Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Painting Log: Ototo

There is a phenomenon that I've encountered in all my years of painting miniatures, one that I should have a cute name for by now, but in the absence of a really good name I'll just refer to it as a "loomer."

Whenever I'm considering a painting project, I try to figure out where it falls on the spectrum of difficulty and complexity. Some projects are likely to be very easy, simple, practiced; models you could paint almost in your sleep. Other projects are going to be time consuming, tedious, complex; projects that you know how to tackle, but based on previous experience you know will be draining.

A "loomer" is a painting project that is always, well, looming, but is put off due to a perception of difficulty or complexity beyond what I'm willing to undertake. It's usually either because I don't know how I should paint something (i.e. a new texture or somesuch that I don't want to screw up,) or it's something I'm not confident I'll be able to pull off (i.e. something with lots of object source lighting effects.)

The loomer projects never go away. The most you can do is keep pushing them back, painting other things in lieu of having to sit down and finally tackle that thing you've been dreading. But you can only put them off for so long, and eventually you just need to bite the bullet, put paint on the model, and hope for the best.

The best part about a loomer project is that, with a few exceptions, the only thing that really makes them unpleasant is that initial anxiety. Everything is fine after overcoming that first hurdle, but the concern over doing something wrong - of making a "big mistake" - is initially paralyzing. It's usually much easier to just paint something else I feel more comfortable working on, all the while knowing there's only so long I can delay whatever project I'm not thrilled about.

Painting my Malifaux Ten Thunders models has been one such loomer project. Two major factors combined to make this set of models a brain locker:

1) Based on encouragement from my wife, I decided that I would attempt to paint the "core" Ten Thunders models (i.e. Misaki, Ototo, Torukage, and Archers) using the studio colors. For anyone unfamiliar with the art, here's what they're "supposed" look like:

Official Artwork for "The Thunder" Crew Box
You may immediately notice what gave me pause - that's a lot of yellow. It's actually not so bad on the models - thankfully Malifaux models aren't very large - but I've had very unpleasant experiences working with yellow in the past. I was not relishing having to try to work with it again, and on models where it would be a cloth color (which makes it more complicated to work with.)

2) I made life that much harder for myself with the choice of base I decided to use for them. When it came time to base my Malifaux models, I opted to go with scenic resin bases. I figured that it'd be a great way to add some flair to the models, it's not terribly expensive given how small Malifaux crews are, and it saved me from coming up with a fancy base (or having everyone stand on the same boring bases I always create as a default.)

After looking at different options, I decided to go with the resin bases produced by Secret Weapon Miniatures for all of my Malifaux models. I've been very pleased with that choice so far. For the Ten Thunders specifically I opted to use their Asian Garden set. For reference, here's what those generally look like:

Secret Weapon Miniatures 30mm Asian Garden Bases
They look fantastic (and I can attest that they look that good in person,) but they added a whole new layer of complexity to painting my Ten Thunders models. Now on top of trying to paint yellow in a satisfactory way, I'd also have to figure out how to paint the bamboo on the bases in a way that a) looks good, and b) doesn't take forever.

Those two factors combined to make me actively nerd-dread painting the Ten Thunders models I had lined up. Truth be told, if my Rail Crew models had been primed I would have probably managed to stall them a bit longer, but circumstances conspired to leave me with just the Ten Thunders ready to paint. So I decided to just bite the bullet and see what I could do.

When painting anything new or untested, I'll usually pick a sacrificial model to try out first. At best, it'll be a model I'm more willing to experiment with so I'm more likely to come up with an approach I like. At worst, I'm not too concerned about the model looking bad should what I'm trying not work out. 

For this Ten Thunders project, that sacrifice would be poor 'ol Ototo. However, in a wonderful turn of events (at least for him,) I managed to hit on an approach I really liked after only one attempt. Here he is in all his finished, clubbing glory:

Ototo Front View

Ototo Rear View
Overall, I'm really pleased with how he turned out. The base looks good, even though bamboo wouldn't really be that color. I initially tried a set of colors that were closer to actual bamboo, but those colors next to the yellow of the cloth ended up looking too washed out from a distance. While the green may not be accurate, I think it looks better overall. Plus, hey, it's Malifaux; weirder stuff than green cut bamboo happens.

Painting the yellow was also much less painful than I thought it would be. Most of that came from the coating potency of P3 Paint's Moldy Ochre. It only took about three layers to completely coat over black, and from there it was just highlights and a Rucksack Tan wash to finish it off. 

Ototo ended up being my tester model due to a lack of enthusiasm for using him. Actually, that's not accurate: I am exciting about the potential of using Ototo whenever I read his card, but getting him to work on the tabletop is much trickier.

Ototo has some great things going for him: he's a total monster in melee, he's decently durable, and he can't be moved by enemy abilities (which can be huge against some crews.) Those are offset, however, by his two big weaknesses: he's kind of slow for a dedicated melee model, and his Wp is a crippling 4. The former makes it hard to deliver him in any kind of efficient or effective way, and the latter makes it much easier for most of your opponent's Wp effects to work on him (which are frequently nasty debuffs and control effects.)

For those reasons, Ototo has yet to impress me much, either in my use or when seeing him in opposing crews. I am hopeful that some of the Ten Thunders Wave 2 releases help him out. There are a few upgrades that can help him out defensively, and there are some new movement shenanigans that may help him get to melee. It may also be that Ototo ended up in the wrong crew box (not that he had any options when he was first created); he could be very potent in a Shenlong crew/Sensei Yu crew for the pushes and healing they can offer him. I look forward to experimenting with all of these new options as they come along.

I'll hopefully be able to knock out the rest of the crew at a decent pace, now that the paint scheme and techniques have been hammered out. That may get derailed a bit by the upcoming holidays, but with any luck I'll close out 2014 by putting one of my more dreaded painting projects behind me.


  1. The most dreaded painting projects I come across are "Bloomers," to carry your concept. Ones that look easy but turn out to be exceptionally complicated

    1. Yeah, projects like that are what has lead to that anxiety I mentioned. Its really disappointing when you start a project with one idea of how it's going to play out, only to have the timeline drag on and on. And on.

      After a couple of those, I started to get apprehensive about projects that I identified as having aspects I didn't know how to tackle. Which is of course while I'll always paint more Khador, even though I'm kinda sick of it. I feel confident painting anything in that scheme after all these years. :-)

  2. Can an entire army be considered a "loomer"? My stagnation continues.

    1. I'd say yes, absolutely. :-) Convergence is kind of in that spot for me; for as much as I'm legitimately in need of a break from Warmachine's model style, I'm also straight up not looking forward to painting the glowy bits.

      Outside factors can also make a project worse. Like for me, if I only have short snippets of time to paint it's much harder for me to sit down and actually do it; I feel like I won't get enough accomplished. And if its been a rough week, painting may not be the preferred way to unwind, so the models continue to sit.

      Painting is a lot harder than most people give it credit for, but not for the reasons most people would think.