Monday, June 26, 2017

GALLERY: The Art of the Unofficial Tomb Kings Battletome

The Unofficial Tomb Kings Battletome that I released several months ago had a ton of awesome original artwork in it. Though you can see all of it in the Battletome itself, I thought I would take the opportunity to showcase the artwork on its own as well talk to each of the artists a little bit about their work and Warhammer in general.

If you haven't seen the Unofficial Tomb Kings Battletome yet, you can download the 114 page PDF for free here. I was lucky enough to have several extremely talented artists working with me on it to provide new and original artwork for the Tomb Kings in the Mortal Realms. Kenneth, Jason, and Max all blew me away with the quality of the work they did for this project, and while all of this art is in the Battletome itself, some of it is cropped, or partially covered, so I wanted to make sure I showed it all off in its original form for you to enjoy. I also wanted to talk to each of them about the project as well as their other artistic and Warhammer endeavors.

Kenneth Erickson

A piece by Kenneth not used in the Battletome

Tyler: What made you want to participate in helping create the Unofficial Tomb Kings Battletome?

Kenneth: I'd been following your site for long while, and I always really appreciated the care you put into the narrative side of the hobby. Around the End Times and as AoS was launching, there was just so much negativity, it was hard to interact with my hobby online without having to wade through a lot of venom. I could always count on your site though for a more optimistic take on where we'd been and where things were headed.

Once we started to get more of an insight into the Mortal Realms, the more excited I got about the opportunities they offered. I truly love, and have spent close to 25 years exploring the Warhammer Wold (that Was), but in AoS I feel like we have the workings of a setting that's closer than ever to what could be found in the old Realm of Chaos books; these endless, mutable places that have haunted me since I saw my first John Blanche and Ian Miller paintings.

I had a real creative urge to be contributing to this new scene, so when I saw your posts on Twitter seeking artists to help develop a project set in the Mortal Realms, I decided to get in touch. Being familiar with your work and your approach to the hobby, I felt like you'd be coming at this project all from a place I'd really identify with.

Tyler: Are you an active gamer in AoS? What armies do you play/collect?

Kenneth: I truly wish I were. I've always been more active in the hobby side of things; converting and painting and so on. The scene's a little smaller, and perhaps idiosyncratic in Australia, so games can be hard to come by if you're not proactive. It's the oldest excuse but I work in a pretty intense field, so between professional and personal design gigs, what time is left leaves less room for gaming than I'd like. Working on miniatures tends to win out when I have the choice.

Having said that though, I do have a close group of friends with whom I've been gaming since Fantasy, 4th edition. Despite playing most systems over the years, we always return to the old specialist games, Mordheim in particular. Though the release of the Skirmish ruleset may have presented a perfect inroads to more regular games of AoS. I'm hoping in any case.

As far as armies go, I have a Stormcast force that's slowly coming together. I find the Stormcast really evocative once you get down into their fiction; how they too are finding their own identities. As a faction I think they're representative of our venture into this new setting in a lot of ways, their initial ubiquitousness diverging as life in the Realms influences their various aspects; how their memories of the worlds they knew have to be reconciled with the world before them now.

Outside of the Stormcast, I suppose I'm waiting pretty keenly on the return of the Aelves and what we'll get to see once we start to explore Hysh and Ulgu. Until then I mostly have to fight the urge to buy up each new force GW releases. We've had a good run so far.

Tyler: Have you made any Warhammer themed artwork in the past?

Kenneth: I got into Games Workshop at a pretty young age, so the aesthetic of Warhammer has had a pretty irreparable impact on my vocabulary as an illustrator; maybe as an aesthete in general I suppose. I remember teaching myself to render as a kid by redrawing Mark Gibbons and Des Hanley pieces. It sort of got to a point where my art teachers has to steer me off the subject. So, like a lot of us I imagine, I've been making art set in, or indirectly inspired by Warhammer for a pretty long while. I'd say though that the work I've contributed to the Endless Deserts projects have likely been the first fully realised pieces I've produced on the topic in a few years.

