Friday, November 29, 2013

Big Cats On The Block

It's time for a halfway update on Panthers! I had airbrushed them, and was not 100% on how they're painted. I put them aside to paint the Malifaux crew, but was motivated to give a second look by a friendly reminder on WWPD. I have pulled them back out, and am working to get them finished:

As you can see, I've done one zug with the earlier three-colour painting, (the platoon with zimmerit) and a second platoon with the later scheme where they just saved on dunkelgelb by leaving the oxide undercoat showing instead of brown. Annoyingly, my green and brown didn't entirely come out clean-edged, and I may yet go back and touch them up with my dunkelgelb colour by airbrush.

One thing that did help is a thinned coating of Agrax Earthshade mixed with water. It helps to add definition to the plates and cracks, and dulls the green and brown more realistically. In this lighting, it looks like it darkens the dunkelgelb too much, but it doesn't seem that off in person. We shall see.

By now, you can also see the effects of the zimmerit paste to some extent. It is a subtle, perhaps more realistic (than stylistic) effect on the armour.

Also currently on the table are my remaining Ten Thunders models. I'll be trying a source lighting effect on Yamaziko, Misaki will have gold traced patterns on her garb, and Ototo... I will figure something out for. I've made Shang about as bright as I can possibly go without him looking like popcorn, as befits a creature of fire!

And finally, my lady-swords faction for Malifaux: As you can see, they are not consistently painted but have echoing motifs across the entire group, I paint the base colours this way to help make sure I'm getting some of the same colour on different models in the crew, before they get the paint bottle treatment you can see with the heads of the Ten Thunders above, when I'm down to final details.

Since these photos were taken, I've been painting the tools and stowage on the Panthers, and will probably end up doing a post on how I paint the tracks. I've also gone back to attempting to make my final two Panther vehicles: A Bergepanther and a Nachtsichtgeraten Panther (night fighter). Once the table is clear of that stuff, well... Then I start to dig into the pile...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ninjas Caught On Camera!

The last of the three clusters for my Ten Thunders crew arrives!

After this it's just the leaders: Yamaziko, Misaki, and Ototo.

Torakage are quite clearly meant to be ninjas. Upon research, I have uncovered some neat information about true ninja garb. First, the myth; ninja did not wear all black, necessarily. That is a notion coming from kabuki theatre which, as you may have seen on the internet, uses people dressed in black, against a black backdrop, to render them 'invisible'. Of course, you can still see them, it is just customary to ignore their presence.

Imagine then, the horror and surprise of the audience when one of these black-clad, utterly ignored characters draws a blade, steps forward, and kills one of the characters! Perfectly they've managed to convey the idea of the ninja.

Why is this important to understand? Imagine if, in the future, we move beyond lead-firing guns, to energy weapons. People at the time still like to play-pretend soldiers from our era, and in doing so, imagine all guns to be the bullet hoses seen on so many movies (lookin' at you, Rambo) and spoofed on others (Evil Dead series, arguably.) That's about how true historical ninja would view our treatment of them these days.

"Well then, Reid" I hear you saying, "what DID they wear?" Much like many secret agents of today, they wore whatever would fit in the best. Fine kimonos at a party, dirty peasant garb in the streets, loincloth in a bathhouse, etc.

Circling back to Malifaux and our Torakage, now; their clothing is quite similar to what peasant garb could be, but with perhaps a couple of odd extras. The skirt-device, scarf, and of course face mask being the most notable. With their rule stating they can lose themselves in a crowd, it's clear their garb is meant to be mundane. For my part, this meant clothing that was both drab, and almost entirely undecorated. It's much harder to identify someone when you're only told "That guy with brown pants" as opposed to "the one with the lotus kimono in black and white with jade accents".

So first, the consistent things: all have red belts, and red kneepads: these are the things identifying them as part of the Ten Thunders faction. Originally, their headscarves were painted thus, but it was far too large an area, and made it too dominant on the model. I may yet detail their scarves as they earn noteworthy kills or achieve objectives. Furthermore, their bases are likewise the most mundane: Cobble roads, sidewalks, etc. These are not the Oiran in their gentle settings, nor the Archers in a full mix; these are folks who slink through alleys and dodge the light of Malifaux's lamps.

The masks of the Torakage are interesting. Despite the ninja feel of the rest, their masks are plain and flat, which is not a traditional Japanese style mask. The Japanese prefer carved masks that look like demons, or stylized forms of the warrior underneath. Luckily, the Chinese have a smooth mask tradition with beautiful painted details. I decided to attempt to emulate their patterns, and furthermore tried to keep black paint away from the eye slits, lest they be lost in the designs.

First up is the Torakage who gets the award for weapons most likely actually concealable. His outfit is a consistent blue, with green and brown on what I have to assume is their 'weapon smock'. For most of the colours on these, I started with colours inherently drab, and mixed up with a more grey tone than pure white, making them appear worn and dirty. He is also the only of the three to have decorated clothing, and even then it's a simple repeating three-dot scheme.

