Thursday, March 4, 2021

Warploque Miniatures: The Forest Troll and Interview

Warploque Miniatures has always been on my radar with their unique style and characterful hand sculpted models, but it wasn't until recently that I finally painted one. I knew I wanted to start with one of their monsters and I've always been a fan of their style of troll, so the Forest Troll it was. I also was able to get in a quick interview with the man behind the sculpts, Alex himself!

I really like how unique the sculpting style is. It has a real dark fairy tale vibe to it. I knew I wanted to further emphasize that with how I painted it. If this model is complete fantasy, like storybook fantasy, than I figured why not push it all the way out there. I wanted to do vibrant colors, but still a little grounded. Assembling the model was pretty easy as well. It's cast in resin, so it's really easy to work with. I just did a little bit of greenstuff work where the arms join the body to hide the gap.

Since it's a forest troll I thought going all green would be best. I had the Wild Riders from GW in mind when thinking up a color scheme. I really like the pale green skin they have. To achieve a similar look on the troll I base coated the skin with a mix of Sybarite Green and Grey Seer. This was then layered with more Grey Seer mixed in, and then shaded in the recesses with pure Sybarite Green. This was followed by a little bit of heavily watered down Kabalite Green in the deepest areas. The highlights were then done by mixing in white to the base coat mix.

To contrast with the paler skin I decided to go pretty dark with the hair. It was base coated with Caliban Green and then I did two highlight layers by mixing in Screaming Skull. I simply followed the strands of hair, and in some of the flatter areas I painted on some lines to look like strands. The tree growing out of his back was base coated with Gorthor Brown, then shaded with Agrax, before highlighting up through Gorthor again, then Baneblade, and finally Karak Stone.

This guy also comes with a cool scenic base with a halfling trying to hide from the troll under some rocks. I painted the rocks and log mostly through various layers of drybrushing and shades. I made sure to use several different colors of shade on the rocks to break them up a little bit. The skin on the halfling was just Cadian Fleshtone, shaded with Riekland, and then highlighted up with Cadian and Kislev Flesh. Normally I would do more layers, but I didn't want him to steal the show from the troll.

One thing I had a lot of fun with was using a copious amount of grass tufts on the base to try and really sell the forest look. I used the Gamers Grass brand and used three different types of grass to give it a more varied look. I really enjoyed painting this model. It's definitely a different style from GW models, but it has a lot of the hand of the artist in it, which I really like. You can see the areas where he sculpted the putty, and the fairy tale aesthetic really speaks to me. 

I decided to ask Alex, the man behind every single miniature put out by Warploque Miniatures, a few questions about how he got started and the process behind them.

Tyler: How did you first get into miniatures and wargaming?

Alex: Although I had always been obsessed with art and fantasy as a child, my first introduction to the world of wargaming was being bought the Lord of the Rings Battle Games in Middle Earth magazine made by Games Workshop in the early 2000's, when I was about 7 or 8. It was one of those magazines where you got a few minis and some paint in every two weeks or so, and I loved it. What I enjoyed most about the hobby was converting models and making new characters, but as the LotR range was very much tied with the films I felt very restricted. And then I found Warhammer.

Tyler: When did you first start sculpting your own miniatures and how did you go about it?

Alex: When I discovered Warhammer (in the 2004 GW catalogue, a very well loved tome by 11 year old Alex), I was very interested in the fact that you could create (almost) whatever you wanted. My favourite army was Lizardmen (because of dinosaurs, obviously), but I dabbled in many other races such as Chaos Dwarves, Orcs and Skaven. At first it was simple head and arm swaps, a little greenstuff here and there to hold things in place, but over the years I became bolder and eventually was sculpting new heads, bodies and other components.

I enjoyed turning toy creatures into war mounts for my characters, and over time I gained the confidence to sculpt full miniatures from scratch. I catalogued my journey on various internet forums that were active at the time: The Warhammer Forum, Warseer, Chaos Dwarfs Online, The Ogre Stronghold and The Pyramid Vault being the ones I was most active on. It was the kind encouragement of my fellow forum-goers that really helped to spur me on and improve, and some of those users who followed my work when I was 14 are still dear friends and customers to this day.

Tyler: When did you decide to make this your profession?

Alex: Although sculpting and wargaming were always my favourite hobbies, I decided to go to the University of Nottingham to study Human Genetics in 2012 as the first step on my path to getting a 'proper job'. Of course I was enamoured by Nottingham's reputation as the home of wargaming, and that very much had an effect on which city I chose to study my degree in.

I was pretty enthusiastic about going into the sciences, even as I prepared to launch the game I'd been working on, ArcWorlde, on Kickstarter in the summer of 2013 at the end of my first year of study. I had no idea at all how well it would do, and when the campaign raised almost £60,000 it genuinely blew me away. Because of the success of the campaign and the subsequent mountains of work that needed to be done, I spent the next 18 months working more on my miniatures then on my degree. However, the death of a school friend in late 2014 caused me to re-evaluate things in my life, and I chose to formally leave my studies to lean fully into my career as a fantasy miniatures sculptor.

