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Morathi

There is a painting guide for this miniature available here.

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I painted this miniature as a bit of post golden demon fun. As usual I wanted to try something a little different from the Eavy Metal scheme and went with purple and red as the main colours, with turquoise and ochre accents.

Overall I’m reasonably pleased with how it turned out. I put the most effort into the face and although I got a nice clean finish I probably should have considered how to get a bit more menace into her expression.

Before anyone asks, it’s extremely unlikely I’ll be painting the big Morathi in this lifetime!

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Golden Demon 2018

On Sunday, 13th May I made my annual pilgrimage to Coventry’s Ricoh Arena to take part in the Golden Demon Classic. I’ve been going to Golden Demon events since 2011, so I’ve got to know a lot of the other painters and studio staff over the years. Consequently the day generally passes in something of a blur as I spend the whole day talking to people (an unfamiliar experience for a hard core introvert like me) and this year was no exception! Nonetheless I thought it would be worth giving a flavour of the day from my own perspective.

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Trajann Valoris, Gold, Warhammer 40,000 Single Miniature

The doors were supposed to open at 10 am but I arrived at the venue at 9:30 and went straight up to the studio area on the top floor, sidestepping the long queue to get into the sales area. This year was the first time that competitors have been able to put miniatures into the contest on Saturday but the cabinets were fairly empty when I arrived so I guess not many people took advantage of that opportunity. I think it’s a great idea to try and extend the length of the event but sadly the reality for many of us is that 2 days away from home is tough to arrange!

Within an hour or so the cabinets had filled up and I tried to get a look at the entrants. This is always really difficult because of the number of people that are trying to do the same! I don’t think there’s a good solution to this, although it would be nice if the organisers were able to do something similar to the days when the contest was held at the NEC and images of the entries would be shown on large screens throughout the day.

This year the lighting in the cabinets had improved a bit (the halogens had been replaced with LEDs) but it is still quite harsh and could definitely be improved with some LED strips.

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Celestant on Dracoth, Silver, Age of Sigmar Single Miniature

As usual I had a fantastic time catching up with all my painter mates and met loads of other great people for the first time. As the years have rolled by, this is definitely the main reason for going to the event for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love picking up trophies as much as the next man, but it’s definitely more of a bonus and not the focus of the day.

At 12 pm the judging began and this year saw another innovation in the form of the highly commended entries. The organisers felt that because there can be a big difference in quality between an entry that scrapes in the finalist category and one that just misses out on a top 3 spot, it would be nice to recognise the latter with the extra award. I think it’s a great idea and there weren’t very many of these awards given out from what I saw so it’s definitely a big achievement if you get one!

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Nazgul of Dol Guldur, Bronze, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit

I’d taken no fewer than 4 entries along with me this year, and as usual I stuck to the single miniature categories. I was really pleased to take the gold in a super competitive 40k single category that was stacked with previous winners and slayer sword holders. This also meant that I successfully defended the gold I took in this category last year! In Age of Sigmar single I got the silver, runner up to Angelo di Chello’s slayer sword winning Horticulous Slimux and picked up a bronze in Lord of the Rings with my Nazgul.

The big shock of the day for me was also getting bronze in open with my Blood Angel lieutenant. This really wasn’t intended as a competition piece and I just brought it along as a last minute decision, putting it in open since I already had my 40k single entry. There was a slightly embarrassing moment when I was called up on stage to receive the award, only to find that the awards for open hadn’t made it to Coventry but I’m happy to say that it’s in the post!

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Blood Angels Lieutenant, Bronze, Open

Speaking of award ceremony cock ups, for the second year running there were no photos of the winning entries on the big screen as the awards were being collected. In my opinion this is pretty unforgivable and really needs to be sorted out. The upshot is that everyone went away from the event not really certain of which entries had won what and until the golden demon website is updated we still don’t know! How difficult can it be to put some pictures on a laptop and hook it up to a projector?

Overall, a fantastic day as usual. Of course there were plenty of other things to see and do as part of the wider Warhammer Fest that I won’t cover here. Despite the difficulty in seeing the entries my impression (confirmed by a few other people in the know) was that the overall standard wasn’t quite as mind blowing as last year, but some categories were definitely as competitive as ever. As usual I came away feeling re-invigorated to paint more miniatures and do better next year! Big thanks to the judges and everyone that had a hand in running the event, and congratulations to all the winners!

