Skulls for the Skull Mountain! This is the first really big miniature I’ve painted, Mierce Miniatures’ Blood Maw, Vore. I had planned to enter this into the 2017 summer painting competition on r/minipainting. The theme was ‘violence’ – or to be more precise:
VIOLENCE! Violence, the theme is violence, violence, violence, violence. Your miniatures should be angry, mad, bloody, gory, violent and ready to fight!
This seemed like the perfect mini for the task, but I overestimated my ability to complete a big project in a short time, and I’ve only just finished this week.
Finished product first; the complete Blood Maw atop a snow-capped mountain of skulls:
Alongside the Blood Maw for size comparison are a Games Workshop Slaughterpriest (40mm base; this guy was given away free with an issue of White Dwarf so I assume most people have a good idea of how big it is), a Russian Alternative Barbarian of the Wasteland Lord (25mm base) and a chaos dwarf from Knightmare Games (20mm base). As you can see, this is a big, heavy mini. I bought it about a year ago in one of Mierce Miniatures’ periodic buy one, get one free sales – an excellent deal for a massive amount of resin. Its arms, legs, most of its claws, its face – such as it is – and its many pointed teeth are all separate, which I found kind of intimidating, but I was able to assemble the whole thing over three sessions with minimal pinning and plenty of Araldite and super glue. The joints were subtle, but I wanted to get rid of them altogether. I filled the gaps with green stuff and replicated the Blood Maw’s wrinkled skin by pushing my thumbnail into the still-soft resin.
A 100mm base was included, but I replaced it with a scenic resin skull base that I bought on eBay. Unlike Vore, this isn’t a great casting – the eye-sockets, nasal cavities and mouths are almost smooth and the sides of the base are quite rough. I decided to cover half the skulls by building up a pile of slate and gluing in some tiny resin skulls with sharper detail. Because I love Oldhammer, and because the theme of the mini is, after all, violence, I finished the base with four metal casualties from the ’80s and ’90s, a couple of plastic shields, a sword from the Warlord Orc Sprue, and a spear made from a plastic offcut.
Keeping the mini and the base separate, I was ready to start painting. Ryan Smith described this as a miniature that practically paints itself, and I have to agree. A solid base coat with rough wet blends between the colours, a heavy layer of washes, and a few hundred strokes with a dry brush took just a few hours. Getting a decent smooth finish on the teeth and picking out the subtle details on the tongue took a bit longer. Every painted version of this model that I’ve seen uses the same grey skin tones; my colour scheme goes a different route, loosely inspired by Games Workshop’s Slaughterbrute. The Blood Maw could convincingly stand in for one of them if I ever play a game; in the meantime he’s definitely going to fill in as a Devourer of Orcus in my ongoing D&D campaign.
Painting the base took almost six months. The rocks always looked dull and unfinished, the hundred-or-so skulls would be boring to paint after the first four-of-five, and the casualties were in awkward positions. More than a few times I regretted starting the project. Reddit user u/peppermintpatti gave me some solid advice, which I took:
Don’t be afraid to take a break and step away from the work for a few days, a week, or whatever you need to feel inspired again.
With patience and perseverance, eventually everything fell into place. The rocks and earth really just needed many layers of drybrushing, and I got the best out of the skulls using multiple layers of very thin glazes. I used the same familiar techniques and colour palettes I’ve been using for orcs and dark elves, and a pretty standard dwarf adventurer’s outfit on the third. I challenged myself to paint a blue-and-white lozenge pattern on the knight, and I think it really paid off.
One approach that I found helpful was to come up with a story behind the evolving diorama.
When the winter snow thawed, opening the high passes and revealing the bones of those who had come before them, four gathered on the peak; human and orc, dwarf and elf. They fought there day and night, each of them sustaining mortal wounds. And the sound of their battle and the scent of their blood drew the Vore from its lair.
So, I needed to add some winter elements to the base. Games Workshop’s liquid snow – Valhallan Blizzard – is pretty amazing stuff; I just needed to splodge a load of it all over the rocks. Various dead, dry, and burnt tufts, lilac flowers (which looks enough like heather on a windy hilltop for me), lichen, and carrageen moss (aka Chondrus crispus or Irish moss) from an art shop. To make the icicles I followed Will-Tommorrow’s tutorial ‘Go With the Flow: Modeling Liquid in Motion‘, using thin cuts from a blister pack coated with glossy Mod Podge.
One down, three to go – hopefully they won’t take another six months each. I’ll get started on another giant to coincide with the Oldhammer Big April Challenge.