Monday, April 19, 2010

Realm of Battle: Despair and Triumph and...

In these three posts, I will document the harrowing and epic struggle of Man vs. Realm of Battle Board. As Vinnie Jones would say, “It’s been emotional.” I mentioned yesterday that this week’s theme would describe a potential change in the way the game is played here at A Gentleman’s Ones, and I was deliberately ambiguous about that conclusion. It may change. It may not. The final decision won’t be entirely clear until Thursday.

Yes. It’s been emotional –peaks and valleys; moments of triumph and seasons of despair; scalding water and a mild sunburn. The entire affair took just over three days of work, and so I’ll use the same to document the entire arc of this saga. Emotional.

I bought the Realm of Battle Board just before Christmas as a gift to myself, and I’ve been trying to avoid eye contact with it ever since. It sat where I’d left it, patiently biding its time until winter had passed, taunting me with its inscrutability and silence. I knew it was going to be a challenge, because it is huge, because it has tons of small details, and because it requires a significantly different kind of painting to that which I’m accustomed. It was a beautiful weekend here in Chicago, and I finally had the time, space, and ability to get myself outside and to give the pieces the attention they so rightly deserve. The tarp was spread, the corners pegged, and the gauntlet thrown. The game was afoot.

As mentioned, the weather was both bright and blustery here in Chicago, which made for an interesting work combination. Generally speaking, I found that by the time I’d finished one layer on all six pieces and two hills, the coat on the first had completely dried. This was excellent news, as I was then able to work more-or-less continuously without additional down-time allotted for drying. And indeed, I worked feverishly on this thing (I even broke a sweat at one point, which I believe is unprecedented in this hobby).

I primed the whole thing black first, with spray… about two or more cans of. I have no idea if that was sense or folly, but it was the only option I had available. I then used the paints that GW provides in their kit for the first layers. I mixed one extra layer between the brown and the ochre so that the jump wouldn’t be too abrupt. Conveniently, I also had some paint samples on hand from when we re-painted several rooms last summer (you can see the little white tops on the left). Although most were useless, one taupe-ish color worked quite well as the final highlight. Here, I have about five or six layers working up from the GW Brown to GW Ochre to Benjammin Moore Taupe-ish.

In just a few hours, I had finished these feverish stages of painting with hopes that I had nearly completed my new table.


Two things: one) the board looked entirely too flat and the colors were also too bleached, which made them look a bit like desert. This piece really doesn't look like the hours of effort it took to create, and two) streaking!!! Ugh. I had to relearn the basic technique of painting both lightly and in circular motions to avoid running giant trails of color across the wide-open spaces. In my haste, I had been working too aggressively and quickly to note that I had accidentally been streaking paint across the board and that, when assembled, these streaks would look dreadful.

I took the dog for a walk and mentally dipped deep into my hobby well. Here’s what I came up with:

I bought these years ago at a sale and use them rarely. These look like inks but are actually “concentrated water color” (which will be a significant detail for tomorrow’s post), and I used them to create a wash across the entire board. Since they were concentrated, a little went a long, long way when diluted.

Having only ever used these in very small quantities, and having never really been tremendously happy with those results, I knew that I was taking a gamble on this. The alternative was a flat, bleached, streaked, and lifeless board that I’d already spent hours on. I felt that I had little to lose.

I worked like mad alchemist with my assortment of little glass vials and mixed a bit of green, purple, red, and amber to create something like a brownish ink, but which actually had some pretty rich purple undertones. In the end, I was reasonably fond of the purplish undertones as the whole wash added depth and character to the terrain. You can see the jar of wash in the middle and two pieces still drying at the top here. At one point, I could actually see steam coming up off the boards from the wash, so I set them aside in the shade to dry for a bit.

After this had dried completely, I very, very judiciously worked one medium and one final highlight back onto the boards –this time with light circular motions- in order to bring back some of the lighter tones that the wash dulled, and (as importantly) to mask the bigger streaks that I’d left accidentally.

Finally, I brought the whole thing in and set up a mock table to see how it might look. I’ve found that working outside can be a catch 22, as the pieces tend to look significantly different under artificial light than they do under bright sunlight. The purple looks a bit odd in some photos, but the “real life” effect was reasonably rich and subtle. I stepped inside after hours in the sun, with my pale, bald head slightly reddened by the effort, and felt that I very well might have made a proverbial silk purse from that sow's ear.

Perhaps at this point I should have left well enough alone. My wife certainly thought so. But I was feeling pretty proud and reasonably confident that I'd pulled it all together despite my initial disappointment. I’ll say this now: she was right.

I didn't leave well enough alone...

See you tomorrow as the epic struggle continues.


The Dark Templar said...

I have to say that board looks pretty damn amazing at this point.

I don't know whether to be excited about or dreading what happens next.

I'll also be interested in your general feedback from playing on the board, as I have contemplated the purchase myself, but a few doubts prevent me taking the plunge.

Grizzled Gamer said...

At this point in time in your project, the board looks fantastic.

I am have to agree with the first poster that I am actually feeling a bit of dread as I wait for the next portion of your post.

Only a bit, because to this point and time, you have consistently amazed me with your outstanding painting.

Brian said...

Thank you, gentlemen. I'm afraid that dread is the appropriate emotion.

... but, as Pitmann so often reminds me, it's a game of five turns.

HOTpanda said...

Nice timing on your post as over the last couple days I have been thinking about buying a Realm of Battle Board for myself. I don;t have the space for a permanent table as such the Realm offers me a chance to play in my Condo.

I sit in dread but I feel that you may have rallied your paints for a counter attack as well. Time will tell I guess...

Big Jim said...

I agree with all that has been said, it looks great at this point!

Also like Hotpanda am just getting to my own Realm of Battle board.

So I await the follow up posts with great anticipation.