Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pit Bulls in the 41st Millenium?

Rather than talking about my Angels of Absolution I want to take a moment to discuss pets and gaming.

Nerd Night takes place every Monday at my cozy 2 bedroom apartment. I am set up to accommodate three 4'x6' tables in my living and dining room by pushing the couch out of the way. I'm sure if we ever had an increase in turnout I could fit a fourth table in the living room and there's always room for a game in the kitchen! If you haven't guessed, I take gaming seriously and love hosting. One of the hurdles I've had to conquer in the last year and a half was the addition of a stray American Pit Bull Terrier to my home - and then a second one a year later.

My first addition was Ian. Ian is a lovable scamp who had an obsession with hand nibbling and jumping up. He's also the nosiest little guy you'd ever meet. He will root through your bags, he'll sniff at your miniatures, and he'll steal the gloves out of your pockets. If he can get at it or stick his nose in it - he will. So the first challenge was dealing with this behavior. When I got him he was only 7 months and I was living in a 1 bedroom apartment so he was non-stop energy. I followed the recommendations of getting him toys that would keep him busy like putting peanut butter in a Kong, but he'd finish the peanut butter in seconds, rampage through people's stuff some more, and then proceed to eat large chunks out of the Kong toy that he wasn't supposed to be able to destroy. Putting him in the bedroom he'd scratch at the door which isn't a great option in any circumstances but its even worse when one of your gamers is also your landlord! I'd put him in the crate sometimes but he'd whine, cry, bark, and rattle the cage. They say that if you ignore a dog they will learn that their behaviour is failing to get the desired result and they'll stop but Pit Bulls are known for their tenacity, and Ian just wouldn't quit. Eventually we learned that if we put everything up out of his reach and we concentrated on each other, he'd usually curl up on the couch with a Nylabone and alternate between chewing and sleeping. Success!

In June of this year though, I found another stray Pit. He had no tags, no collar, and no chip and I live in the kind of neighborhood where a Pit Bull is a status symbol and a bargaining chip that is used for protection, for fighting, or for a quick $300. In Chicago there is a no adoption policy on Pits that go to animal control so my options were to take him to a rescue, find a home for him myself, or take him in. After a month of trying to find him a home I decided it was wrong to uproot him again and I kept him. Now Harley isn't well adjusted like Ian. Harley seems to have had a rough life so far and he's afraid of everything - strangers, animals, loud noises, everything. When the Nerd Night Crew first came over his tail would go between his legs and sometimes he'd just look at people and give a low growl. A couple of people asked me to lock him up while we were gaming. I went out and bought two gates so I could make a fence to my kitchen 5' high, as these guys can easily clear a single gate.
Unfortunately, there were several problems to this approach. To keep Harley company and to keep Ian out of people's crap I put him behind the gate too. This, of course, drove Ian crazy. He's a very social dog and he loves being around people. He'd whine and cry. He'd shove his feet and nose as far under the gate as possible so he'd look as pitiful as possible while getting as close as he could to the action. When he'd get bored of this he'd bark, howl, push on the gates, and on 1 or 2 occasions he even knocked the lower gate down. He just wanted to be where everyone was that badly. On the other hand, I found that my troubled new Pit Bull was only having his anti-social behaviour reinforced. He'd bark at everyone from behind the gate - whether he knew and trusted them or they were a stranger. He'd be territorial. He was angry and unhappy so he'd reach a point where he'd just bark - without stopping. The Apocalypse game day we had in November was the turning point. After being behind bars for 6 hours (not including the mid game walk) he just started barking as loud as he could, and he did it for the full remaining hour and half we played for. At the next Nerd Night after that, he started with the mega-barking as soon as the gate went up and I walked away. I decided the gate wasn't working.

The anguish here comes from balancing the comfort of my guests and the comfort of my family - who just happen to be two American Pit Bull Terriers. Exacerbating Harley's anti-social tendencies is the last thing I wanted to do and that's exactly what I felt like I was doing. Over the last 6 months I found that once Harley became comfortable around someone the tail went up, the growling stopped, and he's just happy to be around "the pack" and hang out. That isn't to say that my guests shouldn't exercise caution, and if Scott ever brought his son over, Harley would go straight into my bedroom, but otherwise I feel that the best place for the dogs to be is by me and part of the crew. Harley needs to be socialized and he can't be socialized from behind a fence.

