PAINTING AND CONVERTING - Astropath

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So as my escalation league continues to escalate just out of my grasp, I've found myself once again needing to find several hundred points in as little time and money as is possible. One of the things I'm doing to get to 1850 pts. is to add Al Rahem (easy, as I can just throw an officer with a power sword in and pretend for now), but taking Al Rahem really requires an astropath, in my book.

So I had to find a way to get an astropath quickly and cheaply. If I ordered a metal astropath from GW, it would be neither, so that was straight out. If I were to do some serious conversion work, I'd be able to get it done relatively quickly, but to my dismay, this was also an expensive option. Namely, I'm almost out of important bitz like legs and arms, and I AM out of things like heads and torsos. As such, anything I'd do would have to include more scratchbuilding than did my recent commissars.

So I made a decision, why not take my GS skills up to the next level and make an astropath entirely from scratch? It's definitely cheap, and hopefully shouldn't take too long, right?

So to start with, I put down the frame of the model. As I'm also running very low on GS, I decided to start with something a little bulkier than wire. In this case, I'm using some pieces of aluminum tubing and sandwiched sheets of plasticard (from my manticore conversion) along with some GS. The tubing is about the right size compared to regular GW stuff, and even if it were too big, this guy is getting a robe anyways, so it won't matter.

So here you can see the frame put together with another mini to show scale. I'm actually surprised with how quickly this all came together as the aluminum tubing actually glued to itself much better than I thought. The GS here is more to fill the gaps than to lend structural support. As for the pose itself, I honestly had no idea what I wanted the end product to be at this point. I decided to go for something crouching, meek, and perhaps recoiling. The one thing I do know is that I want this model to look like he's been brutalized by his soul-binding more than the GW model does.

I threw this together late at night and then went to bed to let the GS cure over night.

In the morning I started out to add the layers of GS. I figured to approach the conversion in the same way I approach painting - down to up, in to out, and base to details. As such, the first thing to do was the boots. For this, I kept another one of my guardsmen close in hand so I could create the most similar boots I was able to. Basically, it was a two-stage process with the foot part of the boot first, and the leg part of the boot second.

I was actually relieved with how well this came out. I've heard bad things about sculpting boots before (especially by SM players), and that this came out so nice really gave me the necessary confidence boost early on to think I could really pull this off.

Given that there was NO WAY I could possibly do more GSing without smushing one of my fingers in the boots, I set this aside to cure into the afternoon.

Once the boots were dry, I returned in the late afternoon and cut them down flush. You may actually notice certain things (in this case, boot height) change between pictures. This is because I am taking the pictures right after I'm done with a step, and then the first thing I do in the next step is to correct things from the previous step.

In any case, now it was time for the pants. I know that I'm going to put a robe on him that will cover most of the pants. That said, I know that I'm going to do a robe that splits up the sides (rather than a single seam up the front), which means that some of the pants will be showing. As I don't know how the robe is going to flow, I figure it's better just to do the pants comprehensively up to the point where I know that the pants will be covered regardless (so, near the tops and insides).

The pants went like the boots in that I did it in two phases with the bottoms up to the knees and then the knees up to the waist. I kept a GW model nearby to scale the size of the folds in the clothing, but the frame itself actually gave me a fair number of cues with regards to how to crease the fabric of the pants.

Once again, this came out greatly to my satisfaction. I put the model down to wait until evening. Sitting back and looking at the model, I could see a lot of ways to take it other than an astropath. The one that definitely jumped out at me was...


"DON'T SHOOT! I'M A CIVILIAN!"

Anyways, once this was done, it was time to start working on the robe. As I still don't have a clue for what my final execution is going to look like, I decide to chicken out on doing the robe itself, and instead start on the sleeves. The sleeves were going to be trickier, as there was nothing I could look at and copy, at least from my existing range of minis. As such, I sort of took cues from the fabric folds in the meltagunner's arm from the first picture and just added in a bunch of folds and creases.

