I've been sat painting one of the Deadzone Marauders I picked up in town the other day and I got to thinking about the difference in sculpting style that seems to have developed in the last few years. Looking at the old Rogue Trader era sculpts, theres a decided character to them, they are stylised and from time to time, a little rough around the edges. Saying that they are almost all a joy to paint.
Orks old and New
Moving forward into the early to mid 90's when I first started gaming, theres an improvement in sculpting quality and the finish tends to improve but some of that character of the earlier sculpts seems to be absent.
Mid 90s Warzone and Citadel
Detailed but Characterful
Move forward to the modern and with the arrival of Rackham, the miniatures industry became awash with beautifully sculpted figures that required excellent paint jobs or would just look wrong. A case in point is the Marauder I am working on at present. He is absolutely covered in detail. Unlike the old Orks of Rogue Trader or even the mad variety of the Ork Clan period which would have interesting little details (Such as one of the heavy weapon chaps who is listening to his personal stereo for example) I would be interested to hear what other folks think on the subject but I am finding myself having to spend an exorbitant amount of time on one figure to get a decent finish which is most frustrating while an older sculpt can be done in a far shorter amount of time but look far more pleasing.
Has the era of characterful sculpting passed and been replaced with a slight obsession with over detailing stuff? I am very aware that the likes of CG work can have a tendency to emphasize this issue as what looks good on a computer screen, doesn't necessarily work in 28mm. The figures look either strangely proportioned or just rammed with detail.
Likewise there seems to be a habit with some of the traditional hand sculpted stuff for either an overload of detailing or a very professional yet dull finish. Either extreme takes the joy out of painting in my own experience and resulted in my giving up on 28mm for such a long time.
With my return to the scale, I am increasingly finding that I am only interested in painting figures produced in the 80's and 90's with a very few exceptions. For the most part the figures I still find interesting and paintable seem to be sculpted by the same folks who made them back in the day, Bob Olley, Kev Adams, the Perrys and so on. I know that a lot of folks believe that the golden era of Citadel is from the 80's but theres still some lovely sculpts produced later on and which still are enjoyable to paint and look great without having to spend an age sorting out all the little details.
Maybe it's just an obsession with reliving my youth but I can't help get the feeling that the miniatures industry seems to have lost something along the way as quality and finish has overtaken individuality and character. Its interesting to note that many folks lament the same issue with computer gaming so maybe its an issue with all the geek related stuff out there after all!
All the best!