painted a year ago and retake her photos (I wasn't too pleased with the original ones) as well as bring out my Last Night on Earth board game pieces to work on in yet another project.

Knight Models Zombie Girl revisited at lower ISO settings

To properly capture the mood of a horror piece, I went for a darker look in my second photo session with Zombie Girl. As such, I used a much lower ISO setting to reduce the camera's sensitivity to light while repositioning the lamps closer to the miniature itself. Hopefully I have done it justice this time. 

Look closely at the ground to spot a Reese peanut butter bar or a Nestle crunch chocolate bar
A wonderfully sculpted piece that captures the true horror of a zombie
Zombie Girl's clothes sported a Halloween colour scheme

With the new lighting, the Zombie Girl now looks like she is shambling oust from the shadows along at dusk rather than the 'deer caught in the headlights' washed out look. Having the camera less sensitive to light also made the background a pure black which better suited the piece on display.

Before and after a change in ISO settings and positioning of lights

Meanwhile, I finally managed to put Zombie Girl in a video inclusive of the appropriate sad and spooky music. The video was intentionally shot at a low ISO setting for that dark look (see below).

360 view of the Knight Models Zombie Girl
To view Zombie Girl in 360 degrees, please check out the YouTube video below. For videos of other selected miniatures I have painted, please visit my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures. Please remember to choose high definition (HD) for the best video viewing option.

Also in a breakthrough of sorts, my son seems to be finally over his fear of zombies. For the first time since the Walking Dead series started, he finally sat together with me to watch Season Five's Episode One: No Sanctuary. The abattoir scene alone is worth the price of admission and is a must watch. Now all I have to do is to convince him to have a game of Last Night on Earth with his mum and I.

Last Night on Earth ... the zombie board game

This zombie-themed board game comes with a set of eight survivours and 14 zombies. Details on the miniatures are pretty good considering they were only meant to be functional board game pieces.  

Any horror movie aficionado can tell you that there are way too many survivors ...
... but hopefully these zombies can restore the natural order of things

These plastic miniatures will definitely be the smallest board game pieces I have ever attempted to paint. So far, I have encountered some problems during prep work. For example, I found it extremely hard to remove the mould lines and I also noticed that details are rather blurred on some pieces.

Smallest board game pieces I have yet to try painting

Despite the issues encountered during prep work, I am still very excited with the theme I am planning for the survivors (maybe) and zombies (definitely). I have a specific theme in mind that incorporates my all-time favourite fictional universe/franchise together with the undead and perhaps the survivors too. Conceptualising this theme (more details will be revealed in a later blog post) has been the easy part but pulling it off, I feel, is a whole new ball game altogether. But if I do, it's going to be sweet.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Knight Models Spider-Man [Completed]

In the end, finishing the paint job on Spider-Man for my Marvel Universe project was easier than actually putting the Knight Models metal (Spidey) and resin (taxi) miniatures together. If you had been following my progress on Spider-Man, you would have known that I just had the blues on his costume to complete. While that in itself required a fair bit of patient blending and layering, it was nothing compared to the challenge I faced when gluing Spidey to the taxi in a manner that ensured the whole diorama/structure was strong and stable. More on that experience later in the blog.

Knight Models Spider-Man [Completed]
Highlights and shadows on Spidey were painted with an imaginary light source coming from the left (or his right)

Working on the Knight Models version of Spider-Man was essentially a back to basics in terms of the colour scheme I needed to work on. All three primary colours - blue, red and yellow - were accounted for and it gave me the chance to practice my blending and layering skills on all three hues. 

Knight Models Spider-Man miniature actually has a New York City taxi as its base
Vehicle was painted as a New York City taxi inclusive of freehand logo and checkers design
All the primary colours are accounted for in this miniature's colour scheme
Top view of the Knight Models Spider-Man miniature leapfrogging a taxi

Because of how I had positioned Spidey on top of the yellow cab, the miniature's centre of gravity was such that it would have easily toppled over. To overcome this problem, I glued a triangular piece of sprue onto the back of the taxi as a means of added support. To glue the sprue as well as Spidey on the cab, I used a super glue-pure baking soda combo to ensure sufficient bond strength.

