Juan Hidalgo’s Painting Competition 2023

At the end of last year I entered an online painting competition run by Juan Hidalgo on his YouTube channel. We had to take an unpainted or barely started mini, paint it over the course of a couple of months, then send pictures to be judged. I was entering just for fun since I’ve seen some of the work that is shared on his Discord and Royal Retinue Reviews and there are many that are a shade (or several, several shades) higher than my usual work. My plan was to use this to push myself and go further.
One of the interesting things about this competition is that it wasn’t ranking entries against each other; instead there was a set of criteria for Gold, a set for Silver and a set for Bronze. Everyone who hit one of those categories would get a prize and a medal. This also meant that almost every single entry got a medal and the few that didn’t will be sent prizes anyway, because Juan is lovely.
We sat up as a family to stay up and watch the results together – I was confident seeing the Bronze entries that I would at least get in that group. Then the Silvers – and there were a lot of Silvers – and as it went on I was mentally comparing… I might be in that group, there were plenty better than my entry but a few I felt on a level with. Then, as my oldest would say, bingo bongo and my model appeared! One of the last silvers, and the photography was awful (the picture was way smaller than I thought it would be) but there I was in the Silver category. The kids were elated, I was pleased and a little shocked, and the room felt like those adverts where everyone watches football on the telly and The Team scores. I’d won something! We kept watching through to the end and the Gold entries were really great.
The feedback I got from the competition was what I could have predicted – more contrast, some of the small details were a bit flat, and ‘a bit more colour in the face’. Also some better highlighting of the metals (which got praise on their own too). I didn’t like the digital example provided for the face, but that may be down to the very tiny picture he was working with (and I could just go a little less extreme). Overall it was described as ‘nearly a Gold’ which was great – now I know where to be aiming next year.
I was a little nervous since I was using an unconverted mini with the box-art colour scheme on a very plain base (and a model without eyes, just a happy coincidence that I couldn’t get them wrong that way!) but overall I was really chuffed with the outcome. I’ll definitely be entering again if Juan runs one.





Books in 2023

For a while, I’ve wanted to have somewhere to track books I’ve read, want to read, get recommendations and the like but wanted to stay away from GoodReads until Amazon start paying taxes. Right at the end of November, I found an app/website called Storygraph which does all that and more, and has even been more favourably reviewed than GoodReads even outside of the ‘ethical millenial’ criteria. It’s got a bunch of lovely graphs so I can share that on the blog!
So there’s not a lot of data as although I’ve logged all the books I can remember reading ever, it only counts the ones I actually read in/since November this year. Next year will be interesting to compare…

book moods

The moods are set by my own tags and those of other Storygraph users.
I read the Sundering trilogy (mostly in October and finished in November, it counts!); the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier; reflective was The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (a very late, but helpful, guide to parenting); informative was Vegan(ish) and emotional was the final Gotrek and Felix book (in the End Times series, not Age of Sigmar) probably because he dies at the end. Can’t be a spoiler, it’s called “Part 2 of the Doom of Gotrek Gurnisson”. So I have a lean towards adventure at this early stage.

book pace

Most books seem to be medium or slow paced… not sure what that tells anyone yet. Not enough data yet?

book pages

I’ve mostly read shorter books… possibly skewed by the fact that there’s a comic book and a recipe book in the mix? Page numbers don’t mean much to me since I read most things digitally now (except, notably, comic books) so this one will keep surprising me.

book fiction

I’m trying to broaden my tastes a lot, ever since the year when I realised I’d done nothing but re-read Discworld novels for at least two years. There’s a lot of fiction here but I’m moving in the right direction.

book genres

Comics doesn’t seem like a genre to me, interesting regardless.

I’ve been working my way through The Count of Monte Cristo for all of December (should push my ‘long books’ count up) and enjoying it very much, looking forward to seeing how these results change over the next year too.

Podcasts in 2023

A neat feature in Pocket Casts is one of those Spotify-esque ‘year end’ wrap ups. Here’s mine!
I listened to 373 episodes of 19 shows and it took fifteen days – the most listened to was Penn’s Sunday School (probably since it was two episodes per week) at 62 episodes over 57 hours. Second place was No Such Thing as a Fish, then Garagehammer (long episodes), Dot Net Rocks and Radio 4’s Friday Night Comedy.
Top categories – though I don’t know who categorised them – were Comedy (five and a half days), History (nearly four days), Leisure (two and a quarter days – and is ‘leisure’ hobby things?) and Technology (just over two days).
The longest single episode was Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History about the Celtic Holocaust, at nearly 6 hours. I thought their series on ‘Supernova in the East’ was going to hit the summary somewhere, as six very long episodes (3-4 hours each easily) feels like a good portion of my listening time but apparently not.

