Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Gretchin as guinea pigs for Hulk and a look at Logan

In addition to my ongoing work on Iron Man, I plan to start painting the Knight Models The Hulk white metal model kit soon. But before a single drop of paint is applied to The Hulk, I will need to figure out the proper green skin tone to use. To help me with that will be four little gretchins, half of which is primed in white while the other half is in black.  In theory, these gretchins should allow me to try painting slight variations of The Hulk's skin tone on both a dark and bright undercoat.  

Gretchins primed in white and black

One Hulk skin tone version that I am considering can be described as pastel-like pale green, akin to what can be seen in 'The Avengers' movie's version of The Hulk. In this version, the greens are much more subdued compared to the traditional bright green colours one tends to associate The Hulk with.

The Hulk from the recent Avengers movie

Another slightly paler skin version is that of The Hulk figure from Sideshows Collectibles which seems to have more flesh colours mixed in with the green skin, or more flesh undertones to be precise. Not what one would call the traditional Hulk skin colour but it looks kinda cool to me and much more realistic in a way. However, pulling this version off would be much harder.

The Hulk from Sideshow Collectibles

With work on The Hulk at the 'guinea pig stage' another Knight Models miniature from its Marvel Universe line will likely take centre stage. To commemorate the recent release of 'The Wolverine' in Blu-ray and DVD, I will be painting Logan. It has been a while since I tackled human flesh skin tones so I will need brush off the rustiness that has set in. Also the Logan miniature will require me to paint textures to simulate the fabric found in jeans. That's going to be a big ask for me.

Hugh Jackman in the latest 2013 Wolverine movie
Knight Models Logan aka The Wolverine
Logan unoboxed - it looks to be a fairly simple model to put together

So the gretchins mean I will be working with W40K miniatures again after a very long hiatus. Should be a fun little diversion from my current painting projects. With the new year just around the corner, the paint jobs of Iron Man, a House Baratheon knight, a Nocturna Models figure as a proxy for Ser Gregor Clegane and Abbadon the Despoiler remain at various stages of completion. Meawnhile, Other stuff include the use of an Ax Faction miniature (Giant Hunter) as a proxy for a wilding in the Game of Thrones (GoT) universe as well as Nocturna Models miniatures for GoT, Marvel and other movie character paint job conversions. So much to paint and so little time. It's going to be a fun 2014.


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

In a blink of an eye, a new year is upon us. As we wind down in preparation for 2014, I would like to take this opportunity to wish one and all a Merry Christmas as well as Happy Holidays for those of you fortunate enough to get time off to spend with your family. May you and your loved ones enjoy good health, peace and happiness during the seasonal holidays.

Many thanks too for reading my blog and for your encouraging comments. Stay safe and take care!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Girls with guns, swords ... and hammers?

Anyway you look at it, girls with weapons is a marriage made in heaven for painters and sculptors alike. I find the concept of associating weapons with girls most appealing. Why? Because it challenges many a society's prejudiced view of women as the subservient and weaker sex ... the very same segment of society that discriminates against you based on the colour of your skin or personal believes. Putting weapons in the hands of the feminine half of humanity is to me, a symbolic gesture of flipping the bird at prejudiced views. And what a better way to start off than Bonnie Parker.       

Bonnie Parker as played by Holliday Grainger

Although the movie about the infamous 1930's outlaw duo of Bonnie and Clyde by The History Channel has been slated by critics for taking considerable liberties with historical accuracy, I think they missed the point. The show was meant to be entertaining, which for me it was, and it provides a take on how a person ends up in a life of crime which reinforces the notion that life is coloured in many shades of grey. Moreover, this latest TV movie remake makes you want to read more about life during the years of the Great Depression in America as any good historical show should do.  

Bonnie and Clyde as envisioned by The History Channel movie

Bonnie would make an excellent subject for a sculptor and painter, something I have been more actively aware of ever since my interest in sculpting was sparked. Weapons and 1930's style of clothing on a sculptor of Bonnie Parker makes for a unique and interesting combination that differs greatly from your regular sci-fi and fantasy stuff. On that note, there is a much more modern version of Bonnie in Roxy as played by Tara Lynne Bar in the movie 'God Bless America'. 

