Category Archives: Insanity Pile

2024: The Year of the Dragon

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2024 (technically, February 10th) begins the Year of the Dragon. That’s a pretty cool name for a year. I, myself, was born in the Year of the Rat. Contain your surprise.

Anyway, this year I thought I would start a new painting challenge: Paint a dragon miniature sometime in 2024. Paint at least one. Paint more than one if you feel the urge. Take as long as you like. You have 366 days to do so. It’s a leap year.

Now, those of you in the know know that I host a painting challenge in May called Monster May(hem), in which the goal is to paint monsters in May. I am a big believer in efficiency. If you paint a dragon in May, it not only counts for the Year of the Dragon, it also counts for Monster May(hem). It’s a win-win. I have several dragon miniatures awaiting paint. Some have been awaiting paint for decades, some for merely a few weeks. I’m not making promises on which dragons or how many dragons I will paint this year. But I promise I will paint at least one, barring unforeseen death.

So, paint a dragon, why don’t ya? I might paint this classic Ral Partha Sandra Garrity sculpt I have had hanging around since 1990.

I may paint the new Epic Encounters Red Dragon I bought as a doorbuster on Miniature Market’s Black Friday sale. I may paint a Reaper dragon (they have a lot of good ones), or an old-school, metal Grenadier miniature. Or maybe I’ll order one of the thousands of 3-D printed dragons available on Etsy. Maybe I’ll paint them all.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll paint just one.

Now, lest you think I’m limiting this to “true” dragons, I’m not. Wyverns, hydras, dragon turtles, dragonnes, drakes, pseudodragons; even undead dragons count. Dragons from the Orient are likewise encouraged. I might paint one of those, too.

Just paint a dragon sometime in 2024, an you get to mark the challenge as done.

2024 Resolutions

It’s that time again, when we look back on the past year and look forward towards the next one. Traditionally, it’s the time to review what I’ve accomplished here, and what I plan to do next year.

So, what have I accomplished in 2023? Not much. I’ve painted fewer miniatures this past year than in any year in recent memory. I haven’t played a RPG since March, and have no plans to do so again. My Discord server is a barren, empty wasteland, and don’t get me started on my personal life.

I did write a RPG, run it twice and have two other groups playtest it without my involvement. It seems to be generally well-received, so I should get around to publishing it at some point. That means I need to commission more artwork and learn how to do layout.

So, no big resolutions for 2024, unlike in years past. Rather, I’m going to limit myself a bit. I’m taking inspiration from the many “paint what you’ve got” challenges out there, and I’m planning on doing that all of next year. So, in 2024, I resolve to:

Paint what I’ve got: If I painted one miniature a day for the rest of my life, I would never come close to painting all the unpainted miniatures I have; and as this year’s output can attest, I don’t work anywhere near that fast. So, no new miniature purchases in 2024. Whatever I paint is coming from the pile of shame, and I will not add to it next year.

Read what I’ve got: Although I am an avid (and fast) reader, I have several hundred books I have yet to read, many thousands on my shelves, and I keep buying books as if I’m preparing for a lengthy prison term. In 2024, I’m not buying any new (or used) books. I need to pare down my TBR pile and get rid of the stuff I will never read again. That’s the hardest part. I have a collector’s mentality when it comes to things I love, whether it’s comics, books, miniatures or games (both video and rpgs), and parting is sweet sorrow.(Caveat: I have been on the lookout for certain volumes that regularly sell for stupid prices. If I find one of those at reasonable cost, I’m buying it.)

No new painting challenges: Between Monster May(hem), Forgotten Heroes and the Season of Scenery, I get stretched pretty thin. This past year I also did the “Ogre” challenge in September, where we all painted the same miniature sculpted by friend of the blog Dave Stone; tried (and mostly failed) to paint some Grenadier orcs for Orctober; and hosted Dwarvember last month. I think I’ll limit myself to MM, FH and SoS in 2024, with one exception:

The Year of the Dragon: According to the Chinese zodiac, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, so what better time to paint a dragon miniature? I have several awaiting paint (some for much longer than others). I propose a year-long challenge: paint at least one dragon sometime in 2024, and hey–if you do it in May, you meet the criteria for Year of the Dragon AND Monster May(hem)! Since it’s a 12-month challenge, there’s little in the way of time crunch to consider. I’ll post more about this soon.

