Monday, July 30, 2012

Coven Throne and Mortis Engine

A Tale of Two Models

Bob and I have been commissioned to assemble and paint the Vampire Count's Coven Throne and Mortis Engine.  Yes, that's two of the same model for the same customer.  Through assembly, painting and more assembly lessons have been learned.  Allow me to share...

It was the best of models, it was the worst of models, it was the model of ingenuity, it was the model of ineptness, it was the effigy of arrogance, it was the miniature of Beauty, it was the miniature of Chaos, it was the March of temperance, it was the August of wrath, I had the instructions before me, I had gibberish before me, I was going direct to Nirvana, I was going direct to Madness...

Basics for Assembly...

Bob decided to prime the pieces while they were still on the sprue.  He only assembled the primary portions 'host' as you can see above.  He did the same for the 'engine' or 'throne' part as well.

Mortis Engine

Here we have the Mortis Engine itself.  As you can see the cage of the engine where the shrine goes is left un-assembled.  Had it been assembled it would have been impossible to paint.  The shrine, too, has been left unattached from the main part of the engine.

I followed the box art for the Mortis Engine, mostly because I felt that is what my client wanted.  I started out with the following paints:
1) Base Color - Chardon Granite.
2) Heavy Dry Brush - (1:1) Chardon Granite + Cel-Vinyl Tan 16 (aka.Bleached Bone).
3) Light Dry Brush - (1:2) Chardon Granite + Tan 16.
4) Very Light Dry Brush - (1:4) Chardon Granite + Tan 16.

Here is basically what my colors looked like.
This application of colors goes on everything that is supposed to be bone or stone - including the shrine/altar.  Additionally, to the stone steps/base and altar I washed it in black so that it would darken and appear slightly different than the bone carriage.

Here comes the fun part, green flames!  This color combination is also used for the candles.  The box calls for Scorpion green...which is fine if you've got it, I don't.  Cel-Vinyl Yellow Green works well. 

The following colors were used:
1) Base Color - Orkhide Shade
2) Highlight - (1:1) Orkhide Shade + Yellow Green (aka. Scorpion Green)
3) Second Highlight - Yellow Green.
4) Third Highlight - (1:1 or 1:2) Yellow Green + Tan 16.

Now, here's the odd thing about the flame; the darker portion is at the top and the lighter portion is at the bottom.  Here's how I did it...
  • First, paint on the Orkhide Shade. 
  • Then, brush on the second step including the tips, also PAINT on this second step color mix about half way down the flame.
  • Next, brush on the third color from half way down the flame and PAINT it on 1/4 of the way down.
  • Finally, brush on the fourth color mix just above the rib cage and PAINT it into the rib cage portion between the ribs.
These colors were also used to add a green glow to the inside of the shrine cage as if the candles are glowing green.

The tome at the front of the Mortis Engine is painted Stained Ivory, highlighted with Creamy Ivory and washed in Gryphonne Sepia.

The text is created,  upside down, with a 10/0 liner and Black Ink (not wash).  I've said it before, I talk the words through while I write.  No, it doesn't actually 'say' anything, but I found that technique helps me pattern my words.  Without it, I discovered my first attempts at text looked like scribbly nothingness.  I'm not saying it looks much better now, to you perhaps, but to me I see the difference.

Coven Throne
Again, I mostly followed the box description.  However, there was a special request with this that you will see later.
Like the Mortis Engine, the Coven Throne was left unattached and all parts painted separately.  Trust me, it makes it soooo much easier.

First, Base Coat all the bone with Cel-Vinyl Tan 16 (aka. Bleached Bone).

Second, placement wash the model with Ogryn Flesh Wash.  When I say placement wash, I mean selectively place the wash instead of going all willi-nillie with the wash.

Next, using Tan 16, do a heavy dry brush over the whole piece, try not to drive the bristles of the brush into the crevices, just hit the high points.
Then, using (1:1) Tan 16 + White do a light dry brush making sure that you are going from top to bottom of the piece so you are more likely to hit the top of the bones.
Finally, using only white do an extremely light dry brush with the same method mentioned above.

