I have a tendency to do a lot of conversions and scratch sculpts for my various wargame armies. Sometimes I’m creating differentiation between duplicate models, sometimes I’m fixing problems with the original model, and sometimes I just feel like I have a funny idea that needs to be made flesh.
However, this will largely not be the case with my new Tohaa army. With a few exceptions, the Tohaa models simply work for me. They have great costume designs and good poses, and given the insane level of detail on them, I feel like most of my efforts to modify them would simply make them worse. The Tohaa do have a small number of models I find quite ugly, but these all happen to have game profiles that don’t interest me at all, so it’s quite easy for me to simply not buy them and focus on other models.
So in the end, not a lot of modification is being done with this army. Sure, there’s the one big custom project it all started with, and I’ll be doing some minor work to differentiate two duplicate models I bought, but the majority of my Tohaa models are just being assembled, cleaned up, and painted in their natural state.
There is, however, one model that I really wanted to include in my army, but couldn’t leave in the condition CB shipped her. I am speaking, of course, of Neema Sataar, the pole dancing bikini princess of the Tohaa Ectros Corps:
For those not in the know, Neema Sataar is a special character within the Tohaa army. She is trained as an Ectros, the Tohaa’s heavy assault infantry, but specialized in close-range and melee combat. In a vacuum, Neema’s design isn’t bad at all– her outfit is primarily that of a standard Ectros, but with a modified helmet/headdress.
However, when you compare her concept to the original Ectros, you can see that CB has done the standard “lady armour” modifications that always drive me insane:
- Flat chest plate becomes impractical boob cups. (“BUT SPUD! IF NO BOOB, HOW WOMAN?!”)
- Flat boots become combat heels
- The armour on her torso and hips was shrunk to make the windows of exposed skintight symbiote suit proportionally much larger
- A lot of the Ectros’ bulkier armour sections (particularly around the knees and waist) were brought in tighter to avoid having them break up her sleek silhouette.
- It isn’t visible here, but the Ectros’ butt-obscuring plates were completely removed
Technically I could also include the fact that they cut her helmet in half to show off her pouty lady lips, but I’ll give them a pass on this one and chalk it up to “named characters need visible faces”.
If there was any remaining doubt of what CB’s priority was when they were designing Neema, it can be put to rest pretty handily by looking at the model they put out for her. Neema is supposed to be a close combat monster, but when they chose her pose, they opted for one that emphasized her sexual traits– perking out her butt and boobs, putting her off-balance on one foot (and not because she’s halfway through an action pose– she’s just standing that way), and overall angling her body to look as seductive and inviting as possible.
Compare this with the two male Ectros models:
Both are doing things, with one charging forward and the other blasting away with his gun. The overall effect of both models is to look powerful and capable, while Neema was intentionally made to look like a stripper.
This is hardly a unique occurrence in the Infinity model range– in fact, emphasizing sexuality at the expense of coverage and competence is CB’s default approach to the depiction of female soldiers– but this one felt much more blatant than any other model I’ve bought before, so when I made the decision to include her in my small force, I knew that a fairly major conversion project would inevitably be required before I could field her.
I couldn’t completely reverse CB’s design decisions without completely resculpting her, though, so I did some analysis to set out the scope of what I wanted to accomplish with my conversion:
- Fix the pose. Given what I had to work with, there was no easy way to put her into a combat pose as I would have preferred. However, it should be possible to at least put her into a more natural idle stance that an actual bipedal creature might voluntarily assume.
- Give her some proper shoes. Combat heels bother me to no end, so there was no question that her stupid footwear would need to be replaced with more practical heavy boots.
- Fix her armour. Neema’s armour is entirely missing a few plates, and others have been reshaped to emphasize her lady parts. I would do what I could to restore these to their original bulky design.
With those goals in mind, I opened her blister pack and got to work.
