Wolf Lord “Erik Morkai” conversion and paint

 

By Golden Demon winner Adrian Walters

 

Erik MorkaiThis was first written for Jason from Legion of the Cow but it seems to have disappeared so we have republished it here.

I started the conversion over a year ago. My original intent was for him to be a Wolf Priest, I played with the idea but it lost momentum and got put in a box for later. The work on the pose was done then… All GW conversions I’ve ever done tend to look like stock models; one of my absolute favourite aspects of our hobby is when someone puts together something totally wacky and awesome, people’s imagination blow my mind. I’m usually very boring in that respect! My main inspiration visually was Adrian Smith’s SW illustrations, both for colour palette and the look and feel. I have several postcards of these Wolves dotted around my painting area for reference too.

I love the Njal miniature, I bought it to paint after a painting break a few years ago. It has the solid presence I was looking for in a SW model, yet wasn’t static in the pose. The most important aspect in choosing him though was the wolf pelt he’s wearing, I’m a competent sculptor but this was pushing my comfort zone a little too far, and that’s a damn fine pelt he’s wearing (my favourite part of the miniature along with the face and ambiance).

I’ve always had this notion that a SW Lord/ character miniature should be as wide as he is tall, jingle like a gypsy fortune-teller when he walks, be armed to the teeth and exude feral menace. The pose as it stood, screams of solidity and defiance; there is an ever so slight twist to his legs and waist putting more weight onto his right leg, topped with a totally squared shoulder-line. Perfect for a dude wielding a staff two handed, not so great for a guy potentially having two weapons. It wouldn’t work and would’ve looked unnatural. Only way round this was to remove his arms at the shoulder!

 

Developing the pose

Right, time to get the pose sorted… A razor saw was used to make vertical cuts straight down the line of the edge of the armour, mainly to keep as much of the model intact as possible but going through the pelt was unavoidable. With the arms removed it was easy to play with the pose and just easier to imagine it; now the lower body twist became more apparent, the arm placement would logically follow this twist.

Blu-Tac is an amazing modelling asset in this regard; it can let you experiment until it looks right…. Here’s a very important point: we all know what human/bipedal anatomy looks like, it’s hard wired into our brains, if it’s wrong we see it, it’s not always obvious WHAT is wrong but it looks wrong nevertheless. If you’re posing something, use yourself as reference, look in the mirror. Dynamic posing can look fantastic, never truly overstep the limits of what is anatomically possible though, it jars on the perception, even something ‘alien’ will usually follow these rules.

The other thing in posing is balance; both of composition and the anatomy itself. We live in a reality governed by physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, in this case the arm gesturing forwards was to be balanced by the opposite arm being pulled back, this also emphasised the twist in the legs and torso. The problem now was that the pose was still quite square in the shoulders; so I had to angle the right shoulder about 15-20 degrees out, this opened up the chest a bit too.

This is my favourite bit of the conversion; it goes relatively unnoticed but added so much to selling the pose. I could see it in my head but he still had no arms, so looking through my bits and pieces I realised I had a Finecast Logan Grimnar, I was even more delighted when I realised his arms from the elbows down were just perfect for what I was trying to do!

The plan works perfectly

Don’t you love it when things fall into place like that! Finding hands in specific poses is often a pain. I’d always intended to have a wrist mounted storm-bolter as his ranged weapon, so damn cool, this was perfect! Pose sorted, all major anatomical parts sourced, except his head… Get a good pose first, really take some time. If you’re working with a partially posed figure don’t go against the flow of what’s there, use it. If the pose isn’t right no matter how well it is painted it will never quite look right. If you look at it and think hmmm not sure, it’s almost certainly wrong!

 

Strip those details!!! Time to get brutal with a scalpel… Greatest change to the figure is the removal of the head and psychic hood. Finecast cuts very easily with a sharp blade! One cut straight down at the point where the cowled part on normal terminator armour would be, another across the chest/neck following the top of the armour. Head, beard and psychic hood neatly sliced off. Next I had to use a Dremmel type tool to remove the inside of the cowling, deep enough that a head would seem to be back inside it… First major problem encountered! There is now a huge hole in the front of the armour for his head, it just didn’t look right now…
There is an Adrian Smith illustration in one of the old Chaos Codex’s that I love; a Chaos Terminator, but his chest armour was squared off and barrel like. That was the look I wanted; because the pose had been opened up and bits removed he looked to be missing a bit of mass and be a little narrow in the chest. A small crescent of Plasticard was cut approximately to size, little too big, so it could be filed and shaped back once it had been filled etc. This was placed and angled so it was square to the front of the armour.