Last Nerd Night I found we had a distinct lack of hooks for coats etc so the dogs were back rummaging through people's stuff, so my first order of business was adding another 4 hooks. I'm also clearing shelf space so people have an easier time putting their stuff up high. Expect more renovations in the future to make our gaming as comfortable as possible - for man and beast.

Our pets are part of our families and they feel just the same as we do. The key is finding the best compromise so that we can all co-exist and be happy while we game. Thanks to the Nerd Night Crew for their patience and understanding while I've fumbled my way through trying to find that balance and coming back week after week regardless. It is most appreciated.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This is Embarrassing...

Back in September of 2005 I participated in a tournament put together by GW Canada. The coverage from that tournament is still accessible and I stumbled across it yesterday. I remember being mortified when they put these pictures up. I had so many completely finished models and they didn't look before they grabbed - they shot photos of anything regardless of how well painted. Here are those pics and some commentary:

We'll start off with this atrocity. This is supposed to be representative of my work? Ouch. It was originally base coated with Bubonic Brown Spray when that was available. I started to paint Bleached Bone leaving Bubonic in the recesses and then came to the conclusion that I preferred Brown Ink in the recesses and started inking it. Nothing was completed on this tank in 2005, and sadly, in 2008 its in pretty close to the same state. I was so upset that they posted this pic and it is still available on the GW CA website for all to see. Terrible.
Okay, this one isn't so bad. Chaplain Vitus and Veteran Sergeant Diceus are looking sharp and complete. The two Assault Marines are at least fully base coated. in the last 3 years only 1 of those 2 models has been completed. Wow, I suck at completing projects.

Okay, here are some models I can be proud of. There is only one incomplete model in the bunch. The far right model is still sitting in my figure case in the exact same state of completion more than 3 years later. He's actually supposed to be part of a Devastator Squad and not this Tactical Squad.

Wow, this Dread is so close to completion. Once again, he's received no additional work in the last 3 years. I really need to finish this model. I was really proud of that Plasma Cannon conversion when I did it. This model was assembled before the plastic dread was available.

So we finish this trip down memory lane with a rather beautiful photo of my completed Whirlwind. One day I might go back and add some more vehicle markings but I'm really proud of this model overall. I think its pretty striking. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Week in Review

We started the week with completing the jump pack on that Assault Marine I pictured a short while ago.

Then I repaired the Rhino that got dropped on Monday. I actually took 3 pictures of this Rhino which has been in service since 1995 or 1996 and which has gotten multiple upgrades. In this latest round of repair and upgrade I painted the right hand door in the 6th Company colors. This was also done on the front of the Rhino in a small circle on the far left track guard. I also added a small Tactical marking below the angel. That particular angel had to be re-glued and some of the paint got scratched up, so the Tactical symbol was in part to cover the variance in tone between the different era's of Bleached Bone. One of the "Storm Bolter" halves also had to be re-glued along with the whole left flank.

One thing you might notice is that not all the recesses are Brown Inked. This is because when the Rhino was originally painted it started at Bubonic Brown and was worked up to Skull White. I later went back and added Brown Ink and then added battle damage. I apparently didn't compete the job, but it's cool.

Another interesting detail about this Rhino is that I added scratch built reinforced armour after Epic came out in the mid-late 90's. Those metal Rhino models had cool little details and one of them was the reinforced rear armour that I emulated here. Back then I didn't know about buying Plastrux Plastic Rod so the rivets are actually inserted paper clips that were clipped and filed, haha. What a pain in the ass...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dramatic Re-Enactment - Rhino Explosion!

On Monday's Nerd Night there was a minor setback to my Angel of Absolution plans - I had a Rhino explode. This is my display case. The door was closed just like in this picture. I, however, thought it was open. The moments that passed as my hand holding the Rhino hit the glass went something like this:

The distortion on the picture of me screaming isn't from re-sizing the image, its from the power of my head exploding.

Needless to say, a week ago I said I only needed to finish 3 models to get my army to 1500 points fully painted. I have not met that goal. I actually just finished repairing the Rhino and demoting it to the 6th Company (you'll get pics on the next sunny day.) Additionally, though I worked on the 2 Devastators I need to complete I put more focus into finishing the Assault Marine pictured in the step by step and working on tanks. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Angel of Absolution: Stage by Stage - Armour

By request - here is a stage by stage account of how I paint the armour on my Angels of Absolution. My apologies for not being an ace photographer.

