I have a very slow project to collect a "Wicked Witch of the West" army for Hordes of the Things. This is of course from the land of Oz which is described in the books of L. Frank Baum and is probably best known to most people from the 1939 MGM film "The Wizard of Oz".
In that film, the witch is shown commanding legions of flying monkeys and has a number of Winkie spearmen as her castle guards. However, the book also describes her sending crows, bees and wolves to torment and distract Dorothy's party.
OK, so what's the plan? The army I envisage will have:
- Witch (with attached crows): already done. In a previous article, I showed the completed Witch's element (and that was 4 years ago, for goodness sake!).
- Winkies: Hmm. There aren't any models which are perfect matches, but it shouldn't be too hard to find/convert something that will do the job.
- Wolves: There are plenty of 28mm wolf miniatures, I just need to choose some.
- Winged monkeys: Available from Eureka Miniatures. I have a few already, but could probably use many more.
- Bees: How the heck am I going to model bees?
The rest of this article describes how I did indeed model some bees.
Making the "Substrate"
The problem with modelling bees or any other insect swarm is this:
- They're very small creatures, but occur in large numbers.
- They fly, so the model needs to fill a large volume of space with many gaps between the individual creatures.
This being so, it's simply not practical to make 3D representations of each individual insect, connected by wires or similar. Instead, they'll need to be painted onto some surface.
I thought about transparent shapes for a while; they need to encompass quite a large volume but be as unobtrusive as possible. A small dome might work well (repurposed snow globe?), but I didn't have anything like that.
Here's an interesting piece of clear plastic, though. It's an empty food container; I think it originally held 4 different types of chocolate cake sprinkles. Maybe it will work for what I intend to build?
Firstly, I cut off the outer parts; I was only really interested in the inner core. I used a razor saw to make the cuts; note that this was not easy as I was trying very hard not to scratch or otherwise mark the pieces.
Once I had the length of core piece that I wanted, I rounded the top corners and smoothed the edges as much as possible. My attempts to polish out the scratches were useless, but I did paint some clear varnish over the cut edges and this does seem to have helped to tone down the "whiteness".
How do you paint a Bee?
Indeed - how do you paint a bee? I needed a simple recipe which could be repeated dozens (hundreds?) of times at very small scale, yet which would represent the insect a bit better than a plain, black dot.
Here's what I came up with:
- Firstly, paint a couple of yellow stripes (more ochre than bright yellow - these aren't wasps after all!). It may seem odd to start with this, but remember that I'm painting on a transparent surface. These will be the bee's stripes when viewed from the other side. If I was painting on an opaque sheet then this step would be pointless...
- The bee's body is represented with a couple of black dots, one of which (the abdomen) covers up the bars painted in step 1.
- A quick black stroke at an angle is used for the insect's legs
- Now decorate this side of the abdomen with a couple more yellow/ochre stripes.
- Add another blob for the wings in a pale grey. It doesn't even matter if this is slightly translucent.
- Repeat many, many times...
One I had painted all my bees, it was a trivial matter to create a suitable base and glue the "swarm" to it.
Note that the bees are fairly crude! I did follow my recipe, but the blobs and lines are not very precise. Indeed, I kept discovering mistakes - such as bees without wings - and although I think that I've fixed all of these, I cannot be sure. Still, does it matter; no-one will be looking at the individual insects, will they?
I'm reasonably happy with the result. This was a very cheap build in terms of materials and didn't even take too much time. It could just as easily be used to model any other type of flying swarm, of course - locusts, flies, winged ants, wasps or whatever else you fancy.
The only thing that I'm unsure about is the shape of the clear plastic core. Perhaps a small dome would have worked better after all?
Addendum: Maybe I should have used a dome? See here for how that worked ==>
Addendum: Maybe I should have used a dome? See here for how that worked ==>
Outstanding stuff, Colgar6. What a cracking idea and I think it works very well indeed. I don't think anyone will need look 'hard' at the precision of your paint-job, so from 3-4 foot away on the tabletop I think it'll look awesome imho. Great posting, many thanks indeed for sharing :-)ReplyDelete
So, you thought my work was OK, then :-) ?Delete
That is a very clever solution to such a knotty conundrum. As Simon said, when viewed on a gaming table, who's going to notice any small imperfections?ReplyDelete
I'm not sure that the overall effect would have been any better if I'd taken more time over the painting and done it more precisely. At least, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Thanks, Bryan.Delete
From the first couple of photos I thought “where is he going with this?” And then the last few - brilliant! What a brilliant idea mateReplyDelete
Ah, I am caught out! I'm something of a fan of the "big reveal" at the conclusion of a story and I couldn't resist it on this occasion. Thanks very much for staying with it until the end.Delete
That's pure genius!ReplyDelete
Fulsome praise indeed! Thanks, Michael.Delete
That is a great idea and very well executedReplyDelete
Glad you like it, Paul.Delete
What an interesting solution to a tricky problem. I shall be borrowing this idea, but think I will use a transparent tube instead. That was the swarm could engulf a figure by placing the tube over the figure.ReplyDelete
For a skirmish game, a tube that could be used to engulf a figure would be an excellent addition! I wish I had thought of that :-) ...Delete
We live in a time when almost anything can be bought "off the shelf".ReplyDelete
In some hobby circles improvisation is seen as the sign of the 5-star Grognard, in others it's seen as a worrying subversive trait.
What is our hobby about if not creativity?
This is a superb solution, incorporating elements of stage illusion magic and Victorian parlour gadgetry to achieve a wonderful result.
You may level up your Grognard ability - congratulations.
Thanks, Steve. That's some really heart-warming praise :-) .Delete
never (so far) needed a swam but if I do I know who I will be emulating. Thanks mate.ReplyDelete
Surely every gamer needs a swarm of insects :-) ? Thanks anyway, Clint.Delete
Brilliant. Terrific bit of work.ReplyDelete
I was delighted with how simple this idea turned out to be; both cheap and (relatively) quick to make. Any it seems to have gone down well with my audience as well! Sometimes, the simpler ideas are the best. Thanks, Roy.Delete
That is all kinds of awesome! Terrific creativity :)ReplyDelete
That's very nice of you to say so, Ivor - thanks :-) !Delete
Love the bees.ReplyDelete
Glad you like themDelete
What an interesting, effective and cheap solution of creating a swarm for the table-top. I've thought of the problem a few times (initially for DnD) andbnever came up with anything as inovative as this.ReplyDelete
Great stuff C6, I like this a lot.
It did take a certain amount of time to cut the plastic and to paint the insects, but probably no more than an hour or two altogether. Thanks, Joe.Delete
Ingenious. Thanks for showing this. Looks great.ReplyDelete
Thanks. I'm pleased with the resulting model and delighted with the responses to this article :-) .Delete
Very clever indeed!ReplyDelete
Thanks very much!Delete
very creative. nicely doneReplyDelete
Thanks, Dave. This seems to have worked rather well.Delete
That’s very clever! A dome or tube could be used to show a figure surrounded by a cloud of flies etc.ReplyDelete
I wasn't planning to do any more models like this, but after your comment and another earlier one, I'm thinking along those lines, Barks :-) .Delete
Very creative of you sir ... well done! :)ReplyDelete