It Figures: the Barkeep

Because in the end, you need to show, not tell.

Six years ago, I started to chronicle the Lands of Hope. But for nigh on thirty years BEFORE that, I showed the Lands in other ways.

Like painting.

Here’s a thought: I think it serves all of us well, to reflect on the less-literary approach to a tale, a world, that emotion that makes you interested enough to turn the page. As always, great to hear your remarks on any of it as these episodes roll out. You can zoom in on the page (Ctrl and “+”) to get a better view.

One last note: this is not about skill, even at my best I wasn’t a great painter . But I think I was good enough: these got me to the tale.


For my first It Figures I knew I wanted the Barkeep. He begs the cliche, the timeworn trope of someone living in the periphery of the would-be heroes either celebrating their last adventure or seeking the next. But who is he really?


The Barkeep was the first non-combat oriented figure I ever painted. He’s got lots of use-marks, for obvious reasons. I wanted him stained, and older, and a bit tired and also just a shade skeptical. Probably overdid the red cheeks and lips, but I was quite proud of the complexion, and managing the blue laces.

This is the figure I picture when I think of Noudhal, owner of the Grog’s Lees in Cryssigens and a Barkeep5-closeminor figure in the Shards of Light series. When I observed the actions of the Lands’ heroes in town, it was often over the barkeep’s shoulder.

I see a man who deals with too many people and too few helpers. He spends more time with adventurers than most other “normal” folk. He hears their tales, and puzzles through how to change their odd-looking coins and jewels- or whether to trust them with credit. He keeps a wary eye on their roister, happy for the custom but nervous whenever tempers flare. Without hesitation he will favor his everyday patrons and neighbors over these uncouth intruders, whether they pay in gold or not.

Of course, he may have heard something useful, an old tale or rumor the adventurers will seize on with their usual, almost naive enthusiasm.  Storming out just as they stormed in, leaving Noudhal, or Fairnum (Judgement’s Tale), or any of their unofficial brotherhood behind, shaking his head, setting back chairs, and mopping the table with the same rag he uses on the mugs.

And this comradery extends to all manner of shops and craftspersons around towns and cities throughout the Lands of Hope. These are the decent, right-thinking folk who gape at the heroes of their day as they would at a lightning bolt, amazed to have seen it but glad when it’s gone. The majority are standing right where their parents stood and Craftsmen2doing exactly what they did; why should anyone need an old bronze helmet reforged, when there are three brand-new steel ones in your size… how should I know what kind of gem used to fit there, sir? I have a nice piece of quartz I can shape, will that do or not? Every one of these figures should have an alternate pose, with arms akimbo: who was that lot, and where are they off to now?


I’m no better a photographer than a painter. It would take too long to relearn the latter, plus I’d have to stock up on paints and brushes again, too expensive. My eyes are going too. But if you have advice on taking pix, and don’t tell me to spend money, I’m all ears.

Barkeep7-closeI set up the barkeep on a plain white tray with the best overhead light I have. My camera is just what comes with my smartphone (a Nokia Lumia 920, about two years old I guess) with its standard on-board camera. I found the focus distance was too close for that camera; I saw an option to download another lens (!) and selected the standard Nokia Lens which allowed me to get up to about four inches away. Flash was on, speed set low (200, figured it wasn’t moving), set the lighting to indoors, and snapped away with the phone held against the end of the tray. I simply used the AutoCorrect feature in MS Picture Manager, and a little cropping. The group shot was taken from about Craftsmen1a foot away with a sheet of white paper backing the tray.

I hope you enjoyed this segment. The figures I bought and painted are almost always from Ral Partha, sometime between 1979 and 2000 at the latest. So many more unpainted downstairs… if anyone is interested in using these pictures in their media, that’s fine by me. Send a link so I can see what you did with them.

4 thoughts on “It Figures: the Barkeep

  1. I can see that I’ll enjoy coming by your website. The barkeep is lovely despite its age. To improve the picture, you could use an adaption of brightness and contrast that every good photo-manipulation program should have. Make the closeups a tad darker with a little more contrast and you should be fine.

    1. Thanks Kat! I’ll look for more to do with contrast in my next shots. The Picture Manager AutoFix definitely threw in some contrast and darkness to the background on its own.

  2. I did indeed enjoy this segment. The barkeep is truly an intriguing character especially now that you’ve given us a glimpse into his personality! You’ve also given me hope that adults are never too old to play! Looking forward to seeing more characters!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Francesca! Always glad to see a new face (though your avatar, I must say, looks familiar…)

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