Monday, 28 February 2011

And then there's Jes...

A little while back I detailed my top 3 sculptors in the world. Well, I've had quite a lot of comment about my choices either on the blog or directly. Nobody has been suggesting that anyone on the list is unworthy but there's one comment that came in a lot: What about Jes Goodwin?

I answered this in my post regarding other sculptors that I admire but felt that this was a good area to expand upon as Jes's place in my favourite sculptors list is a rather different kettle of fish to all the others.

The main upshot is this; my first thought when I hear the name Jes Goodwin is not of his miniatures sculpts but I immediately flash onto his concept art. Jes sculpts supremely well as we all know but, you know what, I think he draws miniatures at least as well as he sculpts them, maybe even more-so. I'm not sure it's possible to overstate the impact Jes's design work has had on the miniatures industry and it's as much in the design as in the execution.

I have Jes's artbook, The Gothic and the Eldritch. It's a fascinating book showing off the incredible work he has produced over the years and perfectly illustrates the level of detail and thought that goes into his work.

The new Dark Eldar range is a monument to forethought in a miniatures range. You can tell that this was not a 'dive in and sculpt' project and that there was a lot more to it than designing the look. The design process asks not just what something looks like but why it does and how it works. Then there's striking the balance of reality and looking good. Your average Space Marine throws accurate human anatomy out of the window but looks great despite this. In Jes's work the balance is always there and there's never the feeling of 'screw it, that'll do'.

So, designer before sculptor. Yes, Jes is a superb sculptor but my consideration is in a wider capacity. A thought occurred to me after my top sculptor posts. What about a different criteria. What if you take the sculptor and force them to produce in a creative vacuum so to speak. I mean you lock them away with no outside influences. No concepts feeding them. Nobody else's ideas. Just the sculptor in a room with the brief 'make great miniatures'. So, who would be the best in the world then?

To me that's an easier question to answer.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Six years til doomsday... maybe...

I read a very interesting article this morning by my good friend Tears of Envy. You can check out her awesome blog at the link just below. I'd encourage you to pop over and have a read of said article. Then I would like you to return for my thoughts on the matter (after bookmarking her blog for future reference of course).

Tears of Envy - Six years left

So, six years left huh? Well, she makes a compelling argument... and I wholeheartedly disagree. I'm even going to pretend that it isn't in any way to do with my making a living out of said industry...

I've heard it a lot these last few years; the whole 3d printers thing being one of the major thrusts and how they'll end up in the home as I'm sure they will. Of course the whole video games thing is the other prong of the assault and touchscreen technology is already at a point where you could effectively have a game of virtual Warhammer. There's truth in all of this. However, I see the timeline laid aout as a rather intellectual assumption and I keep coming back to a core issue...

As a species we are not ruled by our minds, we are ruled by our hearts.

My mind says that this timeline makes perfect sense and why would I want to bother with the whole toy soldiers thing when the virtual equivalent is more convenient and accessible? It also makes intellectual sense that there would be a rebellion against this (the retro movement) who would initially support the traditional end of things but be non-sustainable in favour of what seems to be a 'better' alternative.

But I think the nature of the virtual wargame loses sight of the fact that we are hardwired to place more interest in a physical object before us than a picture on a screen. There's a tactile nature to it and a reality to a toy soldier that is rather akin to the situation where, despite it being technically less impressive, we still prefer Yoda as a puppet to his digital counterpart. For this point I seriously can't see a touchscreen style wargame having a major, major effect on tabletop wargaming. They are very much two different things.

And then there's the 3d printing. Yeah, this is going to get bigger and I can see the potential in sculptors selling downloadable mini patterns for home printing. I also see the potential for piracy here. If this market area opens up there will be piracy but then I look to the current downloadables market. There are two main areas here: music and apps. Both have a serious amount of piracy. However, neither are actually being wiped out by them. Vendors are starting to learn that the trick is a new business model. They're scared to make the leap but not having to physically manufacture a product means that they never have to guess numbers to make. It's fully scaleable and requires less investment. It also has less potential to lose money and instead tends to be more a case of not making much profit as a downside. Given the choice I'd prefer low profits over a loss. So, clever marketers of downloadable items sell them cheap. Usually really cheap. I'd like to take the game Angry Birds as an example. It costs next to nothing and this has a curious effect. You find the app and decide you want it. Even people who will usually illegally download will often just click 'buy' as it's less money than buying a coffee and the cost outweighs the effort of finding a pirate copy. Some will pirate anyway but Angry Birds shows this is not necessarily a barrier to success.

