Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Frozen Brains!!!!

As I've said before, I tend to paint in batches. It's hard for me to work on less than about 4 models at once, unless it's a really large scale project (like the Lord of Worms, a model I will show off soon). And as I mentioned in my Zombies of Karr-Keel post, I was only painting two of them at a time. So I stuck in one modern plastic zombie for Frostgrave and one Oldhammer zombie per group to push the numbers up. The flesh recipes were the same as the ones previously mentioned. I did go heavier on the weathering powders to simulate rust on the weapons. I intentionally left these models very dirty and sloppy; they're zombies after all!

The other thing you'll notice is the face of the sickle wielding zombie and the scythe blade look a bit funny. My basement isn't the driest location on earth so I have to keep a heat source handy to help models dry a little faster. Unfortunately, I forgot about these two and they melted a little. Thankfully, if any model can survive a little melting, it's a zombie! The scythe blade just looks even older and more decrepit, while I made sure to slater the sickle zombie's face with more gore to hide to lack of detail.

Finally, a special word goes to the final zombie pictured. Between his shirt and the haircut and bonnet, it looks like they guy met his doom while he was doing a little bit of "roleplaying," if ya know what I mean. Even fantasy humans have fetishes, I guess!

My intention is to mostly use these for the Thaw of the Lich Lord campaign, as my interests in Frostgrave lie towards the necromantic end of the spectrum. I've got a bunch more to get done eventually as well as some skeletons and some of the lovely plastic cultists I ordered that arrived with the most recent Nickstarter.

However, I do intend to use these with Age of Sigmar as well, hence the musician. That, and I am extremely amused by the idea of a zombie using a severed leg as a drum stick.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Zombies of Karr-Keel

Byrin fon Karr-Keel, the Mayor of Karr-Keel and the founder of the empire’s first and only chain restaurant, Ye Olde Combatte Burgers, loved his revels, and every year for his birthday threw the finest party in Mittelmark. He brought in players, musicians, and artists to entertain the townsfolk, and played host to no small number of merchants, wizards, and members of the local nobility. But, the absolute highlight of the Mayor's party was the confectionery produced by his chef, the genius behind the recipes that make Ye Olde Combatte Burgers a success, Fernand Pepin. And, the highest honor that could be given was a slice of the Mayor's birthday cake.

Now this was in days gone by, before the wasting of Karr-Keel and before the Mayor's eldest brother, Mikel, wore the dread title Necroburgher like a crown upon his head. Mikel, who was still early in his quest for immortality, was at the Mayor's 40th birthday party, a necessary guest out of familial duty but unwanted for his surly demeanor and already dark reputation. The revels bored Mikel, and the guests were all beneath him in his own mind, but the cake... A single slice of that heavenly cake would be worth all the time wasted mumbling pleasantries and putting up with jostling by the masses of humanity who could not properly appreciate his glory. Imagine then his rage when slice after slice of cake was served, and not a single slice of cake was presented to him.

The curse Mikel pronounced in that moment of fury was a thing of ancient darkness, and in an instant every person in Karr-Keel died, only to rise again as shambling corpses to play out the last day of their lives over and over in a rotting parody of the joy of the Mayor's last birthday party.

I was lucky enough to get to work on a project that one of the local Oldhammers created. Brian had the Zombies of Karr-Keel are sculpted by Kev Adams, ostensibly for his birthday, but probably really because the world needs more zombies sculpted by Kev Adams. And when Brian started this project, he went all in--he wrote up full fluff (that I have shamelessly copied above and below!) and had concept art done for Kev to use when sculpting these models.

I got a set of masters to paint up for display the last week of December, which is why my blog posts have been terrain heavy as I could finish up those projects in the downtime between this one. When I started out, I knew I wanted there to be a variety of zombie skin tones in the group. This was a village, not a regiment. So I grouped the models into groups of two or three and stuck in a few of my own zombies as well (which I'll show in good time), since I prefer to batch paint. I also poured over Brian's fluff to try to make everything make sense with their background. Finally, big thanks to Orclord at Stuff of Legends for the photography!