Roxy as played by Tara Lynne Bar

Creeping up on me unawares, 'God Bless America' is one movie that simply stunned and blew me away with its brilliance. A movie in which closed-minded conservative individuals should shy away from as they will not be able to see past the violence, the story revolves around Frank (played by Joel Murray) who is down and out to put it mildly as he has a broken marriage with a child that hates him, has lost his job and has terminal illness. As Frank sits on the couch with a gun in his mouth ready to end it all, he has an epiphany that sees him team up with Roxy (played by Tara Lynne Bar) and proceed to take out the trash of society - [Spoiler Alert Begins] including spoiled teenagers, racist and religious bigots, people who talk in cinemas, and many more idiots of society [Spoiler Alert Ends].

God Bless America - a superb dark comedy

On the surface there seems to be nothing interesting to sculpt or paint where Roxy is concerned, though I beg to differ. As a sculpture, Roxy is a symbolic miniature that represents a stand against the idiocy that seems to envelope the masses, or a non-conformist figurehead if you will. But not all miniatures need to based on serious themes. There is always the fantastical such as Sucker Punch.

Babydoll, the protagonist in Sucker Punch, as played by Emily Browning

Despite 'Sucker Punch' being almost universally panned by so-called serious film critics, I for one enjoyed this movie while still acknowledging it could have been so much better. Directed by Zack Snyder of '300' and 'Man of Steel' fame, this movie had great fights scenes (choreographed by Damon Caro) and stunning visual effects. One possible ambiguity this film represents is that it treads a fine line between female empowerment and sexploitation of female characters for geeky fanboys. Regardless, the characters in this movie make for cool subjects for both sculptors and painters.     

Other girls of Sucker Punch, including Babydoll

Of all the main female characters in 'Sucker Punch', I am most tempted to do some early concept sketches of Babydoll to see how this character can be sculpted by a novice like me. Figures of Sucker Punch characters have been professionally made by companies such as Hot Toys, Sideshow Collectibles and Gentle Giant. My favourite so far is an 18" tall figure of Baby Doll by Gentle Giant.

Babydoll collectible figure by Gentle Giant

But if there is a hint of sexual controversy in the depiction of women in 'Sucker Punch', there is none - in my opinion - of The Bride or Beatrix Kiddo, a character played by Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'. Here, she is purely a mean, lean and lethal killing machine out for revenge. Arguably, the pose of Uma Thurman in a Bruce Lee outfit and holding a samurai sword is possibly the easiest to sculpt and paint. Another cool pose is one in which she is in a wedding outfit. 

The Bride as portrayed by Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman was excellent in Quentin Tarantino's no-holds-barred action movie that pays homage to many film genres (the heroine's costume is already a dead give away). Though admittedly the violence can be at times a tad overwhelming, 'Kill Bill' was engrossing and enthralling to say the least. A simple plot in which Uma Thurman plays an assassin seeking revenge against her former allies for trying to kill her serves as the vehicle in which Tarantino unleashes this masterpiece on us.
This is not a movie for you to analyze the psychological underpinnings of the main characters, of which nearly all are female, but one to enjoy for the well executed homage to Hong Kong martial arts films, Japanese sword fighting movies, revenge and you guessed it ... girls with guns and swords.

Kill Bill Volume II movie poster

Guns and swords most people get but a girl with a hammer? Two words ... Ramona Flowers. One of the few well made manga influenced comic-to-movie translations, 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World' was a delightful little show that was both outlandish and endearing in a quirky kind of way. Ramona is the love interest for the main protagonist Scott Pilgrim who must defeat her seven evil-exes. Sounds silly when you think of it but the plot works a treat and is acted out well in an over-the-top manner that suits the feel of the comics. Ramona is one character I would consider trying to sculpt and paint. 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Ramona as how she looks in the comics (left) vs her movie version (right)

There is certainly no lack of characters to serve as an inspiration to start learning how to sculpt. But I  will need to take small baby steps and first start out with concept sketches of some of the characters I mentioned so far, including Katniss Everdeen. Fail or succeed it's shaping up to be one hell of a ride.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

House Baratheon warhorse in Renly's colours

Settling on a lopsided ratio of the types of House Baratheon heraldry on the warhorse, i.e. one stag head to three stags rearing on its hindquarters, I managed to finish painting the stag designs freehand over a period of two days. Although the stag head was easier to paint freehand, it didn't looks as impressive as the other heraldry depicting a rearing stag hence the lopsided ratio.  

