Sunday, June 27, 2010

Real Life is Unrelated: Car Researching

So, with my requirements in mind a very open minded and understanding girlfriend/fiance, I hit the streets intertubes.

First things, first, make a list of all the companies that sell cars that I can afford.

Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Chevy, Ford, Chrysley, Hyundai, Kia, Smart, Scion, Subaru, ... etc. The list goes on and I'm sure I've forgotten things. Hell, there are companies that I didn't even look at because I plain forgot. Many of those companies have more than one model in my range as well.

That's not daunting at all.

On the plus side, this means I'm actually spoiled for choice. Which means I'm pretty much guaranteed to find a car I like.

Time to start doing some early eliminations to cut down the work load before I hit the serious research. Some of these cars are things that are actually very good, but for whatever reason, just didn't grab me. I know its not particularly technical or logical, but a car is a big investment. I need to be happy with it. For the most part, these are the things I eliminated from consideration without doing too much research.

I'll bunch 'em together for the sake of brevity.

The Super Boring: - Hyundai, Kia and Toyota. As cheap as these cars are, as long as the warranties are and as reliable as they may be, they are a collection of the most boring and souless cars in the world. These are the kinds of cars you would buy if you were the kind of person who was simply waiting to die.

[Of Note:] The Toyota Yaris. A car exactly as stupid looking as its name would suggest.

American Cars That Aren't a Ford or a Saturn: GM, Chrysler and all the (largely) shit they own. By and large, there are reasons that these companies are in financial trouble. Its because they make cars for the shrinking number of people who have never driven any thing from Europe or Japan. Which is to say that they make shit cars for the most part for people who just don't have a clue. I'm generalizing for comedic effect, of course. In any case, all of the cars in my price range are awful.

[Of Note:] The PT Cruiser. I can't say enough bad things about this car. Having had the misfortune of a week long test drive in a rental, I can safely day that it is the worst car I have ever driven. The interior seemed like it was designed as an afterthought, the acceleration was awful, the ride was abysmal, the trunk space was pathetic and the car looks like a hearse for Warwick Davis.

Saturn: does not exist anymore.

Suzuki: Totally forgot these guys existed.

Scion: The 'cool' Toyota line. I actually do like the looks of the tC. However, it only comes in a 2 door version (failing an important criterion) and the other two models look like the rest of the Toyota line - boring and uninspired.

Smart Car ForTwo: Its ugly, tiny, poorly made and, apparently, wildly unsafe on the highway. As I'm shopping for my only car, I need to do better than the world's largest baby stroller.

Honda Fit: Special Lady Friend liked this car, in principal. It was inexpensive, reliable and had good gas mileage. And then she saw one in person in a parking lot. I didn't like it for much of the same reason. Also, its a tiny, tiny car and I'm 6'2".

Luckily, that was pretty good size of the pool already eliminated. Now it was time for some more in depth research.

More on this later.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fluffy Side Up: Alpaca Lips Now

Despite the many and glaring failings of the Apocalypse expansion, I've always been a fan of it. It appeals to the hobbyist in me, the small part of my brain that likes narrative gaming, the gigantic hole in my sanity that all collectors share to some extent and my love of the spectacle.

This is an Alpaca

Unfortunately, a lot of people are turned off to the idea of an Apocalypse game because of shit like this:

Click on the pic for the full parking lot experience

All too often all of the potential of Apocalypse is reduced to its value as a spectacle or an exercise in commerce. If this is your idea of fun, I'm not going to sit blog here and tell you you're doing it wrong. The issue is, that the prevalence of this kind of Apocalypse game turns off many of the people like me, who still want to see some level of skill involved when they play a game. Doubly so for a game that might take 8 hours or more to finish. I don't want to spend a day playing a game only to loose because I was outspent or because I had the misfortune of going second.

And its a damn shame that Apocalypse has this reputation. It has too much potential for it to be wasted on things like Parking Lot Battle 2010 up there.

Look, I know that an Apocalypse game is never going to be a substitute for a close-run game of regular 40k (no matter how hard people try). But it can be fun and it can be rewarding. You just can't take the expansion rules at face value - you have to work at it.

