Art of History Through Miniature Figures

A new book arrived yesterday, “Art and History through Miniature Figures “ by Doug Cohen. As a budding figure painter myself I really found this book interesting and informative. Really like Doug Cohens work and to me Mr Cohen is one of the best figure painters around. I really enjoyed all the sections but the Civil War sections was truly my favorite.

The figure diorama called “Meeting Of The Generals” is my favorite. If you like figures and figure painting go to the Reaper miniature website and in the search box type book, you will truly enjoy this book.

Found a Super Cool Image

I need to make this!!!

As I was looking through a few pages on Facebook today and I found this super cool image.  The picture is blurry but from the description it stated that its a damages M113 being pulled by a M107 field howitzer minus the gun. It also stated the M107 was under repair and was forced into being used as a recovery vehicle.

Not really sure that this is correct as the M107 had a huge spade on the back for recoil of the howitzer when fired. This vehicle has no spade, also the M107 had a bench seat on the rear back corner of the body for the crew. This vehicle doesn’t have this or a few other odds and ends a M107 would have. In my opinion I believe this is the body of a M578 recovery vehicle (M578 shared the same body as a M107) that has had the crane and top structure removed for some reason.

“Quite Shabby” Completed!!!!

After a few weeks of work I’m calling this diorama done. I really enjoyed working on this one and learned so many things. One of the biggest things I discovered was that I really enjoyed working with Bodi figures. Their details and sculpting are some of the best I have seen over the years. I highly recommend them.

One thing I wanted to talk about is when you are finished with your piece. Are you actually really finished? I highly suggest having someone you trust, be it a friend, family member or fellow model maker look at your work. Ask them the following questions. “Do the items on the diorama or the figure itself look real? Does the weathering make the vehicle, building, etc. look old, war ravaged, authentic? Is there anything you think I should add, take off, change etc.?” These people do not need to be war historians or model making experts. They can tell you if something, like a tank for example looks damaged or old enough, whereas we may not be able to discern that well enough, due to having too much person investment in the piece. I do this now with my wife. After finishing a piece, or what I perceive to be finished, I will often bring it to her to get her opinion. She is an artist and can look at my pieces with an eagle eye and creative background and tell if something needs more work done to it, or not. She knows her neurotic, perfectionist, model obsessed husband may have had such tunnel vision on a project, that even a minor detail may need tending to. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken what I thought was a finished piece back to my work bench to make tweaks to them, after she offered constructive suggestions. Just a few nights ago she suggested I add more weathering and dirt to one small panel, about 1/2” in size on the top of tank in “Quite Shabby,” as she said that one panel looked too new compared to the surrounding plastic. A good, discerning eye can make a big difference between a good piece and an amazing piece.

Even though this was a fun project, it’s time to move on to the next adventure. I have many exciting new things in the works and am looking forward to sharing them all with you in the coming months.

Next Idea For a Diorama “Good Morning For a Pull”

New Diorama idea!!!

I found this cool image of Royal Navy and British soldier in a Bren Carrier towing a German mine off a beach. This just screamed to be made into a diorama.

I will only have two figures, one a Royal Navy Officer and a British solder as his driver. The carrier is already on the work bench and the mine is on the way. Need to get back to my M13/40 before I can start the new one. see you all again soon.

Goodbye George

Goodbye George, yesterday I said goodbye to a modeler and a friend. I wish that we could have spent more time together, but I will truly savor the time we did spend together. During times like this I always think of the conversation I recently heard. Two individuals were talking, and one asked the other what do you think happen when you die? The other individual stopped and thought about it for a minute. He then turned to his friend and said I really don’t know what happens, but I do know that the people that love you will miss you. I will miss you George.

Can you think outside of the “beige box”?

There comes a point in every modeler’s life when they need to have a coming to Jesus moment (or coming to Yoda moment if that jives better) and decide if just settling for “beige” work is ok by them. By beige, I don’t mean the color of the plastic tank, fresh out of your store bought box that you are working on. By beige I mean status quo, ordinary, nothing special, by the book model building. You open up your kit, put it together, just the way the instructions tell you to do. Yep. Looks just like the picture on the box. Bravo for being your badass, beige self. You just continue being a legend in your own mind, Michelangelo. Beige does not win you contests.

Thinking outside of the beige box does. In our house, beige is a four letter word. My wife loathes the color and what it represents: blah, void of life, void of color, void of risk, void of personality, doctors office boring, the epitome of mediocrity. She is a found object/assemblage artist and designer. Don’t get me wrong, she will use it if absolutely necessary, but it will pain her to do so. Here’s a good example of what I am talking about. Her dad wanted to redecorate his bedroom and asked her to do it for him. The look he wanted was of an English library – leather, dark woods, brown, lots of books and wait for it….*gasp* beige, b.e.i.g.e., BEIGE!!! In the end, she gave him the look he wanted, but she went there metaphorically kicking and screaming. What was her reasoning? She knew she could give him beige, if that was really what he wanted, but even more so, she knew she could make it so much more spectacular, if he was just willing to step outside of the beige box, even if that meant just adding a contrasting color to the overall look. In the end, he stuck with his beloved beige and she gave him one bangin’ English library bedroom. He gets asked a lot now if he has any Grey Poupon, so you know, win-win. I can totally see what she was trying to do in getting him to move past his safe zone, and to embrace something more special. One of the most important things she has taught me with regards to my own work, is to think outside of that beige box, and to think outside of the kit box. That’s not to say that I was not already doing that before we met, but her work has inspired me to take even more risks with my ideas, and thinking “bigger” if you will, even if I am working on a 2” figure.

