Getting back to business!

Note: this is not an apology, it is a combination public service announcement and self-motivational tool.

 Since our daughter started 1st Grade in the beginning of September, she has been sick several times and has shared that "wealth" with the rest of the family - I've no doubt we've had our own stuff and passed some on to her, but c'est la vie. Her 7-month-old brother has caught more or less everything that she has had. At one point in the past several months, the both of them had dual ear infections at the same time. My wife (in addition to being sick w/ colds and respiratory infections several times) found out that she had an abdominal hernia, likely dating back to when we had our son in February and due to a respiratory infection for several months around the time she delivered him by C-section, had complications due to her racking cough including tearing her incision - is it any wonder her abdominal muscles didn't quite heal properly (hence the hernia)? She had surgery about 2 1/2 weeks back now, is recovering nicely, and has all her innards stuffed back in their appropriate locations - morbid bastard that I am, I was having visions of Father Nurgle's Plaguebearers with intestines dangling out (thankfully didn't come true in her case) when describing her abdominal hernia to people.

 Myself, I've had several colds and respiratory infections along with everyone else - hey, why not - and am in the process of slowly getting over what feels like an ear infection on one side and has had most of the symptoms of an ear infection, but technically "isn't" at least according to two different ENT doctors. On the neat-o side of things, I got to have a CAT scan of my head to see what's going on internally - I've never had anything like that done before, barring an X-ray of a dislocated and broken "pinkie" toe a year or so ago, but that's not quite the same thing (and besides, I kinda figgered my toe was dislocated and broken, having straightened it back in place from being bent sideways). I'm still waiting on the scan results from earlier this week, and aside from a treatable cause of my "unusual ear pain," I'm hoping they also show the hamster inside my skull still hard at work busily spinning his wheel.

 All this is not really why I'm making an entry here - no, the reason I'm making an entry is to publicly advertise my intention (now that things have hopefully started settling down a bit life-wise) to get back on track with more regular updates and such here to make this painting/modeling site worth reading. To that end, here's a few works-in-progress that ideally will be showing here in future updates:
  • The Thousand Sons Chaos Lord of Tzeentch I made an entry about several months ago is nearing completion of the conversion work, but the commissioning client seems to have vanished! Not naming names, he was working at the Games Workshop Hobby Center I generally go to, but is no longer there - I never received my usual down-payment of the final fee (never asked, in truth) because I was able to get ahold of him fairly easily to go over ideas and make sure we were on the same page so far as the conversion and painting work to be done. Well, I put work on the figure on hold and sent the client an email to find out his intentions - my only other means of contacting him. At this point there's been no response by the requested "deadline" per my email to the client and I have no other reasonable way of getting ahold of him (I think hiring a private investigator would be a bit much ). All he's out financially is the base figure and a few conversion pieces, whereas I've sunk enough time and effort into this figure at this point that I'm going to finish this Thousand Sons Chaos Lord how I envisioned him - and then ideally he will be going up for sale or possible eBay auction.
  • The Forge World Renegade Psyker I have prepped, re-based and primed will finally be getting painted - ideally in a "test" color scheme for a Renegades and Heretics force allied with my Chaos Warband (The Disciples of the Four). I don't believe I've actually mentioned this yet, but the sole reason for my "going over to the side of Chaos" was Dan Abnett's descriptions of The Shriven - an army composed of workers and military support personnel of a Forge World "gone bad" - in his Gaunt's Ghosts series novel, "First and Only."

     I picked up the first Gaunt's Ghosts Omnibus in 2007 at the Black Library section at my first-ever Games Workshop Games Day while I stood in line to talk to Mr. Abnett, who was the guest author in Chicago that year. I'll repeat here more or less what I told him when I finally got up to the front of the line where he was chatting and signing: "I'm not going to say I'm your biggest fan, because it would be a bold-faced lie. I grabbed this book more for something to read through while I waited in line to talk to you and I've never read anything else you've written before. l will say this, though: in just going through the first few chapters here, I have to say you've got a hell of a great writing style and I've found myself completely drawn in and wanting to read more. Your descriptions are excellent and I can picture everything in my head, and the characterization and dialogue are very well-written. I'm really looking forwards to reading more by you." Well, ten or so of Dan's books on my bookshelf in and a metric crap-ton of unassembled GW Chaos miniatures in the basement later, and the sentiment still stands. I started working on a force of The Shriven shortly after getting back from Games Day, had a slight change of direction following the release of the Chaos Space Marines Codex and the "fading out" of support for The Lost and the Damned, and then got completely sidetracked with other "new and shiny" stuff since then.

