Monday, 21 March 2016

The Battlefield Colours of Old

My army had been painted back in the day with Ral Partha's Navy Blue. Citadel didn't have quite the blue I wanted, and I liked the flatter finish of the Ral Partha Paints. They didn't seem to be available anywhere locally, but internet to the rescue!

Some time later the paint arrived from England, and as I was setting up to do some painting I made a disappointing discovery. They had changed the formulation of their Navy, and it was a much different hue. It had a greenish or teal kind of hue that was especially apparent when you started mixing in white for the highlights. It seemed that this was nothing a little mixing wouldn't fix, and I had it in mind that some preparatory mixing was going to be on the agenda anyway.

When I painted the army originally, I had used the base coat, and just built the highlights up with white,wd  drybrushing as I went with individual models or small batches of them. this didn't give me the best or the most consistent results, so I decided I was going to get more methodical about it this time. The plan was to have 5 stages of colour:

-The base coat for the recessed areas and lining the creases
-A slightly lighter shade for the shaded and downward facing areas
-A median shade for the up-and-down surfaces that were perpendicular to the base
-A light highlight for upward facing surfaces
-An extreme highlight for picking out the edges

I tried to acquire ready-to-go colors that worked for some of the different stages, but although I managed to get a good light-to-dark graduation, the relative hues of the different paints were a little all over the place. There was some Tamiya paint that was the only thing I seemed to be able to find that was suitable for the extreme highlight was almost impossible to work with, and would tun to rubber in your brush before you could even get it on the model!

I needed to match the basecoat as faithfully as possible, and I would have to take the best of the paints I had tried to use for the highlight stages, and incorporate them as best and simply I could.  To complicate matters, it became apparent that at some point during the painting of the original army Ral Partha had made another change to the hue of their Navy, and not all the models were quite the same. The whole thing kind of spiraled into a huge mixing project. In the end, it probably ended up a lot more convoluted than it needed to be...

After a bunch of messing around with some test miniatures, I came to a mix that would work relatively seamlessly where I needed to touch up any of the old models, and had the look I was going for. I did my best to record what proportions I had used, but I was using syringes and pipettes to transfer the paints, which were in varying levels of dryness/ pigment-density, so the proportions I came to where certainly an approximation at best. When I have to mix more paint, there will certainly be some tweaking required to get a match... I bought some graduated cylinders from a lab supply place, so hopefully next time, I can be more precise. Here's what I came up with.

Base:      86% RP Navy, 14% Mephiston Red

Shade:    72% RP Navy, 17% Macragge Blue, 10% Mephiston Red, 1% Ceramite White

Median:  55% RP Navy, 33% Macragge Blue, 9% Mephiston Red, 3% Ceramite White

Highlight: 46% RP Navy, 25% Macragge Blue, 14% Calgar Blue, 7% MephistonRed,
               4% Altdorf Guard Blue, 4% Ceramite White

Edging:    37% RP Navy, 27% Calgar Blue, 9% Altdorf Guard Blue, 7% Creamite White,
               6% Mephiston Red

Since then, I've just discovered that these mixed paints I created separate to a degree that giving them a good shake before a painting session isn't enough to fully reincorporate them. This came up when I went in to touch up some panels on a Drop Pod I'm working on that I had blocked out with stages 2-4 some time ago and was just lining and edging with 1 and 5 just now. After some remixing and rechecking, It seems if I don't go in with a stir stick and physically scrape the bottom, I will start to see the shade shift on me within as little as 24 hours. I thought this might be some incompatibility between the Citadel and Ral Partha paints, but I've seen some shade shifting on the greys that I'm using for the interior as well and that was all Citadel stuff. I really like having the 5 stages I can go to as I'm painting, but I don't think I'll mess around with any more mixing than absolutely necessary on any future projects...

That said, I'm quite happy with the end result. Here's a shot of the first batch of marines I painted/ touched up.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Relics of Ultramar

So some months ago I finally came to the realization that I must heed the ancient call, and get back into 40k.

Although I had thrown away a tremendous amount of hobby stuff years ago when I had been faced with bedbugs in a building I was living in, I had held on to all my finished models, including my old army of Rogue Trader era MkVI "beakie" Space Marines.

Looking over what I had, I was struck with two strong feelings: First a great wistfulness and nostalgia for all those hours I had spent at home working away on these models, at the desk across from my Dad's in the basement. Second an overwhelming sense that although I'd always taken pride in the level of detail to which I had painted these models, that I was a much more capable, grown man now, and could do much better.

