Friday, 31 January 2014

Happy Lunar New Year of the Horse 2014 ... and a quick update on Ser Gregor Clegane's weapons and shield

Woo hoo! Happy Lunar New Year! Here's wishing those who celebrate the lunar new year a healthy and prosperous Year of the Horse. As for those of you using this holiday period to return to your hometowns, please stay safe and have a good holiday rest.  

I haven't been able to get much painting done as my family prepared to welcome the lunar new year. However, I did manage to make further progress on my Ser Gregor Clegane painting conversion using the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C resin miniature. 

Ser Gregor's weapons and shield (with freehand painting of the House Clegane heraldry)

Completing the freehand painting of House Clegane's heraldry was easier this time around as I had some practice on a previous paint job conversion of a Bretonnian Knight into a Game of Thrones House Clegane knight. Incidentally that miniature is shown above in the lunar new year greeting as he was one of only two horse-themed miniatures that I had ever painted. The design for the heraldry is based on a version painted by Jennifer Haley, a miniature painter whose work I admire greatly. 

Flip side of Ser Gregor Clegane's weapons and shield

Work on the flip side of the shield was kept simple because about 90% of it will be hidden from view. Both the sword and warhammer were given some blood effects. With that, Ser Gregor Clegane (aka Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C.) is at 85% completion. Hopefully I can squeeze in some painting during this long lunar new year holiday period. Cheers and thanks for reading!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C [WIP - Cloak & Tunic]

Work on Ser Gregor Clegane is coming along nicely as I make steady progress on the paint job conversion of the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C resin miniature. This phase saw me completing Ser Gregor's cloak and tunic as well as a version of the House Clegane heraldry on his chest.

Ser Gregor Clegane - Work-In-Progress on his cloak and tunic

As with my previous experience when painting the face, the job of painting the cloak and tunic was made so much easier by the fantastic sculpture of the resin miniature. A well sculpted miniature always makes a painters job easier, and in this case the sculpted folds of the cloak and tunic made determining where light and shadow fell on the clothing a fairly easy task.

Both the cloak and tunic on the Nocturna Models miniature was wonderfully sculpted

Some possible additions to tunic (or even cloak) might be to bloody it up or to make it look dirtied up. But such stains on the clothing will have to wait until after Ser Gregor's chain-mail armour has been painted. If you look closely you will notice some rents in the armour which would be ideal locations to paint blood while other areas show wear and tear which could be suitable for dirt stains. I want to wait and see if I can get away with not having any stains at all on the cloak and tunic.   

Chain-mail armour is still unpainted

Admittedly, the colour choice of Ser Gregor's cloak is not an official one as the character as depicted both in the books and HBO series do not indicate bluish-grey as part of House Clegane's colours. I used it because it complemented the yellows of his tunic, not unlike the original X-Men uniform.   

A shield will be placed on the upper mid-section of the cloak

Painting the symbol of a dog - a version of House Clegane's herladry - was very difficult for me to conceptualise and make into reality. More so as I have never tried to paint any designs or symbols onto a crumpled clothing before. I tried my best to distort the heraldry based on the folds of the tunic.

House Clegane heraldry on the crumpled tunic of Ser Gregor

What remains to be painted are the hands, weapons and shield of the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C resin miniature. They have been primed in light grey using the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer.

Weapons and shield of the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C resin miniature

Thanks for following the progress on my version of Ser Gregor Clegane, a character in the Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. The toughest task lies ahead of me namely a detailed heraldry depicting three hounds on a shield. With the shield's larger size (a result of this resin miniature being in 1/28th scale), it will harder to get away with a badly painted freehand design. It's a task that I approach with a fair bit of apprehension. Till then, have a good week ahead, and be well and happy!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Knight Models Iron Man [Completed]

Crawling over the finish line just about sums up the completion of my attempt at painting the Knight Models Iron Man Special Edition white metal model kit. After finishing the main parts comprising the red and gold armour, I had procrastinated on putting the finishing touches to the miniature namely the arc reactor, hand repulsors, eyes and base - partly but not entirely due to laziness.

Knight Models Iron Man Special Edition [Completed]

Perhaps at the back of my mind I felt that I could have done much better painting the non-metallic metal (NMM) effects - especially the gold portion of the armour. But I eventually let it go and moved on as it was my first try at painting NMM. There will be plenty more NMM projects in the future.

Pure white highlights helped to enhance the NMM effect

For Iron Man's eyes, hand repulsors and arc reactor, I decided to use pure white with some light greyish blue as the shadows. Object source lighting (OSL) effects were kept to a minimum because most photos of Iron Man showed that the light from the eyes, hand repulsors and arc reactor did not really affect the armour around them. Majority of the OSL effects were on the ground which isn't very clear from the photos due to the angle of the shots.

Gold armour on the back thigh came off grittier than I had intended

To me, the colour transitions on the red armour turned out better than for the gold armour. One reason could be that I have had more practice painting red than yellow. Moreover I was trying out a new colour combination for the gold armour - comprising of yellows and browns -  and my inexperience with the colour mixture contributed towards a less than satisfactory result on the gold armour.

