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In Solitary Confinement with a Griffon

Birds of prey have complicated plumage, and that's why I've had an unpainted griffon in my cabinet for more years than I care to remember. At last, I found a solution: take it on a family holiday to Wales, where it's the only miniature I own for hundreds of miles.

My family may have been politely baffled, but it got the job done.

Crucially, I made the decision early on to just relax about the painting standard. To get each feather painted to a high standard would break the average human brain, which is why even the 'Eavy Metal team never bother to paint realistic markings, and why as their griffons always look subtly wrong to me. I decided I'd rather have looser, sloppier brush work in exchange for real markings.

Choosing the right plumage
The official Empire Griffon kit is very clearly an eagle, but my griffon is a hand-me-down from Maisey, a remnant of his abortive Wissenland project. This griffon is from 8th edition's Island of Blood starter set, and it's clearly not an eagle; the beak is too short, the head and neck feathers are too broad, and the feet are huge compared to the head. I cast about the net for a suitable raptor for plumage reference. Eventually I settled on the female sparrowhawk, both for its beak shape and diminutive size.

Converting the conversion
Maisey had basically finished the original conversion; the rider was glued on and had a lance and a different head. It was a perfectly good conversion, but it wasn't right for my intended rider: Hochland's Elector Count, Aldebrand Ludenhof. I don't imagine Ludenhof being the lantern-jawed hero Maisey had built, so the head got ripped off and replaced with a more gaunt face from the wizards box, shaved down to fit a helmet from the greatswords kit.

As for weapons, I needed him to be armed with a sword representing Hochland's Runefang (which I imagine he can only use when dismounted). Thus, the lance had to go, and to avoid the problem of comedically insufficient reach, I replaced it with a pistol. Specifically, to avoid the Count having to constantly reload it, I made it a repeater pistol. The sword itself went in a scabbard on his belt - you can just about see it in this article's cover image.

Finally, I shaved down the shield's design so that I could freehand Hochland's state flag on the shield, since, well, it's the elector count. I also ripped the rider off the griffon to make painting easier.

Sloppy sloppy techniques
The griffon itself is almost entirely painted using drybrushing and loose, thin layers of paint for the plumage. I sped things up somewhat by spray priming black from above and wraithbone from below.

The lioness' body is entirely done with drybrushing highlights and shades over a basecoat of Vallejo beige brown.

Only when I got to the rider did I start using tidier methods, with a mix of blending and wet blending on the cloak. I've painted that particular cloak a number of times, and it's just so satisfying every time.

Anyway, look: I'm not going over recipes and so forth, since this post isn't really about the painting, it's about...

The joy of just getting stuff done without worrying about quality
This model was really intimidating to me, because I was imagining painting all those feathers using my normal methods. It was only once I let go of the idea of being super tidy that I could just crack on and have fun. There are times when it's fun to really push the detail and fidelity, and this was absolutely not that time.

I'm hoping future Charlie will remember this lesson: if one owns an unpainted miniature, it is 100% better for it to be painted at all than to languish as a conceptually perfect diamond in one's mind palace. 

Relative to the time I spent on this lad - and it was still a good amount of time even with quicker methods - I'm genuinely happy with the result, and happier still for there to be almost no WIP minis left in my Empire shelf.

Now to get him on the table!


  1. He looks really great! The "sloppiness" of the paintjob on the griffon isn't really visible. I think it acutally enhances the ruggedness of the creature in a cool way. I also really like the muted yellow of the talons. Overall, really one to be proud of.

    1. That's really gratifying to hear, thanks mate!

  2. Looks dam fine sir

  3. Amazing! For all the talk of "loose fast paintjob" it has an enormous amount of detail. Look at those wings, glorious.

    Like many I got one of these fellows for cheap on Ebay, and now it has languished in a drawer for awhile... maybe I should get it going and paint a lord for my army too.

    1. Thanks mate! Hell yeah you should paint yours up. All those feathers are worth it in the end; the mini has a really cool presence on the tabletop, particularly as it closes on enemy units. Predatory yet beautiful.

    2. Weirdly I was not terrified of the paint job (although I am now!), but rather I bit off too much to chew so to speak by planning to have the same lord on Foot/Horse/Pegasus/Griffon, thus necessitating more conversion than just clipping the elf off.

      I also have the old metal one too, which is somewhat similar to this one in overall size, just with an odd rearing pose.

      In any case, my empire army enthusiasm diminished to a pretty low level even before the old world blew up...

    3. Oof, yeah, perhaps best to both scale back your plans and wait until the muse takes you back to the Old World... perhaps when the new game comes out 😊

  4. Bird is the word. That looks great - applying realworld bird colours to a fantastically proportioned mini grounds it somewhat.
    I painted an Ultraforge Vrock with quick and dirty drybrushing many years ago and recently found that I could push the detail further with washes and edge highlights to vary tone when I had the time (lockdowns)
    You are correct that a painted miniature is much better to have than a blank slate- and its often a more convenient base to start from when the mood grabs you try try something more advanced

    1. Thanks, and you're right, it's always worth remembering one can tart something up after the fact. That also does the job of helping prioritise which bits of tarting are really needed versus which bits are pure pipe dream 😋


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