So, downloadable minis might not be killed by piracy as much as may seem likely but let's assume it is. What happens then? Well, I kind of see that the good sculptors will dump the system in favour of traditional sculpting creating two separate marketplaces: a cheap downloadables market with a lot of poor quality sculpts that will slowly erode and an emerging new market of traditionally cast miniatures. I say cast rather than sculpted as there's a good chance that these will be often mastered via 3d software and digital printing but then sold as physical product. This would likely be a premium market but I think it will be supported by the global internet community as it is right now and have matured into a more stable area after a chaotic period of time where tradition and technology learn to sit alongside each other as allies instead of enemies.

And I come back to a fundamental. As a miniatures community we like toy soldiers and I think at it's heart we like the analogue nature of sculpture, conversion, painting and so on. It creates connection in a way that a video game or a downloadable colour printed miniature does not. I look at recent precedent: pre painted plastic minis. They all said it would kill games like Warhammer. They all said taking the painting out would have the customers deserting traditional minis in droves. And yet, day after day I see small children having painting lessons in Games Workshop stores, learning how to get their Ultramarines ready for the tabletop. It's primal, in the same way as giving a toddler an electronic toy and all he wants to do is play with the box it came in. It's imagination, creativity, problem solving and social interaction. Above all, it's real.

And as for the ultimate argument of technology killing traditional methods I look to painting. Not miniature painting but painting pictures. From an intellectual standpoint photoshop and a Cintiq style tablet is better than canvas, paint and brush. Infinite reworkability, the undo button, zoom in, no working times, digital transmission for delivery. The list goes on. But people still paint and it's not really much of a shrinking area. In illustration there's something of a shift but in art? Not really. There's something about the reality that outstrips it's superficially superior digital cousin. It's a barrier that I don't think technology will ever truly vault.

In six years times maybe a little more difficult in the minis industry but I feel confident that in twelve it'll be a buoyant and wonderful place.

I've had a wonderfully fun time over the last few hours thinking about this issue so thanks to Tears of Envy for giving me something to ponder over...

Friday, 25 February 2011

11 o'clock...

It's around 11pm on a Friday night. It's relatively quiet save for the sounds of a few drunken idiots at the end of the road hurling abuse at each other. Not an unusual occurrence at all. It's been a fairly non-productive evening if I'm being honest. I've generally lazed around, watched an episode of House (was a good one), ate a few things that my waistline will not appreciate and ended up sat in front of the computer with my headphones on with flitting from song to song via iTunes.

Admittedly not the stuff legendary Friday nights are made of but then I was never really the paint the town red type (these days I'm lucky if I'm painting a mini red).

Like most people I have mad ideas going around my head. At this hour, late enough that my mind is in creative but not blitzed mode, I find the frame of mind where mad ideas seem like good ideas. The quiet hour where sensible ideas go to die and there's the nagging voice of 'why not?'.

So, why not?


I think I might leave this blog post as it is and go nowhere further with it. But the idea might bleed into tomorrow. You can never tell. All those ideas that seemed like good ones the night before. At 11 o'clock they might just be workable. Just don't go near the 2am ideas. That way lies madness indeed.

Ramble... mutter... thinking...

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

On influences...

I've talked about my favourite sculptors on here recently but there's another, related, topic that I thought I might bring up: influences. I started sculpting in 1999 and, as we all do, I tended to look at other artists' work to work out how I should do things.

I kind of churned through my first few sculpts with no real thought as to the style as I was preoccupied with actually managing to finish the figs. Brian Ansell remarked that there was a similarity to early Jes Goodwin in them. Quite a compliment to the work and curiously there doesn't seem to be much of that left in my current style...

