Sunday, 16 October 2011

Corpse Cart 3: The base...

In the tradition of movies the first part was the classic (dealing with the cool conversion stuff), the second overlong, probably confusing and with the feeling that you've seen it before (oohh... Steve talks about using washes) and the third part tries to recapture the original with a new twist...

So, we're back to broad modelling stuff and so on... here's the base.

I'll start with a pic. Here's how the base looked before painting.

The details then...

There were many plans for what the base and there was a point where I wanted to use a straight gaming base (in this case a standard chariot base) but once the ox was attached the cart was too long for the base and I didn't want to make a non stadard gaming base as I may as well go to the other thought: diorama base.

The general thought was the cart rumbling along and the battlefield coming to life around it. I originally wanted a lot more raising dead and also wanted them to be zombies but I lacked ideal materials without heavy scratchbuilds so went with skellies... and it'd have to be just a few. One idea that was put to me by my good friend Neil (there you go, I mentioned you) was that the dead were rising as the cart passes so they would be more risen behind it than in front, like a wave of the dead. A good plan that with a lack of skeletons doesn't quite come off but it's there in a mild form.

The wooden base is actually a picture frame with a 5" by 7" aperture. Ideal for my purposes. I started by cutting a rectangle of plasticard to work over and added sides to the back and right side which tapered downwards towards the front and left respectively. I don't like dioramas to be too flat and this gave me a nice, uneven hill framework to build around.

I then went away and constructed the raw materials. I made the skeletons up quickly and onto a sheet of plasticard with a little groundwork around them sculpted in ProCreate. After they were finished and the putty was cured I popped them off the plasticard and glued them into position on the base.

Then comes the tree. I felt the base needed something that would aid the composition and give it some height. A twisted and gnarled dead tree seemed ideal. The immediate thought was the citadel plastic trees which had just the right look but alas, they were far too large so it'd have to be a scratchbuild. On the bright side this gave me unparalleled control over the look of the tree.

Overall, on the base I wanted a feel of motion from right to left. I remember reading in White Dwarf when the new Vampire Counts range first turned up a few years back about how they were designed to all look as though they were being blown forward from the back and I carried this through the diorama. Obviously the tree isn't getting blown but I decided that though it would curl to the right it would then twist all it's branches, to a greater or lesser extent, back to the left, creating what I hoped would be a very pleasing composition.

The tree was started with six long lengths of wire. They were bunched together and then twisted tightly at the middle point to create the trunk. A bit of brute force got the correct shape and this left me with six wires out of each end. They were then twisted into groups of two for a short distance and posed before using single strands of wire for the extremities of the branches. I did the same to make the roots. So the trunk is six wires down to three for larger branches and finally down to one for finer ones.

I then sculpted over the armature with ProCreate to create the bark. Not too much I can say about this other than to be quick and be bold. After the broad shapes were in place I added the striations and so on with a sculpting tool and finally, when the putty was mostly cured, battered the surface with the bristles of an old toothbrush to add a little texture.

Finally I added a few extra twigs by rolling out lengths of Procreate and adding them to the branches and sculpted the broken off stump out the side. With hindsight I'd have gone one stage further and added even finer twigs for a more complex look. BUt hindsight is 20:20 as they say...

The tree was pinned to the base. Easy enough as the wires extended out of the roots naturally. Then came the messy bit. I mixed up a vast quantity of Magic Sculp and packed it over the whole surface of the base and around the skellies and tree. I worked as quickly as possible fighting against the curing time as I then had to put in the textures by rolling real stones over the putty and then press in small rocks and skulls. I also pushed the cart into the putty so that it would have a good place to locate on the base and then added the hoof prints from the ox and the trail of the wheels (yes, I rolled the actual Corpse Cart wheels backwards from the point where it would sit).

So, that was the base constructed and now onto painting. For future reference, I actually painted this before the cart. I almost always paint bases before figures.

Alas there maybe a lack of detail here as it was a messy process that involved a lot of experimentation and mistakes so I couldn't accurately tell you exactly how things were painted but there are a few clues...

I painted the skeletons in the same way as and bone sections on the cart.

The groundwork was basecoated with a mix of Charadon Granite and Khemri Brown then drybrushed with Khemri Brown and Kommando Khaki to lift it a little further. The rocks from a base of a mix of Adeptus Battle Grey and Charadon Granite up to Kommando Khaki and a light drybrush of white. There were then varying washes of Devlan Mud.

The tree was basecoated with Chardon Granite and then drybrushed up by adding more and more Skull White until it was just pure Skull White. Then... four coats of Devlan Mud. This was my plan and it... sort of worked but not that greatly.

Finally I added static grass. I used the Citadel Burnt Grass (the brown one) and drybrushed it after the pva dried with Goblin Green and then up to Bleached Bone.

So, painting done on the base...

Err... yeah... except...

... it really didn't look so great. The pic there doesn't look bad but it all looked a little harsh and just a bit unimpressive. The skellies weren't very neat looking, the tree looked horribly powdery and the static grass felt a bit flat and dull.

Soooo... more work. It was then that I decided that the idea of scrubbrushing that I'd been playing with in my head might be a lifesaver (see the last blog entry for more details).

I scrubbrushed nearly everything on the base (except the static grass) with Charadon Granite to equalise things and it helped. The powdery finish on the tree was reduced, the groundwork started to look natural and it neatened up the skellies giving them a dusty, fresh from the earth, quality. I then added patches of Citadel Scorched Grass (the fibrous green one) over the original static grass and drybrushed it with bleached bone. The extra tones and height helped no end. I added glazes of Kommando Khaki onto parts of the tree to highlight subtly and clean it up a bit. Finally more patches of Devlan Mud and washes of Chaos Black on the groundwork to darken it down.

I had a base that was a little more fitting for the cart I'd spent a good while converting and was about to paint under time constraints. So, it worked out.

And that's the Corpse Cart project. Lots of fun and probably more stress than such a project should be but I got there in the end and my placing third in the Open made it all worthwhile.

My acceptance speech thanks Neil for being the sounding board and sending up the 'half a Corpse Cart' I'd left behind in Cornwall, Colin for coming to the rescue with spare Corpse Cart parts as things went horribly wrong at certain stages and Mike, Martin and Seb for general advice and nagging.


  1. Another nice write up - cheers for sharing your process in such detail Steve.

  2. I love your work very much! Thanks for the detailed description of the construction of this very cool diorama!