13 May 2020

Monster Month: Dark Young

I'm taking part in Monster Month, a painting challenge set by Keith over at Dead Dick’s Tavern and Temporary Lodging. There's no prize, it's just a bit of fun open to miniature painters and bloggers.

The participants are:

Keith from Dead Dick's.

Roger from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table.

Dave Stone from Wargames Terrain Workshop.

Coyotepunc from Coyotepunc's Creativity.

Ken from Blue Moose Arts.

Jeremy from Carrion Crow’s Buffet.

Harry from War Across the Ages.

The rules are easy:

Paint at least one monster in the month of May. The miniature can be any scale or from any genre or game system. The only restriction is that it has to be a MONSTER, not a humanoid.
I think I can manage that.

Here's the monster — a Dark Young by Reaper Miniatures. At four inches tall it's the biggest mini I've tried painting, so this is going to be an interesting challenge. I began on Thursday evening by getting the mini out of its packaging, where it's been chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool since November.

I don't want to have to type "Dark Young" over and over so from now on I'll call it Tracy. After having all most of the flash and mould lines trimmed off, Tracy was given a bath in warm soapy water before a thorough scrubbing with an old toothbrush to remove the grease, bits of plastic, fingerprints and Erebus hairs. Once dry I glued her together, filled the gaps with greenstuff and left her overnight to set.

A quick aside: A couple of weeks ago I ordered an airbrush from Amazon. It's a cheap one (about $60) so I'm not expecting too much from it, and as I've never used an airbrush in my life I'm not expecting too much from me, either. But it would be very useful for priming and basecoating multiple minis or, say, one larger one. Like, for example, Tracy.

FUN FACT: Here's the airbrush sitting in its box because I forgot to order the cleaner and thinner and had to order them after the airbrush was delivered.

So on Friday morning I started manually brushing Tracy with Vallejo Black as I also forgot to order black primer. I really am on a roll. I added some matte medium to the paint to make it go further and used my largest brush but it was still a bit of a slog.

At some point I realised I'd need some way of holding Tracy so my grubby mitts didn't rub the paint off. I drilled a hole in her underside, inserted a length of chunky wire and stuck the other end in a cork. While it might be a bit ignominious for an Old One to have wire shoved up its backside, it made my life a lot easier. So, on with the brushing...

Finally she was done. It was just a case of using a smaller brush to touch up the bits I'd missed or couldn't get to, which didn't take long.

Christ on a bike, I've forgotten to paint Tracy's mouth.

Here she is, finally primed. At this point I fancied a break and decided to do something that would be less hassle, such as moving the apartment building three inches to the left. But that seemed too easy so I took the dogs out.

On the way back I checked the mail and found these. You can only imagine the level of swearing.

At this point I gave up for the day.

Saturday morning found me back at my desk. Dark Young are described as just being black, but that's boring so I decided to try to lighten her tentacles with purple and her lower half with blue.

I mixed up some wash using a couple of drops of Vallejo Royal Purple and about 15 drops of water and started to glaze/layer the tentacles. Unfortunately my desk doesn't get a lot of daylight (the above pic looks well-lit, but believe me I could barely see the glaze going on) and even with the LED lights on my magnifying glasses I could hardly see if I was covering all the tentacles.

Here's a better view. After brushing a couple of layers onto the tentacles and painting the mouth I became worried that I'd mess something up, so I stopped working on Tracy and caught up on some of my other minis.

While dragging the dogs around the block on Sunday morning, I had a flash of inspiration: I'll use Alicia's desk as it's next to the window. I put down some newspaper, got everything I needed and started painting. The light was way better, meaning I could crack on with getting Tracy either finished or at least around 90% done.

The first thing I did was wash her all over with Army Painter Blue Tone. Once that was dry the tentacles and mouth got a wash of thinned Vallejo Royal Purple, and the mouth a layer of Purple. Then I drybrushed her lower half with Dark Sea Blue.

I mixed some Dark Blue Pale into the Dark Sea Blue and gave Tracy's lower half another drybrush, picking out the details of her scales(?) and the fur on her feet. I then went over the blue with more Blue Tone and gave the tentacles another go with Purple Tone, brushing some of it down over the blue to try to create a transition between the colours.

I lightened the Dark Sea Blue with more Dark Blue Pale (which is a blue-grey) and drybrushed her again before giving her another wash with Blue Tone. I did a similar thing with Gug, and though I want a visual connection between them as they're both from the Cthulhu Mythos (as are Mi-Go), I didn't want Tracy looking just like Guggles.

Notice how the bit you're supposed to be looking at is out of focus. Classic. Anyway, the mouth part was given another coat of Purple Wash before I painted on a thin layer of Purple. The black area surrounding it was treated with Blue Wash and drybrushed with the same colours as Tracy's lower body. Once that was done I gave the teeth a dab of Army Painter Skeleton Bone and a highlight of Vallejo Ivory.

By this point, I felt I was actually making progress on Tracy. Getting the the highlighting and shading done to even a basic standard makes a huge difference; suddenly it ceases to look like a lump of plastic daubed by a 12-year-old and starts to look how you thought it would look. In Tracy's case that means she started looking like something that would send you screaming into the night, which is just what I was going for. Just do me a favour and ignore the bloody mould line that I couldn't get rid of without carving out most of the detail.

