+ inload: 40,000 +

+ inload: 40,000 +

+ This blog is not based solely on Warhammer 40,000, but since that's the universe I dip into most often here, finding Death of a Rubricist at 40,000 views (40,173 at the mo, in fact) is a lovely milestone. It's a good spot for a bit of a review, too. +

+ Firstly, thank you. I started the blog in September 2013 as a place to essentially gather my thought and centralise a lot of ideas that I had scattered over a lot of different discussion fora and notebooks. It's since grown to be the place I post most of my work, and it's very rewarding when I see the viewcount go up and – best of all – comments, ideas and critique from those of you out there. You'll also spot that seventy-eight people are following along – again, thanks very much for joining me on this rather discursive blog. +

+ The first inload set out the first tentative ideas for what has developed into the Court of the Sun King project which I'm working upon now. Every so often, I pop back to it to keep me on track as the project grows. +

+ The most viewed inloads seem to be an eclectic mix of painting tutorials, basing comparisonsgaming campaign background and odd musings about pencils; while the most comments come on inloads ranging from background stories, future plans, Primarch conversions, and – probably of little surprise, given their role in the 40k galaxy – Space Marines. +

+ The Vessel of Ages MMXIV +

+ A few months back, in the hundredth inload, I posted up an idea for the Vessel of Ages, a sort of ongoing invitational that proposed readers:

1) Build and paint a single model – anything at all, from a starship to a lost villager – to personify your blog. Have fun working out what your blog would be if it were a miniature. Post it up to your blog and share the fun! 
2) Pick a blog that you follow and create a model to personify that blog – again, work out what that blog would be if it were a miniature. Once you're finished, please get in contact with the blog's owner(s) and send it over in the post as a gift to the community.
+ Well, that kind of got lost a bit in the background, but I thought I'd resurrect it for those of you who would like a go before the year's out. To show that I'm playing the game, I finished the figure to personify Death of a Rubricist – the Rubricist himself: +

+ Next up, I need to take on part two of the Vessel of Ages, and I thought I'd invite readers to nominate the blog I should try to characterise – please add your nomination in the comments, and I'll try not to embarrass myself in the execution... +

+ Anyway, enough self-absorbed burblings. You're probably still sick of 'em from post one hundred, which wasn't too long ago! I hope that this blog continues to be of interest and use to you. Do let me know what you'd like to see more of, less of, or if you have a particular idea for a model or project you'd like to see. I always love hearing new ideas from you guys and girls. +

+ Thank you again. +

+ inload: Two of Hands +

+ inload: Two of Hands +

"No, no, no." muttered the underscribe, shuffling through the papers on his desk. "No, no, no. This won't do at all." It was undeniable. It had gone. He sat down amidst the screed of records and forms, a cold knot in his stomach. What was he to do? He licked his lips nervously, and used a pocket square to dab at his eyes, which – damnably, shamefully – had started weeping. He looked up, his head empty of prayers. In any case, only the crumbling plaster ceiling looked down on him here. It was dark. The room, seldom silent, was whistling as the coldly insistent wind inveigled its way through cracks and gaps in the old timbers.

A heavy bang from the front entrance, two storeys down. Ferlinghetti froze. He strained to hear. Nothing but the wind and his own pulse. His breathing was light, rapid. As he stood, he thought he caught a noise muffled by the rustling of his tunic. He froze again. Nothing. His fingers – long ago replaced by steel augmetics – twitched and cycled with a sound like a dozen centipedes marching in lock-step. 

Wait. The floorboard just outside. The knife – he had to get the knife. His hands scrabbled at his bedside table, his wet eyes open and locked on the door. The drawer was stuck – the drawer was stuck. 

The catch on the door lifted with the sound of stout iron and the door opened inwards. The underscribe screwed his eyes shut, and shrank into a semi-crouch.

"Ferlinghetti? Him-on-the-Throne! It is you!" said a voice. The Underscribe, relief coursing through him, opened his eyes. There were two men at the door. The first, wearing a uniform of the nightwatch, was tall, thick-set and vital. He had an open face twisted into a scowl, and a heavy cudgel in his hand. The other, slightly behind the first, was well-known to the Underscribe. He began to stammer a greeting, but was cut off. "Unfortu-?"
"Childeric, Ferlinghetti." The smaller man interrupted pointedly. He was an inch or two below average height, and his complexion was drawn and pale. Nevertheless, there was an intensity to his red-limned eyes that commanded respect. He continued, his voice becoming soft and low. "I believe you have something of mine, underscribe." 

