With all of the great kits that Games Workshop releases, it is easier than ever to find the pieces you need to make a conversion, making it such that many might never even need to consider busting out modelling putty to achieve a desired effect. Gretchen over at Greenstuff Gretchen tends to take the opposite approach, sculpting more than she scavenges bits. Her talent is extraordinary, resulting in the creation of many stunning miniatures, all strengthened by her willingness to sculpt what she needs and not rely on something that is not perfect for the task. While she has too many fantastic miniatures to name them all, two stand out in our minds that show her technical skill and creative breadth. The first is Judge Hathorne, an Adeptus Arbites, which she lovingly created to emulate a classic John Blanche illustration. While clearly reading as an Arbite, the model does not have the bulky riot armor or a shotgun, but instead has a cane and an impressive top-knot! The other is a model built with the Outgard setting in mind, Barquentine, The Luddite-General of Lindisfarne. Also based on a piece of Blanche artwork, the character is an amazing amalgamation of royalty and splendor, a touch of decay, and a perverse sense of proportions. On top of her sculpting talent, she is also a gifted writer, making her blog a constant source of inspiration!
|Judge Hathorne: Gretchen|
|Barquentine, The Luddite-General of Lindisfarne: Gretchen|
The Dragons of Phaeton:
Warhammer is filled with horrific images and dreadful beasts; such is their prevalence that we barely bat an eye at each new addition to the model range. But Eli Parsons’ chilling Arg'Gallak forced us to take notice, and despite the the feelings of revulsion that well up upon looking at its fell musculature, it is hard to peel your eyes away, with a sort of grim fascination overtaking you! Perhaps more exciting than this unspeakable horror, however, is the Dragons of Phaeton campaign that he is working on. Set in Sector Totradus, home of the mighty yet strangely silent/forgotten forge world of Phaeton, Eli has multiple narratives going, including recounts of an excellent set of Dark Heresy (Fantasy Flight’s 40k RPG) sessions focusing on the Inquisitor Severen Kade. In 2017 we hope to see a lot more from Phaeton and Eli as a whole!
|Arg'Gallak: Eli Parsons|
Most of the people on this list focus on humanity in the 41st millennium, exploring the corrupt entity that is the Imperium, Mr_Pink of Modern Synthesist is different, honing his creative talent on exploring the Xenos races of Warhammer 40,000. This task is often far harder to achieve due to the dramatically fewer kits that are available to pull parts from. Mr_Pink surmounts this with a impressive ingenuity with repurposing bits, but more importantly with his consummate skill with green stuff and modeling putty (which he details in many How to Sculpt articles on his blog). Take for example his exquisite Haemonculus Coven army (which got Silver in Armys on Parade this year!). Despite the Dark Eldar range having few models for the Covens, save for the Wracks and a single Grotesque model, he took it upon himself to create versions of many of the Dark Eldar units in the image of a crazed Haemonculus’ fleshcraft. This included custom reaver jetbikes, grotesques, a Cronos Parasite Engine, and most impressively a complete reimagining of the Venom transport. What we find so amazing is that his creations capture the spirit of the army, seeming like they have always been a part of the Dark Eldar model range, when nothing could be further than from the truth; they have all come from his twisted imagination (we mean this in the very best way) and careful craft! We cannot fathom how he would be able to top his Coven army, but are sure he will think of something :D
|Coven Venom: Mr_Pink|
A highlight of 2016 was being introduced to the work of Stygian Thorne. We first discovered his work during the Pilgrym event, when we saw his Arxite pilgrims, a NPC group of itenerant worshipers who venerate spyres and architecture. Not wishing to rest on his laurels, he sketches constantly, taking cues from John Blanche, while injecting historical and anthropological accounts into his creations. This willingness to explore aspects of Warhammer 40k that are not simply boltguns and power armor make all of his work exciting and new. And while his blog might not get updated regularly, he posts regularly on Instagram and Twitter via @stygian_thorne!
|Spyrehead: Stygian Thorne|
|Arxite pilgrims: Stygian Thorne|
While Odie was not able to post too much on his blog in 2016, he started out the year making a wonderful Tech Magos, that manages to be one of our favorite models of the year. It is a really inspired use of a number of well-loved kits. Somehow he was able to seamlessly merge the Cairn Wraith, tech priest dominus, and some Skitarii ranger pieces together into something completely unique and delightful. In addition to being a skilled modeler, he is also a talented writer, with some imaginative pieces on his Heavy Static and his other narrative blog.
|Servo Magos: Odie|
Although Jake’s (Bruticus) website Ex Profundis has graced this list last year for it constant ability to challenge people's’ idea of what “grim-dark” means in this hobby, it has been included again due to an influx of new contributing members including Apoteos and Weirding Way. Both espouse the weirder, less explored aspects of Warhammer/40k, greatly expanding the settings as a whole. Apoteos created a wonderfully grotesque band of mutants, based primarily off of older Brian Nelson and Paul Muller sculpts (largely Gorkamorka models, circa 1997). He was able to seamlessly combine these with new components, such as some elements from the Adeptus Mechanicus range, to create an utterly convincing band of degenerate mutants! The pallid fleshy tones he achieved with the paint scheme also convey this idea of dysgenic outcasts, rather than followers of Nurgle.
|Mutant Warband: Apoteos|
The second seminal addition to Ex Profundis was Isaac, aka Weirding Way, who is well know on the Ammobunker forums for his incredible Navigator Households. He has spent the past few years developing this relatively unexplored element of 40k, creating multiple Navigator Households including the House Merz-Itano, with their hypertrophic craniums, and the more recent House Akuhm from the Curse of the Alabaster fame. Isaac has an remarkable talent for seeing the deep seated potential of even the most obscure piece of a model kit, even if it requires extensive cutting and modification. What results are some of the most unique miniatures you will ever see, while still fitting into the tone and image of the 41st millenium. One of our absolute favorite visual elements he includes in many of his models are cues to early void suit technology, with bulbous domed helmets and radiant gold visors, reminiscent of cosmonauts.
