Wednesday, 17 January 2018

2017 Looking back... and forward.

I caught a cold over Christmas (who didn’t this year?) and suffered a flare up of my asthma. So my painting motivation has been at an all time low for the last few weeks! Such is life and I’ve learned to go with the ebb and flow of enthusiasm for my hobby. Rather than beating myself up over my lack of progress, I can see that it all tends to even out over the long term.

As I’ve begun to feel better (but not up to painting) I’ve spent a little time on this blog replacing some of the missing pictures. It’s just as much of a slog as I’d feared, but I’ve worked my way back to the end of October 2014 and the start of Gutrot Spume!

It’s been quite nostalgic to go through my old picture and it’s heartening to see how my painting has continued to develop and, I hope, improve over the last few years. As I say in my bio on this blog, ‘there is always something new to learn’.

All this nostalgia reminds me that it’s time to look back and review the past year! Overall it feels as if I’ve been less productive in terms of finished miniatures especially as I’m now painting ‘full time’. However while this is true it’s not the whole picture.

The first half of the year was dominated by my workshops and the necessary preparation they involved. So when you factor in the Plaguebearers I painted ready for Copenhagen, my output is on a par with previous years.

This greyscale Plaguebearer was painted for my contrast workshop in Copenhagen.

My three workshops, in Copenhagen, Stockport and Hull, were a huge and thoroughly enjoyable part of my painting year and I’m looking forward to developing this side of things in the coming year.

Contrast in Copenhagen
Textured NMM in Stockport
Monster Flesh in Hull

2017 saw me finish three projects: The Orruk Megaboss, The Abyssal Warlord and the Death Guard Chaos Space Marine. In addition to these, and the aforementioned Plaguebearers, I’ve put a fair bit of work into the Akito bust and made a tentative start on my new Nurgle Predator.

I think the three finished minis represent a very distinct phase in my painting. This year I’ve explored and developed my approach to painting contrasting textures and that’s very evident in my work. I feel that, over the last year, I’ve greatly increased my range in this area. That’s something I’m especially pleased about because I think it’s bridged a gap in my skill set. Not so very long ago I was all about smoothness!

I’ve enjoyed continued success in painting competitions. They remain a great motivator to improve my painting and help to give my painting year some structure. Salute 2017 saw me take home a Bronze for my Abalam bust. The Golden Demon Classic in May saw me win a Gold in what was the most strongly contested Golden Demon I’ve attended! But it was the Warhammer 40,000 Open Day in November that gave me my greatest success with a Gold and my fifth Slayer Sword. I’m very proud but no one gets anywhere by resting on their laurels so I’m going to have to keep on my toes and keep pushing myself to grow as a painter!

On the personal side, I took myself in hand this last year and made a major effort to improve my health. Over the last few years I’d become quite seriously over weight for someone of my height, or lack of it, and my blood pressure had gone through the roof as a result. I got my diet under control and began to exercise regularly. By August I’d undergone quite a transformation having lost 44 pounds and ‘found’ a full head of hair! Most importantly my blood pressure is now good for someone of my age.

These photos are, give or take a week, taken one year apart,
it's quite a shock to see exactly how much I've changed!
So what of the future? As I said earlier I’m looking forward to further developing my painting workshops. I shall be returning to Element Games for my ‘Contrast in miniature painting’ workshop on the 2nd and 3rd of June and beyond that I’m looking into running a series of workshops by myself in Southampton.

On the painting front I have Akito to finish. This project continues to challenge and stimulate me, as it’s so different from anything else I’ve ever painted before. I’m looking forward to seeing Akito finished, hopefully in time for this year’s Salute.

Once Akito is done I will turn my attention to the 2018 Golden Demon season and consider my approach this year. I’d like to work on some long-term projects, as this is where I do my best work. But for 2018 I will probably try and get a couple of character minis painted and I already have my eye on some likely candidates.

In the much longer term there is the new Nurgle Predator and the recent release of a plastic Great Unclean One by Games Workshop has raised some very interesting possibilities and further fueled my enthusiasm for this particular project.

Although my plans for 2018 are a little vague, the year feels full of possibilities and I’m keen to see where it will take me!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

C-Girl Akito – Painting worn leather

It’s time to get Akito down off the shelf and back onto the painting table. So far I’ve painted Akito around other projects but from now I’ll stick with her until she’s done. This was always my plan although it’s a little later in the year than I’d anticipated; but I’ve enjoyed taking my time on this bust.

