Friday, 29 April 2011

Friday Eye Candy: Abandoned City by molybdenumgp03

Abandoned City by molybdenumgp03
This is a very simple picture, almost sketch like, however I love the way it captures the feel of a ruined city.

Last year I watched a fascinating series on the History Channel called Life After People, which basically described how the world would deteriorate after an unspecified disaster has killed all the people. It was great research for anyone planning a Post Apocalyptic wargame, RPG or novel. This painting evokes the feel of "Life After People" very well.

I would love to use it as the basis for building a Post Apocalyptic wargames table.

Unfortunately I am not sure of the artists name, following the link for his Deviant Art gallery it would seem that he is Chinese. As I do not speak Chinese I could not work out his name. If anyone can help me with this I would love to correctly credit the artist.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wednesday Eye Candy: Blackshear’s Amazon by Tim Miller

Blackshear's Amazon by Tim Miller
I like this figure for it’s purely artistic feel. It has a distinct Art Nouveau or possibly Art Deco feel, while retaining a realistic (if somewhat idealised) physiology.
After having looked over Tim Miller’s portfolio I was somewhat spoilt for choice, I would happily have chosen much of his work as the Wednesday Eye Candy. A lot of his work can certainly be described as eye candy on more than one level, as can be seen with these two pieces.
Mystique Comiquette by Tim Millergoblin queen by Tim Miller
You can see more of Tim Miller’s work on his website tkmiller.com.
Miller also has a Deviant Art gallery worth a look!

Figure Sculpting: Scale, Size and Proportion?

This is probably the most contentious subject in the figure sculpting industry (closely followed by the epoxy putty/polymer clay discussion)!
There are as many different arguments about size, scale and, as it has sometimes been called, the “One True Scale” as there are companies producing figures. Historically, all of the different arguments have there grounding in sound reasoning, production methods and often commercial considerations. Still, it is good to step back and take a look at SCALE (and proportion) in it’s purest form!
When it comes down to it scale cannot be argued with! It is a mathematical certainty and even accounting for difference from person to person it is simple enough to find an average sized human form for any scale. Scale is a mathematical ratio, where the first number is the distance between two points on a drawing/model/miniature and the second number is the distance between the same two points on the full sized object.

  • For example 1:10,  1 is the distance between two points on the miniature, and 10 is the distance between the same two points on the full sized person. This would mean that the miniature would be one tenth the height of the actual person.
  • Conversely 10:1 would make the person only one tenth the size of the statue (calling it a miniature at this point seemed a little absurd).

The website MathsIsFun.com has a very nice scalable picture of a butterfly that illustrates how scale works really well, have a look at their Scale page and play around with it!
Now as far as hobby model making goes there are many standardised scales, 1:300, 1:72, 1:48, 1:32, 1:6  etc. In the architectural model making workshop that I run our scale rules have 12 different scales on them (1:1, 1:2, 1:5, 1:10, 1:20, 1:50, 1:100, 1:200, 1:500, 1:1000, 1:1250, 1:2500) and we still need more! There are an endless number of different scales and it’s always possible that you will end up sculpting at a scale that is not one of the industry “standards”. This is fine as long as you accept that your sculpts may not fit in along side other manufacturers figures (back to commercial considerations again).
Tank Size-scale comparison
I am not sure where I found this picture, so if anyone knows where it came from I would
like to add the proper credit and a link back to the original website.