|Uplifted Beaconite Pilgrim: Weirding Way|
|Prognosticantress/ Augur-Regent: Weirding Way|
Gardens of Hecate:
If you follow any of the blogs on this list, you have no doubt come across Ana Polanscak’s remarkable Gardens of Hecate. But while many here focus on converting models and building characters within Warhammer 40,000, her’s is of a much grander scope, as she creates entire worlds, based on folklore and myth, and her own incredible imagination! Instead of using Warhammer or 40k as a base, she scaffolds may of her creations about the skirmish game Malifaux, which uses an innovative system relying on a deck of cards rather than dice. In addition to tailoring warband rules to fit her creations, she has even painstakingly created her own deck of cards, complete with custom suits (which trigger unique effects in the game). And as if that worldbuilding was not enough, she compliments it with the creation of wonderful models with pieces of Malifaux and Games Workshop kits, as well as green stuff. Our favorite in recent memory is St. Anthimus, the Knight of the Holy Trinity, a veritable walking relic inspired off the phenomona of Catacomb saints. She also created a delightful, yet dreadful, Moss monster out of the Bad Juju model from Malifaux. With a head-swap and careful conversion work, the model looks completely unique, conjuring up images of fey sprites and forest creatures from the most ancient folklore. Few people continue to push their craft further, and endeavored to explore entire settings like Ana, and for that we felt she needed to make this list!
|St. Anthimus, the Knight of the Holy Trinity: Ana Polanscak|
|Moss monster: Ana Polanscak|
Although not a blog per se, we would feel remiss if we did not mention The Observer’s Beneath Terra project that he is documenting on the Bolter and Chainsword forum. A narrative project as much as it is a modeling one, the Observer is exploring one of the lost Space Marine legions, Legion XI. An ambitious task for anyone, he proved more than up to the task with his evocative writing, told primarily through first person accounts. With each post he introduces new intriguing characters and motivations, slowly revealing the true scope of his vision. Excitingly, these characters are not limited to prose, as he has created many in model form, including Lord-Inquisitor Laurenz Kotophardi, and Logarach of the Enduring Sacrifice, the later of which was created as a member of the Church of the Red Athenæum with our blessing! His story continues to unfold on his Bolter and Chainsword thread, and we urge to plunge into the dark tale!
|Logarach of the Enduring Sacrifice: The Observer|
|Imperial Fist legionary: The Observer|
The cradle of Humanity in the 41st millennium, Holy Terra, was explored more in 2016 than it has likely ever been before. This is due to such things as Black Library’s Beast Arises series, Iron Sleet’s Pilgrym Project, as well as incredibly gifted hobbyists like Marcus from the blog Marcominius. Although his blog if filled with many great models, what initially drew us to his work were his excellent drawings and concept sketches. Each sketch is filled with tiny flourishes and details that set the mind to wander to dark places. He has a remarkable talent for perspective, not relying on needless detail, but instead uses subtle contours and the thickness of his lines to convey that information (this talent brings to mind the esteemed Mike Mignola). One of his most chilling creations is the Harvspices Collegium, an organization on Terra that reads the strands of fate and time through the entrails and remains of hapless pilgrims. We can only hope that 2017 is as fruitful for him as 2016!
|Harvspices Collegium: Marcus|
|Turkey construct for Outgard setting: Marcus|
Secrets of the Void:
Another pleasant discovery of 2016 was finding Secrets of the Void, a blog detailing the exploits of a group of hobbyists from Copenhagen and their games of Inquisitor. Kristian is the primary contributor to the blog, and has an impressive array of delicate and imaginative conversions, chief of which is an abhorrent magos aligning with the Dark Mechanicum, who is colloquially known as the Doctor because of his interest fleshcraft. But perhaps even more impressive than this chilling mass of spinal mechadendrites and vestigial limbs, is his little insectoid servo-skull flittering about on mesh wings. Made from small pieces of wire, and other assorted bits, the servo skull is simply one of the best models we have seen all year, bar none. In addition to just showing models, the blog also details the Inquisitor campaigns they are currently running, including one centering about the aforementioned Doctor. As 2017 rolls on, we hope to see a lot more from Secrets of the Void, including more creations of some of the others from the group (Lazar has a few posts, and judging by his most recent Inquisitor, he is also quite talented!).
|The Doctor and retinue: Kristian|
Iron Sleet and the entire Pilgrym team:
We felt we could not close out 2016 without acknowledging the blog Iron Sleet and all of the contributors to the massive undertaking that was the Pilgrym Project. This narrative misadventure to the rotting steps of the Emperor’s Palace pushed the three of us, and I believe everyone involved, far past where we believed we could go. Much of this work can be found on Iron Sleet itself, but also on many of the contributors personal blogs, including Tears of Envy’s lovely blog, the estimable JRN from miniaTEXTures, the luminary and spawn of the Green Mechanicvm FPOA of First Point of Aries, the thoughtful Fulgrim from the Tears of Isstvan, and the ever-inspring Jeff Vader from the Convertorum. While the legendary PDH and master Thistle do not have their own blogs, they were just as instrumental in the success of the project, and thankfully all of their work is documented on Iron Sleet for years to come! So thank you Migs, Kari, and Toni, and everyone else involved large or small; it was an event of a lifetime, and one we will not soon forget!
- Eric, Greg, and Adam