It was when I went to work at Foundry that I started to look at other sculptor's ways of doing things and applying them to my own figures. In those early days I often looked at the works of Chris Fitzpatrick whose sculpting I greatly admired for it's paintability. Chris's work is very, very clean and rewards clean painting without needing to resort to drybrushing. I'd also often look at Kev White's work from Void which was in it's early stages at the time. I liked the clean simplicity of the troopers again yet without any compromise in character. Obviously, working at Foundry, Mark Copplestone was an influence as his stuff was everywhere though less so with the Perry Twins' work as their sculpting style is rather different to my approach.

I turned a few corners after looking a lot at Mike Owen's work on the Foundry Old West range. Mike was doing a lot of work with sweeping coats and I really liked the style of drapery. It was a nicely dramatic look on the figures and it's one of the things that I feel has always stuck in my work. I do like those sweeping lines on a figure. And I forever looked at Brian Nelson's work as probably the greatest example of the style I'd like to sculpt in. I'm a huge fan of Brian's earlier work. I loved how unrestrained it was.

My own style really started coming out with the launch of Spyglass Miniatures in 2003. I saw the style as a fusion of Mark Copplestone and Kev White, and generally trying to be Brian Nelson. I kept the figures on a tight scale rather than scale creeping to huge sizes.

Really, I've kept in this kind of style area for most of the rest of my career to present. In recent times I've experimented a bit with other styles though. My recent 28mm zombies have a more more reality-based look with proper proportions and a lot more texture after looking at the works of sculptors like Paul Muller and Raul Garcia Latorre.

Currently I'm playing with secret projects that are me playing in a different style sandpit again. Lots of fun stuff... but that's a tale for another day...

Friday, 18 February 2011

Getting paid to make and sell minis...

Another money post today. I'd suspect that this is the evil exact opposite of the last one though. Before it was daydreams and the fun of being rich, today we're onto harsh reality...

This is, in many ways, a very tough industry to be in. Scarily I can say both that it's very expensive to run a minis company and yet I can also say that many sculptors and painters are paid less than they are truly worth. Very few minis companies make any kind of money at all. For some this isn't a huge issue as some companies are run as hobbies but, for others, they have made selling minis their livelihood and I've noticed a tendency amongst some upon the net that rather irks me. In a heroic fashion, the minis buying public are often there to support a minis company that is in financial trouble (it can happen and I've been there) and I applaud anyone who will stand up like this but there's another side that sometimes raises it's head. There does seem to be a sector of the public that actively complains when a minis manufacturer does make money. Details of the sales numbers of a hot mini get out and people start doing the sums. Maybe a figure made thousands and somehow that is sick and the manufacturer is ripping the public off. Now often there is the case to say that there are more hidden costs than are directly thought of (anyone who doesn't have their income tax deducted automatically may not know the shock and pain of getting a bill for a huge chunk of your yearly earnings) but, let's forget that and just go to 'they made a fortune off this mini'. Maybe they continue to. Let's just say that a boutique range makes a hundred thousand in profit in a year. Can't imagine anyone is even close to that but it's an extreme example. Frankly, I say, good on them? Personally I like the success stories. Especially when said success stories are giving us awesome product.

Steve B is not earning 100K, but thinks it would be nice...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Mmm... money....

I often daydream. It's a terrible affliction, or at least it is if you have a tendency towards procrastination. One of the classics is how would my minis company go if I 'had money'. How much? Well, if I could pretty much do whatever I wanted and largely without worrying about making a huge profit. Though I'd assume that I'd have to find some commerciality to it or it'd just be an expensive hobby instead of a business. But what would I do.

Well, I probably wouldn't sculpt much. I'm probably not the only sculptor who isn't overly enamoured with the actual process of sculpting day in, day out. That would end up an occasional thing. Instead I'd be constantly on the hunt for mad sculptors who I could give mad ideas to and let them run in crazy directions, just to see where it would lead. I can imagine some amazing miniatures ending up being made this way. Kind of a reverse Chinese Whispers where the concept grows with each piece of the puzzle. My ideas going to a concept artist who has power to pick and choose my ideas and embellish to their own whims and then onto a great sculptor who is under orders not to be constrained by the artwork. With real money behind me and no worry about conquering the world, I could probably offer above their rates to let them go totally nuts.