By now you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned figure size yet. The accepted system for standardising the saleable scale for figures  is to use the nominal size of the range. This can be 6mm, 15mm, 25mm, 28mm or larger. However, the very common problem of “scale creep” soon raises it’s ugly head. Many figure ranges from many manufacturers that are nominally given a specific size (e.g 25mm),  are over time allowed to grow by a millimetre or two (this seems to where the new standard of 28mm originally evolved from). Of course, there is also the problem  of how different companies measure their figures. There are two main systems, “Foot to Eye” (FtE) and “Foot to Top of Head” (FtToH). The Foot to Eye method evolved has some people felt that it was impossible to measure many figures to the tops of their heads as wargames figures frequently wear large hats that hide the top of the head. Personally, as a sculptor, I have never like the  FtE method, and simply put, I usually sculpt figures bare-headed before I sculpt the hats on anyway, so the measurement is easily checked at that stage anyway…
So we have two fairly interchangeable systems, FtE and FtToH. This means that if you measure the same figure using both systems, the result will come out differently. A figure with the eyeline at 25mm height, could just as well be called 28mm if measured to the top of the head. Similarly, a figure measured at 30mm to the top of it’s head, could if measured to it’s eyeline be designated as 28mm. Clearly, a confusing situation and one that helps no one find the correct size.
On top of that, the other problem with “size” is that it can’t accurately be used as a guide when different races, sexes and periods in history are being sculpted. For example, if sculpting a male and female as companion figures, the female would almost always be somewhat shorter than the male. Therefore a 28mm “scale” male figure would be 28mm high, whereas the 28mm female would only be approximately 25mm high.
There has also been a proven increase in height throughout history. Therefore an 16th century British soldier would be somewhat shorter than a modern British soldier. So sculpting them as  the same height is not really accurate. Ten or twelve years ago I sculpted a range of Dyak tribesmen (native to Borneo) and also some Royal Navy and Royal Marine figures, all for a colonial range produced by Scheltrum Miniatures. The range was nominally 28mm, but I sculpted the Dyak figures at 25mm, as historically they were considerably shorter than the Europeans that they were fighting. To be honest, even at 25mm, they were probably oversized.
Scheltrum Royal Navy Figures by David Drage
Scheltrum Dyak Figures by David Drage
Scheltrum Royal Marine Figures by David Drage
None of these “size” problems occur if you use a true scale calculation (i.e. 1:72 or 1:35), as all the measurements are “scaled” from the true measurement. For example, a 6 foot tall man at 1:72 scale should be around 25.4mm high, and a 5 foot 6 inch woman would be 23.28mm high. Please excuse the crossing of imperial to metric in that example, it was the simplest way to go…
If you have problems getting your head around scale calculations, there are several online calculators that seem to work rather well. This one is from the Wings and Wheels Modeller website and works very nicely :-
Wings and Wheels Scale Calculator
As it stands, the whole miniatures industry is probably too far own the road to settle on one standardised system of figure measurement. So, unfortunately, it means that the figure sculptor has to check and be certain of the exact scale or size that a company wants before starting to sculpt for them.
Once the sculptor knows the exact details of the sculpt he then starts to prepare to sculpt the figure and this usually starts with either a wire armature or a cast “dolly”. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. Pre-cast dollies usually have the proportions reasonably scaled out and it is simply a matter a bit of twisting and such to get the limbs in the right place and the get on with the sculpting. The wire armature method however takes a little more effort and also the sculptor has to be more accurate at this stage to get the proportions correct.
Whichever way the sculptor goes, they should always spend time checking the proportion of their sculpts. It is very easy to get tied up in the fine detail only to find once one has finished a figure, that one arm is far to short, or the feet are way over sized. It can be heart-breaking to have to go back and destroy some really nice detail work just to correct an error made early in the sculpting process.
There are various simple checks that sculptors can make to check the proportions of their sculpt. Standing it side by side with an existing miniature (hopefully a particularly good one) is probably as good as any. It also allows the sculptor to fit his sculpt in with an existing range of figures. Another good check is to use artists anatomy reference books. Any figure sculptor who is serious about their sculpting should have at least one or two anatomy books lying around.
Now, it can clearly be difficult to compare a 28mm figure against an illustration in a book, or on a computer screen, so as an alternative, several figure companies have produced their own scale guides. Unfortunately the ones I know of seem to have completely disappeared from the web. Before the disappeared I got hold of their figure scale guides and have used them on numerous occasions. I am making them available here on the understanding that they were originally made freely available and also if the owners of the copyrights request it I will, of course, remove them!
Morgan Keith Studios armature scaleSkeleton armature guideProphet Miniatures Figure Scale Guide 
In particular, I found the Prophet Miniatures sheet very useful although when printed in black and white it becomes a little trickier to see the detail. Once printed at the correct size and laminated, it became an essential tool in my kit.
As these resources have disappeared from the web I felt it would be useful to produce my own sheet. Taking the aspects that liked from the sheets above and combining that with a few anatomy books and a few suggestions from other sculptors I designed my sheet. Then, utilising the laser cutter that I have been using for my recent model making work, I produced my Figure Scale Template. I have tried to include, more or less every popular size and scale from 6mm up to 90mm, including Foot to Eye and Foot to Top of Head variants.
Iron Mammoth Design Figure Scale Template
Iron Mammoth Design Figure Scale Template
Produced on 1.4mm plastic laminate sheet, it is wipe clean, strong, resilient and flexible.
I then went on think about another sheet that I had always wanted but never seen. That was a Horse Scale Template. I have not sculpted many horses, but they always seem difficult to get just right, and also there are so  many different types of horses to. So I designed a sheet that had the standard sizes/scales on it and also featured three different horse sizes in each scale, a Steppe Pony, and Standard Horse and a very Large Warhorse. Basically giving all the extremes possible (excluding Shetland ponies and the like).
Iron Mammoth Design Horse Scale Template
I have recently sold a few of these these templates to professional sculptors and I am currently preparing to make them generally available. If you are interested in one I can be contacted via my website at www.ironmammoth.com. Please email me and when I am able to supply the templates I will send you a Paypal Money request (I am only accepting Paypal payments).

