Space Orc sculpt

I've been scratch sculpting! Work log over at: Cool Mini Or Not

Tangent: I've generally liked GWs sculpts and how their sculpts are very direct, use simple shapes, leave space for labels and user funz, have a clearly established language and suggest function for many components. I've seen other companies who just appears to be stacking "cool" shapes, without much rhyme.

Well, that's what I used to think, anyways. Then I saw this skaven guy which will serve to illustrate what has been bothering me for a while about GWs current style. Zig-Zag hair, like how a child draws it. There's no clustering or tip curves. And that robe (and rat leg) is made out of unstructured angular flakes, an element which is present in many of their other sculpts as well. What's more, their indents are these... soft valleys (shrink wrapped?), which leads to a sort of pillow shading, which is made worth by the lifeless smooth painting (washing?) style.

Again with the skinsack shapes: Ogres , and the zig zag and angular patches return. Those lifeless monocolor pants. These Ogryns are a different thing from a different era. Haphazard, yes, but with a certain... illustrated storybook feel to them, with plenty for the eye to explore.

And their Orks are all teeth and plasticard now. I miss the "clowny" Bonner orks with their more rounded forms. Well, mostly the art that is. The sculpts were so-so. I guess I could buy some old EPIC Ork vehicles though.



Tael said...

Lovely sculpt, reminds me of the Paul Bonner artwork from Rogue Trader times - my favourite Orkney art period.

Look forward to more in future! :)

Matt said...

Excellent sculpt! The face and his left shoulder pad I like especially.

Arne said...

It's indeed an attempt to sculpt a Bonner Ork. Chin is a little big. The inverse highlighting helped to make it more Bonnery because he tends to highlight indents. The armour was based on an old Citadel model. I wanted to put it in a more spacesuity outfit since it's a "Space Orc".

Hungryclone said...

I love the look of your sculpts. Can't wait to see more and as a player of epic: Yes. They are damn expensive.

phiq said...

Actually, I think you'll find GW's design is still very tight. The design languages for their ranges are very much established and in many cases stronger than they have ever been. GW have had a while to hone it all. The current Necrons, for example, are flawless.

Some sculpts do fall a little flat. Some sculpts have to make compromises for the moulding process, particularly plastic. The current Eavy Metal style hinders things too sometimes, I agree. The Skaven range is weird; half of the character models are outstanding, whilst the rest are clearly not of the same standard. As for clustering and tip curves, be fair: the Demigryph Knights, Chaos Warriors and Warhounds, High Elf Chariot, and Ogre Mournfang Cavalry, for examples, don't have that problem. Even when they do, I get the impression that it's a stylistic choice in some cases at least; it looks good on the Ogre Thundertusk/Stonehorn, I think. I don't find the Ogre pants so offensive, but they are plain.

The Orks are great now. I love Bonner's work, but the Orks of that period were completely nonthreatening. They were diminutive, smiley and looked as if they'd just raided a fancy dress shop... and yet they were meant to be a serious threat to the grim-dark Imperium. The Orks now are big and brutal and fit the setting, yet retain their humour. I love their arms, they read beautifully, such economy and expression in the forms. I think though that painting their garb in blacks and browns dampens the shapes too much. Evil Sunz or Bad Moons read a lot better.

Arne said...

They're doing a decent job slicing the figs up to counter the limits of plastic, but the plasticity sort of shows (lack of details wrapping all around the model).

Looking at the Demigryph Knights, I see the exact same thing which I was talking about earlier. VVVV hair, though not as bad, an uncanny anatomical smoothness - a lack of sculpt texture and anatomical finesse - on the legs. The painter, clearly capable, has strangely made no freehand brush effort to counter it either. Fancy gradients can be effective, but I'm more reminded of overly Photoshopped (smooth) porn.

