Saturday, 29 January 2011

Sprucing up...

Little post today. I've been messing about with logos for the last couple of days and learning better ways to make them. I don't think I'll be changing careers in a hurry but I've made a nice new logo for this blog which is now in place above. Obviously based on the previous one but hopefully a little more textured. Plus I wanted to add the magnifying glass that was part of the old Spyglass logo. Hope everyone likes it :)

Friday, 28 January 2011

Selling minis and matters of size...

Okay, I'm practically famous for ranting about figure scales. It's an age old argument where the public are usually wrong but don't know it (controversial huh?). This is not a rant about that though I'll probably get back to it one of these days...

This is about photography. In particular, the photographing of miniatures for advertising purposes. There's a bit of a trend out there and it's not really an ideal one. One of the difficulties of sculpting minis is the 'conventions of scale'. This is to say that on a 28mm figure we don't accurately recreate the proportions of a real human. At 28mm the ankles would be too thin, eyes would be impossible to see and weapons would generally be ludicrously small and thin. The reality looks wrong and causes problems with casting. So, we exaggerate. Minis have big heads and hands and the facial features are blown up. Depending on the sculptor this is done to a greater or lesser extent. Some figures have a very chunky look, for example many of the historical producers work like this. The sculptor Tom Meier is known for the other end of the extreme with figures that seem at a glance to be total reality whereas they are still exaggerated, just to a much lesser extent. I understand Tom's general ethos is to get as close to reality as is practical.

Now this is all very well but with the advent of cheaper and cheaper high quality digital cameras we are often showing photographs of the figures many times larger than the figure is in reality. It was a recent figure of Tom's that brought this very much to my attention.

You can see Tom's blog here

and the figure is on the blog entry for 15th January 2011.

This a true 25mm figure sculpted to fit with an older range and when we saw the pictures it's head was too large. Obviously so. Except it really wasn't. Tom explained that the figure in reality looked fine. The problem lay in the very over-sized picture of the sculpt. But this happens so much these days; figures being shown so much larger than they actually are and it amplifies the scale conventions and makes them look wrong.

This phenomena has had a curious effect on sculptors. I know I'm moving ever more in this worrisome direction and can see a lot of others doing so either consciously or subconsciously. We're sculpting to look good in the photo more than we are sculpting to look good in reality. This is not a good road to go down.

I've seen it many times. Beautiful high res shots of an immaculately sculpted figure that looks amazing and when you get it... well... yes it's still amazing but it's so skinny and tiny and without physical presence. These are often the 'fear figures' I have spoken of before. We get them and the level of detail and reality is sometimes too much.

I think we need to try and reel ourselves in on the size of the photos we show so that minis can give a better representation of themselves as to their size. Not suggesting actual size as computer monitors lack the pixels per inch count to look good at that size. But you can see them pretty well at twice their height, we don't really need to go to four times or more. It's fun to see those closeups at times but it should probably not be the first way you see a figure.

So be reasonable with your pic sizes.

Feel free to argue with me at your convenience...

Monday, 24 January 2011

Painting Tip: Black Fabric...

Thought I might throw out a nugget of my painting wisdom (such as it is) today. I'd like to offer up my favourite way of painting black fabric.

Black is a difficult colour to paint well as you'll have all kinds of fun choosing a highlight colour to mix into the black. White or grey is the obvious choice but it gives a very flat look to the black and I rarely use it. Too dull for solid items such as armour and underwhelming on cloth. I'm going to pick out cloth today. For me cloth needs a certain soft flatness to it but with a little something to lift it from the obvious grey route...

I start with a good few thinned coats of Chaos Black, usually over black primer. The coats of black paint give a nicer surface to work over than just using the primer as the basecoat (though that's a handy timesaver if painting armies). Then I layer on the highlights with thinned paint. My paint of choice for this purpose? Dwarf Flesh! Yes, it may sound a little odd but flesh tones are great for highlighting black. On the first few layers they're not noticeably different to using grey though it's perhaps a little softer. As you add more and more a warmth enters the mix and gives the fabric a faintly worn quality without making it look tatty. Give it a try, even if it's just on your paint palette.

You can see the effect on my Empire Greatsword above.

