Saturday, December 22, 2012

VW Chicken Coop

Every now and then you find an unusual bit of inspiration. In this case... the Volkswagen chicken coop. A friend posted this photo to Facebook and I immediately knew that I had to model it. Within a couple of hours I had ordered all of the necessary components

Unfortunately my options were limited -- first in that I could only find a 1/48 VW that was the wrong model, not well detailed, and lacked the removable side panels. As I didn't want to do a lot of scratchbuilding I went with what I could find. Although I found 1/48 chickens the detail on them is laughable. They're chicken shaped but lack any hint of feathers or anything else. The smallest chicken wire I could find is too large -- although I think that the impact of that, visually, is very limited.

In the end I'm very pleased with the finished result and enjoyed this distraction a great deal.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

California IPMS 2012

I'll have photos up of my winning entries later -- but I'm so thrilled to have left the California IPMS competition with three trophies, including a gold, that I had to post a little something right away.

There were easily more than 300 models at the event, divided into 21 categories. I have never seen that many competition worthy models in one place at one time. It was amazing! I met some wonderful people, learned a lot, and had a great deal of fun.

Thank you, IPMS Silverwings, for putting on a great show!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Adepticon 2013

Registration for Adepticon 2013 is live - and this year I will be on site teaching nine classes covering three separate topics:

Hands-on With Pigments
Weathering Demo (primer to display)
Airbrushing for Figurines and Vehicles

Be one of the first 1,000 to register for your weekend badge if you want to get your hands on the premium swag bags.

And remember, if you get a photo with me while you're sporting your Secret Weapon t-shirt we'll send you a $10 gift voucher!

157 days and counting....

Saturday, November 10, 2012

German Command Train

While I'm not going to post photos of the entry itself, this is the base for one of my upcoming IPMS competition entries.

The text is German for "Water stop" and the scene includes a water marker, the water cans, and a discarded water barrel. From the front view the train car will sit at the right edge of the scene, leaving a small section of the track exposed.

The foliage is thickly layered to give the scene a more wild feel, with paths trampled out at the front where an officer will be standing.

I'll post finished photos following the competition -- wish me luck!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Night Jukebox

Acapella thunder? Beat boxing? Rock cover? Yeah, this has it all. I'm not in love with the song, or the rendition, but the first two minutes are super awesome.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the queue....

Once upon a time there was a simple, black HO scale 8k gallon rolling stock car -- and I just couldn't have that. You see, my father in-law collects large scale trains, and Christmas is coming. But since the large scale trains are far more expensive than their smaller cousins I decided to do a test model.

But for the next "ask misterjustin" segment I'm going to start in on the big boy!

Tune in on Monday 5-November at 4 PM Pacific time (GMT-8) at to catch me live -- or look for the YouTube archive on Friday.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Night Jukebox

After "Hell Broke Luce" last week I decided to bring Tom back with one of his older tunes - and one of the few that my wife really likes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Night Jukebox

Tom Waits has long been one of my favorite artists - from the smooth crooning of his early lounge singer style to his more recent, much rougher, more political screeching. Tom is, without question, the most played artist in this house and what I'm most likely to be listening to while I paint.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fire Wizard

This model isn't technically finished, as I see some touch-up to do, but it's close enough that I thought I'd share it. I'm not sure who makes the model, although I think it's a Reaper piece. The model can be removed from the display for gaming -- and will go to a dear friend of mine as a surprise for his birthday. Don't worry, he doesn't follow the blog so it will still be a surprise.

He chose the model, the colours, and the setting which left me a bit of creative license on the execution but I otherwise tried to stick with his vision. I doubt that it will surprise anyone to know that this will be his D&D gaming model.

I had a lot of fun experimenting with this base and I'm pleased with how it turned out. I was worried that the foliage and snow would compete -- but I think the light application of both makes it work.

The sculpt itself was fairly good, although the face left a lot to be desired. This is another one of those sculpts with the classic smooshed face syndrome, complete with drastically lopsided eyes. Fortunately the funky side of the face is largely obscured by the armor.

And tomorrow I should be able to do the touch-up work, set this one aside, and make some room on my work table for something new. Or, you know, maybe finish something else....

