88461 Ettin Trooper

I finally finished the Ettin Trooper last week.

My first crack at it was a disaster. Two lessons: despite what you may read elsewhere, Vallejo Glaze Medium is not very good for wet blending. Maybe it works for non-metallic metal effects better than for skin, I don’t know. But on this miniature it simply made everything look gooey and wrong. Lesson two: if you like using washes to add depth and shadows, this will absolutely not work on larger figures with a lot of exposed skin. After a wash of Vallejo sepia, the piece looked awful, mottled and blotchy.

I wound up having to strip the figure down to bare metal and start all over. That said, version 2 looks a lot better.

Difficulties were 100% a product of my lack of skill. The second time, I was more cautious. I painted all the skin first (in case I needed to strip a third time) and diluted with water. There were still some harsh transition lines. I brought these down with two very diluted washes. The first was a soft gray. The second was a diluted Vallejo skin wash/Reaper tanned flesh combo. The latter was perfect for making the whole figure cohere visually.

Problems painting notwithstanding, this is a beautiful figure. The musculature is finely detailed, the pose is dynamic, and the scale is really stunning alongside the other Drazen’s Horde figures. The Ettin is a good head taller than the ogres, giving a nice range to the faction. It’s going to look great on the table. Casting it in six separate pieces also allows the figure to break out from the planar, two-dimensional quality that plagues many of the Chainmail sculpts.

I was going to push on and paint the Hill Giant next, but I think I’ll do the Bugbear instead. I’ve also got a couple of non-Chainmail figures that I may post on the blog.

88060 Owlbear

I finished painting her last week, but I only just now got around to basing the owlbear.

This figure was a delight to paint. I think it’s the best owlbear sculpt ever made, frankly. The detail is fine, the pose is wonderfully lively, and it’s complicated to prep and paint, but not overly so. I still love the Orc Trooper, but this is running a close second for my favorite miniature in the Chainmail line.

I hesitated starting this one because I didn’t want to screw it up. Once I got going, though, it was hard to stop. I went with a black primer coat, a chestnut brown basecoat on the fur, a black wash to bring out the detail, and then stippled several shades of brown to vary the fur texture. I really struggled over what to do with the feathers and crest. Some reference photos online have really brightly colored feathers which contrast sharply with the drab fur. That seemed a bit much to me, so I went with reaper Green Ochre and Khaki Shadow to keep the figure uniformly shaded but with enough variation to make the textural contrast apparent. I think it worked really well, especially in the face.

As you can see, I still didn’t thin my paint enough on the beak. The reaper yellows and oranges are really hard to keep from separating. So my first pass was way too watery and my second overcompensated. I’m still showing my trembling hand in the eye detail but honestly, I expected to do worse. I drybrushed the edges of the crest and the belly with Reaper Bleached Linen. I think that worked quite well too.

A glob of milliput putty left over from filling the truly cavernous gaps on the Ettin Trooper got turned into a nice owlbear egg. No idea what color owl eggs are in nature. A nice dappled lavender gives good tonal contrast here.

I’ve got 3 more owlbear figures in storage so I’m sure I’ll paint another of these before too long. For now, though, it’s the aforementioned Ettin Trooper. He’s already pinned, primed, and base coated. I should finish the highlights and shading in the next couple of days.

Oh, and splendid news on the collection-building front. A really great Chainmail collector from Ireland whom I’ve gotten to know from a Facebook minis trading board has given me the shadow priest and half-dragon mage. Really looking forward to seeing them. This brings my number of missing minis down to four, I think.

88970a/b Orc Gangfighter

Finally finished these guys today.

I found painting them extremely difficult and have been dragging my feet wrapping them up. The sculpts, which are from the end of WotC’s Chainmail run, are some of the worst in the line. The poses themselves are interesting and visually compelling. But the sculpts are just lazy. There is very little differentiation of the figures and the models have large patches of negative space where a more conscientious sculptor would have carved out the model to open up empty sections. I was continually needing to figure out how to paint large shadowed areas in a way that didn’t detract from the figure itself.

