Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hades Vampire Lord WIP and Green Stuff Tutorial

In keeping with the Greek-underworld theme, my Tilean Vampire Counts will be lead by none other than the lord of the underworld himself, Hades.  Back when I first picked up the 5th ed VC book and read its fiction for vampires, I was blown away.  I had never seen vampires portrayed the way I saw within its pages, as all-powerful masters of the undead.  Before that they had almost exclusively occupied the role of assassin-lone-wolves in my mind. After that day, however, I knew right away that I wanted the omnipotent figure of Hades commanding an army of undead.  Shortly after that I chanced upon some Alcanti Fellowship models and the pieces of my army fell snugly into place.  Tilea, where the Fellowship hailed from, was modeled after feudal Italy.  I had found the perfect home for my Vampire Counts.

Everything in my army attempts to incorporate some element from Greek mythology, so when it came to modeling my vampire lord I wanted to stay true to that spirit.  Though zombie dragons are a true nightmare on the battlefield, it didn't quite fit with the theme (to my knowledge dragons never played a big role in Greek mythology).  The idea of Hades racing about the battlefield on a midnight-black charger, however, seemed quite fitting.  When modeling a nightmare/hellsteed fit for a lord, there really is only one choice, Archaon's steed.

The icing on the cake is that this kit comes in Finecast resin.  I'm a huge fan of the new resin, it's lighter and a pure pleasure to work with (no, I don't miss errant shards of xacto blades flying at my eyes after hacking away on a piece of peweter).  

I decided that Hades would stay true to the basis of the Archaon model, but with some notable exceptions.

I filed his sword down with an xacto and gave it a more graceful, slim appearance.  I also removed the skulls hanging about the front of his cuirass, in favor of a bust of a gorgon.  For his head, I decided to pin a skull from the plastic skeleton kit in place and use it as a foundation for an original sculpt.

Allowing the foundations for the sculpting on Hades to dry I bounced back to his horse (name as yet undecided) and attached the wire frame foundation for its wings.  I decided upon Hades riding a hellsteed, instead of a barded nightmare.  His ability to fly about the battlefield will more than make up for the +1 modifier to his armor save... though that would have put him at 0+.

To create the initial framework, I drilled a hole in each of the hellsteed's shoulders and inserted a unraveled paperclip.  This is the outermost frame for the wing, a few more foundation pieces are still needed inside the wing.

I took another paper clip and cut it into two more pieces that will be the inner "fingers" of the hellsteed's batwings.  To secure the inner foundation pieces I placed a ball of green stuff in the crotch of the wing's bend and pressed the wire into the 'stuff.  If gravity wants to pull your supports out of place, prop them with something until they dry (~30min).

The positioning of the inner supports on the previous wing was quite simple, as gravity held each wire in place where I wanted it.  However, on the horse's right wing, the supports threatened to sag.  Because the supports are positioned upside down, there isn't a simple means to prop them up.  Never fear!  There's a trick that will cut green stuff's dry time down to a fraction of what it was.  Apply a drop of super glue to the green stuff joint, and within a few minutes it will be completely secure!  This is a technique that I use sparingly, but it is effective nonetheless.

With the hellsteed's wings setting, let's pop back over to Hades himself.  When working with green stuff its best to work in stages.  Now that the foundation pieces on him are dry, I rolled out a few eyeballs and glued them into their sockets.  I used glue to secure the eyeballs so that I didn't have to mash them in (and lose their shape), in order to secure them.

We're going to fast-forward a few steps here (my camera ran out of batteries).  At this point I have been layering on green stuff to create features on top of both skull foundations.  I also rolled out some "snakes" for the gorgon's hair.  Here's how I went about doing that.

Wet you fingers in a bit of water, wipe off the excess (you want your hands to be slightly moist, not damp or drenched), and take a pinch of green stuff in hand.  Roll the 'stuff between your thumb and forefinger to elongate it.

After it has taken on a cylindrical shape place it on a flat surface and roll it with your finger like a rolling pin.  To get an even shape, place your finger first where the chord is thickest and roll it while moving your finger to one end.  Press lightly while rolling, and come back to the thicker areas and repeat the press and roll, until the chord is of approximately equal width.

For the gorgon's hair, I rolled a number of different sized chords.  This is important because I will give the chords about 30 minutes to dry before attaching them.  Now that the chords have taken their rough shape a little dry time will harden them slightly and allow us to bend them without fear of leaving finger prints or losing their shape.

