First off, I’ve selected my Company of Oakenshield figures to be the first off the block in completing their painting and adapting. It’s a bit of a cheat because this is the third Spitting Lead project I’ve nodded towards now, but the likelihood of the Hobbit movie releasing (or somebody leaking) shots of the Dwarf actors in costume increases by the week – so it’s a race against time. Not that I’m trying to prove anything. These figures aren’t based on the actors and only have the barest allegiance to the look of the last Middle Earth trilogy, so until Games Workshop get their satanic mills up and running as official licensee this is the nearest I might get. And to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll buy the resulting merchandise once it’s out anyway – the number of LotR figures I have at home actually terrifies me*.
Ahem. So it’s a question then of what to use for ’my’ Company. The text of the book comes first of course. But do I use the colours suggested literally, or drub them down into a more Jackson-esque earthy palette? Tolkien’s description of the Dwarf cloaks and hoods is a veritable rainbow – even one of the Company has a blue beard! Should they be armed, as this doesn’t happen until mid-story (and certainly doesn’t include so many axes)? In the end I’ve chosen to go for colour, but diluted and made a little earthy, lest Thorin’s posse emerge looking a lot like the New Dalek Paradigm. And we all know how well that went down, right kids?
The other consideration I have is the sculpts themselves – I’ve done a fair bit of chopping and replacing of limbs and weapons, I’ve made a hood and fattened up Bombur, even crafted a nose. The plastic figures are great for this sort of stuff, tolerating fine shaving and repositioning far better than the metals. The trade-off with plastic though as far as GW are concerned is in detail – plastic figures just don’t compare to alloys, which is a big reason why you don’t see many plastics among the finalists for GW’s annual Golden Demon competitions. At the time, and as for now these plastics are the closest and cheapest available likenesses to the Company though (of course they’re cheapest – I’ve had them for nearly four years!) so I’m stuck with them and must do my best. Challenges, gotta love ‘em.
The last consideration is pose and style. Nearly every character in The Hobbit is transformed by the quest – it’s a road movie. Some even don’t make it to the end (sorry kids), and as indicated above, the question of what they’re wearing and bearing changes through the story. My solution is the same as I’ve come to with my Doctors Who (also being finished before the next illustration project kicks off) – each character is themselves ‘classic’ – an individualised and (hopefully) sympathetic representation of their greatest looks, rather than a frozen point in time. During my first pass at the Company the figures were painted as though the Dwarves were travelling through Mirkwood, but I’m going to move a little further along the timeline now, particularly so I can add a dragon-hoard element to some of the major characters. *POA. All enquiries welcome!