Tyler: Who’s your favorite existing Warhammer artist and/or what’s your favorite piece of artwork from Games Workshop?

Kenneth: For sure the toughest question here, though existing narrows it some I guess. There's just so, so many that have meant a lot to me over the years. Ian Miller, Wayne England, Mark Gibbons, Adrian Smith, Karl Kopinski... John Blanche, of course, who is present in all the work in some way. Talking about Blanche in this context can sometimes feel like talking about the Beatles as your favourite band. A pretty significant one for me is Dave Gallagher, who breathes so much life and madness into the less traveled parts of the Warhammer worlds. His Empire stuff is always so wonderful and I think you can see his influence on me the most in my sketching style. It's also super hard not to talk about Kevin Chin right now either, whose work is so diverse and really kinetic. His more graphic stuff - particularly the recent Tzeentchian pieces - is so vital; he reminds me of the energy in Mark Gibbons' work back in the day.

If I have to pick a favourite though, I'd have to say it's Paul Dainton. There is so much grace and semiotic weight to his work. He often reminds me of the feelings I get when viewing Turner; and though you could consider his work representational or figurative, there's also impressionist methods he employs to play with and control narrative focus - it's just wonderful. Having said that I often think of his approach as a Realist work within the setting - in an art-school sense - where the mundane everyday of Warhammer is actually terrifying and supernatural; truthful in subject and content to the horror, but also the stillness found within the horror. His Grey Knight vignette is still, to me, the quintessential space marine illustration.

As far as favourite pieces goes, two recent works that I think about constantly would be Paul Dainton's The Age of Myth, (I think that's the name used in a recent White Dwarf, apologies if I'm mistaken), where Sigmar is in flight before some great titan. It's so elegant, and the way he utilises stylised elements overlaying the more representational forms is part of why I love his work so much. Also Alex Boyd's stunning Dreadfleet box art, which is conveys every feeling I have when I think about Warhammer. I'd kill for a good print of that.

Tyler: You did the fantastic cover art for the Battletome, what was your inspiration on this? How long did it take you to make?

Kenneth: I'm really grateful to have had the opportunity. It was a big deal for me and a really interesting practical challenge as well. You'd provided a great brief where the objective was to make this piece fit with the existing Battletome covers - it had to feel like it could sit happily on the same shelf. While most of the Battletomes share a subject, commonly a unit that's representative of the faction's battle-line troops, placed within a landscape evocative of their faction's mode of war, it paid to sit down and be a bit analytical about their form and content.

I think as far as inspiration goes, this may sound weird but I've always had a sort of associative synaesthesia when it comes to art, specifically concerning image or motion to sound. Images or movement often manifest a soundscape in my mind as I view them - in work by Turner I may hear a swelling or in Rothko a drone. It sounds odd but often the earliest feeling I have when conceptualising a piece is how I image it sounds there. For this one I kept thinking of the shifting of silk and the drone of engines, masked by wind. Sounds crazy now that I write it down. In any case I then spend a bit of time thinking about the narrative I want to communicate, not so much the form at this point, but the content. Once I've got a good sensation of what that is, I'll start sketching until I find a composition that sort of sounds right, if that makes any sense at all.

For this piece in particular, we knew it'd likely be a Tomb Guard, likely in the sands before a Necropolis, but we still took some time to talk a bit about what separates the soldiery of the Tomb Kings from the more common minions of Nagash; their nobility and the fading independence they might have over their own minds and mortal remains. How that might manifest in their poses and aspect. It made me think about their sense of identity experiencing its own type of decay. At what point do the legions of the Tomb Kings differ from the automata of Nagash? Be they summoned from golden tombs or sodden mass-graves, all become bones hurled upon the altar of Empire. Where I'd originally started with more impassive and imperious poses, your notes and ideas on the subject really helped refine things and, after some rework, we found a more menacing composition which was more successful. In its armour I used crimson silks that are moldering and frayed - I always enjoy the ridiculousness of a terrifying, dead thing holding on to the trappings of beauty or wealth, an aspect of all empire.

