Thursday, 14 March 2013

Ah, the memories... pics of models from years ago

I've got some projects on the go at the moment, but nothing worth posting about so far.  However, I'm also digging through the old hard drive and seeing what little suprises there are in there... I hope to one day organize all the pics of my past paintjobs so that I have a ready reference for any future projects.  Oh, and it's just nice to see all the models I've painted in the past.  As a former professional painter, I've probably painted thousands of miniatures since I first picked up a paintbrush back in the late '80s.  Of those thousands of models (possibly tens of thousands, actually), I probably only have a few hundred in my personal collection.  Most I've done for clients, and others I sold off on eBay or to friends.  Some were done while in the employ of Games Workshop, so they belonged to the store at which I worked.

One of the drawbacks to being a professional miniature painter is what I call, "The Surrogate Mother Syndrome".  As an artist, you tend to invest quite a bit of yourself into each model you work on.  You pour your creativity into it, your thoughts, your time, and even some pain (try being hunched over a painting table with your wrists locked together for 40+ hours a week, and see how your lower back, shoulders, and neck feel!).  That's akin to being pregnant and bringing a baby to term (I can imagine all my female readers being outraged by that comparison... but let's just say it's a mild comparison to the real thing).  Then, in order to get paid and make sure the rent is taken care of, and you can afford groceries, you get one chance to admire the finished product while the paint dries, and then you pack it all up in layers and layers of bubble wrap, gently cradle it in a box full of packing peanuts, and ship it to places like St. Louis, Italy, Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, etc., never to be seen again by the person who made it.  It's quite a difficult thing to do, and if I was lucky, I'd have JUST enough time to take a pic of the model, which helped ease the pain somewhat.

Efficiency is also paramount in professional painting... you need to complete the paintjob as fast as you can, while still managing to produce a model that will absolutely wow the client.  It's a fine balance, and one that you would sometimes misjudge.  If the model didn't meet or exceed client expectations, we would redo the model, wasting time and shipping costs.  If you spent too much time on the model in the first place though, that would push your other projects back, creating a longer wait for other clients, and cutting into your hourly take-home pay by a substantial amount (since we would only charge the quoted price on a contract, no matter how long it actually took to complete).

That being said, some of my finest works ever were contract pieces.  There were some models that I completed for others that I would have bought back from the client if I could have afforded to.  In fact, I always thought that if I was to win the lottery, I'd track down as many of my former pieces and buy them back to have in my own collection.  I know it's a weird thing to contemplate, especially since I think I've grown as an artist, and my style and skills have changed, but I really have a soft spot for all my former works of art.  They represent landmarks in my painting evolution as an artist, and reflect something of myself from those former times.

On that note, here is a small sample of models I've completed in years past:

This is a Forgeworld ThunderHawk gunship that I completed for a client back in 2005 (I think).  It's a beast of a model... about the size of one of my cats.  The client in question was a great guy, and when I asked him if I could delay shipping it out by a week so that I could enter it in the Vancouver Conflict painting competition (Conflicts were smaller versions of the internationally reknowned "Games Day" events), he agreed.  

The pic is from Games Workshop Canada's website, and it's one that the staff took after it won the large model catagory (the client got the model, and I got to keep the trophy).  This is a great example of the pre-military modelling techniques that were fashionable at the time.  Each armour panel is given hand-painted shading, blacklining, layered highlighting, and edging.  In order to give them enough definition to have visual impact at any viewing distance, I worked the heck out of the highlights and shading, to give it as much contrast as possible.  It was incredibly time-consuming, and because my approach to it was similar to what I would have done on a much smaller model (a dreadnought, for example), it took quite some time to complete.  There were a few concessions done for time efficiency though... otherwise I would have had to charge a fortune to finish it:

If you look closely at the lighted instrument panels, I used the same colour on almost every single one of them (yay, Jade Green!).  That saved considerable time compared to making each one a different colour, while not sacrificing that much visual interest.  This was also some time before OSL (object source lighting) came into vogue, so I was able to save some time there too.  Weathering was also uncommon at that time, so the paintjob was done in the clean, simple, and bright style that was prevalent in most miniature magazines.  I used some decals as well, to save some time on freehand work.  In addition, I initially thought to freehand the skulls all over the model, but it became immediately apparent that this was simply too huge a model to do that with... it would have taken forever.  Therefore, I added the skulls to the areas that your eye was going to be drawn to first... that way you couldn't help but notice them.  In hindsight, I probably could have simply highlighted each rivet in the background base colour instead of painting each one metallic and blacklining them... that one step alone could have saved hours (there was THAT many rivets on there...gah!).

That same year, I painted this Calidus Assassin model for my own personal collection.  Actually, I painted it for an earlier online miniature painting competition, in which she did respectably well, but did not win.  Again, simple and clean was the style of the day.  Zenithal highlighting wasn't in the painter's vocabulary.  The Eavy Metal painting studio drove the painting fashions at the time, and this was very much done in their style.  However, what made this model different than the studio paintjob was the use of skin on the abs and arms... I didn't care for the full-body black skinsuit, as it really needed to be broken up into contrasting colours to add visual interest.  The severed head was simply something done out of whimsy, and probably a bit childish in retrospect.  Still, this was done for fun, and I'm still fond of the model.  It won the 40K single model catagory in the very same painting competition as the ThunderHawk above.

