+ inload: The Muphrid Disc Clearances +

+ The Muphrid Clearances +

After their actions on Arcturus, the Third Company's next deployment was to support the elements of the First and Fifth companies during their clearance of Muphrid, a binary star system rimwards of Arcturus. Muphrid's swollen primary star, a red-giant, was planetless, though the system's large accretion disc contained numerous habitable, if inhospitable, planetoids.

The Order of Solar Ascendant maintained a number of isolated priories and missions here, which had historically been the lynchpin of Imperial defence as ork pirate raids increased in frequency. The Sororitas had successfully launched punitive raids on encroaching greenskins that had made landfall on the many Imperial mining operations, but they were stretched thinly; and their naval support was woefully inadequate. Much to her personal – and far from private – chagrin, Prioress Al-Achsasi was obliged to request help from the wider Imperium.

Battle Sisters of the Order of Solar Ascendant
The answer came from Master Formosus of the Blood Angels, who notified the Prioress that the a large element of the Blood Angels fleet would perform an interdiction and extermination campaign to sweep and clear the Muphrid Disc of xenos vessels of cruiserweight displacement or greater. When Al-Achsasi asked for consultation on behalf of the Imperial local command, she was rebuffed with a dismissive explanation that the Astartes required no assistance in this matter. Bristling at this perceived insult, the Prioress and Chapter Master's relationship proved strained throughout the campaign; a matter worsened by the region's close and vocal ties with Nova Terra.

It is a mark of humanity's hatred for the xenos that both the fanatical and studiedly neutral were able to put aside their differences to fight the orks – albeit under duress. It was fortunate indeed for the Imperium here that they were able to avoid internecine conflict, as the forces here and on Arcturus proved to merely be the vanguard of a building ork crusade from the smouldering Charadon region.

Ork commando of Luggub's infamous Drop Legion.
On at least two occasions, the forces of Solar Ascendant and the Blood Angels were required to work together in hulk clearances. While Formosus and Abelard avoided deploying their forces alongside potential heretics, Tycho of the Third followed a more pragmatic path, though communication and interreliance between the forces was strained at best.


+ Building +

+ Well, that was a productive evening! I started to build the boyz for my ork force. As I think I've mentioned before, the Alien Wars/Nova Terra Interregnum setting I'm developing is essentially my iteration of the Rogue Trader (RT) era. I think the RT background is a lot more dystopian, with more emphasis on the desperate, floundering scale of the Imperium. There are perhaps fewer existential threats – modern 40k has a 'five minutes to midnight' feel of apocalyptic scale and gods walking the galaxy; whereas RT concentrates on the million, million smaller wars that burn across a galactic empire collapsing under its own weight. +

+ If 8th is Ragnarok; RT is a World War. It might not be the literal end of existence, but it's bloody unpleasant for those involved, and no-one can escape. RT also has less of a definite sense of good and evil. While the orks are nominally 'the baddies', the Imperium are hardly good guys. The shades of grey in RT are much closer. +

+ I'm trying to get this across in my orks by downplaying the more exaggerated features and adding more military-style fatigues and armour. RT background originally had the orks as slavers; their equipment definitely manufactured rather than individually built, though there was still a (small c) chaotic sense of individuality. Basically, I want the orks to look like a tough, hardened militia. +

+ Below you can see the first ork. As with Thrugg [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], I'm taking a period miniature as inspiration; here one of Kev Adam's seminal ork boyz. In terms of the details, I've tried to capture the main elements – the revolver-style gun, baggy fatigues, neck-scarf and quilted flak armour. However, I'm also a big fan of Brian Nelson's version of the orks, so I didn't want to completely lose the brutal charm of the underlying sculpt. +

I've desaturated the top right part to blend the greenstuff work in for clarity, but I've left the bottom part of the picture untouched, so you can see the details on the face. I've added a bottom lip and slightly extended the nose – both very minor details that don't alter Brian Nelson's awesome basic sculpt too much, but do give the figure individuality. +

+ Individuality +

+ This is an important point about non-human figures. You can get away with bare human/space marine (and even eldar) heads being duplicates, because we're familiar with human faces being broadly similar, and are hyper-aware of tiny differences in skintone and shape. As a result, using the same human head repeatedly will seem natural, as the paintjob will inevitably bring out tiny differences that the brain unconsciously reads as details. +

+ That doesn't apply to orks, or other slightly less humanoid figures like Tau, as we're not as attuned to the archetypal face. Thus, seeing the same head will look like masks, giving an unnatural feel. This applies even after paint, as the non-human skintone (green, blue etc.) is equally unfamiliar. To combat this, you need to either make the skintones radically different, really push the visual texture (adding muscular striations etc.), or chop and sculpt around the face. That's the best way to get a sense of individuality back into the models. After all, xenos or not, orks are organic and just as diverse as 'oomies. +

