Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Black Queen 2014

Black Queen is an international miniature painting competition organized by a Croatian gaming club called UMS "Agram". It takes place every year in July and it always accompanies other big hobby tournaments. I've followed the event for the past two years and each time I admired amazing works of artists taking part. I have taken part in a few online painting competitions but never in a "real" one.
I had originally planned to take part in the Malifaux tournament but various factors made me postpone it (again!) until the next year. Fortunately for me, the club's president (and a friend of mine), Marko Paunovic, suggested that I send the miniatures I want to enter by post. I did that, choosing some of my best Malifaux minis, sent them and... kept my fingers crossed.
The miniatures I sent weren't new work but the competition rules stated that the only restriction making it impossible to enter is if they'd been in another painting competition before.

My results were much better than I had expected.
1st in Single miniature (Abuela Ortega)
2nd in Large/Mounted miniature (Hooded Rider)
1st in Unit/Squad (McCabe)
2nd in Masterclass (mounted McCabe)

I often write that "pics don't really do minis justice/are a bit off/are the result of bad weather/poor lighting, etc.). I guess I can now say that I haven't been just making excuses now that my work was appreciated in an actual painting contest. Online competitions are fine as I have enjoyed taking part in them and improved my skills but the possibility to look at the finished model in person gives the judges much more objectivity. I couldn't be happier with my results, especially that my works were put there against entries prepared by some of my favorite painters.
My only regret is that I couldn't be there. Having seen a couple of pictures and read some comments, I am sure it was a great event. I will do my best to come to Croatia next year!
Many thanks to the organizers, and congrats to all the winners and all the prize-winners along with the rest of participants.



p.s. Did I mention the rewards? Today I received a parcel that contained the minis I'd sent along with other goodies. Vouchers that I can use in online stores, a fantastic Winsor & Newton brush, Hangar 18 photo background, Infamy Miniatures bust, and... diplomas and medals! All the rewards are great but having something nice to put up on your wall is a real treat. The medals are large, very nicely designed, and pretty heavy. They do feel special.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Children of December #2

Here's the first minion from Rasputina's crew - Ice Gamin. I painted this one as a sample model to try out a color scheme for the rest of the Children of December. I used cold colors  with a light touch of brown in the recesses and black around the eyes to add a little depth.
It also took me a while to get the technique of making cracked ice down. I had two attempts that were not satisfactory but that changed when I stopped using drybrush technique. I'm really pleased with the effect. I haven't used Agrellan Earth before and now I can see that this technical paint has great potential. If I had known it works so well, I would have used it on the bases of Ortegas instead of buying resin ones. 



So, once again, props to AnythingBut for sharing this method on the Wyrd forum. I modified the method slightly as I started by applying a solid layer of LGS to the bottom to make sure that once Agrellan Earth dries and cracks, the ice is on the same level as the rim of the base. I've also applied two layers of Vallejo Still Water effect for the glossy look.
I painted the icicle he's holding to match the color of cracked ice. In the box artwork it's all the same shade of light blue but I thought some variety will work well here.
I'm pretty happy with the result on this one so I'm going to use the same color scheme and type of base for the rest of the crew (at least for the two remaining Ice Gains and the Golem). Painting the Golem will be a bit tedious as he's a large one and this color requires numerous layers of highlights but I loook forward to working on it anyway.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Leftovers - a novel


I wrote about the new HBO series a while ago. After watching first two episodes, I became very interested in the story and decided to read the novel on which the series is based. The story is set in contemporary America. Life goes on normally until an event that will later come to be referred to as Rapture. On one Autumn day millions of people inexplicably vanish into thin air. The event is estimated to have touched about 2% of people worldwide and there doesn't seem to be any logical pattern. It's just as if all those people were somehow chosen randomly to disappear. Why? Where? Was that a divine act of salvation or damnation? Or perhaps the people that are left behind are those that have been damned and deemed not worthy of ascension into Paradise?

