True Scale Space Marines – Part 2 – Taking Action

This says Part 2, but this is really the third part in a series on true scaling Games Workshop Space Marines. I would recommend you start at the beginning if you haven’t yet.

Heroic Scale is Dead, Games Workshop – A Prologue – Talks about Games Workshop stuff and outdated models
True Scaling Space Marines – Part 1 – A Survey – Overview of true scale space marines

Previously on the blog:

Last time I discussed why I felt true scaling was important and why the Space Marines are the easiest target for the process. The next question becomes “how do we approach this problem?” Most hobbyists that give true scale a try and complete the project will share their results with the community. When asked about the details they will either give you the basics, showing spacers and all that, others like to show you their awesome sculpting skills and how much you won’t be able to accomplish that. This can give us a starting point, but getting lost in a project like this is extremely easy.

I want to eventually create a real, playable army in true scale. For now we will disregard terminators and vehicles because those are separate problems for seperate articles down the road. We will focus on the tactical squads right now. Despite that, my goal is still very lofty and I want the project to be a minimal burden. I’m going to add more emphasis to this: This is a project that easily gets out of control for the aspiring hobbyist, so we need to lay down a few ground rules and temper our expectations before we begin.

We need to establish limits to our own scope to prevent project fatigue and we need to make sure we aren’t going so crazy as to cut Games Workshop completely out of the loop, because that IS why we are here. We love Warhammer and we want it to continue, but we want to change Games Workshops course and bring the models into the 21st century, not keep reliving the 90s. If this project becomes too much work we might as well just pick up another game.

Research and Development

Like any good art project, the first thing we need is something to reach for. I like to create an inspiration folder filled with images that get me excited about the project and show me possibilities for the direction I want to go. I maintain files for all my potential art projects in a similar manner. Optimally, if you have the resources, I recommend printing out your images and collect them on a cork board inside your workspace to help keep you focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. When you are knee deep in fifty dollar cut up kits and poor sculpting, you will feel terrible. You need to understand you will fail between here and true scale marine nirvana. But you have to keep practicing.

We need to get some art together from the internet (poor mans concept art) or our favorite books produced by Games Workshop, Black Library, Forge World, and Fantasy Flight. Exploring other media avenues such as the Space Marine video game and the *vomits* Ultramarines movie can be productive too.

There are a few images I pulled from my own inspiration folder filled with hundreds of examples.

The images above really target the awe and power of the Adeptus Astartes. They properly illustrate the scale and demonstrate that the Marines don’t have to be frankenstein monsters to be large and in charge.

For the purposes of this particular study I’m going to choose Karl Kopinski’s World Eater as the de-facto standard I want to achieve. This work gives us ideal proportions but, as a bonus, no portions of the figure are obstructed and we don’t have to compete with odd perspective, such as that on the Karl Kosinski Red Scorpion image. In this regard the third image of the top row is also helpful to to keep the scale in check throughout the process.

Figure SizingIn addition to keeping and optionally printing the images you collect I took the liberty of sizing and printing the Kopinski World Eater and the three figure scale image to compare to my reference miniature. When we reach the construction phase this will give us invaluable scale reference with the plastic parts. I think this gives us the basics to move forward.

Having a rudimentary understanding of anatomy will help us visualize exactly what we are looking to achieve in the model. I’ve pulled some references about this from the internet as well. The first image below shows us exactly why the marines are so poorly executed compared to a normal human frame. The other images demonstrate proportions and even demonstrate the scale of space marines and humans using a real life example. This is all probably more information than any layman needs, but as an artist this is invaluable reference material to study. Your own eye will also help identify any massive proportion issues. If it looks or feels wrong, chances are it is.

As an aside, to help your figure building, I recommend watching how people move while walking and learning about contrapposto. You might look silly, but walk and watch how your hips move, make poses in a full length or large bathroom mirror. These ideas apply way outside of true scaling and will help you build more believable miniatures out of the box or of your own creation.