Now for the introductions:

The Mayor:

Byrin fon Karr-Keel was once a shrewd but unassuming businessman before he met Fernand Pepin, caring and generous, certainly, but more concerned with substance than style. However, whatever strange force moved him to join with Pepin to launch Ye Olde Combatte Burgers transformed him from a wealthy yet drab merchant into the very image of the gregarious celebrity restauranteur. Never again was he seen in public in practical browns and sturdy boots. These were exchanged for sumptuous velvets and silks cut in the latest styles, his golden mayoral chain of office, and a highly polished jeweled cane. Most important of all were the lavish parties with rich food, endless entertainment, and parade of enviable guests. It was this image that he lived for in the years leading up to his 40th birthday, and it was this image that led to his death. For, at his birthday he snubbed his brother, and rewarded the crowd’s favorite entertainer, a lowly puppeteer, with what his brother believe was his rightful slice of cake. Now, in undeath, the music and laughter may be gone, but the chain and cane remain, a constant reminder of the man he was at the end of his life.

A running theme with these models is I tried to use a fair bit of verdigris on the metals for the purpose of adding colors to what are otherwise very dirty and drab models. You can see this in the mayor with his belt buckle and cane head. The grey flesh was painted by mixing GW Dawnstone with VMC 921 English Uniform. I then made a wash of VMC 862 Black Grey and applied it to the model. Afterwards I thinned GW Naggaroth Night, Baal Red, and Bloodletter Red to separate glazes and applied them in various spots on the flesh. Each of these were applied individually and let to dry, about 2 or 3 coats each. Then I reapplied the base color, which was highlighted by first mixing in GW Uthalan Grey and then pure white. Finally applied another glaze of Army Painter Purple ink and Soft Tone ink mixed about 50:50.

Lady Ahra fon Karr-Keel:

Byrin's beloved wife, their illicit courtship and marriage was a great scandal among the nobility of the
Empire. Her, a noble daughter with blood-ties to the Emperor and an arranged marriage looming. Him, a practical young man with outstanding business acumen but little concern for the ways of the halls of power. It’s said that he fought more duels to defend their marriage than most judicial champions see in a career. It’s said that she was the visionary force behind the founding of Ye Olde Combatte Burgers and the creation of a commercial powerhouse that dominated the empire’s gastronomic landscape. It’s said that she had a mirror that could show her visions of the future, a family heirloom that she took when her family disowned her for her scandalous marriage and possibly the cause of no small number of the duels fought by her husband. Wherever the truth lies, it’s clear that there was more to the Lady Ahra than legendary grace and charm, and, in undeath, she still walks the halls of her manor in Karr-Keel, mirror in hand, with an air of authority and hidden knowledge.

With Lady Ahra, I wanted to suggest that her clothing used to be very fine so I painted her in luxurious and aristocratic colors, but highlighted them by mixing in bone whites to give them a faded and slightly dirty look. I also figured that any zombie that carries a mirror around in death would still be attached to its personal appearance; unfortunately, zombies are not known for their fine motor skills. Hence, the overdone make-up. The eye shadow was a blue weathering powder from secret weapon miniatures and the rouge was GW Bloodletter Red glaze. The lipstick was just pink paint. I also wanted the mirror to look dirty, as if she walks around her decaying house getting moldier and dirtier. I painted it GW Stormhost silver and applied a variety of dirty looking oil washes to it. After they dried, I applied some clean white spirits to smudge it around and mix up the grime.

Her flesh was painted with a base of GW Tallarn Flesh (has anyone found a good replacement for this? Let me know in the comments if you have!), which I washed with GW Baal Red. I highlighted it by reapplying the base and then mixing in white. When it was finished, I applied glazes made from Naggaroth Night and Army Painter Green ink.

Jac & Daw:

Twin brothers, best friends, and renowned mischief makers in their youth, Jac and Daw never really settled down, even after becoming the faces of Ye Olde Combatte Burgers’ famed “Double Down Double Meal.” With too much gold in hand far too young, they never turned down a good party, and the mayor's birthday was their favorite. Inseparable in life, even at times that decorum would suggest they shouldn’t have been, they still stick together in death, rotting away as one. You can see them at night in the ruins of Karr-Keel, their rotting brains reverting to childhood as they ride around on each other’s shoulders whacking whatever takes their fancy with wooden toy swords, occasionally switching which one is the knight and which the horse.

For Byrin and Ahra's children, I matched their parent's skin tones. I also wanted to give the impression that they are running around the yard of their former home, so I piled lots of weeds, leaves, and grass on the base.

Fernand Pepin:

Fernand Pepin. What can one truly say about the greatest culinary genius of his age? Master of the 27 secret spices that made Ye Olde Combate Burgers the first, greatest, and only restaurant chain in the Empire, Pepin’s true love was desert. And, at the very pinnacle of his artistry was the birthday cake he made every year for the mayor. Possessed of equal parts paranoia and a mad love of the fine art of confectionery, he still carries the remains of the last cake he made and the key to the strongbox where he kept his recipes.