Oh, and bonus feature. For a deep and fantastical, cold black try highlighting by adding Hawk Turquoise.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Let us consider the Great Spined Dragon...

The Great Spined Dragon; now that thing is a beast, an utter beast. The Spined Dragon is a miniature from the dim and distant past of Citadel Miniatures and has a fond place in the hearts of us old-school mini geeks. I'm not totally sure of it's release date but it appears to have surfaced around 1985. This was a period where Citadel were releasing many metal dragon figures in various sizes. At the large end was the utterly impractical Imperial Dragon (affectionately known as the Chicken Dragon as it was roughly the size of a real chicken). The Imperial was a massively multi-part metal figure that was beyond most modellers and I suspect drove the casters mental producing. It wasn't on sale for long. Citadel then produced a lot of other classic dragons and, at the large but still vaguely practical, end was the Great Spined Dragon. Cast in metal but this time in just six pieces. It also had one of the quirks of large Citadel dragons of the period. The wings were cast skeletal with no membranes. The idea was that you could add your own with paper (templates included) or putty or tissue or whatever. An awkward process which meant that it was kind of rare to see a finished, painted one that looked as good as it should.

Like many mini geeks, I love the Spined Dragon. It's beautifully sculpted but ugly as sin. This isn't a romantic ideal of a dragon, it's a gribbly and dangerous nightmare guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of unwary adventurers. I never owned the Spined Dragon. It was one of those figures that passed me by. As many of us do, I considered the Spined Dragon to be the best dragon miniature ever but you know how it is, rose-tinted glasses and all that. My good friend Neil had three of them but they were buried somewhere in his collection. This blog post is mostly due to his having recently dug them up and his turning up at my place today with two of them still in kit form. Twas quite the thrill to finally take a close look at the beast itself. And it did't disappoint. The general design and the textures were beautifully rendered but the thing that truly struck me was how much it gave the illusion of skin moving over muscle over bone. The figure just felt real and like it could exist. This instills a deep respect for the sculpture as I'm not a naturalistic sculptor myself.

The Spined Dragon was sculpted by a legend of the early years of Citadel: Nick Bibby. Mr Bibby sculpted many, many crazy creatures for them including Mordax and Kegox, two other amazing Dragons that I was fortunate enough to own at various times (though currently I have neither in my collection. Mr Bibby left the miniatures industry behind in the eighties for pastures anew. I have always heard that this was due to his developing a sever allergy to the epoxy putties used in sculpture. Not sure of the actual story there but he's gone on to be an amazing sculptor of life sized bronzes of animals that continue to show off that uncanny knack he has for believable anatomy.

And, so we come to the point of this article. Yes, I wanted to talk about one of my miniature loves but I also wanted to raise a curious point. The Great Spined Dragon was sculpted more than a quarter of a century ago and is arguably the greatest dragon miniature ever sculpted. The minis industry has moved on in staggering leaps and bounds over the years. It astounds me that that a model as old as this could still be argued to be the best ever in a straight contest. There are other arguable champions of the category. Heresy Miniatures new Dragon is a classic example. An amazing and monumental piece of work ( to check it out. Go buy it, it's awesome) but I can't honestly say it beats the Spined hands down. In my opinion it's the best contender but I'm constantly surprised that we've managed to go twenty five years and through a huge step up in quality in this industry without multiple examples of dragons that are clearly better.

Well, to finish I'll leave you with probably my favourite paintjob on The Great Spined Dragon. This one won a gold at the Golden Demon Awards in 1988 and was painted by David Chauvel. Beautiful.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Okay, start again...

We often get the advice to power through, not give up and various other words to the same effect. We often think these things to ourselves as well, of course and this is very true of our miniatures. This one is relevant to both painting and sculpting.

During our work we often discover that we've done something wrong or something stupid and we try to fix it. There's that bloody minded way that we will work through the problem and somehow compensate or fix it further down the line. These mistakes can be many and varied in their content but a lot of them transpire very early in the process. Maybe your armature wasn't quite right or you picked initial colours on your figure that will make it difficult to get the result you want. You can usually minimise the mistake's impact in one way or another but it tends to be a lot of annoying work and we will often spend a huge amount of time on the fixing. The five hour paint job becomes a twelve hour paintjob or you spend thirty hours on a twelve hour sculpt... and the final result is still compromised by that early mistake. This is not constructive and you're fighting against that logical piece of thought that has been nagging. Start again.