True scaling is not a new art form. This has been done hundreds of times by hundreds of different people using virtually every technique imaginable. My personal reaction to a project like this would be to simply start from scratch and build a 3D model of a marine using Kopinski’s art as a guide. But, i don’t know how to 3d model, and, as i mentioned earlier, one of my main goals is to NOT cut Games Workshop out of the equation entirely. If i start from scratch i fall back into the just play another game issue. Plus, I don’t want to create new elements for every single piece in the kit.

My desire would be to maximize compatibility with the new 6th edition tactical marine boxset. I also want to take advantage of the 32mm bases to stay away from the gigantic 40mm bases people traditionally use for their true scale projects. This will keep the army looking large, make sense for scale, and keep it legal for players to boot.

To formulate a build plan we need to look at those who came before. Below are just a few samples of true scale marine projects, but they are the ones that inspired me to head in this direction, to change my hobby into an art form. I recommend you just get on google and start searching “true scale space marines”. Follow the holes when you find one project because it will inevitably lead to more, sometimes juicer, projects that google doesn’t reference.

I’m going to focus my effort on getting results like Migsula’s work [note: old site that focuses on this style of work], the first image in particular. He also did the second piece. However, the second image is a completely different technique, also used by Veteran Sergeant in the third image. Although a viable and interesting technique I’m not going to spend too much time on it, because I’ve tried this way and I was ultimately dissatisfied with its work load and visual appearance. I don’t believe the “bulk” of a space marine is accurately represented. The last image is the legendary work of Apologist. His work is well known, but i don’t like a handful of techniques he uses. Just personal preference. You probably won’t like all of my techniques either. That is no problem. Explore and develop ideas for yourself too.

[ Note: Veteran Sergeant goes above and beyond, lovingly converting every detail to his exacting specifications. His incredible conversions inspired me to start this true scale obsession of mine. He showed me the potential of taking the hobby by the balls. Here is his thread on DakkaDakka. Thread on Bolter and Chainsword. He also has a great home-brew Chapter called the Invectors. His interpretation of the fluff is incredible.]

With the research done we can now begin forming a plan to build the marine. I’ll leave you to dig out the dirty details on each of the above and, hopefully, other true scale projects you’ve found (perhaps another article on that or I could answer questions). For the torso I’ve developed a hybrid terminator and tactical chest technique to get the size, details, and, most importantly, the bulk that I want. The torso will require a bit of bulking out to create a smooth and unified piece. I’ll be using standard terminator legs with the addition of numerous spacers to add height to the model. A bit of easy sculpting will round out the model to create the tactical squad look we are going for.

Creating a Blueprint

build planTo accommodate this plan we will need to draw up a quick conversion guide from our notes and references. This doesn’t have to be a masterwork. Just jotting down the cuts, sculpting, and parts we will need for the largest part of the work. My goal is to only modify two parts in the kit, the torso and the legs. Everything should just be used straight out of the tactical box, barring any further necessary modifications. We can create a shopping list from this guide and ensure we have all the pieces to get started.

The first thing you’ll need is a couple of Games Workshop kits. You will need the new 6th edition tactical squad box without a doubt. You could also buy a space marine terminator box to get all the great bits that come with it, but you’ll end up with a truck load of arms that you can’t use, at least until we start trying to super size terminators. Otherwise you’ll need to buy ten legs and ten torsos from your preferred bits dealer.

[Quick aside: despite what games workshop would have you believe, you are supporting games workshop by purchasing bits. You buy bits, the seller inventory dwindles, and they buy more kits to spilt the parts up for sale. As a result, games workshop makes money.]

I want to put the miniatures on 32mm bases but I haven’t seen them included in the 6th edition tactical sets yet. If yours didn’t include those, then just pick up a box through games workshop or ebay.

I’m going to be adding 2mm of height to the space marine by adding two pieces of 1mm (0.40″) styrene to the foot and shin area. However, i’m going to use a razor saw on the shin to get a straight cut, so the full 1mm won’t be in use, making up for the material destroyed by the saw plus a bit more.

Because there is sculpting involved, albeit I put as little emphasis on it as possible, we will need some sculpting supplies in addition to our standard array of modeling implements (saw, exacto knife, files, sand paper, seam remover). I use Aves Apoxie Sculpt or Fixit, kneadtite/ “green stuff” works fine too. You probably want to look at a set of rubber tipped clay shapers, because working without them will simply suck.