Ferlinghetti looked directly at the smaller of the two men. 
"Ah. About that..."


+ The Underscribe Ferlinghetti +

+ 'Underscribe', and its many Low Gothic variants, is such a common task across the Imperium that its meaning has been diluted on many worlds to being little more than a term of – fairly respectful – address. +

+ The tasks of an underscribe mostly include transcription, duplication, record-keeping and copy-checking. It is not a task that requires creativity, nor rewards imagination. Fortunately the grinding wheels of the Imperium ensure a steady stock of grey, anonymous zerraufters more than able to attend to the duties of an underscribe with little more encouragement than the opportunity to work indoors and the vague promise of a supply of recaf at some indeterminate future date. + 

+ Many underscribes freely choose neural-modification or augment-consciousness in order to suppress their cerebral activity; becoming little more than servitors with a measure of free will – though they will protest that they fully retain their soul and humanity if this is brought up. Of course, the process leaves them unable to protest too vociferously, for obvious reasons. +

+ Conversely, where technology and funds allow, many underscribes undergo enhancement the areas of their brain that assist with concentration. Even worlds that possess no written script or technology – as is common across many feral worlds and a number of civilised worlds in the Imperium – will have aural-rhapsodists, bards and versifers who provide a similar service; embedding the tales of the scribe and their patron deep into didactic memories. Such is the way of the Imperium, where the same task can be approached in a billion ways, with little of no standardisation – to the eternal dismay of the Adeptus Terra as a whole. 

+ More common than brain modification is physical augmentation. Finger-braces and wrist supports are all but universal in order to allow the underscribe to perform his or her duties on an official ten-hour shift. In practise, many underscribes work long into the night to 'catch up' on work, cutting their sleep short in order to attend to the following shift. As a result, repetitive strain injuries are frequent, painful and occasionally fatal. Underscribes belonging to a wealthy patron may receive more extensive modification to allow them to function more comfortably, by replacing sections of their arms; up to and including complete bionics across the torso. Other common modifications are replacement or shortening of the digestive tract (combined with an altered diet for great efficiency), reproductive sterilisation, or the attachment of waist-height braces to provide points to which to attach spare scroll tubes and portable desks. +

+ More important than a general dogsbody or bureau-gopher, an underscribe will nevertheless be likely to have to deal with some menial extra-curricular duties such as stock replenishment, queue-holding or waste removal in the absence of an official. +

+ Most Imperial dignitaries whose role involves any form of writing will include a scribe – a much more respected position that implies an ability to comment, research and analyse – and that scribe will have a number of underscribes to assist him. Much of the operation of the Adeptus Terra and Munitorum is undertaken by underscribes, and the susurrus of their quills and typesetting is the sound of bureaucracy itself, a hymnal to organisation and re-organisation sung to the glory of the High Lords of Terra. +

+ Carrying little inherent meaning beyond 'factotum', underscribes are so common across the many worlds of the Imperium that their presence is largely un-noted. In fact, the Scribe Wars which wracked Antona Australis in M33 saw the planet Hebes Minor invaded when settlers were advised that the planet was uninhabited, despite seven billion underscribes being domiciled on the world. The resulting confusion led to nearly four million deaths. +

+ Ferlinghetti himself appears to be a typical underscribe in service to the Adeptus Mechanicus – as denoted by his rust-red shoulder cape. He arrived on Cepheus a number of years ago in the entourage of Magos Titus Manderghast, and is employed by the Magos to monitor and oversee his affairs in the city. This is beyond the duties of most underscribes, and it is likely that the wily Manderghast sees some advantage in having such an anonymous figure as their contact in the city. +

+ Not by nature a courageous man, Ferlinghetti is nevertheless a capable scribe – literate, well-read and devoted to both his master and his duties. Roughly fifty years of age and heavily augmented – a mark of his favour with the Mechanicus – he bears a mechanical dataslate and a number of spare tubes to assist in his duties. A master cryptographer and codebreaker, this underscribe is perhaps more than he appears. +


The figure is based on the sadly out-of-print Inquisitorial lexmechanic(?), with the addition of a greenstuff hood and shoulder cape. I also added an ear-piece and mouth cover to further distance him from the base sculpt. The painting was relatively straightforward, though he went through a few different changes of costume before I plumped for the orange and saffron combo shown.