Gallery

Nazgul of Dol Guldur

A painting guide for this miniature is available here.

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I was really pleased to see Forgeworld bringing out the Nazgul miniatures after what seemed like endless dwarf, orc and lake town nonsense from the terrible Hobbit movies! I think that technically the Nazgul are from the Hobbit too but they’re also in the Lord of the Rings so that’s good enough for me!

It was a challenge to try and think of something interesting to do with this miniature since it’s very much just steel with a black cloak! I’ve added some subtle texture to the cloak and tried to make the non metallic metal a little interesting by highlighting it with cold green and including some reflections from a far off fire, which could be the fires of mount doom or just a camp fire made by some foolish hobbits! In reality the highlights are a bit greener than they appear in these pictures, but I really struggled to get an accurate colour balance on this miniature for some reason.

I was surprised to find that the Nazgul have been sculpted by hand, as I thought pretty much everything had been switched over to digital by now. I think CAD would have been a better choice with so much armour on the miniature – some of the surfaces were not as smooth or as precise as I would have liked and did have to spend some time with sandpaper and putty just correcting various areas. I’m pleased to say that the casting was pretty good though! The Nazgul are also larger than I expected – this guy towers over the other Lord of the Rings miniatures that I’ve got lying around. I’m not sure if this was intentional or just a bit of scale creep.

I’ll enter this into golden demon in a couple of weeks but without any great hope of winning anything, as I don’t think it’s the best choice of miniature for a competition piece. Still, after taking gold in this category in 2016 and 2017 I don’t think I can complain too much!

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Captain-General Trajann Valoris

There is a full step by step painting guide for this miniature available here.

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With Golden Demon looming on the horizon it was high time to turn my attention to this year’s entry for 40k single miniature, in a (probably doomed) attempt to defend the gold I got last year with my terminator librarian.

With some trepidation I elected to paint Captain-General Trajann Valoris of the Adeptus Custodes. It’s a fantastic looking miniature, but this guy is big (he’s supplied with a 40mm base, which seems woefully inadequate if you ask me) and he is absolutely festooned with detail so I knew I was in for the very long haul again!

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As is often the case, I wanted to do something different to the ‘Eavy Metal paintjob and decided to find out what he would look like in the white armour of the Solar Watch. I’ve been wanting to revisit white armour since I painted the primaris lieutenant last year, as it is quite the challenge to get it looking good and I learnt some things from that piece that I thought could help me here. Once again I’ve used the excellent Warcolours blue grey set to paint the armour.

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A few thoughts on the miniature:

  • Fantastic sculpt (Matt Holland). Nothing much to criticise in my opinion! The only thing I would say is that viewed from the side he seems a little flat and 2-dimensional, like an old metal miniature. Maybe it would look more interesting with the cloak billowing out a bit, but then again it wouldn’t appear to have so much weight and gravitas if it did that.
  • This was the first single mini I’ve purchased that came in a box and what I was really impressed with was the fact that the two sprues were held apart from each other so none of the fine detail could get damaged in transit. Big improvement!
  • As with so many citadel miniatures these days, painting this guy is sub assembly hell. But there is an extra challenge because when you can finally put the cloak on, it comes in several pieces and there is a very obvious yet difficult to access join line right around where the handle of his dagger is. Getting rid of that was tricky!

Overall I’m pretty pleased with how the piece has turned out and I think it’s a fairly unique interpretation of the miniature. I think I need to paint something a little less challenging next though!

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Blood Angels Primaris Lieutenant

When Games Workshop announced the first Blood Angel specific primaris space marine there was no doubt that I was going to have to paint it! So here you have the Gareth Nicholas version, complete with shiny armour, textured loincloth and underwhelming base (TM). I have some fairly strong views about this miniature that I’d like to get off my chest so I’m going to put them at the bottom of this post where most people won’t bother to read them. 😉

Fans of my painting guides will be pleased to know that this guy features in vol 5 and you can get your copy from the Etsy store as usual.