Raw Parts List (no tools):

  • 1x Tactical Box – ($40.00 Vanilla, $43.00 Blood Angels, $60.00 Grey Knights, $39.00 Chaos etc. minus any discounts)
  • 5x Terminator Torsos and Legs – ($50.00 Vanilla, Space Wolves, Grey Knights Terminator Kit, $60.00 Dark Angels or Blood Angels minus any discounts, Ebay bits vendor $10.00-$15.00 each for a 5 part set of torsos and legs)
  • 10x 32mm Bases – ($5.00 retail, only if not in tactical box kit)
  • Evergreen Scale Models 1mm Sheet Styrene – $5.00 tops
  • Aves Apoxie Sculpt – $6.50 (Great)
    – OR Fixit Sculpt $10.00 (Amazing)

Next time we will discuss creating the actual space marine! So… a tutorial! Neat… i didn’t see that coming.

True Scale Space Marines – Part 1 – A Survey

liefeldanatomy

Space Marines are the Rob Liefeld art of Games Workshop.

My growth as a hobbyist has evolved rather quickly over the last couple of years since I joined the ranks of table top war gamers. When I first got into Warhammer 40000 I was excited in the social aspects of gaming, namely hanging out with good friends and playing a quick round of a seemingly interesting game. However, after I got into the story of the universe, the game itself fell flat and I find it mostly boring and irrelevant now. The rules are a lumbering relic of an uninterested miniatures company. I was drawn towards representing the universe as best as I could through my hobby skills.

I delved headfirst into all the lore: codices, black library, and imperial armour. I used my art background and desire as a storyteller to represent the world that Games Workshop had created. The social aspect of the game, for me, became growing as an artist with my friends and watching the fruits of my labor play on the table to my friend’s enjoyment.

As my knowledge of Warhammer grew, the more errors I noticed between all facets of Games Workshops creative outlets. Games Workshop, Black Library, and Forgeworld are all the same company but there seems to be no one single person in charge of the creative direction of the brand image and lore. Each department is running amuck and largely doing whatever they please.

When you go through all the lore created by GW, the power and badassery of the Adeptus Astartes Space Marines stands above everything else. Space Marines are the redoubt of mankind’s struggle to survive. They are legends amongst mortal men.  The entirety of the Horus Heresy centers around their struggles. Brother against brother, dividing the golden age of mankind. The heroism of the Space Marines is recorded in virtually every single book written by anyone who even dabbles in Warhammer 40000.

But, then you get to the game they are vaginas.

My mission was clear: I want to properly represent them on the tabletop. If not by rules (which can be changed with a White Dwarf issue 300 or Inquisitor ruleset), then by models. They were going to look the part at the very least.

Thesis

As I pointed out in my last article Heroic Scale is Dead, Games Workshop! I want accurately scaled figures and I don’t want any lazy corporate bullshit. Unfortunately, Games Workshop, like it’s gaming ruleset, is a lumbering beast that is apathetic to positive change in the face of increasing fan disdain and more capable competition. That leaves the task up to us, the basement dwelling noble gaming community, to fend for ourselves in the search for an accurately scaled Space Marine!

Space Marines clock in at 7-8ft tall. They are huge sons of bitches the Emprah. Check the scale:

The first image is some true scale cosplay guys on what i can only assume are painter’s stilts.  The middle image shows a young Jes Goodwin sitting proudly in front of his poor counting ability exampling a life size 7ft tall space marine (I know it says 8 on the scale, but check out his starting number… WTH?). The last image (courtesy of Angels of Death) shows a human amidst the massive men and machines of the Adeptus Astartes. We will work that under the assumption, since Space Marines are not clones that they can average anywhere between 7 and 8ft tall for the purposes of our mission. With very FEW being on the 8ft. side. Terminator should be the only thing setting these guys above the 8ft. mark.

Marines are meant to be big and the existing range doesn’t do them any justice.