+ inload: Deuce of Beasts +

+ inload: Deuce of Beasts +

Every Imperial Commander is precious to the Emperor! 
No world is beyond the sight of the High Lords! 
Pay your tithe! 
Imprecatory text appended ca. M32 to the flyleaf of the Imperial Commander's Carte Blanche.


+ 'Every world pays its tithes. Sometimes late, sometimes after the application of force, but they always pay.' Such is the comfortable truth of the Departmento Munitorum, in its role as enforcer for the Adeptus Terra. +

+ The Imperium is vast and monolithic, and it is true that many worlds are simply so far-flung or isolated that they will receive Imperial dignitaries fewer than every tenth generation. That said, most planets in densely inhabited systems (in practise, those with more than one habitable planet) will have a number of organisations in place to ensure mutual support – those these arrangements vary –from treaties to ensure both can pay their full tithe in times of hardship, to virtual piracy, where one world will exist as a virtual parasite of another. As long as the tithe of both is paid, the Adeptus Terra cares not a jot. +

+ The Port Cassian system is a strategically vital place for the Imperium, controlling one of the main routes into the system. Being so close to orkspace, it is heavily defended and monitored. As a result, the relatively backwards feral world Dorin Antrum and the feudal world Cepheus enjoy the military and political advantages of sharing space with such luminary worlds as Exercitus, Bellatrix and Port Cassian, all vital to the continued well-being of subsector Hesiod-Siculus and Sector Antona Australis as a whole. +

+ One might expect that the two less-developed planets might be highly monitored, but in practice the two worlds are a low priority. No matter the might and power of the Imperium, its coffers run continually empty. In a system as high priority as Port Cassian, it is easy for Imperial Adepts to bypass please from textile trade envoys from an inbred principality in favour of keeping the Imperial Navy running. +

+ With little chance of long-term planetary damage or the unleashing of system-capable craft, most feudal-level wars are simply observed from orbit, as one might observe squabbling children. An Imperial troopship will be tasked with intervening if the local PDF cannot manage things. +

+ In the case of Cepheus specifically, the war is – on an Imperial level – inconsequential. Thousands may have died and millions may have been displaced, but the war shows little sign of escalating. The Imperial Commander has ensured the tithe was met not two months ago. Following this final action, he has closed the space port to both incoming and outgoing ships. This has aroused little further suspicion – after all, to most observers, this is a sensible move to ensure that the matter remains local, and that troublemakers might not escape or arrive. +

+ Where possible, the Imperial Guard will attempt to bring in troops that are local enough to arrive in short order, but not so local that they might be inclined to take sides. In orbit over Cepheus currently sit, amongst others, the Blenheim 2014th, a regiment from the Perseus system in the nearby subsector Anton Antecedent. +

+ Shuttled to the surface to receive the Imperial Commander's blessing – a service that marks the Imperium's support for the planetary governor – were a small platoon of veteran Guardsmen and women; an honour guard for their General. Amongst these was Colour Sergeant Thorna Tempest. +

+ The regiment's 'adoption' by the planet was marked by the gift of a banner – a totem of the Sun King. +

+ The shuttle has since been grounded by the dock blockade. The troops are barracked within the Sun King's palace, with their officer's last orders simply being 'hold'. Their officers were spirited away – for safety – by the Sun King's vizier, and have remained incommunicado since. Sergeant Tempest is thus the second highest-ranking Imperial soldier on Cepheus, and is finding the stretching silence disquieting. +



+ While such worlds as Cepheus might easily escape an Administratum audit, are not entirely unmonitored. The Inquisition's brooding and gloomy Unkind Palace sits within the system, after all. While low priority for the Administratum, the Inquisition views all worlds equally. An insurrection in-system, even from somewhere with a pre-industrial technology level, will inevitably draw someone's eye. +

+ When an Inquisitor has reason to suspect the Imperial Commander is not quite what he seems, it is grounds enough for that Inquisitor to make planetfall; blockade or not. +

+ inload: Scrying the future +

+ inload: Scrying the future +

+ The Coürt of the Sunñe Cyng project is building up a good head of steam now, and I'm really enjoying the freedom to work on pretty much anything that catches my fancy that evening. This applies as much to painting techniques as it does to writing; and to modelling and sculpting as to simply picking up a lovely model I've had lurking for years! + 