The Femme Fatale of the crew is channeling the schoolgirl from Kill Bill. Her mask was painted tiger-themed, and with my self-imposed rule of repeating colours throughout, shares the green border and blue on her smock of scythe above. Be warned when gluing her: I highly recommend getting a very thin pin drill, some modelling wire, and pinning her foot to the ground. It is a very thin join for a model this tall and thin!

The beefiest of the Torakage also has the least concealable (and perhaps least practical) weapons. This is, luckily, balanced by an absolutely awesome pose. As before, the brown and green on his smock is the same as the female Torakage, and the blue of his mask matches the blue of scythe's. Otherwise his outfit is very drab, and subtly painted.

Something else consistent across all three is the forearm covers. I figure their work up close with bladed or heavy weapons would probably end up with a couple hard-to-describe splatters on their forearms. The covers allows them to be quickly  shed to appear 'normal' if they get chased, and also, being white, can be  a mark of pride for the Torakage after a mission, and proof of their success. (It's also the only reason I can fathom this final Torakage has attached his blades to his arms: The weapon I think they're meant to imitate is one where flipping it around unconnected from the arm is how the weapon is used!)

With them finished, I must take a break from Malifaux for a bit to finish up a Panther force. I have been trying to make source-lighting work on Yamaziko's lantern, which may take a couple of passes before I'm entirely happy with it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Gentle Caress of Blades

My Oiran are finally finished! Let me tell you, these ladies took a while to finish off; in part because of the detail I wanted, in part because of the detail on the models.
Probably the least subtle of the hidden blades...
As with all my projects, the first stage was research. I spent a lot of time looking up traditional kimono colour patterns, what various designs would mean, and then just general information about kimonos, Geisha, and as I later realized, the distinct group; Oiran. Unlike Geishas who are primarily performers, the Oiran are courtesans. Having seeped myself in knowledge, and armed with my colour schemes, I set out to make each one distinct and beautiful on their own, with only a subtle nod to the Ten Thunders faction (the red on sandals and hair ties).

I love that she could be cracking her knuckles. Her metal-plated, blade-bedecked terrifying knuckles.
My first Oiran I decided I would make a subtle pink. I tend to enjoy strong bright colours, and so intentionally muting the tone was an interesting change for me. Since her outfit is the most classical "Oiran" look, I decided to make her the leader, or most experienced of the group, and decorated her kimono with Peonies. (No, not ponies...) A subtle pink exterior balanced by a stronger interior, repeated on her sash, belt, and tassels unified the look. To contrast the soft muted tones of her outer robe, I did a strong, deep blue underneath, shaded to look silken, but undecorated. Her hair, as with all of them, was done in gloss black to make it look very well kept, and subtly highlighted by mixing the black with a mid-tone cold grey.

As with the other two, one of the hardest things to paint on her was the makeup. I wanted to make it suble: Not clown-like, but still the pale face so famous of Japanese courtesans. This was achieved by starting out with the normal skin tone, but then highlighting it with pale sand, and later white, more strongly than I would otherwise. She is also on the koi pond base from last entry, suggesting that "if you want to cross, you go through me" feel.

(Btw; click on the pics to see them even bigger!)

Next up is "Koi". This kimono started out being airbrushed with a rich blue over the white kimono. I mixed the paint, and feathered the airbrush to make the gradient less a smooth tone shift, and more of a sea spray transition. After that was done, the white parts of the kimono were carefully touched up, and thin white glazes added shading to the sleeves so I didn't have to mix paint for each part of the gradient to highlight them.

The koi themselves were painted first, similar to how the pond ones were: Bright orange, overlaid with increasing mixes of pale sand. The belt was originally bright orange as well, but it distracted from the koi, and was replaced with a similar sea-colour teal.

Her legs were painted to make the stockings look translucent by gradually highlighting from a mix of black and skintone in hatched highlights. First, the 50/50 mix would be hatched top-right to lower-left, then the 60/40 mix atop it done top-left to lower-right. This, combined with the overall thinness of paint, gave a fine hatched look without (I hope) looking like fishnets. Also, on a whim, I painted fingernails on any model who had them exposed in a strong red, both to distinguish fingers, and to again tie back to the Ten Thunders.

Finally, using thinned white paint and my smallest brush, I traced wave-lines along the kimono, and added a few dots of darker brown as pebbles or whatnot. The masks on all three are metal, which I debated for a while but decided that, as courtesans going into battle, they'd care significantly about protecting their face!

The last of course, is "Cherry". How could I do a series of kimonos and not include a cherry blossom one?

She too started her life out with an airbrush layering of green over white, highlighted as above. Pink is a natural complimentary colour in kimono history, and so her sash, and conveniently the blossoms themselves received that treatment. The branches were made before the blossoms; thin tracings of black. Originally I thought about decorating her fans, but a combination of the way they're half-folded, and the lack of sharp edges on the plastic made me hesitant to try.