The Case for Change

Games Workshop vs. True Scale WWII Figure

Games Workshop Plastic Space Marine and Plastic Cadian vs. True Scale World War II historical miniature.

To solidify my point we will look at the existing miniatures range. Why is the scale for space marines critical and why do people generally true scale them instead of other figures?

The first thing Jes Goodwin throws out about “true scaling” marines is that it is actually the human guard who are out of scale. Ok. That might be true.

Let’s take a look. The image above shows a Games Workshop space marine and imperial guard pieces to the left and center of the image, respectively. The right figure in the image is an accurately scaled human in miniature. This figure on the right is how the guard should look if they used proper human proportions in the 28mm scale. So, yes the guard is out of scale, but the marine still looks miserable next to our sexy human being figure. These wonky proportions, as a pointed out in the last article, are hold overs from the 80s/90s heroic scale. The designs are piss poor laziness on the part of Games Workshop for keeping it the same today. Grim dark my ass. This is just cartoon crap.

Re-crafting a Games Workshop guardsman to look like that human is not just impossible, it means playing another range of miniatures to accurately represent human beings. We would STILL need to scale up the marines to boot. Not only are we out of scale, we are out of the universe and we destroy the level of immersion in the setting during play, nor can scale enthusiasts participate in sanctioned Games Workshop events or tournaments.

Death Korps vs. Cadian

Forge World Resin Death Korps of Krieg vs. Games Workshop Plastic Cadian Guardsman

Rather than change the guardsman, the guardsmen must become the baseline for our true scale efforts, unfortunately. My recommendation to fight this gigantism is to look at Forge World Imperial Guard armies. If you can spring for them, not only are they more in scale with human proportions, they are a more flavorful match to the Warhammer setting than the standard plastic Cadians.

Poor anatomy of a Space MarineNow that the guard argument is out of the way we can look critically at the Space Marine itself and determine why scaling is so important for this particular miniature. In short, the anatomy of this situation is a mess. More so than almost any other miniature in the range. We are not just correcting a scale issue, we are correcting an anatomy issue; an issue more noticeable on Space Marines than the rest of the figures anyway.

The illustration shows how a human being would fit into a suit of power armor using the scale of the game pieces. There is no space for a torso. Most people need one of those. But, even in this picture the legs are more or less proper, but the actual miniatures are not this fortunate.

6th Edition Space Marine Tactical Squad

Games Workshop Plastic 6th Edition Space Marines Tactical Squad Kit

To the right is the most recent squandered opportunity to correct this mistake: the 6th edition release of the basic space marine tactical squad. The best selling Games Workshop model kit. This set has improved upon a lot of issues from the previous, decade old marine kit.  As you can see the legs are just awful. Many of the marines are still stuck in squatting positions like they need a toilet. There are still huge chests with no torsos, and the stubby legs are not fixed(the marine on the end left, bottom row makes the leg problem stand out). The issues are still present despite one or two more upright figures. The anatomy of this is still a mess, but now it’s a finely detailed mess!

Games Workshop screwed the opportunity to fix the scale with one fell swoop when they released the tactical box outlined above. They could have laid the foundation to take the entire range into the 21st century with their best selling kit. They’ve guaranteed at least another ten years of off scaled madness, solidifying their position in the land of disregarded human anatomy.

Now that we’ve established why we need to true scale the space marines, we will look at charting our course to develop this idea in Part 2.

Heroic Scale is Dead, Games Workshop – A Prologue

Games Workshop,

I have some terrible news. In approximately 2010, heroic scale died due to being old and out of date. It was arguably in a catatonic state for at least five years previous. Unfortunately, very few people will miss it.

Despite this tragic news for the gaming community, you should feel a relief because you are the foremost maker of miniatures in the world. You pride yourself on creating the best! Right?

Oh…

Wait. This all looks like cartoonish, disney garbage. How did you guys get caught so far behind your own story? You’ve created this really gothic, self coined “grim dark” world and yet your miniatures are garish caricatures and shadows of your own property. Do you even know what happened?

Let me see if i can pin this down for you.

