Painting 5.4 – The odd couple…

   Merry Christmas all !

It’s so nice to be past the madness of the commercial side of Christmas and the pressure of family get-togethers. Now it is just holidays, which for me is a long period to do all of the things I really enjoy and frequently don’t have time to focus on for more than a short period of time.

I’ve nearly completed my large group of Undead figures, and I felt I’d do a blog post now. The final figure is the “Mouth of Sauron” (Lord of the Rings) and I’m making up the colour scheme as I go along… plus there’s at least 50 eyes on his armour.

The Vampire was mostly painted about 4 weeks ago and just finished off over the last week. The Wraith has been done over the past week and completed this afternoon. I think the flash on my camera makes everything look a bit brighter than the colours really are, but it does bring out detail and highlights that might not be noticed otherwise.

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The vampire’s upset ’cause some-one stole his shoes!

VAMPIRE: He is mostly painted with a Humbrol Turquoise – it’s not really a light blue like it appears in the images.

There’s green in the folds of the cloth and I think I gave him a bit of a black wash early on to darken the holes and “rents” in his robe. The edges of the robe – sleeves and neck – were first done in dark brown, then my basic red over the top. A bit of a brown wash to darken edges. The belt was also done with brown, then over the top in gold and then silver studs. The brooch at his throat was originally done in silver, but I wasn’t happy with the way it looked, so I put a hint of gold on that too. White over the skull, then a black wash to fill in the eye sockets and a touch of white again around the front of the skull.

I had feared that you wouldn’t be able to tell what he was holding – since unpainted (and with the skull upside down) it looked quite odd – but the detail has come out with painting! Red eyes, mouth and then white teeth, then touch ups to bits I could see needed it. As usual the photos show small details that I can go and “adjust” before a spray of varnish tomorrow – particularly the touch of red paint on the left hand and a little more flesh on the right ear. (I’ll try a wash there to detail the ear more too.)

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Does the wraith keep his eyes in the back of his head?

WRAITH: I’ve really liked this figure since I bought it a couple of decades ago. I feel that I’ve now done it justice!

I had no good idea as to colours for this figure. I felt it should be dark, but I didn’t want all blacks or dark greys. I started with a pale gray (Field Stone) over the robes, then two black washes that worked really well at darkening the colour and bringing out the folds in the cloth. I then did the arm and leg wrappings (they look a bit like bandages on a mummy) in a mid-green (Viridian) and then black wash over that too. Violet on the cloak and a couple of black washes over that too. It’s really a dark matt look – not as shiny (or quite as bright) as in the images. Burnt sienna on the boots, then a black wash. I’d originally thought of making them darker, but the colours were all working for me, so they just got a grey wash to “dirty” them a little.

Mostly black inside the hood and the cloak behind the legs. I didn’t want to introduce another colour, so just used a mid grey for the gloves. Dark brown on the belt, edged with gold, white on the skulls holding the cloak and silver on the throat medallion. The silver was too similar to the white skulls, so that got a coat of gold like the belt. Bronze on the sword hilt and a touch of silver at the base of the blade.

I recalled seeing something on painting flame and spent 30 min+ this morning trawling all the figure painting blogs I follow to try and find it, and couldn’t. In the end I did a google search and found it on YouTube. Many thanks to T4G Painting Tips {Tale of 4 Geeks} and also Fantization {Steve Petry} for a guide to fire effects! Basically: white base coat, yellow, orange (I used a fluro red) then red. I’m very pleased with this as a first attempt. The sword is only 13mm long and I have to take my glasses off to paint figures {my focal point has changed and new glasses are VERY expensive), so any better detail is probably beyond me at this stage.

The photo’s show me a few more touch ups to do tomorrow and I’m not happy with the base. I might give it a flagstone effect and darken it a little – it’s a greenish-gray now (Field grey) – then edge it in black, or try to “fit” it into one of my regular 25mm circular plastic bases. It’s a metal figure and stands well on its own, but I’d like to raise it slightly higher off the ground and have a wider base.

