Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Farseer on a Jetbike

So a recent inquiry got me thinking about my blog content and things I've been meaning to do, but for whatever reasons not yet done. One of those things "to-do" is moving over some posts I pseudo-blogged on my Flickr a few years back. So to start, here's the big one: my Eldar Farseer on a Jetbike "Reboot". I've shown the final product in my Sculpting 101 (and to the right), but some of you might enjoy seeing the process of how I got there too. I could probably stretch this out to several posts, but that seems like cheating...

This fig started back in 3rd edition when I decided I needed a JetSeer. I had a few extra jetbikes but my only "spare" Psyker was an Eldrad model. I also knew I didn't wanted the lounging pose typical of the current jetbike riders. I wanted something more active, upright, dynamic... and thus an Idea was born. I sat down and chopped Eldrad into pieces for his head and torso. As a side effect of repositioning his head, I had to reculpt the left side of his face. Then I replaced his arms and legs with Guardian bitz and some repositioning. There was a fair bit of drilling and pinning to make sure the armature could support the metal upper pieces too. Then I sculpted some details such as a loin cloth, fills, runes, a couple spirit stones and other such. I ended up with something that looked a little like this:
Notably, this was my first (and last) experiment sculpting with White Stuff. It's been relegated to gap filler. I was still fairly happy with the final product, excepting the hilt and how he was gripping it. I considered it good, gave him a basic paintjob and used him for several years.

Then along came this new idea of blogging about your 40k hobby. There was this up and coming new site I'd been reading called "Way of Saim-Hann". Fritz decided to promote by having a little contest. The only rule was that it had to be a Jetbike Mounted Eldar HQ. I figured I'd just take my Farseer, do some more paint detailing and then throw it into the mix. But as I was considering this, I came across the blog of some guy named Ron at From the Warp who was also doing up a fig to enter. He didn't even play Eldar! He was doing the fig for the competition and a friend's new army. (And oh did it show in his initial choice of wargear... a bike Autarch with a powerweapon? Sheesh. :-P Thankfully, he welcomed suggestions.) But the kicker was that he had some pretty solid concept sketches... We went back and forth raising the bar, commenting and critiquing along with a group of like-minded bloggers. Ron ended up taking first with his solid conversion and excellent paintjob on this Autarch. But I've realized I don't care about having won or not... The prize was more Eldar, something I didn't need but Ron's newbie friend did. But even more so? The blog community banter continually pushed things to that next level. There result was a number of truly excellent entries. My final product was of a much higher scope and quality than I would have attempted on my own. I ended up with the only model I've been happy enough to actually pit into CoolMiniOrNot. The glory of such a great competition, my final fig, and the skills I acquired along the way were worth more than any mere prize. (Yeah, I would have been happy to win, but it wasn't... necessary. Hopefully you understand.)