Creative Apathy

Foremost, Games Workshop seems to be stuck in the 80s and 90s mentality about wargaming. From what I understand the key people in the company are the same hold overs from their earliest days and simply don’t know or don’t care about doing things differently. This mentality breeds creative apathy amongst any up and coming veterans or new blood the company brings in. This seems to be the biggest problem, whether that is self inflicted or higher up ordained apathy, i’m not sure (if it was higher up, you would have to wonder why they don’t trust the people who helped create this field to do their jobs, which makes me think creative is the problem). Essentially, the system is tightly controlled by a few individuals creating the same old garbage, and breeding apathy amongst those with fresh ideas.

Product Inconsistency

Rogue Trader Marines

The original Space Marines from Rogue Trader. Marines back then aren’t what they are today. The original story of the space marines is more akin to that of Starcraft. Violent prisoners put inside robotic suits to fight the big uglies of the universe rather than be incarcerated. Its fun to shoot stuff and life has no consequences. Lets head bang while loud music plays. Standard 80s mentality.

Accurate marine

Now we have the Adeptus Astartes. 7 – 8ft tall, genetically and technologically modified killing machines that are meant to be the foremost warriors of the galaxy. Named after a dead pagan goddess, the Astartes are ball stompers, legends, and heroes. Not everything is wonderful and original with this story, but it certainly has more depth and gravity than the old days.

Black Library and Forgeworld have all evolved past the old days in their stories. The gaming community have mostly accepted that the Adeptus Astartes is where the story is at now. The Horus Heresy storyline (which has gone on longer than the actual F$&#ing heresy – another dumb issue to be addressed) has cemented them into the lore. The IP has largely, not entirely, grown past most of the old 80s sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll tropes. But there is still one lingering dingleberry of that old mentality still hanging around: the models.

Forgeworld, in all models EXCEPT Adeptus Astartes, have an extremely detailed and incredible range of miniatures. But, in order to match Games Workshops lazy and outdated space marines they are forced to make midget astartes.

Games Workshop refreshed their tactical squads for the most recent 6th and 7th edition versions of their largely popular Warhammer 40000 table top game. Taking all the new story into account, all the wonderful new developments in mould making technology, and using their self proclaimed position as the foremost creator of gaming miniatures in the world, they created:

6th Edition Tactical Squad

The same damn marines from first edition with slightly more details!

The same diminutive stature. The same stubby legs, the same poorly proportioned bodies.

the. same. tired. garbage.

Any time Games Workshop is approached or asked about the marines scale they have a laundry list of excuses as to why things are the way they are:

  • Imperial Guard are actually the wrong scale (anatomy failure on all fronts, both guard and marine)
  • Heroic scale allows you to see the weapons better (If you true scaled the figures the guns would be the same size they are currently)
  • Game/ rules related “reasons” (I thought Games Workshop was a miniature company?)

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Getting marines right isn’t difficult. The illustration above demonstrates the exact idea behind the marine/ human relationship in scale no less. Forge world could produce a simple leg and torso kit as a stop gap measure while GW gets its act together. The parts from the plastic kit could be used to fill in everything else. From games workshop’s perspective this is a temporary win win. Two products sold to create one and it also fulfills a community need with minimal effort for right now.

Marines aren’t the only problem though. Every miniature in 40K is “broken.” Why can’t this be fixed? Why can’t the story and the product be consistent?

The Future

Even from the outside, fixing the issues within Games Workshop seems like a monumental task. Without being there and watching the process I can’t make a 100% accurate determination. If we go with the creative apathy situation my natural instinct is to simply fire everyone. Yes, including Jes Goodwin and Jervis pennybottom. I would include everyone in the licensing department is well.

Games Workshop needs to take ownership of their problems. Their corporate culture is too much. They need to open up and engage the community. They need to control the message and not let rumor mongers be the harbingers of their terrible actions. The community is left to their own devices and by not being decisive, not having a plan for the future, leaves them fractured and argumentative.

