Saturday, May 27, 2017

Vanished Point

I recently picked up a Pilot Capless Decimo - the Japanese-market version of the Vanishing Point Decimo. I'd heard that Japanese nib sized were smaller than Western nibs, so I picked up a medium assuming it would be about a fine. Unfortunately what I found was that the nib put down a much thicker line than I had been expecting. Plus it was insanely wet; I was getting a LOT of feathering, and I used up the ink cartridge in a single week of mild note-taking - in contrast, the Parker Vector fine nib I had been using previously has lasted over a month so far on the original cartridge, and it's still going.

Part of the problem might have been my fault; I'm unused to soft nibs (despite this being the steel nibbed version it's still quite soft) and I think I damaged the nib a little when I was first trying it out. Nothing that couldn't be repaired by someone who knew what they were doing, but, well...

... well that's what the Internet is for, right? Basically, I decided to try to "improve" the nib myself. Yes, I would probably screw it up, but I figured if I didn't like the pen as it was then what did I have to loose? It would be a learning experience, right?

First I tried to force the tines closer together to reduce the ink flow; I ended up crossing them over then aligning them as best I could. Then I sanded down the sides with 1500 grit sandpaper, then the top, then I tried to knock off the corners and round the edges before smoothing everything with the micromesh.

I actually had to sand then smooth several times. After all that the nib now runs much finer and much dryer (perhaps a little too dry), so technically I achieved my goals. However it is also VERY scratchy now, especially on the upstroke; a far cry from the original silky-smooth performance. Despite the scratchiness, I actually like it more now than before. Perhaps that's just because I'm more attached to it now after having worked on it myself? Hard to say, but the finer, dryer line is much more practical for the pen's intended use, so there is that. Perhaps I'll try to smooth it out a bit more another time, but I'll do a little writing with it first to see how it does in real life.

Ultimately if I can't get it to a use-able state I might spring for a new one; I'm hoping to avoid having to do that, but I do like the pen enough that I would consider it if necessary.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Coloured Metals

I painted this model as a gift for a friend, but it did give me an opportunity to experiment with painting coloured metals. After some experimentation I managed to pull off a couple of useful new techniques; techniques that happily work very well together.

Basically, I painted the entire model gold: Citadel Doombull Brown, Citadel Auric Armour Gold, washed with Citadel Devlan Mud, drybrushed Auric Armour Gold, and finally Devlan Mud was applied heavily into the recesses. I then edge-highlighted in Scale 75's Speedmetal, which is a super-bright white metal colour, for a model with a fair amount of contrast and very bright highlights.

I then simply glazed the red areas with Badger Minitaire Ghost Tint Fresh Blood, and the yellow areas with Badger Minitaire Ghost Tint Yellow. Finally the blue glows were applied using drybrushes of Citadel Temple Guard Blue, Citadel Baharroth Blue, and Citadel Blue horror, with Skull White highlights and Badger Minitaire Ghost Tint Plasma Glow as a sort of wash/glaze.

The base was just Citadel Doombull Brown drybrushed Citadel Blazing Orange and washed with Citadel Devlan Mud (it probably would have looked better with a cooler colour like plain grey considering Iron Man's warm colour palette, but I wanted the base to fit with the previous model I painted for my friend). I used Mr Super Clear UV-Cut Gloss varnish, and matted down the base with Vallejo's brush-on matt varnish.

The results are pretty good. Using the Ghost Tints over a metallic base was the best way I found to get coloured metals, and the yellow over Speed Metal gives a fantastically bright gold; I think it's a much better way to highlight gold than my old way of just using Mithril Silver highlights.

I'm not totally happy with the glows: they are a pretty clumsy, and the blue wash around the eyes ended up going over the yellow base to create a greenish tint. But they don't look too bad overall, and I didn't have time to try to do any better (I'm far from certain that I even could do any better to be honest).

This was a fairly fun model to paint since it was just two simple colours but was still something new to experiment with. The amount of edge highlighting needed was a bit of a drag, but it wasn't too bad and the results are worth it. I did have to try to do a bit of repair work on the model thanks to Knight Model's usual casting issues, but it was far less problematic than some of their other models that I've had to deal with - plus I was a bit lazy and didn't put as much effort into repair work as I should have, but most of the problem areas were ultimately mostly hidden by the paint so it wasn't too bad overall.

Overall I'm happy with him. Fortunately I have another piece waiting for when I put together my own Avengers models, but the way things are going that day is a long way off.

