Top-Heavy, Part III: The F-Team

datetime April 9, 2020 7:02 AM

I feel like this is a good spot for me to mention that I’ve never seen the old A-Team show and have zero desire to do so.

The Bradley Cooper movie was pretty fun.

*shrug*

As with the last two articles, all of the models in this installment follow the same basic construction steps, so a lot of the explanation text in the article is going to be identical from one model to the next. Anywhere you see text in

this attractive green box

you can rest assured that its text is a repeat of steps covered previously in the series, and can safely be skipped over unless that’s literally the first model you’ve looked at. Which– honestly, that’s totally possible. These articles are completely ridiculous (the whole series looks like it’s going to come in just north of 35,000 words @_e ) , and I hold no grudges against anyone who saw the size of the scrollbar and shouted “EFF THAT”. 😛

With that housekeeping out of the way, let’s head out on the home stretch of this Excellent Decision I made for myself!

The Mastermind

I have such complicated feelings about Hannibal. To start with, can we please talk about the fact that Corvus Belli has decided that the Foreign Company in general, and the Soldiers of Fortune core quartet, are supposed to be the A-Team? Because, like… I don’t really see it. You have Hannibal, sure, and I don’t think it’s fair to even call him a reference– he’s literally the same name and character concept from the show, just lifted into Infinity and given a different outfit. The rest, however, are way less clear. I can kind of see Valkyrie being Mr. T, just based on “muscle person with interesting tall hair”. Which… okay, fine, whatever.

Someone told me that Massacre is supposed to be Murdoch since he’s crazy, but that comparison feels a bit hollow, since Massacre isn’t a pilot. And then we have Laxmee, who basically has zero relation to Face that I can see.

So, yeah. The whole “HEY GUYS, LOOK IT’S THE A-TEAM” thing wouldn’t do a lot for me, even if I did have any nostalgia for the property.

Plus… I know this is subjective, but I just really don’t like Hannibal’s outfit. His hair feels way too punky, his chest armour feels like a rough draft that never got finished (if you look across the different illustrations and sculpts, you’ll notice that even the artists weren’t totally clear about what was supposed to be going on with it, as they all draw or sculpt it a bit differently). Also, he tucks his sleeves into his gloves, and it looks like he’s just wearing slacks and sneakers, and I cannot forgive these fashion faux-pas.

Ugh.

In short, if Hannibal wasn’t literally the centerpiece of the Foreign Company and the entire reason it exists in the fluff, I would probably not have made him. But he is, so here we are.

What are you gonna do?

Alright, fine, let’s do this one.

As I’ve mentioned for the two previous models that were holding guns, I like to build the large objects my models will be holding before I start working on the rest of the model, as the props influence a lot of the posing decisions.

A step I skipped on the last two guns was how exactly I figured out how big the weapons should be. On a normal-scale model this is a non-decision, as you just find out how big Corvus Belli makes the weapon and match that. However, chibi models follow a really strange scale where everything at the top of the model is distorted to be massively oversized, and then the scale tapers down as you drop, until the feet are barely there. So the scale of any given prop depends a lot on where in the model’s vertical space it will be held; a gun that looks fine at chest height might look massive at ground level or teensy if held up to the model’s face.

I did quite a bit of experimentation to figure out how to answer this question, and ultimately decided that the most important scaling factor was for the weapons to fit naturally into the models’ arms. It’s okay for them to be small compared to the head or big compared to the feet, as long as the poses that the models use to hold them look more or less correct.

This then led me down the rabbit hole of: how big are guns? I am not even remotely a gun person, so I had to do quite a bit of digging through reference photos to find my answer.

The answer turns out to be, “the two hand grips are the same distance apart as the shooter’s shoulders”. There are probably lots of other landmarks that are important for sizing guns in the real world, but for the purposes of my re-scaled chibi guns, matching the distance between the grip points for the two hands to the model’s shoulders will allow that model to assume a relatively natural pose.

So, how big are my model’s shoulders, then? The male Zero has the cleanest and easiest-to-measure anatomy of any of the models in the army, so I use it to make all of my scale measurements. And it turns out that the Zero’s shoulders are around 8mm apart.