As for the pillows, on the box they are mostly darker shades.  Well...I wanted some garish pop to the piece so I chose something brighter with the orange.  I think I was compelled to offset the guts spilling out of the one pillow.  The center pillow is the focal point so I wanted it darker than the rest, plus it makes the skull stand out quite nicely.

Here we have a close-up of the green flames.  These are done in the same manner as the ones for the Mortis Engine.  It may appear different, but that is just because of the change in the surrounding bone color.  Isn't it neat how that happens?

Just more proof about how easier it is to paint this while it is apart.

On the box art the roses on the steps are painted purple.  I prefer red roses frankly.  I imagined them like drops of blood, they are vampires after all.


So this is where things divert, if you hadn't noticed already...
My client wanted the coven maidens to resemble the brides in the movie Van Helsing.  If you recall the movie the coven looked like this...

"I like the way their dresses are different," that's what my client said.  I agree totally.  I like the greenish cast to the one, the gold of the other and the pink on the last.  I also enjoy how they each have different hair color, black, blonde, red.  It makes them different.  Now, I had a difficult task at hand to make those dresses from the movie transfer into the ones on the figure.  The dresses are obviously not structured the same, so I couldn't really do exactly what was done on the movie dresses.  Below are examples of my adaptation...



I think next time I paint a coven throne, I would like to do their bridal affair in shades of white like Bram Stoker's Dracula.

I saved my criticism for last so as not to taint the enthusiasm of the model itself.  Like a lot of GW models they look beautiful when fully assembled and painted; however, this particular model was a tragedy.

My main complaint is in the assembly.  Bob usually assembles things for me and I paint them.  This time I decided to paint and assemble myself; to which I regret.  The directions make it appear as if you could assemble this model fully and then paint.  What a load of bullshit.  There would be so many unpainted sections and it would be so cumbersome while painting.  Unfortunately a problem arose while I was painting and assembling as I went - the glue wouldn't hold.  Because of the layers of primer and paint the Testor's Model Glue wouldn't hold, pieces kept popping off.  I had to switch to Model Master Liquid Cement, that seemed to do the trick and melted the parts together appropriately.  Super, problem solved...not so quick...some of the directions didn't make sense, they didn't line up properly or interfered with other pieces.  Crap.  So, you move the interfering piece just a titch, now something else doesn't line up.  Double crap.  In the end this was an exercise in futility and a stretch of my patience, of which I have an enormous amount having to deal with teenagers normally.

I think what bothers me is that the claim on the box is that this model is for 12 and up.  I work with 12 year olds, there is no way that they could assemble this without help.  There are adults that would find difficulty with it.  It shouldn't take a person months to complete a model, even one as complex as this; no wonder someone would give up.  And, if the person were so unfortunate as to think that they could assemble then paint - wow - it would be so frustrating.  I realize that there were apparently "further directions" and "help" in White Dwarf, but really can't you give us the "help" for free?  Do I really need to buy a magazine to assist me with this model?  I shouldn't HAVE to do that.  Why should it be so darn difficult - talk about discouraging people from the hobby. 

A model shouldn't make you think of the French Revolution.

With Love, Allison


  1. Holy Intricateness!!! I can see why this project gave you so much frustration! Regardless, it's certainly a masterpiece to be remembered. I hope your client is pleased with it.

  2. Fantastic Job, both models look superb

  3. My God a beautiful job! I copied some of your ideas for my own Coven Throne. I did fully assemble in and prime it before painting and well.. I am not a good painter so I still like the finished product as a reflection of my own low skill level, but yes there are so many little areas that still show primer (or even gray plastic) through when you look at different angles that it is annoying.

    For my Mortis Engine I am trying it it stages, but not complete yet so I expect I will have trouble with the fit as you describe...

  4. Thanks Nicholas! Hope the post was of some help.