House Baratheon heraldry in Renly's colours, the stag head

For the rearing stag, I had to change the positioning of its antlers because the original heraldry design wouldn't have translated well into miniature paint form, especially with my limited skills. To make things easier, I positioned one of the antlers as how it would have been seen if the stag had turned its head slightly more towards your or my viewpoint/direction. End result is a more stylized rather than realistic design which was much easier to paint freehand on the warhorse. 

House Baratheon heraldry in Renly's colours, the rearing stag

To make the House Baratheon heraldry (Renly version) stand out, I used bright yellow colours as opposed to the pastel ochre shades found in the original designs. Another difference was that my versions were painted in flat colours versus the original's more shaded colours. This was to ensure that this miniature would not look out of place with the general design of all the other Bretonnian Knight conversions I have done so far and will do in the future for my Game of Thrones project. 

House Baratheon warhorse complete with Renly's heraldry, side view (left)
House Baratheon warhorse complete with Renly's heraldry, side view (left)

Work now shifts to the knight to be seated on the warhorse, so do stayed tuned for further updates.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Knight Models Iron Man [WIP - Gold Armour]

Continuing with my non-metallic metal (NMM) work on the Knight Models Iron Man miniature, I was now faced the task of trying to paint the gold portions of the armour. Referencing the same triad of light sources as described in an earlier post, I proceeded to tackle painting non-metallic gold. My main challenge was trying to maintain a fine balance between having a smooth transition and having a stark contrast between the colours. A task complicated by the many angled surfaces of Iron Man's suit which made predicting how light reflects off the armour extremely difficult.       

Knight Models Iron Man - Work-in-Progress (WIP) on gold armour

Using only four Citadel colours namely Scorched Brown, Bubonic Brown, Snakebite Leather and Skull White, I tried to achieve non-metallic gold to somewhat mixed success. To say that NMM is a very difficult technique is a huge understatement. It not only requires a painter to have good blending skills (something I am working on) but also know where to put the highlights and shadows which is basically a good understanding how light reflects off metal (my knowledge is rudimentary at best). 

Colours for non-metallic gold

If you Googled for images of 'Iron Man Mark 3', you would have been bombarded with loads of pictures showing how light reflects off the armour. But rather than helping it actually makes things more confusing as you can only roughly guess at where the actual light source is coming from. Nonetheless, it did provide some surprising images that showed light reflecting in ways that I did not anticipate. That was something I consciously tried to incorporate when painting NMM for Iron Man.

Knight Model Iron Man's thigh gold armour

As with the red armour, the brightest highlight had to be pure white to simulate metal. Of the two colours - red and gold - the latter is much easier to paint as NMM. There are perhaps still some sections of the armour - both red and gold - that I could revisit to improve the NMM effect. Some parts may need a higher contrast gradient between the highlights and shadows but more research on my part is needed to determine for sure or I would just make things worse than it already is.   

Back view of Iron Man's armour, with the gold portions painted
Angled sideways view of Iron Man's armour, with the gold portions painted

To get a good idea of whether the NMM has achieved its desired effect, it's best to see how both the red and gold armour look together as a whole - in terms of the much sought-after metallic effect (see last photo below). While I am generally happy with the results so far, I am under no illusions that I should do much better to get a more realistic NMM effect. The solution to that is more practice.   

Right side of the right thigh gold armour received the least highlights based on light sources
Overall shot of how the gold and red metallic armour interplays with each other

Other than touching up the NMM effect, work remains to be done on the base, arc reactor, hand repulsors and some minor object source lighting. It feels good to be making further progress on my Marvel Universe project, and I hope to post more updates on Iron Man in the coming weeks.   


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Adapting House Baratheon heraldry for miniature form

Chosen as the next miniature in my Game of Thrones project purely for its colour scheme, Renly Baratheon has two main heraldry designs that can be painted freehand on the Bretonnian Knight conversion. One is a stag head while the other has a stag rearing up on its hindquarters. With some simple changes, both can be adapted to become freehand paintings on a miniature, more so for the latter design below as it contains a complicated drawing of the antlers.

