Monday, 28 December 2015

State of my worktable ... what's in store for next year

In the proverbial (and perennial) blink of an eye, the year is already fast approaching its end, and soon 2016 will be upon us. And while I haven't been active hobby-wise over these last few weeks, I've been taking stock of what I had done this past year and what I'll be doing in the coming one. So it's pertinent that my last blog post of the year starts with a recollection of what I've painted in 2015.

Miniature projects completed in calendar year 2015

I've never been much of 'quantity painter' with a miserable output of over 10 to 15 miniature painting projects completed over a period of 12 months. Adding salt to injury is the fact that I can't even claim to be a 'quality painter' as I have a ways to go before I hit the skill level I want to be at. Granted that this is an ever moving target so such a goal tends to be all about the journey rather than destination. Vincent van Gogh captures this sentiment in a quote attributed to him ... If I do nothing, if I study nothing, if I cease searching, then woe is me, I am lost [cue John William's Binary Sunset score].

Board game miniature project transitioning into 2015 from 2014

Analysing what I have done over this past year and the latter half of last year, I guess it's safe to say I have made decent progress in the quality of some of my work though in the same breath some other projects had results which left a lot to be desired. Inconsistency is perhaps a hallmark of one trying to improve. Something to console myself with then, as I seek to paint (and draw) better. 

Miniature projects completed during 2H 2014

So what then lies in store for me next year? To date, the 2016 main project pipeline comprises the Nocturna Models Battle Chick and Crusader; the Knight Models Loki; the Dark Sword Miniatures Female Mage and Bard as well as Wood Elf Goddess; the Ax Faction Urban Monster Hunter; and last but not least a set of four Chaos Space Marines in an ode to the four Chaos gods.

A major portion of my work-in-progress miniature painting projects
Work-in-progress miniatures shown at a slightly different angle
An Ode to Chaos project should allow me to play with colour combinations I've always wanted to try out

Then there is the half-assembled Knight Models Thor and the 'nearly completed paint job' House Martell Knight. The latter has been shelved indefinitely due to an unfortunate accident in which practically more than half to two-thirds of my Vallejo Model Color Light Orange was spilled onto the wet palette. Barely a quarter was salvageable because a huge portion fell on the worst possible colour on the palette ... black. The inset image in the second photo below doesn't do justice to what really happened as I had thrown most of the paint away by then. More to the point, this 'little' accident has totally dampened my mood for this particular Game of Thrones miniature project. Time will heal they say so maybe after a cooling off period I won't feel so bad when I look at the said paint bottle.  

Knight Models Thor, mostly assembled and soon-to-be primed
A sad accident with one of my favourite Vallejo Model Color hues has put this project on hold indefinitely

It has been a wonderful couple of weeks spent doing just the simple things with the family e.g. lazing around watching TV/movies and playing video games, window shopping and such. To cap it off, as I was putting the finishing touches to this final post of the year, I was gifted with the most awesome ever early-Birthday present from my wife and son. My birthday isn't even due for another three-weeks-plus but this absolute modeller's dream of a gift means it will be added to my project pipeline, heck ... bumped up the line even. As to what this gift is, all will be revealed in a future post.

What could the gift be? Let's just say it's something I've always imagined holding in my hands as a kid

So there you have it. My last post of 2015. It needs to be said that the set of primed/assembled/half-painted miniatures you see above are not necessarily a comprehensive road map of what I'll be doing in 2016. The mystery birthday gift and many other ideas floating in my head will inevitably add to the pipeline provided I can make decent progress on the existing work-in-progress miniatures presently on my worktable. With that I bid you adieu and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Star Wars Pewter Figurine Collection

My now seemingly extended break from the hobby continued with a visit to a local mall (1Utama) to check out a Star Wars pewter figurines collection on display. Sadly though, this set of beauties from Royal Selangor came with a rather hefty price tag which ruled out any chance of them landing in my personal collection. Maybe this will be the final straw that pushes me to sculpt my own pieces.

Royal Selangor Star Wars Pewter Figurines exhibition
This shot (together with the poster above) kinda gives you a sense of how big the figurines are
From left to right: Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Yoda and a Stormtrooper

Sculpted out of pewter (a metal alloy comprising mainly of tin), these figurines looked good as is. In fact, they were created as display pieces without the need for any coat of paint. That however didn't stop me from daydreaming of what I could have done, painting-wise, to bring these figurines to life.   

Your lack of confidence in my pose is most disturbing ...
Much maligned for his aiming skills, the Stormtrooper is nonetheless my favourite character
Yoda eyes an easy kill
Well sculpted pose and textures on Yoda made this piece exceptionally realistic
Boba Fett is a blast to play in the new Star Wars Battlefront multiplayer game

Of all the figurines on display, my favourite has to be Princess Leia in her slave costume. She would be the one I would most love to paint, followed by Yoda, the Stormtrooper and Darth Vader. Actually I wouldn't mind painting all of them but if I had to choose, those four would be my preferred choices.