More on this later.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Real Life is Unrelated: Car Shopping

I think I'm going to let a bit of real life leak into the little fantasy world this blog purports to be a about. I've got some stuff in the pipeline that I'm having problems getting fired up properly as well as some stuff I can't really talk about for another 38 days. Might as well go on about another thing I enjoy - cars!

As I've mentioned before, Special Lady Friend got into a car accident which was totally not her fault. Speaking of things involving totals, our beloved Honda Civic was written off as a total lose as a result. Thankfully, Special Lady Friend was unhurt and the car was worth more than we owed on it.

So it was time to go car shopping.

Now, most sane people like car shopping about as much as Mr. T likes jibba-jabba. They might hate dealing with sales people, get freaked out about the financial side of it or even just plain not understand cars. I, however, enjoy car shopping. I'm a masochist that way.

Actually, full disclosure, I actually do hate used car shopping. Its pretty much awful. It's a whole lot of running around looking for exactly what you want or settling for what's on the lot. Either way, the car you get often feels like the first pull in a game of Russian Roulette.

Right, back to car shopping... I like car shopping because it means that it's new car time. Which means that I get (and I do mean 'get to') to do a whole bunch of research on cars for the ultimate goal of getting a new car that I'll actually enjoy. Thanks to a genetic disposition to being a car-guy*, my love of Top Gear and my tendancies to researching the living shit out of things, the whole process is great fun for me. Try as I might, I can't really explain it coherently. So I won't really bother.

This time around, like the last, I did a ton of research on the cars that were in my price range. I compared prices, looked at performance, checked reliability and in general, day dreamed. As an added bonus for this time around, our credit scores were actually pretty awesome. So instead of having to eat the "crappy interest rate financing" lemons of the first time buyer, we could actually expect to get a good deal. And, thusly, more car for our money.

I find that doing my homework before I even set foot in a dealership saves me like 99% of the hassle of the whole process. Instead of having to blindly grasp at information fed to me by a dealer and test drive a million cars, I can get down to the business of the matter. I effectively sidestep all of the sales pitches and wasted time that the less prepared get stuck with. This also helps me avoid buyers regret since I'm in virtually no danger of being talked into things.

So before, I delve into the research I did beforehand and what my thoughts on things are, I want to mention the requirements that I was working with. This is a key step in the research process - you need to know what you're looking for before you start going to dealers. At least you do if you want a shot at getting a good car.

Working with Special Lady Friend, we determined that our new car requirements were basically the same as they were when we got the Civic - 4 doors, good gas mileage, good reliability, good safety ratings, air condition, an automatic transmission and not ugly. All for less than $22k.

Actually, a note on the automatic transmission - If I lived in a flatter sate with less traffic, a manual would be what I'd want. Its cheaper, the gas mileage can be a bit better and its just plain more fun. However, for whatever reason, there are a ton of stop lights at the top of steep hills (roleback) and lots (and lots)** of stop and go traffic.

In secret, I also added a bunch of stuff to a wish list of things that the car should have: alloy wheels ('cause they're awesome), more power than the Civic, more doo-dads and an interesting appearance. Basically, typical guy stuff.

Once I had that, it was time to start poking around at the manufacturer's websites. Since there are so many cars in my price range, it was a pretty big task. A task that I will go into in future posts since it resulted in a metric ton of ASCII characters.

------[Foot Notes]-------------------------
*Seriously, my dad probably endangered his marriage on more than one occasion when he went solo car shopping unannounced. One time he pre-ordered a car he had never seen. This genetic fun fact has put Special Lady Friend ill at ease on numerous occasions.

**and lots

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Airbrush - Hive Guard Skin Tutorial

Back in April I completed a Trygon using an experimental (for me, anyways) airbrush technique. In the cryptically titled post, I had only alluded to the fact that I had used an airbrush for the skin. Dethtron (having an airbrush) and Hoagy (being an artist at heart) wanted to know more.

Unfortunately, they had no hope at any expediency on me fulfilling that request - It was to be a month before I got more Tyranids and almost another month before I would paint them.

However, their long period of suffering is over.


