Monday, April 30, 2012

The Varghulf

I'm writing this as the final hours tick down on the poll, but I don't expect the results to change much by the time it ends. Looks like Terrain still holds the lead, with the other contenders... dropping? The total votes cast has even decreased from what it was earlier in the week. Which is weird, because I see a way to change your vote, but not a way to cancel it altogether.

Earlier this week, I edited the old entries so all the text would match. Early on I was importing text from Word for some posts, and typing others directly into blogger. The result was a mess of inconsistent fonts and sizing. Now everything is uniform, larger and light grey (and hopefully easier on the eyes). Posts now have tags, and I've added a list in the sidebar to make things a little easier to find, especially when a featured model spans multiple posts, like the Varghulf.

Speaking of which:

The beast is finished, and he's already been in battle. The Terror-causing Varghulf forced a unit of Empire Greatswords to flee, and he caught and slaughtered them all. Kind of a shame, because I wanted to see how he stood up in actual combat. Oh well– Next time, Steve. Next time.

I painted this guy over the course of a few evenings, beginning with the base. The skeletons and tombstones followed the same scheme laid out in my Graveyard Bases tutorial.

The wing membranes were the most time consuming because I wanted smooth blends, and worked the color with a wet blending technique to get the desired shade. The base color is Beastial Brown, mixed with Battlefield Brown. (This went over the entire model.) Some highlights were drybrushed up with a mix of Bestial and Gun Corps Brown. 

Then, a wash of GW Brown Ink, Battlefield, and Bestial Brown, with some water and P3 Mixing Medium was applied over the wing. Before the wash dried, I pulled up some with a dry tank brush, and lightly brushed over the center of the membrane with thinned Bestial Brown, creating a blend that really softened the drybrushed highlights.

When the first wash was dry, I added a healthy amount of Armor Wash to the mix and essentially two-brush blended this into the recesses, using it to darken the membranes at the edges and closest to the Varghulf's hand. (I say "essentially" because I don't use the traditional saliva method, preferring a wet brush to soften and blend out the edges of the wash, and a dry brush to pull up the wash when it becomes too heavy.)

The skin on the fingers, arms and legs came next. This was highlighted up in layers with mixes of Beastial and Gun Corps Brown, and 'Jack Bone. The brown wash from above was used to shade the recesses and, at this stage, the fur.

When the wash was dry the fur was drybrushed with Bestial Brown and (very little) Snakebite Leather. 

The bones, claws and teeth were based with Bleached bone, washed with Brown Ink and Snakebite Leather, and then highlighted a bit with Bleached Bone and menoth White Highlight. For the finishing touch, I painted the bloody parts and eyes using Scab Red, Skorne Red, and a little Brown Ink. 

If you want to see the converted, unpainted miniature, check out the April 16th post "On Leather Wings."

'Til next time!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Undead Terrain

Only seven days left in the poll, and it appears that "Terrain" is going to be the big winner with "More Vampire Counts" in a 3 way tie for second place. Here's something to start things off: Vampire Counts Terrain!

The graveyard and Von Koss Keep have appeared in the background of all of my Vampire army shots, so it's time to put them in the spotlight.

Von Koss Keep

The keep was constructed for a map campaign many years ago. Each player was allowed to build a "fortified hill" to be placed in their HQ territory. This is what I came up with.

The piece is based on hardboard, with insulation foam forming the hill. The interior courtyard is just over 1-inch high, and the area outside the walls slopes down to the table level. The grade is low enough that a unit of models can stand on it without tipping over.

The outer wall is from the Forge World gothic graveyard set, with spiked rails from the 40K Chaos tank accessory sprue forming the wrought iron fence. All of the Space Marine helmets were replaced with more skulls and zombie parts. The measurements for the courtyard are 10" wide by 4.5" deep. That will accompany about 60 models, so I could place two pretty sizable units in the defended position. The entire piece measures 16" x 20."

The gate guardians are old Wight models with plastic shields. They are painted with Tin Bitz and Brazen Brass and washed with Jade Green to create a copper patina. (A trick I had learned a long time ago, and later mastered by painting copper rooftops and steam pipes for the Iron Kingdoms!)

The stone walls and ground were painted in much the same manner as my graveyard bases but to match the green battle mat I added some Woodland Scenics flock before applying the clumps of static grass.

