Saturday, 28 February 2015

Lived Long and Prospered

Thank you for allowing us to dream of a better future where one's skin colour didn't matter.


Rest in peace dear sir, for you have indeed lived long and prospered.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Anime Mini Review of The Last: Naruto the Movie and some VIZ Media collectible figurines

My fascination with Naruto started when I was looking for an anime/manga series that would appeal to my son (who was then just six going on seven). I was attracted to this young little outcast who persistently defied overwhelming odds to achieve his goals despite being the object of so much hate. Soon, I was just as engrossed in this anime/manga series as my son was (and still is). So it's fitting that the first ever anime movie we got to watch in the cinema was The Last: Naruto the Movie.


There are some minor spoilers ahead so if you haven't caught the movie yet, please be forewarned especially if you are a fan. Essentially, the tenth overall Naruto film and seventh Naruto Shippūden film is a romance between Uzumaki Naruto and Hyūga Hinata. It's about darn time I say. Being a sucker for romantic shows, I absolutely loved this movie. While a certain amount of background knowledge is required to fully appreciated the subtle nuances of the relationship between the leading pair, the plot and writing does give - rather successfully in my humble opinion - some context for the non-fan to enjoy the movie. But if you have been a fan like me who has been rooting for this couple since day one when the manga first appeared nearly 15 years ago, this movie is heaven-sent.      

Finally, the romance between Naruto and Hinata is fully realised
Hinata when she was a young crybaby

As with every movie, there had to be a villain and a save-the-world storyline but both were largely forgettable and played second fiddle to the Naruto and Hinata love story. Being a big old softy, I had always resonated with how pure and unconditional the romance between both of them was, as depicted in the anime and manga. It was a pleasure to see that brought to life on the big screen. Aside from the plot, the movie's colour scheme tended towards the dark/gloomy side as a fair amount of scenes occurred during night-time. Animation was top-notch as I have come to expect from anime artists/animators on the Naruto Shippūden series. I am giving this movie a 4.5 out 5 stars! Go see it.   

An older and stronger Hinata
It was great to finally see Hinata take centre stage in a Naruto movie

One big mistake I made when watching this movie was not staying on until the end credits had completely finished. This meant I missed a short piece featuring Naruto and Hinata's children. I had mistakenly thought that the still art featuring the couple's wedding when end credits were rolling was all there was to the 'easter egg' for fans. So if you have the chance to catch this show, don't repeat my mistake. Meanwhile, I had wanted to catch the show again, this time with the missus but it was unfortunately no longer showing in the cinema close to my home. A double whammy for poor me! 

Brilliant piece of fan art by Schneeblau on Devian Art

Watching the movie got me thinking about the few quality Naruto Shippūden figurines in my collection. I wanted to share photos of two of my favourites i.e. Uzumaki Naruto and Uciha Sasuke in the hope that it will inspire you to work on anime figures on your future miniature painting projects. Both figurines are from Viz Media, the company that also does the official English-subbed version of the Naruto Shippūden anime and manga. Presently, I have no plans to repaint them because I am happy with the quality of paint on both miniatures which are about four inches or 100-mm in height. 

Front and back view of the unboxed Viz Media Naruto figurine
Front and back view of the unboxed Viz Media Sasuke figurine
Side view of the boxes
Unboxed front view of Sasuke and Naruto figurines from Viz Media
Unboxed back view of Sasuke and Naruto figurines from Viz Media

Watching the movie has made me want to continue reading the manga after having stopped doing so at Volume No.40 some years back. So I dug into my son's manga collection and spent a huge protion of my Lunar New Year holidays reading Naruto Shippūden mangas from the start (Volume No.28) all the way to the latest English-language issue (Volume No.68). It's so hard to find time to read so this massive holiday reading binge was a welcome one. In fact, I seem to have caught the reading bug again and couldn't help picking up a new novel to read after all that manga overdose. So I got a copy of Still Alice by Lisa Genova on sale and am now hooked on this page turner. From now on, you can get an idea of what's going on in my head by checking out what I'm reading (see graphic to the right).

Catching up on Naruto's manga series

This Lunar New Year Holiday has been tough on my hobby output as I have spent most of my time doing almost every other thing but painting miniatures. I can only hope that I will be able to break out from this holiday inertia and resume work on the many miniatures awaiting my attention on my paint station. Now where was I .... aah yes, page 56 ... [ picks up a book and reads ].

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Friday, 20 February 2015

Princess Merida [WIP - Rosy Skin and Red Hair]

With this being the second day of the Lunar New Year holidays, I guess it's appropriate to showcase my progress on Princess Merida so far as she is predominantly swathed in orange hues. After all, this colour has plenty of symbolism and meaning during the new year celebrations. For Merida's repaint project, I am adopting a top-down approach hence the completion of her red hair and rosy skin to date. Irises and pupils on her eyes will be left for last once everything else have been painted up.