Those spears, for example, are not separated from the figure’s torso. There’s a massive, blobby piece that connects the two and which needs to be painted in a way that separates it from the chest armor and the spear shaft. I struggled with this a lot.

That said, I love the spears themselves and the armor. With a little more care in the production process, this could have been a really excellent piece. The Orc Trooper, for example, has a similar, two-handed weapon stance. In that case, the sculptor made the club and hands a separate piece that needed to be pinned into place. The result there is a figure that is really well defined and a joy to paint. I wonder if, by Set 4, WotC didn’t know the game was going to be cancelled and just phoned in the production process.

There wasn’t much cloth I could use to anchor these figures to the Drazen’s Horde faction color of burnt orange that I’ve been using. Instead, I had the idea of giving them copper armor. On base coating, I thought I had a real problem. The Vallejo copper is really vivid. When shading, I had the idea of giving them an oxidized look by using Vallejo green-black ink as a wash. It’s not a proper verdigris effect. For that I would have needed to paint whitish-green, encrusted patches onto armor that is already pretty well defined. This wash did a good job of taking the brightness down and giving a faint oxidized look to the recesses.

In my haste to finish them up, I forgot to paint the ties on their hair. That’s going to bug me forever. I tried highlighting the black hair with gray where the light hits it. I can see doing more of this with other figures. It really helps add a level of verisimilitude to the figures.

Taking a break from orcs and goblins for the moment. There are several hobgoblin figures I need to do. Before that, I’m taking time to paint the Owlbear, one of my favorite D&D monsters and a standout in the Chainmail line.

He’s pinned and primed. I should start taking a crack at him this weekend.

88713 Orc Druid

This figure was complicated to paint. Overlapping layers and a range of textures meant that I think I spent more time trying to figure it out than I did actually painting it. Nevertheless, I'm reasonably pleased with the results.

No actual cloth except for the deeply recessed undergarment meant that I didn't really have an option to display the burnt orange color scheme I'm using for the Drazen's Horde faction aside from the pelt draped across its back. I think it was supposed to be a wolf, but I turned it into a rather large fox. I made the undergarment a neutral dark gray (Reaper stormy gray) so that the brown tones would pop out. One thing I worried about was that the close proximity of multiple brown tones would wash out the detail of the figure. That seems to have happened somewhat. There could be greater contrast between the braids and their background for example. And the strap of the satchel kind of gets lost on the back.

The real nightmare here was the wrist tattoos. I'm just not steady enough with my hand and my vision is too blurry to get this as precise as it should have been. Regardless, I think it turned out pretty well. I love the large, textured bones and the overlap of the leather cords. The face is washed out, like a lot of the Chainmail orcs. But that Don King hair is amazing. I made the ties on the braids gold metallic to give more color and texture contrast. The loincloth pelt I did in ivory and then washed with multiple inks, using Vallejo black-green for the final tint. The result is a kind of damp, mossy look that works well, I think.

On to the Orc Gangfighters!

88882 Orc Champion

Finished the Orc Champion last night:

My experimentation with wet blending went pretty well. There's a nice color transition on the axe blade and on the breastplate. The gold didn't work nearly as well because I struggled with how to lighten the tint. So that's still pretty washed out.

Really happy with the way the fur pelt worked, though. The key with fur, I'm finding, is to have a lot of color variation so that the texture pops. Here, I base coated in reaper harvest brown, then washed with Vallejo umber wash. After that I went over it with a Vallejo ink and finally stippled reaper ebony flesh. The result is a nicely textured surface that really stands out from the metal adjacent.

Now I'm on to the Orc Druid, a piece I've been putting off for a while. It's pinned and primed so I should knock it out over the weekend.

88714 Goblin Scout

Finally finished these guys today. I've been preoccupied with other stuff and haven't had enough time to paint. But, truth be told, these pieces were also a pain in the ass to work with. I like the overall design, but there several blobby undefined spaces and some deep crevices that were hard to paint. I'm definitely not steady enough to work skillfully with the smaller goblin figs. So I was kind of dragging my feet finishing them.

