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Monday, May 18, 2020

Project #DomniaNid3 : Tyranid Dominatrix from a Hierodule rides again

It's that time again: time to return to the Tyranid Dominatrix from a Hierodule concept to see how the intervening years can improve on this community concept.

I call it a community concept since, though I've created two Tyranid Dominatrix from Forgeworld Hierodule models in my time (Tyranid Dominatrix attempt 1, Tyranid Dominatrix attempt 2), it all started with Hydra / Simon Schnitzler and his vision to cut up a pristine Forgeworld model to make something wholly new:

He cleaved pretty close to the classic Forgeworld Tyranid Hierodule model, fixing all of the annoying angry chicken parts of it, but with that he challenged the idea that Forgeworld models couldn't be converted, and he moved the Tyranid Dominatrix concept forward from the classic Epic model...
...into something new and awesome.
And he started something.



Soon Tyranid concept artist Warren Beattie shared with us his own idea for what a updated Tyranid Dominatrix could look like:
Like I said, I brought my own ideas for the concept forward in models twice, and the second, which I collaborated on with Marco Schulze / Hive Fleet Moloch (who is now ACTIVE on Instagram, by the way; you can follow him here), and I was very, very happy with our results:

I dreamed of taking another run at making a new Tyranid Dominatrix from a Forgeworld Hierodule, but the idea of taking on such a large project again was overwhelming.

Then along came CTarnor, who decided he wanted a Tyranid Dominatrix of his own!

So, a little bit intimidated by the prospect of tackling this project again, but also excited about how I could move the project forward, I got back to work.

Creating a concept

For my new version of the Tyranid Dominatrix concept, I wanted to take what I'd accomplished on Hive Fleet Moloch's Tyranid Dominatrix and update it by sticking closely to Warren's concept drawings. Basically, this image is my north star.



My client sent through some sketches to share what he was looking for from the model...




...and I did some doodling to try to try to show how I'd bring his modifications to life while bringing in my own ideas for the new model:


One thing was certain for me: I wanted this Tyranid Dominatrix to be obviously larger than a Tyranid Hierodule. And, to do that, I'd need to take a hacksaw to the standard Forgeworld Tyranid Hierodule model.

Hacking up a Forgeworld model

To get the size I wanted, I knew I'd need to split and add spacers to the existing Forgeworld Tyranid Hierodule model. So I went to work cutting that thing up along its axes.




There's something oddly satisfying for me in that last photo of the fully deconstructed Heirodule.

If you're a masochist, and you enjoy the idea of watching someone hack up an expensive model, I preserved video of that process as part of the #DominaNid3 story highlight on my Instagram profile.

Spacing out the model

Beyond Warren's sketches as guide, I didn't have a clear idea of just how much I wanted to increase the size of the body. So I winged it and hope I got it right. Normally, I'd use sheet styrene / plasticard pieces as spacers, but I'd need a lot of plasticard for this. Instead, I elected to use pins (lining them up was... fun), and then filled the gaps with aluminum foil and insulation foam artfully hot glued into place.








You can see the start there of how I reinforced the foam and foil with a layer of Apoxie Sculpt. I use Aves Apoxie Sculpt for this work because it's far cheaper and available in larger quantities than greenstuff, it's easy to work with and to spread over other surfaces, and it sets much harder than greenstuff, which is structurally helpful, but not so hard that it would be troublesome to carve it out if I needed to.

Here's some more reinforcing with Aves Apoxie Sculpt:


Building up limbs and extremities

As you can see from above, I try as much as possible to preserved the surface detail of the existing model... even though I also often wind up going back over those preserved details with my own sculpting. This results in a number of people commenting with "why don't you just sculpt the hole model from scratch?"

Why? Because sculpting an entire model from scratch is actually really hard. The worst part is preserving convincing proportions. The stress of that gives me hives, and I'd much rather try to preserve detail, then wind up sculpting over it, all the while being able to rely on that detail as an indication of scale, rather than doing it all from scratch and winding up screwing up the size of something in relation to something else.

However, try as I might, I had to accept that I would not be able to use the Tyranid Hierodule's original arms and legs for this model. It was simply going to be TOO BIG.