After coating it in matte varnish, I decided this was as good a time as any to put Tracy's mouth in.  It'll only go in one way and thankfully doesn't really need to be glued, as the last thing I wanted was superglue on the tentacles. It did rub some paint off one tentacle so I touched it up with Dark Sea Blue and some Blue Wash.

After that it was time for more thinned Vallejo Purple on the tentacles, and once that was done I knocked off.

Monday morning was a case of oh shit, detail time. Up till this point I'd mainly been using my larger flat brushes so I could plaster on large quantities of paint/ink/wash, but now it was time to dig out the 3/0. I painted the teeth on the external mouths with Vallejo Ivory. They're those little bits that you look at and think, "They can't be that hard, surely?" and guess what? Yes, they bloody can be. I'm usually fairly good at brush control but in this case I may as well have had five pints, a doner kebab and half a pack of Marlboros before starting on them. After tidying them up with more Dark Sea Blue and painting Tracy's... blemishes? boils? knots?... with Purple and a highlight of Warlord Purple I finished for the day.

Tuesday morning I thought I'd take Alicia's advice. She felt Tracy needed a spot of brightening up, so I added a couple of layers of thinned Vallejo Warlord Purple to the tips of her tentacles.

I also took the opportunity to touch up Tracy's feet with Vallejo Black and give them a wash of thinned Dark Sea Blue.

It's at this point I checked my open orders on Amazon and discovered the 80mm bases I'd ordered— which I thought were coming May 15 — won't be here till between May 25 and June 6 (ME CHECKING IN A YEAR LATER: THEY NEVER SHOWED UP). I have some 60mm bases but they're pointless because she doesn't fit:

But does she really need a base? I guess it would help but on the other hand it's more work and I don't want to detract from the model itself. And I can alway base her when the 80mm bases show up.

So here she is:

As I said above, Dark Young are part of the Cthulhu Mythos, but weren't invented by Lovecraft. They appear in Robert (Psycho) Bloch's short story "Notebook Found In a Deserted House," which was published in the May 1951 issue of Weird Tales:
The mouths was like leaves and the whole thing was like a tree in the wind, a black tree with lots of branches trailing to the ground, and a whole lot of roots ending in hoofs. And that green slime dribbling out of the mouths and down the legs was like sap!
 It came crawling up the hillside to the alter and the sacrefice, and it was the black thing of my dreams-that black ropy, slimy, jelly tree-thing out of the woods. It crawled up and it flowed up on its hoofs and mouths and snaky arms. And the men bowed and stood back and then it got to the alter where they was something squirmin on top, squirming and screaming.

Bloch refers to them as "shoggoths," which were Lovecraft's invention. The creators of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game renamed them Dark Young when they incorporated them into the game.

I have to say, Tracy came out way better than I thought she would. If When I get her based I'll do another post.


So that's my first entry for Monster Month, and despite the ups and downs it was a lot of fun. I certainly learned a few things: larger models like Tracy need better planning; I can't always rely on Amazon; and I should probably listen to Alicia more often. In case you're wondering, so far Keith has done an excellent Rrrraaaaaang, Coyotepunc painted a Reaper Frost Giant and Dave Stone has put everyone else to shame by painting two entries, one of which he sculpted himself. Go check them out, and here's to the next challenge!


  1. OK, Matt...this post had me laughing out loud. Bravo.
    Tracy looks great! I pride myself on being a bit of a Lovecraft expert (I live in Lovecraft Country, after all), so imagine my surprise at learning Dark Young were a Bloch invention. I didn't know that!
    I was aware of this Reaper miniature, but I've never seen one painted up. Great choice on the purple palette. I think dark green would've worked, too...maybe I'll try my hand at that. The miniature is one I had a hard time imagining painted up...now I see the possibilities.
    Aside: Dark Young are one of my favorite monsters in the Mythos. Berkely is doomed.

    1. I'm happy my six-day odessey to paint Tracy cracked you up! Thanks for the kind comments on the paint job. It was well worth it in the end.

      Yes, Berkely is not in for a fun future :-)

  2. Also, bonus points for taking us through the entire assembly and painting process. Well done, man!

    1. Thanks! When I opened Tracy's packaging I knew I had to record the tribulations for posterity :-)

  3. Wow, that is one impressive monster (in every sense of the word), love the purple and blue palette that you have used, really sets the creature off to a tee!

    I have never used an airbrush either, I know some people swear by them (and some at them!), but I just think it's a lot of "faff" setting it up and cleaning it after, maybe I'm just lazy (actually I am).

    Lovely write up by the way detailing the painting.

    Cheers Roger.

    1. Thanks, Roger! I'm very happy with the purple and blue, but I have been thinking about getting another Dark Young at some point and trying a kind of sickly green/yellow combination.

      The airbrush is still sitting in its box. I'm hoping to try it out today. It'll mainly be used for priming multiple minis as my artistic/drawing talents are close to zero.