Wednesday, May 3, 2023

April Fooled Me But Good (#IWSG May 2023)

April was rough. On the First, my daughter suffered a concussion (no, not related to failed April Fool's prank). We ended up in the hospital emergency room all weekend, from which she picked up a nasty stomach flu. The flu proceeded to work its way through our house, and took us two whole weeks before everyone was back on their feet (we completely missed Easter). We got better for one day, met with in-laws for dinner, and then they got sick for two weeks. 

Through this, my kids have been seriously stressed out. I don't know if it's recovering from the illness or growing pains or what, but their mood and mental resilience have been terrible. Meanwhile, my union went on strike and I was walking the picket line for ten days. There's just no end to it.

It was not this cute.

The strike is over and I'm back to work. Everyone seems to be healthy and the kids are coming around. May is always an exciting month - my birthday, my wife's birthday, Mother's Day and our anniversary all fall within a ten-day period (we did not plan that well). So hopefully life will improve.

Oh, and did I mention that I kept up with the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge through all this, and didn't miss a day? Still don't know what I was thinking with that.

Somehow, through all of this, I actually wrote several chapters for the next Gale Harbour book. I don't know if they're any good yet, and I know they don't have any of my regular humour. I guess I just wasn't feeling very funny. I'm going to have to go back and put jokes in during the revising phase.

How was your month?

Please check out my A-to-Z posts

May Question - When you are working on a story, what inspires you?

This is interesting, because it doesn't say what inspires you to write the story, but "when you are" working on a story. I get ideas to start stories from lots of different places, but the inspiration to keep working on it, that's something else.

Sometimes I write because I want to see how it ends. Sometimes I genuinely don't know. Sometimes I'm trying a new idea or writing style and I want to see how it turns out. Sometimes I have a deadline, for a contest or submission. But most often my biggest inspiration is just wanting to see it done. I hate having unfinished projects (and I have so, so, so many of them), so being able to add something to the finished pile is just satisfying. 

Is that a good reason to write? Maybe, maybe not. But if it gets me to finish writing, then I'm not going to complain.

That's it for another month!

Hugs & Kisses,

P.S. Seriously, check out my A-to-Z Blog Posts. If you're interested in miniature painting, wargaming, model building, crafting... there's a little bit of something in here for you. He's the full list of topics I covered, from A-to-Z:

A is for The Army Painter
B is for Basecoat
C is for Contrast
D is for Dry Brushing
E is for Edge Highlighting
F is for Feathering
G is for Games Workshop
H is for 'eavy Metal
I is for Inks
J is for Jokaero Orange (paint)
K is for Kolinsky Sable Brushes
L is for Layering
M is for Masking
N is for NMM (Non-Metallic Metal)
O is for OSL (Object-Source Lighting)
P is for Primer
Q is for Quality
R is for Resin Printing
S is for... (Stippling, Shading, Scatter Terrain, Sprue)
T is for Terrain
U is for Undercoat, UV Resin
V is for Vallejo
W is for... Washes, Weathering, Wet Blending, Wet Palette, Warhammer
X is for XPS Foam
Y is for... (Flash, Kitbashing, Varnish)
Z is for Zenithal Priming

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Z is for Zenithal Priming

Zenithal Priming is an advanced priming technique that attempts to simulate shadows and highlights created by the sun at its zenith.

Basically, you prime the entire model in black, then spray on a white primer from above only. This leaves any lower edges and recesses black, creating baseline shadows even before you start blocking in your colours.

I've also seen this done with black, then a grey layer and then just a touch of white for the top most highlight.

All photos from The Army Painter

You don't even necessarily have to use white and black. You can also use complementary or contrast colours to get different, interesting effects:

And that's it! Twenty-six days about miniature painting! I did it, Ma! Thank you to those who stuck around for the full month, and I hope you learned a thing or two, or at least weren't too bored. Maybe you laughed at some of my terrible jokes or painting. Either way, you came back, so I appreciate it!

Hugs & kisses,


Saturday, April 29, 2023

Y Can't I Find a "Y" Word?

Y can't I find painting terms that start with Y? I've been trying to come up with something for almost two months and I can't think of anything good.

Oh well. Instead I'll talk about a few terms that I missed earlier in the month.

Flash is the excess plastic on the seam lines of models, where the piece was previously attached to the sprue. These are usually easily removed with a sharp blade (like an X-acto knife), though they may also need sanding at times.

This model piece has a very pronounced flash line running all along its side. Hopefully it can be removed without slicing off the model's finger.

Kitbashing is taking pieces from different model kits, and putting them together to create a new model. Many miniatures that require assembly (ie, Warhammer) come with extra pieces for customization (like alternate heads, weapons, etc). After you've been building for a while, you inevitably collect a variety of leftover pieces. These can be put together, or the "kits bashed" together to make completely new models.