Gluing a triangular sprue to the taxi helped stabilise the whole structure

Each time I look at the miniature, I appreciate more and more how dynamic the miniature looks. This Knight Models piece managed to capture the essence of Spidey's agile movement. It was also fitting Spidey should leapfrog over the iconic yellow cab as he is synonymous with New York City.

A straight on eye-level view of the Knight Models Spider-Man
Vehicle's windows were painted in a teal/turquoise colour scheme
Spidey's left side has darker reds and blues

360 view of the Knight Models Spider-Man
To view Spider-Man in 360 degrees, please check out the YouTube video below. For videos of other selected miniatures I have painted, please visit my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures. Please remember to choose high definition (HD) for the best video viewing option.

Completing Spider-Man means I can now move on to the next member of The Avengers which will be The Hulk. He should be another fun piece to work on in my Marvel Universe project as I will get to do a lot of skin tone work albeit of a greener shade. Now if only my one pack ab would turn into an even six when I am angry. Wouldn't that be a sight for sore eyes. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Organising paints on a tight budget, an alternative clay conditioning machine, and what's up next hobby wise

Looking at my paint bottles strewn all over the work station makes me wish I had paid more attention during woodwork classes all those years ago. If I had, I would have made myself a nice wooden paint rack by now to store up all the drop bottles I own for easy access. If wishes were horses ...

Using a cheap alternative to store paint drop bottles

So having an extremely tight hobby budget to work with meant I had to seek the cheapest option available without compromising too much on quality. That came in the form of a Tesco house-brand 2900 ml. air-tight food container which cost RM13.90 (about USD4.30) which was especially suited to the Vallejo Model Color acrylic paint drop bottles but not so much the Reaper Master Series paints.

A Tesco house-brand 2.9 litre food container

Dimensions of the 2.9 litre food container was such that I could overturn the container and still have the Vallejo Model Color drop bottles stay in place without moving too much.

Acrylic paints all lined up, pretty as you please

However, when I tried doing that with the slightly shorter Reaper Master Series paint drop bottles, they would move around rather loosely in the container. Nonetheless, both paint brands had drop bottles with a similar diameter so as long as you don't make a habit of overturning the container to have a better look at the colours, it was still fairly usable for the Reaper paints.  

Still fairly usable for the Reaper Master Series acrylic paints

Seems like the local Tesco store is starting to become a regular haunt for me in which to source alternative art supplies such as silicon-based cooking papers (attractively priced during festive seasons) for use in my home-made wet palette. In fact, it was in a Tesco store that I finally found an affordable alternative to an art clay conditioner. There was a mini-promotion going on at that time so I got the pasta machine for just RM29.90 (~USD9.20). Thank my lucky stars I didn't shell out RM130 (~USD40) for a clay conditioning machine that I saw in an art supply shop. Heck, Tesco should be my 'hobby sponsor' ala Formula One driver sponsors. Again, if wishes were horses ...

Using a pasta machine as a cheap alternative for a clay conditioner

So what's up next for me hobby wise? With my Knight Models Spider-Man Marvel Universe project very close to completion, I don't have much left on the work station other than the two work-in-progress Dark Sword Wood Elf Goddesses. So after a prepping, assembling and priming binge, I now have eight additional miniatures of all sizes primed and ready for their first coat of paint (see below). 

Miniatures on my immediate to-do list: eight primed and two work-in-progress

As for my sculpting ambitions, hopefully by getting a pasta machine for use as a clay conditioner I would have removed the last excuse I have for my continued procrastination towards sculpting. Moreover, after initially toying with the idea of using Katniss Everdeen as the first sculpting subject matter, I felt perhaps an easier-to-sculpt character will make those first baby steps less daunting. Darwin Watterson was the simplest subject matter I could think of off hand so I guess that walking talking goldfish from The Adventures of Gumball cartoon will likely kickstart my sculpting journey.