Given that I didn’t want to rebuild Neema completely from scratch, I needed to figure out the best pose I could manage using at least some of her stock parts. I eventually decided that I could make the left side of her body work, with its straight leg and raised gun. However, her right side, with its curled leg and weirdly braced spear, would need a complete re-do.
With that decided, I tossed the parts I didn’t need and started drilling wires to form the structure of her new limbs.
One odd challenge I faced at this point came when I realized that Neema had some seriously distorted skeletal anatomy. Despite being aliens, Tohaa are generally depicted with totally standard human anatomy (other than their “rubber forehead” alien bits), but Neema’s leg bones don’t follow human proportions at all. The femur is the longest bone in the body, and should be about the same as the entire rest of the lower leg, including both the shin and the height of the foot, with the result being that the knee cap should fall right around the midpoint between the hip joint and the ground.
However, as you can see, Neema’s knees actually fall around 1/3 of the way down to the ground, which gives her a very small femur and a very long lower leg. I honestly don’t know why this was done, as the sculptor otherwise demonstrates masterful skill and grasp of anatomy. As such, I can only assume that it was a stylistic choice of some sort, though exactly what he was trying to achieve, I could not tell you.
Aaaaanyway. Here I’ve put the right leg into its final pose; I had to work with the existing pose of the left leg, which was shifting her weight toward the left side and tilting her pelvis downward on the other side, so I adapted by creating a contrapposto pose with her right leg stretched out. It still has a bit of a “sassy lady hips” thing going on, but it’s as much as I can do without rebuilding her left leg.
I built her right arm to grip her spear in a downward pose, but ended up making my own skeletal proportioning error. Her upper arm is about the right size, but her forearm is about 1-2 mm too long. I normally size arms using landmarks on the torso and legs (elbows at the bottom of the rib cage, wrists around the waist, outstretched fingertips halfway down the thigh); however, the contrapposto made these landmarks hard to see (since her right shoulder is dropped down quite low), and I ended up buggering up the arm as a result.
I know it doesn’t look too bad here, but it will come back to haunt me later on. ;_;
Ordinarily, I only use Fimo for scratch sculpting, and do all of my partial model conversions in Green Stuff. There are a few reasons for this:
- Fimo needs to be baked, so it can’t be used at all for plastic or resin models.
- Fimo is hard to attach to white metal, especially if you’re only adding small pieces.
- Fimo shrinks eeeeeeeeever so slightly when it cooks, which can cause it to “shrink away” from its attachment point to the model.
However, in this case I opted to do all of her conversion work with Fimo, simply because of the scale of the modification (replacing 40% of the model and covering over another 20%) and the amount of surface detailing that would be required for a Tohaa symbiote (which look like they’re made of ground beef with kitchen utensils glued all over in random positions).
Fimo doesn’t adhere well to the metal under-wiring, so I start the process by wrapping the wire with Green Stuff, which will act as an adhesive to keep the two together.
I wrap Fimo around the Green stuff while the latter is still soft, and then immediately form it into the approximate shape of the model’s muscle groups. As always, Fimo is applied to the model in tiny scraps, smushed into place with metal sculpting tools, and then smoothed together using Clayshapers.
I generally sculpt from the feet on up. To start building Neema’s boots, I started attaching small scraps of Fimo anywhere that she needed a muscle bulge or armour plate. Once again, these are applied as tiny scraps and then squished together with metal and silicone tools.
When I’m building a garment or an armour plate, I like to start by defining its outer edges; so before I started putting any serious detail into the boot, I put a rough glob of clay around the top of the calf. Doing this gives me landmarks to work from when I’m trying to copy a detail from the other side of the model or from the concept art– e.g., “this panel goes ends about 40% of the way down the boot”.
“Defining the outer edges of things” is normally a pretty quick process, but the sheer complexity of the layered panels, straps, and miscellaneous widgets all over the Ectros armor required me to spend several hours laying down clay just to get a sense of where everything would sit.
I figured that this was enough roughly-placed mass to get me started, so I started properly working on the boot.