Back view of the Knight Models Iron Man Special Edition

One of the things that I like about this miniature is the pose that Iron Man has. It reminds me of a fight scene between Iron Man and Thor in the Avengers movie, specifically of Iron Man being pegged back after he was on the receiving end of a head-butt by Thor.

From this angle, the red armour makes Iron Man look like a lobster

Meanwhile, I used muted colours comprising varying shades of grey for the ground so that one's focus is directed towards Iron Man without being too distracted by the base. Though I flirted briefly with using brownish hues for the ground, I felt it would have been too similar to Iron Man's colours.

Side view of the Knight Models Iron Man Special Edition miniature

Other than letting me practice NMM, the Knight Models Iron Man miniature also gave me the opportunity to try a variety of painting techniques such as wet blending and layering with the help of a wet palette. In fact, I now no longer use a dry palette as I find it to be extremely limiting, especially in the warm weather I paint in which results in the acrylic paints drying up very fast.    

Arc reactor was predominantly white with some light greyish blue for the shadows

All in all this miniature was a pleasure to paint and put together. Although assembly of some small parts made this miniature a bit of a challenge, it also made the feeling of achievement more palpable. 

I love the pose adopted by this special edition Knight Models Iron Man miniature

360 view of Knight Models Iron Man Special Edition
For a 360 degree view of the Knight Models Iron Man Special Edition, please check out the video of the miniature below. For other videos, check out my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures.

So my first superhero is now completed. It has certainly wet my appetite to work on other characters from the Marvel Universe. Up next in my Marvel project will be Logan and The Hulk. I can't wait to get started. With so many stuff in my to-do-list, it is indeed a great time to be a miniature hobbyist.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Learning to draw again

With my interest in sculpting gathering momentum, I found myself having to learn how to draw again. Although technically you don't have to be good at drawing in order to start sculpting, I felt that it would be a good starting point for me as I would prefer to have some detailed concept sketches in place before I begin sculpting. This meant picking up a pencil and drawing again after so many years.

A drawing of the eye - the window to your 'soul'

As a kid I loved to draw despite not being really good at it. But sadly, any interest in improving my drawing skills were effectively killed off by a horrible art syllabus in secondary school (high school) which made art one of my most hated subjects. So any nascent interest in art was dead by my teens.

Taking a stab at drawing realistic hair - much more practice awaits

To get things started after such a long hiatus from drawing, I decided to start with the head. After all, if I can't draw a decent face what would be the point of continuing on to the rest of the figure. As with miniature painting, the eyes are - to me anyway - the most important feature of a figure. So I began by trying to draw a decent eye (see above). I have always struggled with hair too so I gave drawing realistic hair a go as well. Other parts such as the nose, ear and lips are also on my to-practise-list.  

My first drawing of Sucker Punch's Babydoll - a potential sculpting project

My first two subjects of my drawing are Emily Browning's Sucker Punch Babydoll character and Jennifer Lawrence's Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen character. Both will likely be my first sculpting subjects so it stands to reason to try a draw a likeness to both actresses. It's no surprise that my first two portrait drawings were not very good and did not have a close resemblance to the photos. A lack of natural talent in art means the only way I can get better at portrait drawing is to practice.  

My first attempt at drawing Jennifer Lawrence, in preparation of a Katniss Everdeen sketch

A sense of relief permeates my first steps in learning the skills required to draw some early concept sketches for my sculpting projects. Relief because for someone who lacks natural artistic talents, learning to draw again after more than two decades was very challenging. But with the mental hurdle of even starting successfully navigated, all that is left for me to do is practise, practise, practise!  

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C [WIP - Face]

Work finally resumed for my paint job conversion of Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. into Ser Gregor of the Game of Thrones House Clegane. Leaving the rest of the miniature at the basecoat stage, I proceeded to paint the face to near completion by going with a weather-beaten or tanned look. For this purpose, I used a mixture or Reaper and Citadel flesh acrylic colours.      

Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C. as a proxy for Ser Gregor Clegane

As my painting style gravitates towards a minimalist approach, I am always trying to get the job done with as little colours as I can get away with. Although I am fairly satisfied with the skin tone I have achieved for the face, I will likely do additional work on the beard to give it a more contrast as well as an aged look. I am guessing this might involve a wash and perhaps some grey or white highlights. A final decision will be made after I have completed painting the greyish-blue cloak on Ser Gregor.

For the face, I tried to achieve a weather-beaten or tanned look

I was sorely tempted to paint some hair on his scalp to simulate the hairstyle that you would find on a fresh army recruit otherwise known as a buzz haircut. Though I might still do this, it is highly unlikely as I feel that I neither have sufficient painting skills nor the brush control to pull it off.

Do I look macho without my hair?

After I have finished painting the rest of the miniature, I may perhaps have to revisit the face and add more colours to it to enhance the contrast and depth, especially to the beard as mentioned earlier.