I used that measurement to make a bunch of test Combi Rifles in 6mm, 8mm, and 10mm grip separations, and then put them onto wire armatures to see which ones looked correct. And to my surprise, the 8mm rifles looked a bit ridiculous; the ones that seemed to fit correctly were the undersized 6mm guns (pictured here). I’m not sure of the exact reasoning for this, but I suspect that it’s something to do with that scaling distortion issue again.

Or something?

So, fine. I took that measurement into Photoshop and mocked up a bunch of guns at 6mm and 8mm scale and printed them out.

And after some more experimentation, it turned out while combi-rifles and Hannibal’s marksman rifle looked correct with a 6mm separation, the bigger weapons– the HMG and the Feuerbach– actually do look more correct at the wider 8mm grip spacing, which is why the ORC’s Feuerbach was built at the larger scale.

So in the end? I’M SUPER CONFUSED AND HAVE NO REAL ADVICE FOR YOU. Just take a guess and make paper mockups and see what looks the least bad.

I dunno. :/

Soooo, I’m going with the 6mm grip separation version of Hannibal’s marksman rifle. I trace the outline of the weapon onto my sculpting surface with a sharpie.

Unlike the other weapons you’ve seen so far, I sculpted this one on a cookie tin. This turned out to be a bit annoying because of the size of the tin and the raised lip around the edge limiting tool access. This is ultimately why all of the other handheld accessories I made later were built on wooden blocks.

I get out some thin 22GA brass wire and twist it into the vague shape of the contour, leaving space on all sides to bury it in clay.

Just as with the models themselves, the clay on the weapons needs a putty foundation to stick to the metal. I wrap a bit of putty around the wire…

…and then lay shreds of clay over top of the still-soft putty and flatten it all together. Throughout the process, I’ll be continually watching the pencil contours to ensure that I don’t stray outside the weapon’s contours.

I continue adding small bits of clay and blending them to the outsides until I’m happy with the silhouette. Next, I look at the reference drawing I made and add in some of the interior details, pressing in small lines to define the [ PART ]

I continue pressing in details until I’m pretty satisfied with my replication of the original gun. The entire process is done by pushing out basic shapes with metal tools and then smoothing with clayshapers.

When I’m happy with the first side of the gun, I bake it in my halogen oven (250 degrees F for about 6 minutes). Once the first side is baked solid, I use a knife to carefully lift it off the wood block, and then I turn it over.

I use blobs of Green Stuff to provide supporting pegs to keep it firmly level while I work on the reverse side.

Note: I left a wire “handle” hanging off the back of Hannibal’s gun because I thought that would be useful later on when doing cleanup on the gun. This was completely wrong, it was just annoying and got in the way.

The process for this side is largely the same as the other side– I smear a thin layer of Green Stuff over the silhouette as an adhesive, and then press shreds of clay into it and smooth the shreds together with metal tools.

The entire process is much faster the second time, as I can use the already-established edges of the first side to easily guide the placement of every piece on the flip-side. I do a bunch of cleanup, bake the gun, clean up the seam between the two sides with a sharp knife, and then see how it looks on the model.

As you can probably tell, making the gun 33% bigger (6mm -> 8mm) would have been completely ridiculous.

Anyway, gun looks fine. Let’s move onto Hannibal himself.

The generic armature was twisted into shape using needle-nose pliers. My armatures terminate at the tips of the toes, and then I leave a bit of extra slack to let me embed the extra wire in a wine cork, which becomes a handle I can hold onto throughout the sculpting and painting processes.

I sculpt in Fimo, which is a polymer clay available at most craft stores. Fimo doesn’t stick to metal on its own, so you need to apply a layer of Green Stuff putty over the armature as an adhesive layer. The Green Stuff is thinly applied using metal sculpting tools.

The first layer of Fimo is immediately applied directly over the still-soft putty. Once again, it’s pressed into place using metal sculpting tools; clean surfaces aren’t terribly important at this point, since many layers will be going on top.

