Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Project P30 - Part 6. When inspiration strikes!

I’m a great believer in using real-world references for my mini painting. Most often these images will serve as a starting point rather than being a direct reference. But either way, the use of reference material can help to ground a fantastical paint scheme in reality giving it an extra edge.

Although I’m currently working on Troggoths my Nurgle Tank is also very much on my mind. The time when I will start painting it is coming closer and I need to get my ideas in place. I’m going to have to try and pull out all the stops, and the simple green colour scheme of my old Tank will not suffice.

I’ve decided to try a bolder scheme on my new Tank and make use of the, much increased, surface area by introducing lots of texture and patterning. I’ve already been collecting reference material that includes a range of reptiles and amphibians. So far so good but nothing had really inspired me, until this morning!

Taking advantage of the lovely weather I visited nearby Mottisfont Abbey. While walking around the newly restored walled kitchen garden inspiration struck! The gardeners at Mottisfont are growing a huge selection of gourds in preparation for an autumn festival. With their sometimes gnarled and knobbly surfaces and a range of bold stripes, splotches and speckles the gourds instantly grabbed my attention.

These, more than anything I’ve looked at previously, have something of the look and feel I want to create for my Tank. This is not to say that I want my Nurgle Tank to look like a giant pumpkin, although there’s a thought for Halloween! But the patterns and textures on the gourds give me a great starting point to develop my ideas from.

It just goes to prove that it’s important to keep your eyes and mind open for inspiration because you never know when it will strike!

Monday, 16 September 2019

Rockgut Troggoth – Part 3

Getting back into the swing of things can be difficult after taking a break from painting. Although I’ve been busy sculpting that hasn’t actually helped because the mindset is very different. As a result I’ve had a frustrating few days trying to warm up my technique and get back into a regular painting routine. At first things did not go well! My brush control did not come straight back and I had to re-familiarise myself with the colour palette I‘m using on my Troggoth. Thankfully I’m experienced enough to have expected such troubles and knew that the cure lay in perseverance. By sticking to a steady routine of two to three hours painting every day I’ve managed to work through the difficulties and get my painting mojo back!

I chose to hold off from finishing my Troggoth back in June so that I could use him in my forthcoming Nottingham workshop. He will help in demonstrating the later stages of the painting process, but that meant I would need a new model to demo the early stages. So, as well a getting back to painting, I’ve been making up another Troggoth. I’d forgotten just how versatile the kit is and all options can be a bit overwhelming. But this time I’ve decided to keep it simple and build a ‘basic’ weapon-free Troggoth.

I did this so I would have an uncomplicated demo model but I’m actually very taken with the result. As always preparing a model for painting is my least favourite part of the process and the Troggoths require quite a bit of work. Thankfully there is nothing too fiddly and all of the filling could be done with liquid filler, which made life a lot easier! Once the seams were sanded I gave the model a coat of grey primer and checked it over for any gap or flaws in my filling. This is a bit of fuss and bother but well worth the effort because any gaps, mould lines or seams that you miss at this stage will cause you no end of trouble later on!

Monday, 2 September 2019

Project P30 - Part 5

Every project has it’s steps and stages. Sometimes these are very obvious but at other times they may exist only in the mind of the artist. Either way they give a project structure and the feeling of progress. I’ve always worked this way myself because the habit of breaking a project down is, in my view, essential! In particular it helps when working on a large project, like my Tank, the scale of which could easily become off putting. Those thoughts of ‘this is getting nowhere’ can all too easily destroy momentum and enthusiasm, bringing everything to a grinding halt.

I thought it was time to show my Tank next to a roughly human sized
mini to give an idea of it's size. I hadn't realised what a beast it is!

I’m happy to say that such has not been the case with my Tank. I’ve set myself achievable goals by regarding this project as a series of distinct steps. That has given me a sense of progress and accomplishment, even though there is still very much more to do. That’s been invaluable because the most recent stage of development has been long and involved. I’ve had to keep on sculpting away in order to resolve the body and pose. It’s one thing to have an idea brewing away in your head but quite another to see it realised.