These seem to take over the minds of survivors and affect their life to a large degree. Almost everyone has either lost somebody close knows people who have lost a family member or a friend. As a result, new religious sects are formed. The most unusual is one called the Guilty Remnant. Its members take a vow of silence, wear only white clothes and constantly smoke cigarettes. Why? Well, that's a good question. Another important cult is one started by Holy Wayne who allegedly has the power to cure people of sadness and grief by... hugging them. The impact of these two is heavily felt in the town of Mapleton, NY, where the majority of action takes place. Many citizens have lost their close ones to the rapture and now they are beginning to lose even more family members and friends who join the Guilty Remnant or Holy Wayne's cult.
The plot is centered on four people, all members of the Garvey family. Kevin Garvey - head of the family and a charismatic mayor of Mapleton (not a chief of police as in the tv series). His wife, Laurie, has left the family and joined the Guilty remnant, leaving him and his teenage daughter Jill disillusioned and deeply unhappy. Tom Garvey, Kevin's older child, leaves for college but his education is stopped by the rapture. He comes back home and can't find a place for himself in post-rapture world and eventually ends up returning to college, only to join Holy Wayne's cult and cut all ties with his family.

Tom Perotta uses these four people to narrate his story from different viewpoints. While not innovative, this mechanism works pretty well in giving the reader a comprehensive view on the effects the rapture had on American society (apart from the disappearance of the Pope, the rest of the world is never mentioned). Stories like that show people tested by extreme circumstances and offer interesting insights into human nature. Four different viewpoints add a lot of dynamism and the book reads well. However, I was a little disappointed as I expected the novel to deal more with the rapture itself. I thought that mysticism connected with it would be a dominant theme throughout this (rather short) novel. Well, it wasn't as "The Leftovers" are a classical novel that deals mainly with human relations and individual stories of survivors with hardly any supernatural elements. I was a bit disappointed by the ending but that's mainly because I was expecting something completely different from the very beginning. Anyway, the book reads well and I can recommend it to everyone.

I can already see that Damon Lindelof is trying to add more mysticism to his tv series and has introduced quite a few more or less significant changes to the story. As I've written, the novel is not a long one and additional motifs are necessary for 10 episodes so it's probably a good thing. Having watched the LOST series I'm a bit concerned that Lindelof might get a bit carried away with explaining the mystery of rapture but I still look forward to seeing his (hopefully different than the one in the novel) take on it.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Children of December #1

I'm beginning another hobby project - this time it's going to be Rasputina and her crew. So far I've just put them together and basecoated the minis using light color for the gaming and Golem as they will be painted using bright shades of blue.


I had to put together Wendigo's victim separately as it would complicate painting him and it would be pretty much impossible to paint his face otherwise. I'll probably start by painting one Ice Gamin to try out a color scheme. 

I've also tried a cool method for basing I found on Wyrd Forums. It was posted by a used called AnythingBut here first. Basically you just paint the inside of the base using blue and follow that with a thick layer of GW's technical paint called Agrellan Earth. After that you should leave it to dry for a longer while, preferably overnight or for the whole day. The paint crack as it dries creating an effect that the creators intended to look like desert. However, if applied in thick layer and over blue surface, it looks like shattered ice on water if you paint the cracked paint using bright shades of blue and adding white. In the pic you can see my first attempt. It was a quick one but I'm quite pleased with the effect. I already have some ideas on how to improve the technique and plan to use it for this crew. More updates later this week!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Bag of Bones


I wasn't very impressed with the previous two books by King that I read (collections of short stories to be precise - "Just After Sunset" and "Night Shift") so I approached "Bag of Bones" with some apprehension.
King returns to a familiar Maine setting. The narrator, Mike Noonan, is a novelist who suffers from a writer's block after untimely death of his pregnant wife. Four years pass and Mike hasn't still managed to overcome it. What's more, he is plagued by nightmares. He manages to keep up appearances as he wrote some novels before the his wife's death. Eventually, he realizes that his life cannot continue this way and attempts to confront his past. He decided to move into Sara Laughs, a summer house which is filled with happy memories of time spent together with his wife. Even more vivid nightmares begin to haunt him there and he soon realizes that there are some troubling secrets connected with the past of Sara Laughs.
During his first day he meets Kyra - a 3-year old wandering alone along a road. He rescues her and soon after meets her mother, a 21-year old Mattie. Their fates become interwoven throughout the rest of the novel.
While this novel features many elements common for King's work (Maine, a writer, troubling past that resurfaces, the supernatural), it is still a very enjoyable read. A significant part of the novel takes place before the protagonist travels to Maine. The real actin takes a while to start but I didn't really see it as a problem. I personally feel that King is very good when he writes about normal life, in particular about the emotional sphere. His descriptions have an authentic feel to them.
In Bag of Bones the supernatural doesn't surface until late in the book. For a major part, the novel deals with human drama and it's hard not to sympathize with Mike, Kyra and Mattie. When the old ghost, visions and other unusual elements take on a more important role, the book loses its authentic feel but thanks to a few unexpected twists in the plot it still manages to keep you captivated until the very end.
What I probably liked the most were the descriptions of Sara Laughs. An old summer house that at first seems filled with memories of happier past. However, it takes on a new meaning as we learn more about its past. Sara Laughs seems to have a language of its own, consisting of subtle noises and movements of certain elements.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Warzone - resurrection slowed down

