A Jem of a Birthday Present

Off the PageI’ve mentioned before that having a creative talent can be a gift and a curse.

During Christmases and birthdays being able to produce some nice creative presents for friends is always better than just buying them a movie or tshirt.

It’s not always a sure thing though and sometimes you decide to do a piece of art for someone and get hit by the creative block freight train that bogs you down…

A friend recently had a birthday and I decided a couple months before to do some artwork for her.  She’s a huge fan of the 80s cartoon show  Jem (as can be seen here and here) and I wanted to do a Jem piece for her.

I had a clear image in my mind of what I wanted it to be…but it took a few swings before I landed on the final…

I wanted to do a “singing” piece, not just a standing there for the poster piece.

My initial idea was a close up using Halestorm vixen Lzzy Hale as a model.

I sketched it out in pencil in my sketchbook before deciding on a medium for the final:

I tried to do it in chalk pastels…but as I progressed through it I didn’t like the look of it.  I definitely wanted the bright pink colors but I wasn’t a fan of the composition…  So I dropped the close up concept and went with a copy of a famous Jem poster…but as I worked through it I considered how senseless it was just to draw a poster…it’s just a copy of existing art.  And scrapped that too…

So I scrapped it and thought, “Well I haven’t done any straight up pencil work in a while.  I can add a touch of color to the pink like I did for my World’s End piece.”  So I started on pencils…

I thought I could do a punk rock or metal Jem…  The issue is Jem’s look is kind of iconic.  If you take her gaudy pink dresses, teased hair, and make up away she isn’t Jem anymore (as the producers of that awful film found out).  So even though I thought the art was better it wasn’t what I wanted to do.  So I scrapped that one.

With the birthday rapidly approaching I was starting to regret painting myself into the “creative” corner for the present.  I couldn’t muster the creativity to do a piece I liked and ended up regretting the choice to try it.

Then one morning I was lounging in bed one Saturday morning scrolling through Facebook and I came across a an ad for a Rick and Morty tshirt showing Rick in the iconic Scott Pilgrim pose.  As soon as I saw it I had the idea, Jem in Scott Pilgrim style.

I thought about the piece while I was at work that day.  I initially struggled with the composition, Pilgrim had his famous Rickenbacker bass.  Rick was holding a cartoon guitar.  I briefly considered just giving Jem a guitar or an 80s keytar, but I know fandoms enough to know you want to stick with accuracy.  I couldn’t give her either of those because canonically Jem doesn’t play either of those instruments in the show…  I eventually landed on having her still singing, but holding the mic cable in the same pose as a guitar player.  Once I had it nailed down I produced this:

The first one of these I was actually happy with.

It was done just in time for the birthday and now hangs in her house.  Always the best part of making art for someone is seeing how the recipient decides to display it!


The Next Warhammer Scenery Painting Challenge!

Off The Top of My Head

It may be patently obvious from my Sector Imperialis post I love Citadel Scenery.

Being a narrative player the world building portion of the game is my favorite, and nothing builds a story better than creating an interesting environment for your battles.

Over the years I’ve acquired a lot of Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy battles scenery.  I’ve painted a few pieces but never got around to painting the vasst majority.  Completing my cityscape got the painting bug back in me and I decided to start doing the rest.  It’s no small task but even the small progress I’ve made makes a huge difference!

Craters, earthshaker cannon craters, a crashed Aquila Lander, a Citadel Hill, two Citadel woods, fantasy walls and fences, Magewrath Throne, Eternity Stair, Temple of Skulls, Firestorm Redoubt, some quad guns and Icarus Lascannons, a Wall of Martyrs Bunker, a Haemotrope Reactor, and some Promethium Relay pipes.

A lot of the craters and the hill I hand painted with what was left over from my Realm of Battle board.  Everything was spray painted with GW or Army Painter sprays.  Mournfang Brown, Desert Yellow, and Khorne Red making of the majority with some Fang spray on the Wall of Martyrs details.

Here you can see more Wall of Martyrs defensive lines, a Plasma Obliterator, a Balewind Vortex, the Honored Imperium set, and two Bastions.

The Skyshield landing pad, Fortress of Redemption, armored shipping containers (behind the towers) Witchfate Tor, Dreadstone Blight, The Garden of Morr, a watch tower and chapel from the fortified manor set (where my walls and fences came from too), Arcane Ruins, and the Dreadfire Portal.