On a related note, I've been a bit demotivated when it comes to painting. One reason is that my last model, Cyclops, drew a measly two comments on the forums even though I thought he came out quite nicely. Couple that with a lack of games or people to talk to (in person at least) about miniatures, and, well, it's hard to find time for it when there's so many other things for me to deal with. So yeah, I'm probably not going to be getting too many models done for the foreseeable future. This makes me sad, but there's not much I can do about it. Oh well.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The X-Men's Smurf

After impersonating the Incredible Hulk and destroying my Drakhun, I went ahead and started on my X-men because, well, you can only play videogames for just so long before your guilt forces you to pick up a paintbrush and try to push that rock back up that grey plastic and soft metal mountain (hobbyist know what I'm talking about).

I started with Cyclops because I figured he would be a good model to practice painting gradients on (the way I accidentally stumbled onto with Batman) since, well, I hate him. A lot. So I'm actually kind of conflicted about the fact that I think he came out looking pretty good.

The model was fairly easy to put together; his left arm was a separate piece but I decided not to bother with gap filling, and it looks OK. There was of course some cleaning involved, but I don't remember it being too bad; the model is largely smooth, so it wasn't too hard to clean off mold lines and such like.

Similarly, it was quite easy to paint. The blue was basecoated in GW's Regal Blue, washed with GW's Asurmen Blue, then drybrushed in Regal Blue again to better show the topography. The first highlight was in GW's Enchanted Blue, and the second was in GW's Ice Blue. The highlights were thinned to something like a 2:2:1 mix of Lahmian Medium : Phoenix Acrylic Retard Medium : paint. I was trying to get something very transparent that would flow well. Unfortunately, even with the drying retarder, the consistancy changed as I was working (my wet palette was actually not wet enough I think), which led to some difficulties, but I was mostly able to fix them.

However, my repairs were not perfect because of a strange property of Enchanted Blue. I love the colour of Enchanted Blue, but for some reason when you thin it, it actually changes colour a little, becoming less saturated once dry (this is an actual change that doesn't seem to depend on how many layers you put down: the colour is just different). I've actually given it the saturation back in the past by lightly drybrushing the unthinned paint on top of the painted layer, but in this case I only drybrushed on top of the trouble areas while trying to fix them. As a result, there's a couple of spots on the model which stand out a bit because the colour is different, most noticeably the right thigh and... surrounding areas. It's quite annoying (and, to be honest, embarrassing).

Anyway, once I finished the highlighting I decided that the Ice Blue was too desaturated and it didn't look very good, so I wanted to glaze it with something a little saturated to tie the colours together. I settled on my brand new, unused Badger Miniataire Ghost Tint: Blue, mixed with a lot of Lahmian Medium (perhaps 2:1 medium:paint) because I was afraid it would be too strong straight out of the bottle. The result was a big improvement, helping to unify the layers and smooth the transitions.

The gold was GW Skrag Brown (I think) followed by Scale75 Elven Gold. The arm and leg bands were then washed with GW Orgryn Flesh and edge-highlighted with a mix of Elven Gold and Scale75 Speed Metal. The skin was undercoated in GW Bronzed Flesh, basecoated in P3 Ryn Flesh, then washed with Ogryn Flesh. Ryn Flesh is pretty much the exact same colour as GW Elf Flesh, but I tend to have having trouble getting a smooth surface with Elf Flesh, I was hoping Ryn Flesh would go on a bit smoother. I haven't really tested it enough to say if it does, but it looks good so far.

I decided to switch to a more neutral grey for the base; I used GW Codex Grey (I think, the name has worn off the bottle), lightly drybrushed with VMC White Grey, then washed with GW Badab Black. Speaking of the bases, normally cut the tab off models and pin them to their base, but with the latest batch of Knight Models I had decided to try actually using the models with the slot in the base as intended. This is the first time I noticed something: there's only one cast. All the Knight Models bases are exactly the same. I hadn't realised this before because I had been sculpting over the hole and then orienting the models freely, but now that I was sticking them all down the same way it became dramatically obvious that they are all standing on the exact same patch of dirt.

It's just one more way that Knight Models is getting on my nerves, just one more hassle you have to go through with these figures, one more problem for inexperienced modelers. I have to assume they don't really expect you to actually use the supplied bases or something? Since these are apparently figures for experienced modelers (as evidenced by how big a pain they are to put together sometimes), I guess they just assume you've got your own fancy bases you're planning to use. Either that or they just don't care.

Anyway, I ended up sculpting over a fairly large area of the X-Men's bases to try to hide the similarities. Maybe I'll just give in and stop using the supplied bases, I'll just have to figure out an alternative that fits with the models I've already done.