The keep itself is constructed from a cut-down tower from the plastic Warhammer fortress. Skeleton shield icons were used to decorate the top, and a metal door from the Arcane Architecture range was added. In order to accommodate the height of the door, I had to recess some steps leading down to the doorway. Kind of a pain, but it creates a nice illusion of there being more castle underground.

The skulls on stakes leading up to the door are from Gorthor the Beastlord's trophy rack. The impales skeleton on the left is the banner bit from a Black Coach.

Of course, the castle grounds are littered with graves of the restless dead. I used a lot of skulls, tombstones, and model parts for the details.

Since this was for a campaign, and one of my primary adversaries was Orcs & Goblins, I added a few Orc casualties on the premises. Mordheim casualty markers and some spare model parts can be seen here.

The rear of the keep has a walkway leading through the rocks, to a back door.

The rocks are cut from pink insulation foam, built up with some wood filler putty and textured with sand. To create a haunted atmosphere, I cut some subtle skull imagery into various places around the rocks. Nothing too obvious, like the "Skull Mountains" that GW's terrain boasts nowadays. Just enough that the keen eye will pick up on it while still appearing as though it may have occurred naturally.

Trophies and warnings litter the back door. There's even a chain on the wall where Marduk might tie up his "dog." I had considered adding a dog dish, but figured that strayed too far into the realm of camp. (I take my toy soldiers pretty seriously, after all!)

But that dog's gotta eat, so dinner is always waiting.  That's a Night Goblin Fanatic, converted with plastic zombie hands.  He's long dead, and has gone zombie himself, but just can't seem to get down.

The Graveyard

This was made around the same time as the keep, anthough I honestly can't remember which came first. Maybe this graveyard was a "proof of concept" before tackling the big job?

Either way, this has become the centerpiece of my army, and when I would do the tournament circuits this was almost always on my army display board. The piece measures 11.5" wide by 6" deep.

The walls are the same as the ones from the keep. The gate guardians here are the Epic 40K Mortarion miniature.

The tombstones are a combination of metal parts from the Arcane Architectire range, and some plastic tombstones from a model railroad cemetery set by the now defunct Mouse Models.

Lots of zombies and skeletons rising from the graves. Notice the face-down skeleton in the center– I remember reading a story about the undead, and how sometimes the dead are buried face-down to confuse them in the event that they are reanimated.

So, at least one family tried to protect their deceased against the inevitable horrors of necromantic resurrection. I guess everyone else thought it was a good idea to bury their dead with knives and swords!

Til' next time!

Monday, April 16, 2012

On Leather Wings

The poll appears to be going along smoothly (although there are still a lot of you left to vote). Looks like Terrain, Skaven, and Malifaux are in the lead, with More Vampire counts catching up quickly, and absolutely no love for the Necrons. (Even LOTR got a vote and I forgot to include them on the list!) I'm hoping to use this as a gauge to see where the readers' interests lie, so please vote even if it appears that your choice may already out of the running.

Bat Swarms

The swarms are finished. After looking at some images of bats, I went with a darker wing color. Many bats have an almost black, leathery wing with sharp contrast to their lighter (sometimes pink) arms and fingers. Once painted, the bats pinned into the tombstones rather cleanly, and only required minor touch up to the attachment points once the glue was dry.

Fell Bats

These Fall Bat conversions are a few years old, made back in my days at GW. They use the Vampire Bat bodies and heads from the classic range and wyvern wings from the Warmaster range.

Varghulf Conversion

To mount the Varghulf atop the grave marker in a leaping attack pose, I repositioned his legs. Each section of the leg is cut and rejoined with a single rod running through the length of the leg. The pads between each talon were clipped away, and the talons given a slight curl. The gaps and joins were repaired and resculpted with epoxy modeling putty.

As I worked on the Balrog wings, I discovered that the plastic is actually rather thick (almost 1/8"). In order to punch through to create the holes, I needed to dremmel the surface of the membrane to create depressions where the holes would be. This worked to create a stretched and tattered wing. Each surface needed to be scraped smooth to remove the dremmel marks. To do this in the concave areas I used the rounded tip of a palette knife and used a technique similar to scraping mold lines.

