Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Of Bitz and Pieces

Not much to report on the actual modelling side of things, sadly, but I thought I'd do an update with some odds and ends that I need to do something with.

Hobby time is still limited after the move across country, mainly with prepping the family households for winter - repairs made, gardens shut down, winterizing homes, and finishing up any last minute warm-weather projects for the year. With winter on the way, I should have more free time for hobby during the upcoming cold months, but that's tempered by the fact I've already started compiling a list of winter projects on top of hobby plans and my writing work schedule, so no hibernation this season. But, I should be able to start working on some new Inquisimunda stuff soon. Now if I only had someone to play with...

Speaking of which, I recently went to my local game shop and a GW store that had sprung up in town since I had left for California in 2001. I went for two purposes: to pick up some bitz for gangs and Blood Bowl teams, and to get a feel for the current gaming community. Not surprisingly, both the various 'Munda incarnations and Blood Bowl are rarely seen anywhere, so I have a bit of work to do to find or develop some local players.

But that's not the saddest part.

Now, I don't mean to go off on a big rant, and I think there are some GW staffers who may read this blog from time to time, and I don't want to ruffle feathers or step on toes here - Games Workshop is what I've made my gaming choice since the late 80's, and it has become the stick by which I measure my gaming interests - and I also know that the 'Munda games and Blood Bowl are old games that are not supported for business reasons that are GW's decisions alone, to which I hold no grudges. However...when I went into the non-GW shop to see if there were any players or interest in playing either of those two games, I was told ask around and was encouraged to post a notice and go on the store's message board to start a community for those rarely played games. When I went into the GW, I was told that I should go to the other store to get people to play those two games...games that GW still owns. In fact, the gent behind the counter actually apologized that he couldn't help me, and that as much as he'd like to play those games himself, they weren't allowed to support the playing of dead games in the store. That saddens, and confuses me at the same time for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, while I understand that GW's focus is to support the sales of 40K and AoS, I find it a strange tactic to actually push people away from the store, and away from the chance that their interest in some of the older, smaller games might translate into interest for their flagship titles. You're literally telling people to go away and play at another store that has hundreds of other gaming options for them to have a chance at showing interest in.

Secondly, if one of your primary interests as a company is to sell miniatures, why would you not want people in your store to buy miniatures for games that are not only yours, but whose players tend to spend large chunks of money on parts for their teams and warbands, of which most players of either game are constantly trying to complete the entirety of, or are constantly building new ones of? The GW worker pointed out the fact that since no miniatures were currently being produced for either 'Munda or BB, they couldn't sell minis to those players. To that I simply held up my newly purchased bag of $100 worth of beastmen and Skitarii for my Nurgle team and Techno Barbarian warband, and said, "What do you think these are for?" And that purchase wasn't even a fraction of the parts I need for my current kitbashing plans.


Anyway. Again, not trying to badmouth my favorite gaming company, or go off on too big of a rant because this is stuff I've been aware of for a long time now, but it felt very much of an end of an era for me for some reason. From a logistics perspective (not an interest one), it's only going to get harder from this point to play two games I love.

If you're going to let your children die, at least let them do it in the comfort of home. Hm...that was more grim than I expected.

Finally (and this is way overdue), I'd like to direct you to a good friend of mine and a fellow Creator who is running an Indiegogo campaign for a new horror writing project of his, Dark Elements. Matthew has gained some reputation over the past couple of years for challenging himself to do some out of the box writing projects, and this time he's hooked up with an artist to join him along the way. You can find the Indiegogo project HERE. Go check it out.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Almost Home

The move from Los Angeles to Indianapolis is almost complete.

Since April, I’ve kept my head down deep in the planning, logistics, budgeting, packing, shipping, and moving my home and family from the West Coast to my childhood home in the Midwest, and although I’ve technically been here a month already, I’m about another month from the journey coming to a proper end when we move into our new home. Obviously, during that time there was little to no room for hobby, and I won’t be able to do anything on that front again until it all gets unpacked from deep storage.