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When the phone rings in the evening…

Today was the the first proper day of my Christmas holidays and annual leave…

It was a delight to go back to bed after feeding the chickens!

I’ve enjoyed a large breakfast, read (Chimera, Rob Thurman), watched two movies (R.I.P.D. with Ryan Reynolds & Jeff Bridges, and Hercules – the one with Dwayne Johnson), played World of Warcraft (Troll Hunter on Uther), criticised an incompetent Estate Agent (I spoke to the manager), taken joy in phoning a gas company (to say the bill I received relates to someone else), walked with the chickens, changed a light bulb, de-fragged my computer drives, had home-cooked fried noodles for dinner (my wife is Chinese), and booked the car in for a service. No more figure painting yet… that starts again tomorrow!

At 5.45pm tonight the phone rang…

There are expectations when the phone rings between 5 and 7pm – especially on a weeknight:

There’s a small chance that it could be my mother calling (memories of a Police song just went through my head), it might be a mate who rings weekly (sometimes more often) hoping I’ll arrange a get together on the weekend, or as it is most of the time, a person with an African accent pretending that they are in Australia representing some company doing a survey, installing lights/solar panels/other crap, or to tell me my computer is infected with a virus…

Depending on my mood – the rubbish calls either

(1) get told where to go fairly quickly,

(2) I ask for clarifications they can’t give me (I studied I.T. at University and know my way around a computer)

or (3) I’ll lead them on for as long as possible. One of the best nights was where I was on the phone for 30 minutes plus, and spoke to 9 different people – I kept saying “I can’t understand your accent – do you have someone who speaks better English?”

Tonight I got an American accent (which is very different) and they got my name right after I answered (extremely unusual). Then they said they were from a publishing agent. <is this a fake call after all?> I can play along with that…

She asked if I had a time-lime for the completion of my novel. <Now pick me up from the floor>

The call didn’t get much further because I was so flustered, and I said it wasn’t something I was focused on at the moment and had a few chapters but didn’t know when I’d finish. She said she emailed me something and I could give her a call back if I was getting somewhere. After hanging up I wished I’d paid more attention because she mentioned a hotmail address, and I cancelled that months ago. I also can’t remember the company name.

I AM writing a novel.

I’ve been working on a fantasy novel for years, but haven’t really done any work on it this year. I’ve got 6+ chapters typed out, and lots of notes. Last year’s bout of creativity produced more notes, guidelines, background and character detail rather than actual story writing, when I wasn’t re-writing some of the oldest material. Most of my stuff is typed into the computer (and backed up) but I’ve also got a folder of hand-written stuff.

I need to continue overhauling and expanding my detail on the “Book of Lore” that is the basis for the Kingdom’s rules and customs, and redefining my political scene, to make the set up for the adventure more “realistic”.

Novel summary – The King of Kalindal and his heir have both died recently and there’s five candidates for the throne. Rather than have an election, an old rule is used to start a challenge. Three of the candidates head to a nearby mountain that contains a magical creature, seeking a token of the guardian. One of the candidates has hired an assassin.

The book primarily follows a young noble woman and her male guardian/friend as they learn the secrets of the “Caverns of Rahlt” (named after the Wizard who trapped the creature) and hope to make her Queen. I have very different ideas on presenting my assassin (compared to anything I’ve read before) and an interesting magical weapon.

My D&D background initially influenced a lot of ideas and characters, but its grown a long way beyond that especially after I collected nearly all the Darkover Series (Marion Z. Bradley) and read the Riven Codex (David Eddings).

Now, if I can just sit down and start typing again… (Maybe some of those evenings when my wife is watching Korean TV series)

and hopefully the email bounces and the woman phones me back!

Exploring Metafunctions – The Saga of the Exiles & The Galactic Milieu

In the mid to late 1980’s a book titled “The Many Coloured Land” by Julian May, found me.