Stage 1 - Cleaned assembled and primed. As you may have seen in previous articles it is very rare that I fully assemble a model before painting. This model has actually been sitting in my case for a couple of years waiting to get in on the action.

Stage 2 - Prime White and Cover in Brown Ink.

As you can see I left the areas that were quite clearly going to be painted black their original white primer. You can also tell I didn't much care if I got ink on those areas. The point of the brown ink is to establish the tone in the recesses of the armour. If you want to save yourself some time, leave the large flat areas white so that you don't have to coat them as many times in the later stages. I just started doing this. Once again, this model has been lounging in the figure case unpainted for years.

Stage 3 - Bleach Bone

This is the hardest part - and the most tedious. Section by section I work over the model putting down as many as 5 coats of thinned down Bleach Bone over an area of armour, carefully working around the recesses. This process takes a very long time and is part of the reason I usually work with just a set of legs or a shoulder pad at a time. I get sick of looking at the model and I don't feel like I'm making progress until a stage is complete. By breaking down a model into their components I create "easy victories" or "attainable goals".

Note: If at any point you get Bleached Bone into a recess you can "erase" your mistake by quickly dipping your brush in water, wipe it clean, dip it in water again, and then drag it through the recess. Repeat the process rapidly until all of the paint that ran into the recess is gone.

Stage 3.5 - Bleached Bone continued

Here is another figure case shut in brought out for stage by stage purposes. As you can see I got frustrated with this guy and started cannibalizing parts off of him rather than trying to paint him as a completed model. Please note that I've kept the recesses tight and clean. Additionally, I strive for maximum opacity with my Bleached Bone for a very solid consistent finish.

Here's where I'm going to deviate to my true micromanagement painting style. Here is just a shoulder pad painted Bleached Bone with the very crisp Brown Ink lines left in the recesses. In fact I can see the slightest deviation in the rim on the lower left hand corner and its irritating me just looking at it. I can't see it in the other pics so I must have fixed it, haha.

Stage 4 - Bleached Bone Mixed with White Highlight

I wish this picture came out better. I have a paint pot that has Bleached Bone and Skull White mixed together to create a mid tone. I prefer this to mixing every time I paint a model because I may go for months between working on the same model and it preserves a level of consistency with the tone.

In this stage I highlighted the full width of the rim with my mix and also followed the Brown Ink lines tightly with a bold line of the mix. Once again, because I thin down my paints, this will often take two coats.

The keys to keeping tight lines are:

1) Work with a fine detail brush.

2) Choke up on your brush like you are holding a pencil.

3) Brace your painting hand against something to keep it steady - I rest my elbow on my knee but when I worked for GW we taught kids to put both elbows on the table and then use one wrist to steady the other.

4) Maintain consistent pressure to maintain consistent line width - the harder you press the further the bristles spread, and the wider your lines become. Brush control is all about pressure.

Stage 5 - Skull White Highlights

Hit all of the sharpest edges with Skull White. Thin down your Skull White. Make sure you don't have too much on your brush - work only with the tip. Follow your "Mix" lines, making sure that you leave some of the Mix showing. That's it. Easy stuff! ;)

Stage 6 - Finishing Touches
The transition from Brown Ink all the way up to Skull White makes the models "pop" on the battlefield. Its the strong contrast that makes them defined and vibrant. However, models all blend together no matter how cool if you don't add details like tactical, company, and honor markings, script, or other unique details. This shoulder pad was the last thing I need to complete on an Assault Marine in order to get his Jump Pack on. The X was applied in Mechanite Red and the "8" was painted with Chaos Black. Each stage of painting the markings required that I went back with Bone or Red to neaten up the previous stage. Working with thinned paints requires these fixes to take multiple layers but it also reduces the likelihood of ugly thick paint build up. And no, I don't use decals. I don't like them.

Here's the Assault Marine showcasing his brand new pad. Later tonight he'll get that Jump Pack and he'll be put in the display case, making the 8th Squad of the 5th Company a squad of 7. Three more to go at about 12 hours a pop, haha.