It’s a surreal feeling being back here. Moving from the drought-stricken concrete and steel of the LA area, to the rain-flooded, tree-lined streets of Indy has been a real culture shock. Even though I grew up here, I had a real claustrophobic panic attack on my first day back when the familiar tree-canopied street I was driving on became a vision of a verdant throat of old-growth greenery swallowing me up into the belly of the city that I had once gotten away from. It was a genuinely terrifying experience that marked the point when I realized that I was here, once again, for good.

I think one of the strangest things about the move has been the objectivity that comes with relocating to a new place, or, of returning to a familiar place after a long absence. Fourteen years in California gave me a certain distance from the psyche of the city, and the ability to look at it with that kind of fresh-eyed separation has been interesting. Unexpectedly, there are many elements of my writing, and my current style and content that I’ve found the roots of reflected in the area, much more than I had realized had been an influence on me, and had never had the ability to recognize before now—not the least of which is the house I grew up in.

Originally a 1920’s orchard farmhouse before the city absorbed the area, the building has become a ramshackle Frankenstein’s monster of a home, having been expanded and built out numerous times by different owners over the years, but still leaving behind hidden architectural anomalies giving the house dark and strange corners that was the stuff of my childhood nightmares.

The original bones of the house groan against the newer structures during storms as if threatening to tear itself apart, and the plaster walls are cracked and buckled in places.

The basement walls constantly weep, and there’s a set of old stairs there that lead up to and stop dead at the first floor boards where an old cellar door was built over. This frightened me terribly for some reason as a child, but what was more unnerving looking back now as an adult, was a fixation I had (but was too scared to do) with wanting to draw a door on the wood of that sub-flooring at the stairs top.

The real door at the top, is in your mind

The attic leaks when it rains, and there is a strange room built into the supports of the roof whose existence we have never really been able to find a satisfactory answer for. This part of the house is especially horrifying because (and I kid you not) it’s essentially a 3’x3’x4’ standalone room of plain boards, with a small shelf and wooden bench, and a door that locks from the outside.

I'll be good, I'll be good!

My father says that it was probably a room for canned storage, but why would you ever put preserved food into an uninsulated attic space that can get up to 120 degrees in the summer, when there’s a better suited cellar for just such a thing? Chances are he’s right, but still…as a child your mind races to what naughty boys and girls were locked in that dark attic room when a lesson was needed to be taught. And worse yet, how many of them never made it out?

With a coyote den in the woods behind the house, bats in the loft of the old barn, and the entire property being uniquely isolated from the rest of the surrounding city by a high, thick treeline, the house is incredibly creepy at times, and embodies the spirit (though certainly not the architecture) of Gothic romanticism as-seen through a Midwest sensibility. Although it scared me to death when I was younger, I love this house, and it’s no wonder to me now that my tastes for art and literature have steered towards the horror, Gothic, grotesque, and weird fiction genres because of that early upbringing of forever dreading the nighttime in that house.

As if that wasn’t enough, I uncovered another precursor to my darker leanings in the form of one of my favorite childhood books waiting for me in my old bedroom.

Originally billed as “Gothic Children’s Fiction”, The Eyes of the Killer Robot, was one of my favorite books as a boy, and I’m sure the thing laid the groundwork for a lot of my current writings. Written by John Bellairs, TEOTKR was one book in a series, following the strange adventures of his Johnny Dixon character. Think 1950’s boy’s adventure stories, mixed with black magic, pseudo-science, and surprisingly graphic horror imagery for a children’s book—a wailing ghost with emptied bloody eye sockets, and a recipe for turning said missing eyes into talismans for the use of arcane magic. Also, kidnapping with a genuine threat of very cold-blooded murder regardless of ransom payoff.

A very strange and dark book, made even stranger because of the juxtaposition of child-friendly reading level and not-child-friendly content. It would probably fall under the younger spectrum of Young Adult fiction these days, probably somewhere at or just below a Harry Potter reading equivalent. An easy read for an adult, but a gloriously weird book that has lead me to start reading the others in the series.