GW needs to start from scratch with a few things:

  • Making money needs to be a by-product of producing quality. Not something the company feels it is owed simply for existing.
  • Acknowledging that the game is just as important as the miniatures.
  • There needs to be an official canon. The lore needs to build from the existing novels. All the product lines must be set straight. Everything that doesn’t fit needs to be rejected.
  • Licensing needs to look for quality outlets, not handing it out to every swinging dick that walks by. Not only with profit in mind, but understanding that this will be mass exposure of the IP to those who have never encountered Warhammer before.
  • Massive licensing expansion to other forms of media and collectibles.
  • Actively seek to develop new, unique IPs.

With these mission objectives in mind, the core of the company needs revision first and brought into line with those goals. The core, for now, is miniatures and gaming. The cornerstone of the business needs to be fixed before a house is to be built, to reestablish the credibility of the company in the eye of the fans, who, in turn, spread the word and excitement.

  • “8th Edition” will be a ground up reboot, across the entire IP. The basis of the game is that it has three modes of play: squad based, company (or “Army”) based, and Apocalypse. All modes of play are similar at the core, but the rules and model count build as you go up. The game feels like it “unlocks” as your collection grows. A box or two of figures should unlock the first mode of squad based gameplay.
  • Rules for all factions will be developed (not released), at the core, simultaneously to develop internal balance from the start. Not finished, just a framework developed throughout every stage.
  • All miniatures past and present are legal, but future miniatures will now focus on scaling and story accuracy to both complement the game and collecting.
  • All marine models will be standardized with chapter specific add ons produced seperately.
  • Forge world creative principles adopted.
  • Limited releases greatly reduced, allocated to those that make sense.
  • All communication channels will be opened.

Retail Strategy

The retail arm of Games Workshop is probably their biggest detriment. These places, once ambassadors of the brand to the public, have become tiny and cramped, miserable excuses for gaming centers. Little more than a bath and body works stuffed to the brim with GW product. Most are smaller.

These stores have little to no space for playing games, so fans can’t really come in and form a local community to support each other. The stores are single man shops, so there is no time to sell, teach, and promote the brand, making the store almost 100% non-functional in its primary mission for being a branded store.

Retail needs to be left to those who want to be in retail. Make a product people want and it will sell itself, no propaganda needed. The money saved in retail could be put towards marketing, promotions, prize allotment, and tournament support for these third party run stores.

Third party stores also have the benefit of having other products, so the trickle over effect can aide GW products in the long run. Fantasy flight role playing game? Buy some miniatures to enhance your experience. Buying a miniature magazine, pick up a white dwarf. Hobbyist? Check out this entire range of citadel paints and tools! Does the shop also sell comics? Warhammer might be something that they’ve never even heard of, and they don’t even know it exists yet. Recommendations can be made, and exposure to GWs worlds is happening everyday whether you want it too or not in that third party shop. A GW branded store people generally know what they are getting into and there is no chance for new growth. You just hope for organic growth, which is already tapped.

The Present

Where does that leave Games Workshop? Nowhere, really. They keep cutting tools for extremely detailed, but poorly thought out miniatures. There seems to be no chance for change on any front. The only path to change is for someone to grow a pair of brass balls in that company and shake up this industry.

Update: This has spurred me to take action in a very limited away. You can read my further adventures in Space Marine True Scaling here:

True Scale Space Marines – Part 1 – A Survey

Studio Update

I wanted to drop a quick note to let everyone know I’m still here. I’ve been spending the last few months on family ordeals and issues, along with an impending move to a new home. Things have been tense and family has to come first.

Project wise, I’ve been knee deep painting a now out of print Lucius Wolf Warhound Titan and an immense Ultramarines Company. I’m also putting the finishing touches to an allied Elysians list that will probably end up on eBay.

The Warhound has been an incredible challenge. I wanted to create a titan that wasn’t something you see everyday. Red and blue seem to be the typical colors chosen by most artists. I think they convey a regal look, but I wanted something that truly said “This is an earthly avatar of our deity. Come get me.” If the paint scheme works out i’m probably going to create a custom Legio and Forgeworld and paint a Mars pattern maniple in the scheme. I want to use them for 30K-40K eras.