A lot of the extraneous bits on the armour were removed now, mainly to facilitate the filling of all the runes! Time for a bit of putty… I used Magic Sculpt in the main. All putties have differing mechanical properties, MS is very soft and sticky when first mixed but cures rock hard and files very well, great for allowing a slight overfill of the runes and filing flush when it’s cured. This was about the stage I initially shelved the figure. I just wasn’t quite sure where it was going then.

The “mini” Golden Demon was announced, subject matter…….Space Marines… Sooooo many ideas! How about I just make the figure I’ve always wanted to have? My ultimate Wolf Lord. After all I’m finally doing this for me. I’ve got the perfect base to start one from too! Out came the Codex’s! Little read up on each WL, one instantly appeals the most. Three reasons. The double headed wolf motif is nice, I like symmetry. He’s the most dangerous of all of them. He’s a play on the name of an old British comedian called Eric Morcombe.

There are various things in the build had it not been a Finecast that would have been totally unnecessary. Much filling and some flat areas needed to be faced with Plasticard to straighten things up. Had I known in advance I would eventually enter this at GD I’d have converted a plastic model! Some reconstruction was carried out in various places, as can been seen in the pictures.

He was originally going to just have the one outstretched axe. Then I came across the fact there was a novel about him… To be honest my heart sank, something I was about to read was bound to contradict what I’d done so far! You know you’re on a roll when it doesn’t! TWO Frost Axes and he’s the “King of Bling”! He had a free hand, it would balance the pose nicer too, give it even more weight and solidity. I think I did my first BluTac’d together shots of him then, see how he looked. Nice! This is a great stage for those little ideas, the character is taking shape, the two daggers were added now, the instant the second was added it worked; it’s my favourite aspect of the model. You notice what’s missing, any composition problems: it became obvious he’d need a BIG axe in his left hand for balance and that there was a huge gap under his outstretched arm and armpit too!

The axes had to be unique. The toothed one is Logan’s axe with the blade cut off, I wanted the double wolf head motif. The teeth were cut off of some chain-swords and stuck on. Simple but they look brutal. The second blade is all Plasticard; the inner icy core first, then sandwiched by much thinner pieces. The runes were cut into it directly with the tip of a fresh scalpel blade.

Draw them on in pencil, get the placing right, cut confidently. This is something that evolved as I made it, originally I wanted it as a simple huge block of ice, realised it would look both stupid and impractical so added the bits that sandwich the blade. Really pleased with how it looks.

One of the hardest things was working out how to break it down for painting and easy assembly. How much can be assembled and how much if assembled will leave areas inaccessible to a brush! I’d have liked to leave both arms off, simply to have access to the plate on his right hip, I’m not happy with the painting in this area. In the end the only real compromise was attaching and filling the bit of pelt over his right shoulder after 90% of the rest was painted.

SOME INSIGHTS INTO MY PAINTING PROCESS

I always try to limit my palette as much as I can. It unifies things, makes it all look part of a whole. With that in mind here are my colours:

