Saturday, April 18, 2020

My Favorites

I have been in a constructing rather than painting mood of late.  So to take advantage of that I thought I would focus more on trying to get more dynamic leg positions.  My last effort was satisfactory, but I thought I could do better.  I think I have.

To enhance my motivation, I decided to try and make my three favorite characters from fantasy fiction.  One of them, Conan, I can do as part of the game I am working on.  So that would be making the Conan who fought at the Battle on the Ruins at the end of the 1982 movie.  He's cool looking, awesome helmet and lamellar armor, funky pants, how can you go wrong ... plus I need him for the game.  As much as I love Conan, though, my favorite fantasy character of all time is the Gray Mouser, with his companion Fafhrd.  Leiber's stories of the adventuring duo shaped me more than any other in terms of the types of rpg worlds and adventures I like to play in and run.  Obviously, my online name comes from this character as well.  So I thought choosing characters I love to try and make some figures in more dynamic poses would only enhance my motivation.

Let's start with my favorite character, the Gray Mouser.

This is a good view of his head, arms, rapier, and torso, not so much the legs which is what I really want you to see.  Onto the next photo ...

Ah, that's better.  His torso is a medium-small flat plug with a split bead glued on top to make the shoulders.  The left leg (the forward one) is a smaller flat plug glued to the edge of the torso plug bottom to create a lunging forward knee bent look.  The right/rear leg is made out of a tile spacer, just like the arms.  Both feet are tile spacers and they are glued flat onto the base for support.  The tile spacer leg is then glued onto the right foot, which isn't very stable ... again, tile spacer to tile spacer joints are always the weakest part of these figures.  However, since the left leg is a plug glued to the torso plug, this is very strong in terms of keeping the figure glued firmly to the base.  So I think this will work.  I used parts of a tile spacer to give him a "groin" (baggy pants look) and some paper to do the same thing around his forward leg (baggy pants/bent leg at the knee).  Not bad, I'm pretty pleased with him.  Here is another shot just to finish out the figure.  The cloak came out really good I think.

Classic Gray Mouser pose, lunging with his rapier "Scalpel" and getting ready to throw his dagger "Cat's Claw" at an enemy.  The rapier is obviously a toothpick ... I wanted a more slender sword.

Now onto Fafhrd.  The barbarian needs to be larger than the smaller Mouser and I wanted a barrel-chested look.  So I went with a barrel bead for the chest and torso, and a split oblong bead for the pelvis/groin area of the figure.  Here are some pics.



In the second picture you can really see the legs.  His left/forward leg is also a small flat plug and he is leaning (rather than lunging) forward a bit on it.  I also used paper to make the baggy pants look for him as well.  As with the Mouser, Fafhrd's feet are flat on the ground glued to the base.  The trickiest part with him was the right/rear leg.  I wanted to try and use a plug with him so I used the plug for the upper part of the leg, but the lower part is split tile spacer.  There are two pieces as you can see, and although it is invisible in these photos that "gap" you see between the two tile spacers is actually filled in with glue, so it will be solid when it is painted.

Here are the twain together.  You can get a better sense for their size difference in this photo.

And now Conan.  This figure was very detailed.  Because he is supposed to be putting together a mish-mash of armor and weapons from the dead left long ago on this battlefield, he has a very eclectic appearance, but this makes for a complex figure to make.  But I like him too.  I didn't want his pose to be as "lungy" as Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and perhaps his legs may have turned out the best of them all.  Here is a photo from the movie that captures the look I am going for:



And here is the actual figures.

Can't see well in this photo but he has the same torso and pelvis construction as Fafhrd, he just has small flat plugs for both legs.  The paper strips are the leather strips he has on these funky pants in the movie.