But we don't want to start again. It means going back over the same ground and, worse than that, we feel like we've failed or we're stupid. So we work extra time for an inferior result. Well, you know what? Learn to recognise when you're going to spend a huge amount of time fixing an only partially fixable problem and then suck it up. And throw the work away. Strip the mini or start the sculpt over (in the case of the sculpt keep the original as reference for what you did wrong and what you did right).

It's okay to just say 'screw it' and start over. I have done this today and I feel good about it. I spent around twelve hours on a major sculpt over the weekend and I'd made an error on it within the first ten minutes. It's not an error that would make the figure wrong but the end result would have been short of it's potential and that's not what I wanted from the sculpt. So I started over and I've learned. And the next version will be better.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Painting out of left field...

One thing I'd like to do once in a while is to show off minis by other painters that speak to me in one way or another. For the most part these tend not to be the 9.9 rated paintjobs on coolminiornot (though those are obviously very nice) but from painters who aren't afraid to paint in a style contrary to what we're used to. Today I'd like to talk about two painters who have a similar visual approach to minis. Both of these painters have approached their hobby with a look that somewhat echoes cel-shading, the style typically used in traditional 2d animation . They emphasise flat, bold tones and careful colour selection.

First up is my friend Tears of Envy, the deeply talented designer of the logo for my Eolith range of miniatures and also many other projects dear to our miniature hearts such as Black Scorpion Miniatures and various projects with Mr John Blanche. Her miniatures work is based upon scrupulous neatness and small colour palettes. I'm a particular fan of her Lamenters chapter Space Marines. Lovely little force. Plus I geeked out from her using original RTB01 plastic Marines. Anyway, let me introduce you to a few of her painted pieces...

Secondly I'd like to draw your attention to the work of Martin Whitmore, evil illustrator extraordinaire (and fan of zombies in general). Martin has a similar though slightly wilder approach to painting. Again the neat base tones and carefully chosen colours though, getting back to that zombie thing, there does tend to be a fair amount of red on them... or they're carrying a chainsaw. It's also curious to note that when comparing Martin's minis to his illustrations, they have a very similar look.

Both Tears of Envy and Martin Whitmore use the NMM technique for their metals. Normally I'm not a huge fan of this but I feel it works here. The greys and yellows used tend to evoke the 'comic book' style better than true metallic paints. I know when I've painted Judge Dredd miniatures in the past I always go NMM as I prefer yellow shoulder pads on him to gold.

It's also interesting to note that they share a similar line of work. Graphic Designer and Illustrator. I think this has probably contributed to their thinking outside of the box with regards to their chosen painting styles.

All in I love these figures for the completely different look they have to most of what we see these days and I always look forward to seeing the miniatures of these two painters.

The Tears of Envy website is at and she operates a rather eclectic blog at You can find more of her miniatures and her thoughts about painting in this style on there.

Martin can be found at his site which is chock-full of crazy awesomeness.

And the moral of this story (seriously, I'm tired and struggling to remember)? Well, probably something about not being afraid to try something a bit different. Yeah, that sounds good.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Golden Demon versus the Open Judging System...

Golden Demon judging... oh, what fun. Golden Demon comes and Golden Demon goes. Then there's a load of us complaining about the judging. For my part it's usually that the build up was so tense that something has to blurt out afterward and it's usually complaints about the judging. I usually calm down a few days later and decide that the judging wasn't that bad after all and that, for the most part the right things won. Some of the explanations that come out as to why things didn't can be a little blunt/confusing/just plain weird but, as said, I think mostly the right stuff wins one way or another.

But this post isn't so much about the judging as much as it is about the judging system. Golden Demon uses a 'first past the post' system in that each category has first, second and third regardless of the content of said category. It throws up a lot of odd results. There's quite a groundswell, of late, suggesting that Golden Demon should adopt the Open System in one way or another. In this system entries are judged to a standard of quality. There's a bronze, silver and a gold standard and a category may have multiples of each award or indeed none if no entries live up to whichever standard. This system is used at many other major contests. Euro Militaire is a good example. It does, on the face of it, seem like a fairer system. Sounds like a plan...