Hopefully soon back on track with hobby stuff.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Torpor - The Hammer Hall

The transition between realities has been compared to the space between the waking world and sleep. Lost and confused, the Pilgrim is simply carried along by the will of the Saint, and their own will to find her. In this twilight state, a Pilgrim seeking the Saint’s Path will find one more hurdle to overcome before they are granted entry into the city of Torpor.

On walking through the Parallax Door, the Pilgrim will find themselves in what has been named by those who’ve survived, as the Hammer Hall. If the Parallax Door judges a person’s inner purpose, this anteroom to the Saint’s path will act as their judge, jury, and executioner to determine whether the pilgrim has the strength and ability to even survive the long and dangerous journey to its end.

In their stupor, the Pilgrim will have no choice but be led by waiting attendants, gently and with reverence, to the middle of the long stone hall where they will stand over a large sluicing grate set into the floor beneath them. To their left, a rough chute has been dug into the joining of wall and floor, sloping sharply down and away from the hall into blackness. To their right, on a raised platform stands a third attendant who, like his fellows, wears a long leather apron and faceless burlap hood. Despite its ominous appearance, the mask still manages to convey some sense of mournful apology to the Pilgrim, as if they too are helpless victims to the intent of the hall.

These are the Knackermen. Appointed by the Saint herself, the Knackermen deliver the final test to the hopeful.

Brandishing a large stone hammer hewn from the fossilized excrement of the Living Altar which sits at the center of Torpor, the Knackerman commanding the platform will take a single swing at the Pilgrim. The hammer’s stone head resonates in synch with the soul of the Saint, and should the Pilgrim be truly worthy to walk her path, the hammer will stop upon the moment of impact, merely kissing the Pilgrim’s forehead, gifting them with the Saint’s blessing.

Those found lacking will have their skull swept from the floor, and deposited along with their body down the stone chute at their side, to be rendered down into their constituent parts - parts that no one in the city is sure exactly how they are used, but to err on the side of caution, many of the survivors have since become vegetarians.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Very WIP

I'm usually not much of a WIP kind of guy, but...Techno Barbarian.

Still much to be done, but an encouraging first model after a long absence from the hobby. Very slow work.

Much more greenstuff to go, and waiting on a part or two.

The original model was obliterated to get to this point.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Torpor - The Parallax Door

Inspired by elements of grimdark, the kernel of an unused story idea, and the recent fever-dreams of a low-grade flu, Torpor is a writing exercise in world building where the narrative will be told through a series of vignettes that focus on the world around the story, rather than directly on the plot itself.

For lack of a better term, I’m calling the process Artifacting. Like digging up a long forgotten relic from out of the earth, the reader will uncover the narrative bit by bit from the surrounding fiction that the story is buried in - an Artifact waiting to be discovered.

Part historical reference, part adventurer’s journal, part religious text, I want Torpor to feel like someplace lived-in, where to the newcomer, every answer unlocks new questions about the people and places that they discover.

As I’m usually prone to overwriting, and rewriting ad nauseam until I feel like I’ve gotten a piece right (and how many stories have I thrown away because it’s never felt good enough?), for this exercise series I’m writing the vignettes as quickly and off-the-cuff as I can stomach with almost no editing. As much an exercise in automatic writing as anything to maybe free up some of the old and rusty head-gubbins. If this turns into anything I’m mildly pleased with, I might go back and collect and polish them into something larger. For now, just an experiment.

We’ll see how it works. Frankly, it might not, but it should be interesting.

Here, I present the first part of this series I am calling, Torpor.

Monday, March 23, 2015

TRUE-TrueScale Bolt Pistol Prop

Just because it's fun, here's a step-by-step build log for a scratch-built Bolt Pistol, from one of my favorite prop makers, Volpin Props.

The weight is off, but as for the size, I believe for a Bolt Pistol this is about as properly real-life true scale as you can get.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Behind the Curtain...Blade Runner Prop Shop

I've always loved movie prop making - especially on the miniature scale. It makes a lot of sense considering my love of miniature gaming, as the techniques and methods of production for both go largely hand-in-hand. If I had known more about the field when I was younger, I would have explored the world of movie prop making as a career as an alternative to writing.