The blank canvas... Ah, I've talked much of blank canvas miniatures over the years. I love the vibe of Mithril Miniatures though not so much the execution and I'd love to do a range along those lines, possibly stretching the blank style yet further to truly create a canvas for confident painters to show off. A man can dream...

Gothic Horror Fantasy. An idea I've always loved and something that I may explore a little. My zombies are a step in that direction but I'd love to cut loose and do something 100% more bonkers and have wonderful artists painting crazy scenes of deadites, witch hunters, possessed windmills, mad arcanist scientists and their insane creations all wrapped in blackened iron fences and twisted thorns and ivy. Something to inspire me beyond my wildest nightmares.

It could be a life of miniatures from off the map, mock leather bound rulebooks telling stories with hidden meanings, dragons and monsters from the darkest depths of the world... and probably a new Shae.

And me at the centre, lost in my little world of little models... maybe messing about with a paintbrush between weaving my web...

... if I had the money.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Been sculpting zzzombies...

Well, a current project of mine has dropped into a state of... well... lets just say I needed a little break from it. So, I rummaged around my box of unfinished minis and dug up (yup) a couple of zombies I'd started way back when. I've spent the last few days finishing them off. They're both around the 32mm mark and are sculpted using ProCreate. Yes, those are metal hands of the big guy, they were culled from previous zombies...

Click for slightly bigger pic.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Best sculptor. Fallout...

Well, I have now named JAG, Brian Nelson and MIKH as my best sculptors in the world. It was, of course, a difficult and close decision. I'd like to use today's post to name a few of the sculptors who I bumped off the list but whom I genuinely admire and, on any given day, could sneak into that list of three...

Jes Goodwin: Jes is the man as we all know. A staggering genius of the minis world and, I'm sure, a lot of you must have been expecting him to be on my top three. Well, Jes is a superb sculptor but I don't think that is his true talent. Jes is the best pure miniatures concept designer in the world. He draws miniatures even better than he sculpts them and his understanding of the medium is unparalleled. But this was best sculptor, not necessarily best designer. Though Jes is certainly that.

Alex Hedstrom: Alex, as I understand it, has totally left physical sculpting behind in favour of digital work and he's showing himself to be the most capable in the world in that medium right now. I thoroughly believe that Alex will be up there with my top three very soon. His digital work is astounding and the only reason he's not on my list now is that there's not enough of it yet. But those Space Hulk Terminators are remarkable in their design.

Kev White: Kev's a machine. Nobody that good should be so prolific. Over the years of his company Hasslefree we've seen him go from damned good sculptor right up to the bleeding edge of sculpting without sacrificing the core style he works in or resorting to detail gimmicks. His works are complete and beautifully thought out. And his command of anatomy is as good as you'll see anywhere.

Juan Diaz: Another master of single character figures. Juan has emerged as 'the' guy for sculpting Space Marine characters over the last few years. Possibly my biggest minis disappointment of last year was finding out he hadn't sculpted a new Mephiston for the Blood Angels. Man, I'd love to have seen that... and preferably in resin. Juan is, of course, superb in many other areas than Space Marines and he's responsible for the Lord of the Rings single category at Golden Demon being almost completely populated by Arwen figures.

Allan Carrasco: Allan tends to let a little madness run in his work and I love it. There's something about his work that makes me think that if I look away it'll start moving. It's a little unnerving...

Tom Meier: I couldn't leave Tom off the list. There's nobody anywhere with his command of greenstuff. What Tom can do with epoxy putty is as close to black magic as anything I've ever seen. No one details a mini like Tom Meier.

Nick Bibby: It's a shame he left our industry all that time ago but Nick is still the man when it comes to the monstrous. For my thoughts on Nick you have only to read my post about the Great Spined Dragon.

I've probably managed to leave a lod of sculptors off that list that I'll be thinking about later but that's always the way with this kind of thing. So much choice of awesome sculptors and picking three was always going to be tough.

I'll leave you with one final thought. I've talked of the best in the world and so on... but who's the next big thing? So, one final selection.