Red hair and rosy skin, a fiery combination that reflects Merida's character
Princess Merida, repaint work-in-progress on her hair and skin
Pupils and rises are being left for last as it's the most critical part of the entire repaint process

It's still early stages yet but I feel very good about the start I have made to Princess Merida. Though not perfect, things are still turning out much better than I had anticipated. For one, I am getting much smoother skin tones using the Reaper Master Series paint triads than I had in the past. Add to that much better contrasts in the painting of red hair and I am suitably chuffed to bits with myself. 

Merida's dress offers me a chance to finally attempt painting free-hand dress patterns
A light teal/sky blue and gold/yellow combination will likely be the dress's colour scheme
Side view (left), Princess Merida work-in-progress on skin and hair

One key future milestone in this project would be my first attempt at painting freehand repetitive clothing patterns on Princess Merida's dress. But before doing so I have a lot of research to do on how to effectively paint such patterns. I have always wanted to try my hand at this and I was finally 'pushed over the edge' to do so after being inspired by simple yet cool freehand patterns by Suber

Lots of creases on Merida's dress could complicate matters when I attempt the freehand patterns
Back view, Princess Merida work-in-progress on skin and hair
Brightest highlights on Merida's red hair bordered on yellow

This is turning out to be a really fun project, all the more so when considering the miniature was a freebie from the local hypermarket. Despite being a fairly simple sculpt, I feel that this miniature has a lot of potential which can be realised provided I can do it justice with the appropriate paint job.

Side view (right), Princess Merida work-in-progress on skin and hair
A freebie this miniature might be but it has a lot of potential that makes it worthwhile as a repainting project

My apologies if my blog posts have been a bit haphazard with me flitting between projects. Hopefully you will bear with me as I slowly but surely bring all my various projects to completion. Anyway, I would like to belatedly wish health, happiness and prosperity to all of you who are celebrating the Year of the Goat. May the new lunar year see all your dreams and wishes come true!   

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Saturday, 14 February 2015

Knight Models The Hulk [WIP - Denim Jeans]

On my third attempt at painting a denim texture, I finally managed to get fairly close to the specific shade of blue on my favourite pair of jeans. My previous two attempts, namely on the Knight Models Logan and Last Night on Earth Hikaru Sulu remake, had turned out too dark. This time around, the difference lay in the amount of blue wash used as less-to-none was applied on The Hulk's jeans during the latter stages. At this point in time, the Knight Models miniature is about 65% complete. 

Knight Models The Hulk, work-in-progress on denim jeans
In this instance, The Hulk has on blue jeans instead of his trademark purple pants
A question long contemplated by philosophers throughout the ages, why doesn't his pants rip apart?

Although The Hulk is usually clothed in bright purple pants in the movies and comics, I was never a fan of this particular feature of his. For me, The Hulk looks much better in blue denim jeans. Funnily enough, the one thing that makes The Hulk unbelievable as a comic book hero, to me anyway, is the fact that his pants doesn't rip apart when Bruce Banner morphs into the green monster. That being said, I finally loved how The Hulk was portrayed in a movie when The Avengers hit the screens. At last, they managed to bring him to life in a realistic manner and mould him into a likeable character.

Back view of The Hulk, work-in-progress on denim jeans
Brightest highlights was reserved for the creases and torn edges 
With his pants intact, I guess gamma rays doesn't affect his pelvic area

To paint the denim jean's texture, I mainly used Citadel acrylic paints and its blue wash. I found that a combination of Mordian Blue, Regal Blue, Shadow Grey, Russ Grey paints and the Asurmen Blue wash gives me the necessary tools to recreate the denim texture. I suppose Fenrisian Grey could be added if you want to make the jeans a lighter shade of blue. Conversely, if you prefer a darker blue on your jeans, then you should be more liberal with your use of the blue wash in the latter stages.     

Jeans were painted using various blue/blue-grey Citadel paints and a blue wash
Any denim clothing company tagging their brand onto The Hulk's pants in future Marvel movies could see an upturn in sales
Some light crisscross patterns was painted on the jeans to simulate denim texture 

Possible improvements I could make in future attempts at painting denim texture would be to try painting finer crisscross patterns on the jeans. A higher level of patience will be needed for that - a trait I frequently lose a grip on when working too long without a break. When mistakes start piling up, that's usually a sign for us painters to take a step back and walk away before more harm is done.  

Hmm ... I wonder what happened to the jean's belt loops
Crisscross lines could have been finer, something I need to work on for future attempts at denim texture
Jeans was well sculpted in my humble opinion

All that is left to do for this Knight Models miniature is the base, boulder, hair, eyes and mouth. Not sure what I can do to make the first two 'exciting' while the last three items could make or break the entire piece's 'believability'. Lighting for the photos above were actually a tad on the dark side because I had used a higher F-Stop value when shooting with my DSLR camera - a loss in light in exchange for higher depth of field. Hopefully I will have that sorted out in the next set of photos. Until then, thanks for keeping track of my progress on The Hulk and have a great weekend.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Wood Elf Goddess v.1 [WIP - Arm supports and staff]

One key reason I have not made any further progress on the Wood Elf Goddess, until now, is that I honestly don't think I can do justice to this fantastic piece of sculpture from Dark Sword Miniatures. In recent weeks, I have felt my miniature painting skills somewhat stagnate and seemingly plateau at what to me is still an unacceptable level of 'expertise'. It could just be plain burnout (the alternative would be unimaginable) so I am taking steps to ensure I continue to improve and learn in this hobby. 