That’s just as well because I’ve found that slowing down seems to be the best way to progress with the next phase of Akito’s paintjob. The leather jacket has taken my painting into new territory and I’ve had to focus a lot of time and attention on it. I’ve developed a routine of painting for a couple of hours each day and then reviewing and amending my work the next day before moving on to a new area. That makes for slow progress but progress nonetheless.

The Akito bust screams out for painted material and texture contrasts and, having put a lot of effort into painting smooth skin, it’s time to paint a lot of texture on the leather jacket. I’d intended to paint Akito’s clothing in predominantly black tones but, as always, my plans have evolved as the paintjob developed. I’m now painting the leather a very battered and worn brown. I think this is both a more interesting painting challenge and a more realistic approach to Akito’s costume. Her clothing will have a randomly put together feel as opposed to a carefully colour co-ordinated fashion choice. That seems more appropriate for this character.

I’ve been putting a lot of effort into painting textures in my recent projects and this bust feels like the next step. The larger scale gives a lot of scope for painting texture but it also creates a huge challenge! I’m right out of my comfort zone but that’s no bad thing as it’s keeping me on my toes. Simply stippling over the jacket, as I might in a smaller scale, will not create a distinctive enough texture. Stippling certainly has a place in this paintjob but too much stippling will only serve to create a generic texture. What’s needed here is something more nuanced and distinctive.

This has challenged me to experiment with the marks I make with my brush and I’ve had to work around the problem to find a solution. As I’ve painted the jacket I’ve developed an approach that, I think, is beginning to work. This is something I’ve found especially interesting as it reflects the ongoing development of my painting technique. Going back a few years my stippling was, quite literally, painting with dots now, however, it’s far more varied. More often than not when I stipple I allow the tip of the brush to skip and drag over the surface of the model making a combination of dots, dashes and scribbles.

My colour palette has also undergone some trial and error to find a workable solution. Although predominantly brown I’ve painted the jackets highlights in cooler blue/grey tones as if reflecting the sky while the shadows go to black. This is similar to a NMM technique as leather can be a shiny reflective material. However, this leather is extremely old and worn and, in the most worn areas, the material would be rough and unreflective. To create these areas I’ve used a yellow brown tone and fairly course brush marks.

Colour Palette  


Flat Black/Brown Leather mix (Scalecolour)

Mid Tones:
Brown Leather (Scalecolour), Brown Gray (Scalecolour), Rucksack Tan (P3), Bering Blue (Scalecolour)

Midtone colours + Purity White (Scalecolour)

Overall the painting of this bust has been a process of going back and forth to adjust the balance between the contrast, colours and textures. The jacket is still very much a work in progress but, after some fretting, I’m beginning to feel good about how it’s going.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Project P30 - The tank

My Death Guard Plague Marine was begun as a test piece for my new Nurgle Predator but now it’s time to begin working on the Predator itself. I’m intending to play a very long game with this project and I think I’m going to need a lot of time! The prep, planning and construction are going to take a huge amount of work and I want to be able to sit back and consider every step with care. Beyond that there is the painting and that’s a big job by itself.

But every project must start somewhere and this one begins, as it did in 1990, with a tank. Before I can start experimenting with various configurations of parts I have to build the body of the tank. I’m going to keep this piece on the go while I concentrate on other projects. Sometimes I may bring it to the fore and eventually it will become my major project. But for the time being the Predator will be bubbling away in the background, which seems very appropriate!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Project P30 - Death Guard Chaos Space Marine & Warhammer 40,000 Open Day 2017

When I started my Death Guard Marine it was with the intention of testing out some new colours for my Predator revamp. But to be honest, I also had the notion of finishing him in time for the Warhammer 40,000 Open Day 2017, on November 26th. If I could do that I could enter him in the Golden Demon painting competition.

This gave me a short-term target to help focus and shake off the last of the painting blues I experienced over my abandoned attempt at the White Dwarf Winners’ Challenge.

Taking on a comparatively simple single mini meant that I was able to give it the time and attention needed to do the job ‘properly’. I like to be able to sit back and consider what I’ve done and what I’m going to do next. For me the ‘thinking time’ gained when a mini is on the shelf is just as important as ‘painting time’. Refining my work can make the difference between a Bronze and a Gold, or a Gold and a Slayer Sword.

