Tag Archives: IMO

The Scary Big City

I have a mostly rural background. I grew up on a farm at the end of nowhere (that’s half again as remote as the middle of nowhere), I graduated from a small town high school, and I’ve never lived anywhere particularly pedestrian-friendly. My big-city-living experience is limited to the year I lived in Medford, where I pretty much avoided going anywhere except my job right down the road.

I’ve always been fascinated with metropolises; in fact, when I was but a wee sprat I thought I wanted to live in New York City. I’m pretty sure I just wanted to get far away from the delightful farm aromas to which I was accustomed. Then I realized I’d probably just be trading cow shit in the barn for human shit in the alley.

Anyway, I was excited to experience the great! big! city! of Corvallis when I rented a studio downtown. I was also–as Illidan would say–totally not prepared. (That joke probably makes no sense to most of you, but the two readers who play WoW are rolling on the floor.) I’ve rarely been so bewildered by an environment. There are SO MANY people. That may seem obvious, but the sheer number of bodies roaming around didn’t sink in until I was wading through them every day. I felt like I’d just stepped off the train in my straw hat and overalls muttering, “Reckon I’ll make my fortune off these here city slickers just as soon as I find me some heifers to wrangle.” (“Wrangle” is a technical farm term meaning “wander around the field hoping that you are somehow convincing the stupid livestock to go the correct direction.” It is a futile hope.) During the day, my neighborhood is a solid wall of humans in search of coffee. At night, it’s an overwhelming mess of lights and traffic, at least to me when I’m trying to drive home.

I’m very slowly getting used to it. However, I have a few questions for you folks that are comfortable in such places:

1.) Why the fuck do cities need so many one-way streets? Do city people enjoy driving around the block seventy times to find a road going the right way?

2.) On days when I’m feeling particularly antisocial, is there a way to keep people from looking at me? Sometimes I just can’t handle the risk that some friendly stranger might try to interact with me (the poor fools).

3.) What really happens when you accidentally put your trash in the wrong dumpster? Judging by the signs, the world ends in an explosion of cosmic wrath. Ditto with parking.

4.) Is it normal to be easily distracted by window-shopping? Because it takes me 20 minutes to walk one block due to looking at all the pretty colors. Apparently I will admire your broken plumbing if you put it in a front window with an interesting sign.

5.) If a car stops in the middle of a crosswalk I’m trying to use, is it permissible to set them on fire? If not, do you know a good lawyer?

Honestly, I’m really enjoying exploring my new surroundings. I grumble and snark, but my city experiences have been mostly positive. I have been assured that someday I will feel less overwhelmed. In the meantime, feel free to say hi if you see me out and about. You can recognize me by the flamethrower I’ll be carrying.

ArtSnacks: August 2016

August 2016 ArtSnacks

Please excuse the shitty pictures in this post. I’m waiting on the delivery of some decent lights to up my photography game.

ArtSnacks is a monthly mailing service for art supplies. For a fee of $20 per month, ArtSnacks sends four to five full size products, sometimes including exclusive items. (They also put a piece of candy and a horrible art-themed joke in each box.) Visit ArtSnacks.co for more information.
I am not affiliated with ArtSnacks, and I don’t receive any kind of compensation for writing about their stuff. I’m pretty sure they don’t know I exist.

Robert Simmons Acrylic Short Handle Paintbrush
$5.99 retail (all prices as stated by the information card included with the samples)

brushThis synthetic fiber brush is billed as an Exclusive! First! Look! for ArtSnack subscribers. It’s from a new line by Daler-Rowney. ArtSnacks describes the brush as providing “…both the softness and the control that you need in order to get the most out of acrylic painting” and as “…hold[ing] the paint without losing its shape.” Sounds good to me.

I don’t do any set-out-to-depict-something-specific painting, but I do work with acrylic paint to get abstract effects (mostly on random stuff, but occasionally on an actual grown-up painter canvas). I don’t have a lot of fancy brushes, but I was intrigued by the purported precision of this brush. My hands often shake like a shaved chihuahua, so I’m a sucker for anything that offers really good control.

Keeping in mind I’m no expert, I think this is a very nice brush. I like the short handle. It keeps its point well. I’m satisfied with the amount of paint it can carry. It doesn’t shed. I’ve no complaints, except that it doesn’t magically transform me into someone who can draw a straight line. Turns out a fancy brush isn’t much help if you can’t keep your hands steady. Who knew?

Daler-Rowney System 3 Medium Body Acrylic Paint (Process Magenta)
$6.50 retail

I’m devoted to Golden acrylics. (Seriously, I would take a bullet for that brand of paint. You need some.) Therefore, it’s going to be hard to sell me on any other brand. But for your sake, dear reader, I sacrificed my principles and gave this magenta paint a shot. What follows is a comparison between the D-R paint and my golden standard.