Is it okay that I don't like the idea? I know a lot of the top painters are pushing for it but personally I kind of like the current system. I find an exhilaration in the unknowns of the GD system. There's something about playing the metagame of the contest, figuring out where the weaker categories will be or whether you're feeling ballsy to try and hit the heavy categories. I like that winning a demon isn't the biggest deal. It's not the demon it's what and whom you beat. I like that we discuss it at length and that we argue about it at greater length. I like that the sweetness of success is made sweeter by the times where I won nothing. I just love the whole 'what the hell is going to happen this time' of it all.

The whole contest is mad, exuberant, glorious, unfair, joyful, maddening and a hundred other words I could use in it's description. Yes I'm probably bonkers for loving it (and revelling in the few days afterward where I'll invariably hate it) but I'll probably be back this year with some entry that, in time-honoured tradition was feverishly put together at the last minute because I changed my mind a hundred times as to what I was going to paint. Maybe I should make an Ork vehicle. Haven't done one of those in ages...

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Memories are partially made of these...

I've been reflecting upon my career the last few days after posting about how I got started as a sculptor. I thought I'd share a few of the significant events and memories of my professional life in the miniatures industry. So, in no particular order or completeness...

Bryan Ansell offering me a sculpting job at Foundry after only a few sculpts - That was pretty monumental. Foundry was a powerhouse at the time and the trainee sculptor position was one of the most sought after jobs in the industry. Think I ruffled a few feathers by 'jumping the queue' at the time. I think Bryan felt that whereas my sculpting ability wasn't there yet, I showed promise (my finish and proportioning were pretty good and I wasn't scale creeping). I think he liked that I hadn't picked up any bad habits yet. He then found out that I'm not the most mouldable of people. But it was a big opportunity and I learned a lot.

That phonecall to GW Fanatic/Specialist Games - After leaving Foundry but before moving back to Cornwall I phoned GW about their freelance opportunities at Fanatic. And no real interest of course. They had to be getting a lot of these calls and I had the impression that the recipient of my call had been dealing with them. He begrudgingly asked if I had any experience and changed tune sharply when I said I'd been at Foundry for seven months. I met with Jervis the next day and was commissioned the entire Warmaster Dark Elf army on the strength of a single 10mm Norseman. We later found that we'd both got a bit over-zealous in a commission that big and it was a tough ride. We got there in the end of course so it worked out well...

'We're sculpting miniatures based on the art of Brom' - Very quick decision made by myself when this was hollered down the phone at me by one of the founders of Dark Age Games. I do like Brom. He's very awesome.

Femme Militant - John Blanche offering me the opportunity to sculpt a miniature for his Femme Militant range, based on his artwork was a true career highlight for me. I was in very exclusive company on that one and am very proud of what we did (bear with book!). Thanks John!

23rd July 2003 - Or at least I think that's the date. My memory is fuzzy but the logic fits... On that day the coolminiornot online store opened. They were selling just two ranges; Werner Klocke's Freebooter Miniatures and a new range, currently exclusive to their store and run by an up and coming sculptor. Yes, Spyglass Miniatures launched that day; my first foray into the world of running my own minis company.

Well, those are just a few moments that spring to mind. It's been nice to open up the filing cabinets of my mind and reminisce... Aaah....

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The origin of Steve the sculptor...

I thought I'd talk a trip down memory lane today and talk a little bit about how I got started as a sculptor. We go all the way back to 1999. At that time I'd been painting minis for about 12 years and had been employed a couple of times in the industry; first as a writer for Citadel Journal and then for a very short period as an Eavy Metal painter, both at Games Workshop. I'd always had an idea that I'd like to sculpt stuff but was rather ten-thumbed at it. I'm one of those people who, if they can't get it right straight away, finds it hard to put the work in. I'd often had tips from my friend Neil who is, to this day, the world's maddest converter. Believe me, it's true. Never seemed to be able to get any kind of hang of working putty though. Think I was too impatient and didn't really 'want it' enough. I did a few conversions with a bit of greenstuff but nothing very spectacular.