Darwin Watterson, The Adventures of Gumball

What with helping my son prepare for his finals as well as spending more time with him leading up to his birthday, I haven't had much time to paint miniatures. Hopefully I can still squeeze in some hobby time amidst quality family time. Matters are made much worse by the fact that two of my favourite TV shows namely Supernatural and Walking Dead are entering their latest seasons which means even less time for the hobby. Sigh ... if only we could download ourselves into an EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram) and have eternity to indulge in our hobbies. Ouch ... will the geekery never end.

Ahhh ... what price immortality and the life of an EMH

Friday, 3 October 2014

Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon [Completed]

Le Petit Chaperon is definitely the toughest challenge I have faced as a miniature painter in my relatively short (soon-to-be) three year journey in this hobby. This 80-mm resin figure from Nocturna Models was not only the largest miniature I have attempted to paint, it was also the most realistically sculpted which meant the margin for error was greatly reduced. There is a finer line between what looks right and wrong because we all have our own preconceived notions on how a fair skinned girl should look like. Painting made-up fictional characters like say an Ork gives one more leeway to err.

Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon, a closeup view

As mentioned in a previous blog, Le Petit Chaperon was painted in the colours of the French flag as a visual tribute to the historical origins of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Vive La France indeed. Incidentally, Le Petit's blonde hair gave her an overall colour scheme that is found in many other national flags so she actually can be what (and all that) you want her to be ... how cool is that.

Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon [Completed]
Down boy ... the dog that is

More work was done on Le Petit Chaperon's skin tone, mainly the addition of some blush to her face to accentuate her cheek bones as well as increase the greens of the veins on her arms. Contrast on her skin remained low ... after all many billions of dollars are rightly or wrongly spent on makeup to look fairer so you could say she is the advertising poster girl for the cosmetics industry. 

Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon (Side view from the left)
A Marilyn Monroe moment

No thanks to my clumsiness, I broke the handle of the basket not once but twice in separate locations no less. It was all down to a lack of concentration as I accidentally had my hand on the basket while I was doing something else and put too much pressure thus breaking the handles. Once was bad but twice was unforgivable. Luckily I have grown adept at using the 'super glue-pure baking soda' combo to fix things back to how they were. An alternative fix would have been to sculpt 'green stuff' putty over the damaged part, which in fact is what I did to extend the length of the puppy's leash. I did this to position the leash at a slightly different angle from what was shown on the official artwork. 

Cosmetics can't hide cellulite so tough luck Le Petit
A closeup of the puppy painted as a Siberian Husky
Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon (Side view from the right)

My approach to miniature painting has been a fairly minimalist one so that partly explains why I didn't go ahead with two ideas on my mind for Le Petit Chaperon. One was to paint a tattoo of the Chinese character for the word wolf on her right shoulder while the other was to paint a series of freehand designs on both her white stockings. But in the end I felt she looked better with neither.

Painting sheer fabric was made doubly hard due to it being white
To slightly reposition the puppy's leash, I had to use 'green stuff'  to extend its length

360 view of Le Petit Chaperon
For a 360 degree view of the Nocturna Models Le Petit Chaperon, please check out the YouTube video below. For Le Petit, I used a lower ISO setting when taking the video to avoid a 'washed-out' look that sometimes affected miniatures that had a bright/light colour scheme. For videos of other selected miniatures I have painted, please visit my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures. Please choose high definition (HD) for the best video viewing option.

Finishing Freya and Le Petit Chaperon has given me greater confidence to tackle other Nocturna Models stuff regardless of their size. I hope to start on the Akelarre Enchantment figure soon and maybe paint the Battle Chick too. In fact, I am so pumped up by the experience of painting Le Petit Chaperon that I am tempted to do both at the same time. Anyway, thanks for following the progress of Red Riding Hood that has taken a rather long time to complete. Hope she was worth the wait.
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