     Things have come full circle - the three Siege of Vraks books from Forge World have re-ignited my motivation to have a combined Renegade and Chaos Marine force, and all the ideas kicking around since July of '07 are gnawing their way out of my head in new and more simplified ways. Oh, and if anyone happens to talk to Mr. Abnett - myself and a few unwholesome-looking individuals in body armor with green rubberized industrial protective equipment sewn into their flesh would like to have a word with him and bandy some ideas about.
  • Progress on a 500+ point force of Bad Moons Orks in a "speed painted" scheme, ideally with a step-by-step painting piece or two. I blame the Assault on Black Reach set and some generous bitz-donating souls for these guys.
  • Progress on a 500+ point force of converted Necrons tainted by millenia of slumber on a Tomb World in the general vicinity near where the Eye of Terror eventually opened up. They've spent their thousands upon thousands of years of dormancy basking in ambient output from one of the largest breaches by The Warp into real space. As a result, while they aren't servants of Chaos since they essentially have no mortal souls to be corrupted, their physical forms for the most part just "aren't quite right" due to the transmuting effects of Warp energy on material objects.

     After a "failed first attempt" at painting a Tau army to tabletop standards (I only ever finished a squad's worth - but they did get published on the Games Workshop US website as Honorable Mentions from the 2007 Chicago Golden Demons, so that's consolation) and abandonment of a plain ol' Ultramarines starter force from the Battle for Macragge set (blame Dan Abnett, as mentioned above), I set my sights on painting up some Necrons just for the sake of playing the game (hey, Necrons are easy to paint, right?) I even took shortcuts to speed things along (using spray paint as a base coat color, washes for shading, and simple edge highlights), but then my imagination kicked in after the first 3-4 Warriors and they started not to look so... regimented any more.
  • A number of single-figure display-quality figures that right now are sitting lonely in boxes and blister packs near my painting desk in our basement.
  • Heck, maybe even some of the several hundred old school Grenadier and Ral Partha figures that have been stowed away in drawers and boxes since I took a break from (or got sidetracked from) miniature painting when I first went away to college almost 17 years ago now.
So far as tentative planning goes, I'd say that's a fairly healthy list thus far. What do you guys think?


Weathering Reference Photos

 Last Friday on the way home from work at a new position in downtown Detroit, I figured I'd take my time driving and snap some photos of examples of environmental weathering, paint chipping, collapsed buildings, fire-damaged structures, and some unfortunate examples of "urban decay." I've had a number of jobs around Detroit over the years and have seen a lot of sights similar to the images further down - while I can't say it's not somewhat saddening, I also think these images make for good reference pictures for modeling different weathering/environmental effects. I added a few more pictures to the lot en route to other destinations this week, but essentially they are all in relative time/place order if one were to follow a slightly wandering path.

 Just for information's sake, I don't generally pick up a camera to go and shoot images of "urban decay" as a matter of course. Our cell phone plan allowed us to upgrade to Blackberry phones, and this initially began as me testing out the surprisingly good built-in camera after taking a detour past a major backup on the I-75 expressway. Another reason I went through areas I've been through many times before taking reference pictures of this kind of stuff is that I plan on replicating similar environmental effects as a basing theme of sorts for any figures I finish on several small 40K "armies" currently in progress.

 While there's a lot of nice parts of the city, by and large they are along the main roads and mostly centered around buildings/areas of significance. Sad, really, as there's a lot of cultural significance to many parts of Detroit. In contrast to "built up" areas, there's a great many midtown Detroit neighborhoods that have reverted back to a quasi-rural state, mostly from population relocation/abandonment. About a half mile from one of the "built up" areas of the city, for example, you might find yourself in an area of boarded-up buildings, razed plots of overgrown land, vacant properties used as dumping grounds, and the occasional long-term resident with no "neighbors" visible in any direction - that's essentially the case in the progression of photos here. I took most of these pictures along a trip north on Mack Ave from Woodward in midtown, west along Brush St to near Interstate 94, detoured slightly off the service drive of I-94 near Mt. Elliot, and then through one of the neighborhoods off northbound Gratiot about a mile or two south of 8 Mile Rd - essentially the rough boundary of northern Wayne County.

