When I was but a slip of a lad (the lad being my Father, and the slip being me), my Dad read me a story – the Hobbit. I’m sure many other lucky boys and girls had a similar experience growing up, and there are a lot of people who still love Tolkien’s work today because of experiences like that. My Dad (and mum – she was better at story telling, but my dad did the voices better) read me a few pages every night for a few weeks until I dropped off and fell asleep. I was a very lucky boy indeed.
It is now many (many… many many… many many many…) years later and my Dad’s birthday is coming up. He’s notoriously hard to buy gifts for as he doesn’t really cling on to too many material possessions and his preferred ways to pass his time are free or cost little (walking, drinking coffee, more walking…) and his typical response to “What would you like for your birthday?” Is “Peace and quiet”. Well, it was his typical response until the year when I bought him a can of peas and a blank cassette tape. We both have a silly sense of humour so this was appreciated.
So when I asked him this year, his response surprised me, somewhat. “Why don’t you paint me one of those little monsters you paint?” was the newest answer to the gift question and it was definitely not one that I was expecting.
Now don’t get me wrong, my dad has always been at least vaguely supportive of my hobby, but it’s never really been something he’s had a great interest in. He bought me some Airfix kits when I was wee, and he and I used to play chess a fair bit together when I was younger (we stopped after I started to defeat him), but Toy Soldiers were something he quietly admired but cared not much for. He liked the history of toy soldiers, but has never really cared for the things himself.
So what was I going to paint for him? I toyed with the idea of a Space Marine – a Space Wolf specifically as my father’s thick strawberry blond hair and beard (which he still has at 72 – please let me have that part of his genes!) would fit the look of that chapter. Then I toyed with the idea of Monster of some sort – that had been part of his response, but I think he just generally refers to minis as “monsters” so there was no need to go and pick up a massive dragon kit to knock out.
And then, as I have been rewatching the Hobbit films recently, I had the idea to work on Gandalf and Bilbo, the stars of that book. I still have the copy of the book that my dad bought to read to me over 30 years ago too, and that sat with me on the workbench as I got to work creating a little bit of Middle Earth for this gift.
I’ll do a full post on how I created the base because I have some photos and I’m really happy with it, but that was the first thing. I got out one of my larger plinths, and created a stone staircase, perhaps somewhere in the foothills of the Misty Mountains, or on the road to Rivendell, to be my setting. It’s maybe a little bigger than I needed it to be – I’ve never worked on any Middle Earth minis, so their slightly reduced scale wasn’t fixed firmly in my mind yet. But I think it works nicely enough.
So it turns out, I love painting Middle Earth minis! They’re so teeny! And I’m not just talking about the hobbits either. That slightly smaller scale just seems to work really well with how I like to paint in blends and glazes, and not having to worry too much about the eyes is a blessing too. Gandalf was a symphony of greys with a dirty finish, while I used the films as a loose basis for Bilbo, and I’m particularly happy with the coat, but really, all of it was enjoyable to paint. There was a bit where Bilbo really started to look like Martin Freeman which was cool, but a little “uncanny valley” too, but I got over that pretty fast.
It’s safe to say that after this experience, I will definitely be painting some more Middle Earth minis. Not sure what yet, but I’ve got a bunch of elves in the to-do pile that should be pretty fun to paint, and I’m hoping I’ve got some time to work on a few of these projects soon. Fingers crossed!
Anyway, that’s the story of why I have painted Gandalf and Bilbo, and I hope you enjoyed that. I hope my Dad does too – they’ll be in his hands very soon (don’t worry – he doesn’t really do the internet so I won’t be spoiling it for him here). Until the next post, I hope you get to do a lovely bit of hobbying as well, and that you get to work on some fun projects that mean something to you. Onwards!