This Boromir model from the Lord of the Rings range was a quickie paintjob I did for the same Conflict painting competition as those models above.  I figured that the Lord of the Rings catagory would not be as hotly contested as some of the other catagories, so investing two evenings of my own time might reap a nice reward.  The catagory was tougher than I thought, but Boromir still managed to take home the trophy.  He features layered highlighting, an elevated base (something that wasn't nearly as prevalent at the time as it is today), and some fairly simple freehand work (which was as close to the movie version of the banner as I could make it).  It's a nice model, and I'm a huge fan of Sean Bean as an actor (although his characters always seem doomed to die), so it has a deserving place in my display cabinet to this day.

This photo dates back to 2002, but I'm sure I painted it a few years earlier.  It was a limited edition release of a Legion of the Damned sergeant (named Sgt. Centurius).  I ended up putting up for auction on eBay back when Sorcerer Studios was just starting up, and we needed the exposure that a high profile auction on eBay would bring.  eBay rarely brought in the dollars... if an auction price went above what we would charge normally, people could just have us do one up on contract instead.  However, since this was a limited edition model, it got a fair bit of attention, which is what we needed as a fledgling startup.  The layered highlighting is a bit heavy-handed, but still not too bad.  The bones were done in a flesh to bone fashion... not the stark white of dried bone, or greys of aged bone, but something a bit "fresher" looking.  The metals were simply done in GW chainmail with the old GW armour wash.  The base has an aquila on it, at a time when most models simply had flock glued to them.  The base is rimmed in Goblin Green... which every Eavy Metal studio paintjob had (even the Necromunda models, which I didn't get at the time).  I don't like how the skull decal on the banner turned out... it was placed correctly, and I painted over it to give it the appearance of freehand work, but the slight silvering around the edges of the decal give it away.  I will post a blog in the future on how to do decals properly, and avoid this common mistake.  The flames were done properly... highlighted at the bottom, not the top.  Even the Eavy Metal guys always got this wrong... flames are lit from within, so the light comes from below, not from an external source at the top.  This is a major pet peeve of mine to this very day (GottaCon painting competitors take note!).

This is an Epic scale Imperator Titan model I did for the same client as the ThunderHawk above.  I can't remember when this was done... my best guess was 2004 or so.  The whole thing is about as tall as a ball point pen, which is huge by Epic 40,000 standards... the largest model in the whole range.  In order to give it a real sense of scale, I created a custom base for it, with some ruined buildings and a Rhino armoured personnel carrier on it (the size of a standard tank).  The top of this model reminded me of the British Columbia Provincial Parliament buildings in Victoria (where I lived for about 6 years previously).  Even though I don't play Epic, this is one of those models I'd love to own just because it's so cool.  Tom... if you're reading this and you still have this model in your collection, let me know what it'll take to get it in my display case at home.

This 40K Chaos Sorcerer dates back to 2002, and it was something of an experiment for me (even though it was done for a client).  I hadn't seen much in the way of metals shaded in other colours at the time, and so I thought I'd give it a try.  After it was done, I posted a pic on Coolminiornot, and it seemed that it was something new for many people, as it garnered some nice comments and a decently high score (check it out here).  The sword effect was something different at the time as well.  Rather than highlights the edges, I decided that I would try highlighting it from within, as if it was something otherwordly.  It looked a bit too much like a lightsabre at first, so that's why I added the Tzeentch symbol and the stars.  I also painted the bolt pistol's outer casing up in woodgrain, which was interesting, but probably not practical (I'm not so sure a bolt pistol should have that much in common with a .45 Thompson or AK-47).  Overall, this model seemed to work out fine, even if it was a hodgepodge of experimental effects.  In fact, it's still my highest ranked paintjob on CMoN, although the standards were much lower back in 2002 (it would probably score very poorly if I posted something similar now).

Last pic for now is an Eldar Harlequin model I painted up in 2007 for a personal (and local) friend of mine.  This is an ancient sculpt... I think Jes Goodwin came up with this model back in the late eighties, or early nineties at the latest.  However, other than the hugely oversized hands, it holds up very well to the passage of time (oversized hands were what sculptors did back in the day... don't know why... might be something to do with the soft nature of the lead they were cast from).  Harlequins were supposed to be a riot of colours, so I went with something as outrageous as possible.  Stripy pants, pinks, purples, reds, golds, whites, a bit of black for contrast, and even a touch of jade green (I love Jade Green!).  The pistol he''s holding is supposed to be made of crystal, so I decided to treat it much like a gem... highlighted from within, as if it was letting light in and refracting it back out.  Overall, it was a fun model to paint, and I think it came out pretty well, even if there was nothing particularly cutting edge or adventurous about the paintjob at the time.