You can see the legs a lot better in this one.  His upper torso is a barrel bead on its side (open ends are where his arms are).  The pelvis you can see very clearly here is a split oblong bead.  The legs are both small flat plugs with tile spacer feet.  You can see I have a 45 degree piece of tile spacer added to his right foot so that he can be leaning forward a bit.  Essentially, the front plug for his left leg is vertical and if this was a real person most of his body weight would be on that leg.  The right leg is stretched out slightly behind him.  Not the lung of the Gray Mouser or Fafhrd but enough leaning to give the figure a more dynamic pose.

Here he is glued to his base.  The helmet came out great I think and wasn't that tough.  His head is a small split bead glued onto a larger split bead to make up the bowl of the helmet.  Paper is glued around this and will be painted like fur.  A small bead was glued on the top and the "horns" are obviously just cut tile spacers.  Since the split beads still have half a hole on each side from being split, this provides a nice hole to glue the horns into.  I just cut that end of the horns down into sort of a "tab" that just fit into the hole in the head/helmet piece on each side.  Easy and also very sturdy once the glue dries.

This is a picture of the "barbarian's" torso and pelvis.  It's hard to see with all the paper I'm using now but I have come to really like paper for these figures.  I literally can if I keep at it and keep trying, make pretty much any shirt, belt, pants, etc. that I need.  But when I glue it all over the figure it becomes hard to see the wooden "skeleton" pieces.
Hopefully they will paint up well!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Conan Princess Captive

I have been working on some of the terrain pieces for the Conan game.  There are a bunch of these natural stones that stand vertical all around the battlefield.  On one of them is the bound princess whom Thulsa Doom is trying to kill, and Conan and his colleagues are trying to return to her father.

Here is a promo photo from the movie.  This image does not exactly appear in the movie, there is a scene where Subotai actually kills this guard with an arrow that does show up in the movie, but this exact image here does not.  However, I really like it and it gives a good visual of the stone, the chains, the princess, etc.



So this is what I used to inspire my terrain piece for my game.

I used a large split egg so that the side she is on is flat, but the back side is rounded.  It is tapered at the bottom, because it's an egg, so I had to surround the bottom with paper and glue it on to make it more straight up and down.  I made the princess separate (standard construction, nothing new), and painted her up, painted up the piece, and then glued her on.  After she dried I painted on the chains.  The anchor points are split beads that I glued onto the split egg.  But the chains themselves from her wrists to the anchor points are painted on instead of being 3D.  It just wasn't worth it to me to try and do chains that small, and in my experience with other attempts, things like chains are really hard to do.  So I just painted them on.

Here is the finished piece.


I like how she turned out.  I used paint colors for the stone that are consistent with the drop cloth I will be using for the base of the board, so it's not exactly like the movie image.  The thing she is standing on is s premade wooden piece that I think is some sort of spindle or axle thing, but I have used them before for things like water containers, braziers, etc.  A gaming buddy of mine cut it in half for me so that I could make it rounded in the front but flat on the back so that it glued to the split egg well.

Here are some other images.


And finally here is a shot so that you can see it from the side.


I am pretty happy with it, it will look good as a goal piece on the board for the game.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Crouching Figure, Hidden Potential

In addition to doing the construction on my next batch of figures for my Conan game for Barrage in September, I have been working on trying to get more dynamic leg positions for the figures, as Dale and I were discussing a little while back on replies to posts on this blog.

I tried several options, here is the one so far that worked the best.  He is a crouching fighter-type figure, sort of advancing with knees heavily bent.  Here are some pics of him unpainted.

I had to figure out a way to make a torso that wasn't too big.  The issue with the other milk bottle figures is that the torso from the shoulders down and the legs all the way to the ankle are one piece.  So I needed to be able to do a waist to shoulder torso piece and leave the legs off as they would have to be added later in their more dynamic pose.  I used an axle cap glued onto a flat plug to make the torso.  The head, arms, shoulder armor are all the same as on my other figures.