Enough background, back to the fig: I knew I wanted to redo several things about this guy. I had seen this stellar work by Scibor and thought "I could do something like that..." As I'm not one for direct copying, his was an inspiration but I wanted the final to be something all mine. So the first thing to do was sketch. I ran up a dozen little sketches before I had my basic concept. I kinda wish I still had those... it would be amusing to show you how many things did or didn't make the final. So then I broke apart the original fig, cleaned off the nasty White Stuff, got a fresh jetbike canopy and worked up the start for a decorative (and magnetic!) base. After the initial layer of putty we had this:
The above is after my first session of basic sculptwork. In addition to the other changes, I decided he needed a Singing Spear. So I grabbed the sword from that blind High Elf (Eltharion) and stuck it on a bit of wire as a place to start. (I'm sure there's a tasteless joke there, but I'll refrain... this time.) This was also the point of my first revelation with sculpting: "You don't have to do every detail on a piece in one go." It's simple in retrospect that you can add other details later and smooth them in, but prior to this I was trying to do all GS work on an area in one step. Oh, the hours of frustration I could have saved...
Next, I decided to bring the canopy back even farther than the initial plan. To support this, I inserted some lengths of sewing pins to make a basic armature.
Along the way I like to dry fit things together to check the pose and get a little "is this worth it" check in. I'd also finished the sculpt of the face and started canopy details.
Yet more canopy trim. The spear got a butt-cap from the 2007 Farseer's staff and some basic shaping on the shaft.
Here I decided I hated the GS on the shaft and redid it along with some pieces from a DA Exarch power weapon. I also added the spaulders (upper arm armour) that I'd been thinking about from the initial sculpt. This main lines of the spaulder were made with the same technique as the edge of the canopy. The pattern in the recesses was done by placing a thin layer of GS inside the edging and then stippling with the point of a pin.
Added the first rune! It's a combination of the runes for Farseer and Jetbike. Yeah, I'm just that nerdy. (Okay, I'll admit that I had no idea where I was going at this point... I'd been considering doing runes like this across the whole canopy area, but my test pieces just didn't look "right".)
Finished up the Singing Spear using some wrapped copper wire from an old circuit board. I also started the GS on his cloak and doodled my initial idea for the top of the canopy using a fine tip marker. Note the repeat of the Farseer/Jetbike rune. I tried this out when I got to the sculpt phase but I didn't like the the off-set look of the lightning bolt after trying it. So I scrapped that idea for something different...
And here's how the jetbike canopy decided it wanted to come out... I also added a bit from the plastic Wraithlord to the end of the wing.
Same session, different angle. I think I was fishing for commentary on the wing bit. At some point I realized it killed the lines and just removed it.
Ah, the example of what the trim/edging looked like when first applied but before sculpt. I had a couple inquries into how I did it. So I took this pic as an example of the intial putty application. The sculpting was basically pulling out and down from the center of the line to trim down to the amount of putty and basic shape wanted. Then the point of the sculpting tool was pushed in along the bottom to sharpen the line/canopy edge. Then I would lightly run the flat buffing side of the sculpting tool along the tip of the line to flatten. Repeat in sections until finished. (If anyone is interested in the technique but can't make sense of the above, just ask and I can try explaining with graphics.)
A rather blurry pic of the Spear, having been permanently attached to the arm and given a basic hand sculpt. I was actually kinda put out by my sculpt on the hand... the old plastic right hand looked clunky and mis-shapen compared to how nicely this one ended up.
Here I added the detailing to the back of his hand. I also took my wife's advice and enlarged the gemstones on the canopy... she was right too.
And a shot of the center...
Added detailing and a gem to the triangle at the top of the canopy. I also dropped in a spirit stone and some ribbons at the wrist.
This run I'd originally added a kind of growing sine wave pattern to the front part of the canopy left... I was thinking a flame or flamberge or something. But I was only "doodling" in GS and not set on any one thing. I gave up for the night and came back to it the next day, only to see an Astral Serpent staring back at me. A little more putty and he was realized in the flesh, so to speak. Though this became a comedy of frustration... It took me several tries to get the head to satisfaction. Once there, I took this photograph. Then, thinking to work on some other canopy details, I picked it up... and managed to squish the head. So I redid it several times, only to mar it again by fumbling the canopy as I was setting it down to cure. I ended up resculpting that damn head probably 2 dozen times total before I was happy with it again. This was my second big revelation of sculpt: "If you're happy with a detail, set the piece aside and let it cure." Otherwise, you're liable to screw it up and have to redo it.
More on the canopy and sand added to the base.
The canopy was still getting sculpt, but I gesso primed everything else to black. Again my wife came to the rescue and pointed out that an Egyptian stylized eye would really finish out the canopy nicely... curse her for being right again! The sand got a base coat of Scorched Brown and then a drybrush up with Beastial Brown, Snakebite Leather and Bleached Bone.
Codex grey edging/highlights on the base and finished the sculpt on the eye.
And here we skip ahead a couple days... The canopy has been finished and primed. The tan "wraithbone armour" areas have been based Scorched Brown and the red with Red Gore.
Here some color appears on the canopy. Several bone pieces have been lightened up using Vallejo USA Tan Earth. Several gemstones were also done in the "GW style" using Midnight Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Ice Blue for the main and a single dot of Skull White for the "gleam".
Here the wraithbone of the canopy was blended up using Vallejo USA Tan Earth in way more coats than the final effect seems to show. I also did up the canopy gems and basecoated his cloak in Red Gore.
This was the same session as above, but I was playing with the camera angle to see what I wanted for the final composition.
Light bone from a black base is a pain in the ass. I've since switched this to a white basecoat and have found that MUCH easier. So here the canopy is done and the body of the bike taken to Scorched Brown.
More bone... I spent about 4 aggravating hours between this step and the last. I'd hit the "ugly phase"... where things aren't coming together quite as you planned, everything takes too long and you generally just want to drop the project into a dark place and never look at it again. I was frustrated with how his upper shoulder pads were sticking into the air and annoyed with how much time the bone was taking compared to the results I was getting. Still, I pushed on...
and started having things come together. I blended up the main body pieces to Blood Red and did the "reverse glow" on the spear tip using the same blues as on the gems. The effects really made something "click" in my brain. I found myself much happier with the fig... to the point that I got so into painting that I forgot to stop and take progress pics.
Here I went back and touched up my little errors. As I did this, I managed to somehow get wet gesso on my thumb and obliterate the big gem on the canopy. So I got to repaint that too...
The "final". I took a couple dozen photos of the final presentation from different angles and lighting styles... I had to compensate for a crappy camera and all. The best one went into Photoshop and had the colors trued as best I could. Then I erased the white background and dropped in a dropping gradient. I chose blue to compliment the gems and give a ground/sky effect.