I did of course cherry pick models which I didn't like. There were a lot of rather awful (in a different way) back in the 90's as well. But, I have to stand to my opinion. Just looking around at the new stuff, It's hard for me to find anything which would make me take out my wallet despite the prices. I think their design language has gotten a bit too blatant (blatant can be good to a degree), like a movie for kids with no adult privy jokes in the background. All farts. I HAVE SO MUCH TEEEETH!

A lot of species during the RT era were more on the silly side, so the Orks didn't stand out then, nor did the Squats. Nowadays it's so grimdark they can't return to any of that, so I feel that the setting has gotten a lot more monotonous and shallow.

As for the current Ork arms, they remind me of an action figure that a kid has abandoned, leaving the arms twisted in some direction and the head sideways. The separation of the arms is made worse on the boyz by the all green arms. Also, the shoulder socket axis sticks straight out to the side on the bodies, adding to the action figure feel. There's not a lot of torso twisting.

I think you're right about the black and brown scheme, it really kills the shapes. But, there's less to play with when coming up with a color scheme than there used to be. I've noticed a lack a shoulder pad (on the boys), and also that back icon plate that they used to have(?). Now the choice seems to be what color to pick for their jacket, pants, boots, and weapons. Most of those already have a natural color, so coloring them is a little odd. The more armoured figs are more rewarding to deal with I guess. Lots of monotony, painting up all those samey boyz, anyways.

When the Necron came out, I thought the standard trooper was OK'ish (a little stiff/awkward in the torso and shoulder area, and I wasn't a fan of the head, but the transparent weapon sort of saved the design). I have since warmed up a bit to the overall design, but feel that the army just went downhill from mediocre, overall, perhaps surpassed only by Dark Eldar in that regard.

phiq said...

You should check out the new Dark Vengeance starter set sprues (I recommend in person) to see how the limits of plastic have been stretched further. They way those models have been engineered is unmatched. Having said that however, when details fall off a two-part mold, it’s not a failure or a compromise of the core design, but of production, which is a separate issue.

I like the Demigryph Knights. I love the Knights themselves and the embossed plate barding of their steeds. The EM painting style lets the GW Studio models down in a few places. The legs are fine, certainly not bad, I think. The barding doesn’t help by covering half of the anatomical structure that your eye naturally seeks. The legs on the Island of Blood High Elf Prince’s griffon are probably more to your taste, as well as the relatively recent Karl Franz on Deathclaw (lean muscle brawn and a dash of elegance).

I don’t understand your stance on “blatant” design languages. I also don’t understand how you cannot admire a great deal of GW’s new work, considering all that you have written on the subject of design. Some sculpts are average, some forms could be expressed better, some sets need an experienced modeler to get the most out of the figures… but overall, they’re consistently hitting all the targets of good design. Privateer Press are one of the few other mini companies that match GW in terms of mini design. As for the setting being monotonous and shallow… I can’t argue with nostalgia.

As for the Ork Boyz, you bring up some good points. In a sense, there is less to come up with regarding a colour scheme (though I will test this out myself soon, just to see). I remember many of the old sets; there were different models with differing designs for most of the Ork Clans, and while some were bare-armed, others had sleeves, others something else, and it served to add variation. The current Boyz take care of all clans, so you have to use your imagination. The backplate with the glyph I also remember… only about half of the current Boyz’ torsos have them, I think, the rest are straps with rings or somesuch, and they’re okay. The current Boyz do actually come with shoulder pads on the sprue, but not enough to fit two on each. I think this is a conscious decision by GW to distinguish them from their Nob superiors.

On a related note, I think there is something to be said about the overuse of shoulder pads. As effective as they are at providing a good space for unique shapes, for adding to the silhouette and for adding focus/importance to the head, you can often find yourself shoving shoulder pads on everything. This kind of thing reminds me of the Mutant Chronicles/Warzone wargame, which really took the shoulder pad thing to a new level. I’ve noticed the PP designers with their Warmachine game also like shoulder pads a lot, but they do pretty well with them, overall (some are head-squishing-ly huge). In a sense, they are like shields, with their potential for strong, distinguishing shapes.