Clay is added to the model in shreds and slabs to arrive at the desired thickness for each part. At this stage I’m still working entirely with metal tools, as the ability to quickly jam bits of clay together is far more important at this stage than getting clean surfaces. You don’t need very much clay to bulk out an arm or a leg, but the sheer size of chibi heads mean that they’ll invariably require huge amounts of clay to be stuck on.

I keep applying bits and pieces of clay and blending them into each other until the model has the general type of physique I’m after. At this point, I finally do a smoothing pass using silicone clayshapers, which are able to achieve a much smoother finish than metal tools thanks to their pliability.

Once I’m happy with the basic body masses, I start adding clothes. I typically start at the model’s feet and work my way up. Thick garment breaks are added first, and then I add smaller surface details.

Garment edges and fully embossed straps are both done in pretty much the same way– I roll out a very thin clay snake, and apply it either as one long piece or in smaller snippets. The snake is then pressed flat and blended into its surroundings.

You can achieve different effects depending on how you blend it; you can leave a stark ledge on both sides to make the new clay appear as an independent band of material, or you can blend one of the edges into the surrounding material to look like a garment is coming to an end– e.g., the bottom of a sleeve or a pant leg.

Hannibal’s slacks are pretty loose-fitting, so there are quite a few cloth folds that need to be modeled on. For the pants, I make them quite rumpled around the bottom, but fairly flat through most of the thigh.

Slacks hang down a bit from the natural crotch, so let’s add some clay there and blend it in.

His pants are also loose enough to warrant some baggy cloth from the knees to the crotch.

I blend all of the shreds into the legs, and then put cloth folds anywhere that makes sense. A Google image search for “casual fit jeans” is very useful reference here. ^_^

Of course, Hannibal isn’t just wearing regular slacks– he’s wearing Space Slacks™, which are made out of many discrete cloth sections for no reason whatsoever. I use clayshapers to add vertical lines down the front, and to press in the angled lines toward the upper thigh. I just try to follow the concept dossier as closely as I can.

Oh right, his pants have LIGHTS in them too.

So you know it’s the future.

-_-

Hannibal is wearing a bulletproof vest that hangs down over whatever belt he might be wearing. Here I add a snake of clay to form the bottom of the vest.

I blend the snake into the torso with metal tools.

I then add a thin slab of clay to the abdomen to form the first of the vest’s armour plates, continuing to use metal tools to press and shape the rough clay.

I keep moving up and adding more clay to build out the armour shapes. It’s all intended to look like muscle groups, though the final detailing ends up being much more broken up and almost insectoid-looking, as you can see in the next shot.

Also visible in the next shot is a surprise appearance from a guest star I’ve mentioned six times now and yet never shown to you:

THE BRASS EYE TUBE

LOOK GUYS I DIDN’T MAKE HER UP

SHE’S REAL

😀

I pull the brow clay down a bit, and then press in a small mouth slit to guide the addition of clay bits around the lips.

I want Hannibal to be snarling orders, so I open his mouth slightly. I then start building his lower lip by laying on a small shred of clay.

I blend this into the face with a clayshaper, making sure to keep the mouth distinctly open.

A blob is planted in the center of the face to create the main bump of the nose.

That bump is then heavily blended in every direction, leaving just the suggestion of the bulb and the bridge.

ANGRY EYEBROWS

The eyes are given a more expressive shape by laying clay on the bottom of the eye. These will go in different positions depending on the facial expression you’re trying to convey. These are then blended into the face to form eyelids.

To create ears, a blob of clay is cut in half (to ensure equal size on both sides) and stick down in line with the eyes, about 2/3 of the way toward the back of the head. The blob is blended with a hard edge on the top, back, and bottom, but blended flat toward the face.

I press very shallowly in the center to create a very slight suggestion of a ridge around the ear, bulging slightly upward to suggest the earlobe at the bottom.

To create Hannibal’s goatee, I lay a thin clay snake around his mouth.

I use a clayshaper to press parallel lines into the snake to create the texture of the facial hair.

The foundation of the model’s hair is applied with long, parallel strips that follow the direction of the hairstyle.

