+ conceptinload: Style, balance and what makes an icon? +

+ Stylistic balance +

+ This sub-project of the Alien Wars invitational is a little unusual, as I'm aiming to create affectionate homages to the Rogue Trader era; just as my Blood Angels [+nossphericinloadlink embedded+] are based on the models from White Dwarf 139. +

+ In order to achieve this, I'm having to make quite a few decisions on which parts to emulate, which to duplicate, and which to drop. This is, necessarily, a personal decision. Were you to do a similar thing, I expect you'd find different elements more or less important; because different things appeal to you. +

+ Theoretical +

+ This brings me to a few concepts to identify: style, balance and 'iconicity' (for want of a better term):

  • [Style] We looked at this in an earlier inload here [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], but in short it's your natural, instinctual way of working, as a result of your conscious and unconscious preferences.
  • [Balance] This concept comes into play when you've got a definite aim in mind. The result will lie on a spectrum between an identical copy and something so different as to give no obvious points of comparison. 
  • [Iconicity] The quality that makes a model (or other object) recognisable as itself: the 'basic characteristics', rather than the specific details. This is the quality you're hoping your version will share, even while being its own thing. A good homage will capture distinctive elements of the original's design, style and appeal. 
+ Thus, any attempt to emulate an existing model will give a result that – ideally, at least – is recognisable as your stylistic take on an existing model. This might seem a bit high-brow for orks (Oi! Yer zogger), so we can simplify things by putting the jargon aside and asking ourselves 'Does my model remind me of the original?'; and secondly 'Does my model remind me enough of the original?' +

+ Practical +

Thrugg, not too happy about posing for us.
+ This all becomes a bit clearer when you see it in context. We've looked at Thrugg [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] before, and he's a good example. No-one is going to put the original next to my version and think they're literally the same; but there's enough iconicity in my version to remind you of the original. Once you're in that mindset, your eye will start seeing other similarities – and differences – that hopefully make the model enjoyable to look at. +

+ In terms of style, I think he reads as mine – if you're familiar with my painting and modelling style, you'll spot the dreadful errors palette choices and similar. +

+ The balance, then, comes in the gaps and similarities between the Kev Adams original and the choices I've made for my Thrugg. That simultaneous sense of familiarity and novelty is at the heart of this project, and why I hope that it's activating a few readers' nostalgia glands. +

+ It's worth noting that my choices are necessarily coloured by the raw materials I've chosen to use. Not having the sculpting chops of fellow PCRC member Lord Blood the Hungry, for example, I'm using Brian Nelson's ork models as the basis of the conversion. These models themselves are a great example of how one artist (Brian) has made the models simultaneously distinctly his own, and retained enough iconicity that they are familiar. +


+ Balance in a group +

+ I've inloaded before about the considerations and differences there are between individual models and groups of models, and this project is a good example. The group below contains two models that are directly based on figures from the RTB02 Space Ork Raiders boxed set [central squad leader and the ork on the far right with a neckerchief]. The others are looser interpretations of the same range of models. +

+ In isolation, the remaining orks would not necessarily have the right amount of iconicity. An enthusiast or collector familiar with the originals might get a few of the RT-era nods, but they're much more vague and less obvious: here the balance is swinging more towards the modern ork aesthetic. In the context of the more iconic conversions, however, and with a cohesive paint scheme, the familiarity those individuals engender spreads to the whole group. +

+ It's worth bearing this in mind when working on your own groups of models. More broadly, iconicity applies beyond the physical models – you expect a Space Marine in a written story to behave in a certain way, and if they're breaking the stereotype for a narrative reason, they'll retain some elements of this important iconic quality. This broader application of the iconic quality leads into the theme of the army. A theme of any sorts works best when you restrict yourself to certain choices. Once you add a tank into a Space Hulk-themed project, for example, you've seriously impaired the iconicity of the theme. +

+ That's not necessarily a bad thing – distinctiveness is part of what makes things original and creative. However, if you strip everything iconic from a model or a group of models (or a paintscheme, an armylist theme etc...), they won't have any familiarity for the audience, and you'll have to rely entirely on other elements of the piece to create interest. +

+ [APPENDNOTE: Perhaps a good example of this within the hobby is retconning, or redesiging things. A good retcon or update will nod to certain familiar elements, while tweaking others. A bad retcon will lose the iconic appeal. I guess we'll see where the new Sisters of Battle range announced today fall; but on a personal note, I'm quietly hopeful! [/APPENDNOTE SURCEASE]+


+ Orks inbound! +

+ We looked at Hruk in the last inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], so while he's now completed, I won't go into too much depth. Suffice to say that I've adjusted his arms to more natural positions, and he's got his weapons in place. All that remains is the paintjob. +

A slightly desaturated pict-capture for clarity; minimising the difference between the different materials
+ He's pictured in the pict-capture above alongside two new boyz, both of which require a little more greenstuffing, but are largely 'blocked-in'. I tend to treat building and conversion work just like my painting: add it in quickly and loosely, then gradually neaten and refine it until you start fussing; at which point stop. +

+ The central ork is carrying a rifle made from a Gorkamorka-era Grot blasta, of all things; which goes to show how weapon sizes have got more exaggerated over time. I think the size looks pretty good; striking the right balance for me between the over-exaggerated modern style and the RT originals I'm emulating. Getting a genuinely realistically-sized gun would have looked very out of place – it fits neither the classic style, nor the updated version; and thus breaks the iconicity of the visuals. +

+ The leftmost boy is based on the Trukk gunner's body. He's quite dinky compared with other orks, which proved a blessing in disguise for this retro-led project. Part of the appeal of the older metal models was their uniqueness and individuality. +

+ For all the appeal of modular multi-part plastics, you inevitably sacrifice some individual character. The old boyz, a sample of which are pictured here, are variously gangly, brawny, scrawny, big, skinny... None of which can be replicated in modular form without giving up that modularity.  +

+ The orks I've ringed here are ones that the PCRC encouraged me to have a go at recreating, when I put it to them. They're proving an absolute [SCRAPSHUNTERRORABORT] to do very enjoyable challenge! To put the ideas about iconicity, balance and style into context, can you tell which of the three originals the WIP ork below is intended to be an homage to? +


  1. Haha, each one is even better than its precedent! Please keep them going!


+ submission exloadform +