When I returned home from the Monte San Savino show in November 2016, my head was buzzing with ideas and inspiration. I thought hard about all the many possible projects; full sculpts, dioramas, characters and more. The first of these to come to fruition was this piece: Malfian Noblewoman.
The first iteration of the piece was intended to be a Dogma48 build: Quick and dirty with a strong theme. But the event drew near, I just couldn’t wait! The piece wanted to be made, and the ideas had already developed far beyond the limitations of Dogma48.
I had a pretty strong mental image of the concept: it had to be a female miniature, set in the Warhammer 40k setting, and it should be decidedly civilian, so no guns. An option would have been to sculpt it all, but working with bits gives a shortcut to a quicker result and kit bashing is just a lot of fun. So, the first thing I did was, more or less, randomly building from my bits box.
My workflow is very additive, so when I build and paint I constantly adjust the subject and the idea, working towards the next “checkpoint”. When I reach a checkpoint, I redefine the project to keep the direction that it is going in, rather than trying to force it in a very different direction.
This workflow is reflected in many parts of the build, but also in the very character I am portraying. At first the character was to be an arrogant glutton, who wilfully squandered the work of the working classes; an arrogant and evil noblewoman, who spill wine on the floor and laugh about it.
But as the build progressed, I wound up finding that idea too dark and depressive, and went in the direction of the image of a young naive, almost Disney-like figure: A girl who just never imagined that life might be tough for the working classes; someone who, as the arrogant lady of my first concept, abuses the toil of the poor, but this girl just never realised that it would be a wrong thing to do.
The Noblewoman is based on the legs from the Tech-Priest Dominus model from Games workshops excellent Adeptus Mechanicus range, and the upper body is from one of the vampires from the Death Grand Alliance Coven Throne from Age of Sigmar. Added to those main parts, are a few bits from my box, and then a lot of sculpting! I sculpted the rosary, the bow, the umbrella, the tail of her coat, and the two servo-skulls, all from scratch.
The paint job was an exercise in new techniques. I’m still learning how to go about high-end miniature painting, and MSS16 was my first big show. The show really set a new standard for my view on miniature painting and what I want to achieve. And on this project, I really tested out some new things – maybe in hindsight too many.
I wanted to support the narrative with the paint job: Her dress had to look like the finest silk; luxurious and fancy. The fabric should then become more rough and threadbare the further down on the character it gets. This both supports the narrative of a rich and beautiful character in a rough universe, and supplies a good contrast of texture from top to bottom. I built up the texture in the dress in overlapping lines, rather than broad strokes, to show the flow, direction and feel of the fabric. This texture achieves the look of a shimmering sheen.The colours scheme also echoes silk and satin, by using a subtle contrast in the blues and magentas. Another point of contrast was to use warm colours on the top of the miniature, and then progressing towards colder colours towards the bottom. And to really hit the contrast in the whole piece, the inside of the umbrella was painted in a very striking colour, that, when viewed from the right angle completely frames the girl’s face and provides a hard colour contrast to the soft blues on her dress.
The composition of the whole piece was a good exercise for me. I wanted to tell the story, and profile the character, but I also wanted it to be simple and still effective.
The plinth was custom-built on Chromanaut’s lathe, and I built up, rather than out. I wanted the setting to fade out, so that the character was the most tangible, and then the scene would become less and less material.
The walkway is dirty and the carpet threadbare, but and then the broken hands of the downtrodden reach through the bars from below. She is obviously above her subjects, not only in stature, but also in height and in painting style. The character was painted with acrylics, with an eye to smooth blends and sharp definition, while the base and the poor workers’ hands, were made gritty with oils paints and pigment powders. This creates even more contrast between the character and her setting.
A small detail, that I was very happy to be able to include, is that the slope of the umbrella’s handle, and the slope of the bars holding down the destitute, are equal. From the right angle, this creates an interesting mirror between the character and the bottom of the setting.
I am very pleased with the piece, and very happy that I started it when I did. The process was hard, and not always pleasurable, but when I finally got into the flow, it just took a life of its own.
This piece is possibly the most time I have ever put into one single model, spending around half the time on construction and sculpting, and the other half painting.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!