Also, of course, I added in some little plasticard bitz for where the hand would sit.

As you can see, the left hand being pointed up makes it so that the robe stops short of the wrist. This is bad because the wrist is made out of huge aluminum tubing. As you will notice, it took me a while to figure out what to do about this. In any case, this would have to sit over night.

In the morning, it was time to start with the robe. Still without a particular inspiration, I put down the things that I knew would be present regardless. This meant putting a long part down over the legs, and filling in the gap between the arms and the torso.

This actually went down pretty easy, given my recent experience doing commissar's coats. Once I got to this point, I started to get a feel for how this model might look in the end, and a plan started to crystallize in my brain.

What this dude needed was a tabard. It struck me as somehow obscene to have a brutalized psyker in priestly vestments, so I decided to go for it. The construction itself was actually really easy. I would have done more, but I was concerned about smooshing.

Or, as it struck me...


DON'T SHOOT! I'M PART OF THE CLERGY!

Working on this, I knew that I was going to be putting a staff in his right hand, and that I was going to extend his other arm out in a claw-like gesture. The big unknown was how to make this a 40k model, instead of just a some dude in a robe model. Where was the grimdark? How was I going to make him look brutalized?

I decided on going for some of the old-fashioned tubes coming out of head thing (they don't do that enough anymore). I decided to keep the chest of the tabard relatively flat so that I could put a respirator unit on him or something.

In the evening, with the core done, it was time to start working on the extremities and the details. This meant putting a staff into his right hand to begin with. Basically, this step was a piece of brass tube, a bit of steel wire, and GSing the hand.

So I was greatly surprised by how hard the hand was to do. Even with my best efforts, it looks a lot like the puffy left hands of the new guard command squad meltagun guy which I don't like. I'll have to futz with this in the future. While the back of the hand may have come out badly, at least the fingers went on without much trouble.

Also, you will notice that this model now has a nose. I knew that the face was likely to be the biggest challenge, and that it would help if I could have some sort of anchor point to work from. As the nose touches basically everything else on the face, I thought I'd start with that. What you see is my best attempt at reproducing a GW nose off of the face of one of my guardsmen.

As I put the model down to go to bed, I took a moment to admire it. I'm really proud of how far I've gotten in a mere 48 hours. My confidence was running high that I'd actually be able to pull this off. Of course, all of the REALLY hard stuff (face, freestanding hand and details) was still yet to come, but I didn't have to worry about that until the morning.

And in the morning, I started on the face and left hand.

For the hand, I wanted to use as little GS as was possible, because this hand is going to get grabbed a lot, especially during the rest of the conversion process. As such, given my success with a plasticard pointer finger on my first commissar, I decided to make plasticard fingers. These were pretty futzy to get down, but at least there was some amount of plasticard gluing to plasticard. Unfortunately, once that was done I took a step back and saw how absolutely awful the fingers looked. I didn't have much of a choice but to stick to my plan, though. After a LOT of hacking at the fingers, and some occasional GSing things back up, I got something sufficiently rudimentary hand-looking. Also, I finally decided what to do with the wrist: just re-expose the metal. Having bits of metal poking out from the cloth will only reinforce that he's hiding something underneath his robes.

Then came the face. I've seen a lot of poorly scratch-built faces before. As such, I thought it best to copy a well-built face as my baseline. Basically, the face began with me carefully studying one of my guardsman's faces (that I didn't GS a moustache onto) and copying what I saw. That said, I've had a lot of experience with the peripheral parts of the face by cutting so many helmets off, so it's not actually an EXACT copy, especially where the eyebrows are concerned. In any case, this guy now looked very strange:

Fearing that I'd screw up the jowels if I tried to work the mouth, and that I'd screw up the eye sockets if I put in the lower eyelid, I just decided to leave the face in two parts. Also, once this hard part was done, I did another easy step of adding the belt.

So far so good. I like how he's starting to get a sooth-sayer-ey look to him. Very astropath.

