Hello there, traitorous scum! Welcome back to week 6 of the third quarter of Hammer the Backlog, the weekly tabletop wargame and mini painting accountability and productivity blog. This week was an unexpectedly fun week of going back to basics, and a bit of a realisation on the fickleness of trends. Let’s start, as always, with a look at this week’s scorecard.
As you can see, another week fully in the green. Only five fully completed models made it onto the scorecard, as I took it a little bit handy over the last few days. I only completed the minimum of five models and didn’t push myself to get anything else done.
And what an enjoyable five models these guys turned out to be. The little twist of this week was that these guys ended up being a bit of an exercise in back to basics. Let me explain, in a slightly long winded and unnecessary way.
Games Workshop models, and in particular the way they are painted, are infamous for having gone through phases. The most infamous and obvious of phases was the notorious ‘Red Phase’ of the early to mid nineties. These models are famous for their bright and vibrant colours and the appearance of bright red on every single model, no matter how out of place it might be.
Later periods, for example from the early to mid 2000s, became much more grim and gritty and desaturated. This gave us the 6th edition look, and maybe more iconic than anything, the John Blanch inspired look of Mordheim.
I’ve been thinking a lot about these ‘styles’ and I reckon they have a lot more to do with paint technology than we may think.
The paint of the late 80s, early 90s was quite different from today. The bright primary colours of the models of the time are mostly due to the fact that 1. There were a lot fewer colours available and 2. The paints of the time were notoriously transparent.
Since the paints were transparent, it took many thin coats to get good coverage and a white base coat was the best way to start.
The grim and gritty period of the late 90s to mid 2000s coincided with the arrival of paints with much higher pigment density. These let you get decent coverage over any colour base coat with fewer layers. This was the era when I mostly learned to paint and we sprayed everything black! Painting white? Spray it black and layer up through grey! Painting red? Put on a high pigment foundation red, shade with black or chestnut ink and highlight up a little bit.
The next era of painting was from about 2008 to 2018. I will always call this the ‘liquid talent’ era. The painting style of this era was to undercoat whatever colour you want, basecoat with high pigmentation ‘base’ paints and then apply a wash. The wash could be one of the notorious dips, strong tones, or GW’s famous Agrax Earthshade or Nuln Oil. This really was the era of the speed painter, as you could paint whole armies with this method in the same time as it took to paint a unit in the 90’s style. I find models from this period a bit murky for my taste, but on the right units it can give you an incredible result in a short time.
Of course, as in all things, life is an endless circle and we have ended up back around to white undercoats. With contrast paints coming out in the late 2010s we have gone back to the era of high transparency, low pigment density paints. The contrast method is the one I have been using for my retro warhammer models. One of the reasons it works so well is, I think, that stylistically it’s not all that different. White undercoat, build up transparent base coat and then highlight.
You can actually recreate the old style of nineties models with modern paint. And you have the advantage of working with much easier to use paints. Check out the likes of https://www.instagram.com/goblingreen2021 and https://www.instagram.com/whiskeyandwizards for painters who create incredibly accurate old school paint jobs with much nicer modern paints.
THIS WEEK’S MODELS
So the point of that whole rant up above was that I painted the first seven of my traitor guard from Blackstone Fortress back in the liquid talent era. They were all base coated with GW base paints, slathered in Agrax Earthshade and then given 2-3 stages of simple highlights.
After working with contrast basecoats almost exclusively for the last few months, I was dreading going back to the liquid talent style. I did not relish the idea of two thin coats of base paint on every section.
But! It turned out to be great fun! These guys were a simple joy to paint and highlight. I did cheat a little bit and used contrast for the skin and dark brown, but everything else matches the guys I did 5 years ago. My painting has even improved a little bit. Even though I felt these didn’t get maximum effort from me, their highlights are a bit neater and the shadows more defined than five years ago. I also did them in about half the time! There is a lot to be said for the positive effect on skill that having a brush in your hand every day for a few months can have.
Well, that is pretty much it for this week. I hope you will join me again next week for more barely connected ramblings and 4 Chaos Beastmen!