Well, that's enough for now.  These paintjobs reflect where my head was at, at the time they were created.  Everything was painted with an emphasis on time efficiency, but I pushed the techniques where and when I could.  Nowadays, I'm no longer painting for anyone but myself, so I spend as long as I like on models.  That has turned out to be a blessing and a curse.

On one hand, it's nice to feel free to experiment, and not be pressured into finishing something to a time schedule.  I now try all sorts of weathering techniques, new painting mediums, new painting tools, and explore the internet and painting DVDs for any hint of something new to try out.  I paint pretty much whatever models I like, regardless of brand or army.  And I can paint models for purely display now, if I like, rather than just game-play.

On the other hand, I got to paint some pretty spectacular models back in those days.  While I personally couldn't afford to buy Forgeworld Titans, ThunderHawk gunships, and rare limited edition models, my clients could, and I got to build and paint them.  I also tended to get things done back then... nowadays it seems like I keep starting models, and then never finishing them.  Greed is a huge motivator, and when you need to pay the bills, you get things done.  Not so much when the only motivation you have is simply to try out something new.  Unless it's for a painting competition or for a friend, I tend not to finish anything anymore.  The process interests me more than the actual finished product.  I like the feeling of learning, and completing anything is just a bonus.  That's why I need to find reasons to finish projects... all those half-painted models tend to haunt me in the end.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a pic of myself back in 2005, when I was sharing a studio at the back of my buddy Chad's place.  This Forgeworld Bloodthirster model is another one of those "I can't afford one of my own, but I'm glad I still got the chance to paint one for someone else" projects.  It's a gorgeous piece, and one that I hope I get a chance to paint up and display in my own miniature display case one day.  IF I can finish one up, that is...

I'll post some more past pics in future blog posts.  In the meantime, if you want to check some other works of mine out from years gone by, check out my Coolminiornot posts:


  1. Good stuff. I was a gamer/painter in Vancouver from the early 90's onwards and it's interesting to see the old models and paint style. I remember seeing your stuff on websites back then.

    I felt the same way about those goofy green bases!


  2. Was? Did the insane prices of Vancouver real estate drive you out? I'm very nearly there myself.

    I remember having a discussion with Eavy Metal painter and terrain master Mark Jones (back in '02, I think) about the green rimmed bases. He apologized for them, saying that it was a corporate decision pushed on to the Eavy Metal team at the time. "All models will have green grassy bases" was the law, and the painters had to comply, even when doing up the studio paintjobs on the Necromunda models. The reasoning at the time was that a simple green base wouldn't distract from the models themselves, and contrast well enough to make the model pop. Of course, this was the same era when Chaos Warriors were uniformly bright red, with little to no shading or highlighting... in fact, almost all reds were handled this way.

    Thankfully things do not seem to be that way anymore. Rackham went the opposite direction, adding tons of freehand to their studio models... I think that was a bit misleading, as it added detail to a sculpt that wasn't there. Studio paintjobs meant for promotional marketing should be bright and simple, showcasing what the model actually has on it, rather than making up for any shortcomings with added flourishes of painted-on detail that the average gamer cannot replicate.

  3. I left in '04 for work (I live in the east coast U.S. now), but my family is still there and from what I've seen of prices when I visit they are crazy. I seriously think you won't see sanity until this big quake you're all due for finally hits (I hope you don't live in Richmond!)

    I thought the paint jobs in the 90's were pretty bad-ass as a teenager, but I look back now and they seem a little...awkward. Waaaaaaay too much color, like they're trying to rip out my eyes.

    1. If you're thinking about leaving cause of the prices I gotta say this...I bought a brand new house on a half acre plot for 175K last year. Its semi-suburbia, but damn its nice having a real house and not paying twice what my mortgage is now for the top half of a house in the middle of Burnaby that I had to share with three roommates!

    2. I try not to pay attention to what real estate prices are like elsewhere in North America. Every time I hear what they are like, I look at my place and get jealous. You couldn't buy a detached two car garage in Vancouver for $175K these days... even a single parking spot in my condo development goes for over $40,000.

      Other than an earthquake, I think the most likely scenario that will finally burst this real estate bubble will be if China's economic growth starts slowing down. We have a huge Chinese population in Vancouver, and completely unchecked property speculation by the wealthiest asian families (Australia saw this coming, and created laws to limit how many investment properties foreigners could own at any given time... to the best of my knowledge, this isn't the case here). I love how multi-cultural Vancouver is, and the more immigration the better in my opinion (my parents came to Canada from Korea in the early 70s, and are productive Canadians now in every sense of the word). However, when people buy half a dozen "vacation homes" in Vancouver for their 3 person family... well, that kind of raises prices around here to the point where the average family starts getting priced out.

      Anyway, my own personal painting style was stuck in the '90s well into the new century. However, over the last year, I've been trying out every new technique and new art style I can. I can't predict where this will take me in the end, but I'm loving the process.

      That being said, I don't think I'm capable of doing stuff that's too subdued and subtle. There's too much of the '90s still in me... I like vibrant. It must be all the Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, and Roxette in my CD collection ;)