+ inload: Mark of Calth cover diorama +

+ inload: Mark of Calth +

+ Building on my previous blogpost about interpreting artwork into miniature form, here's my latest work, based on the cover to Black Library's collection of short stories, Mark of Calth. The original artwork is by Neil Roberts:

+ Here are the three figures from the front cover, Captain Ventanus, Sergeant Selaton (the mournful-looking chap with the banner) – oh, and Brother Genericus, third spear carrier to the left.

+ I'm very pleased with how they've come out – it was a real pleasure to just sit down and enjoy modelling and painting. I enjoy the challenge of finding the right bits and pieces for the models, and adapting existing parts with conversion work. +

+ I think the challenge isn't so much reproducing things perfectly as getting the tone across. The artistic interpretation is a big part of the fun – will that set of legs work if I trim away the detail and add a kneepad? What head do I use as the basis for that eagle-winged helm? Am I going to model that detail, or use paint to suggest it? – and so forth. +

+ Following are some detail shots or the individual marines, along with a few notes or thoughts. +

+ Captain Ventanus +

+ The 'main man' of the artwork, Ventanus had to be the focus of my effort, so I started with him. Ventanus was relatively straightforward to plan and build. The distinguishing (iconic) features I spotted looking at the artwork were the overall pose, the bare head and the unusual spiked pauldron. The head is an important part – and usually a focal point – of any figurative work. 

+ After rummaging through my bits box, I chanced upon a head from the Scout biker set. The plastic Scouts are fairly notorious for having blocky, ugly heads; but after a closer look, I thought that there was some potential there. In any case, the biker scouts are a little more promising than the foot version, with slightly better definition. I trimmed away the microphone across his jaw and filed it back to give the head the prominent jawline of Roberts' artwork. Similarly, I trimmed back the earpiece to make it more subtle, and softly filed back the head above the ears to give Ventanus his short-back-and-sides 'do, and reduce the slight bulging inherent to a two-part plastic head. This gave a good base for some heavy tonal work with the paints that adds the drama to the original artwork. +

+ I picked a set of legs from the Sons of Horus Justaerin set, as these came with spikes on and a heavy belt. I trimmed away the spikes and glued them on to the pauldron, starting from the centre – always a good idea on symmetrical devices! 

+ The artwork shows the Captain with angular gold-trimmed kneepads. Because of the way I was intending to do the metallics, I needed some structure, so I carefully trimmed the reinforcing rims on the original legs to reshape the kneepad. Similarly, I trimmed away the Eye of Horus on the belt, leaving a nice space to add the decorative belt. These detail is not – in my opinion – vitally important to the character, so this could easily have been done another way, perhaps using a different set of legs; or equally, left off altogether. +

+ Neil Roberts' artwork has some script or iconography on the pauldron, just above the trim, and also a Legion symbol with a grenadier device (a bomb, looking a little like a pineapple) on the knee. These were fun little details to add – the Grenadier guards are an elite British army regiment, so it's nice to suggest the symbol still symbolises duty and honour in the far future. +

+ Ventanus' right-hand side is hidden from view in the artwork, but needs to be considered in a three-dimensional model. I opted to add a sidearm (the magazine and muzzle is visible behind his arm) and some iconography to the pauldron in the form of the Legion symbol. Taking inspiration from the grenadier device on the knee, I included it in the Legion symbol as an honorific. I also added 'IV' at the bottom, as Ventanus is mentioned in the story as Captain of the 'troublesome' Fourth company. +

+ This view highlights a few divergences from the artwork – namely the colour of the backpack and the looped armour on the back of his legs. I've always interpreted the bits which come off the top of the backpack to be heat vents or thrusters, so I have painted them metallic since I was a nipper. While this model is for a specific purpose, I'd also like him to fit in with the rest of my Ultramarines, so I decided such a minor change was perfectly fine – after all, he's my interpretation of the artwork, so I want some design flourishes of my own! +

+ Not much to draw attention to here, except that you can see the unusual gold trim on the hands and the decorated gold forearm piece. This is a good example of making concessions to size. The original artwork has the forearm covered with delicate filigree. To get a similar effect at this size, I stippled a lighter metallic over the base colour before applying the wash that creates the gold. +