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Night Jukebox

I've heard literally dozens of versions of this song, from every Irish and folk band I've ever come across, but this is the one that sticks in my head. It's hauntingly beautiful and one of the only songs that can hit my shuffle and actually get me to stop painting for a moment and just listen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chaos - Heldrake

I was unable to meet the deadline for the 2012 charity project and so told the winner he could pick any one model for me to paint. This is that model. He wanted the classic black/bronze scheme but I took some liberties and went to town with the idea of weathered bronze. From assembly to this stage I'm probably 4 hours into the project.

And now a quick review of the kit itself. First, I'm not a fan of the concept. While the other Demon Engines look like they were designed to function and then stuffed full of demon - this looks like a jet fighter that turned into a duck. That just doesn't do it for me. It is, however, an INTERESTING model and I like it more now that when I first saw previews. But I still don't like it.

The model itself is very well engineered - but also very fragile and very limited. Assembly was incredibly easy but I'm disappointed that while Games Workshop has been giving us more posable, dynamic models this one is really a fixed position, banking to the port, demon duck.

It is also the most fragile plastic model I can remember working with. The wings and neck are fitted with ball joints - and even a liberal application of MEK over a scored surface left me having to re-glue the model several times after only light handling. While I would generally pin a model like this the body is hollow, and the walls thin, so there's not much to be done.

The most disappointing thing for me, however, is the big open cavity in the back where the jet engine would be. It really looks like a trussed turkey from the back. Because there are exhaust ports on the torso, top and bottom, you can also see completely through the model from several angles.

Love it or hate it I'm glad to have had a chance to paint this - but don't expect to add one to my collection for anything but a must-have army item... and I'll resist that if I can.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Night Jukebox

A couple of my favorite blogs, including my good friends at Massive Voodoo post regular music updates, and so I've decided to jump in and add the Friday Night Jukebox tag to the site. I'll use these posts to share workbench updates and some of the music I'm listening to while I work.

In this case a new find for me that I can't get out of my head.

More to come....

Friday, September 28, 2012

WIP: Mongo - Painting

 My 1:1 work with Mathieu Fontaine is focused largely on blending skin tones - and so we went for big colours on this guy. The model is perfect for it, with his seriously overdeveloped bulk and forward leaning pose.

Unfortunately it's still painfully obvious which sections I did with the brush and which sections I did with the airbrush. I also need to tone down the left leg as it has far too much white on it. But I'm improving and that's really what I'm after.

Given that so much of the model is blue and green I decided to add some blue to the base weathering - but then come back and use a dark orange for the fabrics. He doesn't have a lot of it so it shouldn't overpower. I will also be shading it in much the same way I did the skin to help tie the colours together. I will probably use the same orange on his goggles.

And here are some close-up shots of just the skin so you can see what I've been working on. You can also see the first shade on the orange of his left foot.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

WIP: Mongo - Basing

I'm going to be doing some 1:1 work with Mathieu Fontaine this week to improve the transitions on my skin tones... and thought that Mongo, from Dark Age, would be a perfect piece for this. He's a large model made up almost entirely of muscle.

Of course I also decided to spend a bit of time doing some base work and so spent a couple of hours today knocking this one together for him. It's not finished but I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it.


Friday, August 24, 2012


This is a plug. It is a shameless, shameless plug.

For those that don't already know I have largely ducked out of production at Secret Weapon Miniatures and handed it over to a Production Manager -- David Parigini. David came to Secret Weapon Miniatures while looking for part time work after leaving his full-time corporate job to write a novel.

A novel which he has since finished.

It's a good novel, if I may say so... and I am a picky reader.

He now has a developmental editor, and typesetter, standing by to help him turn it into a great novel. But he needs help. More specifically he needs money.

And so this is a plug for his Kickstarter.

Help a good man self-publish a great novel.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Build Me An Army!

I’ve recently launched a list building contest with the help of my friends from the Screaming Heretic Podcast and  Mathieu Fontaine.

With the help of the incredible crew at Screaming Heretic,  Mathieu and I will each chose a list to build, paint, and play. We are looking for a 1750 list that can be scaled to 2000 points with new additions -- not two separate lists. I will also favor a list that gives me a 1000 point option with little or no model swapping between the 1750 and 2000 point versions.

We both love the GW fluff,  the 40k universe, and how it is portrayed by Games Workshop and its incredible team of artists. Sticking to this will be your first step in gaining our vote. Blood Angels are bloodthirsty rampaging Space Marine so do not expect us to chose your shooty list of red marines. The classic argument of “it’s in the book so I can do it” does not mean anything to us. So make sure to represent the fluffy theme of an army when sending in a list.

