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From the painting desk #53 – A cloaker

June 25, 2017

Like most hobbyists (I assume), I tend to buy miniatures that I like. Why bother with rubbish, when I have a backlog of unpainted minis that I’ll never get through? Occasionally I will make an exception, though. This is one of those cases.

What is a “cloaker”? So nice of you to ask, it is a super silly, old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons monster. Its schtick? To disguise itself as a cloak. Quoting from Wikipedia:

The cloaker clings to a wall, hiding among actual cloaks and blankets, resembling a semi-circular cape with a long mace-like tail, and has two claws at the ends of the “cape”. Numerous round black, button-like eye spots help complete the illusion; when the cloaker conceals its tail and claws it is hard to distinguish it from a real cloak.

Yeah.

For the reason I ended up painting a cloaker, we have to backtrack several years. I tended to frequent the Frothers forum, where people would post new miniature releases for often harsh but honest commentary. Up came the Black Tree Design cloaker:

“Wear me, human.”

As you can see, the sculpt is a bit rough, to be extremely kind. From pretty much that day on, “cloaker” became shorthand for a terrible miniature – “That’s dire. A real cloaker.”

Skip forward years and years, and a discussion on the Random Platypus forum – a haunt of many former Frothers – starts. The forum has paint-alongs, where various members paint miniatures that fit a common theme (“Villain” or “Giant”) and share their progress. Thus began the cloaker paint-along.

I’ll be honest with you, the cloaker miniature is terrible. It’s soft, it looks unfinished, it has a weird lumpy base…yet there’s something there. It might be the goofiness of the concept, or the legendary status the miniature has attained, but there is something endearing about it.

The sculpt immediately made me think of this:

With that in mind, I went for a very traditional Dracula cape look, painting the inside a deep red and the rest of the cloak(er) black. As one description of the monster says its claws resemble a clasp made of bone, I painted the claws white. I don’t know if it’s just my imagination or a feature of the sculpt, but I saw a definite widow’s peak and painted that in to further enhance the Dracula look.

Click for a slightly larger version

My paintjob was fairly quick and rough. Yeah, it’s an endearing mini and all, but it was something of a chore to paint, as minis lacking definition can be. Still, I’m pretty happy with the result. With the concept, the big lumpy claws and the buckteeth it was never going to be menacing, so I gave it a goofy, somewhat awkward expression which I think turned out well. The deep red makes the inside look disturbingly fleshy.

So there you have it, a little cloaker of a cloaker and it’s funny and awful and glorious. I kind of love it.

Should you want one of your own, go get it here.

 

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From the painting desk #52 – Maroons

June 18, 2017

Maroons were former enslaved Africans who had escaped captivity. The latest character I wrote for my pirate sourcebook  is a maroon leader, and writing that piece of fiction inspired me to paint a few of my Foundry maroons. I’m glad I did!

They’re great examples of the things I love in Foundry minis, as they were easy and fun to paint, simple but not boring, somewhat uniform but still characterful and unique. Formerly enslaved, I kept their clothing drab and a little dirty. They should contrast well with both the neat, colourful look of wealthier citizens of New Port George and the bright, sometimes showy clothing of my pirates.

Two Wargames Foundry maroons with muskets

Click for a larger version

While the maroons will eventually be their own faction, they’ll be a part of my pirates for now. They’re this year’s painted minis # 9 and 10, and I’m starting to see why my unpainted minis pile keeps growing.

Oh yeah, Maroons was a pretty awesome hip hop group as well.

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Outpost highwaymen size comparison

June 14, 2017

Last week the postman brought me some lovely new minis by Outpost Wargame Services. They’re part of their highwaymen range, which also includes victims as well as characters from the City of Vice TV show. As the range features plenty of suitable minis for my pirate project, I’ve been eyeing them for a year or two now. One thing that has kept me from taking the plunge is the lack of comparison pictures available. While there are some here and there on various blogs, I wasn’t able to find a proper size comparison. This post will obviously remedy that and hopefully help out other people who might be wondering about the size.