Here’s the lot!

My Basilica Adminstratum, Manufactorum, Shrine of the Aquila, And Sanctum Imperialis ses are actually primered too, but they didn’t fit on my table!

Here’s hoping in the next few weeks I can provide updates on the progress of these sets too.  Getting all of this done will be a major accomplishment for me!

Making Easy Wargaming Smoldering Wrecked Vehicle Markers!

Off The Top of My Head

While trying to re-learn the intricacies of Warhammer 40k again I remembered what a pain it is to show a vehicle as being “wrecked.”  Many makers, including Citadel/Games Workshop, make “wrecked” markers, but none of these ever seem to have the gravitas necessary to show the drama of an exploded tank or burning transport.

While re-learning the game I found myself watching a lot of battle reports on YouTube.  By far the best have been by StrikingScorpion82 whose games are both narrative and competitive.  They are also filled with great personalities and cinematic moments.  Scorpion also has a number of reviews and “how to” videos, my favorite being how he makes his wrecked vehicle markers.  His are durable, well-built works of art.  You can see his technique here:

After seeing this I wanted to make some of my own, but wanted to add a bit of effect and admittedly wanted to spend twenty dollars or less…  They aren’t as dynamic as his but are MUCH better than turning a tank of its side!  here’s what I did:

I started with some red flickering LED tea lights.  I got mine from Amazon for $8.59:


I went for red to give it the internal smoldering look I wanted.  They come in packs of twelve to give you plenty to work with.

I added some bent paper clips, which won’t be anywhere near as durable as the copper wire Scorpion uses but I had them on hand.  I used Gorilla Glue white to attach them to the candles.  I used two different version; one bent in half the other bent to stand all the way up with a folded hook at the top. The latter proved to be FAR easier to work with:

20170226_174935I masked off the bottoms of the candles (where the batteries, electronics, and switches are) and prepped the “smoke” portion.

Scorpion started with cotton wool, but I only had access to polyfill, which I got at Walmart for around $4.  I used copious amounts of PVA glue on the sides of the candles and shaped some polyfill around the base.  I then took various portions of the polyfill and shaped different “smoke” shapes around and on the paperclip bases:

You can see the polyfill around the basses in the back. The rubber bands weren’t actually too hard to take off, but also weren’t really needed. I just held each piece for a few seconds and they usually stayed. Ignore Konrad cat seated in the background…
Like Scorpion I made various sizes, based around two basic heights.


I followed the instructions on the tutorial and spray based them all gray.

20170226_200437Then added the black spray around the lower portions of each marker.

You can see the finished videos of them below!

Realm of Battle Sector Imperialis COMPLETED!

Off The Top of My Head

So it finally happened.  Over the weekend I took two days and completed the Sector Imperialis Realm of Battle board I started 2+ years ago!

Again following on from our lord and savior, Duncan Rhodes, I used the techniques he detailed to complete the painting!


Using pre-printed gaming mats is easy and fast, but for drama and detail it’s hard to beat this board.  Tt’s flexibility (six tiles that can arranged in various ways) and aesthetic are hard to beat.

20170219_185348You can see the tiny bit of Nurgle’s Rot I added to the open sewers for effect.

20170219_185514In Rhodes’ terrific tutorial he suggested using washes of varying colors to add character to the road.  This worked VERY well.  Here you can see the colors he recommended, Nuln Oil, Agrax Earthshade, and Athonian Camoshade with Dawnstone drybrushed over it.  You can also see the gutters.  They have also been washed with all three and finished with some Typhus Corrosion.  A bit of Typhus Corrosion was also added to the detritus in the gutters to unify the look.


Other than Skavenblight Dinge, which was used for all the road and stone sections, my Leadbelcher stock took a big hit.  All this metal…  Here the metal floows and mechanical components are displayed.  All were washed in Nuln and drybrushed with Necron Compound.


These bronze sections are some of my favorite pieces.  They were based in Balthasar Gold, washed in Nuln Oil, drybrushed with Necron Compound, and detailed with Nihilakh Oxide.


One of the crypt sections and one of the eagles I wanted a marble effect.  They were based in Ceramite White, washed in Drakenhof Nightshade, and drybrushed with Prixati White.

