Thursday, 21 July 2016

Star Wars Darth Vader - Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit [Completed]

Darth Vader is finally finished. This model kit from Bandai has been a real joy to put together but not so much to paint. He's only the second 1/12 scale figure I've completed from Bandai's Star Wars line, the other being an original trilogy Stormtrooper. So now trooper TK-421 has none other than the Dark Lord of the Sith himself for company. Two welcome pieces in my small Star Wars collection.

If you only knew the power of the dark side
TK-421's joy at defeating Darth Vader in rock, paper and scissors was short lived

As a 1/12 scale plastic model kit, Darth Vader has two distinct shortcomings when compared to the Stormtrooper. Firstly, breaks in the appendages' joints look more natural on the latter. Secondly, the rigid plastic cloak on Vader's back not only looks unrealistic but it also makes posing more difficult. 

Come with me, it's the only way ...
Darth Vader's cloak has just one coat of paint on it i.e. matte black

But in focusing on the kit's "failures" I'm in essence actually comparing the Bandai version, rather unfairly, to more realistic (and way more expensive) versions from Hot Toys and Sideshow Collectibles. Not really a like-for-like comparison. Priced at just ¥2,592 Bandai's version is very good value for money, and in my opinion an excellent addition to any Star Wars fan's personal collection.

Various posing options for Vader's right and left hand
Weapon handles were painted to resemble Darth Vader's personal lightsabre
Details on the handle accurately depicted Vader's lightsabre

One thing that really impressed me about this kit is the high level of accuracy in the detail. Take for example, the vertical ridges on Vader's glove which is similar to the costume in Return of the Jedi as opposed to the horizontal ridges found in A New Hope. Another example is the weapon handle which is not generic but specifically detailed to resemble Vader's personal lightsabre. It's little things like this which convinced me that a lot of care and attention went into the making of this model kit.   

Join me and together we will rule the galaxy as father and son ... words all fathers long to say
Darth Vader against a dark background ... it kinda works too

With the Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale model kit of Darth Vader completed, I can resume painting my work-in-progress Dark Sword Miniatures Female Mage on Stairs figurine. At the very least, working on my proxy for Game of Throne's Princess Myrcella Baratheon will inject some bright and cheerful colours back into the blog as my previous post can attest to. Up next is her skin tone and laying on flesh colours will further consolidate the overall colour scheme. I can't wait. See you in my next post!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Female Mage on Stairs [WIP - Boot, Pants and Base]

There was only so much black I could take. As fun as the Bandai Darth Vader model kit is, I had to take a temporary step back from all the gloomy hues in order to work on my Game of Thrones project. I'm using a Dark Sword Miniatures figurine namely the Female Mage on Stairs from their Elmore Masterworks line as a proxy for Princess Myrcella Baratheon. The miniature's clothing colour scheme was inspired by the various dresses Princess Myrcella wore while she was in Dorne and betrothed to Trystane Martell. It comprises pastel-like hues of green, orange, peach and pink. 

Dark Sword Miniatures Female Mage on Stairs, work-in-progress proxy for Princess Myrcella Baratheon
Crack on the base was actually quite difficult to bring out through a combination of paint and wash

Using minty green hues on Myrcella's pants and boots was a bit of a risk on my part as I wasn't sure if it would work. To be honest, I'm still not sure. Part of me loves the resulting contrast and part of me feels that maybe I went too far. A clearer picture should surface once her hair and skin is painted.

Oops ... the primer coat is starting to come off her hair
Back view of the Dark Sword Miniatures Female Mage on Stairs, work-in-progress
Her hair and skin tones has yet to be painted

As befitting Dornish architecture, the base was painted in sandy desert-like colours. Some 'grass' was added to the front of the base to help liven up rather dull colours of the base. At this stage, the overall colour scheme is fairly muted. Hopefully this will make what comes next 'pop' even more.

Side view showing the contrast between the pink/peach/orange hues versus the minty greens
Some grass was added to the base for to 'liven' things up

What's next are Princess Myrcella's hair, skin tone and facial features. These next bits will make or break her. All I have done so far will be for nought if I don't get them right. 

Game of Thrones Princess Myrcella Baratheon, work-in-progress 

As for Vader, never fear for he should be completed by the next post. I plan to finish him first before resuming work on Princess Myrcella. I had desperately needed this infusion of bright pastel colours. All that black was starting to get to me. Fully invigorated, I'm now ready to complete Vader. And start working on other new stuff as well. But first Vader then more of Myrcella. Till then, it's bye for now.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Star Wars Darth Vader [Lower torso, belt, codpiece, appendages, feet & base]

Coming along nicely, the rest of Vader is. Well that's enough Yoda-ish grammar for one day. He is progressing well though and if all goes to plan he's then just a few days away from completion. 