+ Sergeant Selaton +

+ This model is my favourite of the three. With none of the pressure of getting the first one right, and before I started to flag with the third model, Selaton just seemed to come together well for me, and was really fun and rewarding to paint, with lots of interesting details and techniques. + 

+ A secondary point of the artwork, the sergeant's distinguishing features are his mournful, head-down pose and – of course – the enormous banner. The head was taken from the Forgeworld Praetor model (fitting, eh?) with a little ProCreate putty used to sculpt some hair. +

+ Like his Captain, Selaton's legs are from the Justaerin set – in fact, the stock parts are identical. Here I cut away all of the trimming on the lower legs and sculpted some simple discs as new kneepads. I also chose to leave the crenellated reinforcement on the soles of his boots. Subtle differences, but together with some slight reposing in boiling water, the same pair of legs end up looking different. +

+ The banner itself was probably the biggest challenge. It's not hugely clear what design is on the banner in the artwork, but there are hints of red and blue in it, and lots of holes! I used a banner from Forgeworld (bits buying from ebay is a good way of getting just the bits you want) as it had the gold eagle shown in the artwork, and I thought resin would be easier to manipulate than plastic.

+ The modelling was fairly straightforward – I basically attacked the piece with a pair of clippers, then used a craft knife and needle file to tidy up a bit and create some finer marks. Aside from the drilled bullet holes, the only real thing of note is that I took some time in dry-fitting the pieces together, and returned to trim more and more from the side nearer Selaton's head, in order that he wasn't obscured. I used a hairdryer and boiling water (separately, I hasten to add) to heat and reshape the banner and draw out the shape into fluttering tatters. 

+ I ummed and aahed for quite a while about the design, first painting it a different hue of blue (a cool greeny-blue to contrast with the warm red-blue I used for the armour) then changing my mind and opting for a strong red. The overall impression of the artwork is red, so I used a little artistic license to keep it a solid background colour. I drew out the design on paper first, basing it on the description in a separate book (Dan Abnett's Know No Fear), where the device is described as a Legion symbol surmounting a double eagle. There's quite a lot of play in that description, so I went for a fairly simple iconocgraphic eagle device with a more flamboyant version of the typical Legion symbol. +

+ Unnamed background marine with the others +

+ The third marines is essentially a background element in the original artwork, so I didn't take nearly as much time over planning him. His distinguishing features were his helmet and pose. Again, I used the same pair of legs, trimming away the spikes and detail. The hot water reposing is far more obvious here, as it's distorted his pteruges (the loincloth thingie). Of course, since this is meant to be leather fabric, the distortion works fine. + 

+ The eagle-faced helmet is based on one of the honour guard from the Sevrin Loth character pack. I trimmed away the crest on top and used a little greenstuff to sculpt an aquilla on the faceplate. I wasn't hugely pleased with the effect (I prefer the flatter, more stripped back and simple Praetor helm, personally), but the detail came out nicely with the paintjob, and it's growing on me. +

+ This shot of him in the group shows his shoulder pad heraldry. In the original image, this looks to be gold, but I was concerned that would draw the eye too much, so I changed it to white on blue. I did retain the wreath/feather design, though, as I thought it was a cool look. As an aside, you can just make out Selaton's shoulder pad here, too. Neil Roberts has included what looks like script below the legion symbol on the sergeant's pauldron, a detail I only spotted after I'd added the little lightning bolts. I decided this would probably be a name plate, so just managed to cram in 'Selaton' in the space – a detail with which I'm disproportionately pleased with! +

+ A really enjoyable project overall – I'd love to hear what you think. +

+ inload: Interpreting artwork into miniature +

+ The First Expedition is a forum that focusses on the Horus Heresy, a fictional civil war to determine the fate of the future galaxy. They're running a competition to create in miniature a version of a piece of Horus Heresy-themed artwork. +

+ To a degree, the idea of recreating models that more closely followed the artwork is what led to the Praetors of Calth project in the first place; allowing me to interpret images like this:
Visions of Heresy
...into miniatures like this:

+ However, there's a difference between using artwork as inspiration, and actively trying to recreate the artwork as accurately as possible. I have tried this in the past in two dimensions, with a banner based on John Blanche's fantastic Eternity Gate artwork: 
Click for a bigger version – the banner's in the lower left-hand corner.