That afternoon, it was basically finishing the step that I had just started. It began with doing a lot more work on the left hand (indeed, I would be picking at this clear into the painting step). It's finally looking good enough to justify my decision to do it this way.

As for the face, I started by rounding off the top of the skull. The rest would be adding in the upper and lower lip and getting the jaw right. Once again, my previous guard work helped me greatly, as I've had to chop in a lot of jawlines out of chinstraps and all of the time putting on beards and moustaches has made me more familiar with the mouth parts of the face. Using a guardsman as a guide, this part went down surprisingly easy.

Obviously, there is still some cleaning up to do (and teeth to add), but it definitely looks like a face. Booyah.

Now the model is basically done (as in, it would be playable if I painted it up), but I'm still missing the most important part - the details.

Given my failure to get a good-looking respirator (I had actually done a few on bits of plasticard and HATED every final product I came up with), I'm going to need to rely on the staff for the grimdark. As well, I want the staff to have a bit of communications equipment on it. I know that the primary purpose of an astropath is his psychic abilities, but in order for him to have practical value on the battle field, he has to have some way of interfacing with the troops which are chilling out in reserve. I figured a short-wave vox-set-esque thing on the top would be appropriate.

And this just turned a fantasy model into a sci-fi one. I get the radio and the tubes being crammed into someone's throat - sufficiently grimdark future for me.

In case you're wondering, the tubes going into the throat are more of that steel wire and a bit of heavier copper wire. The antenna is a straight pin (the head was glued down to a plasticard mount, and the bottom half chopped off (not in that order)) and the circular antenna is actually a very, very short piece of aluminum tubing out of my larger gauge (the one used for the bulk of my manticore's missiles). Aluminum tubing is very warpable when you're trying to cut it with a hobby knife, so it took me a few attempts to get something that still retained a basically circular shape.

After I got to this point, I went on a trip out of town. I was hoping to get the conversion work done before I left, but by this time, I was starting to suffer a bit of burnout after three days of work, so I didn't finish it. I did, however, take it with me to show off, and in the process had both the antenna and the loop thingey get knocked off. I really should have at least put some GS anchors down.

While away, I did mess with it just a little bit, but obviously didn't have enough time to do more serious work until I got back.

Once I got back, it was time to finish this off. My last serious GS step would be to finish off the staff (some of which had been done while away) and to add a cowel. I sort of screwed up on the cowel (too small, I think), but I was eager to have this project behind me and move on to other, more pressing things.

So this was basically it. After this point I had another step where I did some more cleanup. That and I didn't like how the waist looked so broad at the sides, so I decided to put down something to cover it up. I wanted a weapon of some sort to reinforce the futuristic element, and to make it more clear that this mini belongs in a WAR game. I had some ideas for a pistol, but I couldn't really see it, so I decided to go for frag grenades instead. Now, I have a LOT of frag grenade bitz, but why go to all this effort to make something completely scratch-built only to throw on some pre-fabricated stuff at the end? I don't intend on being so picky in the future, but given that this IS my first scratch-build, I'd like to be able to claim it as a pure scratch-build.

I'll give you warning that the grenades look awfully big, but I swear that they're the same size as a regular guard frag grenade (if shaped slightly differently).

Anyways, here's the final product:

So yeah, I'm pretty proud of my work, even if there are a few things I'd change about it. I think for me the important thing was that I actually did it. Furthermore, I did it within a reasonable time frame, as far as man hours were concerned.

Anyways, after this point it was on to the painting. Given the my army colors are brown and white, the paint scheme was obvious: white robe with brown tabbard. I'm not going to lie, it took me a little bit of getting used to an astropath with a white robe. Something just bothered me about it. Honestly, though, I think that's one of it's strengths. There IS something unsettling about seeing a guy with tubes in his throat gushing blood onto a white robe...

I am definitely satisfied enough for this to hit the table in my next game. I deem this sufficiently astropath-looking while also not being the expensive, cruddy model that GW has put out for it. I hope you like it as much as I do. In conclusion, here's the poster: