Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Blog 008 – The sort of thing that sane people just don’t do.

Years ago I bought one of Rackham’s Wolfen Zombies with an eye on converting it, partly because of my strange compulsion to modify figures but also because no-one seemed to convert Rackham’s miniatures. I liked the figure, but I wasn’t really inspired by it and as a result it sat in a box for ages, slowly gathering dust until a use for it cropped up on another project.
As an extended sculpting exercise I had produced a clutch of 54mm modern Zombies. It was when I was starting to use green-stuff for the first time and Steve Buddle had suggested that I practice by creating something I enjoyed. It’s good advice – practice is more effective when the process is pleasant – and it paid dividends as I ended up with ten very cool Zombies as well as a huntress to take them on.
Through a few vagaries of fate I ended up with a small number of resin castings of my living dead and so I thought a horror-horde might be a good idea (okay, I’d already started a 28mm horror-horde, but this was 54mm – totally different, I think you’ll agree). And what is a horror-horde without at least one Werewolf? That’s right – it’s not fit to bear the label. So I hunted around, dug out that old Wolfen and considered it.
And then mentally cut it into pieces – always a good start.  It’s my version of ‘measure twice, cut once’. With an image and idea in my head I started work in earnest.
First step was the removal of the scythe. I’ve never seen Zombies or Werewolves as tool-using creatures and in my mind a combination of both wouldn’t be toting any weaponry into its fights, even if that weapon does look kind of cool. So off came the scythe parts… Then I pinned them together, restored some damage detail to ensure they looked like a single component, and dropped them into the bits box. I know it seems an odd thing to do, but I find that completed components are more inspirational to my “process” than disjointed scrap parts. Plus it’s a simple way of keeping matching bits and bobs together.
Back to the Wolfen. Next I drilled up through his feet, past his ankles and into his shins (don’t worry, he didn’t feel a thing) and then cut his feet off. After extending the drilled shafts almost all the way to the knees two sturdy brass pins were inserted through the feet and up into the shins, leaving a portion exposed to lengthen the lower leg. By drilling the holes before cutting the feet off I ensured that the holes would align, saving me having to fiddle with the heavy-gauge rod I use for such things (incidentally, I used the same trick when I extended the shins of my Lorgar conversion, but that’s for another blog).
At this point the figure’s stance was very wide – ridiculously so – so I reduced his footprint by cutting his right leg off and repinning it at a more vertical angle. This also had the effect of giving him a two-level stance which has become an occasional trade-mark of my conversions – I think it gives a figure a heroic aspect, but that’s just my opinion. At this point I also roughed out a temporary base so that I could be sure that the finished figure would look balanced and stable. That was the leg section done, so next came the body. [Before I go on please note the indicated section of cloth wrapping – you can clearly see that I used a thin strip of plasticard as a former before sculpting over it]
The big change to the torso was the removal of the original belly section with clippers. The figure was going to be straightened to stand more upright and so I had the choice of cutting and pinning and restoring more lost detail to “un-crunch” the belly or just resculpting it from scratch. I chose the latter. I drilled and pinned the thorax to the hips then put a core of miliput around the rod to form the core of the abdomen as well as a basis for the detailing to come. Greenstuff would be sculpted over it, but I find that inflexible miliput gives a much stronger structure.
More cutting and pinning pulled the right arm back in line with the torso and I also took the opportunity to twist the hand about the wrist. I also added a little length to the fore-arm, but the main change was to grind down some of the existing musculature for when I would need to resculpt it (as I outlined in my earlier blog on anatomy). The left arm was more challenging, requiring me to clip away the entire existing shoulder before pinning and restructuring with miliput, just like the abdomen. At this point I also scrapped the right hand – it just didn’t look very good closed so I decided to sculpt a brand new one.
Finally, the head. The big change here was using a razorsaw to split the ears apart (as you can see from the pic at the top of this blog), but I also chose to glue it turned slightly to the right, again to create a more dramatic effect.
Then it was a lot of work with greenstuff to restore lost detail and create some all new features, plus a bit of basing work to create a suitable scenic base. The following picture shows clearly how I first resculpted the musculature of the shoulder before restoring and extending the hair detail.
With this picture of the neck and upper arm you can clearly see how I have attempted to match the newly sculpted sections with the style of the existing pieces to create the appearance in the final painted piece of an unconverted miniature (as my regular readers will know by now my aim is always to create that illusion).
The last step was to create a more detailed base, including placing a hand and forearm clipped from one of my zombie miniatures within the rubble – it isn’t prominent enough to define the wolfen’s scale as 28mm and could just as easily be a child’s arm as an adult’s (so this is a 28mm and a 54mm figure).
Am I happy with the finished product? Not entirely, or at least not quite yet. The only real change is that I’m sorely tempted to grind out the thumb and first three fingers of the right hand and resculpt them as a looser fist – I not entirely convinced that I like the tightly current clenched appearance very much. Once that’s done I’ll have a nice Zombie-Werewolf to eventually paint as well as a very rare example of a converted Rackham figure.
You know just writing that makes me worry that some part of my psyche just wants me to do the sort of things that other hobbyists consider either crazy or simply not worth doing… I’ll happily admit that this could be the case, that I may indeed have some sort of mental defect, some flaw to set me apart from those the world labels sane, but if so I can also say that I have a kick-ass Wolfen Zombie and they don’t.
Coming in future blogs – a detailed breakdown of a conversion from start to finish, a tutorial or two and ZOMBIES!

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