Although this part of the project could be divided into smaller steps, like the belly maw, I’ve had to stick at it to make sure all the parts work together. But, with the completion of the right arm, this overall stage is done! It now feels as if the bulk of the sculpting is accomplished and my initial concept is well on it’s way to being realised.

I recently discovered that, if I convert my pictures to black and white, the colour difference between the grey plastic and Greenstuff disappears. Tonally they are identical and it’s a great way to view my conversion and sculpting. With the distracting colour difference removed I can better judge my progress. 

I’m well aware that the last stage of the sculpting is likely to involve a lot of hard work. I need to resolve the back of the model and the union of the chimney/spine with the rest of the model. This is a key part of the concept as it’s an area that will feature a merger of biological and machine elements. But I’m very much looking forward to getting to grips with it as I have some ‘interesting’ ideas.

However I think it’s time to take a break from the Tank for just a few weeks. The project has reached a natural breaking point and I think It’s important to sit back, and take stock, before I move on to the next stage. That will also give me some time to get back to my Rockgut Troggoth in preparation for my upcoming Workshop in Nottingham. To tell the truth I’m looking forward to doing some painting after all that sculpting!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Project P30 Building a ‘better’ tank - Part 4.

It isn’t easy being green!

July was a strange month with life in general being busier than it’s been for a long time. On top of all that the hot weather was not conducive to long hours of intensive sculpting. That might lead you to expect a declaration (or confession) that not much has happened with my tank but I’ve actually made slow steady progress.

The stop start nature of recent work has not been much of a problem because, when working with Greenstuff, I like to proceed in stages allowing each application to harden before I add another. I’ve found that sculpting a large mass can result in a squishy mess that resists my attempts to sculpt distinct forms and volumes. Greenstuff seems to work best when used in moderation over a firm foundation.

I’ve found it important to understand that Greenstuff changes in nature as it cures. When first mixed it’s very soft and sticky but over time it becomes firmer and less sticky. This means that, although hard to sculpt, when first mixed it will adhere to a surface very well. It is also soft enough to blend edges with the surface it has been stuck to. However, in order to sculpt Greenstuff with any sort of defenition, it has to begin the curing process. As the Greenstuff becomes firmer it becomes easier to create crisp forms and details.

Put simply using Greenstuff successfully is all about timing! Understanding that you can do different things with it at different stages of curing is vital. Otherwise you might as well try and sculpt with chewing gum!

I’m forever blowing bubbles!

With the teeth and cannon painted, and in place, I needed to sculpt the edges of the belly maw. I decided some time ago not to sculpt lips, and make a literal mouth, but rather to sculpt a ragged mutated wound in which the belly maw had formed. This seemed to be more in keeping with the asthetic of the current GW Nurgle range and appropriate to the model I was creating.
I wanted to create a blistered, bubbly texture and use this as a boundary between different areas on my Demon Engine and, most especially, on the edges of the belly maw. The bubbly texture is also partly inspired by the texture of microbeads and that seemed most appropriate for a Nurgle model of my own creation!

Creating the bubbles is a fairly straightforward two-stage process. First of all I roll out lots of balls of Greenstuff. It’s important to vary the sizes in order to give the bubbly texture an organic look. Then, while the greenstuff is still sticky, I place the balls into position and then leave them to harden. It’s easier to do control the overall look if you do this in several stages, allowing each stage to firm up before you apply the next.

Once the balls are fully hardened I push soft Greenstuff between them to fill the gaps and create a unified surface. Then I use a silicone tipped sculpting tool to work the greenstuff further into the gaps and smooth everything together. This last step is carried out as the Greenstuff becomes a little firmer and less sticky. Filling the gaps, to a greater or lesser degree, will create a more varied and interesting texture.