Post more often: They say blogging is dead, and I can see why; but I like having a blog, and I like reading the blogs of others. This past year, I posted once in January, twice in March, four times in April, four times in May, four times in June, once in July and August, twice in September, twice in October, three times in November, and (counting this) three times in December. That’s a total of 27 posts, most of them related to painting challenges. That’s really not a lot when you think about it. I enjoyed my deep-dive into Star Frontiers, and my list of my Top-10 RPGs of All Time, and my Crimson Hound parody AARs. I’d like to do more of that kind of thing, considering I’m not painting as often as I used to.

That’s it. A mellow end to 2023. Time to see what I can finish up out of the side pile before the clock strikes midnight on the 1st.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Dwarvember 2023 Windup

November draws to a close, and with it, my first Dwarvember painting challenge. It was a modest field of participants this year, but some really great submissions, so I certainly can’t complain. For my own efforts, I fell a bit short (Ha! See what I did there?). I planned on painting 3 dwarfs, but only managed 2. Considering they’re the only 2 miniatures I painted all month, I’ll take it as a win.

First, some old-school lead, courtesy of Ral Partha and Bob Olley, circa 1990. This dwarf has some character! Outside of Tolkien, you just don’t see too many dwarfs armed with broadswords; it’s usually hammers or axes or (God forbid) double-bladed axes. Know what I think of ridiculous double-bladed axes?

This look says it all.

Next, a Reaper miniature sculpted by Werner Klocke: Hagar, Dwarven Hero (77482). This one is Bones plastic. He’s also about twice the size of the older Ral Partha sculpt above.

I usually don’t have a hard time with eyes, but painting the eyes on this miniature was pretty challenging. Maybe it’s the shape of the face itself. I just couldn’t get it to look right, so after about six tries, I just said the hell with it. The helmet provides enough overhang that his sockets would be shadowed, anyway.

But what of the others who picked up brush and paint (and in Dave’s case, sculpting medium!) and joined me in this challenge? You remember them, don’t you? What have they done?

  • Snapfit, from Da Green Horde; did Heckarr and Jeckarr, two “dwarfs” from the Orcquest game; something I’ve never personally heard of, but you can’t argue with his results!
  • Mike, a.k.a. Sasquatch, from the @sasquatchminis Instagram account; painted two versions of GW’s iconic White Dwarf himself, one is the original sculpt from the late 70’s, early 80’s; the other is the 30th anniversary edition! (I had that miniature once, but I sold it. Dumb!)
  • Comrade, from Comrade’s Wargames; (submission pending)
  • Dave Stone, from Wargames Terrain Workshop; not only painted a dwarf, he sculpted it first, in true Dave fashion…and it’s none other than ME!!!! Well, not really me, but a great likeness of my avatar, the red-bearded dwarf piper. (In real life, I look nothing like my avatar.) Dave even got the highland bagpipes right, which (believe me) doesn’t always happen among sculptors in our hobby.

Be sure to visit these sites and check out the work of these folks yourself. You won’t be disappointed. I will post the remaining submissions once I get word of them!

Maybe I’ll get to that third dwarf in December…

Dwarvember 2023

Well, for the first inaugural Dwarvember painting challenge, the field appears somewhat sparse. Taking part thus far, we have four painters:

Well, lads, it’s up to us it seems. Although reinforcements are welcome, we can’t rely upon them. Let’s do our best! (Says the guy who had a dismal Orctober…)

Lest anyone wonder if I painted that unit of Black Tree Dwarf Warriors, I did. I just painted them way back in February, 2018, so they don’t count for Dwarvember. Nothing quite so ambitious planned this year, I’m afraid…but I hope to have three Dwarfs done by month’s end.

