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Treadhead Arisen @ the Eternity Gate has requested that I share some ideas and pointers with him on sculpting your own models from scratch. Whilst no expert on the matter, I have recently tried my hand at doing this for myself, which can be located here: Link
Now I thought that so long as I am sharing some ideas with treadhead, I should perhaps share it publicly for anyone else who is interested.
As I said, I am no expert, but I think perhaps I can give a perspective that you cannot get from tutorials by professional sculptors, and that is the perspective of a novice, just like any number of you who are reading this now.
Treadhead wishes to try his hand at a Vampiress for his Vampire Counts army for Warhammer Fantasy, so I will focus my suggestions on this idea, but anything in this article could be applied to almost any sculpting project.
With any sculpting project, the first thing to start with is reference material. In the case of Vampire Counts, the army book is a great place to start, along with the Games Workshop website, White Dwarf, and any number of vampire books, games, movies and TV shows.
But I suppose I am getting a little far ahead of myself. The VERY first thing you need when sculpting is an armature. For those who don't know, an armature is a frame around which to sculpt your model. Now this can be as simple a thing as some bent metal rod stuck together with green stuff, or if you really want to you can go as far as a "store bought" variant, of which you can find examples at Pack - 2 x 28mm scale male armatures
If going the "old fashioned" way of making your own, you will need reference material to work from. Thankfully there are no shortages of things like this on the internet, Google images is a great source of inspiration to me - just search up images of skeletons, musculature, and other anatomy images. I find I save my favourite images onto my PC for future reference. The image below, for example, is a great source for knowing how human muscles work:
Once you have a basic idea of what goes where and how it works, you should consider the proportions of your intended character. In the case of the Vampiress, the logical place to start would be with the female body shape, and how it should look. You can find any number of helpful images on the internet, some in more, erm... lets call it detail, than others - I would suggest ensuring the Google Images "Safe Search" feature is turned on before you begin. Still, if you don't want to risk getting funny looks from whoever is around you whilst you search you may wish to consider this model, also from Hasselfree:
An excellent mini, and very useful for working out female proportions on gaming minis. Now, once you have an idea on where to start, the basic shape can be built up using small amounts of green stuff to shape the pose - I would advise you to make a "naked" mini and add clothing, armour, etc later once the proportions are correct. A good way to do this is explained in the tutorial on creating a human knight on this website: Mandragore Miniatures
My only real advice during this stage is to re-iterate that classic piece of modelling advice - ensure your tools are kept wet at all times. I sometimes find it easier to get smooth surfaces by running my finger over it in a repeating motion, changing direction part way through to smooth out any fingerprints. For things like hands, dont worry if you cannot do fingernails, knuckles etc, just work accordingly, and give the model gloves, for instance, to hide this. For the face, the tutorial on the above page is perfect, and just use existing models in your collection as reference. I have a lot of the Hasselfree nudes miniatures, as they are great for Slaanesh players who want to add slaves/trophies etc to their units - these miniatures are excellent for reference.
Once you have a "naked" model you can begin adding in the armour, clothing etc. Now here is the hard part - it's sometimes difficult to decide on a style of clothing for your mini. For this example Vampiress I am going to go with the theme of "The Queen of Ice" - justify it however you wish, it was merely the first idea the popped into my head. For this image I imagine a look similar to Nicole Kidman's in The Golden Compass but mixed with typical Warhammer flair - a long, victorian style dress with fur at the cuffs, across the bust, and a bear or perhaps wolf fur cloak to go with it. For weapons I would suggest something menacing like claws made from Icicles, and/or a glass/icy sword. Still, I always picture female vampires as seductresses, as that seems to be the accepted norm, and this is only a tutorial after all. As such, a fair bit of skin should be on show, well vampires don't feel the cold, so why would she care?
Here's a quick sketch of a possible style and pose:
So from this idea, the best thing to do from here is to work on the main part of the clothing, in this example the corset of the dress. Use your references and work from there. Once you have that sorted, build up the dress in layers - adding folds and ruffles where required - there are plenty of turorials around for do this, so I wont list the techniques here.
Once the basics of the dress are complete, add in the fur cloak. The cloak itself can be done in same way as the dress, and again there are plenty of tutorials on the internet details the specifics. The fur on the cloak and the dress I will go into detail on. I have worked with numerous methods of creating fur - my main army in Warhammer Fantasy is Beasts of Chaos, so I get ample opportunity to do fur. The three methods I will list are as follows:
1. For thin, hair-like fur, look no further than your trusty scalpel. I find this a perfect use for old, blunted blades - although be careful as they are still blades after all, dulled or not. My fingers and thumbs are a web of scar tissue and stand as a testament to this little fact, the latest are still healing as I type this. My rambling aside, the scalpel blade is great - just run it in short, thin lines in your wet green stuff, trying not to press too hard or it will look too much like hair and not fur.
2. For curly locks, almost like wool, use a cocktail stick in the same way as you would for chainmail, but just move the stick in a tiny semi circle when pressing it into the green stuff, and ensure that your depressions overlap. Try and move the semi circle in a different direction over the whole area of the fur to give it a more ruffled, unkempt look.
3. Lastly, for thick fur like on a bear or in a lions mane, use the bladed end of a citadel sculpting tool, ensure that it is almost dry but with a little moisture on it, and make short depressions into the green stuff at a right angle to the direction of the fur, then pull the blade out in a downward motion, creating a "flick" effect. Do this all in one direction for the lion mane, or all over the place for the bear fur. Easiest method by far and also my favourite.
I will try to include more pictures for all three methods as and when I can. I have a least one unpainted model sitting on my workbench now for each of the three methods, and will try to take some photos to include into the article.
For the Ice Queen, the fur across the bust of her dress, for example, would be done via method number 2, the thick fur around the shoulders of her cloak would use method 3, whereas the shorter fur on the lower portion of the cloak would be of method 1.
Below you can see examples of the three methods, with method 1 on the beastman, method 2 on the sheep, and method 3 on the centigor:
The proposed "icicle claws" on her fingers would be pretty straight forward to do, simply roll some thin sausages of green stuff, tapered at one end to for the claw (in a conical shape), wait for 20-30 minutes for it to cure somewhat then add them onto the model. Once in place give them a little while longer to cure some more, then go at them with a toothpick and give them some uneven but flowing texture to look something like this:
None of the techniques I have described so far are particularly difficult, although patience, and lots of it, will definately be a requirement.
The last thing to do really on our Ice Queen would be her hair. Hair is fairly easy to do, if you want it straight, and a little more complex if you want it to be blowing in the wind, or styled in some other way. For this example straight hair, slightly windswept, will suffice.
To do this all you need to do is press small, thin ribbons of green stuff onto the head and then, ensuring your blade is wet and that you dont press on too hard, slowly score lines into the ribbons, creating sections of her hair. To give it more body, add more layers once the previous layers have dried, and score the ribbon in exactly the same way. To build up hair similar to say, Liv Tyler's style in the Lord of the Rings, simply position the ribbon at a different angle to the one underneath and score the lines in a different direction. This way you can create all manner of styles.
Now, to do windswept styles you must ensure that the ribbon is fairly thick and sturdy, and then once positioned, leave it to cure for a while to give it added stability. Only then should you sculpt the hair into the direction the wind is taking it. You can see a WIP example on my Dwarf Lord here:
Now to go along with this tutorial I may actually make a start on the Ice Queen myself, and take photos on a stage by stage basis to show you how I put my methods into practice.
So, for all those aspiring sculptors (like me) and especially for Treadhead, I hope all this has been of some use to you. If you have any questions or any feedback then please do let me know.