No Quarter’s Guts & Gears had a great article in issue #1 about the Black Dragons Ironfang pikemen. I loved it! So much so that I decided my newly forming Khador army would have a unit of Black Dragons. The art was clean and crisp and my palette would be simple. What wouldn’t be so easy was the shield. The Dragons have a distinctive Khador symbol on their shield. That of a wing on the upper right flange, and serpentine head working its way though the middle. I debated just free handing it, but I liked the raised look and wanted to capture that. That meant breaking out the evil green gum.
File and Collate
Since the flange is thicker than the wing it has to be removed. I do this with my trusty Dremel loaded with a coarse sanding disk. In just a few passes I’ve removed the flange and brought the right side of the symbol down to the shield base. I also made the decision at this time to remove all the rivets from the Khador symbol. It made sense to have the wing match the rest of the icon. In retrospect I think I could have left the rivets on for some visual interest. Oh well, what’s done is done. You can see the final product and make your own call. You’ll see why later it may still be smartest to take the rivets off.
Now I wad up a ball of green stuff. I always make too much. It’s a habit. I can’t seem to use just a small amount. What you see in this image is about 4-5 times the amount of green stuff that I’m going to need for this project. Such is life. The leftovers I’ll use to fill in some gaps elsewhere in other figures or bases when I wait for this to cure. When mixing, green stuff I like to dunk the initial wad into some water, then I just fold it, and continue to fold it until I can no longer see any blue or yellow. If it starts sticking to your fingers wet it again.
Help me Binford!
I’m a tool freak. You all know that by now, but when it comes to sculpting, the best sculptors make their own tools. I am NOT the best sculptor by anyone’s imagination; still, there are some neat things you can do to make your life easier. On the right you’ll see 2 highly polished stainless steel sculpting tools from Mircomark. On the left you see some hacked up old paint brushes. The lower one has had its ferrule removed and it has been filed flat and has had a hole drilled in it that’s been filled with a sewing pin. (Note this is a sewing pin, not a needle. Needles have much finer/more tapered points. That’s not to say it wouldn’t make a good tool, just that it would have different uses). The other tool is again a hacked up paint brush. This one has been built with a 1/32nd brass rod filed flat. I like to use this one to “scribble” a flat on flat surface. This gets into the nooks and crannies that I need to push the green stuff around with and stay flush to the surfaces I’m working on.
Ok onward. Take a wad of green stuff and place it on the filed area. Try to make a crescent moon out of it. When you get the moon, take and X-acto knife and cut away the bottom portion to make a wing. I did this when it was still soft, but you can wait till it cures if you’re looking for a sharper line. This part is finicky. Green stuff likes to stick to your tools. Make sure you dip them in water when you work. If you get too much water on the part you’re working on, a quick burst of air will drive the water away. Once the wing is shaped how you like it’s time to move on. As a note don’t worry about the height of the wing from the shield, because we’ll be filing it down anyways, just get the shape right. The same is going to apply to the rest of the model. Just get the shape you want.
Now it’s time to work on the head. I make a tube of green stuff and tack it in the lower right part of the symbol. I then lay it down and twist it into an “S” shape. Once I have it where I want it to be I flatten it with the spatula like tools to. I’m not trying to get it flat; so much as I am trying to make sure it’s in all the nooks the way I want. Remember we’re going to file it down. Once it’s smushed flat it’s time to work on the head. A quick cut in half of the head end creates a mouth. A poke with the pin tool creates an eye. Go deep with these because we’re filing them down we don’t want them to get lost in the process.
With the upper body done, it’s time to do the lower body. I left this tube of green stuff long so that it would lay down the way I wanted it to. The length keeps me from putting my thumbs in it too much. We repeat the smushing process and leave him a barb for the tail. Then we go play video games for the evening and tackle the rest tomorrow.
Obviously I could have spent my time doing up a whole host of these, but right now I’m sticking with the one. Now that the green stuff has fully cured, I take out a good file and go to town with a light touch, using the symbol as my height guide. Remember earlier when I said that there was another reason to file the rivets off? This is it. Keeping them on would have made it hard to keep a nice even flow across the symbol. If you’re inclined you can re-add them at the end. So now we’re filed flat, and it’s on to paint.
Back in Black
A Black Dragon’s armor is (shock of shocks) black. This means every painter’s nightmare highlighting black! Well Uncle Ark here has discovered a SHORTCUT! We’re going to highlight black in easy 2 steps. That’s right, TWO! You can see I’ve done the basics for my golds. I did this to make it easy to see where the parts start and stop. You all know my recipe for it so glossing right over that… and we head into the black. On the right shoulder pad I’ve slapped on some Green Grey VMC paint. It’s just an overgrown stripe. No blending at all, and harsh as can be. On the right I’ve applied a few layers of watered down Citadel Black Ink. That’s it. Easy as pie. I tackle the rest of the model the exact same way. It takes very little time, and that it, that’s the whole trick! Grey paint + black ink = easy! It will take a little while to get the hang of but a 2 step process? I’m stoked!
Black Dragons are extremely monochromatic. So sticking with neutral tones for the accents and in no time I’m ready to field him.