Throughout this little tutorial, I've used the Iwata HP-BH as my weapon of choice. Ever since I got this in February it has totally replaced my use of my old Badger. It's got a much finer needle, it has better control, it wastes less paint and it's much, much easier to clean. To an extent, you will need an airbrush with the capability to do a pretty narrow spray width to do what I'm doing.

Lets get into it. Since this was the 2nd time I've used this technique, my methods have improved over what I used on the Trygon and I'll mention improvements as necessary. Comments for each step are underneath the picture. Going to forgo the Picassa web albums as they don't lend themselves to very much detail in the comments. I'm also gonna take a second to whinge a bit about my lack of skill with lighting in my macro photography.

As always, click on the photos for the bigger, more detailed versions.

This is actually a combination of steps one, two and three. Step one being prime the model white (Duplicolor white in this case). Step 2 is to hit the skin with the base coat via airbrush and, step 3, preshade the nooks and crannies with the shadow color.

A couple of quick notes -

I wasn't very fastidious/careful with the shading. I was basically just roughly lining all the spots I wanted to be in shadow. Since I'm preshading, the next step will hide most of my 'mistakes' anyway.

My base color is a mixture of P3 Frost Bite, Exile Blue and Khador Red Base. Its mostly Frostbite. The shade is the same 3 colors but a lot heavier on the dark blue and red. This gets me back to my post about pre-mixing custom colors. I made a batch of the base and the shade color before I got started. One thing I learned from the Trygon is that matching a custom color across two parts of a model worked on at different times is very hard and time consuming. Adding an airbrush to that challenge makes it damn near impossible.

As you can see, I have now oversprayed all of the skin with white. In this case I used the Tamiya Flat White (XF-2). Previously I had used the Vallejo Model Air white but found it to be too thick and tending to clog the airbrush unless you thinned it with water. Unfortunately, the Model Air paints won't thin nearly as far as the Tamiya. So Tamiya wins two points - one for ease of use and another for availability.

I was aiming for very thin coats of the white to build up gradients with multiple coats focusing the whitest ares to the raised portions of the exoskeleton. You can't really tell at this point, but much of the purple-gray shading is still slightly visible and the whole model still has a slightly blue hue from the base coat peeking out from underneath the very thin white layers.

I've now gone back over the preshading in many areas (but not all) with the same purple-gray shading color. I did this for two reasons - to punch up the divisions between the shell and the skin as well as deepen the shadows in areas that I hit with too much white paint. At this point I am much more careful with the purple and I'm actually starting to do some blending. However, I still didn't have to be prefect since there was still another stage with another chance to fix mistakes.

Hopefully this is apparent in the photo... A this point the skin is pretty much done. I've broken out some white paint, thinned it down and then layered it on by brush on the raised areas and muscle ridges in order to provide highlights and correct the rest of my shading messes. As the Tamiya white was sprayed on in such a way to provide gradients, this step finishes off that process. I chose to do the final highlights in this way for better control as I'm no where near an expert with the airbrush. I also like the effect a bit more.

As with many things in painting, the key to this step is multiple thin coats that have plenty of time to dry between applications. Keep a hairdryer handy.

Now we start adding in the heebie-jeebies. I've mixed up a wash of VMc Old Rose, P3 Khador Red and Sanguine Base (I think) and then blended it around the areas that I think would be best served be being a pit pink. I'll mix more red into the mix and re-apply for deeper recesses (like the vents on the limbs). Nothing to special here, though a bit of blending can be involved.

Here, I paint the ribs in the arm vents (Frostbite mixed with white) and then tighten up the white with some more brush painting to fix boarders and details. At this point the skin is now done and then its on to the shell and claws- which I wont get into since they are in no way fancy.

It may look like a lot of steps, but its a pretty painless and quick way to get some interesting effects on harder to paint (well) organic shapes of the Tyranids.

I've actually got this guard finished and once I figure out when I'm gonna paint this guys bro, I may post some finished shots.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Logo

Testing out a new logo and fiddling with the html. Bear with me as I play with things.

Comments and feedback would be appreciated.