Anyone interesting in reading more about Scale, Size and proportion can’t go far wrong by reading Tom Meier’s blog over at Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures.
This series of three posts state the facts far more eloquently than I have:-
1. Some History
2. Size, Scale and Proportion
3. Why
There are plenty of other interesting posts on Tom’s blog, it is well worth following if you are are interested in figure sculpting.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Book Review: Embedded by Dan Abnett

Embedded-new-72dpi

I have read three or four  of Dan Abnett’s books in the past, several Gaunt’s Ghosts novels and Xenos from the Eisenhorn series, all of which were set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universe. Recently Abnett has released a couple of books that are purely his own creation. Firstly there was Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero, an alternate history tale set in an Elisabethan Clockwork world and featuring a lead character that has been compared to Blackadder. My copy is still woefully lurking in my too read pile. However, I have read Dan Abnett’s new book Embedded, which is released tomorrow (23rd of April).

Triumff-front-72dpi

Embedded is military science fiction of the highest quality, managing the merge in some corporate rivalry and journalistic shenanigans along the way. The central character, Lex Falk, is an award winning journalist who is investigating reports of escalations in tension between two corporate sectors on a reasonably new colony world. After much of the usual fobbing off by the military press liasons Falk is offered a backdoor way into the thick of the action. He will have his mind transferred, theoretically only as an observer, into that of a frontline soldier, who has agreed to the procedure.

As would be expected, things do not go exactly to plan and the story moves from science fiction espionage thriller into an all out fight for survival, while still pursuing the main secret at the heart of the whole plot.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot and characters never feel invulnerable (even Falk). The story seems follow a certain path at times only to be thrown in a completely different direction just when you least expect it. The tension certainly builds nicely over the second half of the book leading up to the final big reveal, which although not hugely original is handled with style and flair.

I have absolutely no reservations in recommending Embedded to any fans of science fiction in any of it’s many flavours, not just military sci-fi fans...

I read an ebook review copy and you can be assured, I am aiming to track down one of the limited edition hardbacked copies of Embedded that are available from Forbidden Planet.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wednesday Eye Candy: Heresy Dragon by Andy Foster

This is quite a well known sculpt in British figure sculpting circles, but I feel that it deserves all the publicity it can get!
Andy has sunk many many hours and considerable expense into producing this wonderful sculpt. I can’t even consider buying it at the moment, but I would love to put one of these together one day.
dragon-testcasting-1-massive
I am not a big collector of dragons, and generally I don’t get over enthusiastic about them, but the quality of the muscle work and all the other detail on this one is simply stunning.
dragon-testcasting-2-massive
I have liked much of Andy’s work for many years, and have always felt that Heresy Miniatures was worth  keeping an eye on. This proves it, and I hope he manages to sell many many of these dragons.
To see more photos of the dragon and all of the other Heresy Miniatures range have a look at the website HERE!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wednesday Eye Candy: Attila The Hun

Attila The Hun by Michael Locasio
Not a great photo, but the sculpting on this figure is spot on! A little gruesome maybe, but readers of this blog will already know I have a certain liking for the barbarian side of things...

This is the painted version, as released by McFarlane Toys. I must say I prefer the unpainted sculpt!

For more information about Michael Locasio there is an informative interview on the Figures.com website.
You can also see his gallery on Deviant Art.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Model Making: Modelling Fillers

As a model maker, I’ve used a wide variety of different fillers over the years, and as with everyone else I am also on the eternal search for the perfect product! Consequently I will often buy new fillers when I see them, just to try them out. There are a good selection of specialist fillers produced by the various model kit companies. Now to be honest I haven’t really used many of these as they tend to be quite expensive and there are often very similar and cheaper alternative around.

Firstly, of course, there is no one filler that will do everything well. It is definitely the case of choosing the correct product for the material you are working with and also for the task you are looking to use it for. So I am simply going to run through a few I have used and suggest the best uses for them.

Ready Mixed Fillers

Firstly lets have a look at Ready Mixed Fillers, as bought in the D.I.Y. store. Designed for filling cracks around the house, in walls etc., probably the most well known brand in the UK is Polyfilla, however all the different varieties share very similar properties. From interpreting the Health and Safety Datasheet I get the impression that this is more or less a mix of plaster with some PVA adhesive mixed through it.

polycell_quick_drying_polyfillaSandtexReadyMixedFillerNo More Cracks

These Ready Mixed Fillers are not that useful as actual fillers for model making, although I have seen people use them when they are stuck for other fillers! The main thing I use Ready Mixed Fillers for is adding ground work to bases or scenic displays. I find them ideal for this, as the adhesion from the adhesive content helps then stick to most materials. If too much is applied there is a tendency for cracking to occur, but it really has to be quite large amounts for this to happen.

