+ 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... :) +

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