Bandai 1/12 scale Darth Vader, work-in-progress on lower torso, etc

At this stage of the project, the only real challenge painting-wise was Vader's codpiece. Even then the issue was not in a complicated colour scheme but in getting clean painted lines on smallish details. Being used to working on a much smaller scale, I found the latter surprisingly easy to do. All that practice on 28-mm miniatures is paying off ... 1/12 scale is like a walk in the park in comparison.   

Every super villain must have his codpiece
Back of Vader's codpiece was painted a simple flat black

For Vader's appendages and feet, I've kept things simple either by applying just a flat black coat on the undergarments and feet, or by leaving the gloss plastic as it is on the shin armour. That leaves his inner cloak as the last black pieces with a non-black colour added to its highlights. I felt the other pieces were large enough to reflect natural highlights when shone with light from my IKEA lamps.

Vader's arms, legs and feet ... replacements for the Mustafar debacle
Vader's inner cloak (left) will be last black pieces with highlights painted on them while the base (right) is left as is

Below is a shot of Vader's back which will eventually be covered up by his main back cloak. Makes you wonder why I even bothered with the inner cloak highlights in the first place. Oh well, nothing is really wasted in our hobby. You can always tick that off as a much needed to do practice list. 

Back of the work-in-progress Bandai 1/12 scale Darth Vader model kit

There's nothing much left for me to do for Vader except his hands, light sabre handle and main cloak. Soon Vader will rise again and good old TK-421 will have some company at last. Soon.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Resuming work on my Game of Thrones project with plans for Bronn, Myrcella, House Mormont and Martell

After a 30-episode Game of Thrones marathon viewing session spanning Seasons Four through Six with the missus (she's a huge fan), it's hard not to get inspired again with ideas for new painting projects as well as a fresh take on existing ones. First up is the Nocturna Models 54-mm Crusader resin miniature which I, one time or another, had toyed with the idea of painting as either Prince Oberyn Martell, Daario Naharis or Ser Jamie Lannister. None of them seem right until it suddenly hit me. Why not Ser Bronn, a skilled and dangerous lowborn sellsword. Granted the miniature's facial features aren't an exact match to Bronn but it still comes pretty darn close all things considered.   

Knight Models 54-mm The Crusader resin miniature has a face that looks a lot like Bronn
While not a doppelganger for Bronn, The Crusader does look very similar to the sellsword
Back of The Crusader's head doesn't have Bronn's semi-long locks but it'll do

Clothing while true to the medieval period, isn't remotely close to what Bronn wore in the series. However, that's not going to be an issue for me so long as I can recreate the colour scheme of one of Bronn's many in-show costumes. As to which one, I've no idea at the present moment. I guess it would partly depend on what acrylic colours I have in hand as my paint collection is still incomplete.

Nocturna Models 54-mm The Crusader resin miniature primed for paint (front view)
Nocturna Models 54-mm The Crusader resin miniature primed for paint (back view)

Meanwhile for my Knights of Westeros project, I'm contemplating another completely new faction to add to the series. Currently I've already completed knights/warhorses from the noble/vassal houses Lannister, Clegane, Arryn, Baratheon (Renly). Why House Mormont? For one reason and one reason alone - Lady Lyanna Mormont. She was hand's down my favourite character of Season Six. Played by 12-year-old Bella Ramsey, Lady Lyanna stole every scene she was in (Episodes 7 and 10). Her character is an example of how daughters should be raised: strong willed, confident and brave.

Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark
House Mormont remembers. The North remembers

Speaking of knights, I'm still stuck with House Martell's Knight of Dorne. I was initially going to paint House Martell's symbol on the warhorse's caparison, having already done that to the knight's shield. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that House Martell's symbol was just too boring to be placed on the warhorse's caparison. In my opinion, one dull House Martell symbol was about all that the miniature could take. To retain the warhorse's dynamism, I intend to paint silhouette designs of snakes to represent the Sand Snakes of Dorne instead. Like Bronn's costume, I haven't a clue as to which design I should use. In the end, it will likely boil down to the one I can paint freehand.