Let’s get painting beards!

Orctober 2023 and a NEW challenge on the horizon…

I’ve never really participated in the yearly “Orctober” challenge before, wherein one paints orcs during the month of October. This year I figured I’d give it a shot. I have no idea who is hosting this challenge (I assume there is more than one person), so this isn’t a formal thing for me. I just feel like painting some orcs.

Contrary to what 90% of participants choose to paint, I will not be painting any orcs made by Games Workshop. Although I have a veritable assload of 40K Orks in metal and in plastic (still on the sprue, in most cases), I am choosing to indulge myself in some old-school lead once again.

Behold! One of the first miniature sets I ever purchased, back when I was a wee lad just learning to play Red Box D&D. I painted these guys before, way back in the 80’s, using my tried (and failed) Testor’s enamel paints, which of course looked hideous. I stripped them about 15 years ago, intending to paint them again someday. That someday has arrived.

Pretty sure the date on the bottom is 1981; which fits with the classic gold-box era of Grenadier. No idea who sculpted these, but my money is on Andrew Chernak. Oddly enough, orcs in D&D back then were depicted as the classic, pig-faced variety; but these are more simian in appearance, kind of like the flying monkeys of Oz. Anyway, I like them.

Although, 40+ years later I still have a full set, this fellow lost his axe-head at some point. I gave him a new one from the bitz box.

I figured if I actually posted about my painting goal this month, it might motivate me to, you know, actually DO it. Here’s hoping I break out of this slump!

Also: I’m hoping to host another painting challenge next month in honor of Movember, the month where men everywhere grow their facial hair to support men’s health. Well, men other than me, anyway. I hate facial hair. I cannot grow a beard for longer than two weeks without wanting to claw it off my face. BUT…I do love Dwarfs, and dwarfs love facial hair. Sooooooo…

DWARVEMBER, anyone?

Season of Scenery: The Dragon’s Graveyard

The 4-7 of you who visit this blog regularly may have been wondering what has become of me, as I haven’t been posting very much. Two things have contributed to my absence. At the end of July, I went on vacation and returned with Covid. The less said about the actual vacation the better, as it wasn’t one I wanted to go on in the first place, and one on which I thoroughly expected to get Covid. Guess what? I got it.

I’d managed to avoid Covid thus far, and I am fully vaccinated and boosted; but there are some things you can’t avoid, especially when you are surrounded by people who think Covid is “all done” and it’s time to party like it’s 1999. (I’ve avoided getting bitten by a lion so far, too; but I never actually put my hand in a lion’s mouth, and if I did, I would hardly be surprised if I got bit.) I take some comfort in the fact that this isn’t the Covid of two years ago, so I never felt in any danger of dying. But let me tell you, Covid fucking sucks. I haven’t been right in a month, and I still feel like shit. Hence, not much in the way of hobbying (or anything else, really).

The other reason is I’ve been playing Ghost of Tsushima. As weak and lethargic as I am in real life, I am still fully able to hold a PS5 controller in my hand, which means I am still fully capable of drawing my katana and slicing a bandit in half, all in one motion, and then watching his friends run away like the honorless dogs they are. It never gets old. I know this because I have literally killed hundreds of bandits in this manner, then casually flicked the blood off my sword before returning it to its sheath. I’m not bored yet.

BUT…it’s the Season of Scenery, and the god of scenery, Dave Stone, must be appeased. Covid is not an excuse that will fly with Dave. He’s already calling my house in the middle of the night. There are unmarked helicopters circling my home. If I don’t get something done, I’m doomed.