I’m also trying to find time to finish off The Salamanders primarch Vulkan. He isn’t specifically challenging since i like going for the fluff look, but all my Primarch projects take a bit longer than normal as I think about how to approach them, both technique wise and component wise. I take a bit of creative license, but i really want to nail his “official look” as much as possible.

Once he is done I intend to move forward with the Horus painting “log” I mentioned in the last writing. I’m very anxious to start that, but I want to approach it in the right way. I might be overthinking it, though.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Shameless Self Promotion

Every morning when I wake up I make my internet rounds to get the world news and events. I even check out Warhammer forums also for new rumors and information to get me pumped up about painting.

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to see my Fulgrim and Ferrus Manus figures featured on the front page of DakkaDakka.com. They had a rating of 9.75 (!) as of this morning. I uploaded the photos myself two (?) months ago and I assumed they got buried on there.

Link: http://www.dakkadakka.com/gallery/668698-.html

What a huge surprise to wake up and see that image greet me on the front page. I thought i had logged into something different. I was completely humbled by the incredible score.

Looking towards 2015

I’ve been struggling to write something that caps off the year…

There wasn’t really any success in that department, so you are stuck with this.

IDEAS ON THE FUTURE

I’m a big fan of the Horus Heresy series, both the novels (save for the unnecessary draw out of the series) and the game adaptation from Forge World. In fact, the love and care that goes into the Forgeworld volumes and models shames Games Workshop. If you’ve kept up with this humble blog you’ll know that I’m all over Forge World’s wiz biz.

Horus-mainRight before Christmas I picked up Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders Legion from the Forge World Horus Heresy Character Series complete in the box through a lucky find on eBay. My original intention was to get the piece and document the entire painting process from start to finish. But, that promptly went south when I found myself clipping and cleaning a washed up model. I get anxious to get going, so, after that, I opted to just paint. The mistake gives me more time to think about the process and execution of documenting a large project like this.

For Christmas I was extremely fortunate to receive Konrad Cruze, Lorgar, and the man himself: Horus Lupercal from my wife and family. Horus is the centerpiece of the entire collection and he is obviously a beautiful model. I thought documenting his painting process would be entertaining enough for myself and my “audience” to sit through. Konrad was a very close second.

I thought about doing a tutorial, but I’m not entirely sold on the idea of tutorials. Tutorials kind of go like this on the internet:

De09e

Miniature painting is no exception. Techniques, no matter how well explained, need to be practiced. Tutorials about airbrush painting are absurd. Showing nozzle control is difficult. As an alternative, I think I might document the ENTIRE process of painting Horus in a time lapse video. That way you can watch the drama unfold in its unadulterated totality to music i’m sure you’ll hate. If this goes ok I may produce more of these or, if there is demand, produce a more in depth study on a specific part of the process. Not in a structured tutorial form, but perhaps a closer examination and slower video. We will see.

I’m going to finish up Vulkan and get him photographed for my portfolio first. I’ve also got some MkII Ultramarines to finish up. After that I’ll probably set up the logistics of getting Horus done. I plan on the entire process taking a week or two and i’ll document the documentation of Horus here on the blog so you can ride along on my blundering. I’m interested in seeing how this all works out.

Power Swords

After each commission I take some time to reflect back on the techniques, tactics, and thoughts I collected through the experience. I intended to highlight a few thoughts in this article, but I’m just going to do one because this ran oddly long. I may do another article on the other subject, but it was me contributing to the image of an emo art crowd bemoaning how artists treat themselves, but I’m sure that horse has been beaten to death already.

deathwing_champion_frontI hate the way everyone does power swords. Including mine. I have yet to find a truly satisfactory technique.

To the left you can see the way I did them on this last commission. I imagined that the blade would glow from the energy coursing through it and the edges would be white to indicate extreme heat for cutting. This was an effective and simple technique to accomplish, but, personally I don’t like it. Because of several factors this was the optimal solution at the time and I’ll keep it in my bag of tricks, but I want to develop something better.