While they dry let's move back to Hades' face.  Once again we're working in steps, allowing areas to dry before working again.  This takes a measure of game-planning and thought.  It's important to take the time to size up the model you'll be sculpting and decide what will be done and where.  That way you can move around the model and work on different details while not smudging what you've already worked hard to produce.  I don't want to beat a dead hellsteed (pun intended) but this is the key to successful putty modeling and should always be kept in mind!

With that said, let's take a look at how to make details with green stuff.  First, roll out a piece, in this case I'm doing a lip/jaw detail so it is thinner at one end and thicker an the other and placed it where I want it to lie.  (If the you're having trouble with the green stuff slipping from its contact point, apply a small amount of super glue to hold it in place, but remember, where the green stuff is glued you won't be able to move or alter it, so apply a very conservative amount of super glue!)

Press the green stuff down at one end of its maximum length.

Secure the other end at its other maximum.  

With both ends secured, work towards the middle, pressing the green stuff in, securing it to the model.  Once secure contact has been established along the entire length of the 'stuff, press and manipulate to create details and final form.

Keep adding layers of detail as you build.  At this point don't despair if your model is quite ugly, it'll come along at the end, have faith!  If you still don't trust your vision for the sculpt, use anatomical images of facial muscles, bones, etc. for reference.  

Now that the gorgon's hair chords have dried, I'll show you how to secure them.  Because they're not completely dry, we don't want to mash them in to secure their contact point.  Instead we'll use super glue.  Put a small amount on a fine tipped applicator, I'm using a thing brass pinning rod.

Dab the glue onto the contact point on the model and place the chord.  A small amount of glue will afford a surprising amount of stability, so once again, apply a conservative amount.

Repeat with a few more hair chords.

The gorgon's dreads are hanging all over the place, and that's ok.  Let's tidy her up by giving her a weave.

Using a modeling tool and lightly touching with my fingers, I manipulated her hair into braids.

Gravity will pull some of the chords out of place, so where I want the hair to keep a bend I placed a small dab of super glue to secure that chord.

From here on out the rest is history, as I repeat the previous steps over and again to create higher levels of detail.

I wanted the crown to look archaic and foreign.

Here's the dark lord mounted on his hellsteed.  All that's left to do is attach his left arm, model a shield, and finish the horse's wings.

Stay tuned for the finished sculpt!  Any in-depth or other questions about green stuff modeling, what tools I use, or the like, feel free to ask.

Good modeling!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Black Knights, Bases, and The Monster Lab Member of the Month

Along with the release of the new Vampire Counts rule book, this month has seen the release of some truly great new plastic kits.  One that I was particularly eager to get a hold of was the Black Knights/Hex Wraiths boxed set.  These are some fantastic minis, and were sorely needed to replace the old knights and skeletal mounts in the Vampire Counts range.

The end of the column above will be filled with putty to give it an appearance of having crashed over.

In September I showed off a few of the green stuff conversions I had completed for my Tilean Vampire Counts.  The honest truth is that I have been collecting VC's for over 5 years and had yet to play a single game!  Still, every now and then a bit or model would catch my eye and I would add it to the collection and for the day when Hades and his undead legion would finally see the table top.  That day came yesterday when I took on my brother's Skaven.  In a 750 per match, I fielded 5 Knights, 50 Skeletons, 2 Necromancers, and a Varghulf.  After committing some grievous rules errors (I forgot my units caused fear, that my skeletal steeds got attacks in combat, and that the Varghulf's regeneration save was 4+, not 5+) I got the ugly end of the Skaven beat stick.  Next time I'll be ready and I'm going to go with more killy approach by taking a vampire instead of two necromancers and I will be sure not to forget my core rules!

The unit's champion, called a Hell Knight, was modeled like the rest of his squad with his horses hooves hovering off his base.  This represents his mounts "spectral steed" ability which allows it to move as if ethereal, ignoring terrain.  As the unit's leader I also wanted to give him a more heroic pose, and decided upon the classic "rearing steed" look.

The helmets and shields seen here are Black Lotus Tribe helmets and shields by MAXMINI, a third party company that makes resin conversion bitz and models.

Some of the Black Lotus Tribe helmets are a bit outlandish so I trimmed and repositioned a few of the horsehair crests for a more modest look.

The shields and helms really are a spectacular addition, and go a long way of representing the "Greek/Roman" look of the Tilean vampire counts.