You can sort of see the right leg here.  He is lunging forward with a bent knee and foot underneath his torso. The leg and feet are all tile spacers.  I essentially decided to try and do the same thing I do with the arms with the legs.  The issue is that the elbow bend is much easier to do with tile spacers than a knee because the foot will never bee at the right angle and the end of the time spacer is always small/thin.  This works great for hands, but not feet.  But if the feet are a separate piece that you glue onto the bottom of the leg, I found through mistakes, the leg structure for the figure is way too weak and will not hold up under play conditions.  So you need to have the leg and the foot be one piece of tile spacer.  In this case it is essentially his right hip that goes straight down into his foot as one piece, then I glued on a knee/thigh piece afterwards that is separate.  Because there is no pressure on the knee, however, the figure is not too weak.

Here is a view of the left leg and foot.  Again, it is one tile spacer piece that I cut into a boot shape then the rest that is more forward is the knee and thigh of the left leg.  It is also heavily bent at the knee but for the left leg, unlike for the right, the "missing" piece is not the thigh, it's the hip.  That is easily handled with paint.

You can sort of see here that the left leg/foot is glued onto the bottom of the torso just like the right leg/foot is, it's just at a different angle.

I also took the hot glue gun and filled in any spaces and tried to create a groin area, thighs for both legs that were a bit "meatier," and overall just fill in the leg/lower body of the figure to at least represent legs and such.

And now for the painted version.

Hard to see in this picture from this angle but just above the sword is his right knee/thigh.  The left one is extended behind him in the lunge and you can't really see it well.  You can see a little bit where I filled in and made more of a groin area by using the hot glue gun over the flat plug which is the bottom of his torso.

This is a good view of the left leg and foot.  Believe it or not, the pink part which is the knee and the lower calf and the foot itself is all one tile spacer, I just cut it to be this shape to create this one piece foot/calf/knee structure.  Just like an arm, it is just glued to the side of the flat plug that is the lower torso of the figure.

Can't really see much in this picture except for his coin purse on the back of his belt.

You can sort of see the right foot which is flat on the ground.  The upper pink part is the extra tile spacer I glued on to represent his right thigh/knee, and also it is filled in with the hot glue gun to make the appearance smoother and loot more like baggy pants.

It is hard to see in the pics but for a first attempt, I think it came out pretty well.  You just have to get creative with figuring out how to shape the tile spacers to create the leg/foot all in one piece to make sure that the figure is strong enough.  My first attempt had feet glued onto legs and it was just too weak to support the figure through any play at all.  The figure would break off at the ankle and come apart.  Tile spacer to tile spacer joints are ALWAYS the weakest joints in these figures, even if you use hot glue.  So you just can't have these joints be the place where the figure connects with the base and think that it will hold through play.  It just won't.  So the trick is to figure out how to shape the tile spacer to get the foot and lower leg positioning you want and glue that DIRECTLY onto the lower torso of the figure.  Sometimes that will be underneath the torso piece, but usually it is glued onto the side of the torso piece just like the arms are glued onto the upper torso.  Then you can add it more cosmetic pieces and use the hot glue gun to fill out the rest of the leg area to make it look right.

Matt, please forgive me, but I had to add this picture. I just could not see you work so I downloaded one of the pictures and boosted the values.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Black Guard Mounted

Not to give TMI, but I ended up having to get ulner nerve surgery on my (of course!) right arm and wrist.  So I haven't been able to paint for a while.  But I'm back now, although I don't think my hand will ever be the same, so my quality of painting will likely go down a little.  But that's okay with me, I do this for fun, not to win painting contests.

Here are the mounted figures of the Black Guard for my Conan game scheduled for the next Barrage convention (September).

Quite the intimidating looking bunch!  Horses are a little different, I gave them hooves and a lower jaw this time, and I also did the manes and the tails with paper instead of the fuzzy pipe cleaners I have always used.  I wanted consistency in the appearance of my miniatures and paper for the manes and tails is a better option, even if it is less dramatic.