House Baratheon heraldry [Renly version]

As with my previous two heraldry freehand paintings, the process began with  some large not-to-scale drawings to get a feel of what could or couldn't work. At the top of my to-do list was to find a simple way to depict the crown as well as antlers on the stag. Due to the scale of the Bretonnian knight, I settled for the simplest form I could the results of which you can see in the first two pictures below. The practice paintings are very rough in form and gives me an idea of what I need to do later in order to make the two stag designs stand out - at least in theory as I am still not sure if I can pull it off.

Early not-to-scale drawings to decide what could be done
More precise-to-scale drawings and rough paintings on a 12-mm by 15-mm shield

In preparation for the feehand painting of House Baratheon heraldry a la Renly's version, I painted the cloth on the warhorse in a slightly dark green look. As this was my first serious try at blending green acrylic colours (the ork skins I did previously were pathetic so they don't count), it resulted in a less than stellar result. What surprised me most was how chalky some of the greens were, an issue I was not expecting for the shades of green I was working with - from Orkhide Shade to Dark Angels Green to Snot Green to Scorpion Green and mixed colours in-between.

Mixing some different shades of green on the wet palette
House Baratheon [Renly version] warhorse sans heraldy (left side view)
House Baratheon [Renly version] warhorse sans heraldy (right side view)

So the next step will be the painting of Renly's heraldry, my toughest freehand challenge yet.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Katniss Everdeen, an inspiration to start sculpting

Where do I even begin? There are many moments in both Hunger Games movies so far that made me pause and think ... 'hey that would make an awesome miniature model kit'. And most of these moments involve the character portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence i.e. Katniss Everdeen. Well she may yet be the straw that broke the camel's back and the character that gets me to learn about sculpting.   

Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss to perfection with that 'spaced-out I don't care anymore' look on her face. Perhaps  two other actors could, in my humble opinion, have successfully pulled off playing Katniss namely Ellen Page (who is Kitty Pride in Days of Future Past, the new X-Men movie) and Hailee Steinfeld (who portrayed Petra in Ender's Game). But that being said, Jennifer Lawrence nails the character and is how I have imagined her from the books.

Jennifer Lawrence was the perfect Katniss
Ellen Page (left) and Hailee Steinfeld (right)

So what are the moments that I feel would make awesome miniatures for painting? For a start,there is that chariot scene in the first movie where Katniss is dressed in a Cat Woman-like outfit that is set ablaze with flames. That pose would make a very cool bust sculpture. 

Costume and special effects in the chariot scene from the first book/movie

Another scene has Katniss dressed in Tomb Raider-like garb. It looks simple, which makes it a prime candidate for a novice sculpture, yet would still be a wonderful piece to have in your collection. There is an action figure by NECA which depicts her in the pose below but it comes fully painted, which might be of use to re-modellers but not really that appealing to painters. 

A Tomb Raider look for Katniss Everdeen

My favourite moment of both movies so far and the one scene in which I would most love to sculpt is the one that has Katniss spinning around in a gorgeous red dress that bursts into flames at the lower fringes. Forgive me for the overly generous use of adjectives but that costume was simply stunning, magnificent and elegant in its simplicity, made even better by the simple hairdo and makeup that Jeniffer Lawrence had on in that scene. It reminded me of a flamenco dancer in full flight.

From District 12, the girl on fire

Catching Fire, the latest Hunger Games movie, also has some memorable moments of its own that would make cool miniatures, if someone would only sculpt them. This time around, the second chariot scene had lost its 'surprise' factor but still looks impressive enough to be a bust sculpture.

Katniss in another chariot scene in Catching Fire

Similarly uncomplicated in style is the attire worn by participants to the Quarter Quell, a special edition of the Hunger Games that is held every 25 years. A good pose is one I found on the cover of Empire magazine which has Katniss holding a bow and carrying some arrows on her back.

Attire worn by participants of the 75th Hunger Games

Perhaps the most detailed and thus difficult miniature to sculpt would be the one where Katniss is wearing a wedding dress that transforms into a mockingjay outfit. While it is something to aspire to if one has some experience sculpting, this is surely beyond the ability of a novice sculptor.

