A firm foundation.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on miniature trends and lately basing seems to be a big one. The ‘in’ thing, as it were. They have been getting more and more elaborate. People are now creating little vignettes, essentially micro dioramas. When I first encountered it, they were solely on display pieces and I dismissed them as being too complex to be considered, but now they are slowly filtering more and more into the realm of the full army. The results are nothing short of stunning. It’s a trend that’s gaining ground (Ha!) and now that I’ve begun to experiment with it I have to admit, I’m hooked. So watch what happens when a hold out becomes a devout follower.
Déjà vu all over again.
But you’ve all seen this before, why am I going over it again? Because by being a holdout I’ve learned a few things. Things that have allowed me to truly dissect the trend and now I want to pass that information on to you. I know it’s not out yet, but forgive me for going Hordes thematic.
With Hordes you’ll have new armies and a blank canvas for basing, there’s never been a better place to go crazy. We have places like the Thornwood forest, the Bloodstone marches, and the snow covered craggy steppes of Everblight’s domain. These are areas rife with details. Details I’ve been ignoring on my Warmachine armies. Well no more. The times are changing, and so can I. But if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it right.
It’s not old it’s “well loved”
I like tackling hard problems first. I’m just pig-headed that way, and probably the trickiest of the bunch is capturing the feel of an old growth forest in a tiny ring of plastic.
Wikipedia defines it like this: Old growth forest, sometimes called late seral forest or ancient forest is an area of forest that has attained great age and exhibits unique biological features. Old growth forests typically contain large live trees, large dead trees (sometimes called “snags”), and large logs. Old growth forests usually have multiple vertical layers of vegetation representing a variety of tree species and a variety of different age classes.
Seems like a peachy place for druids, right? That’s what thought too. Time for a bit of research. I began by looking up a bunch of pictures via Google’s image search function. These are an assortment of images I’ve found, (and blatantly borrowed without permission). Do you notice any trends? Look close at color and texture. The trees are just coated in moss and the wood looks soaked with rain. This creates a very magical duo-tone feel to them of deep dark browns and healthy bright greens. They feel so rich you can practically smell the dirt, and touch the damp leaves. This is exactly what I want.
Of course creating upright tree trunks on a base where a figure is supposed to be is a logical impossibility, there’s simply not enough room. But the “snags”, couldn’t be more perfect. I begin by wandering around the outside (that scary place with the burning ball of fire in the sky) of my house with a pair of angle cutters in hand. I’m looking for anything with some texture to it. Anything I don’t have to attempt to create myself, the faster the process will be. I find a bush right outside that has a good bark like feel to it and later on, I find a slightly smoother twig. The first looks like it’ll make a good classic fallen tree of various deciduous varieties. The second looks like it’d make a good birch, or similar typed paper bark tree.
Once back at my desk, I decide to go with the “classic” one, and save the birch for another time. The very first thing I do is plan out where the model’s feet will be and outline an area that needs to be as clear of trimmings as possible. I want an obvious vacancy that will allow for a clean pinning later on. Once the dead space is determined I’m free to go crazy with the rest. I begin by laying out the twig in a path that will easily miss both feet, and then trim it to fit. While I could easily have the piece cascade over the edge of the base ring, I find something happens when this is done. The base begins to fight with our figure for attention, and anything that cuts into the base breaks the 4th wall of the base and forces us to acknowledge that it even exists. To me the ring has always be the “frame” of the figure. I try to mess with it as little as is possible. So now that I’ve thrust my unwanted opinions on you let’s continue.
I find that when working with things that are not naturally flat or have a bit of flex or spring to them that Zap-A-Gap alone won’t keep the piece in place. Now before anyone starts emailing me about “kicker” or accelerants, I’m not interested. I breathe enough pewter dust to fulfill my quota of crap in the lungs. So I’ve come up with a low-rent fix. While I’m holding the piece down I use a bit of my basing material. This fills in the gap and provides natural filler for the branch simulating undergrowth and detritus that got windblown or grown over. Had I had a larger branch, I might have considered sanding it down to make it flat, but with this piece as small as it was I didn’t want to lose any more than I had to. Part of what makes scenic bases pop is a sense of depth.
The next thing I do is add a bit of cork to the back of the base. A bit of exposed bedrock that will look great covered and coated in moss. A dab of CA glue is all it needs, but cork does require a bit of drying time. I’m careful not to overlap the spaces reserved for the model’s feet. Once glued down I slather the base with standard white glue and coat it in my normal basing material. I then use some tweezers to pull out any big bits and rebase it with some smaller ones, the less variation under the feet the better.