Now, this isn’t a comprehensive thing by any means, as I’m just using the miniatures that I happen to have at hand here in Dublin. It does cover a fair few of the most typical pirate ranges though. Also of note is that there is no lovely, handy measuring tool here, nor have I standardized the minis in any way – they are just plonked down on 25mm slottabases with their integral bases intact. The exception to this is the Black Scorpion pirate who doesn’t have an integral base.

Click for a larger version

As you can see, the best matches are Blue Moon and North Star, as Outpost minis are on the chunkier, more cartoony side. This means that Galloping Major and Redoubt 18th century stuff should fit nicely. You can see my previous size comparison with those two manufacturers in this post. Like usual, I will happily use them all together as I’m not picky about 100% size or style matching.

Short and sweet this time, I hope this is of use! I might offer this to OWS just to save others some trouble.

 

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Looking ahead

May 26, 2017

Billy Bones by NC Wyeth

Last night I got to thinking about the future of my pirate project, and figured I’d share some of my plans with you. That way I’ll have them down in writing, too. Having the book project on the go really helps – miniatures inspire me two make up fiction and characters, and vice versa. This stuff might and probably will change as new ideas come up, as these things tend to do. In no particular order:

Port George and New Port George

Instead of having a nice side of town and a shady side of town, they will be two different towns in the fiction. After the original Port George was struck by a heavy epidemic of yellow fever, the better-off residents fled to somewhat higher, drier ground and re-founded Port George, leaving the old town to those too poor or ill to build new houses. In time, pirates and other types settled in and made the old town their own. While the towns are near each other, the residents of New Port George rarely have reason to visit the old town, unless there’s more or less shady business to be done. Even then, they’ll bring protection.

Modelling-wise, I’ll keep on as before. New Port George will have larger, plastered brick houses and a small fort, whereas the old town will have more wooden plank houses, as well as more dirt and decay in general. This way I don’t have to worry about fitting two different styles together.

Maroons

Another faction on the island is a group of maroons – escaped slaves – who have taken up residence in the old, ruined Spanish mission. They mostly keep to themselves, although they do some trading with the pirates. With the new industry plans for the island (see below), the maroons are more than a little riled up, and are bound to cause all sorts of trouble. For miniatures I’ll be using the Foundry minis I bought at Salute a month ago:

© Wargames Foundry

They’re sweet minis, and will find double use as pirates too. My voodoo queen will likely be tied in with them too.

The Spanish mission

Spanish Caribbean buildings with their red pantile rooves are a staple of pirate visuals. I wanted to include them, but also wanted a British town. The solution? Put in an old, deserted 17th century mission town. Not only is this historically plausible, it also gives me the chance to build some Spanish style houses and model an overgrown, somewhat ruined town now inhabited by the maroons mentioned above.

Horrible capitalists

These will be some if not the main antagonists in the setting. They’re wealthy traders who are looking to set up sugar plantations on the island, with all the horrible things they bring along. While I want to address the concept of slavery in the project, I don’t want to dwell on it too explicitly. However, having the drive for building plantations – or maybe the plantations being built – creates suitable tension in my opinion. The traders are trying to pressure the governor, the pirates are disrupting slave trade, the maroons are attacking traders and under construction plantations…there’s plenty here! I have some great minis from Blue Moon that I also bought at Salute, they look haughty and rich and should be a great fit for the job. I might need some henchmen for them as well.

While I don’t want the book to be overtly political, in reality a lot of the pirate issue was about class and race, trade and capital, and I want the book and the project to reflect that – not only for ideological reasons, but historical accuracy as well. It also allows me to posit pirates as the protagonists, which is something I want to do. And of course rich slave traders make for wonderful antagonists.

So, that’s what’s in store. Over two years with this project, and more and more hyped – wonderful!