Behold: The Dragon’s Graveyard! A resin piece by Dave himself, available through Wargames Terrain Workshop. I picked it up along with the model Dave sculpted for next month’s challenge. I painted the ground with a mix of Craftsmart Brown and Black before highlighting it with some GW Mournfang Brown and XV-88 before finally giving it a drybrush of Ivory. The bones were painted with the Reaper Bone Triad, and the rocks were painted with Reaper Dusky Skin Shadow and highlighted with GW Dawnstone and Administratum Grey. I added some tufts and that’s about it. It was a nice day yesterday, so I painted this piece outside, even though I usually enjoy sunlight about as much as your average vampire.

“OK, guys…get ready. That dragon’s lair is around here somewhere. Soon we’ll be swimming in gold…awww, shit.”

That’s probably all I’m doing for the Season of Scenery this year, although who knows? Looking forward to next month’s challenge!

Forgotten Heroes Redux: The Hypno-Hustler

Last year, one of my submissions for Forgotten Heroes was the Disco Superfly himself, The Hypno-Hustler. He’s been sitting in my display case since last June, and every time I looked at him, I wasn’t happy. Although I think I did a pretty decent job of converting a Booster Gold miniature into the Hustler, two things in particular bothered me: his base and his bass.

I sculpted his bass guitar from green stuff, and like most things I sculpt, it looks mediocre at best. I searched for a suitable guitar bit first, but the best one I could find came from a British company called Zealot miniatures, and it didn’t make sense to buy it just to pay twice as much shipping it to me. Now, though, through my shadowy network of global operatives, I’ve been able to procure one at last! (OK, it was through the kindness of Dave Stone, a shadowy, international man of mystery if ever there was one.)

With that out of the way, I set about fixing the Hustler. The other thing that bothered me was his base. I wasn’t going to put the Hustler on regular ground, so I attempted to make it look like a spotlight on stage. It didn’t really do the trick. So, I added another base and repainted it a simple white, so he looks like he’s on a 1970’s disco round.

Because this base obviously looks like shit, I will remove the Hustler and use spray paint instead to cover up the brush strokes. Then I will re-mount him. I didn’t have time to do this before the end of the month, but rest assured, it will happen. And that’s about it. By giving him a new bass and a new base, I think he’s now done for real, and a fitting end to Forgotten Heroes this year.

Forgotten Heroes: Whisper

For my second Forgotten Hero of 2023, I present another First Comics character: Steven Grant’s Whisper. Along with Nexus and Badger, Whisper actually started out in Capital Comics before being published by First after Capital’s demise. Whisper last showed up in a one-shot in 2006. I own exactly one Whisper comic, and it’s not even an issue of her own series. It’s this Crossroads comic, featuring a team-up between Whisper and Jon Sable, Freelance. Despite having a cool cover, it’s bad.

As a result, I knew next to nothing about Whisper before I decided to make this conversion, so I looked up her story. She’s Alexis Devin, an American, but trained in ninjutsu by her Japanese Yakuza stepfather. As a child she had polio and this training helped her overcome it. Alexis was working as an architect and wanted nothing to do with ninjas when she was drawn back into the conflicts of the Yakuza against her will. I guess there’s more to the story, but that’s the gist of it. She’s a ninja, and it was the 80’s. The world was ninja crazy back then.

To make Whisper, I started with these two Heroclix miniatures: The Punisher and Elektra. I’ve always hated this Elektra miniature because it looks stupid, and like many Heroclix, the factory paint job is abysmal. The Punisher sculpt is pretty bad-ass. Unfortunately, I needed that wall he’s standing on, because I have no ability to sculpt one myself. (The Punisher plays no further role in this tale.)

I started by cutting the spear apart and repositioning her arms. I removed the sashes from the spear, but kept some of the handle for each hand. Then I chopped off her hair and her skirt and filled the gaps left behind.

I spent a lot of time filing down her head. Like many conversions, this one looked horrible during the process. I couldn’t get the image of Elektra with a massive head bandage out of my mind. I reattached the sashes as a belt and some flowing wrist wraps. I shaved down the spear shafts to look more like swords.

I wasn’t about to keep that stupid pose, so here’s where I used the wall. Now she’s leaping from a high ledge, ninja-style.

