Friday, February 17, 2017

Things Gone and Those to Come

2016 was a year of considerable change for my family and I. Above all else, it was the year in which we finally ended our time in the Midwest and made our return to Colorado. This move had always been the 5-year plan for us, but it took us by surprise when we realized that we had actually achieved what we set out to do. Perhaps more unbelievable is the realization that the end of this month makes it 1 year since the move. The process has been somewhat jarring and it has been a whirlwind of a year. And so as our first year in Denver comes to a close, our focus turns from ‘getting here’ to really setting up a life here.

That’s to give you an idea of where my mind is but in reality, 2016 was a fairly productive year in terms of hobby. The year saw me paint more models than I have in a number of years  and while painting for me has always been a slow process, I’ve grown as an artist and I am constantly looking for new ways to improve. On the terrain end of my hobby, I’m continuing to create high quality terrain and maintain my ‘no compromises’ approach. But that’s enough ranting. Over the next few posts, I’m going to be catching up with the things I’ve been working on and then back to normal….or as close to normal as it gets these days.  

Visions of Confluence

As the larger structures and character of my Malifaux terrain project develop, I am constantly looking for ways to make the tables feel more real. Some time ago I had a chance to set up a full table and it gave me a chance to stand back, be impressed with the work I’ve done so far and evaluate what was missing.

While this is certainly a dense table, it was definitely missing something. The first add was the cacti I’ve talked about in a previous post. While they add a great deal of character to the table, they also change gameplay, as they are typically to be considered dangerous terrain. What I needed was something to make the world look a bit more alive, so I went back to my reference photos and found the answer.

In the reference pic, you can see these tall grasses and bushes and shrubs that liter the ground between structures. As many of the buildings on the table are little more than hovels, they have simply been built into the surrounding world, leaving only fragments of the once lush woods behind.

The ground cover started as several plastic-card base. In the end, these bases ended up being something of a hybrid of the cacti and my woods, built up with small stones and drywall compound. (My only warning with this process is that you need to be careful about making oblong shapes as they can bend slightly as the compound and eventually the glue, dries). As before, the initial texture was a fine sand mix, followed by increasingly larger pebbles to form a natural look. I then went back to some areas with a super fine dust to give the appearance of baked and wind-whipped dirt.

Once dry and primed black, it was time to paint. I have to admit I’ve been struggling with the paint scheme for the dirt around Confluence. With the rock outcroppings, I had a pretty decent orangey earth look going, which became more red when I worked on the woods. This was carried over to the cacti, but for the other ground cover, I wanted to head more towards a rich brown mix. I don’t think I’ve got it just yet, but I’m in orbit. 

Finally I began to add the life itself, first in patches of static grass, then in some small broken logs and twigs to litter the ground. Some patches of taller grass and a flower here and there added some color and then I finally dropped the larger shrubs and small trees. If you haven’t already tried them, I highly recommend Shadow’s Edge Miniatures for their grasses and flowers. I’ve used several and these have been the best so far.

For the larger bushes, I opted to use woodland scenic clump foliage. However, rather than just using the standard bag of foliage, I purchased a couple of ready-made trees. These are just plastic tree skeletons with clumps glued on, but the skeletons gave more rigidity than I’d be able to get from just the foliage and added some realism when you see an branch poking out here and there.

I have yet to set up another table now that the scatter terrain is built, but in some of my quick little pictures, I’m already much more impressed with the immersion this table will create.

As always, I thank you for taking the time to have a look and I love to see comments with your thoughts.

More to come.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Visions of Confluence: The Pokey Bits

Most games have rules of one kind or another to cover hazardous terrain, that type of terrain that impedes movement and/or causes damage. For me, this has typically been the more difficult to create, as there are only so many options out there. Pools of Lava or some other caustic substance, holes or crevices, or barbed wire fences and sharp rocks. I’ve never really like examples I’ve seen of any of these, so up until now I’ve steered away from hazardous terrain on my boards.

For the Confluence project, however, I had a chance to try something new. Cactus patches. I’ve seen these done before many ways, but I wanted to apply the same mentality to creating hazardous terrain to the way I created the rest of my terrain. For my hazardous terrain, I chose Pegasus Hobbies Cactus models. These come in 2 different sets and if you pick them both up, you will have enough for all of the patches I’ve created as well as a large surplus for other terrain pieces or bases or what have you.

While I’ve seen these cacti used straight out of the box and they do work that way, I wanted to make sure they fit the rest of the tables and looked really good. To that end, I mounted clusters of cacti on thin plasticard bases taking care to make them as random and natural looking as possible. This worked well because cacti typically grow in clusters and clumps. I went on to add some of my usual fine mix of sand and then added some small stones and a few larger ones. In addition to the bases I made for the cacti, I made several more without cacti that I would use for other ground cover such as refuse, building material or smaller plant life.

Anyway, then it was time to paint the cacti. I decided to save some time and get a nice subtle look that I’d use my brand new Patriot 105 Extreme. I just recently received the airbrush, so I needed some practice in order to dial it in and the cacti would be the perfect opportunity.

The Pegasus sets come with two varieties of cacti and I opted to keep the varieties together and to paint them differently. For the longer, thinner cacti (these are typically known as San Pedro Cactus) I opted for a deeper and more cool green color scheme. For them, I undercoated black and them basecoated with Vallejo Model Air Olive Drab. From there, I added a highlight of VMA Field Green and then did a final highlight with a 50/50 mix of Field Green and Pale Green. To make them really pop, I then airbrushed a thin wash of Secret Weapon Amethyst Wash. This settled into the depths of the cactus patches and really made them look good.

Of course the other variety of cacti I had were the more traditional prickly pears. For these, I wanted something a little brighter and more green. I started then with a basecoat of VMA Medium Green and highlighted with Field Green and then Pale Green. To add just a bit of yellow and warmth, I also added a bit of Green Zinc Chromate to a final highlight. Again, I toned them down just a bit with an Amethyst wash, though I mixed this with Ruby to keep it warmer.

Finally, I took out the brushes and basecoated the ground, first in black and then steadily highlighting up to the soil mix I’ve been using for the rest of the table.

The final product is striking and I’m really looking forward to using my Belles to lure a whole
bunch of victims to their pokey depths.

As always comment and critiques are welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

More to Come.