And yeah, I do like the Dark Eldar more than the Necrons as well. Though mainly because the DE have more personality, in a sense. The Necron Deathmarks, Lychguard, and Canoptek Wraiths look fantastic though, and are my favs of the range. Perhaps your perceived stiffness of the standard Necron Warrior was due to its high scapula armour pieces? It doesn’t really have that feel from the front.

Arne said...

Those griffons do manage the details a bit better, avoiding the blobbyness often present in plastic kits.

The Dark Vengeance stuff is nice and detailed overall, but I think the Termies do exhibit that blobbyness. It's made more apparent by the official painted models, lacking a deeper shadowing between separated parts, perhaps because with plastic there's no indents there, meaning, those lines have to be freehanded, which is something their current painters are not doing a lot of. And there's some sort of clash between their inherent bulky stiffness and the contrived poses. There's some kind of awkwardness going on with the helmets too... the flattened forehead and the way the jaw clips directly into the chest piece.

The DA Marines are out ice-skating, holding hockey clubs. The Chaos Marines are much better, with details which leave the eye exploring for a while. Probably the best in the box, along the DA HQ. I feel that the Chaos dread is failing to achieve shape homogeneity and power in silhouette. And again with the flat colored cloth on the cultists, making the figures hard to judge.

I do admire a lot of GW's work, but they have put out so much stuff that it's hard not too be able to pick out stuff. Many of the models which I like are no longer in production though. I think they failed to stand on their own shoulders sometimes. That, and I don't appreciate their current style as much.

Another reason why GW's stuff is less impressive to me now is because I have seen what the rest of the world has to offer. There are countless of Gunpla kits which makes most GW attempts at mech look incredibly hamfisted. When you're deeply immersed in GW only stuff, it's sort of self contained, self relative, but if you come back in from the outside GW tanks suddenly look like boxes on tracks, too blatant and simple.

Blatant design can be both good and bad. A design needs to communicate immediately, but it also needs a layer beneath which keeps interest. If one is too effective at pruning that layer in the name of readability, simplicity or style, you get closer to... blatancy with a negative connotation. I feel that the Orks in particular have crossed that line.

Regarding the Ork Boys vs Nobs distinction, this wasn't as much of a problem with the old ones, in my mind. But I got my visuals from Epic. In Epic, the Nobs were sort of encased in rounded armour, a bit like a Terminator. The new Orks are very noisy with their plasticard look, with nobs simply having more noise on them. But, plasticard conversions are easy for people to do, so I guess that's justification. I think they lost a dimension, going flat like that, pun intended.

I've begun using tricep-pads a little. I think the problem (I have) with some of the Warmachine stuff is that they just stack shapes to form their malt-cross silhouettes. Maybe I'm just ignorant of the Warmachine design language, but GW has better filler details I think, like the purity seals, targeters, clean spaces for decals, etc.

Oh, I meant I liked Dark Eldar less, but maybe I was mistaken, as they have improved a bit since those early models. Though, I'd still rather have a Squad of Necrons than DE something. Anyways, I think the DE are still severely lacking in decadence! There are fragments on some models which I like (biker helmets, though Infinity does it better, and certainly Bubblegum crisis), but that's pretty much it. GW's black + colored edges style does the figures a disservice. There's a Turquoise DE army that has some charm.

According to the fluff they are pirates who "dedicate every waking moment to inflicting pain and suffering on the galaxy" (really?), but I'd probably paint them in a more rag-tag underhive color scheme if I got the chance.

I think it's the barrel-like ribcage which bothers me the most about the Necron figs. Maybe a lack of detail too. They're sort of barrel-y overall.

Arne said...

I think my problem is that I can no longer consume anything as it is. I have to tailor my own version. Perhaps this is why I have so many redesign'y projects. Too querulous.

Nowadays when I look at GW figures, sure, I see the nice parts, but I also see everything I disagree with, every little thing which I would have to greenstuff. There comes a point where it's just better to do one's own thing.

phiq said...

