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Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

Putting my USCR squad in the lightbox

Painted roughly three years after the BattleTech mechs I posted yesterday (2010, maybe drifting into 2011), the main difference between these MERCS minis and those mechs is that in between I learned about the Dip Method — which means that these have a wash applied, which the mechs did not.

Getting these guys out again, I have to say that I really like MegaCon’s figure designs here. There are a lot of little details, like the pouches and the variations in the guns, that give them character without making them feel cartoonish.

Unleash the all-seeing eye of the lightbox

Trying out a group shot in my lightbox (USCR squad, minus the tank)

I can definitely see the difference washing (shading) makes. I suspect the Dip Method’s floor varnish (Minwax PolyShades) is thicker than an actual made-for-minis wash, too — which may be why some of the shallower lines and transitions lack depth. There’s some nice warmth to the leather and some decent shading in the “vents” on the armor, though.

I learned from the mechs and their pesky rocks, too: These bases have just a few rocks apiece, and I glued those fuckers down tight. I’m also digging the contrast between the green central portion of the base and the rocks (which is hard to see here because of the angle).

And shit, these do look markedly better than my mechs. Progress!

On to the main event, the Behemoth — and his massive hammer, painted yellow for maximum USSR hammer/sickle vibes.

OSCR Behemoth

I like this guy. All the red adds up to being a bit bland, but some parts of his armor showcase the wash pretty well. He’s the “hero piece” in the squad, and I spent the most time on him. I also did a decent job keeping my base coated sections discrete, too . . . at least from this angle.

Here’s a shot composed so as to be as unflattering as possible, partly as an experiment — I’m still figuring out my lightbox, angles, etc. — and partly to highlight the difference between “good enough for tabletop” and “stands up to scrutiny from six inches away.”

Dat ass, though…

There’s a full-on unpainted spot on the small pouch where his left leg meets his waist (at the bend), and you can also see where I blobbed black on the pipes/cables on his lower black — relying on the Dip to cover my sins — and the Dip did not in fact cover my sins. I’m not sure if it’s glare or if I was overzealous in my application of spray sealant, but that’s something for me to keep in mind in the future.

On the other hand, the row of pouches facing the camera look really good! I also like the warmth in the yellow, and the shading, on his hammer. And the Dip worked its magic on his circular armor vents.

On balance, I’m surprised to say that my takeaway from these MERCS figures is that I’ve been selling myself short as a minis painter. I have a tendency to be overly critical of myself, so that tracks pretty well. Nothing I’ve shared so far makes me — or, I suspect, would make you — recoil in horror. Especially not at arm’s length during a game.

I’m not going to get anywhere by being uncharitable with my own lack of experience as a minis painter: My lifetime total is around 85 painted miniatures. To put that in perspective, Rushputin of Warpstone Pile — who is seriously fucking talented, a real brush-wizard — paints more miniatures than that in a single year. Looking at his 2018 year in review post, he paints an average of roughly 242 minis per year (~450 in 2016!). I can’t expect to be nearly as good as him after what’s basically 33% of one of his average years.

The lightbox is proving quite useful for self-evaluation, and for putting things in perspective; I’m really digging it. (I reviewed this model in my previous lightbox post.) It highlights both positives and negatives much more clearly than just holding up a mini at squinting at it — and it makes the minis look cool!

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Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: applying washes to two minis (with comparison photos)

A big part of why I love my lightbox is for how clearly it showcases my paint work — for good and ill. It’s a great learning tool.

To that end, here are a couple of comparison photos of the same two models: first with only a base coat, and then with a wash (Citadel Shades) that I applied in this evening’s painting session. So far I’ve only been putting finished minis in the lightbox, but this seems like a potentially good use of it as well.

For context, I may have attempted a couple washes many years ago (~2007), but I can’t remember for sure. I know that all of my “recent” minis — from around a decade ago — were washed with the Dip Method because applying washes with a brush has always made me nervous. (It seemed so easy to screw up!)

I used an excellent article on Tangible Day as my basic guide to washes. It’s what pointed me to the Citadel Shade Paint Set (paid link) as a good starting point, and to the specific shades I’ve used here.

This is my first time doing a proper wash in something like 13 years — it might as well be my first time, really. I was nervous!

