I started converting this bad boy as soon as I clapped my grubby little hands on it.
It’s not that I didn’t like the original sculpt, nor the first build and paint-job I’d seen done on it, simply that the unmodified figure looked far too Khornate for my tastes – I mean, this is a Magus, so why would he follow Khorne? And thus I thought ‘What the hell!’ And started my process.
First out were all those components that I couldn’t visualise appearing on the final figure, which included anything that would too clearly show the source of the conversion. It’s a little like when they tell a lady going out for the evening to look in the mirror before stepping through the front door and change/remove the first thing she notices.
Well, I noticed a lot.
First out was the head – it’s the natural focus of the figure and, like most faces, it’s recognisable (there’s a part of our brain that evolved to carry out that one single process of facial recognition). I could have converted it, drilled out the eyes and mouth and resculpted them, but it was actually easier to redo the whole component and just sculpt a new head from scratch.
Next out were the arms. I wanted to modify the pose as well as give the arms some innate character so it made sense that I should resculpt them too. Losing the sword arm was easy (that sword was just too recognisable) but the gun arm was a real wrench – I liked the look of it and the eventual replacement had pretty much the same pose even if it carried a scythe rather than a pistol.
The loin cloth? Gone. The icons? Gone. Well, except for the Nurgle one of course – and that ended up on the inside flank of the gun (it’s barely visible on the finished piece, but I still know it’s there).
The skull on the Magus’s belt was painstakingly sawed off and saved for a future conversion (again it was too recognisable and just too beautiful to be clipped away to end up as nothing but scrap) but the horns were ground away, as was the detailing on the chest and shoulder. I still feel bad about that last bit of work – I hate to think how much effort had gone into creating that repetitive skull motif so, if the sculptor is reading this, I’m so sorry. But it had to go and so go it did. A little bit of clipping hollowed out the belly as well.
The first cuts were to extend the right leg to give the figure a more heroic pose – I added a few millimetres in total, but it led to a real problem with the left leg. The shin was a smooth curve with a beautiful face sculpted into it and thus pretty much impossible to cut – if I did it would require grinding out all that work, resculpting from knee to ankle to keep the curve, restoring the detail… No, just too much. Plus I simply didn’t want to destroy that face. So I gave him a hoof instead of a foot.
Okay, there was actually a little more thought to it than that, but that’s what it all came down to. I thought about styling it as a cloven goats hoof, but instead chose something closer to that seen on a horse – I preferred the aesthetic.
Before I sculpted the arms I created the weapons. The scythe was a complete scratch-build, entirely constructed from green-stuff over a copper core and with a plasticard and miliput blade, but the bolter was built up from my bits box. A plastic Ork shoota formed the centre of the weapon with a muzzle from the chaos vehicle sprue replacing the original. Additional detail was added with plastic-strip, green-stuff and telescoping brass tubing (ironically one use was the telescopic sight). The final touch was adding the Nurgle icon to the left side of the weapon – a little like a maker’s mark I suppose. Originally I intended the weapons to be in the other hands, but the presented scythe created a lovely framing line for the figure and so it ended up as you see it now.
The incomplete legs were attached to a temporary base and a hole drilled into the waist to attach the truncated torso section. That was when I used miliput to bulk out the gaps and give them solidity – I almost always use miliput for structure or armour and green-stuff for detail. The right shin suffered from the problem I foresaw in the left as outlined above, plus it looked too skinny, so I added a jutting shield-shaped piece of plasticard to give it some visual impact and blended it in with miliput. A hook from a vehicle sprue became a primitive spur on the rear of his boot.
Holes were drilled into the dents where the arms would have gone and more copper wire glued into place. I drilled a hole in the neck as well, but the head wasn’t even started until later. Still, it’s good to plan.
What I had was a VERY ugly stick-figure, so it was time to add detail. The belly was sculpted, another icon from the chaos vehicle sprue used as the biggest belt-buckle in recorded history. Some sort of tube was run out to a truncated plasma bomb which was itself pinned to the waist. You know what? It’s easier if you just look at the pics, but I can sum it up by saying that a lot of sculpting and dickering went on.
The words running around the armour edge were really easy to do but look as if they took a lot of effort. All I did was scribe the line into wet green-stuff, break it up into the right sized sections with vertical strokes and then used the triangular tip of the wax5 to just push down on the bits that were supposed to be indented. As I said, it’s a simple technique – but I doubt that my description of it has done it much justice. And if you’re having difficulty reading it the script says “Lost and Damned of Nurgle”.
The arms were scratch-built in two stages. I completed the basic structure in-situ before removing them for separate completion. Whenever you sculpt a piece away from the figure take one little piece of advice – test fit it constantly. You don’t want to get to the end only to find that the damned thing doesn’t fit any more or is blocked by another component.
The head was sculpted entirely separately and with no neck. I pinned it into place, posed it until it looked right and only then added the throat and neck muscles. That’s an old sculptors’ trick and really does pay dividends allowing the final look of the figure to be tweaked – the last piece I add to most of my conversions is the head.
The figure looked good, but didn’t look right until I added the sculpted back-banner. Last on was the pennant hanging from the banner-pole. I thought about putting a skull up there or even a rotting head, but felt it would have been too “on the nose”.
And that was the magus finished. Well, apart from the painting. And that was the scariest part of all. The raw figure, bare even of the undercoat, looked wonderful, full of possibilities, and by starting to paint it I reduced the infinite possibilities incrementally to just one.
But that’s a subject for another blog.