Haha, too querulous. I actually entirely understand your last comment. I’ve found myself thinking along those lines a lot lately, not solely because I want to make my versions of things slightly set apart from the rest. But on the other hand, I don’t want the burden of negativity that can come with being overly critical. There have been a few times in the past where I have ruined my own enjoyment of things. Cynicism can blur one’s fair judgment, and certainly one’s fun.

I also think it’s important to distinguish good design from taste. Personally, I like GW’s work because their designs are based on their strong background settings, and those settings are jam-packed with historical, literary, religious, mythological and art history references. Those things are my other interests, unsurprisingly. But it’s those kinds of references (that very few games companies bother with) that add weight to GW’s fictional universes. There are quite a lot of writers working for GW, and the designers would be lost without them (and vice versa). GW understands archetypes and how to work them into compelling and familiar, yet unique, background settings. Their miniatures actually end up representing something. They don’t exist in some kind of design vacuum.

This is likely a key deciding factor between our perspectives on this issue. I look at the Ork range, for example, and think, “Would a disorganised, primitive, maniacal, warlike and barbaric horde of aliens look any different in this universe?” As IP Manager Alan Merrett says, “The Orks are the barbarians to the Imperium’s Rome.” They make sense to me because I know what they’re about, and conversely this is communicated through the design (only then do I scrutinise the individual designs). After all, isn’t that how the best design is birthed, after a set of clear ideas, a strong vision?

I like Gundams, but the Gundam design aesthetic rarely looks plausible outside of the anime realm, and would certainly need adaptive work in order for it to make sense in another setting, let alone a GW setting. And lets not forget the uniquely Japanese qualities found in the Gundam designs, such as the nod to the samurai, and the echos of Japanese national consciousness, such as the atom bomb. It works the other way too; a Mars Pattern Warhound or Reaver Titan wouldn’t make sense in a Gundam anime. It is no surprise to me whatsoever that GW mechs look quite different from a lot of others. GW is British too. All considered, I like much from both of these aesthetic worlds. (My fav gundam being the Zaku II. Classic, but great.)

As for design blatancy, thank you for expanding upon this. I really think this makes a lot of sense. Though in my mind, the Necron range is the offender. It could be worse though, and I do like much of the Necron stuff. “Not enough spice” is how I’d put it. However, they are meant to be a bunch of servile robots, so perhaps the limitation is understandable.

Arne said...

For me, it was Bonner's art which fluffed out the Orks. So much fun stuff going on in every drawing. When I look at people's Ork armies now, I think... pretty much what you described. "Wow, these guys really want to shoot and growl and haphazardly hammer pieces of armour plating onto stuff."

Speaking of Orcs, I was just watching this:

When I said Gunpla, I was more talking about the entire range of plastic robot models over there. I don't know what the proper term is. You have MaK and Junk Tank Rock, Power Dolls, Steel Battalion, Armoured Core, Virtual on, Zone of Enders, Zoids, Macross, and countless more obscure stuff. I wasn't suggesting putting an RX-78 or Zaku into 40K directly, but more about the understanding of the relation of shapes which they have been working on, even though the basic RX-78 or whatever shape remains almost the same.

I guess, as an artist I'm not really looking at the figures (tbh I quite dislike their stompy feet and humanoidness at times). Rather, I'm looking the shapes which compose them, and interesting synergies, harmonies or lack of. That's what of use to me, because building a library of components is essential. A head well placed in a chest piece, or a leg armour plating which suggest muscularity... can be really exciting stuff to me.

So, I meant that in that department the GW mech stuff feels less accomplished, with some exceptions of course. The SM Dreads, especially with the interesting FW bits have been refined a lot designwise.

Arne said...

Stuff of Legends has an Ork section. While the sculpts are a bit awkward, the range of clothing, facial shapes and Orky weirdness is something which I can appreciate.