Wood Elf Goddess, version one with light skin tone, work-in-progress
Work remains to be done on her eyes, tiara, necklace, leg armour and base

Painting the level of detail inherent in a miniature of such small scale - repeated ad nauseam - is very difficult and a tough ask from someone of my skill level. But I eventually started to paint the Wood Elf Goddess again as I felt the only way to improve was to make mistakes and learn from them. So rather reluctantly, I proceeded to paint her arm supports and the staff she holds in her left hand.

Purple arm supports were toned down using green washes, and yellow-green leaves added for contrast
Back view of Wood Elf Goddess, light skin version, work-in-progress

For the arm supports, I used a purple-yellow green colour scheme. Initially the purples looked too bright so I used a olive green wash to dull it down. Meanwhile, painting the leaves on the arm support a yellow green hue gave it a nice contrast overall. Her staff was more run-of-the-mill with shades of brown for the wood, some green leaves and a very bright yellow gem-like light source at the tip.

Brighter highlights were added to the red hair but I am thinking even brighter ones will be needed

Going back to what I said in the beginning of this post, about a possibility of a 'hobby burnout', I have decide to go back to the basics and resume learning about miniature painting techniques from painters that I admire, after a rather long period of practice and self-discovery. This means lots of online research and viewing of resources I have collected over the years. Inevitably that will mean an even lower output from me painting wise. But assuming I am going through a burnout phase, I also plan to start drawing more with graphite pencils and learn how to draw with inks. So hopefully, in the end my output in terms of blog posts can be maintained or even improved to at least twice a week.   

Dark Sword's Wood Elf Goddess has a magnificent pose truly befitting the subject matter

Speaking of learning, I leave you with this wonderful pair of mottos from the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge and Royal Society of New South Wales namely Nullius in verba (Take nobody's word for it) and Omnia quaerite (Question everything). I look in horror at our times when conservative bigots seem to outshout and outnumber open minded moderate liberals. It's sadly easier for most people in the world to hate and let others do the thinking for them. Peace out!

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Monday, 2 February 2015

Repainting Princess Merida of DunBroch

With the Ringgit dropping like a stone and the introduction of a good sales tax, things look bleak for a miniature hobbyist like me. Having a fairly small 'hobby budget' to begin with as well as having to contend with the fact that most, if not all, of hobby-related stuff being only available outside the country, I have to come to terms that a lot of miniatures and paints are likely to become unaffordable now and in the months ahead. That means working with what I already have in my collection and looking for cheap alternatives to paint. This austerity drive begins with a freebie from my local Tesco store - a figurine from the Disney Pixar movie Brave i.e. Prince Merida of the DunBroch clan.     

Figurine freebie from Tesco, redeemed after collection a certain number of stickers
Princess Merida as she looks straight out of the package
Back view of Merida, before being stripped for a repaint project

First step in the repainting project involved the stripping of existing paint from the plastic figurine. Straight out of the package, Merida had a very simple paint job on her hair, skin, eyes, bow case and shoes. While it wasn't too bad, it was a tad too rudimentary for my liking. I felt the figurine had a lot more potential and could look much better if greater effort was put into her paint job. So in she went into a Dettol bath to have her original paint stripped. I am not too sure if acrylic paints were used to paint her so using Dettol was a gamble on my part, and one which didn't really pay off in the end.

Princess Merida taking a bath in a pool of Dettol
Princess Merida with as much paint as possible stripped from her
Stripping paint from the hair was very difficult

Hindsight as they say is 20/20. If I could do it all over again, I would have skipped the 'paint stripping step' and just go straight into the priming stage. Even after many weeks of being immersed in Dettol, the paint on the figurine didn't come off easily especially from the hair. As you can see from the immediate pair of photos above, a lot of paint remains stuck in the grooves of Princess Merida's hair.

Princess Merida, primed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer
Back view of Princess Merida after being primed in a light grey colour

As far as I can make out, there are two main colour schemes for Princess Merida. If based strictly on the costume the figurine is wearing, the colour scheme is cottony dark teal fabric with light yellow lacing (see first photo below). Another colour scheme of satiny light teal fabric with gold lacing was seen on a different costume which the princess wore when suitors were fighting among themselves for her hand in marriage (see second photo below). Both look equally nice and    

Princess Merida Colour Scheme A: Cottony dark teal fabric with light yellow lacing
Princess Merida Colour Scheme B: Satiny light teal with gold lacing

Although the sculpt is fairly simple and not very dynamic, there are enough details in it to make repainting Merida worth my while. Moreover, she will allow me to practice and perfect the painting of red hair, light skin tone and fabric texture. I leave you with this beautiful quote from the character ... There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.

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