Monday, February 23, 2015

Vento Servitas: Converting the Windy City Wizard

The guys at CSW had the wonderful idea of doing a Secret Santa miniature exchange at the end of last year. As, very unusually, I took the time to document the process, I thought I'd do a step-by-step on how I went about converting and painting my contribution.

But first, the inspiration. Gifts were to be painted miniatures tailored to the recipient. I drew Tim as my giftee, and I remembered seeing his Fairy army in the pictures of the club's Kings of War game.

That got me thinking of Summer Knight: Dresden Files Bk IV in which the eponymous Harry Dresden, a hard-bitten wizard private detective, participates in a battle between fairy courts.

...and that got me thinking about how a wizard would make a great character for a KOW army. Fairies...wizards...Chicago...wind... 

So I embarked on this conversion of Reaper's Keiran Tallowmire, which I had sitting around unpainted. I could have just painted it straight, but I like giving my figures a twist if I can. I decided on a nice, big, weird shaped banner to make the wizard stand out from the massed regiments of fay.

First step was to remove the head of the staff, carefully leaving the hand of the familiar sitting on the wizard's shoulder as intact as possible. I then drilled back into the base of the staff and inserted a suitably large and twisted bit of brass rod. I happened to have another weird little bones familiar that I decided to use as a banner-topper.

And it was good. But when I went to add the cross beam, I realized I would need some further ornamentation. I dug through my bits box and came out with a GW dwarf weapons sprue.

The obvious move would have been to use axe heads, but it didn't feel quite right. Eventually I hit on the idea of using the hands themselves to cap each end of the cross-piece.

A couple snips and a careful bit of drilling and carving and I had some nice, empty fists to use.

These then went were drilled and glued on:

The thing with making custom banners is that it can be very difficult to make them sturdy; however, with a little experimenting, I hit on the following rock-solid method using sewing thread and superglue.

First, cut a nice, long piece of thread (like, at least a foot, maybe two). Position the elements and tie them with a criss-cross of thread. This won't be very stable; you'll be able to slide the pieces until you have a configuration you're happy with. Seal it with a drop of superglue.

Continue to carefully wrap with thread, using a variety of patterns: up, across, and diagonal. Make the wrap pretty tight. Every once in a while, saturate the growing knot with a few more drops of superglue. This should harden the thread into a solid mass.

Eventually, you'll get something like the above; a solid, sturdy join. When you're satisfied with it's strength, trim any excess thread and coat in a final application of superglue.

As long as I was experimenting, I decided I'd try using baking soda and superglue as a new basing material to create a fine, stone-like texture. That done, I brushed on some mid-gray in anticipation of undershading.

Now that I had the pole made, it was time to design the banner itself. I placed the figure against some Vellum and traced how I wanted the banner to fall.

I've always really liked the goofy mottos on Old Skool banners, and in this case, there was really only one choice for what the banner would say. In the book series, one of the most common spells that Harry Dresden uses allows him to control the wind. And since this is the Windy City...

Vento Servitas!

I drew up the image in drawing pencil first and then went back in with waterproof ink. I called it a night at this point while I let that dry, and went to bed incredibly excited about the project. It's amazing how just a small grain of inspiration can turn a figure in which you have little interest into an intense, multi-layered project.

Stay tuned next time for how I painted the Windy City Wizard using undershading and W&N inks.

In the meantime, let me know what you think!

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