  • Black, White.
  • Russ Grey, Fenrisian Grey (both GW). For the main armour colours.
  • Yellow Ochre (Vallejo) – for the Non Metallic Metal (NMM) Gold predominantly. Rich slightly desaturated yellow, natural looking. Also used to lighten and warm some tones.
  • Tallarn Flesh – for the face: best premixed off the shelf flesh tone ever made (sadly now unavailable to my knowledge)… flesh coloured paint tends towards too yellow, too pink and generally too saturated… TIP; before Tallarn was available I’d usually go for a pinkish flesh-tone with a dab of Oxford Blue/Shadow Grey etc added, desaturates it slightly, simple.
  • Ice Blue – for the Ice and glow effects. Saturated pastel blue. It’s not used in any other areas, just used to help them pop more.
  • Dark Sea Blue – to make shade tones that are cold. Rich, dark, saturated turquoise that leans more towards blue than green. No part of the miniature has a base-coat incorporating DSB except one small part of the ice blade but every part of the miniature has DSB in the shades, the hair, the fur, the Gold, everything.
  • Burnt Umber – for the hair and Wolf pelt. Also in all shades like DSB. It’s a lovely natural neutral dark brown, perfect on it’s own, great as a basis to modify with my three additives.
  • Red – to paint the daggers and little armour details. Red, pure and saturated. Also importantly this was another modifying colour like DSB. Not so much used on it’s own but to change other colours, to make them warmer and well redder!

Tackling the face

This is my method for just about all faces, just swap out colours for differing looks:

  • Basecoated in Tallarn Flesh. Then a thin wash of Tallarn Flesh and Burnt Umber all over, with tiny amounts of Red and Deep Sea Blue then added to areas and wet blended in. Really a more controlled colour nuanced flesh wash.
  • Add the Red around the cheeks, DSB around the lower face, under the brows to the bridge of the nose. Let this dry.
  • Tallarn Flesh then layered and feathered on top, adding White for the highlights.
  • This is then adjusted by using very thin glazes of Red, DSB, Burnt Umber and Tallarn Flesh until it ‘looks right’.
  • Retouching the sharpness of the highlights several times in the process. It’s the Burnt Umber that gives the feels, the leathery not quite human skin-tone.

The armour

First time I’ve ever used an airbrush in base-coating! (Not had one long).

  • Sprayed Chaos Black first, sprayed with Russ Grey.
  • Sprayed underneath with Russ Grey with Burnt Umber and DSB added.
  • Next a 45 degree zenithal spray with Russ Grey, zenithal with Fenrisian Grey.

Won’t do it again LOL but that is what I did… If I experimented more I might make it work for me but I think it’s just as easy and direct with a brush.

My painting technique generally involves building up a strong base that defines the model’s volumes and highlights, then multiple thin glazes to add more interest to the shades and to further shape and refine the highlights. I tend to highlight to pure white a lot, purposely over high-lighting then glazing this back as appropriate. The layering techiques used in digital art have long been an inspiration to me and I’ve incorporated some into my miniature painting…: Lets take one area as an example: top of the armour, flat and square.

  • Basecoated in Russ Grey, solid smooth basecoat, this is also glazed with very dilute paint to get it satin smooth.
  • Fenrisian Grey feather blended on top.
  • 50/50 Fenrisian and White.
  • Edges pure White.
  • Several very thin glazes were then applied: pure DSB, Burnt Umber+Red, Burnt Umber+DSB+Black.
  • Followed by two more Fenrisian Grey+White and pure White. The scratches were added in these final glazing stages, most at some point between the stages to fade some more than others.

 

The Frost axe blade. I posted a pic of this on Facebook when I did it. Many of us have planned a ‘how to’ on something untried in our heads; it rarely stands up to reality. This did, that made me smile. IT was base coated in Ice Blue. Straight edged blocks of colour added; darker with DSB added, lighter with white added. Thin pure white to streak on the lines, predominantly cross hatched with a few strays at different angles. Light glazes of pure white to fade everything in slightly. More cross hatched pure white. Thin glazes of DSB and one tiny omission from the palette, a tiny amount of Caliban Green, well more precisely the carrier and some green pigment floating at top of the pot of Caliban Green. These used to deepen the colours in places. Further glazes and sharpening in pure white… Done.

Of note also is the blade housing with the runes, it was painted with glazes straight on top of the black basecoat. Pure DSB, Burnt Umber+Red and White. It gives the impression the whole is rimed with frost and very cold. I’m very pleased with the axe.

So there we have it! Hope there might have been something in there of interest to people! If you had any specific question drop me a line here and we will endeavour to get you an answer! I enjoyed making this model immensely, it’s taken me 18 years to fulfil a dream; to model my own Wolf Lord and win something at GD, result!

Here he is in all his glory at Golden Demon 2015