Over my shoulder

With the belly maw done I turned to the left shoulder and here I wanted to add a shoulder guard. This was built from a section of a plastic shot glass covered with a layer of soft and sticky Greenstuff. I sculpted the shoulder armour using a metal ball ended tool when the Greenstuff began to firm up. To stop my sculpting tools sticking I use a little water. Once the Greenstuff was set I cleaned up the edges with some wet sandpaper and fixed the armour piece into place using a blob of greenstuff. I then built up the shoulder to fill any unwanted gaps between it and the armour.

Crazy arms

The Daemon Engine is starting to come together and now looks more cohesive and complete. The only major parts left are the left arm and the chimneys growing out of it’s back. After a little consideration I decided to tackle the arm next so I have glued the mecha arm into place and begun work on the transition between the organic and mecha parts. Once again I’m using the bubbly texture and will combine this with lose tatters of hanging flesh.

My final pic for this post is just a quick snap but I know quite a few of you are curious to see my old and new Demon engines together: 30 years do make for quite a difference!

Monday, 15 July 2019

Sproket's Troggoth Masterclass in Nottingham

Tickets are now available for my Troggoth Workshop in Nottingham 28 Sep – 29 Sep. You can book then on the Lead Belt Studio website HERE.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Project P30 Building a ‘better’ tank - Part 3.

Painting some nasty nurgly gnashers!

I’ve been having a busy few weeks but I’m happy to say that a big part of that has involved some hobby time and my tank has seen the benefits. The challenge I faced was to paint the belly-mouth and cannon and it turned out to be a positive experience. I’ll admit to being daunted by the size of this model because it’s so much bigger than anything I’ve painted before. I struggled to adapt my painting style to the larger surface areas involved and I found the first stages to be very tricky!

However it almost always pays to persevere and as I went along I began to get to grips with the challenges. The trick was in having the confidence to start my work in a loose messy style and then gradually refine things as I progressed. That’s not so different from my normal way of painting but, on larger areas, the messy painting is a lot more obvious. Once I overcame my urge to always neaten everything up from the start, things progressed more easily and rapidly became very enjoyable.

The mouth, teeth and gums are all painted dark to light using Rhinox Hide as a base colour. This helped me to block in the interior of the mouth seamlessly but it also gave me a base and shadow colour that will help to dirty down and desaturate my palette. I think it would be all too easy for me to have a saturated colour palette that, on a model this size, would look very cartoony.

You can see the colours I’ve used below. The bottle with no label contains P3 Rucksack Tan. I progressed from the darkest up to the lightest mixing intermediary shades as I went. To paint the teeth and gums I’ve used a combination of layering, stippling and cross-hatching.

The teeth already have a ridged texture but I wanted to add more interest, as they are a very prominent feature of the model. In addition I felt they needed some decay and damage to make them feel more Nurgly. To do this I’ve used a combination of painted cracks and staining. Some of the stains/rot were applied with a sponge using the new contrast paints. In the past I’ve used washes for this sort of effect but I was very impressed with how well the contrast paints did the job.

While they have the same sort of transparency as washes, the thicker consistency of the contrast paints makes them perfect for sponging. I will definitely be using them in this way again. I’ve also used the contrast paints to build up some brown staining at the roots of the teeth. I diluted them down with the new contrast medium. While I could have easily done this with washes, I wanted to see if I could use the new paints to glaze in this way and I was most happy with the subtly of the final effect!

With the teeth and gums painted it was time to fix the cannon into place and once that was done I could finally fix the demon’s torso onto the tank. I’ll be posting in more detail about how I’m dealing with the union of the torso and tank but, for the time being, here is a picture of how things are currently looking.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Project P30 Building a ‘better’ tank - Part 2.

When I last posted about my Demon Tank the project was running in the background alongside preparations for Golden Demon and my Troggoth workshop. I’d already sculpted a head and begun construction on the core of the tank. My efforts were then focused on the Tank elements as I’d reached the stage where I needed to start adapting them to fit my concept.