We want a composition that is well balanced, fun to play, and perhaps a bit challenging. Wiping the table with our opponent while eating a falafel is no fun. In fact we do not mind losing as long as the army is fun to play with. Effectively if you send in a Draego-wing list one of us is going to hunt you down and pee on your keyboard.

The crew from Screaming Heretics will be evaluating your submissions over the next few episodes. Mathieu and I will both select our winning list in mid/end November. Note that there is no sure win here. Both Justin and I will be choosing a list based on our personal preferences.

You can see Mathieu's preferences on his blog (new window).

Here are my preferences.

- I prefer plastic models. I’ll take a Finecast character but…

- Character is key for me  – but I enjoy character models as much as I do armies with character. An army that comes with a fluffy background is just easier for be to get excited about. If it has a fluffy background AND specialized models it's already awesome. Forge World casts are acceptable as well.

- The army must include at least some vehicles but doesn’t have to rely on them.

The “no thank you” armies:
- Tyranids

- Infantry heavy Eldar or Dark Eldar armies – I like the vehicles and support models but don’t really like the infantry options for either army.

- Chaos Demons – I love the models but don’t want to paint 1,000,000 static models for my army.

The “Top 3″ armies:
- Chaos – Chaos Space Marine and Renegade armies are always welcome.

- Classic Space Marines – as in an army with characters that would give me an excuse to have a lot of Forge World armor kits on hand.

- Witch Hunters – I’m holding out for plastic Sisters… but if you can come up with an Inquisition army that’s playable you’ll have my attention. Allies are acceptable but shouldn’t be the main thrust of the army.

All the lists have to be sent directly to the Screaming Heretic crew at

The prizes!
Mathieu will be giving away a brand new Omni 4000 airbrush from Badger (retail value of $145).

I will be giving a $100 gift certificate from Secret Weapon -- and by the time the contest closes well have Badger airbrushes available on the site....

Let's see what you have!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August "ask misterjustin" Delayed

Hey folks, just a quick note to say that the next live broadcast "ask misterjustin" segment will be delayed until Wednesday 8-August. It will air at its normal time, 4 PM Pacific (GMT-8) and stream to the Secret Weapon blog.

If you have a question you'd like answered you can leave a comment here or join in on the live chat feed during the broadcast.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Live Broadcast - July 2012

This was the test broadcast for the monthly "ask misterjustin" segment that I will be doing with Secret Weapon Miniatures. We've made a lot of technical improvements in advance of the second episode -- and you'll find me live on the first Monday of every month at 4:00 PM Pacific (GMT-8) answering questions from the viewers.

You can also submit questions in advance -- which is especially useful for those of you on the other side of the planet that might miss the live broadcast -- via misterjustin AT secretweaponminiatures.

I won't be able to get to every question, every month but I'll certainly give it my best go!

I will also embed the live stream on this blog for those of you that can join us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Upcoming Mini-Workshops

This summer is starting to fill up with mini-workshop... and I think I like it!

I will be teaching two hour classes at these events:

Gen Con Indy -- August 16 - 19
I will be at the Cool Mini Or Not booth running product demos for Secret Weapon all weekend. This is going to be done cooking show style with a camera and big screen TV.

NOVA Open -- August 30 - September 2
I will be teaching 2 hour classes all weekend. We're working out the schedule now but I will be teaching my hands-on with pigments class, basing, and intro to airbrushing. There might be other topics including my two hour "everything weathering" demo.

Rio Grande Wars --  October 19 - 21
Another weekend filled with two hour mini-workshops.

I'm still waiting on the details for actual class times but these events are on the calendar and I'll be there.

If you have a Secret Weapon t-shirt remember to get your photo taken with me -- it's good for a $10 gift voucher!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Studio McVey: Pan - Basing

Studio McVey makes some of the most amazing models on the market - and I've been waiting to make time to paint their Pan for a very, very long time. This weekend I finally made some time to get the base started.

At this point I'm waiting for the water to dry in a natural furrow in an olive wood block. The block has been lightly stained ebony to darken it a bit - and I've added soil, brass ferns, and tree stumps (from Secret Weapon) to create a more full scene.

I'll check on the base when the water is dry, add some detail to it, and then start looking to add a bit more foliage to the "wet" area.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kubla Con 2012

I'm back from Kubla Con 2012 with trophies! All three of my entries managed to place and my "Happy Monk" took the People's Choice award this year.