There is an interesting article on io9 that I'm linking here that shows a massive number of behind the scenes photos of the miniature prop making production from Blade Runner. It's well worth a look for some classic sci-fi inspiration.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Necromunda Novels

Looks like Black Library is bringing the Necromunda novels to ebook format.

I wonder if this is a matter of BL just digitizing more of their archived books, or if GW is stoking the fires for an upcoming games release?

Probably the former.

Blood Bowl - Beast of Nurgle

Blood Bowl is one of my all-time favorite games.

Although I rarely get to play it, it’s a game that I constantly return to whenever I get the urge to convert or paint something new and different simply for the joy of it.

Blood Bowl is one of those “love it, or leave it” kind of games, with very little middle ground in-between. Part skirmish game, part board game; it’s a tough sell to new players for a number of reasons—an overwhelmingly rabid fanatical fan base, a steep learning curve on strategies and mechanics that are highly situational, and the lack of support by the game’s parent company…there’s a lot going against the game. If it wasn’t for the support of the fans, players, and third party manufacturers, Blood Bowl probably would have died off years ago.

It also doesn’t help the casual newcomer that the game is so strongly tied to the painting and modeling hobby. Converting your team is by no means absolutely necessary, but in most settings painting is either strongly encouraged (leagues) or required (tournaments), and a majority portion of Blood Bowl players are accomplished hobbyists, who take great pride in creating custom teams with custom themes.

I’ve personally never been much of one to heavily theme my own teams, but painting and converting my figures are at the top of my list when it comes to Blood Bowl. In fact, I won’t field a team unless it’s complete and painted.

The last game I played had the dual distinction of also being the least enjoyable—not because I played poorly (I didn’t), or because the dice didn’t go my way (pretty average rolling), but because my opponent brought an unpainted, unprimed, bare metal team to the field, made up of figures whose sculpts I was unfamiliar with, and thus couldn’t tell which positionals were which (I suspect he had trouble with that determination himself, since, when I had to constantly ask, “Which player in this dog pile has guard?”, the piece in question seemed to move around a lot, even though our teams were in a standstill on the pitch). That game ended in a draw, btw. 

The fact that this was league play, and he had played the team enough to skill a number of his players up meant that he should have had enough time to paint his team—and in Blood Bowl especially, even two colors on a figure is just basic respect for your fellow coaches.

So, I always paint my teams before I field them. Simple as that.
One of my longtime Blood Bowl obsessions has been to create a Nurgle team. I can’t explain why, but I’ve always had an obsession with Nurgle going back to my early days of WFB, Rogue Trader, and Realm of Chaos. Don’t know why—I’ve just always thought Nurgle was cool.

Nurgle teams are probably one of the hardest teams to get good miniatures for. GW made a team long ago, but they aren’t the best figures (in my opinion). Taking into account that you have four character types on the team to deal with (Beast, Nurgle Warrior, Pestigor, and Rotters), and the fact that they all have the potential to be rotten, diseased, and heavily mutated, there’s a lot of variability in how to present them, and what miniatures to get—most coaches will go to other miniature ranges and do heavy conversions to create their teams.

I have a general plan to kitbash the majority of my own team, but I thought I’d jump into the extreme deep end of the project, and scratch-build my own unique Beast of Nurgle.

It was a very long on-again-off-again process of sculpting him from a Sculpey core, covered and detailed in greenstuff. The fungal growths on his back are plastic tubing with the edges burnt so they melted and curled back onto themselves.

The Beast is a big fella, and would take up too much room on the pitch if I had to place him on his side, so for the Prone and Stunned conditions I made a “P” and an “S” icon that can be inserted into one of the barnacles on his shoulder-hump. Likewise, the Really Stupid condition has a “?” icon that can be put on him to show his status.