I very quickly resolved that I would "remaster" this old army of mine. That I would keep and touch up the best of what was there, put some of the more creatively painted and converted models away as momentos and strip and then repaint the worst of it (along with some squads I had made of some other things for fun such as Mentors and Fallen Angels) bringing it all in line with the new codex structure with the hopes of playing (and perhaps winning) some games with it.

The army was put together before there was any concept of the Codex Astartes in the game, and before the Ultramarines became the embodiment of it it, long before Citadel had produced Chapter-specific paints, or iconography and marking were standardized.. Much like many of the artists GW has employed, and still do, my vision of the Ultramarines has always been somewhat darker than the baby-blue centurions of latter day. They were, after all, the angels of death. I'd taken a lot of inspiration from the art in the very first few rulebooks There are two images that still stick in my mind, and looking back now, I can see I borrowed from them quite a bit.

So much of Russ Nicholson's work was influential on my concept for this army. You can see that from the image I chose as my avatar for this account, and particularly in this image here:

I had chosen a dark Navy for their base color, and had my own, looser though fairly developed  concept for the markings and iconography than what is now considered Codex compliant. In addition to all this, the vast majority of the models were in an obsolete armour pattern. I didn't want to loose this character of the army, but I wanted to bring it into the modern era of the game. I needed narrative. With some research, and a bunch of thought, It came together.

There wasn't much written about the 3rd Company which really appealed to me as I didn't want the baggage of named characters, formations, etc. What I did find was that the 3rd company retook the polar fortress in the Battle for Macragge after the destruction of the 1st company, taking heavy casualties themselves in doing so. I liked how this mirrored the history of the Ultramarine legion showing up late for the Heresy, and doing penance by doing the heavy lifting during the Scouring.

The story goes that: "As a gesture in honor of the sacrifice the 1st had made, The 3rd bestowed all of their Mk VII suits and much of their equipment to the new Captain and newly promoted Veterans of the 1st in order to help rebuild, as most of theirs had been lost with the battle brothers of the 1st in the bloody house of horrors that became of the dark bowels of the polar fortress. Approving of this, and seeing the need for the 3rd, who had also suffered greatly and fought heroically in the recapture of the north pole, to be refitted, Chapter Master Calgar ordered that the Chapter's stores of relic armour be opened to the 3rd Company, who would henceforth be it's bearers and custodians. A great deal of Mark VI had been used by the 13th legion in the days after the heresy, which at that time had technically been becoming obsolete, but was taken on by the legion so that those other legions who had suffered so much attrition in the battle for Mars and Terra and the other fronts of the Heresy, could be urgently supplied with the state of the art Equipment. Although it was not quite as refined as the Mk VII armour that had been churning out of the Terran Manufactorums, it was an improvement over the the Mk IV suits that the Ultramarines, relatively isolated in the Eastern Fringe, had been using since the latter days of the Great Crusades.

Upon the issuing of Calgar's order the Chapter Artificers solemnly prepared to repaint the relic armour to adhere to the dictates of the Codex. The tech-priests urgently requested they desist, and requested an audience with the Chapter Master. The machine spirits of the Armour were very, very old, and had earned their long slumber. They would be displeased to be called into service again so many millennia later, but they would be very angered to have the livery of their former glory so callously erased. After much deliberation, and great insistence of the Master of the Forge, with the support of the Chapter's Artificers and Librarians (who wished to preserve these pieces of the chapter's history in as original a state as possible), it was decided that since it was not a functional or organizational deviation from the codex, and the circumstances were extraordinary, that the ancient power armour would remain as it was, in the colours, heraldry, and iconography of the Great Crusade. Any heraldic, campaign or honor badges particular to the original bearer of the suits would be preserved in the Reclusiasm on Macragge, and it would be replaced in the way of those times, in order to appease the machine-spirits, as the new bearers continued writing the chapter's rich history in blood on the battlefield.

The original iconography was quite varied due to the ad-hoc fashion in which the legion expanded it's ranks in those days, and the variety of worlds from which they drew their numbers. This made it an even more difficult decision for Calgar, as he knew that what the Primarch had seen as too much room for individuality in the legions of the Crusades was believed to be a weakness that made fertile ground for the taint of treason, and was part of the reason for the rigidity of the codex in such matters. He did however appreciate the similarity of the 3rd Company Captain's gesture to the Guilliman's eschewing of the Mk VII in favor of the VI in the first place. It was as if a Harmonious chord was being struck from across the expanse of the Millennia, and allowing the armour to continue to serveas it had been through the ages seemed fitting in that sense."

With that settled, it was time to get on with some painting.