Report From the Home Front and a Hot Mess of Introspection

[WARNING]: This post is kinda long and rambling

One of my many super secret new years resolutions was to increase the amount of posting I did here on Laubersheimer Industries and thusly increase readership. Not doing so good so far on increasing production, in all honesty. Which is kind of a bummer for me (and maybe you) as I genuinely do enjoy blogging.

I like coming into contact with new people and ideas, I like writing (as it turns out) and I like the fact that people are actually interested in what I have to say. Hell, in a sick way I even enjoyed the nearly incomprehensible hate mail I got from John Humphrey when I ripped into him for being a whiny bitch.* Sadly, I write about as fast as I paint - slowly. Which is why I feel like I fall down a bit as a blogger - I need to post more often in order to get to where I want to be.

Which brings me to the most recent two week gap and the problems facing most of us bloggers who are employed - the interference of accursed real life. I do a lot of my thinking about topics for this blog at work during the slow times. Sadly, the summer has not been as as slow as I'd like so far.

1) Due to an extremely aggressive new website launch date and a woefully understaffed web design department - I've been recruited to help the web guy and his part time copywriter to build out the 1200 pages on the new site. So instead of some nice time for quiet reflection and getting caught up with my collection development tasks, I've been up to my ass in Jumpcharts and some god-awful Datatel CMS doing a task that is ... less interesting than I'd like. Mind-numbingly tedious yet requiring complete concentration.

2) Sad times for the Laubersheimer Industries transport division - Special Lady Friend got rear-ended on the highway (she was at a complete stop due to what I will loosely classify as 'construction'#) and then consequently rammed into the car in front of here which was consequently rammed into the car in front of it. This all happened about last Monday. Thankfully the insurance process has been quick, it wasn't her fault and the other guy's insurance has accepted responsibility.

Super luckily, Special Lady Friend is fine and the car was worth more than we owed on it. Financially speaking, it may have been a pretty lucky break since we paid off the car and can now probably get a way better deal on a new car. Bonus points for getting enough money back for a new down payment. The down side is the PT Cruiser rental we're stuck with. Oh, and Special Lady Friend's general condition of achiness and airbag friction burns.

3) Coming up, the Progenitors are coming to visit so I've been busy bringing the cleanliness of my apartment up to code. Next week looks to be a busy one as there are numerous touristy things to do as well as some car shopping. Not much else to mention except that another trip to the Met is scheduled as well as another delicious excursion to Louis' Lunch - birthplace of the hamburger.

Rather than cut this short, I'm gonna press on. One of the best things about blogging is being able to pretty much do what you want in terms of style and content. So lets take care of some loose ends. Eat a dick, continuity!

A) I've added a couple more blogs to the links list. I think both the Back 40k and Strictly Average are exactly the kind of things you'd enjoy if you enjoy this blog. The back 40k is a great collaborative effort that is all over the place in terms of content, but very constant with its quality. Strictly Average is that rare personal hobby blog that is both interesting and an absolute laugh-riot to read. Brent, seriously, you crack my shit up.

B) Since BoLS seems like they are never going to announce the winners of the BA hobby challenge, I'll just go ahead and mention that I clinched 3rd place.

Not as well as I'd hoped - as anyone who enters a contest wants to win it all - but I'm still very pleases with finishing in the money (even though there is no prize for third) AND being best in class (that made up class being 'tanks'). I'm pretty chuffed, truth be told. Maybe I'll get a mention when BoLS finally gets around to posting the results.

C) As I look back on the early days, I notice that the blog has evolved. Not to earth-shattering a revelation, but interesting never the less. When I first started out I had visions of being a simple super cool hobby blog detailing all of my ace painting. Turned out I paint too slow and it was boring to write and even more boring to read. Then I had brief aspirations of becoming a hobby info page that would increase the level of table top quality and SAVE PAINTING FOREVER. Turns out I paint too slow, writing tutorials is hard & unrewarding and that its easier to link to the people who are doing way better work in that area in the first place. At this point, I'm pretty much writing 'just another' hobby blog, but I think I'm much closer to having found my own voice and made the process mine.

