+ inload: The Night before Ascension Day +

+ The plasma-forges have been burning brightly recently while I work on a commission model. Once finished, he'll show the First Master of the Ultramarines, Marius Gage, during the Calth Atrocity. +

+ Premise +

+ Marius Gage has been mentioned in passing in quite a few bits of Horus Heresy fiction. He's turned up in the artbook Visions of Heresy, where he bore more than a passing resemblance to Clint Eastwood (see left), and more recently, as a supporting character in Know No Fear. When I was discussing the piece initially, this was the image in my head of the character. 

+ However, the version of Gage that I'm working on is based on what I presume is a starring role in Macragge's Honour, the Black Library graphic novel about the Ultramarines' pursuit of Kor Phaeron's flagship following the Battle of Calth. I say presume as I haven't had the pleasure of reading it! For my reference while working on this model, I've been using images including the one at the top of this inloadpost, culled from review sites. +

+ Design specifics and planning +

+ When planning a model based on artwork, I tend to start by identifying two or three distinguishing features of the character, and then building out my interpretation. In the graphic novel, Marius Gage has a very distinctive suit of tactical dreadnought armour which combines elements of the familiar Terminator armour (I want to call it Indomitus pattern, but I'm not sure about that) with the layered shoulder plates of the distinctively Heresy-era Cataphractii suits. 

+ However, more distinctive than the armour as a whole is his golden helmet/face plate, which is reminiscent of Greek death masks. 

+ The head +

The Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard helmets were an obvious starting point, but the style of the face is different from the more modern, renaissance-inspired Blood Angels. 

+ The Blood Angels' helmets have definite stern expressions and (at the back at least) looser, more naturalistic hair – as in the statue to the left. 

+ In contrast, Gage's helm is stiff and formal, like archaic Greek statuary (see image left), particularly with its blank, expressionless appearance and formal rows of hair. 

+ I'm only partway through the greenstuff work on the head, but I started by drilling a hole in the neck and gluing it temporarily to a piece of wite. I then trimmed away the asymmetrical cables from the cheeks and the halo, before filing the brow ridge and dome of the head down just a little. This last stage is important to stop the hair that's added later from sitting too high on the head. +

+ With the head prepared, I added lenses to the eyes (these are blank holes in the original, for some reason), then added cables to either side. Starting from the front of the head, I then added a row of tiny balls of putty. These were pressed down flat in turn to form the hairline, before I used a sculpting tool to cut a slit in the front of each to form a neat row of chevrons. I repeated the process behind the first row, adding three more rows. This is so that the pieces of hair overlay each other. 

+ This was then allowed to cure. I'll go back later to smooth over the brow to get that impassive archaic appearance, and to add the distinctive cheek pieces that will thicken the head and make it look more brutal and dangerous. +

+ Pose, character and context +

+ Perhaps the most important thing about any model is the pose. Since they're so small, a bad pose can rob the miniature of any impact or attraction, reducing it to an action figure. It's also a great way to get across character. The source artwork I could find in Macragge's Honour seems to show Gage in combat most of the time, but I wanted to get across the nobility of the Ultramarines in Gage, who is first amongst equals. In addition, it's important to remember where he'll be seen. The chap who this Gage is destined for has the most immense (and impressive!) collection of Ultramarines, and Gage needs to stand out as a figurehead, and focal point for the army.

+ I had a very strong image of the character, and wanted to get the parts just right to help sell the model as a unique figure, and not as a kitbash or conversion. As a result, the rest of Gage is made up of an eclectic selection of bits, sourced as bits at the customer's expense – and very generous he was, which allowed me to make Gage just as I wanted. +

+ The body +

+ The legs and torso are taken from two Forge World characters – Ivanus Enkomi of the Minotaurs, and Lufgt Huron of the Astral Claws. These both come with the torso and legs as one piece, so I softened them in hot water before cutting straight through with a sharp craft knife. I picked these two because they both have interesting but not overwhelming detail on the parts. The source artwork has Gage's armour almost plain, but in the context of the army, that was going to look too simple.

+ Huron's torso has some Hellenic waist plates, crenellated collar and braid. These details don't obscure the basic form of the Terminator plate, which is important. Enkomi's legs have some great filigree, layered pteruges (the leather loincloth flaps) and nice rivetting that matched the arms I had in mind. The Minotaur symbol on his left leg was obviously too identifiable, so this was trimmed down with a craft knife, leaving the basic shape. I then carefully cut around the remainder to form an Ultramarines legion symbol. This trimming isn't something I see a lot of people do, but my attitude is that it's better to use existing detail as a basis for your work, as it'll always look more naturally integrated into the piece. 

+ The legs were also reposed in near-boiling water – this is a quick trick to help hide the source of the original models, which in turn helps sell the miniature as unique, rather than a kitbash.

+ The arms come from different sources – the left is Abaddon's, and the right from the Terminator-armoured Praetor. Again, identifying Legion iconography was removed from Abaddon's shoulder plate and adapted into the basis for the Legion symbol. Pleasingly, parts of the original decoration could be incorporated into the greenstuff work, giving Gage a Legion symbol that pays homage to his Terran birthworld (the lightning bolts):

+ The component parts were dry-fitted, then drilled and had pins added. I confess I don't always do this for my own models, but I think it's only right for a commission piece. The sword you can see below is from the Mark II or III weapon upgrade set, I think. 

+ Initial assembly and base +

+ Holding aloft the laurels of victory, Marius Gage accepts the Compliance of another world. +

+ A few spots of superglue later, and the First Master is standing tall and proud on a resin base. I've done a quick pre-paint on this as I've found it gives depth to the tone after spraying; and helps to make the figure 'pop' a little more. +

+ He's not quite finished yet, but assuming the buyer is happy with the initial structure, I'll be going back to tidy up and sharpen the initial greenstuff work. After that, a quick prime and I'll be getting stuck into the painting. However, that'll now wait until after Christmas, as I'm going to have a nice relaxing break! +

+ I'd love to hear any feedback, questions or suggestions for this piece before I declare him ready for paint, so please do feel free to post anything you like below. +

+ And with that parting shot, let me simply wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year! Here's to 2015. +

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