I join the clay strips partially together with a metal tool, but I don’t blend them flat– instead, I form them into a hills-and-valleys texture to show the direction of the hair.

Hannibal’s hair is quite spikey, so I spend some time with metal sculpting tools pulling the hair into short ridges. I’ll come back and properly detail everything a bit later.

Not looking too shabby there, Mr. Brainysmarts!

Alrighty, let’s make sunglasses. Happy as I was with the eyes I made, it’s time to permanently cover them with clay ovals. Boooo. 🙁

My research has told me that the bit that connects the glasses to your ear is called the “leg” of the glasses, but I have never heard an actual human being call it that, so it feels incredibly weird for me to do so.

So, here I’ve created the side supporty bit with a clay snake.

Pfft, totally better.

I shape the contours of the classes with metal tools. The lenses need to be sunk below the level of the frames, so I dig some material out with a pick.

I then smooth this back over and clean it all up with clayshapers.

Next up, Hannibal’s coat. Coats can often be quite annoying to sculpt if they hang low or blow in the wind, requiring a lot of wire support to let you work the clay. However, helpfully, Hannibal’s coat mostly hugs his body and is cut just slightly below crotch level, so it’s never far enough away from the body for me to have to worry about extra support. Whoo! 🙂

To start building the coat, I create the lapels by laying down long clay chunks.

I keep applying clay over the shoulders, around the neck, and around the sides, joining everything up at the back.

I don’t want to get incredibly detailed with the cloth folds, so I just put some simple folds between the armpits and call it a day.

Hannibal’s coat has three vertical seams, so I press those in with the edge of a metal hoe tool.

There’s a bunch of ambiguous detail on the front of Hannibal’s coat, but as far as I can tell, there’s just a large embossed rectangle that drops down from under the arm and falls slightly below the rest of the coat. I thought it was perhaps supposed to be a long unfastened strap, but no, apparently it’s just a rectangle. :/

To build the hands, a bit of clay is applied to form the entire block of fingers. Hands are one of the many elements that are easier to sculpt on a chibi model than on a normal-scale model. You can often get away with a more simplified grooved “mitten”, which then allows each finger to support its neighbours.

The grooves are pressed in about halfway down the mitten, and then things are smoothed out a bit. Once that’s all formed, I use a knife to separate some of the finger tips and slightly pull them away from the rest of the hand. More work would be needed to add individual finger segments on a normal model, but on chibis, a rounded finger looks just fine.

CURSE YOU AUTO-FOCUS

This is supposed to be a picture of the cigar I sculpted in Hannibal’s hand. Instead it’s a picture of zero progress added to his torso with a blur over part of it.

BOOOO.

Ehh, you can kind of see the cigar there.

Oh, right, Hannibal’s raiment of nonsensical accessories also features a big back plate for no reason.

The plate is hung by straps that run around his torso like a backpack. In preparation for adding the straps, I roll out some thin clay snakes and cut them to short lengths.

I apply snakes in all of the requisite directions.

I flatten these down with a metal tool, and then sculpt clips into each one with a pick.

At this point, I spend a few hours with a clayshaper making Hannibal’s hair cleaner and wavier. This is just a lot of careful, tedious massaging of the shredded masses into more orderly waves with the silicone tools.

I press the cut-out shapes into his lapels with clayshapers,

Weird detail #426: Hannibal has a 5 o’clock shadow made from a metal plate.

Because, sure. Why not.

I do a general clean-up pass, firming up a lot of accessory edges and fading the hair down into stubble on the back of his neck and the sides of his head.

Alrighty, we’re just about finished. Let’s go ahead and glue on the gun!

Once the glue is dry, I apply some Green Stuff over the wire.

I apply a clay mitten over the putty, and separate out the trigger finger.

I didn’t get any other progress shots, but I think you’ve got the gist at this point. 😛

And, there we go. The army finally has a leader to order people around. AT LAST, THEY ARE RESCUED FROM CHAOS AND DISARRAY!

Painted pictures are on the last page. In the meantime, let’s go to page 2 and explore the process of creating the model that ended up being by FAR the hardest to photograph…

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