Fernand was a great example of the downside of being the first person to paint a model. To be honest, I have no idea if Fernand has on trousers or not! So I had a decision to make, and I decided he is, in fact, trouserless. I painted his chef's outfit to look dirty white and reasonably plain, but I did add the red stripes on the hat for a little bit of decoration. The cake was really fun to paint. I wanted to cake to be pink to make it stand out. But I also wanted it to look moldy and gross up close. I applied some patches of a faded green weathering powder from Secret Weapon miniatures to resemble the mold. I also put a couple of streaks of GW Nihilakh Oxide to represent bird droppings from the birds that undoubtedly eat the cake as Fernand walks around carrying his cakes.

Fernand's flesh was based with GW Baneblade brown and glazed with thinned GW Naggaroth Night, Baal Red, and Bloodletter Red as discussed above. He was highlighted by mixing in VGC Off White to the Baneblade Brown.

Heinrich De Bolsak:

De Bolsak, what is there to say of him? The Mayor’s attorney and renowned (in lawyerly circles, at least) drafter of the empire’s first and only restaurant franchise agreement. He was a smug prig who extended his finances well beyond his means, spending wildly on fine clothes, jewels, wine, and courtesans. Even with the protection afforded him by his position with the Mayor, he was bound to wind up beaten to death in a dark alley by some moneylender's bully boys. Of course, the curse came before that day or reckoning, and De Bolsak now wanders the streets of Karr-Keel carrying his moldering leather bound copy of the Imperial Tax Code under his rotting arm, a final link to life in the eternity of undeath.

Heinrich was a great model to paint. Kev sculpted such a humorous face on him. It reminded me of some 1940s cartoon character's devilish grin. His flesh was based with a 50:50 mix of GW Castellan Green and GW Elysian Green. I then glazed it with several layers of thinned Naggaroth Night and Baal Red. The highlights were created by mixing in VMC 949 Light Yellow.

The Puppeteer:

Tall, lanky, and covered head to toe in cloth to draw the eye of his audience away from him and to his lovingly sewn hand puppets, the puppeteer received the last piece of the mayor's birthday cake, a singular honor that seal the dread fate of Karr-Keel. In life, he loved to entertain all and sundry with folk stories played out with seemingly magical puppets, a virtuoso with no equal in all the empire. In undeath, his hand puppets remain impossibly bright, like the day they were made, but the hands inside them are twisted and stiff, desperately struggling to remember the movements that gave the little puppets life.

This was the hardest model for me to paint in the entire collection. Between his own clothes and that of the puppets, there were so many colors necessary that picking colors that worked together became quite a daunting task. However, I did quite enjoy the political commentary sculpted onto the faces of the puppets. His flesh was painted the same way as Fernand Pepin.

The Jongleur and Pippy the Monkey:

Another one of the mayor's favored entertainers, he was famed throughout the land for his skills. And, for the mayor's birthday party, he left nothing on the table. Knives, flaming torches, and all manner of dangerous things, he never let them fall, even when balancing on the hands of his magically strong pet monkey, Pippy. Some part of his rotting brain must remember, because even still he tosses the tools of his trade into the air, catching them clumsily in desiccated fingers as Pippy nods his little rotting head.

From the most difficult to most fun. The Jongleur and Pippy the monkey were a blast to paint. The Jongleur got a much more fun paint scheme than the puppeteer with a red and white checkerboard hood and the colors carried over to his shirt as well. His flesh was painted the same way as Fernand Pepin.

But even more fun than the Jongleur was Pippy. I have no idea why he was so fun, but painting the zombie monkey was the most fun I have had painting in a while. I was also very amused by Kev's inclusion of a skull shaped continent onto the globe.

The Jester:

The Jester. The Mayor richly rewarded art, both high and low. And, no one's art was lower than the
Jester's. An awkwardly stringy man clothed in motley, he spared no one with his sharp wit and sharper tongue. Ever heard the story about the Baron of Groswald and the three little sheep? That was the Jester. And, to this day, Groswald cannott go out in public without being baa-ed at. Now, of course, the Jester has little to say, but he still seems to take perverse joy in lashing out at the living and dead alike with his fool's wand.

