Of ferns and fur

Since last update, the still lifes have all been finished. Viz:

They’re also up on Putty and Paint if anyone fancies giving them a vote, but they’ve done pretty well so far anyway. I am exceedingly happy with this project – I think it’s my best and most interesting work. Probably not as eye-catching as 25 duck vignettes or the Operation Knox busts, but certainly more satisfying for me.

With them out of the way, I was about to start on my next project, but then I remembered that it involves a huge amount of sculpting. As in, all of it. I don’t think anything exists that I could usefully base the project on.

Because, as you know, I detest sculpting, I thought I’d slack off instead and do something kind of brainless. Well, not brainless, but with much less creativity or thought: essentially ‘just another model’. So I dug through my grey pile and pulled out a couple of candidates before settling on the beastman by Terrible Kids’ Stuff.

The first thing I did was toss out the stone base thing that he comes with. It’s not very interesting and if I used it, I’d end up just sticking more rocks around it with maybe some moss or grass tufts. Pretty dull stuff, and nothing that really provides a proper narrative or setting for the piece. Instead, I headed down into the garden and brutalised our rosemary bush.

When we moved in a couple of years ago, this bush was threatening to block our access to the back gate, so I cut it back pretty significantly. I don’t think it’s recovered, and it may never do so, but it is clinging on. I get a perverse sense of satisfaction from the idea that I may have successfully killed a rosemary. I didn’t think that was possible. Anyway, while it’s clinging on, I occasionally snip off some of the dead branches for basing material.

I like rosemary for this for a few reasons:

  1. It doesn’t become very brittle as it dries out. This means you can keep a stash of it and you don’t need to worry too much about whether it’ll be too fragile a year or two later.
  2. The surface texture is a good scale mimic for actual bark. That is to say, when you paint it up, it doesn’t look like a twig: it looks like a branch or a tree trunk.
  3. It’s damn near impossible to kill a rosemary bush, so they’re a reliable source. They also grow back fast, so it’s essentially an endless supply.

Of course, number 3 may not always apply, as it turns out.

Anyway, with the carnage of my assault on the rosemary bush in hand, I hacked up a plinth a bit and stuck things together, resulting in this:

I’d originally been planning on using paper ferns for this, but I’d recently bought some new etched brass plants from Chichkov Workshop, and they are absolutely fantastic. Be aware that they ship from Russia, though, so postage does take quite a while.

The brass also has the bonus that it’s more likely to stay put where I glue it, and to retain the shape I want. Handy stuff. On the other hand, painting etched brass plants will shred your paintbrushes. This is why we have airbrushes. Get most of the light and colour in place with the airbrush, then you just have to touch them up to finish. I’m not very good with my airbrush, but even I can make etched brass ferns look decent.

Anyway, the first couple of pictures above show how it started out, while the third (with beastman in place) shows it closer to being ready to paint. Of note, I added some moss texture and a couple of wooden stakes. The moss texture is just an old pumice paste I discovered I still had lying around. I roughly pushed it into place then smoothed it over with a wet paintbrush. I could have used one of the foam moss products, but I’m increasingly dissatisfied with those. The particle sizes are often too large, it’s difficult to work with and it doesn’t take paint terribly well.

The stakes are a bit of a throwback to one of my very first Warhammer armies. Back in the day, I added some similar sort of stakes to the movement trays I used for my beastman army. I envisaged them as sort of territorial markers, and that all sort of came back to me as I was putting the base together. You can’t see it in this shot, but I’ve also added a bit of fabric to one of the stakes to make it a little more totem-like. The idea is to convey the sense that the beastman is protecting his territory. (I mean, he probably butchered a village and sacrificed the children to the dark gods in order to claim the territory, but he’s still not a totally bad guy. BOTH SIDES, you guys.)

With all that built, I cracked out the airbrush. Which had some kind of terrible blockage, so I stripped it down, cleaned it all thoroughly, and it proceeded to work only to a mediocre level. Still, it was good enough that I could get most of the work done. Here it is now, with all of the details finished:

Actually, I tell a lie: the scrap of fabric on the territorial marker hasn’t been done yet, because I’ll want that to link to the beastman and I still haven’t figured out what I’m actually going to do with him…

One of the last details I added to the base was some dead fern leaves. These are paper ferns, painted brown and glued in a couple of spots. I’ve used these to try to blend the lines between the mossy areas and the ground scatter, as well as adding a little more interest.

And with that, I now need to look up beastman colour schemes because I am utterly stumped.

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