I think I can say with some confidence that I’ve got a good instinct for what it takes to win at the Golden Demons! Put very simply if you want to win you can’t cut any corners. But knowing what to do is not the same as doing it and it’s not getting any easier to win - quite the opposite! It may be a cliché to say the standard is going up, but I think it is - and that means I have to pull out all the stops and push my painting to he limit!

So all in all I had my work cut out with this mini right from the start. This was partly because of the new colour combinations but mostly because nothing came easily with this paintjob. However a little perseverance can go a long way and, as the 26th got closer, things began to come together.

One thing that developed quite late in the project was my use of blue in the overall colour scheme. I always intended to use blue, rather than green, verdigris effects but the more blue I added the more I liked it. As I said in my last post, I think the blue provides a colour contrast that makes the whole colour scheme come together and pop!

I decided to get some blue into the front mid-section of the mini, to break up the overall brown tone this area had. I could have repainted the chains as copper and added verdigris but I liked the rusty iron I’d done, so I decided to try something else. I added some etched brass straps between the chains and painted them blue. It was a fiddly job but well worth the effort. The straps not only introduced a much needed blue element but also provided some extra fine detail and movement to contrast with the heavy armoured form of the mini.

For the base I decided to create a bubbling ‘Nurglesque’ swamp within a fractured rocky ground. This is a development of the base I made for my Abyssal Warlord, which struck me as having some potential for a Nurgle themed mini. I will be doing a micro bead mega-tutorial in the near future and a description of how I made this base will be included in that.

The marine comes with a Nurgling companion and I decided to have him scampering through the swampy part of the base. The Nurgling made for a fun mini project in itself but, as the overall paint job on my Death Guard Marine came together, something about the Nurgling began to really bug me! I loved the dollop of gloop that sat on the end of the stick the Nurgling is carrying but I wasn’t happy with how I painted it. I just felt too cartoony for the overall look and feel of the mini. So out came the pliers and scalpel, off came the gloop and on went the microbeads! I find this sort of last minute change nerve-wracking but I think the new gloop fits the overall look of my mini far more successfully.

As with my Farseer I’ve used a resin plinth from Darkmessiah Bases but this time I chose a round rather than square plinth. The distinct double lines inset into these bases is an extremely stylish feature and I ‘m very pleased how my minis look on them!

The final touch was to create a label for the plinth and this should have been simple but I came close to messing up very badly! I decided to fix a 3-D icon onto the plinth and used a shield to do this. However the shield was flat and although it looked OK from the front there were ugly gaps either side as the plinth was round. I filled these gaps with microbead slime and a cheeky Nurgling but the whole thing still looked off to my eye! On top of the awkward composition I realized that the icon drew far too much attention away from the mini. I’d thoroughly over complicated what should have been very simple.

On the Friday morning before the show I took a deep breath and took the whole horrible lot off the plinth. It was a nasty fiddly job and I feared I was going to make a dreadful mess. Careful work was needed but I managed to remove the icon with only one small chip to the paintwork on the plinth. I then made a label for the plinth that, thankfully, covered up the chip. In retrospect I think this mini would have looked fine on a plain plinth but the new label was a huge improvement on the icon because less is almost always more!

I went into the competition with mixed feelings. I was very pleased with what I’d achieved but, with only one mini entered, I had all my eggs in one basket and I knew the competition was going to be tough! As always the tension built through the day but finally the top three single minis were placed on the top shelf and I knew I had a trophy in that category.

That was some relief but then a whole new sort of tension begins to build as you wait to find out just what you’ve got. It was Gold and I was one very happy painter. I find there is a slightly odd moment then, when the first rush of elation passes, and you remember that Gold means you are in the running for the Slayer Sword. Regardless of how many Slayer Swords I’ve won, it’s a moment that never fails to give me butterflies in my stomach!

And then it’s my name that’s being called out and I’m up on the stage holding my fifth Slayer Sword! It’s very hard to describe just how that feels. Winning my first two Swords was pretty overwhelming and the experience came in a dizzy rush. The feeling now is somewhat deeper and calmer but no less meaningful. I am tremendously proud and grateful that I have the skill and experience to excel in my hobby. As I said earlier, it’s not getting any easier to win, but that’s part of what makes it worth doing!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Project P30 - Death Guard Chaos Space Marine Part 3

Previously my colour palettes for Nurgle themed minis have been built around a strong red/green contrast using saturated colours. While I may use this approach for some elements of my new Predator, overall I want to work with a more desaturated palette. It’s my gut instinct that, on a larger model like the Predator, a desaturated palette will be more effective. I suspect a strong saturated palette, like the one I used on Gutrot Spume, would give the Predator more of a ‘cartoony’ look than I want.