Now for the fun part. Everything we’ve done so far is pretty mundane. Besides adding a twig, it’s like every other standard base out there. It’s this next step that will start the process of transforming this lifeless ground into something more. The first thing I do is break into my supply of Scale Link brass etched leaves. These are an expensive addition to my modeling collection. At 12 bucks a sheet (not including shipping from the UK) they are just too expensive to use carelessly. I make clean cuts with a pair of angle cutters trying to get the shape I want. Any left over bits will go right back into my supplies. Even one leaf can add a cool effect. I sand off any burrs to continue the natural look and carefully bend it into what feels like a logical shape with a pair of needle nose pliers. When I put it on the base, I keep it low and try to secure it in a few places with a drop of CA glue. By keeping it close to the base and tacked down, we reduce the chance of snagging it, and thereby bending, breaking or chipping any paint in the final piece. This is another good reason to keep things inside the ring!
Every time I use a bit of this stuff I get a little antsy. It’s hard to replace. So the next time I place and order, it’ll be large and with a group of friends. A little bit can go a long way, and if you split a few sheets with some friends, you’ll all have more variation for less money. (Course any of UK folk out there you wanting to send me some… ;)). Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a rip off, there’s enough on a sheet that you could easily do a 750-1000 point army, but it’s just that deciding to take the plunge can be an expensive proposition.
So I’ve added a small leafed shrub as the basis of life here on the base. With a few wads of green stuff I’ll add on a few spores. I add little dents with this clay tool I picked up a few years ago. When it cures, I prime it and begin the real steps of making the base live. The first stage is paint. I coat every little thing with Burnt Umber craft paint, mixed with a little bit of VMC SS Camo Black Brown just to help increase the opacity. When this dries I give everything left a quick dry brush of autumn brown and a final highlight of golden brown. I don’t want things too bright here. Forest floors are dark and rich with years of decaying plant matter, going bright would kill the effect. Then do differentiate the snag from the ground I give it a coating of Citadel’s Brown Ink and VMC Smoke.
With my browns done I move on to my other elements. I paint the stone in the back and the three spores a medium warm grey. I take VMC Green-Grey and warm it up by adding a spot of the Autumn Brown to it. Next is VMC medium grey and a final highlight of VMC Deck Tan.
The next step is the brass leaves. You’ll notice earlier I even drybrushed these. This was a conscious decision because of this next step. Along the way I had an epiphany (forgive me I’m a little proud of this realization), I’d been debating how to make the plants look a bit weathered. I wanted a touch of variegation and maybe some yellowing of the leaves, just enough to make it more alive. What I realized was that a wash of green paint over the dry brushed browns would be far more effective than any attempts to paint the details on my own. Not to mention about a thousand times easier. So after a pair of washes, I like the look but want to add in some sheen. In the last few pictures I add in a bit of green ink and I’m on my way. Alternately a gloss varnish, or a gloss and ink varnish could have worked well to up the sheen of the leaves.
Then it was time to start flocking the model. The first flocking I used was from Citadel. It doesn’t look much like moss, but that was ok, I was aiming for more of a bit of small leafy bits, kind of like clover. This flocking works pretty well as clover because it’s kind of bright and very varied on color but keeps an even size of the material. Later I add this all around. Where ever is clever, just put it where it looks good. Then I use some Blended Turf from Woodland Scenics. I like this stuff for moss. Has just a good green earthy feel to it. Woodland Scenics has flocks in dozens of colors, and you can mix them for a more varied feel. Really you can’t go wrong with a bunch of this stuff kicking around.
Static grass is up next. I use a custom blend (fancy eh?). I always start with Summer Grass (sometimes labeled: Sommer Gras) from Noch. It’s a German company that is the exact same stuff Citadel sells. For the same price Noch’s bag gives you like four times as much product. I use this stuff on PP’s studio pieces. It’s a no brainer. But to change it up I then mix it with varying blends of Woodland Scenics static grasses. They have a huge line of them, but they are all one color. The nice thing about Noch’s blend is that there’s probably about 10-15 different colors It makes the perfect base. Just add in more sage and tan for a desert, more greens and browns for an earthy forest floor. Instant cool! But at 8-10 bucks a canister, this is just one more thing to split with your friends. You could go from stock nothing to 30 things in your inventory if you find 4-5 friends to go in on it with you. I’ll be talking to my 4 here about it shortly.
This last step may be a little mean. Rumor is Hudson and Allen is no more. That I can’t confirm or deny, but as I have a few bags of their leaf litter, I’m gonna use em. Leaf litter is nothing more than the husks of birch seed pods (not the seeds themselves. Think of them like pinecones). If you had a birch tree near you, these would be free. Alas I live in the concrete jungle, I’m stuck buying them pre-dried and sorted… Now because I like you all I found you another source. However having never used either the retailer or the product, I can’t vouch for quality. The nice thing here is that they come in colors, and those green ones are awful pretty, so if someone feels like sharing, I’ll happily give you my verdict.
And that’s it… and old growth forest base, perfectly suitable for druids, wolves and other tree hugging species.