The Beast was my first serious attempt at sculpting a figure from scratch, and I’m pretty happy with him overall. There might be a few things I would change if I were to do it again, but I’m ready to move on to the rest of the team.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

BeinArt Collective

I don't really know how to describe the varied group of artists at the BeinArt Collective, or the glorious range of the bizarre and horrific works they have there - it's really something you have to see for yourself.

If you can't find inspiration somewhere on their site, you aren't really trying.

Caution - many of the pieces are NSFW.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pinhole Cameras

Wayne Martin Belger, at Boy of Blue Industries, and his amazing pinhole cameras.

The simplicity of the pinhole camera is elevated by the careful construction of special cameras, specifically designed for the particular project, taking into account materials and design to match the atmosphere and aesthetics of the subject matter.

I've been aware of Belger's work and unique cameras for a while now, and they never fail to amaze me. It's well worth checking out the link at the top to read about the background of the individual cameras and photo shoots.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Max Ernst

During my Journalism degree in college, I studied Art History as a second concentration.

Sadly, to my shame, I have forgotten a ton of that AH education, and am now starting to rebuild what has been lost. One thing that I have never lost from those days, has been my discovery and love for the works of Max Ernst.

Haunting, evocative, technically innovative, and darkly mythical, the soul behind much of Ernst's work reminded me of the Games Workshop artwork that fired my imagination years earlier as a young gamer. There are moments in his work where you can see a parallel in imagery to the grimdark of the GW games; the otherworldly landscapes and bestial anatomies of Chaos, the bizarre Gothic aristocracy of WH40K's, Imperium of Mankind, and the themes of oppression and violence worked upon ordinary men and women by forces they cannot hope to comprehend.

Gods and Monsters.

Heady stuff.

Behind the Curtain...Back Matter

One of the greatest tragedies of any creative endeavor, to me, is that regardless of the positive or negative review of The Art, no one knows what the Creative has done to produce the work.

The audience is (sadly) more often than not completely ignorant of the thought process, pre-planning, problem solving, decision making, research, and technical work put into the execution of the piece, unless the artist makes a point of letting the world in on what has gone on behind the curtain, and that’s no guarantee that the audience will even care; the Hungry don’t want to know how the sausage is made—they only want to be fed.

As a writer and creator, that’s always been a hard pill for me to swallow. When I think about how I feel about my art, and what I know has gone into it before the final product is released into the world, it’s tough to think that its success will live or die by an outsider’s gut reaction. I know that it’s part of the deal with any artistic endeavor, and you essentially ask for that kind of snap scrutiny when you decide to make your work public, but damn…it’s rough sometimes. I’ve known artists and writers who’ve tortured themselves over their work, only to have it dismissed at a glance, devaluing all of that hard work to wasted time. That’s when the real self-torture begins.

But it is what it is, and that’s fine. It’s the gamble of Art.

Part of what I’m doing here on the blog is to chronicle and explore the relationships between inspiration, process, and the resulting products, and one of my favorite things ever is to read/listen/watch about the how’s and why’s of other artists doing what they do. Besides writing and hobby blogs (which, most hobby blogs these days are all step-by-step process journals, which is fantastic), I am constantly on the lookout for how-to’s, and “the making of’s” by creators that give a look into their process.
While the vast majority of creative inspiration often comes from the end-work itself, the mechanics of how The Art is created is an underrated instructive commodity that doesn’t get enough due. Any Creative who strives to improve their Art should spend some time looking under the hood of their favorite works and artists to learn, and be inspired.
In doing some recent research for a new crime project, I was reminded of the comic series, Fell, by Warren Ellis, and went to dig out a few of my old issues. Mainly, I was interested in rereading the series to study new ways of writing short-form crime fiction (Fell is a great example of this, by the way), but I had forgotten one of the more useful and unique aspects of the comic, and one of my favorite behind-the-scenes inspirational sources—the back matter.

Fell was an interesting experiment by Ellis to see if he could make a quick burst of entertainment for readers, that was at the same time inexpensive and informative by packing a lot of material into a shorter page-count book. The stories themselves were only 16-ish pages long, with the remainder of the 24 pages being devoted to the back matter where he put bits of script, discussion by Ellis on the research and inspiration for the issue, and various other tidbits that the writer wanted to throw in.