For the jester, I went with bright, complementary colors of purple and yellow for the suit and red and green for the hat. His wand was originally intended to be verdigris but the colors came out better just painting him turquoise, so I ran with it. His flesh was painted with GW Nurlgling green and glazed with thinned GW Naggaroth Night, Baal Red, and Bloodletter Red (have you noticed a running theme?). After that, I mixed GW Kreig Khaki into the Nurgling Green for several layers and then mixed in VGC Off White for the final highlights.

Wymore Pedervast:

Wymore Pedervast, eleventh legitimate son of Seymore Pedervast, the Count of Mittelmark, was a man of high style, low taste, and weak will. Unwelcome in his father’s court after his cowardice led to the collapse of an entire flank of the Imperial 8th army in one of the many unnamed minor battles in the Empire’s incessant wars in the east, the Count quietly bought his son a meaningless position in the Mayor’s household with a tax dispensation for Ye Olde Combatte Burgers. The Mayor kept him out of the way, and Pedervast did little with his time beyond making a nuisance of himself and spending extravagantly. If anything positive can be said of Pedervast, it's that the loss of such a favored patron would have struck the brothels of Karr-Keel deep in the purse if they too hadn't been hit by the Necroburgher's curse.

This was probably my favorite sculpt of the range, but I'm a sucker for Elizabethan neck frills. He is also one of the creepier models that Kev sculpted. Much like Lady Ahra, I tried to make his shirt look as if it was once very expensive, but now, not so much. And for some reason, Brian's description of him makes me think of Archibald Cunningham as portrayed in the movie Rob Roy. In that movie, one of the first scenes with Cunningham shows him using a chamber pot and a servant remarking on his urine's alcohol content. That scene sticks with me as defining the levels of debauchery of the character. In homage, I sculpted (poorly) kicked over chamber pot on the back of the base.  Wymore's flesh was painted with the same method as the mayor.

Rufos Chugg:

Rufos Chugg would never exactly have been called one of the great attractions of Karr-Keel, but his talent for competitive drinking was certainly something special. Night after night, large crowds gathered in unsavory places to watch him down great mugs of Firewasser, Widowmaker’s Best, and Dwarven Delight, driving untold numbers of challengers under the table. There is not much difference between Rufos now and before the Necroburgher's curse. Alive or undead, Rufos Chugg was never one to save a cork, and an undead liver feels no pain. Even now, he wanders the streets of Karr-Keel with an open bottle of booze in hand looking for someone to take him on.

Wymore was one of the creepiest, but Rufos was the creepiest. This model really made me worry for Kev's sanity. Seriously. He was scary. The pictures of his face do not fully convey the evil that emanates from his expression. Rufos was really fun to paint too. I used some model bricks on the base so he is standing in the gutter, like any good drunk. I tried to keep his clothes as dirty as possible, including both dirt and wine stains. I also modeled the bottle at his feet to be in the process of spilling wine. His skin was painted using the same process as Heinrich.

Friedrik Klemm:

The Mayor's personal coachman, the hulking man was a drill sergeant in the Imperial army until a nasty leg wound that did not heal properly left him in search of private employment. Where the Mayor met him is anyone's guess, but they struck a deal that quickly saw Klemm go from paid mercenary to loyal retainer. On the highway, Klemm was a sure hand with the reins and quick to light off his trusty blunderbuss. Now the walking dead, Klemm limps around the Mayor's stables with blunderbuss near to hand, waiting for the call to hitch up the zombie horses.

Friedrik was another one I had a lot of fun painting. The fluff text mentions that he spends most of this time in the stables, so I based him on hay and horse shit. His long dangly tongue was also begging to have some drool hanging from it. I used Uhu glue to do that, stretching it from the tongue down on a toothpick and left it to dry overnight. The next morning, I clipped off the toothpick and voila! (For any Americans that want to repeat this process, the Uhu they sell here in the states won't work for this, you have to get the stuff from anywhere else in the world. I got mine off of ebay quite cheeply.). His flesh was painted the same way as the Jesters.

I hope you enjoy the Zombies of Karr-Keel phase 1. Brian has another batch planned. If you're interested in a set, head over to the Facebook page and contact him there. More pictures can be found in a gallery at stuff of legends.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MacroMat Review

I'm always looking for ways to up my photography game, mostly to make up for my terrible painting. For at least a decade, I've been using an 8.5x14 inch piece of paper with a blue gradient printed on it, with something behind it to prop it up. It's always been a little too narrow and a pain to keep up.