Reikland Fleshshade on throne boy, starting on the Seraphim Sepia on Scipio

Before and after: front

Brother Scipio and throne boy, base coat only
Post-wash

Before and after: rear

Rear view, base coat only (those teardrop gems on the throne were so much fun!)
Rear view with a wash

Side-by-side photos

WordPress makes galleries a breeze now — let’s see how they look in A/B mode.

Colors and shades

Colors are P3 Khador Red and Marrow White; and Citadel Leadbelcher, Lothern Blue, Auric Armor Gold, and Moot Green. Primer is Armory white spray and my brushes are a mix of Citadel and Armory.

I used different shades for each Terminator. Since throne boy is long-dead and basically part of the space hulk, not the Terminator squad, he got Reikland Fleshshade on his gold bits (to make them look a bit more aged) and Agrax Earthshade everywhere else. It’s not like he’s doing regular armor maintenance anymore, right?

Brother Scipio got Nuln Oil on his Leadbelcher elements (for that cool/dark metal look), Seraphim Sepia for his gold (for a more burnished look), and Agrax Earthshade everywhere else — including the base, since it’s rusty decking.

Annnnnd exhale

Compared to using the Dip Method, which is both forgiving — it goes everywhere, you can’t miss any spots — and unforgiving, since you only get one color and it’s pretty thick, applying a wash with a brush (Citadel Shade M) was . . . a lot of fun.

With the Dip, I was outside on my stoop, gripping the base of the mini with needlenose pliers, shaking the everliving fuck out of it while hoping I didn’t a) fling it across the driveway or b) shake off too much varnish.

With a brush, I felt much more in charge. I did a quick pass everywhere, probably too heavy, making sure to brush across details rather than along them. Then I poked all the crevices; and finally I followed up with a shade-free wet brush to get some of the “globs” of wash thinned out a bit.

Not gonna lie: It was a bit nerve-wracking — at first. But after a few strokes I saw that this was going to be almost as forgiving as the Dip, and increased control and the ability to use multiple shades felt like solid trade-offs.

I’ve always been nervous about doing washes. No longer!

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Miniature painting Miniatures

One more batch of minis from the vault: MERCS

When I attended Gen Con 2010 (my last one, I think?) the MERCS skirmish wargame had just come out. A friend and I both played a demo, got excited about it, bought core books and a squad apiece, and made plans to paint our squads and then start battling each other.

I painted mine, he never painted his, we never played the game, and now I have a bunch of unused MERCS stuff sitting around in my closet. Ah well.

But that does mean I have one more set of minis from years ago that I can toss in the lightbox and share here on Yore. My friend suggested the USSR color scheme for my squad, which was a fun idea (and apropos, given that USCR is the former Soviet bloc faction). Just looking at this photo I can already see that I wish I’d carried the red/yellow thing further than, uh, one guy’s hammer.

MERCS USCR squad

These should be an interesting contrast to my BattleTech mechs because, unlike those, I used a wash on these (the Dip Method) before drybrushing.

Categories
Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk

Do I secretly enjoy painting miniatures?

According to Betteridge’s law, you already know the answer to that question. But I didn’t really know the answer until I started thinking about it over the past couple of days.

I’ve been saying I loathe painting miniatures for years now, and the evidence supports my position: I’ve owned Space Hulk since 2009 — longer than I’ve been blogging on Yore — and the miniatures are still only about 65% painted.

But there’s some counterevidence, too.

I started painting minis when I was a little kid

I was 10-12 when I painted my first miniature, a terror bear from the original TMNT comic. I had no idea what I was doing, so I globbed on some enamel paint — no primer, of course — and, as I recall, cried when I saw how badly it turned out.

But I also painted model tanks with my dad, and although neither of us were what I’d call good at it we weren’t too shabby, either. We did camo paint jobs, painted the detailed bits pretty well — all told, decent work. And it was fun.

I painted a crapload of mechs in high school and college

I dabbled in painting fantasy minis in grade school, but always got frustrated with the results. But high school brought BattleTech with it, and that was more my speed.

Like the tanks I painted as a wee lad, vehicles — and mechs — seemed easier to me than people. I followed White Dwarf tutorials and learned how to drybrush, which was fully a part of my arsenal by college. College was also when I learned to base my mechs with glue and gravel for a more naturalistic look.

