This time we shall focus on a ‘commission job’ I did on an Archangel. As you can see in the cover picture, we turned Everblight’s dragon spawn into an even more twisted monstrosity (I suspect Jeremy from Crippled system might like the direction this conversion is going…:)
The theme for this conversion was Lovecraftian horror, aka Cthulhu; the client came to me with a ‘boss stat card’ from the Arkham Horror board game and said: ‘I want this!’ He was also set on a slight repose of the Archangel’s left arm to give it a ‘beckoning’ motion. To pin down the actual look he wanted for the head (since this was going to be a full re-sculpt of the head), I made a few sketches:
My first draft sketch (the drawing on the left) focused on extending the bone plate armor pattern, typical of Legion beasts, across the head with tentacles and no eyes, but this design reminded the client too much of his old Wh40k Tyranids (specifically Zoanthropes) and he said he wanted to steer clear of that look/association and go for a more heavy handed Cthulhu visual reference, so no carapace armor. He also mentioned he wanted the model to have big bulging eyes (when I pointed out the beast isn’t supposed to have eyes, he said he would paint them without pupils, i.e. blind). Keeping all that in mind we went through a couple more drafts and finally settled on the sketch you can see on the right. I couldn’t use bone armor plates, but leaving the top of the head empty didn’t work from a composition point of view, so I opted to use bone spikes similar to the ones the Archangel has on its neck (both the ones along its spine and the random ones jutting out of its skin a bit to the side of the neck and shoulders), to tie in the head to patterns/details already present on the model (otherwise the new head would look kinda out of place on the body). In the mid-point sketches I drew somewhat more proportionally correct faces (as in the structure and proportions where closer to a human skull), but since the commissioner wanted the eyes bigger every time, we ended up with an utterly disproportionate head/face with comically big eyes and a fairly caricatured expression (to be honest I was imagining drawing a Donald Duck’s head with tentacles instead of the beak, while working on it), but the owner liked it that way, so I indulged him…
While the full sculpt of the head would be the lion’s share of the work, moving the left arm into a horizontal position meant that we would be exposing the gap along the model’s torso (where said arm would usually be), so before I got working on the head, I had to re-build the left side of the model’s rib cage.
The process wasn’t helped by the fact the client glued together most of the model before coming to me, leaving massive gaps in many of the junctures (I am not sure if the resin pieces were warped or he screwed up while gluing bits…), so while I was sculpting other areas, I used any leftover fresh putty to fill all visible/reachable gaps and cracks. The model being already assembled also made it more challenging to sculpt the breast plates, since the legs get in the way of your hand/sculpting tool from several angles (if you plan any such conversion, you will have a much easier time if you sculpt on the individual parts before assembly; the leg in the way is one solid piece with the torso, but not having the knee caps glued on and the body fixed on the broken obelisk will allow you a bit more access).
Anyway, to rebuild the model’s left torso, I first filled out the depression with white Milliput and left it to cure completely to get an even base to sculpt my armor scale details on. Next I applied a slightly thicker layer than usual of green stuff (2-3 mm thick), since I needed to give the bone plates a deeper relief than my usual patterns. I tried to mirror the right side of each plate while sculpting, but for the top-most plates I had to make it up as I went, since the same detail on the other end wasn’t visible/sculpted. As mentioned the left leg of the model was most obstructive to my work on the lowest scale, so (much to my irritation) I didn’t manage to get a perfectly symmetrical re-sculpt, but the client was satisfied with the outcome, so I pushed aside my OCD impulses and moved on to the next phase of the work…
For the core of my new head, I rolled up an oval ball of Milliput that I estimated would be roughly 70-80% of the volume of the finished product (if you something similar, keep in mind that your final product will inevitably gain volume as you add layers of modeling putty, so imagine what the final size needs to be and make your core appropriately smaller) and glued the smallest section of spine spikes leftover from the sawed off neck. With the leftover Milliput I rebuild the ‘throat’ to set the angle at which the head would sit on it (this step was visible in the previous set of pictures on the ‘breast job’). Once the Milliput of the neck was cured and hard I sculpted the bone scales covering the beast’s throat and later added a thin layer of texture to the skin on the neck, adding scratches and bulging veins like the neck from the stock model. After the neck was fully textured, I pinned the white oval ball on the model and added an ‘upper jaw’ to that to practically create the skull of the beast (again to have a solid foundation to sculpt on).
After that the fun began! I first sculpted the upper portion of the face (eyes and forehead), focusing more on getting the brows smooth and nice. While that was drying I rolled up a long, thin (2 mm thick) tube of PP’s Aluminum putty, cut it into ‘sausages’ of various lengths, thinned them all out on one end (like cones/nails) and used my soft silicone tipped sculpting tools to give the thin tubes varied curves without leaving fingerprints on the soft putty. Once I was happy with the twirling shapes of the tentacles, I set them on a lubricated surface (so they wouldn’t stick to it) to harden. In the next step I used green stuff and superglue to attach the tentacles to the ‘jaw’ of the new head and used the leftover putty to add more volume to the eyes and round them out more smoothly.
After the green stuff holding the tentacles together was completely cured, I added a new layer of fresh putty to cover up the messy joints between tentacles and face and sculpt more ‘texture’ into the face. Besides that I added ‘cheek bones’ to the head, since without them the head reminded me more of an octopus stuck on the wrong body than Cthulhu (it is a small detail that gives it a more humanoid impression). After that I glued some bone spikes on the top of the skull going along each side of the crown and, with a thin layer of fresh putty, I covered the rest of the head with the same texture of torn skin, scratches and bulging veins, I used on the neck.
Parallel to the ongoing work on the head I used leftover green stuff from that to gradually rebuild the left arm’s biceps and triceps and some details around the elbow, where the arm of the model would touch the body in the original pose. I should probably point out that I sawed off the left hand at the wrist and pinned it back on upturned; the original arm would look like it is pointing someone, with the palm turned up, it becomes a challenging or tempting gesture, appropriate for an ancient demon… Once the sculpting work on the head was completely finished I finally pinned on the repaired arm and used some more putty to fill in the gaps and give the shoulder a smooth finish. You might also notice the magnet and pin holes in the wing slot; the wings of the model are practically as big as the body itself, so we kept the wings detachable for easier transportation (there are two long brass rod pins in each wing to take on most of the weight, while the magnets are there mainly to make it stick and avoid wobbling.
… and to finish things off, here are a couple pictures of the conversion with wings in all its disturbing majesty (it is not in my usual zenith undercoated state, because the owner will paint it himself and he has a different painting style/approach than me). Hope you like it:)
That is all for this article. In 2 weeks we’ll start another mini series of a slightly wider appeal, as in it might be useful and maybe even inspirational to more players regardless of faction loyalties… If you have any comments, suggestions or questions, check out the MoM forums (-linky-) and join the conversation…
Until next time Cheers!