I've also noticed that as I've personalized the blog a bit more over time. I tend to put a bit more of my self in the writing and even some of the details of my personal life. I also swear a lot more as well. I think all of that does wonders for connecting with people and engaging them in discussion as a human being. Some of the other hobby blogs are pretty dry and formal when you get right down to it - very impersonal and very... bland. While the impersonal, completely on topic PG rating hobby blog may be fun for some people, I find that it lacks passion. Something I think is very important when writing about a hobby you love.

Looking back at some of my early posts, it was all WIP shots of yet another boring marine army and totally uninspired, flavorless writing. There was no zest and verve. I like to think that I've become a lot more entertaining as an author over the years.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with where things are and as I've evolved, people seem to be responding to things better. So... go me.

With that, I think I'll briefly mention that I'm in that rare place where I actually have more ideas to write about than I have immediate time and that it's new logo time. So be on the lookout for some sweet photoshop 'art' and some articles on a wide range of topics including (in no particular order) things like Footdar, Apocalypse, car shopping, a four year blog anniversary and an actual tutorial.

So as I come to the end of one of my most rambling posts in a long, thanks for sticking it out this far.

------[Foot Notes]-----------------------
*The best part about the whole thing is that half way through writing my response, I received an 'edited for clarity' version of his rant complete with a totally polite intro to the edits - such as they were.

#and by construction, I mean a highway dept, truck had decided to close a lane of traffic for no reason around a blind bend with no warning signs on a two lane highway with no shoulder. Luckily for him, after he caused an accident he had the presence of mind to flee the scene.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Breeeeeeeent BRENT

Brent, you get your own full on response post for asking questions and restoring my faith in the assumption that my hobby content actually gets read. Sorry for the delay as I think I've figured out that this question is in regards to your BoLScon Footdar extravaganza.

This is fantastic advice. I've got an army in the works now, with just the base purple on. I'm sort of stalled out on what direction to go, but I'll premix some colors first. As an aside, what works well with purple for a dark army? Think foundation paint highlighted up a stage. I'm thinking of Warlock Purple and some form of blue for the accents, but I'm not sure if that's enough contrast. Sorry to bug you with this - Brent

No need to apologize for asking questions, my man . Sharing, like swearing, is caring.

Before I get into my advice on purple, I'd just like to say that the problem with your Storm Raven pretty much begins and ends with the color you painted it. It should have been red. Other than that, I think its pretty good - its unique, actually looks like something that flies, carries dudes and shoots guns. But with nary a lick of red paint or Blood Angels icon to be seen, there isn't much to draw people's attention away from its shape.

Don't feel too bad about bad color scheme choices. We've all done it.*

Now, moving forward from my words of encouragement/brilliant segue, we're at the part of the post where I answer your question.

The first piece of advice for you is to do a test model - it doesn't even have to be Eldar. Just something you can do some of what I call 'sketches' to see what your color scheme would look like. You're not even aiming for a finished product or high standards - you're simply roughing out some colors to see what they look like together. I find this is great help when I'm messing around with new ideas. Its a relatively quick and low impact way to make sure that your army is on the fast track to coolsville and not clown college.

Paint the test model... don't look at it for a bit, then (later) look at it up close, far away and under different kinds of lights. Show your friends. Make sure you're happy with the colors before you commit.

As far as the color selection goes - If you're in love with the idea of purple/blue accents for the hormagaunt purple, then pick one or the other. I think doing both an additional purple and a blue will muddy the minature. I.E.: make it look indistinct at distance. So pick one.

If you go this route, you may want to consider some of the science Sandwyrm dropped on us recently. Part III of his, frankly, amazing series deals with different kinds of color harmonies and gives us some some very interesting things to consider. If you want to go with a third color, you may want to consider a split-complement kind of thing. I'd keep the third color very small areas and for picking out small details. With any paint scheme, you don't want to overload on main colors.

Just as a quick note, while I deeply respect the kind of information Sandwyrm has presented, its the kind of thing that can quickly drive you mad if you focus on it too much and hold it up as some sort of set of rules. Its just another tool in the toolbox. An extremely useful and powerful too, but remember - there aren't to many hard and fast rules when it comes to aesthetics.