Andrew Rae: Andrew is relatively new to the scene as a pro sculptor but you can see the potential. He's already producing amazing works. He's switched from epoxies to polymer clays and is going from strength to strength as we see his confidence grow from mini to mini. I think this guy is going to be a big deal not too far down the road and he's just waiting for that one project that will express his fullest potential.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Best Sculptor in the World: Post 3...

So far, JAG and Brian Nelson have made my three best list and there's one spot left. Who gets the final spot. Well, for me, the final spot had to go to someone whose work constantly astounds me. Ladies and Gents, I give you MIKH.

I watched a Miniature Mentor video of MIKH at work and he shares the secret of his amazingly precise and refined work. It's not a trick though, he just takes the time to make it perfect. From what I hear, often a long time and the results show in his work. I also love that in the modern minis world of that constant striving for total realism, MIKH's work maintains a character and exist as an extension of the old-school styles of mini sculpting; Classical but on a totally different level. I see these works and it makes me want to weep at times...

This forst example of his works is a Templar Knight type from the game Hell Dorado. It's a wonderfully characterful miniature and it screams with drama without resorting to any cheap tricks or fudging of details. Plus it shows something that still baffles me. I've tried sculpting in Fimo as MIKH does and I have found, as most others have, that it's nearly impossible to sculpt chainmail in the material. I think there's one reason why Rackham avoided it like the plague on their figures. But here it is. Perfectly sculpted chainmail in Fimo and, not only that, it's over the curved surface of his head. That's brutally awkward to get looking right. I own this figure and it's truly lovely. And, shockingly, smaller than it looks.

Here we have an Orc from Warcraft. Now the Warcraft style isn't something I'm especially interested in but look at the craftsmanship and the clean lines. There are just no cut corners here. In other views there is detail on the hammer than looks like it was milled by machine such is the level of precision.

This figure from the boardgame Claustrophobia shows that MIKH is never hiding the sound fundamentals of sculpting behind a facade of details. It's a simple sculpt but has a finish and character that is rarely equalled (check out the work on the arms).

Finally, take a look at this closeup of MIKH's sculpt for John Blanche's Femme Militant line. I'm glad I never saw this before sculpting my addition as I'd probably have been too scared to participate (actually that's not true. I'd still have sculpted the figure but the thought would have occurred). There's just so much going on here. Textures, details and silky smooth skin. My only disappointment n this figure is that, to my knowledge, she never saw production as I'd love to have grabbed one. And then been scared to paint it (and then I'd better read my old post on fear miniatures).

Really, I only have one problem with MIKH's work at all, and it's not really a problem as such. For the most part MIKH has worked on projects that don't really interest me especially. I'm not really into straight sci fi so Infinity never appealed, nor Warcraft. Hell Dorado had some interesting pieces and I have the Templar as mentioned. So, my biggest problem is I haven't seen MIKH sculpting on the ranges I'm into. I'm sure the time will come...

So, that's my three best. I'll be following up with a post talking in brief about the many sculptors whose work I love but didn't make my final list. Because it could easily have been my twenty favourite sculptors, but that would have gone on forever...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Best Sculptor in the World: Post 2...

And here we have the midway point on my little list and the unveiling of sculptor number two. For my second choice I will be taking you to the largest miniatures company in the world and to the hallowed design studio of Games Workshop to talk of none other than Brian Nelson.

My first experience of Brian's work came in 1996 when I was working in the promotions department of Games Workshop's factory in Eastwood. I was working on the Citadel Journal at the time and a small bag of new Orc figures was delivered to Paul Sawyer, who was editor of the Journal at the time. Three Orc Big Uns from the new guy in town and they just screamed with raw energy but still neat, tidy and very paintable. I kept an eye on this guy...

The above figure is typical of the work I truly admire from Brian. It's a very simple figure at it's heart but has all the character that you could wish for and still has the dramatic presence needed for a leader type. I painted this figure for Golden Demon a number of years ago with a minor conversion to make him a Commissar and he was just a dream to paint. One of my favourite miniatures of all time. You can see my paintjob on him on coolminiornot at this link.