Some close ups!
And now for a rear shot.
I tried to make a match between the foot and the cavalry figure so I can have a mounted and dismounted version of the same guy (sort of the point of doing both!).  It was hard, but I think they look close enough.
And now some close ups.

And now, onto the Serpent Guard!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Tying Up Loose Ends

Before launching into painting the mounted Black Guard for the Conan game, I thought I would finish up the Rorschach-inspired low-powered supers figures I had made a while ago.  I did a male and a female version.  The trench coats turned out to be really, really difficult to do well and I'm not happy with the structure of either one of them, in particular the male figure, but I tried to cover up the poor paper craft with paint.  I'm okay with these figures.  I don't love them, but I don't hate them either.  They'll be fine on a table full of other figures and terrain.  I just wish I could have done a better job on them as they are a hero figure.

Male on the left, female on the right.  I used the standard construction for both figure types here and just put the trench coat on top with paper.  Same with the hats.  They are the same construction that I used for the Indiana Jones inspired figure from before.  I just gave the female figure long hair in addition to the mask.

You can see the faces a little better here.  Just blots of black paint on a white mask background.

And from the rear.

Now, onto the mounted version of the Black Guard!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

African Wars Technical

Well, this is probably about as "finished" as I am going to get with my first "Granny Grate" vehicle, a Technical for the African Wars.


My hope is that as I get better using wood filler for the body, I can get a smoother finish. I suspect the culprit was my impatience at sanding such a small item.


I am happy with the glass window effect – I watched several Youtube painting tutorials on the subject – but admit that it should probably be a bit dirtier than it is. I will have to experiment with that more.


The weapon system is made from the same needlepoint canvas as all of the guns were for my troops. I used one piece for the tripod and another for the weapon. Simple, but it conveys the effect, which is all my minimalist style goes for.


I am still trying to figure out what style of grill I want to use. For now I am keeping it black while I paint different styles on scraps.

My next effort has to be either a tank, 2 1/2 ton truck, armored personnel carrier, or a helicopter. As it stands, I am very pleased with the results. I look forward to experimenting with more designs.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Black Guard Dismounted Painting Tutorial

I am finally getting around to trying to make a step-by-step post about how I paint some of my wooden fellows.  I decided to do the dismounted Black Guard for my planned Conan convention game.  I finished assembling all of them (6) and decided to paint them, taking pictures along the way.

So, here we go ...
Here they are fully assembled without any paint.  I think the guy you have already seen (the test figure) is the one third in from the right side.  The rest are all new construction but I followed the same plan in terms of armor, helmet, etc. for all of them.

I use a number 0 or number 1 brush for everything on these figures except for priming, which is done with probably a #3 or #4 brush.

STEP ONE:  PRIMER & BOOTS
I usually prime my wooden figures with an Americana color called Soft Black, which is essentially a dark umber color.  But I wanted more contrast with these figures and to have their base be darker, so I primed them with black.  I used Americana black paint and a medium sized craft brush.  You can see the mounted guys in the back also primed.  Not painting them yet though.
I usually paint my figures from the ground up, and I started that way with these too, but I did change the order not that it really matters.  Here are the boots painted.  Although forewarning, I ended up not liking this color with the rest of the color scheme for the figures and painted them gray later on.  You'll see that in later pictures.  But for now, they were painted using Dark Brown from Delta Ceramcoat.  It is my favorite brown out there, but it ended up not being right for these figures.  I paint a basic toe with side and top covering and leave some black showing throw to create the illusion of seams and folds.  Don't get too fancy here, less is definitely more.  If it is too busy, the people looking at your figures will stare at the boots, which is not want you want.