Once primed black, she immediately looked better.

Turns out Whisper doesn’t have flowing wrist wraps, but I like the look of it as it gives the character an illusion of motion. I didn’t do much to the wall other than weather it a little and give it a slight highlight.

And there she is: Whisper. Overall, I think she looks pretty good. She looks a lot better than that Elektra miniature, anyway…

Monster May(hem) 2023: The Home Stretch

We are nearing the end of Monster May(hem) 2023, and it’s doubtful I’ll get something else done by the end of the month. (It seems I have yardwork that requires my full and undivided attention in my immediate future.) Despite likely having no further contributions of my own, I thought I would update the blogroll with everyone else’s submissions. I’ll add any stragglers in a few days, but here are all the submissions I am aware of:

  • Simon, from Fantorical, has started work on a large Wizkids Groot model, and it’s looking suitably Grootlike! Can’t wait to see it finished!
  • Dave, from Wargames Terrain Workshop, has sculpted a few of his own miniatures for his submissions: a Dragonkin warrior, a Clawed Fiend and a Jerba (a Star Wars beast of burden). He’s also done justice to some GW miniatures: some Dark Elf Khymera (these are sick!), a Slaan Lord on Palanquin and an awesome Chaos Giant (wow!)! That would be enough for mere mortals, but Dave is a hobby machine. He then painted a cool 3D-printed cyclops and finally, the Bitch Herself: the Alien Queen, in supersize! Dave went for a full-size model kit with the old Halcyon Alien Queen model. (Funny thing, Dave…I’m working on a model kit, too…!) It’s GREAT!!!!
  • Matt, from PM Painting did the creepy Jötunn Moder from The Ritual, and a Fungal Troll that may be one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen him paint (it’s really stunning). That would have been more than enough; but Matt also completed an Undead Goliath from Calden Keep, a Plant Shambler and a Minotaur Lord! Matt works right up to the end, though, so I’m sure we haven’t seen all he has to offer yet. In real life, meanwhile, Matt’s been avoiding bears. The ursine kind, I mean. Solid work, Matt!
  • Azazel, from Azazel’s Bitz Box has brought his A-Game, as always: he started with a “Chaos Toad Savage” (aka a Reaper not-Slaad) before moving on to some of my favorite D&D monsters: a pair of Gricks by Nolzur’s; following that with a Reaper Dire Boar and a Yugg, which is a particularly loathsome Cthulhu Mythos monster I’d never heard of before! Azazel then completed a giant snake, which really needs to be seen because first: it’s an awesome sculpt, and second: Azazel painted a scale pattern that I am totally copying if ever I get the chance. Then he managed to finish a long-dormant project: an “Abominalpha” for Zombicide: Black Plague, together with a “Weremanboar” and “Actual Cannibal Shia LeBoeuf”; and finally, working right up to the wire, a Shoggoth from Cthulhu: Death May Die! ! Azazel’s stunning paintjobs aside, there are some really cool miniatures here that I’ve never seen before, and that’s not even close to everything ELSE Azazel painted in May! Well done once again, Azazel!
  • Snapfit, from Da Green Horde, comes in under the wire with a classic GW River Troll and a converted Reaper Troll, and they look great!. Snapfit says they’re called Fellwater Troggoths nowadays, and I have no reason to doubt his word. Thanks for participating this year, Snapfit! Don’t be a stranger!
  • Jon, from Jon’s Hobby Desk, rejoins us this year with some late postings (or, as he says, a head-start on next year). He did a couple of big ‘uns: a Wizkids Nightwalker and The Rancor, from Star Wars Imperial Assault! Thank you, Jon!
  • Tom, @The_Goodground painted a demon, a storm elemental, a Rat Ogre, an objective marker so monstrous it counts as a monster, a vulture demon and a Lovecrfaftian Gnoph-Keh, before turning his attention to House Cawdor and Necromunda, abandoning the world of Monster May(hem) and moving away into the East, where, like the Blue Wizards of the Istari, he passes out of our tale to fates unknown. You can see all his miniatures on his Instagram account!
  • Malcolm, @mdcampbell_dunwichcreatives painted four monsters, a Runequest Walktapus, a classic Grenadier Shadowrun miniature, the Feathered Serpent (beautiful plumage!), a Reaper Carrion Crawler…and…wait forit: Baba Yaga’s Hut! (Not the Reaper one I did a couple of years ago, a new,3D print that I like better!) He’s posted three on Instagram account so far, and you can see all of them in my #miniatures channel on the Discord server, if you have access. If you don’t, ask!
  • Mike, @sasquatchminis completed a Nolzur’s White Dragon, which he intends to use for Icespire Peak, and it looks fantastic! He posted it to his Instagram account and in my Discord server, so check it out!
  • And finally, me! I did a Skeletal Dragon and a Spiny Death Worm, both of which you can see in previous posts. I planned on a couple more, but it’s not happening this year.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for any late submissions, so this might not be the final list. Thanks so much to all who participated in Monster May(hem) this year. For those who didn’t get the opportunity, no worries: I fully understand how real life can get in the way of time spent at the hobby desk! Assuming I’m still alive next May, Monster May(hem) shall return (and if I’m not, I expect one of you to pick up the standard and lead from the front)!

