Monday, March 21, 2022

Final Post of Challenge XII: A Bookcase Vignette

Well here we are, three months, 885 posts, 86,634 points and gosh knows how many painted miniatures later, sitting at the close of another edition of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Wow. It's been another terrific season, with friends reacquainted, new ones made, and a general delight in all things wee, fun and somehow essential to our spirits.

Speaking of good friends, for my last post, I've traveled to Noel's Comet where the location asked that we provide something related to 'friendship'. 

I admit that, of all the thematic locations within the Challenge XII Sector, I've been looking forward to visiting this one most of all. 

I really miss Noel. He had a wonderful wit and a tremendously generous spirit. I always enjoyed a 'Noel post' as I knew his stories were always good for a BIG coffee and a good laugh. Just before he passed, Noel wrote a wonderful article about the Challenge for Wargames Illustrated. It was a 'typical' Noel piece, funny, engaging and ebullient about its subject. He loved the Challenge, most of all the people that make it, and it clearly shows in his writing.  I'm including a copy of it here for you to enjoy (and begging forgiveness from the publishers for 'spreading the Word of Noel' - thank you Sander for the PDF).

Rest easy Noel - You are missed.


As to my entry for Noel's Comet, I wanted to illustrate the 'friendship' theme by doing something regarding my best friend, Gary.

Gary and I have been friends since our teenage years. We both come from the same small northern community, his family farmed, while mine worked in town. We met through a mutual friend who told me about this new game called 'Dungeons and Dragons'. I was intrigued, and the next weekend I cycled out to my friend's farmhouse (not having a car I cycled EVERYWHERE) to see what it was all about. 

I found the four of them, all sitting around a small card table, oddly shaped dice and paper strewn about, madly scribbling, talking furtively, while penciling-out a map on graph paper. I was absolutely entranced (remember, this is 1980, when it was all so new). Gary introduced himself and he asked if I would like to roll up a character and play. And there it was. My first tentative steps into gaming, and the beginning of a friendship that has spanned decades.

Over the following years Gary and I were nigh inseparable. We hung out all the time. Gaming, movies, listening to music, concerts, holidays, you name it - we basically lived in each other's pocket. As we were both fairly quiet and bookish, and our community being, um, quite rough-and-tumble, we became each other's refuge. I cringe to think of what my teenage years would have been like without him.

Gary is a few years older than I am, and so when he left for university, I would often skip school on Fridays in order to catch the bus to hang out with him in the city over the weekend. Later, when I left home, Gary joined me in Winnipeg, where we started a game store together. I met Sarah through him, and he was my Best Man at our wedding. Due to my career, I've had to move around the country, but our friendship, over the years and miles, has never dimmed. We always make time to see each other a few times a year, and when it happens it always seems like putting on an old comfortable sweater.

So, what is the thing that I've made to illustrate our friendship? Well, after the first few months of playing D&D (and gosh, we played it every possible moment we could), we decided to plunk down for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books. This was a substantial expenditure for young teens of limited means. But we saved and scraped our funds together, and placed a group order to TSR in Wisconsin. A few weeks later Gary received a big parcel in the mail containing all our books, some dice and a bunch of figures. It was absolutely magical. I still have my original books from that order, as does Gary. Really, it's amazing the pages haven't fallen out of those books for the amount of time we poured over spells, creatures, magical items, etc. They really were a gateway to another world. 

Anyway, fast forward a few decades, where I'd come across Otherworld Miniatures, who offered a brilliant set of models depicting the scene on the cover of The Players Handbook. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to get it.  Well, it's been sitting on my worktable for the past few years, you know, seasoning, while I ruminated on how I wanted to build it... and here we are.

I've been quite taken with these bookcase inserts I've seen featured on various design websites. Basically it's where an alley, or street scene, is rendered in miniature within a roughly hardback-sized dimension. I've wanted to try my hand at one, and thought that perhaps I could come up with something using the Players Handbook cover as inspiration.

I sketched up a design and sent it to Byron, who then cut it into 3mm MDF for me. He was also kind enough to pass along a few sheets of 3mm depron foam so I could make the stone walls. Thanks Byron! 

I cut the Depron to shape, traced out the pattern for the stonework, and then textured the surface using a couple of rocks. 

After that, I used a blunt pencil to score the edges of the stone blocks to give them better definition for the dry brushing to come later.

If I had used the depron on the floor, I would have raised it too high for the statue to fit nicely within the archway (bad design on my part), so I tried an old trick I've used in the past. I simply cut out 'flagstones' from old business cards, glued them straight onto the MDF floor, and then dry brushed them to match the existing stonework. Not perfect, but it does the trick.

I considered rigging the scene with LED mini lights, but I knew that sooner or later they would degrade and fail, so I decided to go full analog instead. With my airbrush having packed it in recently, I did up the flame and lighting effects using a wet pallete and a good old brush. Very analog indeed!

After painting the enclosure and pinning the miniatures into place, I then glued in the remaining side wall. I then gave the exterior a coat of satin spray to help in future dusting... and it was done.

This upcoming week, Sarah and I will be travelling to Winnipeg to stay with Gary and his partner Mike for a little vacation. Gary's birthday was earlier this month, so this will be a belated gift to him. I look forward to seeing it, along with his collection of RPG books, nestled in the bookshelf.

- Curt