+ I'm very pleased (and slightly startled) that this blog is coming up to 40,000 views – I think it's likely to tip over this week. I've been wracking my cogitators to think of something to mark the occasion, but any ideas are welcome. +

+ In the meantime, rather than look to the past, here are a few upcoming models that'll hopefully be appearing over the next few weeks. +

+ A mixed hand +

+ A largely unrelated group of figures, from officers of the law to street gangers. +

+ From left: Palas se Dhangar, offworld abhuman (Dorin Antrum); Thorna Tempest, Colour bearer of the Blenheim 2014th Regiment of Foot; Vanya de la Oawadh, Vidame of Yndbürch; Ombudsman Oswalk Aryas, Thief-finder. +

+ Mysteries of the Mechanicus +

+ More to come in a future inload on how the Adeptus Mechanicus operate on Cepheus, but here's the first paint. Underscribe Ferlinghetti has joined this group, and the orange is already an improvement on the previous hood, I think. +

From left: Hypaspist Thyngmanne Mu-niner-niner; Underscribe Ferlinghetti; Magos Dru Züborg, Emissary of Marathon; Hypaspist Dependex-headsman Chi-three-one; Magos Titus Manderghast.


+ A query +

+ A reply to my previous inload from Odie suggested that I consider putting hte Sunne Cyng saga together as a playable campaign. It's an intriguing idea, so I thought I'd ask if there's any interest in that? +

+ inload: Alone in the dark +

+ inload: Alone in the dark +

It is nine in the morning, four hours after the watch end their shift. The watchmen are drunk. Cyprian is aware that his judgement is cloudy, too. Aside from a guttering candelabra, its small form nearly hidden in melted tallow, the alehouse fire provides the only light. Good and hot, the thick logs on it smoulder a glowing cherry-red

As does Cyprian. Colouring, he forces himself to calm his breathing as the laughter finishes. The chief watchman sits back, and his cronies lean in. Unmasked and de-aproned, their tall, cold-cheating hoods hang from the coat rack by the door, removed with relief as the birds began to cackle and the nightwatch gathered in the alehouse. 

They are drinking from a motley collection of vessels, as mismatched as the men themselves. Chipped wooden tankards, battered tin flagons and even a few large preserving jars – their lips moulded to hold screw-tops – have been pressed into use. It is a legacy of the ongoing war.

Still, Cyprian mused, there was at least sufficient ale... even if it did taste sour. 

Cyprian Northgrass – interrogator, ally and confederate to one of the most powerful men in the sector – is sitting with men of the local night watch in a dingy, broken-down bar, sipping at stale beer. He is incognito; undercover. He has been in the City for four months, and the thin comfort of summer has given way to the a shivering autumn. He is also rapidly running out of funds as he waits for Inquisitor Veck to make contact. 

As a result, he is seeking employment. As an off-worlder, he is finding this difficult. The people of Cepheus are conservative and inward-looking, keen to avoid attention and excitement. The war has sealed the lid on this natural tendency, and the nightwatch were the only ones who would entertain a job enquiry from an 'outlander'.

They are making the interview – for such he has taken the beer-soaked hazing to be – unpleasant. Cyprian is unsure whether the barracking happens to all prospective nightwatchmen, or whether it is reserved for strangers. He leans forward on the table, and all eyes turn to him. The chief watchmen leans down and meets his gaze. His breath is rotten with ale-stench, and underneath that, the foul sickly odour of bad teeth. 

Northgrass studies the chief watchman as the man smiles at his companions, as confident as a king among his court. He is clearly pleased with his joke at Cyprian's earlier question. The chief watchman is a man who may once have been handsome. He has ruined his complexion through drink, the cold, and above all, his nocturnal lifestyle. 

"Gods? Let me yarn you about gods, for it is clear that you were shunned by your lorespeaker. Did you bare your buttocks to him that he withheld his teachings so? Or fight too hard to withhold from baring them?" He leers. The other watchmen snigger appreciatively. One stands, unsteadily, and carries the tray back to the barman, calling for more drink.

"There are those from Yndbürch that worship three gods: Brother the Builder, Fishnu the Upkeeper and Shiver the Shatterer. Those from Coldwind Provice say that the sun will flicker if they do not pray to it five times a day. Given this past Somerseason, I say they should pray harder!" He looks about him, pleased with his joke.