This figure is not actually one of my favourites of Brian's but it illustrates perfectly an area where his talent truly shines. Brian maybe the best in the world at designing plastic miniatures. The guy has proven time and time again an immense understanding of the processes of injection plastic tooling which is a truly arcane science. He is a master of the plastics puzzle in making figures that aren't compromised by the blank areas normally apparent on plastics due to the limitations of the moulding process. This Griffon is a snap together and the Griffon itself is just four pieces and I believe six overall which is just jawdropping for such a complex, three dimensional piece. Crazy, and my hat is permanently tipped in Brian's direction for such achievements. For more examples of his tooling genius look at the plastic Ogres (in particular the Leadbelchers), the Warhammer Giant or the pile of corpses on the Corpse Cart.

Now we take a jump back to his early work and this awesomely understated but powerful Orc Shaman. For my money one of the greatest Orc figures ever sculpted. I even managed to win Gold in 40K Single Figure way back in 1997 with a conversion of this figure. Again, there's no wasted motion here but the figure feels three dimensional and deeply characterful.

And, you know, Brian is versatile. I haven't even touched on his work on the Lord of the Rings license. Brian sculpted the original metal Fellowship of the Ring plus the Heroes of Helms Deep. Check out the original Theoden figure for one of the greatest likenesses I've ever seen (and check out Bilbo while you're at it). And look at the Bretonnian Sorceress with sword, or Archaon or... or... well I could go on forever.

Brian, for me, is the best sculptor in the world of figures in the gaming style rather than the boutique style (though his work on John Blanche's Femme Militant suggests he'd be brilliant there too) and he's the master of plastics work (I'm waiting to see more of Alex Hedstrom's work after Space Hulk showed an incredible talent there but I need more data).

People know I have quite old-school tastes and, for that reason, Brian is the sculptor I'd most like to have sculpting an entire range for me. Doesn't look likely though...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Best Sculptor in the World : post 1...

And here is the first of my three 'Best Sculptor in the World' posts. It's not a top three and they are in no particular order. I should also clarify that when I talk of sculptors beyond the obvious 'I'm talking miniature sculptors as in our hobby' I should also say that I'm sticking to 25-54mm as any smaller or larger tends to be a slightly different skillset. Plus these scales are what I know.

So, here's the first and probably no surprise. He's been described as the world's best miniature sculptor many times now and his name? Jacques Alexandre Gillois (also known as JAG).

It's no exaggeration to say that JAG is THE sculptor of the moment and I suspect he is saught after by practically every high-end miniatures commissioner in the world. In the pure sense of sculpture I'd suggest that he shows no real weaknesses. He sculpts believable, natural and finely detailed pieces with a visceral impact and without the cold sterility that can plague this sculpting style. The above figure, from Studio McVey is just so beautifully rendered, crisp, clean and stands as one of the most impressive sculpts I have ever seen.

This second piece, another from Studio McVey is, genre-wise, not quite of interest to me but just look at that dino; again it looks so natural and real but dynamic and fun. The dino is a totally different sculpting challenge and JAG just knocks it out of the park.

Finally I'd like to share one of the pieces from JAG's breakout period. It was the range of Vorag Barbarians for Ilyad Games (now sadly defunct and the miniatures OOP) and shows the incredible eye for muscle detail and dynamics that JAG possesses. A thunderously impact of a piece.

I've watched JAG sculpt via his Miniature Mentor video and it was something of a shock to me. I'd always assumed he was a very meticulous and precise sculptor in his approach as this is what we see in his final designs but it was a shock to see him working like a canvas painter practically throwing the clay around and showing what looked to be quite a messy process until he finally refines to this incredible finish. There's a fiery, natural talent here to be that confident in the process. I can't help but feel that JAG is the Frank Frazetta of sculptors.

I will return soon to reveal my second choice. My second choice is another genius of the sculpting world though he's producing quite different product to JAG...

The above Studio McVey figures are available at and JAG has his own website at

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Top three...

For the next few blog posts I am going to be taking a look at that old chestnut, who is the best sculptor in the world (I would expect I'll get to best painter at some point as well).