Anyway, 1999! It was to be my third time at the Golden Demon Awards after a couple of rather successful years and I'd decided to enter the Open with a Mordheim gang of Skaven. So, cue lots of building Skaven. I had built an elaborate display base for them and there was a big 40mm by 40mm gap in the centre for a Rat Ogre. And I had constructed a converted Rat Ogre. I was nearing competition day and started to paint the Rat Ogre. It went horribly wrong and I was unable to rescue it when it largely disintegrated in the paint stripping process. I needed a new Rat Ogre and with that gap in the base, there weren't many options for alternatives. My local GW hadn't any in stock and I'd just missed the deadline for getting one Special Deliveried to me by GW Mail Order. This was Thursday evening and GD was Sunday. My entry was done but with the gap. I then spied my roll of greenstuff and felt I had nothing to lose. And now I had all the motivation in the world. To learn to sculpt and turn out my first mini... in the next 24 hours (I'd need Saturday to paint it). I saved a little time by making it a one armed Rat Ogre and a little more by stealing the fist from my destroyed conversion and a tail from a plastic Clanrat but I then learned to sculpt VERY fast and by Friday night, my first miniature was done. I painted it the Saturday and entered GD on the Sunday. The gang didn't win anything. Ah well. But here is the result of my fevered last minute sculpting. This is the only pic I have of the Rat Ogre as it now sits in someone else's collection along with the rest of the gang.

Anyway, I returned from the contest and started thinking that if I could make this monster then maybe I should try something more human and at 28mm. So, out came the putty again and I fought my way through my first 28mm figure: a generic saxon/viking type warrior. At the time I was painting lots of miniatures for Wargames Foundry and was very aware that sculpting paid better so I was inspired to start pushing and made my experiments historically-based as I hoped I could get an 'in' at Foundry. Well, the first 'saxon' went okayish and I tried a second. Another saxon/viking type. Foundry were very kind to cast one up for me and I decided to try something else. I decided to sculpt Sherlock Holmes. This figure was the first that, when finished, I felt it was actually a decent figure. The guys at Foundry obviously agreed as they bought the figure from me and gave them away as that year's Salute Limited Edition figure. Not long after this I made the trip to Nottingham to go to work at Foundry as a trainee miniatures designer. This of course goes off into tales of my professional sculpting career and that's not really the point of today's post. So, I'll end with a picture. I'd like to introduce you to the first three 28mm, human sized, miniatures I ever sculpted. Other than Sherlock, I don't think I've ever shown these online. I like to think I've got a bit better since then but I'm still quite proud of them (even if I usually refer to the first as one half of a stretcher party).

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

That whole 'fear miniatures' thing...

I spoke a few days back about that collection of minis that most of us have that we are apprehensive to paint due to their being outside our comfort zone for painting. I suggested that it was a good idea to grab one and give it a shot and have some fun.

I'm not really painting much at the moment as I'm busy with sculpting duties but I felt I should do something in the spirit of this. So, I've started sculpting something that is well and truly outside my comfort zone. Can't tell you anything yet but I just wanted to put in print, so to speak, that I have started this miniature. Hopefully this will spur me on when it's getting tough.

Definitely not saying what it is though...

Now everyone can sit back and say 'well that was a rubbish post'.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Sculpting... Armatures: My way!

I promised a sculpting post a few days back but I've been running around like a headless chicken over Christmas and New Year and haven't had the chance. But anyway, got there in the end and am now able to show you my own technique for making a miniature armature. Not come across any other sculptors working like this but there may well be a few.

This is actually the first piece of sculpting I've done this year and is the start of a commission piece I'm doing for Elodie Mae. Not going to tell you what it is as that's not my place to do but I can tell you it's a female figure.

A little info ahead of time. I sculpt in Epoxy Putty for the most part and this method is probably not so ideal for working in polymer clays such as Fimo or Sculpy. This figure is being sculpted in ProCreate either pure or mixed with Magic Sculp. I also use greenstuff sometimes. Also milliput. Tends to be mood-dependant.

Anyway, the armature. I sculpt my minis on a cork as many sculptors do and I like to glue a sheet of plasticard to the top of the cork to give myself a nice clean surface to work over. I then take a length of 0.7mm garden wire (non-plastic-coated) and cut off a length of it. With some deft use of needle nose pliers I form the pelvis and legs. I drill a couple of holes in the top of the plasticard and press the wire carefully into the cork. This gives you the following...