"But still they worship the Emperor, do they not?" asked Cyprian. The question prompts an embarrassed shuffle from some of the watchmen, who look into their beers. It was not a guilty pause; simply the look of men who knew they had perhaps not put as many chits on the collection platter as they might have.

"Of course, of course!" The chief watchman's voice has lost a little of its bluster. "We'm all good aethelmen here. Just know you that the City draws a throng from all over, and some folk have different ideas about their gods. As a man o'watch, you have to understand that folk from Midrike might act a bit missen or unsamely during Leaf-fall; or that it's befitting of a good Shining County man to be about at night, when his gods – who are under the Emperor –" he adds hurriedly "– won't mind him working." One or two of the other watchmen nod sagely. 

"Take Ceelred here." The chief watchmen uses his flagon to indicate a watchman at the far end of the table. A long, ragged and badly-healed scar runs all the way down his face and neck, bisecting his scrubby beard into uneven portions. The watchman shrugs his collar up, a surly look on his face. "He won't get into any more flites with Yndbürchers." He eyes the scarred man. "What was it you said, Ceely? 'What use are your three gods if they won't wash the colour off you'?" He looks back at Cyprian as the watchman hunches further over, turning his back on the group. "Serves the dwease rightwise. If'n you ask me, it's noworth to ask about gods. Long as the Emperor's above 'em all; you kin worship who you like, I says."

One didn't rise in the Inquisitorion without understanding the difference between useful talk and idle gossip. Cyprian was a very resourceful man – not to mention a good interrogator – but he wanted to get away. The room was hot, and where that had been a welcome change to the bitter wind outside, now it felt smoky and oppressive. The fire and sour beer and dim light, and the ugly laughter of the watchmen, was giving him a headache. He put his jar of beer down. 
"Do I get the job?"

The chief watchmen paused then. He sat up. Slowly, he took a pull of beer, his gaze not leaving Cyprian. The room didn't fall silent, but there was a slight hush. 
"Aye." He nodded. "Aye, y'do. There's not many as want the chore, and the war's taking away those as might once have. You begin this moonturn – two turns hence, ken?" Cyprian nods, to indicate he understands. "I'm not iwis to the reason you're here, outlander, but He-above knows that the nichtwacce need all the men we can get."

Northgrass is stung. Job or not, he's here to get information about the Sun-King. "He-above? You mean the Emperor, or King Sciriusc?" queries Cyprian, trying too hard to sound nonchalant. The chief watchman gives him a curious look, and is just about to speak when he is interrupted by one of the other watchmen.

"Euch! Gods and cyngs, gods and cyngs! Don't get started on gods again, Pious Pete. Aren't you gabby about anything else? My rede to you is to keep your trap shut about gods, or you'll end up with a pink zipper on your outerskin like Ceelred there. There's enough to do, with lant-horn lighting and bell-aringing, that you won't have any time to go bewending folk to your beliefen. Just know that the city's home to a few creeds, and you'll be fine." His outburst over, the man hunches back over his beer as the others nod sagely.

"Right." Says Cyprian. "Right." He nods. He is aware that he is more drunk than he feels. He stands.

The chief watchman nods to him and raises his tankard to Cyprian. The gesture is joined, a moment later, by the unenthusiastic salutes of the four or five other half-drunk watchmen who are paying attention. 
"See you in two turns' time, fresh-fleisch. Get yourself a cloak. It's cold. We'll have a hood for you." Cyprian nods, half-smiles. The belligerent watchman seems to have mellowed.
"Mind the morning light when you go out – it'll catch you by surprise!" he calls, to familiar laughs from about.

He is halfway to the door when the chief watchman calls him again. 
"Oh, and welcome to the nichtwacce, Pious. Get your fill of daylight now. You won't be seeing much of it from here on in."