See what I did there?paint-tube

Golden heavy-bodied paint in quinacridone magenta (the closest thing I had to the D-R paint) is thicker and more opaque. It also seems to have significantly more pigment. The D-R medium body acrylic doesn’t apply as smoothly, either.  It’s pretty splotchy unless I’m careful about keeping a lot of paint on the brush. Maybe a painting expert would be happy with it, but I find it a bit finicky for my purposes.

On the other hand, Daler-Rowney paint is certainly cheaper. (The Golden magenta I compared it to is $15.99 for a two-ounce tube on Amazon. The sample is $6.50 for 2.5 ounces.) I wouldn’t hesitate to use it to cover a large area in order to save my precious Golden paint for detail work. It’s adequate paint; it just doesn’t compare favorably to my favorite brand.

Copic Classic Marker (Blue Violet – BV08)
$7.99 retail

markerI was pretty damn impressed to find this marker in my box. (In my ARTSNACKS box, you filthy pervert! Lean over here so I can slap you.) Copic markers are no joke. They’re fucking expensive and meant for Serious™ artists. I actually own a couple, but I never use them because my meager sketching skills are unworthy of their fanciness.

I like the color they sent… although it doesn’t seem to be the vivid purple displayed on the cap. To me, it looks more like a navy blue with just enough red in it to make it technically purple.

Anyway, I can tell the marker is awesome, but other than that I’m not really fit to judge. It shades beautifully. You’ll notice on my final project that I was able to make the color darker close to the stars and blend it out to a more transparent effect at the edges. The down side is that the ink bleeds a bit too much to make a really crisp line without effort, as I discovered when I tried to use the fine tip to carefully stencil some letters. (See draft pics below.) Actually, it’s possible that I was doing it wrong, maybe by moving it too slowly while I outlined. This marker is probably just too advanced for me. I take it back! Please accept my repentance, O Holy Copic!

I will seal this offering in a jewel-encrusted reliquary with my other two Copic markers. Then I’ll embark on a sacred journey to the mythical land of Artopia, fight my way past the silent monks—feared for the pain they can inflict with a simple paintbrush—and scale the tallest mountain. After passing the three trials of the manticore who stands guard, I will place the chest on the dazzling altar of Draw-o-met, goddess of intimidating art supplies. May she bless my next ArtSnacks box with something I’m skilled enough to use.

Small 3D Zip by Baggu
$6.50 retail

whole-bag
Blah blah blah…it’s an expanding bag…blah blah blah…kind of transparent…seems well constructed…blah blah blah…no particular use for it, but I’ll think of something… I gots nothing interesting to say about it. Machine washable. Giant loop on one end (for some reason). Meh. I’ll update if it turns out to be super useful or if it falls apart.

The Project

I didn’t have any spectacular ideas, but I owe my great-aunt a letter. I usually decorate the paper when I write letters, so I decided I’d see what I could do to use the supplies to make an interesting pattern. (Except the bag. It makes a lousy paintbrush.) The paint applied really well to a homemade stamp, and I had fun experimenting with the marker. I admit I cheated a bit. As you can see on my experiment page, I couldn’t come up with an attractive way to use the fine-point brush. I finally just used the end of the handle to make dots.

Please click the first picture below to see a project slide show with commentary.

Reaper Learn to Paint Kit: Review

So this was going to be a piece bragging about how awesome the Dungeon & Dragons miniatures I painted are, but it turns out what looked flawless at a glance is fucking garbage when I took some closeups with flash. (Click to enlarge the image)

all the fuckups

Eventually I’ll fix all that, but in the meantime I can at least give you a review of the Bones Learn to Paint Kit by Reaper Miniatures. I chose this brand of paint because it’s by the same company that made some minis I bought at my favorite game store in Corvallis. I’m a complete beginner, so that was frankly the only brand I had any experience with.

I’ve been tempted to take up mini painting in the past, but I resisted on the grounds that I couldn’t really justify the expense and time learning would take when it was purely for fun. Luckily(?), Tim’s birthday rolled around right after I had agreed to take over dungeon master duties for our little group (Me, Tim, and Dave). He had created a couple of cool characters to play—-a tiefling paladin and a drow ranger, if you’re interested—-and it occurred to me that custom minis would be a perfect gift. (The fact that I was dying to try mini painting had nothing to do with it. Honest. No, seriously. Why are you looking at me like that?) Anyway, here’s my thoughts on this product.

bones kit frontbones kit open

THE GOOD

The Reaper Kit really does have everything I needed to learn how to paint minis. I was impressed that it came with three projects of escalating difficulty rather than assuming I’d be an expert after only doing it once. (I actually only did the most advanced mini, partly because I’m impatient and partly because I am already familiar with the required techniques thanks to my experience with mixed media painting.) The instructions were detailed without being too technical.