If you’re thinking of painting one of these beware…you’ll get through some paint, this handful got me through about half of it:


This was a great project and one I may be detailing and changing periodically as I use it.  It’s a great central piece and if you have one a fun project!

The World’s End Original Artwork: To Err is Human

Off the PageOne of my favorite movies of the 2000s is Edgar Wright’s The World’s End.  The conclusion of the so-called “Cornetto-Trilogy,” the movie brings together everything Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and their acting company learned from their previous experiences; those they’ve completed together and those they’ve completed on their own. It’s hilarious, unique, moving, perfectly cast, wonderfully performed, and masterfully directed.  It’s a terrific film and the best original idea I can recall seeing in a decade or more.

Because of my OCDs I tend to get movies stuck in my head and this can result in binge watching movies or TV shows on repeat.  That was the case with World’s End several weeks ago.  Watching it, then with the writer’s commentary, then the cast commentary, then the technical commentary, then with the trivia subtitles, then just again with all of that behind-the-scenes knowledge, the movie truly got stuck in my head.  I had an idea for a drawing and just had to get it on paper.  This was the scene that stayed with me, along with The Sisters of Mercy song “This Corrosion”:


I started in light 4H pencil to get the basics down:


Then worked left to right to keep the 4B and 6B graphite from smearing too badly as I went:

errpar2 errpen4 errpen4a errpar5

In the end I had to take additional pictures from my Bluray copy of the movie in order to get the costume details accurate.  Each character took around 3 hours each with Gary King taking around 4-5 as he required the most work and it was most important to have his accoutrements correct.

The final version:


I decided to add the blue eyes for Gary’s “Blank” mates, which is different from the film but made a more powerful image.  I added the bright red “To Err is Human” the partial Pope reference purposefully misquoted by Gary in his confrontation with the Network and appearing correctly written on a wall in the epilogue.  The quote became the unofficial name of the drawing.

To make perhaps my artistic life, I posted the drawing on Twitter, not expecting too much only to find the next day Edgar Wright himself, my favorite active director, actually liked the Tweet.  I did a bit of minor bragging about this one!



Dragon Tales: Experiences at DragonCon Part 2

Cosplaying it Up

In my last post I mentioned Cosplaying at the con.  Cosplaying is a huge part of just about every kind of convention now and one of the best aspects of going to a con is seeing the effort and work participants put into their costumes and the terrific creativity on display.

Everyone is appreciated no matter the skill and everyone is there to enjoy and not judge.  it a great atmosphere, especially for new cosplayers. This was my first year in costume to a con like this and I found it to be an amazing experience.  I was stopped for pictures with con-goers and other cosplayers.  Mad Max and Nux stopped me to ask me how I made some of the material.  I got fist bumps from random strangers out of appreciation.  And most of my costume was done on the cheap!

Here are some of my favorites from the Con:

A great Mr Oogie Boogie. That’s a deceptively difficult costume, especially to get the face right!
This Mr Freeze was a show stopper. All those lighting effects and crafted armor pieces, not to mention the freeze ray!
An excellent Tidus. The costume crafting and weapon were terrific!
Dr Doom! One great thing about taking pictures of cosplayers is how each one usually has an in-character pose they use for their pictures.
We loved this master shake. Again it looks simpler than it is but it’s still a basic idea and the simplicity of the costume matches the art style of the show.
We saw this Penguin from Batman Returns several times and had to get a shot of him.


I lost it when I saw this Nurgle Chaos Terminator. It was a very creative construction and looked great!
Mugatu was in character all night and even won the prize in a costume contest.
My best friend’s wife went as Elektra from Netflix’s Daredevil. It was a very creatively compiled costume!
She went as Psylocke on day two. She made everything herself!
She went as Psylocke on day two. She made everything herself!
My Judge Dredd. Even though I felt it was incomplete it got a lot of positive reactions.
I got to pose with Cobra Commander!


Kylo Ren even asked me to dance!

Cosplaying is so much fun and so empowering I highly recommend it.  Even if you’re an obsessive introvert like me who obsesses about accuracy and details, you’ll be surprised how many people just love that you’re there in costume.  No one sees the missing details, trust me!  It’s all about fun and for me it was the most enjoyable part of the con.