Pirate illustration: Billy Bones by NC Wyeth, public domain

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From the painting desk #51 – Night watchman

May 19, 2017

Another painted mini, I’m on a roll! This time it’s another civilian, a night watchman from Blue Moon that I bought at Salute. I absolutely love the sculpt, as it has bags of character and great facial features. Additionally the model was one of those that pretty much paints itself and I feel like a produced a nice paintjob with very little work.

Click for a larger version

The model just really sparked my imagination. With his fairly dim lantern and suspicious expression, he’s the guy just about to be taken out after hearing a suspicious sound. In my head I’ve dubbed him Jenkins, for some reason. He’ll be a useful type to have around, whether it’s looking for smugglers, hunting vampires or expecting a pirate raid.

Continuing my efforts to improve my painting, I again paid special attention to the blending, and I think this is some of my smoothest work yet. After much deliberation I even painted some light OSL (object source lighting) effects on the cuff and sleeve of the lantern-carrying arm. Even those turned out nice. So, fun happy times all around!

This was this year’s eighth painted miniature.

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From the painting desk #50 – The Doctor

May 12, 2017

My 50th “From the painting desk” entry is another pirate – so no huge departure from what I’ve been doing for the past years. I was thinking of doing something special for the 50th post in the series (namely, featuring a dragon I painted recently), but life intervened so here we are!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Click for a larger version

It’s a privateer from Black Scorpion. There’s really not much difference between a privateer and a pirate (and many swung between the two), so he’s a lovely fit. I love the model’s posing and general look, as he gives off a great stone-cold killer vibe. I’m planning to branch out into highwaymen at some point, and he’ll fit right in.

Again, I kept the palette toned down and gave the base the “pirate tufts” instead of the flowery ones used on civilians and soldiers. I’m not sure if it shows, but I used the model to practice blending. While I’m happy enough with my level of painting skill, I’ve not noticed much progress in the past years. With this in mind, I’ve begun to consciously learn new stuff – starting from something as elementary as blending. I’m quite happy with the result, and it feels nice to level up my painting a little. Work on this will continue!

My pirates will be taking on Paul’s samurai soon, so I’m currently painting up more pirates with muskets to teach him a lesson. As for the pirate’s name, he has spectacles. It’s obvious he’s a doctor, rather than a dubious marksman.

I think this is miniature #7 of the year, counting the dragon. I’m quite happy with my output here in Dublin so far, so this might actually be a fairly productive painting year!

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From the painting desk #49 – The Gentle Giant

May 8, 2017

When I was little, I was super into pro wrestling. Plenty of superstars stuck in my mind, and quite literally one of the biggest was the late, great André the Giant. While he was a pro wrestling superstar, many also know him from his role as Fezzik in the film Princess Bride. When I saw that Antediluvian Miniatures was releasing a pack of pirates with some very familiar character, I didn’t hesitate to pick them up. It’s great to be able to sort of pay tribute to a childhood hero.

Click for a larger version

It’s a lovely, lovely sculpt and a great likeness. In keeping with the subject matter, he stands head and shoulders over regular 28mm minis. I kept the palette very simple and muted to suggest an unassuming personality, and I think the end result is pretty fitting. The base colour for the pants is Reaper Miniatures’ Master Series HD Rusty Red, and the reason I’m mentioning it is because it’s an awesome paint. Plenty of pigment, great coverage and it’s a lovely shade of…well, rusty red.

In my Port George narrative, Big André is the town’s heavy lifter and odd job man, breaking up fights as a tavern bouncer, hauling crates aboard ships and carrying logwood. While both the various pirate captains and the Port George well-to-do have tried to recruit him as a bodyguard, Big André prefers a modest life of peaceful propriety.

We’re settling in Dublin, and I’ve finally set up the limited painting gear I brought along. Note the street-credible water pot I made from a food tin!

Click for a larger version

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