(Click on the thumbnails for 1024x768 res pics - 56K users beware!)

Corrugated metal, weathered wood and cinder block, likely gang tags, and (hopefully not visible) a family of feral cats amongst the trees/undergrowth

Closeup of weathered cinder block and rusted/heat damaged sheet metal vent

Rusted metal, weathered stacked plywood, overgrown concrete and damaged fencing

Burnt out timber and roofing, chipping painted wood

Overgrown burnt out building/vehicle w/ several overgrown gravel mounds in foreground

Collapsed building due to fire damage w/ collateral fire damage to adjacent brick

Burnt down structure being overgrown - surprised the heck out of me, but in stopping there briefly I flushed out a huge pheasant from the undergrowth nearest the former building

Naturally decaying brick facade due to exposure w/ staining/exposure on adjacent structure

Collapsing brick wall, chipping/peeling paint

Distance view of derelict factory-type structure

Images of effects of weathering/paint chipping/rusting/fire on various materials

Large patterned gold surface in daylight (I've been impressed with the appearance of the roof for a while, but never had a camera)

(Same as above, but from a different light/camera angle)

 I drove by some shady/depressing stuff for some of these pics - a few crack houses, a likely prostitute who noticed me parked and started towards the car before I drove on, the "bread van" making the rounds at one of the 24-hour warming centers for the city's homeless/indigent, a seagull exploding in a cloud of feathers in the middle of the street after being hit dead-on by a car and an outright not-so-subtle drug deal going down on one of the residential streets that (coincidentally?) had one of the better examples of a burned out building when I turned the corner at the end of the same block. Probably the only cheerful thing out of the whole lot would be the "donut 'n' coffee" shop, so I saved that for the end - it's been there for ages (and so is presumably good - dunno, I've never stopped in) but the golden metallic-paneled overhangs are a recent addition (past year or two) and look positively amazing on a nice day with sun.

If by some chance the owners of some of these "reference materials" would prefer me not to have a particular picture posted, lemme know and I will certainly take it down.


An update... literally and figuratively!

 It's been a little while since my last legitimate update here, and I don't want anyone to think I've forgotten the place. I started a new job Monday of last week, and even though it's "just" a contract behavioral health intake/assessment position where I'm there through a placement agency, it's the first time I've worked since early February of '09. It's kinda nice being able to say I'm gainfully employed again, even though I still need to ideally finalize some things: like the timing of an expected paycheck in the (hopefully) near future versus much-needed income from my (thankfully) extended unemployment benefits; what my actual official duties are at this placement position, as they seem to change to greater or lesser extents from day to day; even niggling "little" details like how long this position is expected to last - I was told at least a month, but don't have a definite schedule yet past the end of this work week. The job itself seems decent enough, and at a respectable agency despite things being very hectic and there being a fairly big adjustment to working a schedule again instead of being a stay-at-home dad. My wife also had surgery today to repair an internal tear in her abdominal muscle apparently dating back to some difficulties with the birth of our son in February. Um, I've had a busy past few weeks!

 All that being said, there is somewhat of a definite update to the site - I've gone through and revised all my previously posted Hobby Tips with the main focus of the tip appended to the title so as to make it a little easier to search for a specific topic, if anyone were so inclined. Maybe more significantly, I've dropped the "Tuesday" part from the whole Hobby Tip thing. I had originally intended to post them as a regularly scheduled feature, but the "Tuesday" thing was completely arbitrary; I didn't want to "steal any thunder" from the guys over at The Painting Corps (not that I think I would, but still...) They've got a great site and their regular Friday hobby feature is a much-looked-forward-to part of my blog reading - they never fail to be informative and a lot better written than my own. As a result, I picked any other day besides Friday and Tuesday drew the short straw; the problem with writing up content specifically for Tuesday being that I either had something to post but then had to postpone it to Tuesday, or, as has been the case of late, I'd be so busy throughout the week that a regular Hobby Tip entry either got put up past my self-imposed "deadline" or, worse yet, not at all. With that in mind, and with a lot of things going on in my life right now outside of miniature painting and modeling, ideally I'll be able to post things worth reading or looking at (I can think of four or five finished figures for which I haven't posted any static pages linked to my website Gallery, for example) as well as fairly frequent Hobby Tips, small and large, that ought to hopefully keep people other than myself entertained by seeing.

Is there any specific content that someone might want to see me cover, out of curiosity?


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