+ If my mem-banks don't fail me, there was an explanation in White Dwarf magazine that the countless serried banners were honoured relic from long-disbanded/destroyed armies of the Emperor, built up over 10,000 years – a wonderfully gothic conceit! I liked it so much that I built it into the Praetors of Calth as a little nod:

+ This obviously required a little interpretation – the whole banner isn't shown, and I wanted to tie it into the Ultramarines. However, it wasn't overly complex to interpret a two-dimensional image into another two-dimensional image. The same can't be said for miniatures, which are three-dimensional and proportioned very differently from the artwork. However, I did have a go at turning John Gravato's cool artwork Techmarine Arius (again from the Visions of Heresy artbook), into a miniature:

+ This was a really fun challenge, and a good test to see whether the altered proportions I'd done for my marines worked with the proportions of the artwork. Here's the result:

+ It's not a perfect replica due to my lack of skill, and also necessary compromises to use existing pieces to create the model. However, I think it successfully evokes the idea of the artwork, and has enough ideintifable features – the pose, the helmet, the cogged and clawed backpack etc. – to make it recognisable. This is what I call finding the iconic elements. If you have enough of them, you can play quite fast and loose with details, while still reminding people of the original. +

+ While I'm writing about the Arius figure, I'd like to point out a couple of bits – the the streetlamp on the base. The original artwork has a powerful light source behind it; and I thought adding a streetlamp here would serve two purposes – creating a light source on the miniature, and simultaneously create a strong, solid piece that would help protect the model from gaming wear-and-tear.+ 

+ This miniature was also a good opportunity to try a little trompe-l'oeil – the hoops that make up the armour segments are just painted on. I think I'd do a better job of it these days, but I remember feeling very pleased with it at the time. Models like this – one-offs that for one reason or another you spend more time thinking about and trying new things out on – are a great opportunity to stretch yourself, and are very rewarding. +

+ Coming back to The First Expedition's contest, I'm having another go at recreating a bit of artwork. Since the contest doesn't end until the end of the month, here's a little silhouette teaser.+

+ Have you ever tried your hand at turning an artwork into a figure – or perhaps the other way round? +

+ inload: Minor progress on the Calth front +

+ The painting war continues apace. I used the pencil for the metal areas on the Rhino. Quite tempted to use it on the boarding shields, too; though I'm a bit concerned about over-using it... Thanks for all the feedback, by the way – it'd be lovely to hear (and see) how you're using it :) +

+ I can't quite decide how to paint the boarding shields. On the one hand, a utilitarian approach seems fitting – they're largely disposable, and I don't think the 30k Ultramarines would have developed the slightly fetishistic approach to honouring the battle gear of the dead that's prevalent in 40k. If I go this route, I thought either dark blue (as for the gun casings and other hard equipment) or dark grey. +

+ Alternatively, I could paint the shields with a group emblem (like the Roman Legions), or individual totems (like a hoplite phalanx). I'm currently leaning towards adding thunderbolts like Roman Legionaries, as it's an image that turned up a lot in early 40k. What are your t
houghts? +

+ inload: Workflow and graphite metallics +

+ or, The Pencil Is Mightier Than The Sword +

+ Experimentation is generally a good idea in painting, in my experience. Rote painting can get very dull, and while it's more likely to result in a uniform appearance, that's not necessarily always a good thing. +

As my day job, I'm a book editor for an arts and crafts publisher, and I work with lots of fine artists – which is great for picking up ideas! One of the common themes of their advice is to simply use what's to hand. Of course this is balanced by their years of experience in knowing what's likely to work, but I really love the flow that this gives their work. Given how little time most hobbyists have for their painting, the workflow is an important part of making sure we make the most of things. +

+ Over the weekend, I sat back down and assembled some Infinity miniatures (see blog post below). While I was sitting back holding a model and waiting for the arms to glue on securely, I looked over a few primed Ultramarines huddled in one of the pigeonholes on my painting bureau, and decided to quickly add a little to them.+

+ Inspired by that, and with thoughts of pigments in my head (weathering pigments are essentially just ground-up pastels – or to put it another way, pure pigment), I picked up a nearby HB pencil and began rubbing the edge of it over some black base-coated areas of one of my marines. +