The Plagueburst Crawler features a heavy dozer blade but I’d decided not to include this. Without the blade the front of the tank has a rounded ‘bellied’ front, which was perfect for my project, as it would blend with the belly of the Great Unclean One that I was using. I had some major plans for the belly but first I had to remove the fixings for the dozer blade on the front of the tank. This was a fairly simple matter of removing two supporting struts but the side panels required a little more finesse.

The supporting struts are moulded onto the side panels and are recessed on the back. The first thing I did was to fill these recesses with milliput. Once that had fully set, I carved the struts away with a Dremmel tool. This exposed the milliput and all I had to do then was make sure the new surface of the side panel was smooth and even.

With the dozer blade removed, I thought I could begin to tackle the union of the tank and the Great Unclean One. But while I’d been working on the side panels I’d had the time to reconsider the work I’d done on the head. I was pleased with my sculpting overall but I felt that the head and face were lacking animation! The entire head sat on the body in a four-square manner much like my original Tank. In this respect I’d made my new Demon far too similar to the old one. From the very start of this project I’ve been certain that I needed to create a more dynamic model and composition than my 1990 original.

The solution was simple enough but required a little nerve. I prized the head off the body and repositioned it. By bringing the entire head forward and angling it round I’ve added a bit of a twist to the pose. This is a far more satisfying composition and helps to bring some life to my Demon. In addition I cut away the entire lower jaw and replaced it with one from a Mangler Squig. The new lower jaw is far more aggressive and the open mouth thus created made a much less passive face. I’m now far happier with how the head and face look and contribute to the overall composition of the Tank.

So finally I could turn my attention to how the Tank had been warped into the body of the Demon possessing it. That meant it was time for a big decision! A key feature of my old model is the gun and how it comes out of the Demon’s mouth. I definitely didn’t want to reproduce the exact same thing on my new model but I did want to pay homage to it. Many newer Nurgle models feature a gaping maw in their belly and this seemed to be the perfect solution. If I could create a gaping maw in my Demon’s belly I could place the plagueburst mortar right inside it.

This was going to involve some serious surgery to my kits and the prospect was a little daunting. If I got things wrong I would probably have to buy a new tank and start over again. I was also unsure as to how I could create the maw itself. I wanted teeth but it seemed unlikely I would find a kit with a mouth big enough to do the job. Such proved to be the case as my first attempt, using the Mangler Squig I later used in the face, failed. Then I spotted Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws from the Malign Sorcery boxed set and this definitely had potential.

So with a little wrangling (and ebay) I got my hands on the parts I wanted. Now came the bit that required nerve, as I had to cut away the entire front of the Tank with my Dremmel. This went far more easily than I expected and I was finally able to test fit the jaws. It was another nervous moment as I was going by instinct alone. My guess that the jaws would fit well into the space proved correct. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how well they would fit because the curvature of the lower jaw fitted perfectly to the curvature of the Tank’s front. It was with great relief that I realized my plans were working!

To fix the jaws in permanently I had to separate the upper and lower jaws and remove a lot of excess plastic. I did this slowly, a bit at a time, and with lots of test fittings to ensure I didn’t remove too much. This ensured a nice tight fit and made it possible to glue the jaws directly to the Tank. Once the glue was set I used milliput to reinforce the join and fill the gaps.

I was now able to test fit all the major elements of my new Tank and, for the first time, see them all together. The assembly is very rough, involving a lot of Blu Tack, but I can finally see my concept for the overall composition. While there is clearly a lot of sculpting needed to properly tie everything together this feels like a big step forward. Up until now this model has existed only in my head but now I can see how everything sits together and focus my efforts on successfully unifying the elements. The assembly is going to be a long job but at least it’s no longer theoretical.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was the need to paint sub assemblies but I’ve decided that this is the only way to deal with the inside of the mouth and the plagueburst mortar. So I’ve broken out the paints and got to grips with the mortar. Once that’s done I can work on the union of the Great Unclean One, the Tank and the gaping belly maw. It’s going to be quite a challenge to sculpt this area but one I’m excited to take on because it’s going to make a huge difference to the look of this model.