Tyler: Can you tell us a bit about your unique sculpting style and how you developed it?

Alex: Even when I was converting Warhammer models, I have always been heavily inspired by illustrators. Artists like Paul Kidby (who is famed for his work on the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett) and Chris Riddell were hugely influential to my drawing style, and this was passed on to my three-dimensional pieces too. I think this was allowed to grow and strengthen over time as I was entirely self taught, and without being constrained it developed over the years to one that many say is unique in the miniatures industry.

Tyler: Where did the idea for Arcworlde come from?

Alex: I launched Warploque Miniatures in 2010, when I was at Sixth Form (ages 16-18 in the UK). I wanted to cast and sell the fantasy miniatures I had been making, but no matter how hard I tried I could very rarely make any sales at all. I reckoned at the time it was due to my models being in a very different style to anything that was out there at the time, and what they needed was a home and a game to call their own. The first draft of the first edition of what was to become ArcWorlde was worked upon by myself and a number of my forum followers at the time, though it was redesigned during the first ArcWorlde Kickstarter in 2013. After many clunky years and going off the feedback of the fans, I decided to completely redesign the game myself for the current version of ArcWorlde, Second Edition, and it was released on Kickstarter in September 2019.

When designing ArcWorlde: Second Edition, I wanted a game that would convey the same characterful quirky feel of my sculpts. After finding hours-long Warhammer games frustrating as a teenager, I decided upon a quick, easy to learn skirmish-like game, with plenty of narrative elements and space for players to use their imagination. I wanted to allow people to play out exciting clashes on the table top that didn't just rely on killing one another, and would allow them to experience fun and casual stories on the board.

I won't waffle on too much about the game, but if you would like to find out more about it and download the free rules PDF, check out the ArcWorlde: Second Edition page on my website!

Tyler: You do both traditional sculpting by hand and digital sculpting. With so many people going purely digital now, what is it that keeps you coming back to sculpting with putty by hand, and how well do the skills translate between the two mediums?

Alex: Although I've been sculpting by hand for over 15 years, I finally decided to take the plunge into Zbrush at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic last year. I was due to attend Adepticon in Chicago, but as my flight was cancelled (as well as everything else) I decided to channel my frustration into something productive. Many of my friends and fellow sculptors in the industry had been imploring me to make the jump for years, and after the first week of practice I was hooked. I launched the Warploque Miniatures' Digital Workshop Patreon at the start of May 2020 as a way to sell my digital sculpts for 3D printing at home, and it's been going from strength to strength ever since. Knowing how to sculpt by hand I feel made my transition into digital sculpting a lot smoother, and I have tried to retain the same hand-made feel to my digital sculpts that is present in my putty sculpted miniatures.

Although learning how to digitally sculpt has open a great number of doors for me, and has revolutionised my business and the way Warploque will grow over the coming years (especially with a lack of large conventions and greatly increased overseas shipping costs since the UK left the EU), I will always have a soft spot for hand-sculpting. As you said, it's a skill that is becoming more and more rare, as digitally sculpted miniatures are vastly quicker to make, more convenient to adapt and easier and cheaper to distribute. However, I still get a great deal of satisfaction from hand-sculpting my models for ArcWorlde, and many ArcWorlde fans love the fact that their models have been made by hand. The work that our resin caster Rob (my dad) does is astounding, and the quality of his craftmanship is one of the most valued parts of Warploque by myself and our community. Although the market is changing, and over time my other projects will almost certainly be all digitally sculpted, I am very keen on keeping the hand-sculpted nature of ArcWorlde alive.

Tyler: What can people look forward to in the future with Warploque Miniatures?

Alex: I'm going to be a very busy boy this year! Our next ArcWorlde release is for a new Faction, the Ourks (see attached), which is going live on the 16th of March. There's also going to be the launch of the first ArcWorlde comic, which is being worked on by the extremely talented writer Mike Garley and artist Russell Olson, which should be ready for everyone by July. In addition to ArcWorlde, I'm working on my first foray into the world of plastics with a boxed dungeon-crawler called Dungeons and Dumplings, which follows a cadre of Halfling heroes as they tackle an army of food-based monsters invading their town! And throughout I'll continue to make 3D printable content for my Patreon, with plans to expand the fantasy range into 10mm and Sci-Fi as well!

Tyler: Any final thoughts?

Alex: I hope you enjoyed working on my Forest Troll sculpt, and I can't would love to see your take on some more of my minis in the future!

Thanks again to Alex for taking the time to do this interview. If you want to pick up a Forest Troll of your own, or any one of his other models you can find them at Warploque Minaitures.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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