All up, the piece took me a quite a while to finish - maybe 25 hours or so. I was slow and attacking it piecemeal. I think too I sent a bit too much time trying to figure out the background. One of the funnest aspects of the brief also proved the most challenging - making sure that the environment felt like a part of the Mortal Realms and fit within the developing AoS aesthetic. A lot of buildings we see in AoS seem to serve a practical function beyond shelter, so the pyramids became these huge engines of some dread purpose. I think it was Max Fitzgerald who suggested that the beams may be harnessing souls, and in doing so denying them to Nagash; an idea that I really love.

Tyler: You also did a lot of the spot illustrations and more graphical pieces of art, like the dials and connectors for the timeline. How did you approach creating these as opposed to a more traditional piece like the cover? 

Kenneth: The fun thing with spot illustrations is that often you're trying to tell a story with little to no context. A traditional scene can provide the viewer with a more direct context through its setting and action - a figure in action within a physical space tells you a lot about all three things - whereas a device or collection of objects floating in white space might only get its immediate context from its presence in a book about a given topic.

With the timeline illustrations, there was a pretty defined style established in the other AoS books, so we wanted to hew quite close to this. However they also serve as a place to distill a lot of the common form language you might see throughout the faction, in their art and miniatures. So it was fun to play around and think about the shapes and material textures that evoke the Tomb Kings as a culture. Stone and bone, aging metals and polished gemstones, lamellar armour. Skulls of course. Skulls for days. The other aspect was ensuring that whatever I designed was modular, so many pieces could be mixed and matched and overlaid. It was a fun challenge.

Tyler: What do you prefer to do more, the more illustrative pieces that show a scene or character, or the more graphical pieces like the timeline?

Kenneth: I know it's a cop out maybe, but I love both. Each asks for a different mindset and provides a different kind of feedback as you're working them out. The two aren't unlike each other really, it's just telling stories in different gears. Semiotics and Symbology. If I absolutely had to choose though, I think I do enjoy the design process most when approaching vignettes and spot illustrations - it's not too dissimilar from building a miniature for me. How much story can I tell in this collection of objects.

Games Workshop's artists have such a great legacy of utilising still-lifes and Vanitas to illuminate their settings and cultures - Blanche, Boyd and Gallagher in particular come to mind - and that's always been the most evocative stuff to me. I think in a hobby that's ostensibly about physical objects, about sculpture and wargear, these artistic forms are such a natural fit for speaking to the world that surrounds the miniatures. The (essential) Mordheim book is probably the best example I can reach for right now, or the great faction devices you used to see on the first pages of Codexes. Also Alex Boyd's Dreadfleet box art. I feel like they hook into the same part of the brain that excites us when we see a beautiful miniature; at an individual level, there's a power at work in this object - a fetish, in the most traditional sense. I suppose I like chasing that feeling in my work more than anything.

Tyler: Do you do commission work and what is the best way for people to get ahold of you and follow your work?

Kenneth: I do, yeah. I tend to do quite a bit of corporate and music related stuff day to day, but I couldn't say yes fast enough to work that has me drawing mummies tearing into lightning men or something of that persuasion.

My current portfolio site can be found at, where you can get in touch with me. Otherwise I can found on twitter (, or more actively Instagram (, where I share a bit of hobby stuff as well.

Jason Clark

Tyler: What made you want to participate in helping create the Unofficial Tomb Kings Battletome?

Jason: I have always loved Tomb Kings and enjoyed playing them. I was disappointed that GW was not going to redo them. When hearing about this project from a friend I jumped at the opportunity to be part of a project that will enable people to dust off their Tomb Kings and have fun.

Tyler: Are you an active gamer in AoS? What armies do you play/collect?

Jason: I have not played in a while but enjoy buying and painting models now and again. Currently I have a small army of Wood Elves which I would like to play one day. When I was playing I was a Space Wolf player. 2,000 point drop pod army which obliterated everyone except Tyranids! The most fun I had was rolling five 6’s in a row with Jaws Of The World Wolf! Bye bye very expensive terminator squad.

Tyler: Have you made any Warhammer themed artwork in the past?