Oh Han Solo, Han Solo, wherefore art thou Han Solo?
Princess Leia in her slave costume
Han Solo's pose is awkward at best, or just simply ridiculous ...
... partly redeemed by good sculpting to capture the character's features

I could only spot one character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the collection i.e. the Chrome Stormtrooper with a cape. There was also only one diorama on display - the Luke Skywalker versus Rancor scene from Return of the Jedi. Poor Luke, he is so unpopular that he's the smallest figure in the whole collection. And if you ask me, the diorama was definitely missing a Gamorrean Guard!

Not sure what is he called ... 'the Chrome Stormtrooper with a cape' is my best guess
Luke Skywalker versus Rancor diorama ... poor Luke, he's the smallest figure of the whole lot

In addition to the figurines, there were some odd pieces here and there namely cuff links, USB drives and a hollow-on-the-inside Death Star, whose purpose I can't quite discern - paper weight? candy holder? decorative piece? It's obvious the highlight of the collection are the figurines themselves. 

Power cuff links to ace any job interview you may have, force not included
16GB USB drives coming in at a whopping RM238.50 each
A geek's personal disco ball, or the Death Star to diehard Empire fans

While waiting for the latest installment Force Awakens to hit the big screen, I have been getting my Star Wars fix by playing the PS4 version of Star Wars Battlefront. Moreover, coupled with the fact that playing a first-person-shooter using a console gamepad is akin to shooting like a Stormtrooper ... you could say this game is not only fun but extremely realistic. ;) My kill ratio is bad (my son calls me a feeder) ... really bad, but I can hold my own despite having the reflexes of a freezing tauntaun.   

If you ever find yourself in a multiplayer session on Star Wars Battlefront and get shot in the back by a player called FourEyedGamer ... know that your death is not in vain. It's helping my kill ratio!

It pays to be part of the Empire you rebel scum ...

Well that's it from me as I continue with my self-imposed break from the hobby. Getting some video game playing time is going a long way towards recharging my batteries so hopefully I will soon get back into the groove of painting and hobbying in general. Now where's that bush I can camp in and shoot all the rebel scum as they spawn ... muah ha ha ha ha ha ha ... darn it I missed. Pew pew pew!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Big Bad Wolf Book Sale 2015

With the year end holidays fast approaching, I decided to take a short break with the family and attend a preview of the Big Bad Wolf Book 2015 Sale. The missus was lucky enough to obtain a preview pass by taking part in an online facebook quiz. So it was a good opportunity for the family to get a look at the books available before the general crowd swarms over the regular sale event.    

Big Bad Wolf Book Sale 2015 - Preview Pass
A one day only event that meant lesser crowds and more elbow room to look for books

With my only prior experience being the mid year Big Bad Box Sale, this was my first Big Bad Wolf Book Sale event. It's touted as the greatest book sale in the world but I wouldn't go that far. I wasn't overly impressed with the book selection on hand. It's was a good preview sale not a great one.      

It being a preview event on a working day meant a smaller crowd and more elbow room for me
Books galore stretched from one corner of the hall ...
... to another, giving rise to many opportunities to spot a bargain

Being a SciFi/Fantasy genre buff, I was pretty apprehensive going into the sale. Sadly, this genre isn't very popular in the country, at least I don't think it is. But I was reasonably surprised to see that they had quite a number of tables dedicated to the genre - at least five. Although that good vibe soon dissipated when I couldn't really find that many titles I was actually interested in. Buying books just for the sake of a bargain wasn't an option due to the very tight budget the family was operating from. That being said, I still managed to find some awesome (though few) book bargains in the genre.

Horror, SciFi and Fantasy were the three genres I targeted in the preview sale
Art books and comics were sought out too but those were few and far between
My paperback loot from this year's Big Bad Wolf preview sale

My personal loot revolved mainly around the horror and SciFi/Fantasy genre with a couple of art books and a comic thrown in. Prices were very low with the hardbacks and paperbacks in my selection ranging from RM10 to RM12 (USD2.40/£1.60/€2.20 to USD2.90/£1.90/2.60). The artbooks, Baby Blues comic and Ender's Game boxset were a tad more expensive at around RM15 to RM25 (USD3.60/£2.40/€3.30 to USD6.00/£3.95/5.50). All in all, my personal loot came to about RM187 (USD45/£30/41). Not too bad considering this total would have only gotten me only a hardback and a paperback at normal price, especially when the ringgit is currently so depreciated.

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them

On a related note, I'm pretty chuffed to have persuaded my 12-year-old son to start reading The Lord of the Rings. I was even more pleasantly surprised when he excitedly recited the ring-verse (poem about the Rings of Power) from memory. To me, reading this Tolkien classic is a rite of passage that transitions one from the Young Adult genre to the proper world of SciFi and Fantasy. I leave you with a quote that perhaps resonates with most miniature painters I know. As Samwise Gamgee's old gaffer used to say, It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish. Wise words indeed. So what are you waiting for? Start the project you were meaning to start ... and finish it.

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