How are factions done with the current plastic boys? Different colors and conversion?

Arne said...

I meant Mega Armour, when I typed Nob. IIRC, in Epic there's no distinction between the figs.

phiq said...

Haha, nice vid. I too like Bonner’s work, and I was pleased to see that his comprehensive artbook had a decent GW section, complete with his classic (brilliant) freebooterz pic, which is the epitome of his work for me (along with his Rackham stuff).

As for looking into shapes, gundam/GW; I understand your perspective. What I think is the case here is that we have two examples of clearly distinct design perspectives. If a design fails, it does so on its own terms as in relation to its setting or genealogy, or as a failure of shape and shape relationships… not because one fails to resemble the other to some arbitrary degree. This may serve as an eternal disagreement between us… or perhaps you could offer another observation? (Writing my parts in this discussion has been as much of a refining of my thoughts as it has been a plumbing of yours!) The GW mech stuff largely still holds up for me, because its designers use the two World Wars, medieval iconography and the ugliness of industry as their shape informants, rather than the decades of scale models and tin robots, as with the Japanese. They both approach a problem, and they both mostly succeed tackling it from wildly different directions and/or traditions.

There is definitely value in those old Orks. The designs are great, and I love that quilted armour. The range of clothing is somewhat missed by myself and undoubtedly others, but such variety likely does not transfer well to plastic units produced in high numbers. If one is handy with green stuff then there are more options using the current range. I tried myself a couple of years back, a Snakebite Boarboy, though I wasn’t too confident with GS back then >> Generally speaking though, colours and conversions are the mainstay for making clans these days. If I had the chance, I would go Blood Axes, but with a khaki colour scheme, nice and clear… inspired by a great converted GorkaMorka mob of Mike McVey’s back in White Dwarf 214!

I know the Epic Nobs you’re talking about too. Though they were made in that time when Ork heavy armour infantry looked a little too Space Marine-like...

Arne said...

Oh no, I agree completely with what you said, I think. A design has to play within the boundaries of the setting's aesthetics. Sometimes I just disagree with the boundries which they have set up (or moved), but in the case of the Tau Crisis suits (which are subject to frequent critique, not just from me), I think they have failed to optimize their design within their boundaries (sort of spilling out at places, too). I think the designs fail to achieve a pleasant synergy, and it's a shame because there's some pretty nice unused concept art for them, and the silhouette is fine. The Devilfish design harmonizes better, and I'm OK with the overall design language of the Tau. Kroot are nice, Fire Warriors, Shield Drones...

Orks. I wasn't a big fan of the old Ork sculpts either, as they were too compact and didn't really resemble Bonner's art. On the other hand, there were so many figures to choose from. Feral-Imperialy-Orky-Spacesuity...

If I had a Bonner Ork there, it would sit and smoke water pipe, like the Alice's caterpillar, perhaps wearing a looted top hat.

I started with BloodAxes for my Epic stuff, since I had Imperial vehicles and didn't collect imperial. I like the idea of Orcs which tries to do things proper (be it aesthetics or organization) but fall short, rather than, say being directly haphazard and sloppy because they can get away with it. "1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes." I read in a list of writing tips.

Arne said...

I have the Bonner art book of course. I think there's a sort of cute sincerity to his Orks, being all concerned about their affairs. It sort of disappears when you make them all muscle and teeth.

Arne said...

Having just read some of the early RT Ork fluff, I'd agree that GW's current Ork presentation is more of a match to that. Perhaps it was Bonner's art alone which colored my view of the Orks.

phiq said...

The Tau are largely quite good, my favourites of the range being the latest (plastic) stealth suits and the Fire Warriors. The Crisis Suits are funny, I agree with you. For me, their legs look slightly under-done, or too short. Their three-part chest piece design works well but the inner details look a bit random and don’t suggest much (unlike many gundams in this very region). The Forgeworld ones are pretty cool though and have expanded the library of Tau shapes in a big way. In some cases they’re entirely different. They look good, though some of the paint jobs are boring. I think the Crisis Suits look fantastic in the illustrations though, really dynamic. More of that in the miniatures, and they’ll be winners.

