Monday, 4 March 2013

Samurai Space Marines (and Ogres from Cathay)!

As I mentioned before, I used to be one of the artists behind Brushworks.  Back in the early 2000's (as far as I can remember), BW was one of THE FIRST professional miniature painting companies.  The founder got the business afiliated with the Portent website (at the time, the biggest and baddest of the GW rumour and news leak websites), and then went about recruiting the biggest names in the competitive miniature painting circuit.  Just about everyone on the team was a multi-Golden Demon award winning painter, with the  possible exception of myself and Mike Butcher.

If that name sounds familiar to you, you're probably as old as I am.  ;)  Mike was a staple of the Games Workshop tournament circuit in North America, and was well known for entering gorgeously converted and painted armies.  In fact, he almost monopolized the "Best Army" and "Players Choice" awards during that time.  His works got featured in the North American edition of White Dwarf more times than my high school classmate Steve Nash has been in Sports Illustrated.

Anyway, I stumbled on to his blog ( recently, and on it, he mentioned that he was considering doing a Warhammer Fantasy Ogre army in a Cathay theme.  Now, the fantasy world of Warhammer Fantasy Battle is huge... and most literature from it centres mainly on their equivilant of continental Europe.  However, some reference has been made to the far east, and the nations of Cathay and Nippon (think ancient China and Japan respectively).  There are mind-boggling possibilities for an awe-inspiring Cathayan army, especially when fused with the Ogres, who are mainly mercenaries who fight in whatever style and manner their employers employ.

Just thinking about that made me recall this little guy:

Quote from my 2003 posting of this model:

"Some time back, the North American edition of White Dwarf announced a Design a Space Marine Chapter competition. To enter, you had to do a complete write up of a Marine Chapter, with background, notes about chapter markings, etc. As well, entries had to include a painted sample model. As a reward, the top ten entries would be featured in White Dwarf, and get their models sent back to them. 11th place and on would get nothing (and wouldn't even get their models back).

Being of Asian descent, I always lamented the fact that GW had, for the most part, overlooked the rich historical and cultural background of historic Asia. I went about researching Feudal Japanese background as an inspiration for my own chapter, and then came up with some concept sketches for a "Samurai Space Marine" (boy does that sound bad...).

I used Tau shoulder pads instead of standard Marine ones, gave him the helmet crest from the High Elf regiment boxed set, and replaced his chainsword with the blade and handle of an Eldar Howling Banshee. Instead of the standard back banner, I went with a Japanese style "Sashimono". I considered sculpting additional details on him, but thought that if this chapter was ever going to catch on (I was hoping that others might look at the picture in WD and feel inspired to start their own Spirit Dragons army), I had to keep the conversion work as simple as possible.

I then put in as many hours of painting as I ever have on any Golden Demon entry I've ever painted. I had no idea if the pic would be blown up at all, so the blending had to be as smooth as possible. I placed some teeny-tiny flowers on the base to emphasize that "tranquil warrior" feeling, finished it off with two layers of dullcote, and shipped him off Fedex to US GW HQ.

If you'd like to see the WD pics, check out page 42 of White Dwarf #276 (North American edition). I managed to squeak out a 2nd place finish amongst some really tough competition."

Well, I commented on Mike's blog that I would really love to see a Cathayan Ogre Kingdoms army done by him, and that if he started one, I'd finally get around to doing my Samurai Space Marine army.  So far, he's done a few models for a client some time back, and I've only got the one concept model for my army.

He agreed, and it looks like we'll be starting our respective armies sometime late spring / early summer of this year.  While I used the word, "challenge", I think we're both of the mindset that we're essentially just going to be egging each other on.  It'll keep our motivation high and our momentum up, hopefully.

So, in the meantime, I've got some other projects to finish up, and I'll also be going through all my reference materials to see if I can gather as many pics to inspire any projects for this army.  I have several boxes worth of feudal Japanese history books to look through (I'm a bit of a military history geek, and samurai are just plain cool to me), as well as my usual sources of inspiration (Spectrum art books, DeviantArt website, etc.).  So far, I'm thinking a fusion of feudal samurai and ninja arms and armour, with an anime-style futuristic special ops feel.

Remember when I talked about collecting all kinds of pics off the Net and putting them away in a special folder on your hard drive or tablet for future inspiration?  Well, just a quick 2 minute peek in my 2D folder and I came up with these gems (apologies for not crediting the original artists):

I think I'm starting to get a feel for what I'm going to have to work with.  I'm also going to have to pick through my bitz boxes to see what physical materials I've got.  Now, I'm pretty set as far as extra bits go, but there's not alot of asian themed parts from Games Workshop, so I may have to do some sculpting of my own.  That's not something I'm very good at, or even enjoy all that much (green stuff is my nemesis... I can't seem to get the knack for sculpting something that develops a rubbery skin if you don't work it just right).  Once I've sculpted a few parts, I've got some Instant Mold I picked up recently, which may make it possible to make multiples of those parts.  Seeing as I've got an entire army to do, that just might come in handy.

In short, this will be a fairly monumental task for me.  It'll involve quite a bit of planning (which I tend to get overwhelmed in), lots of experimenting (which I love to do, but tend to get carried away with), mastering new techniques and tools (which will lead to frustration, which will lead to anger, which will lead to the Dark Side...), and lots of mind-slogging hard work (which is just tedious).  However, the rewards will be well worth it.  I'll finally have a gorgeous Space Marine army, which is guarenteed to get me tons of attention from mobs of fantastically beautiful women.  Well, if not that, I hope to get at least a grudging nod of approval from Mike Butcher, at least.

Just to finish off this entry, and whet your appetite for the start of the cross-blog challenge starting late spring / early summer of 2013, here's some pics I took of the very same Spirit Dragon model after I did a few quick updates to it a few years ago:

And some pics of a unit of Cathayan Ogres I did up for a friend of mine almost a decade ago:

Now, those Ogres won't hold a candle to what Mike's planning, I'm sure.  All I did was add a few tattoos to the champion, and carry the image over to the banner.  After a quick look at Mike's last blog post, I'm sure my ogres will look like mere mooks compared to his high fantasy gods out of "Big Trouble in Little China".

I'm thinking that this'll be quite epic.

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