I used the ‘Eavy Metal version of the miniature as inspiration and kept the yellow shoulder pad with red stripe. It’s reminiscent of Captain Tycho so I stole his icon and added that too. The miniature has a very plain power sword so I replaced it with a more ornate version from the Sanguinary Guard kit and painted it in my preferred style for these weapons. I’ve tried to add some extra shine to the armour on this miniature and it’s definitely something I want to explore further in future.
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Review (and rant)

I have to admit that when I first caught sight of this miniature I was somewhat disappointed. In the photos I felt that the pose looked a little awkward but I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt and bought it anyway.

Having built the miniature I can report that there’s nothing technically wrong with the pose but I still find it an odd choice as it doesn’t seem to have any angle that looks particularly good. I think it helps if the miniature is positioned at the top of a step as it gives him a reason to be looking down but it’s still not an angle that I like for the head and I would prefer the torso to be a little more in line with the hips.

I also can’t understand why the halo piece is separate from the backpack. It’s not a big deal but it seems like a fiddly bit of assembly that could have easily been avoided.

On the plus side I appreciate that the loincloth doesn’t have any sculpted on detail for once and the face and hair are really great and were very enjoyable to paint. But why does he have a massive scar on his face? A disfigurement like this would surely be anathema to a Blood Angel! Captain Tycho wore a mask to hide a similar injury so why does this guy not care?

The power sword that comes with the mini is very plain. I can’t understand why it doesn’t have any kind of Blood Angels iconography at all. This guy is fairly senior – shouldn’t he have a cool sword?

But the real issue I have with this guy is that he isn’t Dante, Tycho, Mephiston, Astorath, Corbulo or the Sanguinor! Seriously, who thought that what the Blood Angels really needed was a rather plain lieutenant when all these legends of the chapter are languishing with old sculpts in the abomination that is finecast?! It’s a very odd choice in my book when we already have plenty of primaris lieutenants that can be made to be Blood Angels with minimal work.

Here endeth the rant. It’s not a bad miniature and I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my views but I just feel this little release could have been so much more awesome, so I wanted to use my little corner of the internet to voice my ill-informed opinion. 🙂

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Shadespire Stormcast Eternals

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I was very excited to see Games Workshop release Shadespire. From time to time I have considered painting an army (Blood Angels or High Elves, naturally 😉 ) in order to play the games but the reality is that I know I’d probably lose interest before the first unit was painted! I can definitely paint three miniatures to a reasonable standard in a sensible time frame though, so Shadespire got my attention.

I have previously painted Stormcast in white armour and I wanted to try a slightly different take for these miniatures, so I made use of the Warcolours blue grey set to achieve a colder finish.

I’m fairly happy with how these have turned out considering the time spent. (Around 10 hours per miniature, which is seriously fast compared to the other projects I’ve been doing recently!) I’ve made a painting guide to see if there’s any interest in a slightly less than super high end display standard.

stormcast1stormcast2stormcast3I’ve only managed to have a couple of games of Shadespire so far but first impressions are very positive. It plays quickly and is simple to learn but great fun, so I’m looking forward to more games!

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Yvraine

My painting of the Triumvirate of Ynnead continues with Yvraine, the second miniature for which I have produced a full step by step painting guide that you can get here. Faces and texturing were the most requested topics from people that got in touch following the chaplain tutorial so hopefully this will do the job!

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This was another of those miniatures that took far longer than I expected, partly because I took the insane decision to stipple the large surface area of the dress! I wanted to come up with a completely different colour scheme to the ‘Eavy Metal version and I’m quite pleased with what I ended up with.

As is often the way with me, the base is probably not up to the standard of the rest of the miniature. I have to admit that I found it difficult to come up with any good ideas, since the dress requires a very large perfectly flat area to sit on. But regardless, I think Yvraine herself has come out quite well.

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How to win a golden demon

Good news! If you live in the UK it has never been easier to win a golden demon. Currently there are no fewer than four golden demon painting competitions throughout the year, so no shortage of opportunities!

(If you don’t live in the UK, you have my commiserations. But it seems like things may be improving since a European competition was announced last week at very short notice.)

But even with so many possibilities, it’s not necessarily that easy to take home one of the fabled resin monstrosities. After several years of success I’ve pretty much retired from competition painting, but I thought it would be worth sharing my thoughts about the process. Entering competitions and meeting other painters is good fun (even if you’re an extreme introvert like me), but it can be even more fun if you win something.

