The recent painting of a Chaos Champion designed by Jes Goodwin back in 1988 sparked my thoughts about miniatures in general. Quality, material, complexity. Lots of things popped up and it happens every time I paint something old school. "It would be so cool to see all the classic models from the late 1980s painted up". And it probably would. But at the same time I would mean passing on painting the new über-cool plastics that GW has been putting out there these past years.
Actually, in recent years my passion has taken me back to the classic models from around 1990, but then my passion also takes me up to the new stuff to paint more awsome plastic models. These new plastic character packs are just fantastic. I have made 2 versions of the Nurgle Lord (A daemonhost and a bodyguard), and recently bought a 3rd model to have another go at some time.
But what makes a model classic like those Chaos Champions from 1988?
To me, the great thing about these models is that they have a clear facing, the details are good, and I like the overall imagery. Since these miniatures are traditional metal models cast in 2-part rubber moulds they are relatively simple in regards to composition and details. And they are quite fast to clean up and get ready for painting.
But when you compare them to the new plastic character packs you can really see and appreciate how design and production technology has moved on. The details on these new plastics are not just "good" - the details are awsome and super-crisp. Mould lines are many, but relatively easy to clean - and some are simply hidden naturally when the model is put together. The composition can be complex, but it isn't by default though. The already mentioned Nurgle lord is a good example of a crisp and nicely designed model, that is not complex when first put together. In many ways, the simple pose gestures back the classic metal models by Jes. Another great model is the Wight King which I used for a conversion a few years back. Complex yes - with nice overhanging details, and some clever work arranging the parts on the sprue, but simply striking when it comes to composition.
I recently purchased the Skink Priest plastic kit which has seen some pretty amazing paintjobs these past years and I also want to have a go at this fellow. This one has a lot of nitty-gritty detailing and feathers poking here and there - but I look forward to getting to work on the model. It is just going to take a little more time to prep the miniature properly. At least compared the the oldhammer metal models, but then again I will not have any trouble when the painting starts, since the details are great and litteraly helping the brush to find it's mark. This is a remarkable difference; The old school models might be quick to get ready, but the superb detailling in the new plastic models really makes up for the longer preparation time when you start painting.
So there you have it: I love the old models and I can accept the quality of the metal models since I get to do a quick paintjob and have the nostalgia-kick of painting these classics. One the other hand, I really like the experience of painting the new kits, since the models are so well-designed as both sculptures in their own right and as surfaced made for the painting.
If Jes could decide my next painting project I wonder which of his models he would ask me to do...