I had no intention of completely re-inventing the wheel when it came to Neema’s new footwear. Her boots would essentially contain all of the same panels and spiky bits as the old ones, in approximately the same places; the only real change I was making was to known out the impractical stiletto heels and lay the sole of her foot flat on the ground.
I kept the main body of the shoe thin and sleek, then surrounded with wide plates around the toe and ankle. The various plates were all quite wobbly at this point, but would be gradually refined and sharpened as the project wore on.
With the plates approximately laid out on the shoe, I moved up the leg to firm up the calf, knee, and thigh panels. Needless to say, the task was made much easier by the simple fact that I had a mirrored exemplar sitting half an inch away, which I could use to translate the position and shape of each required shape to the right leg.
If anyone out there is looking to try their hand as sculpting, I would strongly recommend sculpting half of a model like this before moving onto your own full figure from scratch; it’s a really forgiving step on the learning curve before cutting yourself loose to work from scratch. 🙂
With the front coming into shape, I turned Neema around to work on the back of her leg. I was constantly needing to make minor adjustments to match the original model’s shape; for example, here I had made the plate on the back of her calf too shallow and wide, which necessitated coming back to build it further outward, and then narrowing its outermost face to the same width as the matching plate on the left side.
Also note the smooth panels around her ankle– I always like to build my models from the inside out, so here I built up Neema’s smooth bodysuit before coming back to apply the straps…
… like so. Straps are laid on as teensy clay threads, squished flat, and then delicately picked into shape with an Angle Chisel clayshaper.
Aaaaand back to the front. The boot was coming along nicely, so I moved up to the knee and thigh. The kneepad needed its faces firmed up to make it feel less squishy and round. I also took a first stab at mimicking the hip plate, and while the shape was more or less correct, it was far too small and sitting a bit too high up– I forgot that with her hips at the sharp angle that they are, everything on her right leg needed to sit about 1mm lower than the corresponding details on the left side.
Fortunately, clay gives you an effectively unlimited working time in which to go back and make this type of adjustment. 🙂
And of course I took a photo just BEFORE I moved the hip plate, and none afterward. So… you’ll have to get a look at it in a later photo.
Don’t worry, I totally fixed it, though. >_<
There, see?! You can sorta see it here!
The knee and boot plating was still quite a bit too soft and flat, so I spent some time adding adding details and squaring up all of the corners. I added the cleft in the top of the annkle plate, as well as the raised ridge where the “shoe part” meets the “ankle part”. All of this is being done with Clayshapers– primarily an Angle Chisel and a Flat Chisel.
Oh, hey, there’s the hip plate. See? Totally better. 🙂
The plates and panels on the legs were approaching completion, so I went in and added the finest details of all: the stringy hamburger meat of the model’s exposed symbiote suit. The grooves were very lightly pressed in with a round-ended XActo knife, and then smoothed with a Flat Chisel Clayshaper. The grooves on these suits are made to flow in almost the exact same patterns as the model’s own muscles, so working from a muscular anatomy reference here was tremendously helpful. 🙂
Similar work was done on the backs of her legs. First knife cuts…
…then Clayshaper smoothing.
Once the grooves were down, I laid more extremely thin clay threads over them to form the straps.
Tohaa straps are always laid down in pairs, so I flattened each one and cut a groove down the center with a knife.
A bunch of other detail was also put down at this point, mainly around the hip plate– a small ring, some more buckles, and the extension of her belt.
More smoothing and detailing when then ensured all over the leg– adding buckles to the ends of the straps, cleaning up the grooves under the kneepad, and continuing to sharpen the edges of various plates (though this latter task is something that’s never truly finished– sharpening is refined and re-refined right up to the minute she goes in the oven).
And with that, her leg was pretty much finished, barring the usual hours of nitpicking and cleanup. On the next page we’ll move up to her upper body to build her arm and reconstruct her chest plates.