This post will be focussed on golden demon, but I think that many of the same principles apply to other competitions. Obviously this is only my opinion as I’ve never been on a judging panel, and I don’t imagine I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but there you go.

Master the fundamentals

This is pretty obvious but has to be mentioned. You need to be able to paint neatly with high contrast and smooth transitions, and have at least a rudimentary grasp of colour theory.

Unfortunately there aren’t really any shortcuts here – you will have to spend a lot of time practicing. Happily there is far more information about than there used to be so a lack of knowledge shouldn’t ever be a roadblock.

(Really useful advice there: “to win a painting award you need to get good at painting”. Genius. Hopefully the rest of this post will be a little more valuable!)

Choose your category

If you’ve never won a demon and you just want your best chance of winning one then you should consider that some categories are generally less competitive than others. Squad is generally less competitive than single miniature for example.

However, category picking is a risky game as there’s no way of knowing what other people will bring. It only takes three top notch entries to appear in your chosen category and your chances of winning just got a lot worse.

If you’ve got time, it’s not a bad idea to bring more than one entry and cover a few categories. But only if you genuinely have the time. One entry that is painted to the absolute limit of your ability is better than two that are a bit rushed.

Personally I’m not a fan of category picking. Instead you should…

Paint what inspires you

Here’s the thing: if you’re going to win, you’re probably going to have to spend many hours painting your entry when you’re pretty much sick of the sight of it.

You know how it goes, at the start of a project you’ve got loads of enthusiasm and can’t wait to get stuck in. Then about halfway through the process you’ve put plenty of time in and the thing looks cack – loads of rough blends you need to go back neaten up, bits that you caught with the brush while painting something else… Urgh.

It’s very easy to put a miniature down at this point and work on the next shiny thing instead, or just rush to completion so it’s out of the way. You’ll have a much better chance of avoiding either of these pitfalls if you were really, really keen on your subject at the outset. That’s why almost all my entries are elves and red space marines. 😉

Plan it properly

Don’t start painting until you’ve really thought through your composition (more important in some categories than others) and colour scheme. You should also have a good idea about any other elements like object source lighting or freehands you’re going to bring in before you start.

It’s a little bit cheeky me saying this, as I have been very guilty of being impatient to get stuck into painting and letting the planning side suffer. But planning is definitely a good idea: do as I say, not as I do. 😉

Make sure you respect the IP

You need to remember that Games Workshop want to use images of golden demon entries in their marketing material. So it’s not a good idea to prepare some hugely elaborate entry that doesn’t really fit into the background. I’ve seen some flat out stunning entries win nothing because of this reason.

Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative. It’s just that you need to make sure that your creativity occurs within the bounds of the intellectual property. If this is too much of a limitation for you then I would recommend going to a different painting competition – there are plenty.

Bases don’t matter

Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s definitely true that a simple base is no barrier to winning. The miniature is what matters most.

Obviously don’t do something that is going to detract from the miniature, and it’s great if you can make a little scene that will reinforce the background. Just don’t get so sucked in to this that you neglect the painting on the miniature.

Oh, and you definitely don’t need to get one of those fancy name plates for your plinth. I never have. A plinth is a good idea though, as it makes life easier for the judges and photographers to handle your miniatures without worrying about breaking something. Model Display Products are great for simple resin plinths.

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Boring base. Result: slayer sword

 

Play to your strengths

Are you really good at freehands but not very experienced at object source lighting? Do you have a great technique for painting faces?

A competition piece probably isn’t the best place to try and learn a new technique. Or if you really want to do something new then practice it on another miniature before you commit yourself.

Make it perfect

I can’t emphasise this enough. Ok, so it’s not possible to attain true perfection, but that shouldn’t stop you trying. This is a competition and you can’t afford to be handing something in with an obvious problem. It’s tempting to think ‘ah, they’ll never notice that little mould line’, or ‘yeah, that blend is probably good enough’.

Trust me, if you’re seriously in contention for a win then these things will get noticed.

What you want to be doing is trying to make it impossible for a judge to find something obviously wrong with the miniature. A fantastic composition and a beautiful colour scheme will not compensate for a technical error. Don’t give them a reason to put your piece out of contention.