So I had to build some new ones. As the base for these, I used large P3 brass pinning rods, which I bulked up with aluminum foil for the tail. For the arms and legs, I took a suggestion from master Tyranid scratchbuilder (hell, master modeller for many more factions than just Tyranids!) Tom Box, or BitsofBocks on Instagram, who recommended using Milliput white + greenstuff as a stronger material for the weight-bearing limbs. He also suggested wrapping the brass pins with other wire as a kind of rebar for the putty mix to grab on to.



I also wrapped wire around the aluminum foil on the tail, then covered it in milliput white + greenstuff.



I'll be using the same formula for the arms when I get around to building them.

Extending the carapace plates

Not much to mention, but since I documented it with photos, I needed to bulk up the Dominatrix's dorsal armour plates, so I cut slits into the back and inserted thick sheet styrene pieces cut in the rough shape I'm looking for. As these armour plates extend away from the body, using a solid substructure like this to sculpt against is WAY easier than just building these up with putty. In general, when sculpting or building up larger models, you should ALWAYS use as many solid armatures as possible created from foil, sheet styrene, wire, lip gloss tubes--whatever!



Sculpting tail armour 

This was the point where I felt like I started to hit my stride with the model and where it started to feel more like sculpting and less like building. I sculpted this all in one go, remembering a strategy I came up with when sculpting my Tryanid mycetic spores, and forgot in the intervening decade.


The secret is using your hands--or your fingers, to be precise. When sculpting at this scale, you can just lube up one of your digits with nivea, then run it down the length of the Aves Apoxie Sculpt / Greestuff mix on the tail. This pressure creates a depression or valley that runs down the tail. And when you do this four times, equally paces, you wind up with three ridges along the tail between your valleys.


The rest is just clean up and Tyranid carapace plate sculpting, and you're already an expert at sculpting organic armour plates, RIIIIGHT?

Yes, it's challenging to sculpt this many plates before the putty sets, but that time crunch is also helpful as it means you can't obsess over getting every plate perfect (and I do plenty of that later :P ).

Bulking up

When bulking something like this up, I work in layers. Put putty on, let it fully cure, then go back and add more. This is mostly for the legs. It gives you a solid surface to sculpt against, and it allows you to gradually control how big things are getting. For the bulking up substructure, I stuck with Milliput white + greenstuff in the hope that it's the strongest putty for weight bearing.



Mid point mock up check

As a reminder to myself that this Tyranid Dominatrix is going to have a psychic rider, like the original, a bio cannon, and a head, I blutacked those bits on to see how it was all shaping up.



Starting the detail layer

With most of the substructure roughed in, I moved on to starting to add detail to the armour plates, and to sculpt in ribs on the creature's underside. I may well come back and sculpt right over them, but it was nice to pretend that I was done building and bulking, at least momentarily :P






For these detail layers, I used my standard mix of Aves Apoxie Sculpt and Greenstuff, otherwise known by true believers as Apoxie Green! I experimented a bit with using Milliput white + greenstuff for some detail, on the recommendation of BitsOfBocks, but I didn't really love the material. It takes detail just fine...in fact, possibly too well as it felt less forgiving than Apoxie Green. I also absolutely despise the silty stuff that Milliput gives off when you mix it. Yes, Aves Apoxie Sculpt does something similar, but, for some reason, the silt from Milliput is a lot less forgivable than the Apoxie Sculpt silt.

At this point I also used the surface detail sculpting to sketch out my intended structure for the ridges and valleys that will run along the dorsal carapace plates. The shape I'm hoping for is roughly hexagonal (if you cut off the bottom facing), with the rider and bio cannon sitting in the central valley, and the psychic cradle for the rider being composed of the ridges on either side of that central valley. The ridges at the 9-o-clock and 3-o-clock positions will hopefully be used to form the spore chimneys.



Current state

The Tryanid Dominatrix is still a long way from done, and she was moved to the back burner as the Siege of Pech Kroot project surged. However, now that I've got a little more breathing room from that, it's time to return to this beastie and to move her along.

Here's where she is at present. I hope to have more updates on my progress soon:



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