Bring on Forgotten Heroes!

Monster May(hem) 2023: Week Two: The Spiny Death Worm!

Monster May(hem) continues, and this one’s for Dave! For my second submission, may I present: the Spiny Death Worm!

This miniature is one I’ve had for a couple of years now…one, in fact that I wanted to get painted for last year’s Monster May(hem); but alas, I didn’t get to it in time. The Spiny Death Worm is available through Wargames Terrain Workshop; a.k.a. our buddy Dave’s joint!

There’s a nicely painted picture of this miniature on Dave’s site; but of course I wanted to put my own spin on it, so I didn’t copy the color scheme. You’ll have to tell me if I did ok. I considered basing this Spiny Death Worm on a snowy base, but instead went for a dry desert base.

Pucker Up!

Here is the blogroll of other participants in Monster May(hem), and their projects that I’m aware of so far. Drop by their sites and show your support!

  • Simon, from Fantorical
  • Dave, from Wargames Terrain Workshop, has sculpted the majority of his own miniatures for his submissions: a Dragonkin warrior, a Clawed Fiend and a Jerba (a Star Wars beast of burden) thus far. He’s also done some GW Dark Elf Khymera, and they look terrifying, and a Slaan Lord on Palanquin (which definitely counts as a monster, Dave!) Did I mention he sculpted the Spiny Death Worm, too?
  • Matt, from PM Painting did the creepy Jötunn Moder from The Ritual, and a Fungal Troll that may be one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen by Matt, and that’s saying a lot; considering how talented he is. The colors on this are inspired. Everyone should check this one out!
  • Jeremy, from Carrion Crow’s Buffet
  • Roger, from Rantings from Under the Wargames Table
  • Azazel, from Azazel’s Bitz Box
  • Jon, from Jon’s Hobby Desk
  • Snapfit, from Da Green Horde
  • Mark A. Morin, from the eponymous markamorin.com.
  • Tom, @The_Goodground has painted a creepy demon miniature, a storm elemental, a Rat Ogre, an objective marker so monstrous it counts as a monster, a vulture demon and a Gnoph-Keh! You can see them over on his Instagram!
  • Malcolm, @mdcampbell_dunwichcreatives has painted thee monsters so far, a Runequest Walktapus, a classic Grenadier Shadowrun miniature, the Feathered Serpent and a Reaper Carrion Crawler! So far, he’s posted the Walktapus and the Feathered Serpent on his Instagram account! You can see all of them in my #miniatures channel on the Discord server, if you have access. If you don’t, ask!
  • Mike, @sasquatchminis is working on a White Dragon. He has also posted some WIP shots to the Discord server.