Back view of Ser Gregor's head

Painting the face of the Nocturna Models Crusader XIII C miniature was made easier by the fact that it was extremely well sculpted. So much so that the face practically paints it self. Well, that's my progress so far on this Ser Gregor Clegane paint job conversion. Thanks for reading!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Baking soda ... a boon from the hobby gods

Gluing very tiny parts with small surface areas to a figure or model kit is one of my main pet peeves as a miniature hobbyist. At best of times it requires a huge test of patience, a trait that I do not have in abundance. In a worse case scenario, the very thought of having to get a tiny part to bond strongly at a correct position/angle is enough to put me off the figure or model kit in question. A crying shame considering how some cool miniatures require you to work with extremely small parts.

Pure baking soda or otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate

A recent project i.e. Knight Models Logan (aka Wolverine) threw up the very challenge that I dreaded as it involved gluing thin blades to Logan's hand. Solution to my fears? Pure baking soda.

Attaching Logan's claws was made easier with the baking soda-super glue combo

Now baking soda (otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate) is usually used with cyanoacrylate glues (in my case Shellys Supa Glue) to create a hard but lightweight adhesive filler. Based on this concept, I was mainly interested in two characteristics that this mixture has namely a very fast bonding time (almost instantly) and the relative strong bond that is created. Both characteristics appealed to me, especially the first one, as a longer bonding time when dealing with tiny parts will invariably result in the said part not adhering correctly to the figure/model kit. A faster bonding time is always preferred.

When mixed together, pure baking soda and super glue form a strong bond that hardens almost instantaneously

It is important that you use pure baking soda and not those that have been mixed with flour. It shouldn't be too hard to get a hold of as I got mine from a wet market of all places. As to the actual process, what I found worked best for me involved the following steps:

1. Place a small drop of super glue on the figure/model kit
2. Dip the tiny part into the pure baking soda so that some sticks to the end that you want to glue
3. Attach the tiny part to the figure/model kit and hold carefully in place for about 2 seconds

Warning: The steps above prevent your fingers from coming into direct contact with the mixture which releases heat when reacting with each other.

And there you have it. An effective way to glue tiny parts on to your miniature figure or model kit. For me, pure baking soda is certainly a time saver and manna from the hobby heavens.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

My first Gretchin experiment

It feels good to have my fever break and finally start the recovery process proper from chicken pox. It feels even better to finally get started on my painting projects for 2014. Still feeling slightly under the weather, I took things slow and started small by painting the first two (of four) gretchins that have been earmarked as skin tone test subjects for my Knight Models Hulk project. One half was primed in white, the other in black (as indicated by the base colour) to determine if it has any effect on the final paint job. Main colours used were Citadel's Knarloc Green, Gretchin Green and Bleached Bone. 

It doesn't matter if you are black or white

Apart from the relative roughness in the final texture of the gretchin's skin - with the black primer giving a smoother finish - there were no noticeable differences in the final paint job. I suppose this was to be expected seeing that the basecoat colour for the skin tone was the very opaque Citadel Knarloc Green paint. Moreover, this foundation paint had good coverage which meant both black and white undercoats were painted over in roughly equal (and minimal) number of paint layers. 

Bluish grey pants for the gretchins ala The Hulk

To closely approximate The Hulk's overall paint scheme, I painted both their pants in greyish blue. The only link they have to my current ork army is their yellow cloth wrappings which show that they belong to the Bad Moonz Orks clan. If I manage to finish the other two gretchins and their big guns, I will also have two additional heavy support units entering my small Warhammer 40K Ork army.

Yellow cloth wrappings on the gretchins indicate they belong to the Bad Moonz Orks

Both gretchins are my best attempt at a smooth green skin to date. While that is not saying much, I am still pretty pleased because it shows that I am progressing as a miniature painter.

Bluish grey pants for the gretchins ala The Hulk

Unfortunately, the final skin results were way off the targeted Hulk colours - much too green. I will need to find a way to lighten the skin tone, perhaps with more Citadel Bleached Bone. One issue I faced when adding more Bleached Bone was an increase in chalkiness - something I need to resolve.

Skin tone comparisons between The Hulk and gretchins

All things considered, I actually like this shade of green that I got. So I guess I won't mind using it if I am unsuccessful in my attempt to obtain a lighter and paler shade of green in the skin tone for The Hulk that can be seen on The Avengers movie as well as Sideshow Collectibles figure.

Friday, 3 January 2014

A lousy start to the new year

Getting laid low with a fever since New Year's Eve wasn't exactly how I envisioned ushering in the new year. Looks like Papa Nurgle has a cruel sense of humour indeed. So at an age where a mid-life crisis supposedly brings you fast cars and boy toys, I get .... Chicken Pox! Needless to say, all my painting projects will be on hold while I wallow in misery and self pity.  It also sucks that chicken pox at my age isn't a bed of roses to put it mildly. Achhh ... the fever medicine is wearing off ...

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