Jason: I have created a few pieces in the past. I have a Blood Angels Death Company fan art which I enjoyed painting.

Tyler: Who’s your favorite existing Warhammer artist and/or what’s your favorite piece of artwork from Games Workshop?

Jason: No favourites, I enjoy looking at GW work old and new. A huge amount of talent goes in to anything GW. Including this fan made project. I spent a good hour looking through all the artwork in the Unofficial Battletome and it blew my mind. Felt great to have my work along side such great artists. Then I sat down to have a read and the writing was also just as good.

Tyler: You have several pieces in the Battletome, most of which are landscapes and environmental pieces. What drew you to working on pieces like that?

Jason: When I was younger I would always turn my attention to landscapes in films. I came across Artists like Dylon Cole who produces matte paintings for film and TV. The biggest influence was playing a lot of games and getting lost in amazing environments. Many times I have been playing online and had many team mates frustrated with my because I was looking at pretty stuff when I should have been throwing grenades and shooting anything that moved.

Tyler: Can you take us through a bit of your process on working on all of these?

Jason: I will always start off with doodles in a sketch book followed by reference. More and more now I will produce a basic 3D model as a base. I try to keep as much painting in as possible but do enjoy overlaying textures and applying my own reference photos’s to build a pallet. Currently looking into Daz and Zbrush to improve my workflow as the industry is always evolving.

Tyler: Do you do commission work and what is the best way for people to get ahold of you and follow your work?

Jason: Yes. Best ways to get hold of me are below.

Max Fitzgerald

Tyler: What made you want to participate in helping create the Unofficial Tomb Kinds Battletome?

Max: The spirited attempt to resurrect the Tomb Kings for a new system really inspired me. The enthusiasm and creativity that Mengel and the other collaborators displayed drew me in. I think its clear to anyone a huge amount of love has gone into the tribute.

Tyler: Have you made any Warhammer themed artwork in the past?

Max: This was my first piece coming off the back of 5 years of computer animation. It was refreshing to get back to drawing, and I hope to improve going forward.

Tyler: Who's your favourite existing Warhammer Artist and/or what's your favourite piece of artwowrk from Games Workshop?

Max: I have always had a soft spot for John Blanche and Adrian Smith, two totally different styles, but both really evoke a medieval twisted world.

More recently Igor Sid has produced some amazing pieces.

Tyler: Your big piece in the Battletome is the full page illustration of the Tomb Kings army marching through a valley in sepia tones. What was your inspiration for the piece? Can you take us through a bit of the creative process?

Max: I've always enjoyed shambling horde of the dead. Scenes of unending skeleton warriors, pushed on by the will of some unseen controller. I also tried to capture a sense of exploration and looming battle, as the Tomb Kings venture out into the new realms.

The style was chosen to bring a bit of the old flavour of past GW army books that we all enjoyed pouring over to the Battletome. It was great fun to do, and really pushed my rendering skills.

Tyler: Do you do commission work and what is the best way for people to get a hold of you and follow your work?

Max: The best way to contact me is either to follow me on Twitter @maxstaxidermia or email me at

I do take commission work, and I'm always happy to chat about projects.

Thanks Tyler for the Chat, and I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

Artists Who Provided Already Completed Work

Besides Kenneth, Jason, and Max, I also had some artwork contributed to the project by artists who had already finished some Tomb Kings-esque art for other projects.

Thomas Karlsson

Thomas is one of the artists on the 9th Age project and was kind enough to let me use some of his Tomb King-esque art.

You can see more of his artwork on his ArtStation account.

Ollie Cuthbertson

Ollie is another artists from the 9th Age project. I really liked his Tomb Queen painting, the colors on it are perfect for the Tomb Kings.

You can find more of his art on his personal website here.

Jarrod Owen

Last, but not least, we have Jarrod Owen, who did this fantastic piece of Tomb Kings artwork. 

You can find more of his art on his ArtStation account.

A huge thanks again to all of the talented artists who helped make the Unofficial Tomb Kings Battletome possible and look as good as it did.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

No comments:

Post a Comment