Just a small note, but this is the first model I varnished with my new spray-on gloss varnish (before using my usual spray-on matt of course). I left the gloss to dry for about a day before applying the matt, then right after applying the matt I somehow managed to knock him against a shelf as I was setting him down to dry. I didn't think I had hit him too hard, yet the paint was damaged (it was a small area, luckily not hard to do a passable repair job afterwards). I'm wondering if the varnish did not turn out as tough as usual? Really hard to say since I've never really done much testing or anything, but I'm planning to try to apply the gloss more generously next time. I might also change my method a bit; right now I leave longer than I probably need between sprays as I believe it helps avoid the Sugar Coated Frosting of Doom, but I wonder if that adversely affects the strength of the varnish coat. I'll try spraying more quickly next time, while still trying to avoid putting so much down that it runs. Well, I'll have to try on a test model first.

Overall I'm very happy with how he came out. I had some trouble with some of the larger, flatter areas, but overall I think it looks good. I'm also happy about how quick he was to assemble (barring the base) and paint. Actual painting took me almost exactly a week from start to finish (and I don't think I painted every day in that time), including varnishing, which is very quick for me. The rest of the team is more complex so I don't expect to get them all done that quickly, but I'm still hopeful that I'll manage to turn them out at a decent pace (by my standards at least), if I can resist the temptation to spend too much time on other projects. And assuming I don't need to go job hunting, which I might soon - although to be honest, I would probably get through them more quickly if I was unemployed... sigh.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Drakhun Down

I've never liked the whole "MOW-on-a-horse" thing, mainly because I had a hard time believing a horse could take that weight. OK, it's a fantasy world and all that, it's a very large horse, etc... I dunno, I just feel sorry for the horse. So when I was putting mine together, I took the opportunity to use something... else...

In order to take that much weight on a single leg, I pinned and reinforced the leg with not one, but three strong pins, and filled the base with milliput to help weigh it down. Funnily enough I had to bend the leg itself a little to get the pose to look right - the original model (Khurasan's He-Who-Kills) is 15mm scale, and actually looking down as if to chomp down on a small animal.

I decided to skip the reins (the Drakhun doesn't have any free hands anyway), but I did give him a saddle. I tried to add some detail to keep it visually interesting.

Funnily enough, the original Drakhun didn't have any stirrups. That just doesn't make any sense, so I did my best to give him some. I also sculpted a simple texture for the bottom of his feet, to replace the smooth flat surface that was originally there.

This was another one of my slow-burn projects; I started this in 2015, and even impatiently threw him into a game as soon as he was assembled (he was killed without ever getting to make a single attack... which pretty much always happens the first time you play a new model that you're excited to use).

It's been a really busy few months, but I finally got tired of seeing his disassembled parts (I left the two pieces separate for painting) and decided to finish him. So I took whatever time I could find (very, very little lately), and slowly got the paint where it needed to be. Finally he was painted, glued together, and ready to be varnished.

And then he fell down and hit the floor. His head broke off, his mohawk-blade-thing bent 90 degrees, and both his arms were knocked loose.

As you can imagine, I was about ready to kill someone. Well, I picked up the pieces and checked them over. The arms didn't look bad, the head would be a problem but I could probably figure something out. It would be a lot of work to fix the parts and the paint job, but probably do-able. Then I noticed that the model seemed to be bent.

It might not be obvious from the photos, but the leg seemed to have bent slightly in such a way that the model was now tilted. I tried to bend it back, but it just kind of broke off from the base a little at the foot. I wasn't sure I could fix it properly such that it would be robust and stand up to normal use, aaaaaand at that point I just gave in to my rage and destroyed the model, throwing the pieces away.

So yeah, I'm extremely angry and depressed and dispirited and demotivated. And now I'm feeling regret that I destroyed the model instead of trying to fix it as best I could. I liked this one, and put a lot of work into it; I had a blog/forum post title all ready to go and everything (it was going to be a click-baity line about a MOW on a horse being a stupid idea, then the first line of the post would be something sarcastic about how this is much less silly).

It's just... I'm always busy. This is my hobby, this is what I enjoy, I have dozens of projects that I want to finish, things I've started years ago in some cases, and yet I just never seem to have enough time or energy to put much work into them, and yet I keep accumulating new ones. Just yesterday I had an idea for the mini-Juggernaut model I have lying around, but even though it's a really simple idea I don't know when I'll actually ever be able to do finish it; probably 2020 at this rate. I don't know, I go online and see blogs where people finish an entire army in a month or two, and yet here I am, putting everything I have into finishing a dozen models a year (if I'm lucky).

It feels like something that should be a hobby, but has turned into a second job. What should I do, just give up and go back to spending what little free time I have on videogames? Just keep throwing away the few minutes I get to myself with nothing to show for it at the end? I mean, this hobby is itself a waste of time, but at least I get something (small, trivial, and unimportant) to show for it at the end, right?

I dunno, some days I'm just sick of everything. Today is one of those days.