This was very obviously put together from random parts. I have no idea what it's supposed to be, but it's kinda cool.
Source: Reddit

Varnish is a final layer of clear coating applied to a finished model to protect the paint job from the regular handling, bumps and scratches of gameplay. Though pretty much all painters agree that varnish is required, there is a variety of types to chose from. A matte, anti-shine varnish is most popular, as it prevents light glare and reflection, which can make your model look weird at such a small scale (remember how we talked about how light behaves differently on tiny models all the way back on Contrast day). There is sometimes use for gloss or satin (semi-gloss) finish, however, such as to simulate different textures or materials on your model. On my recent Darth Vader mini, I used matte varnish on his cape to make it look more like cloth, but satin on his armor to give it a more hard plastic and/or leather look. And gloss varnish is great for making things look wet, like eyeballs or fresh blood.

Varnish is commonly applied with a spray can, as aerosol varnish, like paint, tends to go on more evenly. That said, sometimes you may not want or be able to use spray varnish (varnish is even more sensitive to temperature and humidity than paint, and it also smells bad), so brush-on varnishes are also an acceptable option.

The difference in this one is a lot more noticeable, as I used a full gloss for the helmet and matte for the rest of it. In retrospect I probably could have used a satin for the helmet instead, but the gloss certainly gives a strong contrast.

Fun-fact: spray varnish and spray paint actually dissolves untreated XPS Foam, unless you seal it first. Like many other modelers, I learned this the hard way. Now that I seal the foam with a mixture of paint and glue before painting, however, I am able to use a spray varnish to finish my terrain.

One more day to go!

Hugs & kisses,

Friday, April 28, 2023

X is for XPS Foam

XPS Foam, or extruded polystyrene foam, is a type of rigid foam board usually used as insulation. It's very useful in construction as it's water resistant, easy to cut and work with, and very effective at insulating from heat and cold.

It comes in thicknesses between ½ to 2 inches, and convenient sizes from 2x2 up to 4x8 feet.

For our purposes, XPS is also incredibly useful in model building. It has numerous uses for making buildings, furniture, terrain, and countless other props and objects. It's very light but rigid, and easy to cut, carve and glue.

The Army Painter actually sells terrain-building kits that come with sheets of XPS Foam.

There are other types of foam out there, like Styrofoam and foamcore (the kind that has paper covering both sides, often used for presentation boards in kids science fairs) that have their uses, but none are as versatile as XPS. Personally I've used it to create dungeon walls and floors, houses and brick walls, forests floors and rocks.

See? I've got more happy little trees. And cute little cottages, too!

My walls are all carved, but I've also seen people with better tools and more patience cut thousands of individual bricks out of foam to create masterpieces like this: 

I had to include the picture with the finger to prove it's actually a scale model and not the real thing.

Lately I've actually been spending almost more time with models and "dioramas" than I have just painting miniatures. I'm turning into a bigger nerd all the time. Someone please stop me before I start building model trains. ;-)

Hugs & kisses,

Thursday, April 27, 2023

W is for... a Wide assortment of stuff

Washes we've discussed before - it's a high-viscosity medium that allows its pigment to flow into the recesses and low points of your model, adding shadow to the nooks and crannies.

Weathering is adding visual texture to a model to make it look old and well, weathered. This is a common technique used on vehicles and terrain to make them look rundown and battle worn. It's often achieved through a combination of washes and dry brushing to give it a dirty, rusty, battered look.

Wet blending is another technique, similar to layering and glazing, used to create a transition between two colours on your model. In wet blending, the two colours are added quickly side by side on the model, and then mixed and blended together while they're still wet. It's a bit trickier than some of the other blending techniques, as it requires speed as well as precision to pull off. 

A wet palette is a very useful tool for painting miniatures. Most of you are familiar with a standard painter's palette used to hold and mix paint - usually they're made of plastic, glass, ceramic, even wood or cardboard, really anything will do. The problem with mini painting is that you're using such small amounts of paint, they very rapidly dry out, often in the middle of painting. To mitigate this, a wet palette can be used. 

Basically a wet palette is a damp sponge with a  water-permeable sheet on top (parchment paper for baking works great for this). You mix your paints on top if the sheet, and the water from the sponge soaks through just enough to keep your paints wet and usable longer. It also has the added bonus of automatically thinning your paints. You can buy wet palettes or make them yourself quite easily, and they usually come with a lid so you can close up your paint and keep the wet and usable for up to several days.

Warhammer is a tabletop wargame made by Games Workshop. It's probably the most famous and popular miniature game in the world, but I have never played it so I know little about it. In it, two or more players pit their armies of tiny warriors against each other on a battlefield. Each players makes a team of equal points, where each little soldier on the field is worth varying numbers of points depending on how powerful they are. (A basic Space Marine is worth 13 points, while a tank is worth over 200). Armies are comprised of numerous factions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and backstory flavour.