I got some great advice from a couple of the judges after the show and I'll have some better models to show next year.

StuG III Ausf. B - Dragon Models - Gold
CMON voting link

Old Japanese Man Bust - Silver
CMON voting link

Happy Monk - Silver & People's Choice
CMON voting link

And I've already ordered the model for my next competition vehicle....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dragon StuG III Ausf. B - SO CLOSE!

The display base isn't going to happen. Alas. I do have a nice ebony oval for the competition, but I simply didn't have time to finish the breakfasting Germans to my satisfaction. I'm a bit disappointed but, in the end, still quite happy with the model that I will be taking to the competition.

I get a lot of well deserved flack for "over weathering" my vehicles. I really enjoy creating extreme weathering -- whether it's a long abandoned tank or one recently destroyed -- and I really enjoyed going back to something simpler.

This was a straight forward, no frills, no detailing build with just a few after market accessories. The ditch beams are scratch built from basswood and coloured with oil paints and pigments. The food stowage, to compliment the breakfast crew, is from Verlinden. The rest of the stowage, with the exception of the scratch built tread pins, in the spare road wheels, came stock with the kit.

There's more work to do on this tank when it comes home on Monday -- but in the interim it's ready for the competition and I'm happy with what I'll be taking.

I'll post some better pics when I get back.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dragon StuG III Ausf. B - The Home Stretch!

I'm finally in the final stages for this project and happy with how it's coming together.There's still a lot to do, and not a lot of time in which to get it done before the competition this weekend, but I'm sure it will be ready. Of course I have no idea how I'm going to transport the display without destroying the tree... but that's a separate problem.

The StuG itself is nearly complete at this point. I'll finish the weathering when I'm ready to attach the model to the base. Right now it's just sitting there -- likewise the figures are pinned but not glued as they're not finished either. This is just a composition check to make sure everything is where I want it and that it's all going to fit as planned.

Here you can see our happy tank crew enjoying a nice breakfast before they get back to killing and mayhem. I'm paying a lot of attention to how these guys look from the "front" arc of the display to make sure that the highlights all bring the eye to the tank. You can see some of that here, despite the poor lighting, in that the guy in the foreground has highlights on his shoulders to his right arm, the guy in front of him on his left arm, and the guy by the tank is brightest closest to the tank itself. All of the highlights work with the models themselves but the emphasis is placed to draw the eye to the central point -- the tank.

I left some negative space at the front corner so that the tank, tree, and crew would have a focus from the center of the "front" arc to draw the eye into the tank as well. I will add some bright, low foliage in that area to help with the focus.

And here is the nearly finished tree. I have some foliage to add and some to trim away. But if you look at the last StuG post you'll see that it started life as a wire armature. Unfortunately I couldn't find the foliage I really wanted so I've had to settle for my second choice. I had hoped to make this a birch but none of my local floral shops stock the dropping grasses I need. Alas.

I'll have final photos posted soon but probably not before the competition this weekend as time is getting tight.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Monk - Revisions

Well, I just couldn't leave well enough alone -- and this time the model is better for it. That's not always the case, of course.

I did a bit more smoothing on the shadows and highlights, touched up the skin a bit more, and added the branch -- complete with leaves on the base to tie the piece together a bit more.

The original "finished" photos are here and you should be able to spot the differences without much effort.

This guy will be coming with me to a competition so there's still a chance I'll make some minor improvements in the next few days. I see plenty of things that I'd like to change -- but I know that it's easier now to screw it up completely than it is to improve on what's there. Given that I really am happy with the model, especially with the new changes...

Maybe this time I'll leave well enough alone.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quick Tip: Individual Track Links

As I was sitting here working on the tracks for the StuG III Ausf. B kit it occurred to me that someone out there might like to know the method I use to keep the tracks from getting everywhere. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tutorial: Hull Texture - German Steel Plating

 Several people have asked me how I created the steel plating texture for my StuG III Ausf. B and so I put together this quick and easy video tutorial.

I am also working with Secret Weapon Miniatures to bring back the "ask misterjustin" series as a monthly video tutorial segment -- so stay tuned for more on that front... and get your questions ready! Ideally I will be answering viewer submissions every month as I seem to be much better about producing tutorials when I know that someone actually wants to see them. Go figure, right?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dragon StuG III Ausf. B - Texture & Paint

I've had a lot of people ask me about how to create the German forged steel texture and so I'm using this kit as a demo piece. I haven't done anything to the build at this point beyond adding spare track to the front so there won't be a lot of extra detail to distract from the texture.