I actually painted these three miniatures a few months ago but haven't really got round to taking pictures and writing about them. I guess a got a bit discouraged after the end of Kickstarter. It seems to me that Prodos Games used the KS campaign to properly launch their product and use the backers as beta testers of their unpolished and not-final version of the product. The new miniatures released by Prodos are nicely packed in colorful boxes with great artwork. Also, the quality has improved significantly. What's more, many miniatures now have either new versions or are an improved product compared to initial KS releases. Anyway, for what's it worth, here are the minis I painted.


Alakhai the Cunning. My least favorite of the whole KS bunch I got. It's one of the most famos Dark Legion characters and the original artwork by Paul Bonner is amazing. The miniature is not that well cast. The proportions are OK and the level of detail, while not impressive, is satisfying. Still, there are some things that I don't really care for. First of all, the cloak - it just looks bad, as if he had a hump or the wind was blowing from all directions at the same time.




Razide is much better. The miniature has great proportions (for an evil mutant - the oversized arms fit perfectly here) and it just looks mean. As always, my camera lies when it comes to red color. Even a bit of red causes trouble and when a miniature is mostly red, it completely shifts out of focus. I haven't found a solution yet and have pretty much given up on it.




Golgotha is another of well known characters from the Mutant Chronicles universe. The miniature I got was cast from a different type of resin. It was very light grey in color and much more flexible that the other minis. That's one of the reasons working on those thin, elastic limbs was so challenging. Overall, I like the miniature but her face is problematic. It's lack of expression and lack of detail is really disappointing.

And that's pretty much it for WZ from me right now. I will eventually get back to working on these miniatures (especially the Undead Legionnaires which I really like) but for now I'll be focusing mainly on Malifaux.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Night Shift


"Night Shift" was Stephen King's first collection of short stories and as such it suffers from noticeable lack of skill and polish. Most of the stories here are way too ridiculous to be treated seriously. The actually read like class B horror movies. How can you seriously treat stories about :
- a murderous industrial laundry press ("The Mangler"),
- a colony of mutated rats living in the basement of old textile mill ("Graveyard Shift"),
- an astronaut who suffers from a strange virus he was exposed to during a space mission. As a result, numerous tiny eyes start appearing on his hands ("I am the Doorway"),
- a man who suffers from a fungus-like mutation ("Grey Matter"),
- evil cars taking over! ("Trucks"),
- a man threatened by an army of... toy soldiers ("Battleground"),
- a terrifying experience connected with mowing the lawn ("The Lawnmower Man").

To me these show that King was either still searching for his place and establishing his style or he was already good enough to take horror fiction with a pinch of salt. These stories are actually funny rather than scary. There are also other, better ones in the collection. Some are loosely connected with King's other novels, such as "One for the Road" and "Jerusalem's Lot" (references to "Salem's Lot"), or "Night Surf" that takes place around the time of events described in "The Stand".
"The Ledge" is a Hitchock-like narrated story about a man making a very risky bet with a mobster. The 'stakes are as high as it gets (money and gangster's wife or death) and the trial begins...
"Sometimes They Come Back" shows how traumatic past can unexpectedly catch up with you. The protagonist is a teacher (something pretty common for King) and has problems with a very bad-mannered student who very much reminds him of a hooligan who killed his brother many yeas ago...
"Children of the Corn" is one of King's most recognizable titles - I even remember seeing references to it in Family Guy. While it also lacks certain polish and has the class-b-horror feel to it, it is still one of the most memorable from the collection. It has this oppressive, dark atmosphere and takes place in well defined American rural setting.
"Quitters, Inc." is a story that I can recommend to anyone trying to give up smoking. It tells a story of a company that specializes in successfully helping people give up smoking. Their methods are quite unusual but the treatment is almost always successful
"The Woman in the Room" was probably the most powerful one from the whole collection. The protagonist is a man who struggles with the idea of euthanizing his terminally ill mother and helping her escape from the pain she suffers every day. His thoughts and actions are morally ambiguous and it's really hard to judge his deeds.
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