In today's three part post we've already looked at the new Black Knight minis modeled with a Tilean flavor.  Next we'll take a moment to congratulate January's M-m-monnsterrr (I couldn't resist) Lab Member of the Month, before ending with a tutorial on how to create scenic rocky bases.  

Let's get to it.

A big congratulations goes to Mordian7th for being selected as the Monster Lab Member of the Month!  Mordian runs the blog Mordian 7th Regiment, where he has been doing some truly inspirational work on his heresy era Thousand Sons and Regimental Guardsmen.  If you haven't already, I definitely recommend stopping by his site, his super-heavy "Eye of Magnus" is incredible.

But what does being the Monster Lab Member of the Month mean, you ask?  Each winner not only gets a feature on the Monster Lab, as seen above, but they also get an exclusive, members only, Lab t-shirt which are produced in very limited quantities (twelve to be exact).  As this month's winner, Mordian will be receiving a t-shirt like the one below.

If you're still wondering how Mordian7th was selected as the Member of the Month, and want to know how you too can have a chance at winning, it's easy!  Simply become a member of the Midwest Monster Lab and wait for your name to be drawn.  Once each month I randomly select a winner from the blog's membership and mail them a free t-shirt.  In December the last of the "Most Interesting Man in the World" tees will be given away and a new design will be created for 2013... that is if the world doesn't come to an end before then.

Last in today's three parter is a tutorial on how to create scenic rocky bases.  These bases are great for setting the scene of any fantasy army which battles across sparse stone ruin landscapes.

To start you'll want to get a hold of some gravel rocks and a few pieces of plastic or plaster cast stone tile pieces.  The pieces shown below were plaster casts made from plastic tile sets.  Using plaster casts are great because they break into nice rough chunks extraordinarily well.  If you can't get your hands on plaster cast pieces, any stone tile plastic or resin cast will do just fine.

Break the tile chunks into individual stones or small groupings of stones.

Spure cutters can be used on very small pieces to get clean fractures in the stone.  Also the stones will sit very high if the bottom half isn't cut off or filed down.  Besides cutting with a knife or a pair of clippers, you can rub the tile stones on a piece of sandpaper to wear into to a suitable thickness for placement on a base.

Take a few large rock (natural and tile fragments) chunks and place them on your bases, securing them with super glue.

I placed a few pieces that had an upward slope at the front of bases so that models on those bases could stand with one foot up on the rock and strike a heroic pose.

Next, we'll add a medium and large ballast for variation, apply dabs of all-purpose white glue (Elmers) around the rocks and slightly up the sides.  Gluing ballast up the sides of the large rock chunks will give the larger pieces a natural "buried" look.

Pour your ballast onto each base.  The ballast will settle into the glue on its own.  Allow the glue to dry before moving on.

I prefer Woodland Scenics brand products and have mixed medium and large ballast in one container for variation and ease of use.

Mix a 50% water 50% all-purpose glue solution in a suitable container.  You won't need a lot, so to save glue, a smaller container will do just fine.

With a "garbage" brush, one you don't use to paint, brush the sealer over the ballast.  A good technique to do this is dipping the brush in the sealer and touching its tip to the ballast.  Surface tension and osmosis will bring the sealer off the brush and onto the ballast.  The end result is less of a brush stroke and more of a dab.

Note:  though this is a "garbage" brush not meant for painting, wash it out between sealer and glue applications to keep it from getting gummed up and becoming useless.

Allow the sealer to dry, this will be visible by its loss of surface sheen, before moving on.  The sealer will give our ballast the stability it needs and also act as a binding agent for our last application of basing material.

With the sealer suitably dry, apply dabs of all-purpose glue around the ballast.

With your garbage brush, spread the glue evenly across the base and all the way to the edge of the ballast.  This application of glue will hold the sand yet to be applied to the base, while the semi-dry sealer will hold a lesser amount of sand over the top of the ballast.

Sprinkle sand over each base.  A liberal amount will be fine, making sure to apply sand to all areas where there is exposed glue.

Give the glue time to dry before turning each base over and tapping off the excess.  Take an xacto blade (hobby knife) and scrape off any sand sticking to the edge of a base.

Once again with our 50/50 sealer, brush or "dab" sealer onto the sand, ballast and any exposed rock chunk for a final seal.  Allow the sealer time to completely dry before attempting to attach any models, at least 45 minutes to an hour.

The final product is a base that has a natural amount of terrain variation and buried chunks of stone/rock.  It's the perfect terrain to tread upon while conquering the world!
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