+ This rapidly built up into a lovely metallic effect, as seen above. I've simply rubbed the side of the pencil over the areas I wanted to colour – the shoulder pads, helmet grille, the sword, and the heat vents of the backpack. This must have taken aroound thirty seconds or so – very quick indeed. +

+ As you can see, it built into a burnished steel effect that reflects light well. The pictures below show the same figure being taken under the same lighting from the same angle, as I gently rotated him:

+ A nice simple trick that results in a lovely effect. +

+ I'm fairly sure this idea's been used for many years in military modelling for weathering; but I'm pleased it worked for more stylised figures. With that in mind, I used the same technique to add some weathering to my Contemptor, Strix:

+ Note the fine lines on the power fist and on top of the chassis. I also used it to add some smooth metallic effects to the heat-dispersing bits on the barrels of the melta cannon – compare the pencil shininess there to the duller metallics on the fuel canisters at the back, which were produced with metallic paint (boltgun metal and chainmail) washed with Badab Black. As you can see, it works quite nicely over painted areas, and having the point of the pencil meant I had more control than a brush. +

+ The downsides of this technique: pigments need to be fixed (there's no evaporating carrier like a paint to seal them), so if you do use this technique you'll need to either varnish them or simply be careful not to let them rub. I spent a bit of time really working the graphite in (which leads to the shiny, smooth effect), and found that it was fairly resistant – a fairly hard wipe over with a thumb didn't lift too much, but there was a residue of graphite on my thumb afterwards. + 

+ Secondly, while you have control over the point of a pencil, there's no flex to it like a brush, so any hard lines will show very starkly (like this cut I had made into the marine's helmet:

+ There's no way to get the pencil tip in there, and you will catch any sharp edges. Not necessarily a downside, as you can use this to avoid recesses (useful on things like the studded forehead area on the model above, where I wanted some natural shading), but worth bearing in mind. +

+ Thirdly, the pencil is quite hard, and this can scrape the paint back if you're too vigorous. I imagine this can be ameliorated by using a softer (B) pencil. +

+ Finally, you can't overpaint the graphite and retain the effect. I washed the areas with Gryphonne Sepia last night to see what I did, and ended up with an unattractive brown (presumably where the loose graphite pigment had prevented the wash spreading and adhering as usual). +

+ Fortunately, you can work straight back over with the pencil – compare the shoulder pad on the left-hand side of the picture, where I have quickly reapplied the graphite, with the right-hand (studded) one. +

+ So, overall a useful little tool to add to my repertoire – hope it helps you too. +

+ On a related note, I have been reading some excellent posts by the Modelling Magos Quinn over at the blog Pontifex +inload link http://theunderhivea.blogspot.co.uk/+, as I have plans for a new board and wanted to get some ideas from his excellent underhive terrain. +

This fantastic site is quickly becoming one of my absolute favourite blogs, which captures the aesthetic of 40k to a tee.  One of the things that struck me was how many found materials and techniques – ink, gesso, sand etc. – Quinn uses. I wonder what other lessons I can apply from my day job? +

+ inload: Infinity Operation: Icestorm +

+ Corvus Belli have recently released a boxed set of their tabletop skirmish game Infinity. I have been vaguely following CB's miniature releases over the years, as they burst onto the scene with some great, dynamic sculpts. More recently, their work has picked up in release pace and realism as they have embraced computer-aided design. I hesitate to say they've picked up in 'quality', as I think traditional hand sculpting is a different (though obviously comparable) discipline, and hand-sculpted models have a different appeal and charm. In addition, CB have always produced some very nice sculpts, so it's unfair to dismiss the earlier stuff as lower-quality. +

+ Anyway, CAD brings with it a number of advantages, not least of which is consistency, speed and the ability to produce extremely fine detail. Since the sculpt can be much more easily reproduced, tweaked and altered than a hand-sculpt, manufacturers can get some absolutely gorgeous models. +

+ Icestorm comes with two sets of figures that each represents a special operations group, and an extra model to represent a civilian/operative. The two groups are from rival factions of the near-future game – PanOceania and the Nomads. In generic terms, PanOceania are influential, well-equipped and well-trained professional soldiers – perhaps with a hint of smugness about their worldview – while the Nomads are rogues and rebels; a disparate group that want to live off-grid for a number of reasons. A very simple 'blue vs red' set up that seems sensible for a starter set. +