Haunted Mansion (2023)

I’m not going to try and keep spoilers out of this, so be warned.
I haven’t seen the Eddie Murphy Haunted Mansion film but I have seen the Muppets Haunted Mansion.
Overall I wasn’t a fan of this film. It had a lot of ideas that didn’t feel fully developed or connected. For example, the ghost camera was a great idea. The way it was used though was awkward. Ben builds a ghost camera to connect his interests with his wife’s, but by the start of the film proper doesn’t believe in ghosts. If the camera worked, he’d still believe… and if he didn’t ever believe, he couldn’t build the camera… and if he believed but the camera never showed ghosts wouldn’t he just assume that the camera doesn’t work? They bring the camera to the mansion to identify ghosts. The first identification that they make is through the history given to them by the Professor, with pictures that match pictures in the house – no camera required. The next is through speaking to Jamie Lee Curtis’ character – at which point the camera is broken, and after which the ghosts become visible to the naked eye.
Bits are brought up and dropped everywhere – the house appeared fully built in unworked land with no records, this mystery is never resolved and doesn’t seem to matter to the plot at all. The haunting was related to the activities there and the particularly evil ghost.
The ghosts are trapped in the house by an evil spirit aiming to do bad things but they can leave with other people. Why haunt and torment those people urging them to return, when the ghosts could just stay quiet outside of the bad house with the bad ghost that scares them all?
There were funny moments and it feels like Owen Wilson is really really trying but there’s just not much there to make it work. Bit of a flop for me.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I’ve never been a massive Star Wars fan – it’s worth getting that out of the way up front. I’ve been recommended a lot of the recent non-core Star Wars content though, like The Mandalorian, Ahsoka and Rogue One, and I’m always happy to try out a friend’s suggestions.
I’m going to try not to spoil bits but make no promises.
It was an enjoyable enough film. It was put together out of familiar parts and didn’t feel like it needed a lot of Star Wars knowledge to enjoy. That cuts both ways though – the character types were familiar from other films, even the dialogue. “I’m going with you” is always followed with “no, it’s too dangerous” and you know without a shadow of a doubt that that character (and probably any others left behind, bar one) are going too. The characters with guilt in their past are going to die by the end, probably after a noble and heroic act (hello, Cassian Andor). There was even what looked like a leftover bit of a romance plot that must have been attached to one of those stock elements that made a confusing half-scene with meaningful looks and music cues without any build-up, foreshadowing or even payoff. About the only novel part of the film was the new arrival, recent convert character didn’t survive to carry the torch forward for the old hands dying in the name of the cause. The robot was a nice touch, although it’s a Star Wars staple of comic relief droid.
The CGI Peter Cushing was most likely my least favourite part as it firmly hit the ‘uncanny valley’ and broke my suspension of disbelief more than the CGI aliens. There was no need to perform digital necromancy in this way – to an existing Star Wars fan, the position could have been played by a look-alike or by a subordinate character name-dropping them. To a non-Star Wars fan, it’s obvious that some digital trickery is being used but without the recognition of why a human wasn’t playing the part instead. Using a subordinate could even build up the Cushing character’s menace, by gradually ramping up the engagement and threat – first sent for a report, questioning reports, threatening the superior taking action and ending with “the boss man is coming to take this project from you”. The rest of the plot need not change much.
Speaking of plot, I feel that was used in place of story. I’ll try to explain. Character arcs were pretty shallow and weren’t really developed in a way that felt natural. Growth happened in the character’s heads or off-screen and their attitudes seemed to change artificially. Jyn accepting the rebellion and other characters accepting her just seems to be something that happens because the plot would stall otherwise. Likewise, the interesting subplot of an extremist rebel group falters before the characters are killed off as the leader decides to just give up. As if he didn’t have anything to escape the planet with, or try to run from the destruction. There was a plot – the things that happened in order – but the story – what the film is telling us underneath – was missing. That’s not uncommon, especially in action-adventure films, but it stood out particularly to me here. Avatar has an environmental protection / anti-colonialism story driving the plot, Wrath of Khan is about aging, regrets and the past catching up with you, but I couldn’t work out Rogue One.
Overall a fun family film without too much depth, easy popcorn flick.

Painting August 2022


After a very slow spring/summer, I started to push myself to get back to painting regularly. For one thing, I’d like to get our Age of Sigmar models completed to take to the local club!

So I’ve been plugging away at the gold bits of Fyreslayers. I’m in my old pattern of batch painting All The Things All At Once, so it’s getting repetitive as I’ve got 21ish Dwarfs to paint at the same time… and to be fair, Fyreslayers look cool but at the end of the day every unit is kind of the same.

Painting Q3 Retrospective

The end of the last quarter trailed off a bit – I got behind and couldn’t make it back up. It was only a near miss though so I think the target is just about in the right place.

No updates for a while because I gave myself October off of painting. Since the beginning of the year I’ve managed an average of 20+ minutes painting a day, so I definitely think I earned the break! It was originally going to be shorter but then the whole family came down with Covid.

For most of September I was working on these water merchants:

There are small details left to finish – a few highlights here and there, water sloshing in the bottles on the big guy, and the bases. As well as some mechanical arms to add to the central figure which were easier to paint separately.

As November starts I’ll be sticking to the 30 minute daily average target, got some new techniques to try (contrast paints being one of them), and will also try to improve my photography a bit.

Painting Update #6


I finally got the large deficit off the edge of the graph! Still bouncing up and down a little, but got it under control.

I’ve nearly finished the slopper now, just some eyes and small highlights to do.


The pot has been darkened and the slop painted, but the tentacle needs more highlight and probably a bit more shade on the pot itself.


Klingons are looking good, need more work on the armour though.


I’ve also started on the Mercator Nautica for Necromunda, but I need to pick up some more paints first. They’re tied in with a pre-order of the Delaque book so I have to stay patient. I might move onto the Koris Dreadball team while I am waiting instead.