Now, in regards to a split compliment - if you end up with two purples or even a blue and a purple I think you could do some pretty cool things with some of the complimentary colors. I think yellow could be good. So would a light green, but I like this idea the least. Better still, I think some gold details would look fantastic. For my money, a gold paint more on the yellow side of things would be best - something like the Formula P3 Brass Balls.

Moving beyond the colors you suggested, some more neutral colors could work wonders for accents - black has potential, but it might get lost in all the purple as they're both dark colors. Again, this is why test models are heroes. I think some grays may be a better option for this route.

Actually, back to gold for a second - I'm really thinking that no matter what you do, some gold details would look great - keep that in mind.

And there you have it Brent. Those are the kinds of things I would play with first. Just keep in mind that since painting is so subjective, that my advice is based largely on my opinions - so I may be dead wrong in someone else's eyes. Which is why test models are so important.

Above all else - no matter how good you painting skills are in a technical sense, crap color choice will always kill you.

------[Foot Note]----------------------------------------------
*The much laughed at McWorld Jacks. Ugh.

The Week In Review

Blogging comes to a near standstill when I'm on vacation. Or staycation as the case may be. Especially when is a busy staycation. Officially, i was back to the grind yesterday, so we now return to our irregularly scheduled shenanigans.

Didn't get a lot of painting or 40k gaming in to be honest, as there were a ton of distractions -

1.) The aborted trip to the US army ordnance museum. Canceled on account of cat illness. Techno (the cat) went from chronic hairballs to an allergic reaction with his medicine to not eating. Add in foot long phlegm trails from his hatred of the liquid Benadryl and a worrying lack of poop and it just wasn't possible to leave him all alone for 24+ hours. On the plus side, he's healing up now, eating regularly and heading back to his normal craziness.

As it turns out, the trip to the museum can be done in a day (although its a bit rough), so its still in the cards for the future.

2) Super Mario Galaxy 2. Totally killed my free time. Its almost like I need a support group for my addiction to power stars. Overall, I like the first Mario Galaxy game better - the world design was much more interesting and there was a definite novelty aspect. That being said, the sequel is very, very good. And, if I'm honest, a better game-play experience.

The bosses aren't recycled, the difficulty curve is certainly steeper but better balanced and the bonus 120 stars aren't just you redoing the game with a green shirt on. The 2nd player co-star mode actually lets your buddy (or significant other) do something besides collect star bits (they can actually kill enemies and stop projectiles - WOAH!). A lot more variety in levels too and most of the gimmicks are no where near over used. Oh, and the fetch quests aren't nearly as mindless.

But still I like the first Galaxy better. I've been able to nail it down to level design. However, not in the sense of how difficult or well put together the challenges in the level in - something the sequel is way better with. Rather in terms of world creation. The first Galaxy had much more expansive levels that just begged to be explored and ogled. Galaxy 2 - not so much. The levels are much smaller and more focused. Though there ends up being a great deal of variety in setting and more tightly engineered challenges, the levels in Galaxy 2 never grabbed me in the same way the did in the first game.

3) Burn out from the BoLS challenge. Eating, breathing and shitting red tank for two weeks really sucked the wind out of me in terms of painting. I'm just not built for speed when it comes to painting. Rushing what would become my entry by a week or more and still maintaining my insanely high standards was very rough. I was working up until, literally, the last hours before the deadline. It got me in the contest on time but sucked out a portion of the enjoyment i get out of the process. Overall, kind of a stressful couple of week leading up to the deadline. Which is the exact opposite of why I paint.

All that being said, it was a valuable experience that got me a pretty ballin' tank well ahead of my initial 'wait and see' schedule. But, it also got me some stress related burn out. Thankfully, Mario was there with some power stars to take the edge off. Once BoLS posts the results, I'll talk about them in more depth.

Ze Future - I think I'm down to the last remaining star in Galaxy 2 and I'm starting to feel the painting itch again. I'm currently working on some Hive Guard step by steps for Hoagy which should go up as soon as I have a bit more progress done and then its off to Eldar land for a while. Probably a long while since I'm still 3 tanks, 3 vypers and 1o guys short of a whole army. Not to mention the additional $300 dollars in stuff I've identified as things I'll need to achieve the thin veneer of 'options' for my list that the Eldar codex affords me.