I went with a plain gray base rather than something more elaborate. My usual strategy has been to clip off the slot and pin or glue the figures to a base. But I have a ton of these slotted bases now and I figured I'd get rid of a few. I also did the detail work on the crossbow in Vallejo model color gray gunmetal. I'm really glad I picked up these paints. The consistency is much better than the Reaper metallics and the colors are very good.

I'm on to the Goblin Champion now. He's got some great armor contrasts, so I'm trying to make good use of these new Vallejo paints. I'm hoping to have him finished up by the end of the week.

One last thing: a favorite model sculptor, Tre Manor, has a Kickstarter for his line of Nordic-inspired dwarves that is in its final days. The sculpts are amazing. It's called Warbands of the Cold North V. Check it out.

Hill Giants, Hobgoblins, and Werebears, oh my…

Came home to find a nice haul in my mailbox today.

A guy on a miniatures trading page on Facebook had a big lot he was selling. The standout was the Werebear Trooper, an unaffiliated figure that I have not seen for sale anywhere else. He sold it for a decent price, and I picked up a few of his other pieces, for which I have duplicates. A couple of Hobgoblin Fighters, a couple of Abyssal Maws, and a Demonic Gnoll Adept. I'm looking ahead to playing Chainmail and these will be utility pieces, I think.

I also picked up the Hill Giant to complete my collection of Drazen's Horde figures. I now have at least one of all those officially released for this faction. In fact, I've got more Drazen pieces than any other faction. Along with the Giant came another Orc Berserker and Goblin Scout. Not thrilled to have either one, since I've already got several of each. But this box is the only way to get the Giant.

I also picked up some Vallejo paints. I've been frustrated with the consistency of Reaper metallics and I've heard good things about Vallejo's Model Color line of metallics. So I'll give them a shot. I also got a bottle of "Metal Medium," which adds a metallic shimmer to other pigments, and Glaze Medium, which is a drying retarder that is supposed to make wet blending of colors easier. We'll see.

I have a backlog of work left over from the weekend. Life intervened and I haven't had much time to paint. I hope I'll be able to correct that this week.

88355 Orc Berserker

Finished up the Orc Berserker yesterday.

I'm still not thrilled with the lacquer on this one. I usually finish with a coat of Testors Glosscote and then follow up with a layer of Dullcote. This is still too shiny, though.

The piece itself illustrates what I like and dislike about the Chainmail line. On the plus side, it's a very well done figure. It's a breeze to paint with a very lively expression. At the same time, like many in this series, it's very 2 dimensional. I'm not sure if it was for budget reasons, or if it was an artifact of the WoTC manufacturing process, but many of the figurines in this line are very flat. When they flesh out, it's often with attached elements that extend laterally. I find it somewhat disconcerting, since I'm used to contemporary miniatures by Reaper and other manufacturers, who don't seem to have to operate under the same constraint. The result is a figure that is pretty flat overall and aesthetically disappointing.

That said, I very much like the balance struck in this series between a stylized, cartoonish aesthetic and realistic depiction.

I've been getting better at thinning my paints. My first few attempts seem blotchy and rough now because I was layering on thick paint that clumped up. I'm now starting with a 1:1 paint/water ratio and building up color in multiple layers. The basecoat on this orc's skin, for example, was laid down in at least six layers. The result is a much smoother finish.
I'm going to pick up some Vallejo Glaze Medium, which should extend the drying process and allow for more subtle wet-blending of tones. Hopefully this will culminate in some better experiments in a week or two and an improvement in the color transitions and highlights overall.

Next up are four Goblin Scouts. They're glued, primed, and prepped. I'll start painting them tonight or tomorrow.

Ahmut’s Legion Figures

I picked up a lot of Ahmut's Legion miniatures on eBay last week. About half were duplicates I already had. But there were several pieces that are difficult to find including the Gallowsgaunt and the Skeletal Equiceph.

I only need two more pieces to complete my Ahmut's Legion run. In the next couple of weeks I have two more large lots coming in, at which point I'll be 10 miniatures short of a compete collection.