DSCN2402

This model is covered in Ready Mixed Filler (then sand on top),
and will be part of a forthcoming blog posting, once the project is complete.

I have recently been buying tubs of Ready Mixed Filler from the local pound store, so it is certainly worth looking around, rather than just heading for your nearest D.I.Y. chain!

A word of warning at this point, there are various types of wall repair filler available, some are described as flexible fillers, these seem to have a more silicone based mix , nearer to a mastic caulking than to a plaster based filler. They have their uses, but I would not consider them for this type of terrain modelling.

Speciality Model Making Fillers

Tamiya, Revell and several other model kit companies produce model fillers, with various different properties. Now, I must admit I have not tried many of these products, but they seem very popular in the model shops so they are clearly worth a mention.

Tamiya Light Curing PuttyTamiya Putty White

Revell PlastoSquadron Green PuttySquadron White Putty

 

I have heard that the two Squadron putties (Green and White) are very good. There is no clear difference between the two, other than the colour, but though chatting with a few people the advantages are as follows. The Squadron Green appears to dry quicker, it is also useful to be able to see the putty once set. Squadron White is reputed to be a finer/smoother texture.

DSCN2384

Revell Plasto Putty used to fill the joint between plasticard and an injection moulded form.

I have a tube of Revell Plasto that I have been using recently.It adheres well to plastics and wood, is a nice smooth texture and dries to an off white creamy beige colour. It is a solvent based putty and does have a distinctive smell. I have found it to be very useful for filling smaller gaps,applying it with a knife. Most professional model makers find more economical materials to work with, rather than buying the branded model making materials. This also runs to fillers! Revell Plasto appears to have a very similar consistency and properties to the car body filler Cataloy Knifing Putty from Holts. As Cataloy Knifing Putty comes in larger tubes, and is priced around the same make as the Revell Plasto, I personally would recommend using the Knifing Putty.

Holts Cataloy Knifing Putty

 

 

While researching this article I discovered Tamiya Light Curing Putty, which sounds quite intriguing.  I have not gotten hold of any yet, but I’m interested in looking into the uses of a “light curing putty”, so may well track a tube down.

Polyester Fillers

Polyester Fillers are somewhat different to the previous fillers I have looked at. They come as a two part mix, the main filler and a catalyst that once mixed with the filler causes it to set hard.

Tamiya Polyester putty 40gIsopon P38

MetalikRonseal high-performance-wood-filler

This stuff has a wide range of uses for the model maker and is an essential item that I always keep on my shelf, ready for use. There are endless different brands available (just do a search for Car Body Filler), but the most well known ones in the UK are Isopon P38 or possibly Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler. Once mixed – the standard proportions are a golf ball sized lump of filler to a pea sized lump of catalyst – they usually set within around 15 minutes, to a hard machine-able finish.

DSCN2332

In this photo I am using polyester filler to make a surround for a battery-hatch,
for a lit model that will be featured in a future blog post.

As far as fillers go these polyester fillers are at the heavy duty end of things, they can be messy to work with, and have to be mixed correctly, but are excellent for larger filling jobs, packing models, adding weight to lighter parts. They are also good for building more organic shapes.

I have even seen them used as adhesives for some more awkward materials such as ABS. A professional ship modeller (model ships for the oil industry) that I once chatted with, used to swear by car body filler as the best way to fix his decks to the ABS vacuum-formed hulls of the ships he worked on.

Conclusion

I always tend to keep a tub of Polyester Filler, a tube of Knifing Putty and some Ready Mixed Filler around as they get used on a very regular basis. These are the main fillers that I use while model making, although there are occasionally others (gap-filling Tensol No.12 for acrylic, PVA glue mixed with sawdust for MDF etc.). There are also the epoxy putties like A+B and Miliput and also the sculpting putties like Kneadatite and ProCreate, but I will cover those in depth in a separate article sometime soon…

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Wednesday Eye Candy: Monster Rider

A new feature that I will try to post every week.
Wednesday will be scultpure, wargames figures and larger scales.
Friday will be paintings, illustrations and 3D artwork.
I spend a lot of time looking at new artwork on sites like Deviant Art, both as research for figure sculpting, model-making and the like and also due to the fact that I like good artwork. I feel that it is about time I pushed some of this stuff out there as inspiration for figure painting, wargames design and generally for the fun of it.
So here is the first Wednesday Eye Candy!
monsterrider_finished_2_by_firecrow78-d32vdy2 
This sculpt is by Ryan Firchau (Deviant Art ID: Firecrow78). A fabulous sculpt, I would love to get  hold of a casting! Normally I don’t like anthropomorphised animal designs, but this one exudes quality.
Check out more of Ryan’s work at Deviant Art!
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