I actually recorded a video demo today and hope to have time to get it finished this week. The technique is very simple and is a good, quick way to add texture, realism, and visual interest to a model. Plastic kits are too smooth and the finish always leaves something to be desired.

Of course even a simple demo kit deserves a nice home -- and so I'm working on a wire frame tree to have it moving through a field . The plan calls for a low fence as well but we'll see how that plays out after I put in the uneven ground.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Warlord Cromwell Mk. IV - Salvaging the Base

The first thing you should do when you're getting ready to approach a display model is think about the base and the setting. In the case of this project I completely failed to do that. I thought no further than using the shiny new baked ceramic bricks to make a road. I didn't even bother to consider that with a display this size 99.999% of the brick detail, especially the uneven treadway, would be UNDER THE TANK!


I didn't bother to consider the composition, colours, location... anything. And so this particular display has been a salvage project. I thought about what I would have wanted to do from the beginning -- and with the exception of the tank placement I have been somewhat sucessful.

First I added the wall. It's made from cut plaster and includes some creeping ivy.

Then I made the tree and added it to the base. I still need to apply some oil washes to help blend in the two bark materials -- which I also should have done before I added the foliage. Again, oops.

This project has been, more than anything else, an exercise in patience. I have been tempted to just toss it in the rubbish and start over. But I won't do that. I'm going to take it from where it's at and make it the best it can be. If nothing else it will serve as a reminder to plan out my other projects before I actually start work on them.

And besides, it's not BAD... it's just that it could be so much better.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Warlord Cromwell Mk. IV - Base Work

Earlier today I was ready to scrap the base for this project - despite the insane amount of time I had spent laying individual bricks for the road. At this point I'm feeling a bit better about it... but I'm still not happy.

In addition to the flagstone wall I have added earth to the bulk of the base. I'll colour that with some pigments and add bits of ground cover after everything else is finished.

But as it stands at this moment there's a 50/50 chance that the base could be scrapped altogether.

Warlord Cromwell Mk. IV

This is another great kit from Warlord Games --- this time the Cromwell Mk. IV -- that I decided to work on while mulling over ideas for my next big project. The weathering on this one is much more subdued -- and you can contrast the hull, which is nearly finished, to the turret which I haven't started weathering.

The turret will get an Allied star prior to the weathering. I added positioning marks around the turret. These would have been hand painted and so I kept the lines crisp and the numbers a bit rough. I'll add some chipping to them before the weathering starts.

I still need to add more pigment to the bricks, tracks, and road wheels -- and paint the handle on the shovel. Oops!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Inspiration - Weathering Tanks

This photo was taken during the protests in Egypt and is one of my all time favorite tank photos. It does an AMAZING job of showing what realistic weathering looks like on a well maintained, actively deployed, CLEAN tank looks like. Make no mistake, outside of a museum this is as clean as a tank gets.

One of the things that comes up a lot when we talk about weathering scale models is the fine line between well weathered and overdone. I think one of the things that really surprises people that haven't seen modern tanks in the field is how quickly they weather, how rough the surface is, how poorly they're painted, and how little the crews worry about keeping the paint fresh.

The photo above was taken recently in Sudan. You can easily see that the road wheels are pitted and rusty, the paint is chipped, the tracks are rusted where they're not being worn, and the front of the tank in positively CAKED in gunk.

This photo was taken on the family farm and actually belongs to a piece of well maintained, often used farm equipment. It's not pretty and the paint on the body is pretty bad. What matters is that it functions well and it's not falling apart. In the field, military or alfalfa, that's the most important thing.

This is a different view of the first photo that does a good job of showing just how worn and dirty this active duty tank really is.

And the question of what to do with a broken fender is pretty clearly answered in this one.

Here are some examples of tanks currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And here are some colour photos of WW2 era tanks in good shape that have been well maintained and whitewashed like you'd expect to see in the winter scenes.

But of course no discussion of tank weathering, especially winter tank weathering, is complete without a grainy, black and white historical photo. It is photos like this one that we're often forced to reference for historical projects -- and it can be made easier by taking MODERN photos and converting them to black and white. While you still have to do a bit of guesswork it does make it a little easier to sort rust from mud and whitewash from chipped paint.