There are a ton of rules as to the various stats and abilities of each unit, and Games Workshop is very particular about using only official Warhammer rules and minis. Because of this and because you have to assemble and paint all your figures, Warhammer is an expensive hobby to get into. The current estimate for your first army plus the supplies to make them is going to run at least $400, and I've seen plenty of people say that its realistically twice that amount. Just for one player to start playing (your opponent will have to invest a comparable amount). Its kind of nuts really,  but Warhammer certainly has its fanatics, and it's because of that strong fanbase that it remains the most successful wargame in the world.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

V is for Vallejo

Amadeo Vallejo started Vallejo Paints out of his garage in New Jersey in 1965. A Spanish immigrant, he could barely speak English, so his Dutch wife, Eugene Safranek, handled most of the business and PR, while Vallejo himself perfected his new style of acrylic paints.

Vallejo in his workshop in 1971. Source

Vallejo's early customers were primarily animation studios, particularly Hanna Barbera (of The Flintstones and Yogi Bear fame). Animators appreciated the smooth consistent colours and strong opacity of Vallejo's paints. And when they needed tens of thousands of painted cells for a half hour TV program, that amounted to alot of paint, and Vallejo's business did quite well.

Soon, however, Vallejo grew homesick for Spain (who likes living in New Jersey, anyway?), and in the early 1970s, against the recommendation of his business associates and friends, Vallejo and his wife packed up their business and moved to Barcelona. They were lucky to get in on the ground floor just as colour television and cartoons started to become popular in Europe. Being one of the only acrylic paint suppliers on the continent, Vallejo was soon exporting his products across Europe. This was quickly followed by advertising and marketing companies- this is back on the day before computers, when advertising artwork and graphic design was all done by hand. 

Vallejo became the first producer of commercial, artist-grade, affordable tubes of acrylic paint in Europe. This revolutionised the fine arts industry, and by the early 80s Vallejo was working with art schools to produce a variety of lines of fine art paints, including for the new art style of airbrushing. Needless to say, business was booming.

Also in the 80s, Vallejo began making model and wargaming paints for third parties. Soon, however, people realized where the paint was coming from and started going to the source. By the early 90s, Vallejo had started their own line of model paints called Model Color, which was immensely successful and is still recognized as one of the top brands today. They also developed the dropper bottle, which is way better than the stupid pots that Games Workshop uses. With the advent of computer-animation in the 1990s, the animation business line of Vallejo dried up, but was quickly replaced by their growing scale modeling and wargaming line. In the 2000s they added Game Color, marketed specifically toward tabletop gamers, which was also successful.

Eugenie (in the back) and Alex Vallejo (right) at a convention in Valencia in 1978. Source

Amadeo Vallejo died in 2019, but the business continues to be run by his oldest son Alex and his brothers. Today they employ nearly 100 people and produce close to 2.5 million pounds of acrylic paint a year, making them one of the largest and most successful producers of fine art and model paint in the world. They have refused all offers for buy-outs and mergers, preferring to keep their business in the family and running the same way they have for nearly 60 years. They continue to innovate, just this year refreshing their line of Game Color paints, making their formula even better if possible, and adding a sweet line of contrast paints as well.

Bonus V: Vader

Talking about object-source lighting the other day got me wanting to try it again. I went back to the same model that first introduced me to OSL and tried to recreate it:

It's definitely not perfect, but it's miles ahead of my previous attempts. The biggest thing I would change is to cut down on the amount of red on the base - I think it would stand out more if it wasn't SO much red. I would also add more highlights overall, so the brightest spots would be even brighter. Still, I'm improving, so that's a plus.

Also, I've discovered that I love glazing, and I need to focus on improving that, as well.

(And and for reference, this was painted mostly with Army Painter paints, however there are definitely a few Vallejo shades and varnishes on there)

Anyway, that's all for now. Only a few days left!

Hugs & kisses,


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

U is for Undercoat, UV Resin

Undercoating is really just another way of saying "priming," which we discussed in depth last week. It's probably better to use the term priming anyway, as "undercoating" can be confused with "basecoating."

We also discussed UV resin last week, in terms of 3D printing. But UV resin also has other uses.

In printing, UV resin is deposited in thin layers and then cured with ultraviolet light to harden it into models. You can actually achieve similar effects by pouring the resin into a mold and then hitting with a UV light.

In modeling, UV resin is often used to make glass or water effects (materials that have a translucent appearance). 

Some custom bases that use resin to create awesome water effects.

You can also use silicone to create a mold, often by pressing it against a piece or texture you want to copy, and then fill the mold with resin to make a copy of the original piece. I've seen it used by people customized their miniatures, to create new shields, armour, or elementals to add to the base (like skulls, rocks, etc.)

It says "water effect" but what they're actually doing here is using a mold to create a small beetle-like creature, which could be easily added to a miniature or base.

Just a short post today, tomorrow should be more interesrting and involved. The end is in sight!

Hugs & Kisses,
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