+ inload: Iron Hands Clan Trago +

+ inload: Iron Hands Clan Trago +

+ I took my Iron Hands force, under the command of Psi-Cursed Medardus, out for a game at the weekend. They're a nice little army of 1000pts, with two Troops, two HQs, a Heavy Support and an Elites slot. +

+ Built from a combination of the latest GW plastics and Forge World's excellent upgrade packs, they're a versatile force which would look right at home in the Age of Darkness as a Horus Heresy-era force, as I've had lots of bits left over from building my Ultramarines. +

Tactical Squad

Tactical squad – one combat squad is modelled using their combat knives in close.
Venerable Dreadnought, built from all manner of bits and pieces!
Devastator Squad, with Eldar-punishing heavy bolters

+ The leaders are a Clan-Commander built using the recent Mail Order exclusive as a basis; and my favourite bit, the floating 'Magneto' Librarian. +

Clan Commander Waysmith 
Psi-cursed Medardus
Whole army

+ I'm also open to selling a couple of individual models – contact me if you're interested in these. +

+ inload: Progress +

+ inload: Progress +

+ Still WIP, but quite a bit more done last night. I'm using inks for the first time in ages, and really enjoying the effect and process. The underscribe above (wait, what?) has received a third colour scheme change – and is likely to receive another, as he's just not working – but the mustard-yellow robe is going to stay. I think it provides a nice backing with the roll of paper, which I've built up from a grey-purple base as a complementary contrast. +

+ The rich deep tones of the robe are so much easier to produce using inks, and they give a really worn-in sense of age and dirt, which is perfect for the underrobe. The base is an experiment in inks, too. I textured it with one of GW's texture paint Mourn Mountain Snow (but it'd be cheaper and just as easy with sand and PVA), which I then painted bright orange. Over this I worked in a mucky mix of Spearstaff Brown (or whatever the modern equivalent's called) and sepia ink, which has given it a lovely satin sheen, perfect for wet mud. +

+ The astropaths continue apace. Not a great deal of difference to Mercurial, aside from more work on metals (brown undercoat, silver layer and wash of Gryphonne Sepia) and his staff. These little changes do make a nice difference, though. I've done the same to 'Bobe' Vlajna, but also added some freehand embroidery work. I took the inspiration from Romanian stitch designs, for reasons discussed in my previous inload. Annoyingly, Romanian embroidery tends to be red, white and black, so I rather missed a trick! +

+ Nictwacce +
+ ...and finally, for now at least, the 7 of Suns, Cyprian Northgrass. Interrogator Cyprian Northgrass. +

+ There's a few points of interest on him like the Día de Muertos decoration on the skulls, but they'll wait for a proper update. He needs 'griming up' to fit in with the rest of the project, but thought you might like a pic or two of the base layers. +

+ inload: 5 of Cups, 9 of Collars and 2 of Hands +

+ inload: 5 of Cups, 9 of Collars and 2 of Hands +

+ Not everyone can be the hero – and in the murky, grey-shaded world of the 41st Millennium, maybe no-one is. Nevertheless, some people are destined just to try to struggle through. Such is the lot of these three, who represent some of the servants of the world of Cepheus. +

+ From left to right: Otho Mercurial, Astropath; 'Bobe' Roja Kislova Vlajna, Astropath; Aspers Ferlinghetti, underscribe. +

+ The two Astropaths are interesting in that the model on the left is an obvious modern homage (by Brian Nelson?) to the earlier Rogue Trader-era one in the centre, which I believe is a Jes Goodwin sculpt. Axiom, over at the excellent Magpie & Old Lead, has been building a fantastic Astropathic choir that has had me itching to give these figures a paintjob. +

+ Rather than poach his ideas wholesale, my aim with these is to show some of the diversity on Cepheus – so rather than a formal choir, I want to show the individuality of these characters, who serve different aristocratic families on Cepheus. +

+ Character and contrast +

+ As an illustration, Mercurial serves a more outward-looking, pro-Imperial Cephean family, with the result that his robe is distinctly green (the traditional colour of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica), and he has a number of Classical-feeling touches, such as his name, the key design flourishes on his sleeves and hood, and his general monk-like demeanour. He is intended to look much more like a traditional Imperial Astropath, familiar to any vaguely influential world-traveller in the 41st Millennium. + 

+ His skintone is cool, bloodless and pallid to go with his character, and also balance the warmer green of the robe. He's going to remain fairly restrained and simple, with few decorations. + 

+ The sculpt's gorgeous, managing to convey blindness without loss of ability, and combining a slight nervousness – notice how he's fingering a medallion charm – with an upright sense of duty. He's completely unaltered, as I think he's damn near perfect! Sometime a sculpt suggests a character so perfectly, there's no need to change. +

