Sunday, 25 December 2011

Cthulhu Investigators: A Christmas Commission

Well, a very happy christmas to you all and a topical post for this boxing day. I was commissioned back in the Autumn to create models to represent a good friend of mine's roleplaying group. The characters they wanted to portray were all from the game Call of Cthulhu and thus needed a 1920's theme to work off.

Finding models turned out to be easier than I had anticipated. There is a fairly large interwar era (pulp) following, mostly from the gangster prohibition era in the states and from the high adventure of Indiana Jones and the like. Most of the figures came from Copplestone Castings with Hasslefree and Black Cat Bases also supplying things. As usual with this sort of commission it is essential to match the model to the client brief as accurately as possible. Also as usual the degree of detail in the descriptions of the client's characters was variable to say the least. Some supplied three sentences, one provided almost a page. For future reference. It is always, always easier to get what is in your head on the miniature if I have it written down! Lets take a closer look at these fine and adventurous fellows starting at the left with Detective Nick Cord:

Nick started life as one of copplestone casting's Hired Hitmen he's the fella in the grey suit in the linked image. The brief was for an American Detective seconded to Britain with a .38 snub nose and a taste for flamboyant suits. The model however has a colt 1911 and a stick of dynamite. This had to change! I took one of the varient hands from the Lucas Morgan figure (see below) which happened to have a small calibre revolver and just performed a fast hand transplant. The dynamite was more problomatic but in a flash of inspiration I realised it could be a flashlight with minimal sculpting. A half hour with some ProCreate (my new favourite sculpting putty, move over green stuff) and the model was ready for painting.

After perusing the web for a fair while looking at many awful suits (slap the term "1920 loud suit" into google and see what I mean) I found this little gem from a screenshot of Boardwalk Empire. Seemed understated enough to work on a miniature whilst being just American enough to work. Painting started with the suit recieving a smooth coat of Necron Abyss, a couple of thin layers of Badab Black shaded the suit and darkened the blue down to the almost black I needed. Thin lines of Vermin Brown created the pattern. Trouble was it was almost invisible and with the waistcoat in the same colours it was too much pattern on the model. Painting the waistcoat solid Vermin Brown solved both problems as it brought out the brown stripe in the suit and toned down the look. Matching the hatband and tie to the coat also helped to create the look of a man with a flash dress sense. Something was missing though, he didn't quite look American enough. Then I remembered the fashion for blue shirts with white cuffs and collars. Painting the shirt body blue just did something quick and indefinable that now screamed "I'm a Yank". By contrast, Lucas Morgan needed to be very British:

Lucas Morgan is a journalist, the somewhat sparse directions ;) gave me a thin faced man in a raincoat with a large satchel for chemistry set. He started out life as a Hasslefree Profesor Beattie. The choice of hands gave one with a wonderful pipe which I just couldn't bear not to use. He looks quite casual in that pose and I figured his Mauser could be secreted in that pocket of his. To avoid the lab coat look I added some buttons from small ball bearings and then used procreate ot build a satchel with plasticard strap and fixing. Now that I look at it there are some things I would have done differently with the strap but he turned out ok.

Painting him was simplicity itself. A tan raincoat with dark grey shoes and a leather satchel. Nothing much to report on that front! You'll notice that I have based all of these fine fellows on Black Cat Bases Victorian Street base inserts on Privateer Press style bases. I love these for display models as they just give that "finished" feel. The bases have all been basecoated in Vallejo Saddle Brown and then individual bricks picked out in darker and lighter shades of the base colours. A light drybrush with Bleached Bone and a  Graveyard Earth wash into the gaps finishes the look of a brick street nicely.

Next on the list was Templeton Jones, an Indiana Jones look-alike with a rucksack and a wand instead of a whip. Jewelled rings are on each hand. Fortunately for me Mr Copplestone came through again with an Indiana Jones look-alike of his very own from the American Adventurers pack. The whip was removed and replaced with a wire pin. putty was added to thicken the wand and ordinary sewing thread wound around the result and secured/sealed with superglue to create a spiraling decoration. The backpack was again plasticard straps (cut to fit under the lapels on the left) with a ProCreate bag. More thread and a tiny ball bearing finished the closure.

For painting, the client had specified earth tones so this with the Indiana Jones imagery made painting a breeze! I'm particularly happy with the leather coat (painted with Vallejo Leather Brown, highlighted and scuffed by adding Bleached Bone and then shaded with Devlan Mud) and the 5 O'Clock shadow created in the same way as the giant from a few weeks ago. Now this seemed like a fair amount of conversion work but this was nothing compared to what came next. Enter Uber Volter:

The client's brief was for a model with the feel of Brendon Fraser in the Mummy films but with a sword cane and a Broom-handled Mauser and another rucksack. Scanning the web again I found the answer once more in Copplestone Castings. The Armed Archaeologists pack had a wonderful Brendon look-alike. Just two problems, no Broom-handled Mauser and an arm in completely the wrong position for a sword cane. I resolved to try my hand at sculpting to fix the second problem and figured it would be no problem to source a Mauser (a hollow laugh)... The sculpting went much, much better than I had ever expected it to giving me an enourmous confidence boost for future projects. I now intend to build up my sculpting to see if I can get to the point where I can do whole models. How cool would that be? The Mauser however was a disaster, there were none to be had on sprues, I couldn't build a convincing one and I had run out the model buying budget to get a model with one on just to acquire the gun. I now have to send massive, massive props and thanks to Mark Copplestone. I contacted him asking him for advice and he promptly found a miscast model with a Mauser, lopped off the gun and sent it to me. This act of generosity has not gone unnoticed Mr. Copplestone and you can expect a LOT more business from me!

With the mauser in place I could now paint the model! Tan colours seemed the order of the day and Vallejo's military range once again did the business in giving me nice believable tones to create a wonderful real-world feel. Seriously folks, while they will never replace Citadel for the bright and strong tones their muted and desaturated lines for the military modelling are amazing. Check them out. I decided to add some manly arm hair to Mr Volter as he had the black hair to carry it off. This was just cross hatching with the black hair tone mixed with Tallarn Flesh. Looks great!

Finally as a present from me to the friend who had commissioned this lot I added a Black Cat Bases Deep One to the mix. A Deep One is a kind of demon from the Cthulhu Mythos universe and I figured it would be useful for a GM! Having it crawling up from the sewers seemed appropriate too! The painting started with a strong basecoat of Hawk Turquoise highlighted with Kommando Khaki and then this colour used on the underbelly and highlighted again. Washes of Blue, Green and Brown created a dappled effect and bright yellow eyes with freaky pupils gave it the otherworldly feel I was after.

Well, I really hope everyone enjoyed their PVP presents. We are still on holiday hiatus (this was written before Christmas see) and will be back and running from January 3rd. Until then, enjoy the festive season and remember to mix some hobby in with the binge eating and dubious Christmas specials.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all and all the best for 2012.


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