The Dip Method brought me back to minis

The Dip Method is really just ink washing/shading, but there’s a magical insouciance to it, a devil-may-care attitude that got me to believe I could do a not-terrible job on my Space Hulk miniatures. Instead of a “proper” ink wash, you dunk the whole mini in floor varnish and shake most of it off — and it really does work wonders, turning a crappy base coat into a “good enough for tabletop” paint job almost immediately. (You still need to drybrush.)

But, years later, with only my Genestealers fully painted, I stalled out on the marines. For so long that my paints dried out. Twice.

Buuuuut I also didn’t abandon the project entirely. Martin circa age 12, poring over the same issue or two of White Dwarf over and over, dreamed of one day playing his own fully painted Space Hulk game. I didn’t want to disappoint the little fella.

Frosting a few graves

When I got into Frostgrave (which I’ve written about extensively here on Yore) I avoided painting — and miniatures — entirely, opting instead for Pathfinder Pawns and prepainted terrain.

But what hit me just this morning was that 90% of my enjoyment of Frostgrave to date was the process. Picking out terrain, testing my setup, hunting down aquarium decor, selecting the right sets of pawns — that was all fun. I’ve only played the game once (it was a lot of fun, but in hindsight clicked less for me than I wanted it to), but I did a huge amount of work to get my set to the point where I felt like I could do it justice.

That enjoyment of the process for its own sake (even though I didn’t realize it at the time) was key. Because I’ve always heard that that’s the key to miniatures as a hobby: enjoying the process of turning an unassembled, unpainted thing into a cool, vibrant model.

Which, I mean: duh, right? But it never really clicked for me.

Thich Nhat Hanh on mindfulness

In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh says:

If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future –and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

Painting miniatures = washing the dishes.

I’ve always painted miniatures for the end goal, not for the painting. I painted so I could have painted figures for my games, not for the joy of painting.

A little Deadzone, as a treat

As I committed, again, to painting and playing Space Hulk this year, I decided I needed to will myself into enjoying miniature painting.

I also had a chance visit to a hobby store where I encountered Kill Team and the latest edition of Necromunda. Which made me remember how much I liked Necromunda in college, and how much I regretted not buying the OG core box with its amazing punchboard terrain — and down the rabbit hole I went.

But hours of research later, I concluded that Necromunda’s core set terrain in the current edition looks like a bit of a disappointment; I also had reservations about committing fully to this expensive game line. I wanted a core box, OG Underhive-like terrain that I didn’t need to paint, and a Necromunda-like skirmish game with a short play time and a low model count.

That added up to Deadzone, plus a set of Battle Systems Terrain (full-color punchboard, Underhive-style!), plus a neoprene battle mat. And I found myself excited at the prospect of assembling and painting those minis. I read the Deadzone book and felt the same magical feeling that I felt 30-plus years ago reading White Dwarf as a kid.

And so far, this combination of willpower, new perspective, mindfulness, and the joy of Space Hulk and Deadzone is working.

I’ve base coated a couple more colors on my Terminators (assembly line-style). They’re on my desk, ready for more paint at a moment’s notice. And when I paint, I’m not hating life. I’ve restocked my paints and bought a better water cup. I researched primer and sealer and decided to forego my familiar spray cans for the less temperature- and humidity-sensitive brush-on stuff, which really widens my “painting window.” Ditto shading; I figure if I’m brushing on sealer and primer I might as well learn how to brush on an ink wash, too.

Deadzone awaits, models still on sprues — my reward for finishing my Terminators. But my real reward for painting my Terminators is painting — and possibly the rediscovery of an old hobby, experienced with a new perspective, and its transformation into something that brings me joy instead of frustration.

Hold onto your butts

I joked on Twitter that I was considering turning Yore into a blog for posting pictures of my shitty Space Hulk paint jobs, but I was only half-joking. I do want to start blogging more about miniatures, inspired by the excellence that is Warpstone Pile. Not to the point of pigeonholing myself, perhaps; that’s something I try to avoid doing (and hey, my first Yore post is about my wife and I making a screen-accurate Jawa costume, something I’ve done exactly . . . once).

But: miniatures. Posts about them. I’m feeling it. I have a lightbox; I have Genestealers to share; I’m building a paint rack this weekend. Hopefully you’ll come along for the ride.