STEP TWO:  EYES
One of the figures in the next picture also has his helmet and shoulder pads done as well, but that's just because I forgot to take a picture of them with their eyes done before starting the helmet and shoulder pads.
For the eyes I use Americana Warm White.  I do not paint the pupils.  I just paint white lines leaving a little space in between them to represent the pupil.  Figure out which way your guy is looking and for each eye paint a small dot or line in the direction he is looking for that side of the eye, and then a longer line for the other side.  This will give the illusion that the figure is looking in a particular direction.  For these figures, the leftmost figure and the figure fourth from the left is the easiest to see in terms of what I'm talking about.  The leftmost figure also has his helmet and shoulder pads done but I'll hold off on talking about that until the next step.

Here's a close up:


If I was painting flesh I would do it actually before I painted the eyes.  I just paint the entire face the flesh tone I am using for the figure and then after it dries I make two black lines for the eyes, then go back inside those lines and add the white dots/lines to finish them off.

STEP THREE:  HELMET & SHOULDER PADS
For these figures, the helmet in particular is the focal point, so I am going to put in a lot of painting details for both the helmet and the shoulder pads.
 I also added some teeth for a grimacing look to one of the figures as you can see.  Just more Americana Warm White.  Each helmet is similar but unique just to give each figure some personality and also because I hate painting exactly the same thing over and over again.  I used Americana Graphite and made sure to use lots of dots and small lines leaving plenty of black showing throw.  I wanted a "pebbled" look to the helmets so that it would look more like a snake head.  For the shoulder pads I did a stylized (more so than usual) snake head.  I added red eyes but not until the end, you won't see the red eyes in these photos until you get to the very end with the finished figures and even then I'm not sure you can see the red eyes in the pictures.  For the snake head shoulder pads I painted two "fangs" in the front (so that the snake's head is facing down the figure's arm) then small dots all around the outside of the rest of the shoulder pad piece.  Then I painted the eye sockets which was essentially a rounded letter "M" around and above the fangs.  Then I painted in a solid color behind the eye sockets all the way to the rear of the shoulder pad, but making sure to leave some unpainted black space between the solid piece I was painting and the dots surround the rim of the entire shoulder pad.

Here are some close ups:

STEP FOUR:  BELT
I usually do the belts next.  I decided I wanted them to be a black or very dark color instead of my usual choice of brown.  The belts are painted with Americana Midnight Blue and a space is left in the front for the buckle.  When I do paint the buckle in this case I went with Americana Zinc.  Also it is hard to keep the belt straight and clean, so I always just paint a line for the belt and then go back and touch it up with the primer color (in this case black) to give the belt a nice straight, narrow line.
Here is a close up of some of the figures where you can see the belt well.  You can really see the space I left unpainted so that I can come back and add the buckle later.

STEP FIVE:  PANTS
One of my favorite steps is painting the pants.  I used Americana Raw Umber for all of them.  Here is a shot of all of them.
It is hard to see, though, so here is a close up.
This is another time to not get too fancy or detailed.  I do a very basic and simple pattern here but it looks pretty good I think.  I paint the groin area almost like the figure is wearing a cod piece, and then paint the pant legs.  I make sure to leave black showing throw to represent the space between the legs, and also a thin line between the "cod piece" and the pant leg.  This creates an illusion of a fold and texture.  But if you paint too many of these lines for folds and such it looks too busy and is distracting in my opinion.