I’m a major fan of the eyedropper bottle style of paint storage Reaper uses. It makes matching custom colors much easier, as in “mix two drops of Viper Green with one drop Pale Saffron and three drops water.” That came in handy when I wanted to, say, make an orange cloak match a belt when I was painting them on different days. I just wrote down the formula and hey, presto! Not even my shitty memory could screw with my colors. It also minimizes wasted paint by making it unnecessary to mix up more of a color than you need “just in case.”

There are two types of paint in the kit: the regular Master Series Paint Core Colors and MSP HD, which has a higher pigment density. That makes the HD ideal for base coats, as it only requires one coat to  get good coverage. You then use the regular paint for washes and highlighting. Personally, I don’t mind applying several coats for a base, but I can see how the HD would be a boon for people who paint minis enough to need to save time and paint.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the case the paint came in was not as flimsy as I had anticipated. It’s made from a good, thick plastic, and the latches close securely. It includes two sizes of brush, which is nice for people who don’t already have a wide variety lying around. They were good enough quality that I only felt the need to use one additional brush (a tiny one for detail work). If the small brush had been a bit smaller, I wouldn’t even have needed that. They’re not fancy or anything, but they’re perfectly adequate for the intended purpose.

THE BAD

The kit doesn’t include red. Now, I realize that red is not used in any of the included projects, but  come on! It’s a “Learn to Paint” kit, which means that whoever is using it doesn’t already have a complete set of paint handy. Would it have killed Reaper to include one little bottle? Yes, the list of included colors is clearly stated on their site, but I don’t blame myself for not reading it closely, because I assumed it was a given that a STARTER KIT would include all the motherfucking primary colors. The set also doesn’t come with primer, but I can understand that. After all, the whole point of the Bones line of minis is that they don’t need to be primed. (More on that under “the ugly” section.)

While I appreciate having two different formulations of paint, I think Reaper could easily break their collection into three types. The opaque HD, the core MSP colors, and one billed as only suitable for use as a wash. One of the colors in particular, Shadowed Stone, is WAY too fluid and watery to have any other use. I found that out when I tried to use it the same way as the other core paints on one of my own projects. I easily mixed what I wanted from the other colors, but it would have saved me some frustration if it had been properly labeled as different from the multi-purpose core colors.

Speaking of washes, the enclosed booklet instructed me to use several drops of water to dilute the (acrylic-based) paint for that purpose. It works fine, but nowhere does it mention the potential problem with that technique. As those of you who use acrylic paint extensively already know, diluting acrylics too much with water compromises the pigment binding and can limit the longevity of your hard work. Acrylic paints ideally should be diluted with a fluid acrylic medium, especially if they need to be thinned a lot. It would be nice if there was a paragraph in the booklet somewhere that lists alternatives for making washes. I admit this is a small, nitpicky, only-an-artist-would-care criticism, though. (For the sake of this review, I followed the instructions to use water, but I grumbled the whole time out of principle. That’ll show ’em!)

THE UGLY

I’m going to quote directly from the booklet, here. “Reaper brand paints adhere well to Bones plastic, and no primer is needed. Once dry, applied paint is also fairly durable, and does not require sealing. Other brands of acrylic-based miniature, craft and artist paints apply well to the material but may not be as durable. Paint applies best to figures which have been washed with soap and water, but Bones miniatures can be painted straight from the package.”

Lies! Damnable lies!

One of the selling points of the Bones plastic miniature line for me was that it wouldn’t be as fussy to paint as metal minis. So imagine my shock when I discovered the day after painting it that the Bones mini I had chosen for my uncle had paint flaking off in large patches. We hadn’t handled it at all (I stuck the mini to a clothespin with putty so I could paint it without having to touch it), the paint just straight up didn’t stick to the plastic. So far, I’ve had to touch it up twice. I’m still pissed about it.

As it happened, I had ordered a bottle of Reaper’s brush-on primer to use on the metal minis I bought. It worked to keep the paint attached to the metal, but I had a hell of a time using it. No matter how much I shook the bottle, mixed it with a straightened paperclip and pled with it, there were still giant granules all over the minis when I has done. I had to go back and scratch them off so they wouldn’t show on the finished product. It’s possible I was doing it wrong. Maybe I was supposed to dump the primer out of the eyedropper bottle, mix it thoroughly, and somehow stuff it back inside. Next time I think I’ll just try using gesso and save myself the headache.

THE VERDICT

Despite the rage over the priming issue and lack of red, I still had a good experience with the kit overall. I can’t deny the convenience of the Reaper painting system. The plastic Bones miniatures are a great idea even though they promise more than they deliver. I fully intend to use this set of paints—and the techniques I learned from the instructional booklet—in the future, as well as purchase more Bones minis. (As a side note, the metal minis I got from Reaper are awesome and more detailed than the plastic Bones, although not as durable.) I’m going to go ahead and recommend the Learn to Paint kit to any of you who are raw beginners in mini painting with the caveat that you be aware of the system’s limitations.

Just stop being stingy with the fucking red paint, Reaper.