I was happy to discover that the shoes of Oiran are almost consistently a lacquered black, which freed me up from attempting to imitate a wood pattern like Geisha typically have. On this size, and with the plastic's limited detail, I tried them and utterly failed to make them look convincing. The lacquered black is more historically appropriate, and it nicely ties together all three models, as well as distinguishing them from the bases, which were kept drab and plain, though I am really tempted to add flowers on the base around Cherry...

Go on, I'm sure they're friendly!
So that's all three Oiran! They're my least-subtle of the Ten Thunders faction yet, but I figure unlike the Torakage, who must pretend to be normal citizens, or the Archers, who are just citizens, the Oiran are the most likely to be accepted walking into enemy territory unimpeded, and the brighter colours reinforces that. Also, a slight break from tradition: The things sticking out of their wigs are traditionally orange plastic, but I figured when they're called to action by Misaki, their decorative headpieces are themselves further weapons in their arsenal.

Another thing you may now be able to notice slightly with their colour schemes is they all nod to one another slightly. Cherry has pink like Peony, Peony has blue like Koi, and Koi's belt (and ankle guards?) are green-tinged like Cherry. I'm trying with all these to have a subtle colour unity throughout the sub-groups of my crew. Painting all three at one time makes this smoother: The paint I mix up to paint Peony's kimono and sash becomes the same colour used to dot Cherry's kimono and paint her sash, etc.

I will soon do a post on faces, since you may notice unlike many others, I've not attempted to paint detailed eyes on most of these. I've got my reasons, and they're ones I think others may benefit from. Depending on whether I get my Torakage photographed soon, I may do them next.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Somber Day, A Somber Post

It's 11.00 here, and somber reflection has made me decide to craft a slightly different post here.

I am blessed to have never felt war's grasp myself. I have utmost and everlasting respect for those who take up such a duty.

One of these people was my Grandpa. He served in the war in the Canadian Navy, and was a signalman. As a kid he would show me the photos, his old signalman's book, and even a book of bawdry soldier songs from the time. His stories of his service usually were linked to the photos: Ice covering the ship after a cold night in the Atlantic, for example.

A story he never told, and in fact I only found out about after he'd passed away, and only then from other members of the family, was that his ship was one of the many covering the landings at Normandy in June of 1944. Even though he was not one of those who had to sprint ashore amidst terrible gunfire, it is clear the time deeply affected him.

The story he did tell, and I am happy to remember it and now share it, was the end of the war. On the ship, patrolling the Atlantic, assuming the war was still on. The crew was put into a state of high alert when a U-Boat - one they weren't aware was even there - surfaced beside them. Before any had a chance to open fire, the hatch of the sub opened, and its crew surrendered. The German Navy had received the message to stand down before the allied troops got word the war was over!

Grandpa has photos of the moment, and even carved a likeness of the U-Boat that surrendered.

Not that it should ever be far from our minds, but especially today, and this week, as we engage in the pastime of wargaming, may we remember what it implies. Especially those who play Flames of War, or Bolt Action. Real people once fought and died using the tools of war we now model and play with. Their sacrifice is what gives us the freedom to play.

I Remember.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Koi Pond on a Base

The Oiran are now finished! I'll do a post for them as soon as I get their photos edited. In the meantime, here's a thing I did for the base of my Oiran "leader".

I decided I wanted to put her on a narrow bridge. Her pose looks like she's about to bow (martially) to an opponent. I figured putting her in a place where the enemy would have to push past her would reinforce this motif. I'd tried doing similar things before, and know that I am inspired by the incredible work done by [url=]Riusuke Fukahori[/url] though I have less room to do it, and am trying at a much smaller scale.

 These are my primary tools. The clear leveling gel makes decent water effects on flat surfaces, along with green and orange paint for the lilypads and koi respectively.

First, I painted where I wanted the fish to be, and put in some pads that hadn't surfaced. The orange at this point was slightly darkened with brown, to reinforce the 'depth'.

Next, a thin layer of the gel, adding a bit of height for the next few layers. The more successive thin layers you make, the more realistic the effect. For the scale, I ended up doing three, since the height difference wasn't enough to take more. If I ever re-make the base, I might cut through the base, giving me a couple more millimeters to work with. After this layer of gel, I put down a glaze of murky green-brown, to look like the pond's water wasn't crystal clear.

Next, a second layer of orange on the koi, attempting to look like scales was added. Further, some of the lily sections gained new pads, or had over-painted pads to look like the cluster building up.
After a thicker layer of gel, I did one final highlight and seal layer. If you want some of the lilypads to look surfaced, paint them after the final level of gel; they'll reflect the light differently and not appear to be wet with water.
Here, then, the final product. I'm mostly pleased with the result, though if I end up going back, I'll probably end up detailing the surface lilypads more. It does have a nice 3d quality, and it might be fun to do a second base without having her on it, just to see how it looks if that's the only part of the 'model' I'm worried about.

The rest of the Oiran will be in the next post, hopefully soon!