+ The models are all high-quality multipart white metal, and supplied in small individual baggies. They have been well-designed to glue together in proscribed poses. I found they went together well and required minimal cleanup – slight trimming of vents, but virtually no flash whatsoever. They're also true 28mm, which makes them fairly small. This is quite nice to see; I've been getting fed up with models that don't fit on their bases! +

PanOceanian Fusiliers, the lowest-level PanO troopers in the box
+ I decided I'd paint the groups up together, in order that I end up with a complete set. The box has a set of missions to teach you the basic rules, and mission one pits teams of three basic troopers against each other. These groups seemed a sensible starting point. +

Alguaciles, the Nomad equivalent to the Fusiliers.
+ I trimmed the slotta tabs from the models and attached them to tupenny bits, onto which I had superglued some small spare bits from the Microarts Studios terrain pieces I showed last month. I then used PVA to secure the join and added fine sand for some basic texture. I'll probably go back and develop the bases a bit more at a later date. I decided to use coins to base these models (much as I do for Epic figures) to give them a bit more weight and stability. +

+ Since these are more realistically-proportioned models, I think they looked a bit odd on the supplied slottabases, standing proud of the terrain. Using coins for the bases also dropped their height a bit. This won't affect the game, as there's a silhouette marker mechanic to deal with line of sight issues. I probably would have used coins anyway – 'models first, rules second' – but it's nice to not have to worry about the potential for annoying other players. +

+ The models have a lovely sci-fi feel, with great detailing and appealing details, and I'm looking forward to painting them. The Nomads in particular have a great Battlestar: Galactica vibe to their uniforms, and it's nice to see diversity both in gender and race. Each of the figures is quite distinct and has a lot of character; from the cornrows of one of the Nomad (centre of image above) to the excellent draping on the PanOceanians soft clothing. +

Nomads – rear shot

+ The downside of this is that conversion work is made that much harder – you risk creating odd poses or destroying the lovely balance of the figures, but since they're so good anyway, I don't see this as a problem. In fact, it's quite appealing. I've got so used to converting things and having to build from (necessarily) generic multipart models, it's quite nice to go back to constructing models that are deliberately in a specific pose. +

+ One point of note is that these are very fine figures, which means they are likely to be fairly fragile. The joints, while designed with notches and recesses to help you glue things in the right place, are very small and thus vulnerable. Careful play should see problems kept minimal, but drilling and pinning is going to be time-consuming. I'm relying on using superglue and being careful!+ 
PanOceania – rear shot

+ As you can see, I've got stuck into the painting on the PanO team. Once assembled, I primed the figures grey, than used a light dusting of white spray from above at a fixed angle in order to establish some initial tonal work. I'm not sticking with the official colour schemes – since the models are monopose, I wanted to add my own touches and paint scheme seemed the obvious choice. +

+ inload: the Iyanden Craftworld +

+ inload: Iyanden +

None save the foolish trust the eldar. 
Few amongst the foolish trust them twice.

+ Hobbywise thing have been a bit fallow recently, as my attention has (happily!) been elsewhere. I thought I'd post a bit of a retrospective of my Iyanden craftworld Eldar army, as I don't believe I've put much of them up. + 

+ The ghost warriors of Iyanden have become a bit trendy over the past couple of years, as they took centre stage of the most recent Eldar Codex and had a sub-Codex of their own. They've got a lovely bright colour scheme, and coming from my drab grey-brown Craftworld Ctho (see below), they were a refreshing contrast. +

+ Here's a selection of Iyanden stuff. If you'd like a closer look at anything, please let me know in the comments and I'll get some shots. +

+ Tiny Epic Iyanden! +

+ Witch-Council. Pleased with these – they contain a couple of third-party sculpts, but also go to show how Jes Goodwin's  classic Rogue Trader-era sculpts (front right, for example) fit right alongside his more modern ones. +

+ A WIP shot, by the look of things, of a Dire Avenger shrine. I must get round to taking some proper pictures of the army now it's finished. + 

+ Fire Prism. An ebay rescue job; hence the painted clear bits and general speedpaint! +

+ One of my converted Guardians +

+ My Autarch has an inload all of his own, I believe, in the early days of this blog. +

+ I'll leave you with an unpainted Eldar. Not really sure what he is – he was built with no particular army in mind – but he looks a bit Prince/Corsair, doesn't he? Not sure whether to paint him up to join this army, or just as a bit of painting fun. +

+ inload: Objective Secured +

I'm here to rescue you!