Whew... did you actually read all of this? Cheers for getting through that wall of pics and text! (I think I tripled my current pic load with this one post.) Hopefully this write-up was interesting or even a little inspiring. If you have any questions about tools, technique, or otherwise, please feel free to ask.

Irony. Looking back at the details of this project, I'm realizing that rehosting the post isn't the only stuff I've put off regarding this fig. There's several bits of highlight, freehand and other details that I wanted to do on this guy. But I haven't put a lick of paint on him since the competition. I get the feeling I'll be showing this guy again but with some new details.

***Images are all mine, baby!***


  1. So, not only do you blog well, but you also can paint and model too? Never would've guessed!

    Seriously though, amazing work. I'll give you $5 if you make me one of these bad boys!

  2. Utterly stunning, everything just looks so well natural and balanced. Looking forward to whatever else you may do on him!

  3. awesome job. Definitely bookmarking for when I get the gumption to try to convert my own farseer on jetbike!

  4. That conversion is fantastic.
    It really, really makes my poor Farseer on a jetbike seem like a poor 2nd class cousin.

  5. Beautifully done, man. Just plain epic! You almost make the eldar look manly and tough...almost :)

  6. Hey guys, thanks for the feedback. Now if I could just get him to stop dying like a chump to powerfists...

  7. Seen this guy before through links from you but I'm sure my compliments got lost in the sea of forum posts! Really well done, an excellent center-piece for any army :)!

    Do you have any Warlocks to go with it?

  8. I'm guessing that you got full marks in Coolminiornot? :)

    On a side note, is it difficult to get to grips with painting gems? I'm never happy with mine, and if there's ever a time in the future where I'm competant at them, I'll redo every single one in my army. That's a helluvah lotta gems right there... x)

  9. @Kirby: Thanks! After your inquiry, I went ahead and posted some Warlocks I've done. ( These were traded to an acquaintance though.
    I've had some thoughts of doing a squad of Warlocks for him, but keep getting distracted. I've got a dozen Reaver Jetbikes sitting in a box that I'm thinking about making into Harlequins and usings "counts as" for Jetlocks...

    @Iggy: He's sitting at a solid 8.0 with 84 votes right now... Given how rough the CMoN crowd is, I'm pretty damned happy about that score.
    Painting gems is actually as simple as GW shows... if you thin your paint to proper translucency. Give me a week and I'll work up a tutorial on how I did these step by step.

  10. I dont understand how you are getting those fine detail lines? Is that a press mold or something?

    Can you talk a bit about how you do that? I've seen similar detail on SCIBOR but I dont understand how it is done.

  11. I came back to this post hoping to find some insight on how you sculpted the gems.
    Now I remember why I liked this model so much.
    Great sculpting on this guy.

  12. Thanks Ron, you were a huge influence in making me take this guy that step above an beyond.

    I've got a tutorial on sculpting gems curing on my work table right now. Probably a bit late with how fast you work, but maybe good for some ideas next time.

  13. I REALLY like the center applique, the singing spear, and the "drive by" pose. Would you be at all interested in casting the center bit to sell along to those of us without your sculpting skills?