One of my pet peeves about fantasy bats is that the wings are rarely correct. The skin of a bat's wing connects from the wing tip, all the way to its tail. When stretched out, it forms a single membrane spanning the entire wingspan. Bats don't have a separate "tail" the way birds do. (A lesson I learned after finishing my fell bats, unfortunately.)

I took this into consideration when working on the Varghulf. The Balrog wings already had some wing structure extending back toward the tail. I removed the ribbing and added styrene card spacers to fill in the gaps. Even though it doesn't connect to the legs like it should, it's close enough to satisfy my obsessive mentality.

The sculpting was done in two layers. First was a "musculature" layer to fill in the gaps and block out the back and shoulder muscles. I also modeled the skin over the wing extensions. Once this was cured, the fur was sculpted on the arms, back, and sides. I also added some exposed muscle on the shoulders.

As of writing this, the Varghulf is primed and ready to paint. I can't wait to get this beast finished and on the tabletop!

'Til next time!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Swarm Update and a Poll

The swarms are coming along slowly but surely. Turns out it was only 41 bats, but every one of their pointy metal wing tips must have poked me about 100 times while I cleaned the mold lines and painstakingly pinned each bat together. These little "bat trees" will peg into the top of the tombstones on the swarm bases. I'm really satisfied with the way these are turning out, and I'm getting excited to see what they will look like finished.

It was perfect priming weather today, so I sprayed all of the stands. Each one is pinned into a dowel which serves as a painting handle. I'm hoping to knock them all out today as I catch up on GI Joe: Renegades on Netflix.

The Varghulf's base has been assembled. As with the swarm bases, I modeled skeletons rising from the graves, and used a combination of tombstones from different plastic and resin kits.


Once I finish off this batch of bats, I'll be painting up my dire wolf conversions and doing a piece on my skeletons and banners, but I'd like to know what all of you are interested in seeing next. As I mentioned at the outset of this blog, I've got a ton of models and armies for different games (and even more projects-in-waiting). So, in an effort to keep this from becoming the "Vampire Counts show" I've added a poll over on the sidebar to see what everyone is interested in. Feel free to make other suggestions in the comments section as well.

I'll leave the poll up through April as I finish off these other projects, and we'll see where we go from there!

"Til next time!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Is It April Already?

A few months ago, my buddy Josh came over for a game of Warmachine. It was a 35 point game, that ended abruptly when Epic Stryker rushed in with a combination of Velocity and Overload and smashed the utter crap out of the Butcher. After Josh had gone and I was clearing off the table, I discovered that his Stryker model had been left behind, overlooked in the clutter of battlefield debris, dice, and dead Khadoran models.

Well, I couldn’t resist– I immediately placed Stryker in a tower with Widowmakers standing guard, and texted a photo to Josh, to negotiate the ransom and return of his model. It could only have been better if I had taken the time to model a tiny newspaper to hold up in front of my captive! Josh and I planned to have another game, this time with a scenario incorporating the rescue of Lord Commander Stryker.

When I was working in GW retail, this was something I’d have to deal with on a weekly basis. The woods were almost always guaranteed to contain a Space Marine Scout or Eldar Ranger who didn’t know the war was over! Eventually, I constructed a small barbed wire fence in one of the display cabinets– a sort of P.O.W. camp where the forgotten models could reside in safety (and shame) until their owners came to collect them.

Flash back to No Quarter Magazine issue #17. Doug Seacat and I played out a battle report pitting my Protectorate force against his Cygnar army. During the fight, Reznik had Wracked General Adept Nemo. We had a good laugh about it afterward and I even purchased the parts to convert a Wracked version of the warcaster. I never built the Nemo-Wrack, and the parts remained in my parts bin for years.

Back to present day. Josh and I haven’t gotten around to that game yet, and Stryker is still in my possession. I’m starting to think that maybe the Khadorans have traded their prisoner to the Protectorate of Menoth, and that maybe the Protectorate isn’t content to leave him in a comfy display cabinet– er cell, and maybe Stryker’s time in captivity would be better spent on a Wrack, thinking about what he’s done to the poor Menites of Sul…


So, okay, it’s still Nemo on the wrack, but he and Stryker wear similar armor, and if Stryker has only captivity and torture to look forward to for the rest of his life, he’s going to go grey real quick. He has essentially become Nemo– an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone. (That’s what happens when I watch Inception while I paint!)

‘Til next time!