+ Like terrain, I often leave objectives to the last minute in favour of adding more soldiers – and like a lot of last-minute stuff, quickly-done bits like this can turn out surprisingly well! +

+ Marker objectives +

+ You can split objective markers into loose categories – markers, and modelled. Markers are the simple ones; tokens or abstract models like the set of servo skulls GW released a few years ago. I had fun painting these up one weekend round at my friend's house while we chatted and drank synth-ale:

+ I used the opportunity to try out some different white/bone colour schemes and lens effects. While the models aren't particularly detailed, they paint up quite nicely, and their larger scale provides some good blending practice. A little freehand detailing was added with red, to fit them into the 40k universe. +

+ I find dice, templates etc. being left on the table during a game detract from the experience by spoiling the visuals. I won't go so far as to say they ruin it or anything, but I always try to keep the board clear. As a result, I've often cleared off dice meant as wound markers, objectives etc., which can get very annoying for the other players! Having these little servo skulls to cradle specific dice is a great way to ensure these bits remain unswept. +

+ Here's another example of a quick improvised marker – an Advanced Space Crusade blip token being used as an objective point for the Novamarines Fifth company as they attempt to sweep a Splinterfleet Cerberus hiveship. +

+ These sort of symbolic objective markers are simple, and they have the advantage that they can't be mistaken for anything, but they're not quite as pleasing visually as modelled objectives, particularly if those are themed around the game or army. +

+ Modelled objectives +

+ These are a lot of fun, and while they take a bit more effort, they're a great way to encourage you to think of a story for your games. I've made quite a few objective markers over recent years; they work nicely as a quick way of enhancing the feel of a game and being a good way to help create a sense of immersion. +

+ Governess Sibley of Thrymyr, above, was the final objective of our Frigia campaign. Built from a GW Vampire Counts model (the giant ghost throne thing), I simply trimmed back a lot of the excessive baroquerie and sculpted a danish pastry-style haircut to make a Princess Leia-alike that would fit into the 40k universe. +

+ Since she didn't have to fit into any army, I had a lot of fun playing around with some techniques that I would find too time-consuming for a whole army – the white blending – and also tried experimenting with blood spatter and resin rubble on the base. Both turned out quite well, and I've used them elsewhere. +

+ A quick paintjob on an optional model gives the benefit that you're not too invested in the figure, so you have the freedom to experiment without the feeling you'll be letting down the overall look of a group. As a result, such figures benefit from a real creative, experimental urge, and – at least in my experience – a much more satisfying result! + 

+ Theming objective models around an army also gives you a chance to show the non-combat side of the army; whether that's a civilian or simply a serf, like this runt, a serf in service of the Novamarines Fifth:

Perhaps not exactly non-combat, but bearing an empty scabbard is about as peaceful as the 41st Millennium gets!
+  Again, a model that let me experiment with some new techniques – the drybrushed craquelure basing (of Agrellan Earth, from GW's technical paint range) and experimenting with red alongside the blue and white of the army's paintscheme. This confirmed the colour didn't work well as an accent, so I didn't use it elsewhere in the army itself. +

+ The pict-capture to the left shows a new dark mix that I tried out – a watered-down Orkhide Shade and Necron Abyss mix over a grey undercoat, then covered with Winsor & Newton black ink and Daler Rowney matt medium. A fairly successful experiment that was used on Captain Mercian's cloak. +

+ Small objectives at the size of single figures can look good, but objective markers can also be bigger terrain pieces in certain circumstances. This deceased Ultramarines banner bearer has collapsed into a large shell hole – a large centrepiece that has good visual impact.+ 

+ This approach gives you an extra piece of characterful terrain to play with later, irrespective of whether it's used as a gameplay objective or not. + 

+ What do you use as your objectives? +