I think with Bonner, GW let him bring his flavour to the table. When he left, no one remaining did Orks in quite the same way, and the 40k background was developing quite fast too, so it’s really become a marker of an era. I came properly into the hobby in about 97, so all this had taken place well before. It’s only in recent years I have become conscious of the really old school stuff, their value and their failings.

Death Skullz are a cool clan to play around with too, since they loot Imperial vehicles and modify them. In November’s White Dwarf, there’s a great Death Skullz tank made from a Leman Russ and Battlewagon bits. It really works, and the shapes are kept in line.

I think that’s the key with the current Orks, to keep the overall shapes grouped through tone and colour rather than having all these armour plates individually picked out. If I had the chance, I would be very strict about this. The overall shape of the vehicles is still quite strong. Love that Battlewagon…

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Arne said...

I'm not really a fan of any of the TAU mech, I think they fail in the sub-shape synergy department, and perhaps function. The gundams have been iterated so many times now that every little panel line and bulge has a function, though other mech designs out there do it better.

I'm not too familiar with the recent common 40K illustrations, other than a move to a CG-grayscale style that's a little dead looking. It reminds me of the RPG illustrations which I used to do while on a tight deadline.

I stopped collecting GW minis in around 97, but followed the progress/degeneration though WD.

Regarding the Ork Battle fortress, I think, because the Ork vehicle stuff is so... fuzzy (no distinct types encouraging a strong language for the types) there's a lack of resolution (this thing is verily about this). The battle fortress has something nice going on with the Sandcrawleresque block, but then diddles and daddles around with too many nooks, breaking it, as do many of the other vehicles.

I remember first starting with Orks, trying out colors schemes with all the colors, because it seemed Orky. Never did get it to work, but perhaps it's doable with lots of weathering bringing the plates together.

phiq said...

Do you think nostalgia is playing a role in your taste, by chance? You stopped collecting GW stuff in '97 and all of your favourite GW models are out of production. Nearly everything on your website harks back to games/tv shows/etc of yesteryear. I can't help but get this impression.

Arne said...

It probably does to some degree, but things certainly change over time and sometimes even degenerate. It's not difficult to tell in which time period a Manga was drawn. Some styles are nearly extinct as far as big commercial productions goes.

Some movie and book pre/sequels do get worse, despite fantastic production values involving hundreds of talented people and millions of dollars. And at the risk of sounding elitist, there are products aimed at a certain segments of the market which aren't that great, but still are hugely popular because of sheer momentum and the fanbase's encapsulation.

But I never said all of GW's <97 work was great, and the stuff which followed was invariably crap. What made me stop in 97 was the escalating prices and lack of social reinforcement to continue the hobby. There were a lot of nice minis coming out around then (post-crab pre-hag Deamonettes?)

No, in the OP I was simply expressing surprise at the poor aesthetic choices made on some of he current sculpts, in particular the larger plastic ones. I was expecting things to have gotten a lot better. Some of the old figures really needed fixing, others did not. I expected GW to be like a fortress (or should I say citadel?), each new stone increasing it's general impenetrability. But, not only have they torn down the tower where the bare breasted maidens used to live, they also sealed the underground passage to the Dwarf world, and replaced most of the stone walls with plasticard. They did put up a nice statue garden at the center, but unfortunately it's only for noblemen.

Arne said...

Another thing regarding nostalgia: Given that new things are less than 5 years old, there are far more old things out there. Sure, we do get better special effects in movies, overall, but if you were to pick a random great movie, it probably wouldn't be a new one, unless you are very young.

While I do have a retro fetish, I think of it as going to a larger library, with more to choose from. There's a lot of great stuff there which I never knew about. And, new stuff will soon get old, and get coverage on my site. Megaman Legends is now old, though it seems I bought it new yesterday.