Those who have followed my ramblings on art and wargaming will realise that from time to time I get asked to do some art work that brings wargames figures, or historic fantasy/fiction, to something approaching life. This one is probably my strangest commission yet and I call it old school Warhammer 40K because, along with recent blogs discussing "what is old school" (such as this one - link) it got me thinking. So much of our talk about old school wargaming is because it is something from a lost past that is nostalgic and for me, surprisingly, this painting did just that.
Please take a look at it:
|Hikz and da Boyz, Acrylic on canvas 16" x 12"|
Games Workshop and Warhammer has been around for what, 25- 30 years now? And being a die-hard historical wargamer I tended to look on it with disdain until my son reached the age of about 6 in the mid 1990s and we were venturing into all sorts of strange things, among which was "Space Hulk" (I think it was called) which eventually led us into the local GW store. It didn't take long to realise that here was branch of the hobby with its own futuristic universe with fully rounded armies, "national characteristics", uniforms and literature (at a price!) to back it all up - and rules that were fun, and, Heaven forbid! included saving throws when your figure was hit! - old school rules indeed. Space Marines and Eldar "Codexes" became regular bedtime story reading while we planned the next squads or mechanised squadrons, and later produced our own orks for "Gorkamorka". He learned to paint figures to such a good standard I later paid him to paint some of my 18th Century units. It's nostalgic for me as it represents a period of several years when my son and I actually spoke the same language and enthused about the same things.........until he found Playstation!
So imagine my surprise when, through email correspondence, I found one of my kindred spirit "old school" wargamer clients also had a soft spot for Warhammer 40K, had created his own gang of Ork Boyz with Imperial Guard opposition and had scratch built a superb model armoured train to go with them. He liked them so much he commissioned me to come up with an idea for a portrait of "Hikz" and his two leading henchmen "Spike" and "Shaggratt" (Yeah I wondered I about that name too!.....well he is a disgusting ork).
So we got to thinking about, if you were an Ork boss in the 41st Century (and not withstanding what will pass for art if the World lasts that long) how would you wish to be portrayed? The answer is obviously - hard, tough, uncompromising, cruel, powerful, commanding etc, so we needed to capture that idea..... And now a bit more nostalgia since the client asked for a ruined city backdrop "like Stalingrad", and of course I first encountered the awefulness of Stalingrad when doing my own "old school wargaming style" research for 1/72 scale wargames back in 1968 (no handy scenario books back then). Then there was that old pile of my son's "White Dwarf" magazines from 15 years ago which gave inspiration for the garish colour scheme of a 40K World and uncompromising charisma of an Ork Warboss.
Now "How to paint what doesn't exist?" and I refer you back to James Gurney's wonderful book in an earlier posting imaginative realism. So I got the client to send me some nice quality photos of his ork models and the armoured train, from all angles. I found some grainy, but effective, black and white photos of the real Stalingrad on the internet and married then together in a computer mockup, as I do for most of my figure paintings. The Imperial Guard bodies and destroyed cannon were inspired by the old WD magazines but original poses from my imagination.
And then, with the client's agreement to the basic design and colour scheme I set to with the brushes and acrylic paint to come up with what you see about 20 hours work and 5 days later. Here is the sub-text to set the scene:
Ork leader, and all-conquering hero, Hikz, has masterminded a ferocious assault on this enemy city and now has entered on his armoured command post train to dispatch any remaining opposition. The defenders are mostly dealt with - evidenced by the foreground bodies and wrecked cannon. Those who fight on are being confidently overcome (by, for example, Spike’s blasta and the bomba rockets). Shaggratt is carefully watching his boss’s back. The city is a raging inferno so destroyed and hot that no one should be in any doubt that is what you get if you mess with Hikz and da Boyz.
Thanks for sticking with this combined nostalgia and advert, and as a reward here is a photo of the client's original armoured train model which is far too good to hide from public gaze.