Wedding dress that transforms into a mockingjay costume

So the above moments has certainly sparked my interest in sculpting (pun unintended) but I know as much about sculpting as I did miniature painting about 2-3 years ago which is close to nothing. Of what little I know sees me leaning towards learning how to sculpt with polymer clay. This is a new journey that I am looking forward to and hopefully one that will be just as rewarding as miniature painting has been for me so far. A lot of work lies ahead so it's going to be baby steps all the way.

Hunger Games the books, a short review

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

In case you have been living under a rock for the past five years, Hungers Games is a science fiction trilogy written about a dystopian nation called Panem. Katniss Everdeen, the main character lives in one of the 12 districts under the political control of The Capitol, the seat of a totalitarian government. Every year, two children (one boy and one girl) are requested as tribute from each of the 12 districts. These children are then sent to compete in The Hunger Games in which there is only one winner.    

If you have already seen the movies, would you want to read the books? The answer to that is an emphatic yes! As Suzanne Collins has written the books from a first-person narrative or point of view, there are a lot of thoughts by the main character Katniss which does not translate well into the big screen. Additionally, the books also give deeper insights into the characters although I suspect some of such narrative may be used as material for the final two movies of the Hunger Games series. Another book in a similar vein theme-wise would be Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, which also deals with young children left in a kill-or-be-killed environment that sees them descent into savagery.

Setting aside the deeper meaning that critics have tried to glean from the books, this trilogy should be enjoyed simply as being a good story told well. Characters in the Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay books are well developed, especially that of Katniss Everdeen as the books are written in her voice. And wonderful characters always make good miniatures to paint ... and sculpt.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Knight Models Iron Man [WIP - Red Armour]

Akin to jumping into the deep-end of the pool, trying out the non-metallic metal (NMM) painting technique for the first time was made much more challenging by the many reflective angles provided by Iron Man's suit of armour. Without a doubt, this has been my toughest challenge yet in miniature painting and I was initially overwhelmed by the task I faced in painting Iron Man using NMM. To make things more manageable, I decided to break each task up into small digestible pieces and tackle them one at a time. I have a ways to go before I master NMM but at least I have made a start.

NMM light sources for Knight Models Iron Man

Firstly, I decided on where my light sources were going to be (see above). In this case, I imagined light coming from three different sources spaced roughly 120 degrees from each other. Secondly, I tried to paint NMM layers on Iron Man's suit of armour by treating each small section as separate geometric shapes and paint them based on how I think light would reflect off a metal surface. Things were made easier by the use of a wet palette which helped in blending paints, a key component of the NMM painting technique. It also allowed me to work for longer stretches during a single painting session as the wet palette prevents the paint from drying up to too fast. 

Using a wet palette for NMM helped ease blending of colours

Work on the red armour is by no means finished as I will most likely have to rev-visit it once I completed NMM layers on the gold sections or Iron Man's suit of armour. This is to ensure that light reflections of the gold armour is consistent with how light plays off the red sections of the armour. Nonetheless, I guess the bulk of the NMM work on the red armour is done.

Knight Models Iron Man (WIP Red Armour) - facing Light Source 1
Pure Skull White was used for the brightest highlights to make it look like metal
Back of red armour most likely still needs further touch ups for the NMM to work convincingly

In the case of Knight Models Iron Man, a lack of patience is one factor that can derail my efforts at painting a presentable NMM effect. The many individual armour panels on Iron Man means light reflects slightly differently from each one. A tendency on my part to paint too fast can mean overlooking small details that will cause the NMM effect to look wrong to the human eye.    

Knight Models Iron Man (WIP Red Armour) - facing Light Source 2
Knight Models Iron Man (WIP Red Armour) - facing Light Source 3
Still at basecoat stage - the arc reactor, hand repulsors, gold armour and base
Knight Models Iron Man (WIP Red Armour)

Hopefully when I have finished painting NMM on the gold sections, the overall metallic look of Iron Man will be more convincing. Additionally, object source lighting effects of the Arc Reactor on Iron Man's chest and repulsor weapon's on his hands will enhance the NMM effect, assuming I can pull it off. Well that's it for my progress on the Knight Models Iron Man miniature. Many hours of work lie ahead and I will need every ounce of my willpower to not rush things as per my usual (bad) habit. 

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