+ As an aside, I think this effect is part of what gives plastic (and particularly CAD-designed) models the reputation as 'less characterful', due to the inevitable repetition of certain parts, and the loss of what can charitably be called the 'sculptor's touch' (and unkindly called tiny errors). Hopefully the minor changes here will go some way to capturing the quirky individualism of RT-era sculpts, without sacrificing the sharpness and quality of the modern plastics. +

+inload: Arcturus +

+ The Arcturus Campaign +

+ The invaders of Arcturus – the orks of the Von Kurtz stars – proved to be a resilient and hardy foe; hardly surprising for a force of greenskins and their assorted mercenaries. The dispirited and demoralised Arcturan PDF were capable of holding actions against the invigorated and aggressive foe, but the counter-attack fell to the supporting Naval fleet and, of course, the Blood Angels Third Company. +

+ Contemporary pict-captures show the force's livery. While broadly similar to the Angels' 41st Millennium heraldry, a number of variations can be drawn out. In fact, given the five millennia difference, it is a mark of the Imperium's jealously conservative nature that the forces appear as similarly as they do. +

+ The era of the Nova Terra Interregnum was a period of intense self-reflection for many Imperial groups and factions, particularly the military. The Blood Angels remained studiedly neutral, and were careful to remove markings that could be interpreted as pro-Terra or in favour of Nova Terra, instead adopting sigils that venerated the Emperor directly, or spoke of their own heritage and history as steadfast, constant defenders of humanity. Of note at this period is the removal of the chest-mounted Aquila – the double-headed eagles that had been borne by the Astartes at large since the Scouring; as it had become a rallying symbol for Terran loyalists. +

+ The chestplate was commonly left blank, though many amongst the Blood Angels retained similar devices, such as the winged skull of the Imperialis (seen here on the combat squad leader's bannertop), or other winged devices, such as precious gems or grails, as on the sergeant's banner. +

+ Keen-eyed observers will also note the archaic uncoloured backpacks. At this period of religious resurgence, it was common for power packs to remain unpainted as a mark of honour to the Machine Spirit of the armour, and to differentiate the human Astartes from their equipment; though this varied hugely from Chapter to Chapter. The Sons of Spectra, for example, painted their power packs in Chapter livery to honour the Spirits as protective penates – a practise that became near-universal after the Moirae Schism. +

+ The Third Company's activity in the Arcturus Campaign lasted two local months (ca. forty-three standard days) until their immediate strategic goals were met – specifically, the systematic destruction of surface gargant factories – at which point the Third were cycled out and limited reserves from the Sixth and Eighth hosts deployed in support of Legio Madoxes, a Titan Legion that had translated in-system. +

+ inload: Textural painting +

+ Texture, impact and effect +

+ Working on these Blood Angels has given me a good illustration of a technique that I use a great deal in my painting. Have a look at the pict-capture here, which shows the same marine before and after what I call 'pre-shading'. +

+ Here, I used a mix of Liche Purple, sepia ink and flow improver medium; laying it onto the model before swabbing it off the raised areas using various tools – a clean brush, a bit of kitchen paper, and my bare thumb. +

+ The purpose of this stage is two-fold. Firstly, it enhances the tonal contrast. Squint at the image and you'll see that the armour plates on the pre-shaded marine (right-hand side) remain visually distinct as those on the earlier stage start to bleed together. This eventually helps to give the figure more impact, though it does rely on you working back in once the pre-shade is dry to develop the highlights and shades further. +

+ Secondly, and more importantly, it adds visual texture. You'll probably be familiar with greebling, which is covered nicely here: [+noosphreicexloadlink embedded+] and digital effects like bump-mapping. The second purpose of this painting effect is serving a similar duty as the 'time-damage' type of greebling covered in the False Machine blog entry: creating imperfection and suggesting teture. +

+ This visual texture is appealing because it implies greater complexity, holding the viewer's attention; helps to further push the illusion of scale; and also implies that there's something going on beyond the base of the model, giving it a sense of belonging in a scene, rather than being a model figure. It is a painter's story-telling tool. +

+ When to use it +

+ Once applied, you may well need to re-establish your highlights, and further deepen the shading proper; hence why I call it a pre-shade. It's a technique for the middle stages of painting. I establish my initial highlights and shading fairly quickly, apply the pre-shade, then use the effect of that to inform the remaining tonal work. +

+ Pre-shading works very well as a complementary technique to battle damage and weathering – in fact, it can very easily be used selectively (rather than over the whole model) to add grime or oil marks. The latter is particularly effective if you use a glossy chromatic black for a sheen. +

+ The ability to create visual texture on smooth surfaces, without creating physical texture, is also useful during the mid-stages of painting. It means that you can later apply overlaying washes and glazes without the paints pooling or gathering. A good example of this is on the banner of the marine:

+ On the left-hand side, it is clean, smooth and dull. The initial highlights and shading are stark and flat, giving an odd cel-shaded look. After the pre-shading has gone on, there is a sense of texture which helps to 'sell' the piece as fabric. There's subtle mottling, which suggests age and staining, and there's generally more for the eye to see. The highlights are softened (but not eliminated), and the shading deepened and enriched. It's worth pointing out that this technique works best when applied topically – that is, in particular places – and then drawn out and blended away with your brush, rather than applied over the whole area. +

+ Of course, as with every technique, pre-shading needs to be a tool to use when you want the effect. Using a pre-shade will flatten highlights, mute colours, and create visual complexity – compare the initial highlights on the stages above. Those effects are precisely why I use pre-shades, but if your taste is more for cleaner lines, smooth panels and vibrancy, it's not a useful tool. In 40k terms, I'd suggest that it's better suited to more grimy figures – Imperial, Chaos and orks – than to armies like Eldar, Tau and so forth. It would also work well for Tyranids, going a long way to getting an organic, natural feel. +

+ What colour? +

+ The precise colour of the pre-shade is irrelevant – for yellow I use a red-brown, for example; for blue I use a purple – it's more important that the tone is darker than the midtone. +

+ With that said, I tend to use harmonious colours (those close to the original colour on the colour wheel), as using complementaries – those opposite it on the colour wheel – will neutralise the hue. Since the effect is already dulling, this can make your models look too gloomy and murky. +

+ The complementaries of red are orange and purple. I used purple here because it gave a cooler effect, enhancing the idea of distance (owing to aerial perspective) and creating a low-key effect. +

+ The result +

+ Here's a before and after of the whole squad, which shows the effect more strikingly, as it's closer to how the unit will be seen; smaller, at tabletop distance. +

+ The cleaner, crisper effect here is appealing visually. The red is warm, the smooth texture is restful. Here, the Blood Angels look like noble figures, straight off the parade ground, or out of a propaganda film. It's nice, but not what I'm after. +

+ After the pre-shade is applied, the colour is cooled and muted. Details around the helms, torsos and knees start to pop more, creating areas of interest and complexity. There's more of a sense that the Angels are in battle; picking up a slight griminess without overt damage. +

+ inload: Blood Angels for the Alien Wars +

+ Blood Angels reinforcements inbound +

+ A quick scale shot of the belligerents of the Arcturus campaign: Deocritic Guardsman, Astartes, greenskin (dominant ork designate), greenskin (slave caste). +

+ I'd dug out the Blood Angel as reference for painting the others in his squad, and thought I'd pop him up with some other figures. Thrugg Bullneck here is a Nob, which goes to show quite how tall the Primaris models are. +

+ The other half of 'The Wards of Furiel under Lord Dahavauron, Prince of the Erelim; 3rd Strateia of the Host of the Angels of the Blood' +

(or Squad Raphael, Third Company to their friends)

+ As mentioned, I've been painting. Minor update, really, but might be of interest. +

+ There's also a couple of loose Devastators (below) alongside Brother Engel. I'm looking forward to tackling the blue helms. How will I get them to fit the Blanchian palette? Might have to take some inspiration from Anders Zorn, an artist who used a very limited palette to great effect [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+]. +

+ inload: sneaky Gretchin +

+ The Alien Wars – Xenos +

As the eyes of the Imperium turned inwards, mutual support fell away, leaving each planet fending for itself. As a result, xenos of all stripes began to colonise and conquer regions of the galaxy that had been in Imperial hands since the closing of the Great Crusade. Perhaps the most widely-known of these aliens to the mass of humanity were the orks.

Orks, of course, have likely troubled mankind since first contact, presumed to be during the Dark Age of Technology, or even before. The Nova Terra Interregnum, however, was marked by the resurgence or emergence of thousands of orkoid petty empires, most consisting of a scattered system or two, but some – like Charadon or the Gemini Region – eclipsing the size of Imperial sectors. From the infamous attack on Rynn's World by Luggub's Drop Legion, to the Massacre of Karad Kar, this period of the Imperium's troubled history history is rife with greenskin aggression


+ 'Orrible little runts +

+ Between Iron Warriors, dwarfs and robots, I've been painting far too much metal recently. I needed a bit of a break, and what better to pick up than my orks? These poor buggers have been lurking unpainted since around 2014: always the bridesmaid and never the bride. +

+ Four little runts were what leapt out of the box. Simple, relatively quick, and allowing me a chance to play around with some green (a colour that rarely troubles my palette), these were just the project I needed for a quiet Monday night. +

+ They're pictured above with Thrugg Bullneck [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], and will shortly be joined by some boyz who will be converted to have more of a Rogue-Trader aesthetic, to fit in with my Alien Wars project – basically a retro setting that's an excuse to convert new models to look like the older ones. If you think 'what would the Rogue Trader version of hte 40k universe have looked like if it had come out now?' +

+ Painting up the grots let me scratch another entry from my Wargame Hobby Bingo card, too. They were a gift from a pal of mine, who very kindly gave them to me as an incentive to get my ork army on the go. While they were nicely painted, I wanted to give them my own stamp. +