You can reference power swords here if you aren’t familiar with the subject. But, the name says 80% of what it’s all about. Essentially a field of energy surrounds the sword, enabling it to cut through things it normally couldn’t. But, my thinking is, if you can surround a sword with a field of energy and that energy does all the work, why does that energy need to be surrounding a sword? In Warhammer they use this technique for axes, swords, hammers, claws, and gauntlets. Can the power surround a lawn gnome and be wielded to the dismay of all those who would stand in the way of the Space Marine bearing the gnome to battle?

With that in mind, the weapon must reflect the purpose of its use. The sword is to cut, the hammer is to smash, the claws are to tear, and the gauntlet/ fist is to rip, obviously, but the power field allows these to function more efficiently, making them much more damaging. Meaning that the weapon is essential to the equation. To me that would mean, like a lightsaber, heat would do most of the work, right?

I believe the original designers wanted a form of lightsabers in the story (because cool!), but with a distinctly medieval gothic feel, hence the power sword was born.

Sm_power_sword_heroThe image to the left illustrates how power swords look and feel in visual media. This particular media being a video game. I think this is from Space Marine (a great game by the way and probably the best expression of the Warhammer universe thus far in all forms of visual media). The power sword is crackling with blue energy.

99120101105_VanguardVeteranSquadNEW02The original thinking with painting power swords was to paint the lightning bolts all over the blade to simulate energy coursing over the surface.  You can see this technique in the image to the right from the Games Workshops website. The effect is subtle and I think this is somewhat closer to the original idea of the power sword than more recent interpretations.

More modern interpretations from the hobby community have painted the swords to resemble what looks, to me, like glass.

f33b76ae7ccb0fcd1dc8df52b5cdad29I think this glass interpretation, as seen on the left, looks terrible for representing what is “going on.” I understand the purpose is to highlight the reflectivity of the sword and its interaction with the energy but outside of saying “i can work an airbrush and tape” this technique doesn’t really show us what the purpose of the sword being blue is.

To me, the painting should display what is actually trying to be represented so when the audience sees the piece it clearly illustrates what is going on.

That is where I went wrong in my interpretation. The blade in my piece is blue. I offset that with the hot, white edges, but why is the sword blue? We use it to symbolize the energy and that “lightning” we see in our minds, but the painting doesn’t illustrate that. We know what it is because we know what it is. But, does my wife? Anyone who views that piece should know exactly what is going on.

We need to know that the sword is being charged with energy. The sword is a literal sword, not fantastical, or mystical, or alien, or imbued with magic. The sword is metal (albeit the fanciest of metals). There is a power source that charges the sword (albeit a powerful source). The energy is not “on” the sword, but “around” it. We need to convey all these things “at a glance” for the viewer.

Unfortunately, the surface of the model cannot “crackle” with energy that is arcing out and surrounding the surface of the sword. All of this has to be presented on the surface itself. We can try and fake it with the lightning technique summarized above, but I’m not going to freehand a bunch of lightning all over my swords. Frankly, it can look ridiculous if hastily done and doesn’t give the right “feel” to me. I think that should be left for the Golden Demon and Crystal Brush artists. I’m not interested in all that. So we’ve already compromised one of the three components.

I think the interpretation I’m envisioning is a slightly upgraded version of what I did, but I want to remove the abundance of blue and have the metal show through. I think showing the metal is important. Surrounding that core of metal that gradually transitions to blue near the edge, and finally to white at the cutting edge will convey the proper effect, to show the heat and power. I think to show that the sword is being charged, the wire that runs from the hilt to the blade needs to be done in white or similar to show the transition of power from source to blade. If executed correctly, I think this will convey all the information needed, even to the uninitiated, and give the illusion that the sword is receiving power and glowing from that power at the cutting edges best representing the “surrounding” energy field.

Although this is about “power swords” I think the larger lesson here is to seriously evaluate your subjects in light of what you are trying to accomplish. My goal is to deliver models that look like they are from reality, but represented in this medium. I look at my all my miniature painting from that light. Games Workshop has a Disney-esqe vibe, colorful and consistent. Competition level painting has a tendency to look “hyperreal” to over emphasize technique. All the goals of the project must be taken into account.

An 1100+ word treatise on power sword glow. Feel free to hate me.