House Martell warhorse minus the Knight of Dorne
Some of the shortlisted snake designs for the House Martell warhorse

Then there is an existing half-finished Dark Sword Miniatures's Female Mage on Stairs which I have been trying get inspiration to continue painting. She came in the form of Princess Myrcella as she was depicted in Game of Thrones Season Six. So going forward, I hope to incorporate some bluish greens and light golden yellows to the miniature's overall colour scheme. Of all the Game of Thrones projects on my worktable, Myrcella is perhaps the one most likely to see progress in the coming weeks followed hopefully by the Knight of Dorne and Bronn with House Mormont still a ways to go.

Dark Sword Miniatures Female Mage on the Stairs who will be a proxy for Myrcella Baratheon
Princess Myrcella in a pink dress
Princess Myrcella in her last ever gown (left) and in House Martell colours (right)

It feels like the gloomy clouds have parted and a ray of sunshine has broken through to lift the melancholy that has shrouded my creative figure painting process. Without a doubt my Bandai Star Wars projects will still continue to grow but at least now I have equal enthusiasm for my Game of Thrones proxy miniature figurines. Fantasy is indeed the perfect foil for Science Fiction. As Lady Lyanna would say, I think we've had enough small talk. Onward we go towards the latest painting progress photos. But that's in the next post. Valar Morghulis! So get cracking on your own projects.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Star Wars Darth Vader [WIP - Upper Torso]

Painting Darth Vader isn't as straightforward nor rewarding as one would assume. After all he's just black so how hard could it be, most (non-hobbyists) would argue. Worse still, the end result isn't as satisfying nor impressive compared with a miniature/model kit that has a more colorful scheme. Painting Vader, in other words, might not be worth the effort. But then I got to thinking. This is the Dark Lord of the Sith himself. I had to paint Darth Vader. I had to. Resist the dark side, I could not.    

Bandai 1/12 scale Darth Vader, work-in-progress with head and upper torso completed

For the upper torso, I focused on Vader's chest armour with its alternating metallic gun metal and gloss black stripes, the chest panel controls, the inner/outer cloak, and his undergarments i.e. clothing with a horizontal crosshatch design. The chest armour was given a primer/basecoat of Citadel's Abaddon Black with Boltgun Metal used for the metallic stripes. Then the black stripes were glossed back up using Vallejo Gloss Varnish. Meanwhile, Vader's chest panel was painted using Citadel Skull White, Abaddon Black, Fortress Grey, Ultramarine Blue, Red Gore, Blood Red, Chainmail, Boltgun Metal, Warplock Bronze, Dwarf Bronze and Vallejo Gloss Varnish. So much paint for so little effect!  

Parts of the upper torso, after painting using Citadel and Vallejo acrylics
Originally, the breastplate had a shiny sheen on which black decals were supposed to be applied (top). Instead, I decided to basecoat it black, add metallic silver and then apply a gloss coat on the black stripes (bottom)
Details on the chest panel were also painted; no decals were used

For the upper torso's non-shiny bits namely Vader's undergarments and cloak, I used a warm matte black (pure Abbadon Black) and an even warmer black (Abbadon Black plus Kommando Khaki) respectively. Bandai's colour guide had recommended a cool black i.e. black plus a pinch of blue for the undergarments. However based on my own research on the actual costume used on the set of Return of the Jedi, I found the blacks to be 'neutral warm' - somewhat less warm than the cloak.  

Barely half complete, Bandai's Vader would still look good as a bust
My empire for an arm ... or two
A nice silhouette for s stamp, don't you think so?
A clear view contrasting the glossy black of Vader's helmet and the warm matte blacks of his cloak

Being used to some excellent detailed sculpts at way smaller scales I suppose I should be expecting great details from a 1/12 scale model kit. Nonetheless, I was still pleasantly surprised by the effort and attention Bandai's designers had put into making this one of the most, if not the most impressive Darth Vader figurine at this price range (roughly ¥2,592). Proportion-wise Bandai has nailed it! 

Back view of Vader's work-in-progress upper torso
Gloss and matte black look like two completely different colours
Proportions seen on this side view highlight just how right Bandai got this one

From here on out, there will be four main considerations when painting Darth Vader: his belt; clothing (rest of the cloak, codpiece plus undergarments); appendages; and weapon (lightsaber handles). Seeing that Vader is in 1/12 scale which is rather large; the rest of the black to be painted can be done as a single flat coat because the clothing pieces are large enough to catch light and provide sufficient contrast without having to paint in the highlights. So things should speed up considerably with only the belt and lightsaber handle providing any real challenge. As such I should be able to put up another progress post before the week is out. Until then, it's bye for now.

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