STEP SIX:  ARMOR
Armor is a tough step because there are so may ways you can go here.  I wanted to have these guys not wearing exactly the same thing, but I wanted them all in a black base colored armor.  So I did a mix of studded leather, ring mail, chain mail, padded/quilted coat, etc. to spice things up.
The figure on the left is wearing a padded coat.  I used Delta Ceramcoat dark gray color of some type, the name has worn off the label.  I just tried to paint diamond shapes in the gray color making sure to leave some thin black unpainted between the diamonds of the quilted armor tunic.  It is impossible to be perfect here, just do your best.  The goal is to give the impression of a quilted pattern, it doesn't have to be perfect.  The middle one is studded leather and I just painted on the studs using Americana Zinc as the first dot, and Americana Rain Gray for the "sharp" lighter dot on top of the Zinc dot.  I left the rest of the armor black except for the edges around the bottom.  There I put little dots of Americana Midnight Blue to represent lacing around the edge of the armor.  The far right figure has a new pattern for mail that I decided to try.  The paint color is Zinc again, and there is lacing around the edges of the armor and the neck.  For that I used Americana Russet (which is a REALLY hard color to find but it is perfect for dark leather).  For the Zinc, I just did a zig-zag pattern to create the illusion of small metal bands.  I had not tried this one before and I sort of like it, but it is a little busy.  I think next time I will try and space them out a little more.
The left and right most figure here are both wearing ring mail.  Again I put some edging around the neck and bottom of the armor using either Midnight Blue or Russet.  The rings are just that dark gray Delta Ceramcoat color I can't remember the name of.  To paint the rings, the paint needs to be thinned down with either a medium or water.  It has to flow easily or you will get rings that are not smooth.  As a general rule, smooth painting is very important in all areas for these figures mainly because you are painting on a flat surface.  You have no sculpting texture to "hide" you mistakes.  The figure in the middle is my usual mail pattern of small dots.  It also has an edging of Russet.

STEP SEVEN:  GLOVES OR HANDS
All my guys are wearing leather gloves, and because I like the color so much I stuck with the Americana Russet.
I paint three fingers first, either wrapping them around a spear or on the flat sides of the handle of the sword to give the illusion that the figure is holding the weapon.  I then paint a patch on the back of the handle of the weapon to represent the back of the hand.  Also, with the spear I add in some extra glue to provide and actual "bump" that represents the hand on the weapon.
You can see the hand on the sword on the right-most figure a little better here.

STEP EIGHT:  WEAPONS
Okay, by this point I wasn't liking the brown boots so I painted them black again and painted the boots again using the Delta Ceramcoat dark gray color that I can't remember the name of.  I also use it on the bladed parts of the weapons as a base gray color.  The shaft of the spear is Delta Ceramcoat Dark Brown.  The sharp parts of the blades on the weapons is Delta Ceramcoat Gray Rain.
You can see they are really starting to take shape now.  Just the shields are unpainted at this point.  When I make the swords I always cut an angled slice down the blade to try and create a sharp/narrow side of the blade for visual interest, then I try and follow this line with the Gray Rain paint to give the illusion of a sharp edge.
With the axe I always try and paint it so that the cutting edge is a single color but as the blade gets closer to the shaft I try and leave some space of the dark gray showing throw.  Gives visual interest and sort of matches the way some axe blades look because of their sharpening pattern.  You can also see that on the pommel of some of the swords I paint a golden/brass color just to give some visual interest.  You can't see it in these pictures but I also paint the part of the pommel of the sword that the figure's hand does not cover up at this point as well.  Just some lines to represent the wrapping of the handle of the sword, and be sure to leave some of the black undercoat showing through between the figure's hand and the wrapping of the handle.  Any color is fine, I like maroon, but this time I used a beige color.

STEP NINE:  SHIELD
Obviously the shield is going to vary depending on the figure, but I wanted all but one of these guys to have the same shield; a red one with the snakes facing each other over a moon painted in Warm White.  I don't have individual shots of the shields I just have the following shots of the finished figures, but you can see the shields.  They are painted Maroon from Delta Ceramcoat and then the snake/moon pattern is Americana Warm White.  On the inside I paint some stripes of Delta Ceramcoat Dark Brown to represent the wood, but it's barely visible on these figures.
The figure on the far right has a different shield.  I wanted some variety and decided to do a buckler guy.  I have a few of the small round precut discs that are smaller than when I can find now, but they are perfect for bucklers.
Shots from the rear.

You never know which will be your favorite.  This axe guy really grew on me and turned out to be one of my favorites.

Okay, that's it.  I hope you found this helpful.  I am pretty happy with how these turned out.

I'll probably paint the mounted version of these guys next, but that will be at least a week before I can get to them.  Work schedule is brutal right now.

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