So when TableWar launched their MacroMat Kickstarter, I was all about the mat and the stand. Unlike some Kickstarters, TableWar shipped their product very quickly, it arrived in early February and I've been playing with it since then.

The first thing that was really nice is it came in it's own carrying case. For someone who lives in a major metro area where space is at a premium, it's nice to have something like this to keep everything organized.

The stand has two configurations, regular and extended. I opted for only the blue gradient mat, so I probably will never use it in it's extended setup. It can also be raised and lowered for a higher or lower stand. (Ignore the fact that the base in on backwards in the picture of the extended configuration, I wasn't paying attention and was too lazy to reshoot the photo)

The set includes four clips (two shown) to hold the mat onto the stand. This is necessary because the wingnut that connects the crossbar sticks up and without the clips to hold the mat up above the bar a little, the mat wrinkles really bad. This is one of my few real complaints, I wish the crossbar was designed so that the wingnut was recessed into the crossbar. The mat is heavy enough that you would not otherwise need the clips.

The mat itself is made from the same material as TableWar's F.A.T. Mats, although about 1 mm thinner (according to their customer service, which has been excellent by the way!). If you're not familiar with their products, it is the same material as a cloth covered mousepad but not as stiff. It is backed with a rubber type material that keeps it from slipping, which is really nice and solves one of the big problems I have with using a sheet of paper as a backdrop. The picture bellow does not really show the gradient vary well due to may poor lighting in the shot.

My first few attempts at using the backdrop was less than stellar. As you can see bellow, the weave of the mat is quite clear and if you have a tight crop, the gradient is not very recognizable.

When I attempted to shoot some scenery, however, those problems go away. This is noticeable on the box art as well where the example photos include those of model cars and other larger objects. 

I was determined not to give up on the MacroMat though. And when discussing this with my artist wife, she reminded me "adjust your aperture, stupid." And I did so, and got much better results. The first photo above was taken with my maximum aperture so that I guaranteed I had the whole model in focus. So I cranked it all the way down to f/2.8 and that removed the weave, but resulted in a photo where only the face was in focus. My next step was to march through every aperture option until I found one that gave me the best depth of field while still blurring the background. For me, it seemed f/13 gave me the best result. As you can see in the picture below, the weave is only visible at the bottom. The mat's color is a bit off in the photo below for some reason, all my test photos came out perfectly, but my actual photos came out a little off (the terrain photo above is a much better indication of the color of the mat). 

So there you have it. All in all, I am pretty happy with the MacroMat. I only have three complaints:

  1. The size of the weave
  2. The wingnut extending above the crossbar
  3. No instructions were included
But those complaints are pretty minor. It is very quick to set up and stand helps me out since I don't have a dedicated photo area. If it retails for what the Kickstarter charged, I wholeheartedly recommend picking one up unless you have your own dedicated photo studio.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

We're Going to the Chapel...

Okay, so this is the last of my terrain posts for a while. I promise! I finished up the Zombies of Karr-Keel commission, so there will be several blog posts directed towards zombies in the near future. But, for now, I've got some more terrain that I finally finished. Although, to be honest, after looking at these pictures,  I want to make some changes.

First is the Sigmarite Chapel. I bought this as part of the large fantasy terrain set GW released sometime around 2006-2007. Most of it was painted around 2009. I don't remember how I did most of it, to be honest, but I use quite a bit of brown and ochre oils to weather the stucco. I also attempted to paint the "medallion" over the front door to resemble the friezes of ancient Greece. If you look closely, you can also see some of the old GW flock (the same thing I use on my epic models) used to simulate moss growing on the sides of the stones at the foundation.

I also finally finished the Watch Tower. Much like the chapel, this had lots of oil streaks using brown, green, and ochre oil paints. This was one of my first attempt at this particular form of weathering, and you can see where the streaks are a little too well defined. I also applied some brown oil washes to the stones at the base to simulate years of dirt being kicked up by horses, soldiers, and the wind. Finally, most of the metals were painted to resemble rust, indicating that the tower guards just kind of let things go. I tried to have a little fun with the base as well, I've added a barrel from the Empire Cannon sprue, a random wheel leaning up against the side, and some firewood made from balsa.

So with those done, I've yet to even open the Manor House. I'm not really sure what I want to do with it. I'd love to put it on a large base with a courtyard like was shown in the US White Dwarf at the time, but I don't have anywhere to store such a monstrous piece of terrain, nor would it allow much use on the table since it would have such a large footprint. I'm sure I'll think of something eventually!