A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.
Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
Unlike Gandalf, my artwork often arrives late. These nine tiny men have been in my painting queue for over ten years, but they have roots that go back much further. When I got the 1991 Citadel Miniatures Red Catalogue, one of the first minis I ordered was Gandalf from their Fellowship of the Ring set. My dad helped me to paint it. But since it – sadly – didn’t survive to the present day, that’s not the subject of this post.
It’s competition time! I have entered the novice category of r/minipainting’s Tint Your Tribe competition. The rules are simple: pick a theme which represents my country of birth, and convert, paint, and post a mini which represents that concept.
Maybe your country conquered Gaul once upon a time and you want to recapture the long gone glory of your ancestors! We encourage it!
The prize is a set of five halflings and a fencer from Westfalia Miniatures. There’s no limit to the options for British miniatures: there are historical figures from Warlord Games Boudica Triumphant! to WWII soldiers; bowler-hatted steampunk professors to the vast ranges of British fantasy and science fiction miniatures of the last few decades. But the most British miniature I know of is Rogue Miniatures’ Britannia. The very personification of Britain.
An owlbear’s screech echos through dark valleys and benighted forests, piercing the quiet night to announce the death of its prey. Feathers cover the thick, shaggy coat of its bearlike body, and the limpid pupils of its great round eyes stare furiously from its owlish head.
D&D 5E Monster Manual, p.249
Inspired by a cheap, plastic toy dinosaur manufactured in China and sold in discount shops throughout the US and UK, the owlbear is one of the most emblematic creatures of the D&D bestiary. We haven’t encountered one yet in Shin High Terror, but they’ve been mentioned a couple of times – first by a grizzled old mercenary who lost his eye to one in single combat, and second when I started making explicit checks to see if any were around. Obviously I had to paint one.
After a long hiatus I’ve finally finished another drawing for the Majeena sequence. The illustration depicts the character ‘Carer Hades’, who is described as a sort of ethereal, faceless, spider-like creature, found in the depths of a mountain stronghold:
A slithery figure cloaked in a black robe fluttered in through the door, clinging to the roof. It’s long fingers seemed glued to the ceiling, though it moved across the room like it was carried by a breeze.
When I was maybe ten years old I a won a copy of Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy game-book The Island of the Lizard King, which has quite recently been re-released as a smartphone app by Tin Man Games. I don’t recall if I ever finished the book back then, but the detailed monochrome line drawings had a huge influence over my drawing style – and of course, preferred subject matter. Although they suffered from poor quality printing on worse quality paper, I remember thinking that the best illustrations were impossibly great works of art, which I couldn’t even aspire to replicating.
It’s no surprise that one of the background characters in my illustrations for Majeena, by Michael P. Adams (available for Kindle) last year took some inspiration from Russ Nicholson’s Rhino-Man, mixed with some of John Howe’s Rhinoceros Armour. More on that below the cut.
Nicholson’s rhino-man illustrates an encounter in Steve Jackson’s The Citadel of Chaos. From the title, to the eclectic and anarchic list of creatures, to Russ Nicholson’s perfect illustrations, the whole book is gloriously evocative of the fantasy genre in the 1980s. Even 25 years later the book seems to be filled with original, imaginative and quintessentially chaotic characters, and very few stale tropes. So I’ve decided to embark on a side quest: to paint one miniature for each of the creatures encountered in the citadel.
I’ve been working on this drawing for a long time – on and off, about a decade and a half. I suppose I probably did the pencil sketch around the time I first read H. P. Lovecraft’s short stories, and that the BBC documentary series Blue Planet might have brought me some inspiration. That dates the idea for the drawing back to around 2001. Of course, she and her abominable kin have lurked around the watery edges of our world for millennia longer.
My wife and I moved to Crystal Palace a couple of months ago. It’s my favourite place in London: most of my friends live there, it’s possible to rent a two bedroom flat without needing to sell a kidney or a liver, there are loads of great places to eat, drink and take part in a pub quiz, and the there’s the treasure trove of Haynes Lane Market. But most importantly, at one end of the Crystal Palace Park there are the dinosaurs.
Shin High Terror. The very name strikes fear into the shins of men.
About a year ago, three friends and I gathered in my lounge and on Skype to try a game of D&D. This blog is the story of my quest to represent the events that took place that night (and on many subsequent occasions). I’ll also post collecting side quests, drawings, commissions, and anything else that feels loosely aligned with those topic, as well as my complete illustration portfolio. It’s mostly going to be fantasy miniatures and drawings of dragons and orcs and mythical creatures these days, so if that’s not your bag you might not like it here.