The significant difference between my way and most others is fairly obvious here; there's no wire for the torso. And there will be none.

My next stage is to mix up some putty. For this first stage I want the putty to set harder than pure ProCreate normally would so I mix it 50/50 with Magic Sculp. I then take a single piece of this and wrap it around the pelvis and form it upwards to form a central torso. At this stage you'll need this piece to form the shape of the spine. This figure is leaning back slightly. We end up with this...

I then let this cure fully so that it will stay put when I add more putty. The inverted V shape of the pelvis armature inside the putty will mean a firm bond that wont move. Next up I add pure Procreate to form some vague areas of shape on the figure. This will all be covered over with subsequent layers but I try to be fairly neat anyway. One piece is added to the top of the torso and I try to make the top straight across to give a decent collar to work around. A blob is added for the core of the figures bottom and then pieces for the upper legs, lower legs and feet. We end up with this as the final 'bulked' armature.

This is allowed to fully cure and I'm then in a good position to start sculpting the figure. For me, the advantage of this system is that I can add wires for the neck and arms later in the process, and not having to worry about drilling in and finding a wire I can't drill through. In making a full armature you have to be sooo careful to get all the limbs absolutely in the right place or the figure will look wrong. This will come with experience but this technique seemed to get me through pretty well when I was less experienced and I've not really felt the need to change exclusively to another technique. I use full armatures sometimes but usually end up coming back to this technique. I use the same technique for 54mm figures, just with thicker wire.

So, there you have it, my way of making an armature. I hope it's been somewhat enlightening to you in some way, shape or form. Personally I have terrible trouble making full armatures by twisting wires together and so, when I do a full one, it tends to be soldered. And that's just a pain as I'm useless at soldering...

And anyone who wants to check out Elodie Mae Miniatures can do so at the following address...

Monday, 3 January 2011

Ah yes, the whole pricing issue...

Well, here's a thorny one for this early in the year. The cost of miniatures. Thorny... and complicated.

There's no doubt that minis are a lot more expensive than they used to be. At the time I joined the hobby I was paying Mr Citadel £1.50 for a pack of three Chaos Warriors or five elves (for example). I remember disgruntled mumblings at the time as, not long before, it'd been 99p for the same packs. We'll split the difference somewhat and call that around 40p a figure when I started. Nowadays, if we talk about metal and resin as plastic is it's own little ballpark, we're looking between £2.00 and £15.00 for a single 28mm figure. That's a wide price bracket and is a vast increase over the prices of the mid eighties. Much further than inflation would suggest but there are other things to consider. Some obvious, some not so much so...

Material costs - Metal prices are skyrocketing, and by a lot more than inflation. Every other day I seem to hear tales of casters paying increasingly huge amounts for raw materials. It adds up though metal is still not the bulk of a minis final retail value...

Retailers - We like our miniatures to be easy to obtain so it's good to have them available at multiple outlets rather than just direct from the manufacturer. This is good. Isn't it Well, it's a two edged sword. On one hand it increases your audience but, on the other, a manufacturer will sell to the retailer for typically 30-50% off the retail value. So, Mr Manufacturer is getting a whole lot less. Margins-wise it's easy to say that the retail cost has to have a profit margin immediately more than the discount they give to the retailer and also the cost of the raw casting (materials and labour, usually shipping too). And you need to make a worthwhile profit on the retailer figures too of course. Figure price inflates. It's easy to say that this is made up for by volume of sales and this would hold true except that retailers are mostly a lot more conservative in their buying than they were, say, ten years ago. There's a lot of stuff for a retailer to carry and they typically can't afford to buy in 25 of each figure at a time. Better to order 5 and reorder when needed. Easy to say just not to use retailers and this, again, seems like wisdom except for the lack of foresight when you suddenly realise that you need retailers because you can't handle it all alone. A good problem to have perhaps but not a good time to suddenly increase your prices by 30% because you need to cover this. Even if you don't plan to use retailers you need to be in a position to change your mind.

Sculptors - We've got to pay them and it's a big investment. Sculpting isn't cheap and, to be fair, most sculptors should probably charge more than they do but it's not practical to do so. It's easy to say that we can play the long game waiting to pay off a figure but the marketplace is so bloated with new figures that you need to be pretty sure you can make that money back and in the short term or, at the very least, the medium. A few of you are probably noting that I sculpt for myself. This is true but I still have to be paid for my sculpt. A sculpt I do for myself is a sculpt I didn't get paid by someone else for.

