OathkeeperGames Workshop Mordheim Trollslayer and Warhammer River Troll duel, completed July 2005
The Oathkeeper duel was sort of my return to display/competition-level painting after three long years of exclusively painting marines for my "paint-to-play" 40k army. I'd hoped to wrap up that project much faster than I did, so when I finally reached a reasonable milestone I was all too ready to work on a project with no gaming use whatsoever. The Golden Demons occasionally include a Duel category - two miniatures on a particularly-sized base - and that year was my first chance to participate.
Returning to display-painting was a significant change from trying to paint an army (even my highly inefficient, shockingly laborious way to paint an army), and I ended up learning and re-learning a number of things. I had grown increasingly frustrated with the GW paint pots of the time; the hard plastic lids wouldn't form a proper seal, and I had to add water and mix the paint every time I opened one. Failure to do so (or just leaving the paint unused for a few weeks) resulted in ever-thickening paint until the whole bottle was unusable. So in a fit of irritation, I decided to use this project as an opportunity to test two lines of paint I'd not tried before - Reaper Master Series (RMS) and Vallejo Game Color (VGC). Both were being used to great effect by painters I respect and were reasonably easy to purchase in my area. I painted the majority of the dwarf in RMS while most of the troll was painted in VGC. A few tried and true GW colors also made the list, along with my favorite oily-metal accessory: Tamiya Clear Smoke. I intend to write up some of my thoughts and experiences on the paints I use for an article on this site, but in the meantime my pseudo-product review of the RMS flesh tones can be found here.
Earlier that year at Adepticon I'd taken a green-putty sculpting class from Joe Orteza and had a chance to put some of that instruction to good use here. The dwarf is one of my favorite slayer models (an out-of-production Mordheim mini), and he got little more than a weapon-swap and a few embellishments. The troll on the other hand was significantly more work and despite Joe's class, I was still more "converter" than "sculptor" at the time and I ended up chopping up three trolls just to kit-bash one arm for this project. I had a little trouble finding a natural-looking pose for the arm holding the bone club until I finally just picked up a stick and look in a mirror. This was the first time [of many] that I'd physically checked a miniature's pose in real life, and I'd recommend it to anyone trying a new or problematic conversion.
Chopping up three troll arms cost me quite a bit of detail and I needed to re-sculpt a number of scales in order to match the rest of the body. The "spear" tool from Joe's sculpting class was and continues to be the workhorse of my putty work, but the scales on this troll were fairly small [I thought at the time] and I was having a terrible time getting the level of detail I wanted. Somewhere between the first and third attempts to sculpt these scales, I ended up making my first scratch-built sculpting tool. I hammered a piece of brass rod mostly flat and using the same filing and sanding techniques I'd use to clean a miniature, I shaped a smaller, sharper, spear tool. A brass sculpting tool isn't as strong as a steel one, but brass is easier to shape with delicate files, and the tiny bits of putty I use it on don't put up much resistance anyway.
My first two attempts at troll-scales clearly didn't match the existing detail of the model, but I thought I had it on the third attempt. I showed my wife (whose opinions are uncluttered by my decades of hobby obsession) and her immediate response was "these scales don't match those scales", pointing to my putty work and then the original model's texture. So the third attempt was duly removed and (thankfully) the fourth version passed inspection. I can't say I was especially pleased to sculpt the scales yet another time, but I can't say she was wrong. To this day she provides a [largely] unbiased assessment of my work. If something doesn't look right to her, it gets re-done.
The base was one of my first forays into resin casting. The size restriction for the Duel that year was a 100mm x 50mm "chariot" base. I built the scenery over a standard GW chariot base using plasticard, green putty, Milliput, a resin-cast rock, and a twig from the front yard, but I was unsure how best to paint it, and I didn't want to risk ruining the original. So I made a mold of the complete base and cast a number of resin test copies to practice on. I tried lots of different paints, colors, and effects in what was probably the longest trial and error period I've ever endured. Seven test bases later (and largely out of time), I was fairly sure I knew what I wanted to do and how. Time allowing, I still try (and recommend) test models like these, especially with new techniques and media.
With all that trial and error, I was happy to finish this project in time for Games Day that year, though it ate up so much of my time that it was the only project I completed that summer. Looking at it now, there are a few minor things here and there that I'd like to change or update, but I feel the learning experiences and final results were well worth the effort.