Sunday, 15 January 2012

Blog 004 – What makes a good conversion?

This is easy – the best conversions look as if they’re not converted at all.
Blog 004 over.
What? You want more? Okay then, fair enough. But only because you asked nicely and you look like a kind and generous soul – the sort of person that would give me a packet of crisps were we ever to meet.
Think of a house. Now imagine that you want to add an extension to it. Do you want that extension to look like an addition or would you want it to blend in, to look like it’s always been part of the fabric of the house? A simple answer, isn’t it?
The same holds true with my conversions. There are plenty of hobbyists out there who produce minis that look modified, that stand out as having had components added to them, but I like my conversions to look as if they’re figures from the existing range that you just hadn’t seen before. Part of that process is choosing complimentary components to make up my figures, but with larger and more expansive conversions it inevitably means sculpting in the same styles as the original figure designers (or at least in a compatible fashion). Here I have to admit that the only teacher is experience – you simply can’t learn how to sculpt by reading about it. When I started the hobby I used to practice by making spare bits and pieces from the miliput that was inevitably left over at the end of working, but you can always use plasticene or a similar clay that can be worked over and over again without the problem of the material curing. I did that as well.
[A quick aside: a little plasticene added to miliput – about a quarter of the total mix – slows the curing and extends the time it can be worked, but means that your finished sculpt can’t be cast using a vulcanising process. Not a problem with a conversion, but it’s a cause for concern if you ever sculpt a master for production.]
The simple rule I follow is to use as many pre-produced components as possible – look back at what I said about the Space Wolves in Blog 002 – and only sculpt new pieces when I absolutely have to. This ensures a uniformity of appearance between each component which leads to a visual consistency in the final figure. It worked when I started converting, and it still works now, the only difference being that I can sculpt entirely new components if the part I’m looking for just doesn’t exist. However, the majority of my conversion work lies between these two polar opposites – modifying the stock components that I already have. For instance, if I need an armoured arm that’s perfectly straight but there’s none available then I’ll get a bent arm, cut and pin it, then restore the detail.
And I find that I’ve sculpted a lot of empty hands over the years…
One last thing. When sculpting the same addition or modification repeatedly (like the purity seals and paper-work that seems to cover half of my Word Bearers) it’s important to use the same technique across all the figures. Think of it as converting a unit or an army rather than a single figure – just as you want uniformity of style in each part of a figure so you also want that uniformity to extend throughout the entire group of figures. Even Chaos forces require this – after all they’re chaotic, not messy.
And now that really is blog 004 over and done with.

1 comment:

  1. You can always add a little Fimo instead of plasticene. Same effect but it casts okay.