Contrast this with 'Bobe' Vlajna, who serves a very inward-looking highborn family; who have sent indentured Astropathic slaves to Terra for the soul-binding for generations. As a result, her name is non-Imperial – instead stemming from the rural region of Cepheus from which she comes. Her green sash – old, faded but beautifully maintained and meticulously tied – is the only strong suggestion of her green 'uniform', with her robe being a grey mix of dark green and purple (Orkhide Shade and Liche Purple). This makes a nice neutral hue, witha hint of warmth. This has been accentuated by keeping the palette warm throughout: note that her white staff – Astropaths are blind – uses a pinker, warmer tone than Mercurial's, and her skintone is ruddier (if not exactly healthy). +

+ I like the idea of the sash being a bit like a kung fu belt – (perhaps a Cephean cultural twist?) – in that it suggests a quality of training, and is held with respect. I've been careful to paint this more cleanly than the rest of the figure, to suggest the high regard in which it's kept. I'm more than faintly tempted to take inspiration from Axiom's excellent Syl Moor, and add some subtle decoration as a feminine touch. I don't believe this astropath is intended as a female sculpt, but it's certainly androgynous enough for me to aim it that way. + 

+ There's a slight swell to the hip, and there's a torso/leg proportionality that suggests a female figure to me. The satchel, with its precious medallion (perhaps a similar charm to Mercurical's?) can easily be interpreted as a sort of handbag for whatever Astropathic ladies carry with them, and the fact the sash is tied at the back suggests it's been tied by a servant or handmaiden. Obviously none of that is specifically female, but I think the sculpt is sufficiently asexual that it could make an excellent wily crone. +

+ The sculpt is a typical early Goodwin sculpt, with strong facial details, and this made producing some wrinkles easy. As with Mercurial, the paintjob is intended to match the character. The non-Imperial uniform, lack of shoes and more confident pose suggest a wilful – perhaps cantankerous – older lady to me. I've used a warmer palette in the hope this suggests her being less stand-offish and more confrontational than the reserved Imperial astropath. +

+ Offensive language? +

+ I'm very tempted to further push Vlajna's Cephean ancestry and traditions by adding some local designs to her robe. This is a good point to mention that her name is Romanian – I wanted Cepheus to suggest 19th Century Gothic horror novels, which often have elements of Eastern European culture or location to add some exoticism and mystery. Picking a name from a culture that's unfamiliar to you can gives you an obvious source for designs and ideas – hence why Ultramarines all seem to have Roman names in GW sources, for example. +

+ It's important to note that this does run the slight risk of being slightly kitsch or culturally insensitive; but I hope it'll be interpreted as the genuine interest it's intended. Obviously, everyone with have their own source of cultural references, and what's 'exotic' to one person is mundane to another – this has popped up quite frequently in our little world of gaming with Scandinavian modellers and artists wryly noting how silly Space Wolf names can sound to them! +

I've found that combining these cultural roots is a good way to defuse potential offence and suggest the huge cultural melting pot that is humanity in 40k. As a result, I've used a Yiddish diminutive meaning 'grandmother' ('Bobe'). Language is something that really interests me. Because tabletop gaming is largely (though not exclusively) a Western hobby, I share cultural references with lots of people who look at my figures. As a result, I enjoy exploring thigns that are hopefully unfamiliar to both myself and any viewers, to help add interest and 'strangeness' to these characters, who obviously have no relationship to contemporary culture. +

+ Out of focus +

+ Astropaths have an additional challenge for the painter in that the sculpts don't generally have eyes! This can be awkward for the painter, as it's an important focal point. I found the best solution here was to go with great tonal contrast – keeping the skin on the face pale and making the eye sockets as dark as possible creates high tonal contrast, which draws the eye. In order that this works, it's important that the tonal contrast on the rest of the model is minimal, or that eye-catching bits lead the eye to the focus (as with the wrist and hood decorations on Mercurial) +

+ In both cases, the eye hollows were filled with sepia ink followed by subsequent red and purple washes in tiny amounts, which left slight bags under the eyes. I used less red for Mercurial, as his palette and skintone is cooler. +

+ Stop titivating! +

+ All still heavily WIP, but if I can't work out what to do next when painting, I find it very useful to put the brushes down and step away before I spoil the work I've done. Some pictures in the cold light of day tend to give a good idea of where to step next. +

+ In this case, Ferlinghetti looks like a warmer robe (perhaps a similar saffron yellow to Childeric's?) would provide a better complement to his darkened hood, and provide some contrast to his spooling paper roll. Quite tempted to add a pink strip to this, a bit like a till-receipt roll... :) +