This introduced a set of widely different characters – misfits in a future society – who travel back 6 million years into Europe’s past. Like most novels I read in the 80’s and 90’s I found one character in particular that resonated with the way I was feeling. (Bryan Grenfell) Beyond that, I loved the ideas of a futuristic “world”, the time-travel to the past and particularly the mind-powers of many of the peoples in the book. I got the other three books in the Exile series as soon as I could and loved the lot.

Later, May wrote a new book called “Intervention” which described the build up to and contact (or revealing) by the other races in the galaxy, much of which relates to the human development of mind-powers. This was followed by the Galactic Milieu trilogy that detailed the development of the relationships between species and introduction to the larger society of all beings. In each of these four books, the story is wound around the lives of the Remillard family, who produce the most powerful mind-powers and both aid & threaten the whole galactic stability. (These four books are actually a prequel to the Saga/Exiles series.)

Recently I decided to re-read the entire set of eight books, and I chose to do it in chronological order by the events in the books, rather than the order I had originally read them – as they had been written/published. I won’t recommend reading them as Exile Saga then Galactic Milieu or vice versa. Both ways “work” and offer insights to the other books. Make your own choice!

Intervention (1987)                                                              Earth 1945 – 2013

Jack the Bodiless (Galactic Milieu #1, 1991)                        2040 – 2054

Diamond Mask (Galactic Milieu #2, 1994)                            2062 – 2077

Magnificat (Galactic Milieu #3, 1996)                                   2078 – 2083

The Many Coloured Land (Saga of the Exiles #1, 1981)     “2110” (6 million years BC)

The Golden Torc (Saga of the Exiles #2, 1982)                   “2110-2111”

The Non Born King (Saga of the Exiles #3, 1983)               “2111”

The Adversary (Saga of the Exiles #4, 1984)                      “2111”

There are five categories of ‘metapsychic‘ powers in the series:
Creativity: the ability to create illusions, change shape and manipulate energy.
Coercion: the ability of to influence or actually mind control other people.
Psychokinesis: (or PK) the ability to move physical objects (e.g. telekinesis, levitation).
Farsensing: the ability to communicate with others and to sense remotely (e.g. telepathy, clairvoyance).
Redaction: the ability of psychic (or physical) healing and mind reading.

I was very impressed the way these powers were defined, detailed and explained, throughout the books.

I liked the style or set-up used in Intervention & the G.Milieu books. Each section starts off in 2113 with Rogatien Remillard (“Uncle Rogi”) writing his memoirs – a biography/history of the Remillard family. Then each chapter is the “chronicle” with other events of that time to fill in the story fully. Rogi himself has minor powers and the self-rejuvenating (or “Immortality”) gene common to some of his family, which allows him to be a witness to the whole time-line. Starting with the peaceful Rogi and his dominating brother, we follow the family line as they develop powers, attempt to bring a form of world peace and the introduction of humans to the alien races of the Milieu. Later the extended family variously threaten or bring together the milieu, as human worlds are settled and many aren’t sure if they want to be part of an alien culture/society. The final stage is the metapsychic rebellion lead by Marc Remillard, and his brother Jon who stands up to him.

The Saga books are a straight forward story covering a shorter period of time in detail, primarily from the point of view of  “green group” who came “back” together. Using a one-way time-gate, non-metapsychic humans have been retreating to the pliocene to live a simpler or different life. Once they arrive they find a dual race of exotics (metapsychic near-humans) from another galaxy have crash landed there previously.  The Tanu use technology to boost their minor or latent powers to full operancy, and this also works for humans. They incorporate travellers into their society – sometimes willingly, but often by force and coercion – primarily as a workforce and for breeding stock. The Fivulag are operants (primarily creativity) who regularly fight against the Tanu, but don’t utilise humans. Three of the green group are special – Aiken (latent creativity & PK), Felice (latent coercion & redaction) and Elizabeth (former operant farsense & redact) – because they attain (or regain) full operancy. Aitken wants to rule the world, Felice wants revenge on the Tanu (or anyone else) who try to dominate her, and Elizabeth wants to run away and find peace. The books follow the development of their power(s) and those around them as they overthrow the Tanu and try to build new societies. There are also links to Celtic mythology here – suggesting that the tanu and fivulag relate to the “stories” of elves and dwarves in our human history. It doesn’t blatantly hit you over the head with the idea, but it is a well detailed theme in the background.