(Incidentally I suspect that this issue is at the heart of a lot of post competition whinging. You see a lot of entries that look amazing and yet somehow come away empty handed. The chances are that they made an error that you can’t see just by looking at photos, but becomes apparent when the miniature is inspected at 3 inches under good lighting. Only the judges are in the privileged position of being able to do this, and I’m often amazed that the armchair enthusiast is so vehement that they know better. And being able to look at the pieces in the cabinet is no better – the lighting in those cabinets is awful.)

When I think I’ve finished a competition entry I like to take high resolution photos of it. In looking at the pictures I always find a few areas I think I can improve, so I go back and do it. Eventually I’ll really be struggling to find anything I think I can improve and that’s when I consider the piece competition ready.

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Super close up – try to spot the mistakes! Coin is not mandatory.

 

Make it stand out

It’s really difficult to wow the judges, as the chances are they’ve seen everything before. But if you can include a few neat tricks that the competition probably won’t have done then this may help your chances – but only if you can execute them well.

Things you might consider include non metallic metal, colour fades, freehand, texturing, object source lighting, weathering.

Ask for feedback and listen to it

If you’ve been unsuccessful it’s definitely worth asking a judge the reasons why. They’re a great bunch and usually very willing to give feedback.

Once you have the feedback, don’t just dismiss it. Use it to do better next time.

Keep a sense of perspective

It has been known for an unsuccessful contestant to boo the winner at the award ceremony, and post competition whinging on the internet is usually pretty rife.

At the end of the day, this is a competition around painting toy soldiers. Yes, it’s disappointing to put so much effort into a piece and feel that it hasn’t been recognised, but really there are bigger problems in the world. Accept it and move on!

Conclusion

Well, that’s everything I can think of. I suppose a lot of this can be boiled down to having the right mind set, and how hard you’re prepared to work.

If you’ve never entered golden demon before but you’re planning on attending one of the events where a competition will be held, give it a go! It doesn’t cost anything, and what have you got to lose? Maybe you won’t win first time round but you’ll probably learn something useful. And you may get to take home a neat little finalist pin, which is guaranteed to greatly enhance your sexual magnetism whenever you wear it. 😉

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Blood Angels Battle Brothers

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By far my most ambitious piece to date, this diorama took something like 400-500 hours of painting over about 8 months.

Blood Angels have always held a special place in my heart since those halcyon days of 40k 2nd edition when my brother and I used to battle over my hotly contested bedroom carpet. I think the artwork that GW were putting out was what won me over to the chapter. Dave Gallagher’s image of a golden commander leading the Blood Angels against some genestealers remains one of my favourite pieces to this day, and was very much in my mind when I conceived this piece.

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The GW plastics are universally excellent, but I had a real struggle finding a suitable miniature for the commander. I had already rejected a couple of finecast Tychos when the limited edition captain was fortuitously released and I realised that it would be a relatively simple matter to convert him for my purposes.

I spent quite a lot of time faffing around working out the best positions for all the minis and deciding how many to commit myself to painting. I only wanted to use flavours of Blood Angel that would have been around in 2nd edition, so no Sanguinary Guard (even though they are really cool). I knew I wanted a Terminator and couple of Death Company alongside the commander, so I needed to include enough tacticals to balance it out.

Painting-wise there was nothing particularly revolutionary here – just hour after hour of glazing. I stuck to a tried and tested triad of ochre, red and cyan and used my standard techniques for painting shiny armour (which I intend to cover in a future post). There are quite a lot of freehands throughout the piece: every marine has a name painted on him somewhere and I remember taking quite some pains to try and make sure that the chapter icons on the tactical marines shoulder pads were as near to identical to each other as I could make them. I suppose I could have used transfers, but that’s not how I roll.

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I always had the slayer sword in mind when I was working on this, as I’d previously had feedback from the judges that I should do something bigger than my habitual single miniature entries at Golden Demon. Of course, I hadn’t realised that 2015 would see a series of ‘mini demons’ rather than the full fat event, so I ended up taking the sword at Golden Demon: Space Marines. It was indeed a proud moment but I do still have a nagging feeling that I need to go back at some point and try and win a ‘proper’ sword…

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