While I was certainly interested in the story construction, I became more obsessed with the back matter, and what that divulged about the creative process. Its inclusion was especially interesting because unless you're reading a special edition or collection of a series, comic books almost never include this kind of material - there's just not enough tradeoff between space and money for a publisher to put back matter in a standard issue, so to find it all is a treat.

Perhaps the greatest (and my favorite) example of comic book back matter is in Alan Moore's, From Hell.

Written by Moore, and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, From Hell is an amazing speculative account of the Ripper murders. It's wildly imaginative, painstakingly drawn and written, and is based on some incredibly in-depth research done by both Moore and Campbell. If the story wasn't enough, the kicker to the whole project is that in the back of every issue is a page-by-page appendix for the entire issue and the research and thought processes that went into the writing and artwork by the creators. It's truly stunning work. The final volume of the series, Dance of the Gull-Catchers, is an epilogue of sorts where the creators write about their experiences with, and their process of researching the material for the series, as well as commentary about the Ripper phenomenon and where the mystery stood when the book was published in 1998.

I was a bit of a nut when the book was coming out, and ended up also getting Alan Moore's complete script book for From Hell, which is an amazingly detailed artifact in and of itself. Moore is a notorious over-writer, and the ten-issue comic script (in this volume) tops out around 300-odd pages, with an immense amount of art direction and details about Moore's thought process for scenes, characters, and pieces of dialogue, as well as the addition of side notes about the script or historical research for the story. It's an immensely well-documented monster.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

New Beginnings...

1. Cryptic name?...Check.

2. Minimally altered template to give the illusion of actual design?...Check.

3. Overwrought introductory post?...Check.

Looks like I'm ready to start a new blog...

I've had a lot of blogs over the years. I work in various technical and creative capacities as a writer, and I've been a tabletop/board/video-gamer for years, so all of my past blogs have either been about writing, or gaming (in fact, I still have a free fiction blog which I really need to update more regularly - I'm hoping that this blog will help me do that). Some of those blogs were pretty popular, and some of them I just left to die on the vine when I, or my readers, lost interest. It's sad to say, but sometimes projects you've put work into just don't work out.

I think one of the most common reasons for a blog to fail is the tedium of the act of blogging itself. Chronicling your favorite hobby should be fun, but the whole thing can easily become a weight around your neck when the focus shifts from having fun with your pastime, to only doing it so you can have something to blog about. Once that happens, the blog is usually dead in the water, and more often than not it's simply abandoned. It's happened to me, and it sucks. While my past blogs have all had a specific goal as their focal point (finish modelling and painting this or that army, finish writing this story, etc.) I want to do something different here to try to avoid that blog-tedium I've run into in the past.

I want this blog to be an opposite of sorts to those other blogs. I don't want this to have an end-goal that I feel like I have to meet in order to declare it a success. Instead, I want to use this space as a workshop of sorts. A mad scientist's laboratory.

I want to gather together all of the things that inspire me creatively from the different artistic disciplines I'm interested in, mash them all up in one spot, and see what kind of projects I can synthesize out of their convergence. Turn this into an R&D department where I can experiment with all sorts of creative...things, and see what works before taking it out to the showroom floor.

To the right there's already a long list of blogs and websites of the people and projects that I'm drawing recent inspiration from. Authors, artists, comics, gaming, crime, horror, occult, grimdark, and creative and productivity processes of all types.

 Lately, I've rediscovered my love of the Games Workshop, Warhammer 40K universe in a number of blogs centered around the Inquisimunda and Inq28 game rulesets, the gamers who are championing a real groundswell for innovative miniature modelling and painting within those worlds, and a mutual love for the work of one of my favorite artists of all time, John Blanche. You'll find a lot of that in here too, and while I eventually want to include some of my own painting and modelling here in the blog, examples of my own work will be few and far between until I can settle a few real-life issues that would get in the way of doing so.

I think this should be fun, and I hope that the things I bring into the blog will serve as a source of inspiration to you as well.