Making money/Salary - And here's a biggie. We have to make money. Hmm... you know what, there's an issue here that needs to be addressed. In the modern world, many of our mini companies are of the boutique variety and run by individuals. Some are sculptors and some not. But there's a more major issue.

Mini companies as a hobby versus as a career.

A lot of the small boutique companies these days are run as a hobby by people who have a normal day job. These people don't necessarily need to make a large profit so have the option of lower costs. In some cases it's simply a case of someone wanting the figs they want so getting them sculpting and selling to pay for the costs.

Unfortunately some others can't work this way. Some of us made it a career choice and we need to make our money. And life, as you will all be painfully aware, costs. And costs big time. So, we need to cover all our costs, and then some, and then some more. And then we make a pittance. There are very few people making a decent career out of this. And by that I mean more worthwhile than working in a shop or something.

So, a few snippets of info about figure pricing and a final thought to end on...

There's a lot of talk about mini prices but something occurs. Most of the truly successful ranges of recent times aren't the guys cutting every corner to keep the costs minimal. They're the guys who spend the cash to produce the amazing figures and then charge the large amounts for them. It's hard for us entrepreneurs to come to any conclusion other than the decision whether to buy a mini is not made with a customers wallet but with their eyes and heart. It may irk some to see the higher prices but, in the real world, it's these companies that are currently thriving. And for anyone who thinks otherwise I offer them Kingdom Death as an example.

As to whether this business model is to be successful in the long term then who can say. The world has changed before and it will certainly change again. As a famous sci fi scouser once said, 'It's going to be a laugh finding out'.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

A brand new year!

It probably hasn't escaped your notice that we have just ticked over into 2011. Personally I'm laying to rest the ghosts of 2010 which was far from a stellar year in my life. I'm putting many things into motion for 2011 so that I may move forward. If I'm cripplingly honest I'm not getting the best out of myself in my life and now is as good a time as any to get my ass in gear. So, lots of cool stuff up and coming. One of my big decisions was to start a new blog on New Year's Day, and you are reading it right now. In the spirit of not procrastinating I ended up launching a few days early so we're well on our way now.

Anyway, welcome to the new year. I'd like to talk a little about painting fear. Now I plan to talk about this, and a lot of other related issues, in much more depth at a later date but this day felt appropriate to offer a little thought on the subject.

I hear it all the time when reading miniature message boards, especially in the modern age of such amazing, cutting edge sculptures: 'I'm too scared to paint this miniature'. Yes, we've all been there. That fear that we'll make a cock up, ruin an expensive and beautiful figure or that we're just not good enough to do the sculpt justice. So, there's 'that' part of the lead mountain; the one comprised of the amazing figures that can wait until we're good enough. It's quite understandable of course. These top-end figures are often upwards of £10 each and you don't want to have wasted your money. But, you know what? Sculptors make these minis for people to paint and I've never heard of a sculptor who complained that someone ruined their sculpt by painting it. To my knowledge we all like to see people slapping paint on them. It's supposed to be a fun pass time and you shouldn't have to be Jeremie Bonamant before you're worthy to paint a Studio McVey figure (as I'm sure the McVey's would agree). The whole financial investment thing is fine but why not start this year by going to your collection of 'fear figures' and taking just one of them. Paint it! And don't paint it for coolmini scores, or to win a golden demon, or for any other reason than because it's your figure. Paint it to make you happy and try not to fall into the trap of thinking you need to spend hundreds of hours doing so. You know my record for most hours spent painting a miniature? 30 hours... and I consider that a looong time (that figure is my Ogre Mercenary and I won a Golden Demon with it).

So, go ahead, why not take that risk? Grab one of the uber figures and have a blast painting it. It's one figure. Worst case scenario you lose a figure worth £10 or so. Not the end of the world. Far from it and who knows, maybe you'll have fun? Sometimes the minis world seems like it's turning into hard work for hobbyists. We need to stamp that out... before it's too late.

Was that 'before it's too late' dramatic enough to end on? I'm new to blogging, I need your reassurance ;)