If you want to do by the book model building for the rest of your life, then that is totally cool, if that floats your boat (or your 1/35 scale Soviet Navy G-5 class motor torpedo boat – you know, just whatever). If you aspire to be beige, then you do the most smokin’ beige that you can do. If however you want more from yourself and your work, then read on. Congratulations Sunshine! You just took your first step towards big boy modeling. My wife lovingly sends her sardonic applause to you as well.

If you want to break free from beige thinking you need to think outside of the beige box. Those of you into historical military model building…how many of you think those kits you buy are historically accurate? I think you might be surprised to know just how many aren’t. You need to do your homework. If you are working on a British WWl armoured car, or French Light tank, are you certain that what you are building is exactly like what was made in the real world? Do you know that judges are expecting a historically accurate model? So the company who made the kit didn’t get it exactly right. What are you supposed to do and how do you even know if they got it right or wrong in the first place? Research, research, research. This is one of the main things that separates a mediocre or beige modeler, from someone who cares not just about the overall look of the finished kit, but also about the historical accuracy of it. Judges don’t like shortcuts or shoddy work.

Ok, so let’s say historical models are not your thing and your genre is SciFi. You obviously can’t focus on historical accuracy for a craft or creature that never existed in the first place – though my wife may argue with you on that (cue X-Files music here). This is where you can let your creativity go wild. Again, you may have your basic kit that you start off with, but it’s how you tweak it that takes it from, “gee, that’s great, to “holy $hit! That’s f’ing amazing!”

With either genre of model building, and every genre in between, you need something that sets you apart from others. You want your piece or pieces to stand out in the crowd, and at the nerd convention (aka any model show in the free world). How do you do that? You need inspiration an fresh, innovative ideas. When my wife conceptualizes a new piece of art, she is not just pulling ideas out of thin air (although she has been known to manifest some pretty freaky $hit from other dimensions, but that’s a whole different spacetime continuum ball of wax). She can come up with a new idea from just about anything – the pattern on a bedspread, pictures she took of a gothic church, while on one of her photographic outings with her dad, a classic work of Pre-Raphaelite art, even tacky, plastic pink flamingo garden stakes – yes….seriously! Everything from the obscure to everyday objects have been inspiration for her pieces. I don’t question her process – I just know it works when I see the finished pieces. It blows me away.

What inspires you is totally personal and individual. Your inspiration may come from a movie you once saw, that set your mind reeling, a riveting book, a video game that had you transfixed or even just that special little warped imagination of yours (seriously, do you have to mess with people’s heads like that?! If you’re not careful you’re going to end up on an “S.O.L.” list somewhere). Whatever inspires you can inspire your model making. The possibilities are endless. On a (temporarily) serious note…be original. Don’t steal others’ ideas or work. That’s not cool and so bourgeois. You’re better than that and your work should reflect your personal originality and take on the piece you create. Yes, work from your base, but your base is just your starting point. You may even have to build your own parts from scratch if need be and any truly great modeler needs to know how to do that. I will be covering more on that topic in a later entry.

Modeling, like life is what you make of it. You can choose to have a ho-hum outlook and outcome on your builds, but chances are it’s not going to bring you an immense amount of satisfaction or medals (if that is your eventual goal). Research, get inspired, take risks, think big, no matter how big or small your pieces are and step outside of the beige box. Your future, loving and adoring fans will thank you for it. In all seriousness though, it is time to leave your mom’s basement. No, really, I’m totally serious!

In the beginning…

Remember that one kid in school; the one was kind of a nerd? He was shy, a bit of a loner (back when being a loner didn’t put you on a government watch list), awkward, loved to read (and actually read National Geographic for the articles), loved history, was great at playing “Army” and of course, grew up smack dab in the middle of backwoods nowhere. And oh yeah, he built models. “Calm down ladies! There’s plenty of this to go around.” Add all those things together and by the time he got to high school, he wasn’t exactly living out the above “chick magnet” scenario.

I am sure a few of you can relate to that guy. That guy was me and that was then. It’s funny how things turn out. I eventually ended up playing Army in real life. During those many years of living in the most unGodly places, dealing with the most stressful jobs and sometimes traumatizing events you could ever imagine (unless you are totally chill with having rockets shot at you), reading and making models helped me keep my sanity (though depending on who you ask, that may be questionable). That was also then. I still love history, the written word and a crazy girl, who ironically loves me back, keeps me laughing and supports my modeling passion (seriously….how did that even happen?!), and the only Army I deal with now involves building plastic tanks.

I have a great job, a great life and in the end found my true calling. Revenge of the nerd. This is now. My name is Grant Mayberry. Welcome to my May-king Miniatures blog. I bring to you 40 plus years of model building experience, and an honest account of what that experience can entail – the highs (having my work in a military museum and winning several contests), to the lows (what do you mean I’m not as good as DaVinci?!). Here you will find painting and conversion tips, discussions on products, events, and modeling shows, historical accuracy, how to come up with ideas for diorama subject matter, customization and more. Maybe I’ll even throw in an article about how to not get sand kicked in your face at the beach, by some jock (oh sorry, nerd flashback). Anyway, put D&D on pause and come on in and stay awhile. We have cookies.