But what criteria should be considered for such a choice. Should it be their technical skill, ability with natural pose, dynamics, animation, flair, paintability, character? Lots of choice and reasons to choose. Of course, when narrowing down, you're looking at all of the above and more. And then it's always difficult to choose just one. So, I'm going to wimp out and choose three. The three best sculptors in my opinion. They will be in no particular order because, if they were, then it'd be easy to take the number one spot and just choose that one.

I may then follow up with another post or two about other sculptors I admire for one reason or another...

So, I will leave you with an annoying lack of content in today's post and instead tease the next: my first choice in the 'best sculptor' category. All I'll say is that this choice will probably surprise very few...

Sunday, 6 February 2011


I've been on house tidying duties over the last couple of days. This morning my work desk got 'the treatment' and, as it's looking nice and neat I thought I'd show you where I do my sculpting at the moment.

It's a rather smaller space than you might expect but I try to keep it fairly contained. The grand tour goes as such.

For lighting I have a single angle-poise lamp which has two bulb options at the moment. Currently it's using an incandescent 100 watt daylight bulb. At this time of year I'm glad of the amount of heat it kicks out and the lamp itself is designed to handle larger bulbs (most are limited to 60 watt and I've burned a few out in the past). For summer months I switch to a daylight fluorescent bulb which stays nice an cool.

The second lamp runs a regular 60 watt reflector bulb and I use it to speed up the curing of epoxy putty projects when required.

To the right I have a stack of drawers to keep all my... err... crap in and it doubles as a stand for my laptop which gives me access to the net for references and provides my entertainment (usually US sitcoms in vast doses).

Pinboard for other references.

Box of tools (naturally).

My Optivisor is hung on the wall for easy access. I use this if I need to do very fine detail work or require extra precision.

To the left you'll notice a curved piece of paper has been blutacked into place. This is my emergency photo booth. With a quick twirl (and 1980s style transforming sound) my lamp springs into action for me to take quick photos. Handy for WIPs to send out to clients.

Pics are taken with my iPhone as it's very convenient and, shockingly, it takes decent mini pics... see below.

So, that's the grand tour. It'll get a lot less tidy in the nearest of futures...

Friday, 4 February 2011

Musings on the denizens of the Hellpit...

Today I'd like to be horribly unfashionable and talk a little about a recent release from Games Workshop. The model in question is the Skaven Hellpit Abomination. I'm not going to delve into it's usefulness on the battlefield or even talk a whole lot about the miniature itself. Suffice to say it's a big and ugly piece of work and falls squarely into the love it/hate it sector of the market. I rather like it myself but that's not the point of the exercise this night.

Put simply, the Hellpit Abomination is a marvel of plastic tooling technology. I'll not pretend to be utterly fluent in the language of injection plastic tooling but I know enough of the ins and outs of the process to know that this is really something special.

According to the box, the figure was sculpted by Seb Perbet who has done a great job of creating a biological mass of unspeakable horribleness which pretty much achieves what it said on the tin. What truly impresses is the ingenious level of how it breaks down into components and the ease of sticking it together. Everything fits with a near perfect 'snap' and cleanup required is retty minimal given the nature of the kit. The difficulty of a kit of this nature in plastic is the process of casting the model in a solid steel mould instead of the rubber moulds used for either resin or metal processes. This means that the plastic figure must be designed without 'undercuts'. An undercut is actually a fairly difficult thing to describe quickly but essentially it boils down to a component only having detail in one plane. Basically the front and the back can have detail but the sides cannot have any recessed detail or the figure would get stuck in the steel mould due to it not flexing like rubber. Look at a plastic figure and turn it sideways. Note how the detail basically vanishes or generally looks weird. That's due to the process of zero-undercut sculpting. It's something of a science and GW have a few sculptors who are superb at this process to the point where it is not overly noticeable.

Seb has done a spectacular job of designing a figure that has little in the way of compromise for undercuts due to the complexity of the way that the figure has been cut into components. I can barely imagine the head scratching that must of gone on trying to work out the optimum way for this figure to break down and exactly where the detail compromises could be made and where they couldn't. This is as near to black magic as sculpting gets and I don't envy Seb and the toolmakers task at all.

But I wanted to publically write of the astoundment I experienced in assembling this behemoth. In it's concept it's always going to be a figure that divides opinion but technologically? This, my friends, is art.