Pint-SlayerAvatars of War Dwarf Berserker conversion, completed April 2009
This is the very first model from Felix Paniagua's Avatars of War line and still one of my favorites. I liked it so much that I pre-ordered two from Spain within days of seeing the green putty original online. The model bears a striking (and presumably intentional) resemblance to a dwarf [troll]slayer from Warhammer and I fully intended to play up that similarity. The quality of the sculpting is such that I didn't actually need to convert the model, but I have a problem leaving things well enough alone, so some modification was bound to happen.
I generally recommend developing a clear idea of how you want a converted model to look before actually making any changes. Most times I follow my own advice, but occasionally (as was the case here) the concept changes during the conversion process: a piece might not fit well, a pose looks strange, you have a better idea, or you simply change your mind. I'd originally planned to swap this model's right-hand axe for another weapon and re-pose the left arm. I actually had a new weapon converted and ready to go when I decided the position of his right arm looked like he was raising a drink and that was that - I needed to give him a pint of beer.
I really like the stock axe in his left hand, but it seemed overly thick (presumably a concession to casting). I had only intended to replace the blade with ABS plastic, but I kept hacking at it until I had effectively built a whole new axe. The only part I kept was the dragon from the back of the axe-head, and I cut a wedge out of that to make it thinner. The axe blade itself is patterned off Gotrek's axe blade from the GW Slayer novels [started] by Bill King with a square haft like Gimli's axes in the Lord of the Rings films.
I tried to use the existing hands, but neither quite fit the pose I was working toward, and I ended up re-sculpting both to a certain extent. I'm pleased to say these are my first sculpted (non-bionic) hands/fingers. I was able to use the existing model's hands as an example, so I think they came out pretty well, and it didn't hurt that they're fairly large.
I added two elements to the base that I think fit the model well - a dragon skull (since "dragon-slayer" is one of the honorifics slayers earn as they improve/fail to get themselves killed) and a bit of fabricated dwarven stonework lifted from a piece of Warhammer Online concept art (which I consider an homage rather than plagiarism). The rune (of striking) hammered into the forehead of the dragon skull was mostly to break up the big cranial dome I had to add to the basic dragon skull to make it touch the bottom of his boot; but it was conveniently left over from another project.
Thus the final, revised concept for this model is a slayer lifting a tankard of Bugman's amid the trophies and memorials of slayers past before returning to his own doom-seeking.
I usually paint a model's face first, and I was well into the base coats of the skin when I realized his left eye was a bit of a mess. I'm not sure if it was deliberately sculpted as an injury or if I just had a bad casting, but it wasn't really "eye-shaped". It was either give him an eye-patch (an idea I still like) or repair the eye. I decided to try the latter. I only set out to fix the right eye, but once I'd started it was hard to stop (typical for me), and eventually I had re-sculpted one eye, the nose, both cheekbones, and part of his moustache and sideburns. I wouldn't normally recommend doing any of this after you've starting painting as putty doesn't bond as well to paint as it does to bare metal or plastic, but it came out OK in this case.
For the first (and hopefully last) time ever, I ended up finishing this model in the hotel room just a few hours before the painting contest submission deadline. It was unpleasant to say the least. I don't know if it was painting away from the reassuring comfort of my workbench, the looming deadline, or something else, but every one of the final stages seemed to fight me. None of the highlights wanted to work, my blends were choppy, and my glazes literally removed previous layers of paint. I got it "done" in time, but I made two resolutions that day – 1. Never to paint in a hotel room before a contest again, and 2. Revisit (read: finish) this model's paint job under more controlled and less stressful conditions. I've held to the first easily enough, but the second hasn't quite happened yet. Yet.