Although I didn’t set out to do this, my Death Guard uses a similar palette to the one used on my Tomb King. This is mostly because of the global highlight and shade colours I’ve used. The use of global highlight and shade colours ties the colour scheme together and helps to give the different coloured elements the feel of being in the same environment. It works equally well for both saturated and desaturated palettes.

My global shade colour is Black Leather from ScaleColour. As I said in my last posting, this is a desaturated purplish brown that mixes well with most other colours to create shade tones. My global highlight colour is Mojave White also from Scale colour. I often use Ivory for a global highlight and, in contrast to this, Mojave White is a slightly cooler and greyer looking colour that will help with the overall ‘dirty look’ I want to give my Death Guard. These global colours give me an interesting contrast between warm shadows and cooler highlights.

The pictures used below to illustrate my colour palette are far more close-up than I would normally show. I think this may be of interest in itself as you can see every brush mark and blemish I've made to create my textures!

The Colour Palette

Bone coloured armour 



Base: Rakarth Flesh (GW)

Shade: Black Leather (SC)

Highlight: Mojave White (SC)

The bone coloured armour is painted almost entirely with very fine stippling to give an overall texture. I started with a mid-tone base then added the shadows followed by highlights. I then went back and forth between the tones to adjust the overall balance. The final step was to paint the scratches and chips.

Green Armour 



Base: Death Guard Green (GW)

Shade: Black Leather (SC)

Highlight: Mojave White (SC)

The green armour was painted in much the same way as the bone coloured armour. I decided to try the new GW paint Death Guard Green and I’m very pleased I did. This is an extremely flexible colour sitting midway between light/dark and warm/cool. As a result it could form the basis of almost any green colour scheme and I’ll be experimenting further with Death Guard Green in the future.




Base/Shade: Black Leather (SC)

Midtone: Ratskin Flesh (GW)

Highlight: Mojave White (SC)

The copper uses a palette of colours I developed earlier that includes Ratskin Flesh to bring a warm, almost pink, tone to it.


Sotek Green (GW), Baharroth Blue (GW), Black Leather (SC) & Ratskin Flesh (GW)

I was just going to have a little bit of verdigris on this mini but I decided to try a bluer tone than I’ve used before. The use of blue in the overall colour scheme has turned out to be crucial! The blue provides a saturated colour that harmonizes with the greens and contrasts with the browns and oranges. I think the blue makes the whole scheme come together and pop!
I’ve combined several blue tones for the verdigris by mixing Sotek Green with other colours from my palette. The addition of Black Leather creates a purple/blue tone while Ratskin Flesh creates a green/blue tone.




Base: Rakarth Flesh (GW)

Shade: Mayhem Red (SC)

Highlight: Mojave White (SC)

The fleshy parts of the mini are only a small part of the whole but the red and pink tones provide a nice touch of saturation in contrast to the armour and colour contrast with the blue and green.

Green Iron 



Base: Dark Sea Blue (V)

Highlight: Mojave White (SC)

The green iron areas were originally going to be a dark grey/black. But the subtle introduction of a green tone, through the use of Dark Sea Blue, brings more colour into the palette without adding too much extra colour contrast.

Black Iron 



Base: Dark Sea Blue/ Black Leather mix

Highlight: Mojave White

The combination of Dark Sea Blue and Black Leather is a very useful one. Mixed together these colours give a very dark neutral tone that, when mixed with Mojave White, creates an interesting range of greys. It’s possible to play with warm & cool tonal variations by varying the proportions of the colours used in the mix.




Kalahari Orange (SC)
Windsor & Newton Designers Gouache – Orange Lake Deep/Olive Green mix

I decided to try something different with some of my rust effects this time. The use of Designers Gouache means that the paint, much like pigment powders, can be applied, left to dry and then adjusted with a clean damp brush. This has enabled me to achieve a greater degree of control and subtlety with my rust than I’ve done before. I can see that Designers Gouache, a relic from my schooldays, may well become a staple in my miniature painting from now on, and I’m looking forward to further experimentation with it!