I’ve only given a general summary of the books here – it’s easy to find reviews and more detail on the internet. I loved the powers, the explanations and development of human potential, the politics (much more interesting than real world stuff), alien races, the mysteries presented, solutions found and the hints that point to other books in the whole set. There are well visualised settings, interesting and detailed characters, long ranging themes and mysteries, gems of amusement, sadness and joy. There are plenty of suggestions that May had planned her ideas before everything came out, because the Milieu series meshes so well with the earlier written Saga/Exiles. I’d love to read a follow on to the Pliocene Saga!

Digressions… (to and from Reading)

I’ve been meaning to write about what I’m currently reading for quite some time – it is one of the reasons I liked the idea of setting up this blog – but mostly my posts have been about figure painting. [Nothing much happening there… I’ve got one nearly finished figure that has been that way for the last 2 weeks!]

Once I’d decided to write (back in October), it occurred to me that I would digress from what I was reading, so I’m starting with most of the digressions and the reading post with be for the future. I’ve already read another 7 books since then, and likely will finish the current book before I post! [Edit: Yes – finished it last night.]

I’d finished a long book series and come into possession of a book of short stories by my all-time favourite author – Anne McCaffrey. “Get Off the Unicorn” (1977). [I’ve read a few of the stories in here before from other sources, but never the whole book] I was still in the mood for reading series and had a theme of sorts that I’m continuing. [Books I own, that grabbed my attention right from the beginning, that I hadn’t read for a long time, favourite authors.] In particular, Anne states of some of the stories that they were early ideas she hoped to turn into novels. 37 years later, I know that she realised her hope – I’ve got those complete novels on my shelf. This started me into a series of hers based on two of the short stories (Tower & Hive, 1990-1999) that also related in theme to the series I’d finished by Julian May. [Intervention, Galactic Milieu, Saga of the Exiles. 1978-1992]

I read a lot. I’m a fast reader (I read quickly, which is not the same as “speed reading”). I read almost every day.

One of my most inspiring days as a very young person was when I realised that libraries had fiction books!

Normally, I start reading while I have breakfast; I read at lunch-time, and during morning and afternoon breaks at work. (I used to read on the bus/train when I caught Public Transport – and I missed my stop many times.) This year I’ve often made a drink and sat out with the chickens and read to relax for 30min or so after work. I like to sit in bed and read for a while before I sleep. I used to get in trouble for reading in class in High School… early English Classes were terrible when we were reading parts of a book because EVERYONE else was sooooooo slooooooooow.

How many books have I got?

Last estimate was about 600 novels. [I checked – I’ve got an old Excel spreadsheet list, but it needs updating. I’m not going to count my other books!]

Who are my favourite authors?

Top of the list is Anne McCaffrey. (Since I picked up “The Ship who sang” in my High School library in the early 1980’s.)

I also really like: Marion Z Bradley, Steven Brust, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Raymond E Fiest, Barbara Hambly, Patricia McKillip, Terry Pratchett and J.R.R. Tolkien. (Alphabetical by surname, not in order of preference.)

Mostly I read Fantasy and Science Fantasy/Fiction, although I enjoy adventure and mystery novels as well. I’ll read nearly anything if it sounds worthwhile, or on a subject/theme/person that I’m interested in. My interest in Dragons may relate to the Pern/Dragon-rider novels (Anne McCaffrey), since in Primary School I was more interested in Dinosaurs.

Aside: “Dragons of Lancasm” is the name of my World of Warcraft guild, on the Uther server. (I say my guild because the only characters in it that aren’t mine are my wife’s. I got the charter signed using my main Character and nine 10-day guest passes.)

I think that covers my assortment of thoughts and now I can get onto what I’ve been reading…