Saturday, July 6, 2013

Moria Cutaway: Balin’s Tomb Completed

Balin’s Tomb is now finished. This has been a project like no other - started maybe six years ago, 'rested', then revisited over the past couple of months, it's been repainted, revised, restored and with a resident corpse stored within its stone foundations. I’ve extended the base on one side to make it a little more symmetrical (though it’s by no means centred), and included a few bones here and there – something of a green stuff lesson for me as I worked at it. Finally, finding a perfec square of larger card by chance I mounted the complete diorama on a further tier and repeated the exercise again. The new base is now thicker and, I hope, a little more robust. I’ve squared off the corners of the crypt (being built around a plastic box with rounded corners) as much as I was happy to, and there’s a surprising heft to the model now, mainly due to the card itself.

Outside Balin’s Tomb is Ori, still, his head remodeled slightly and his book given a spine of sorts. I’ve also added arrows to the model, a detail I’d always intended but never got around to – here they’re pins with painted woodchip flock for fletching, sealed with PVA glue and finally washed with some Brown Ink to make them look oily and nasty. The lid to the Tomb still comes off, deliberately, and has a raised floor to present Balin’s body better. I had to thicken the interiors of the walls with ice block sticks to make it look more robust and stone-like, while the lid underside was lined with two layers of card on which the legend Baruk Khazad – Khazad ai Menu is inscribed. Well, painted.

Here’s a WIP picture of the Balin model, a green stuff sculpture formed around an armature of matchsticks on a rectangle of foamboard, with a stick-on gemstone from a craft shop as a shield to rest the separately-sculpted head on. Balin’s pose is based on a number of real-life crypt effigies, as I thought they conveyed the necessary dignity of a fallen hero. I kept any major details the most defining characteristics of Balin – his white beard, an axe similar to the one I chose his earlier model from, and his age, of course. The great axe (possibly Durin’s, a detail inferred by the movies) is in his hands and is the only concession to the plastic Dwarf models, but he’s crown-less –it was just too much detail for me, unfortunately. Instead, his head rests on a Dwarven shield (based on a design from the LotR movie art books). After a LOT of angst about whether to line the sarcophagus interior with plush fabric, heap up treasures and tributes around him or lay Balin’s corpse on a detailed stone slab I abandoned all of these concepts after several dry runs. Every one of them ended up making the crypt interior look cluttered, overly busy and venal. We know virtually nothing of the burial practices of Dwarves, but my concept is that to Dwarves death is a return to the earth, and a body committed for burial is therefore an object stripped of treasures and sentiment.

Here, Balin is buried partly in armour (chain and shoulder vambraces), but is mostly robed and akin to the old soul of The Hobbit, his only concession to war the axe and shield. Anything else would, as I say, have visually detracted from the fallen king himself. It should in the main be a pathetic image, recalling the nature of Balin’s death, and perhaps the quickly diminished fortunes of his fellows now trapped in the halls they sought to claim. Early versions of the crypt floor (much bolstered by foam card and scrap wood) were painted in gold and silver – again, it was flashy and gaudy and said nothing, so a simple black outline of overlapping geometric shapes replaced them. Finally, some colours. Purple and red were of course early contenders, as well as gold and grey, but I wanted them all watered down or at least toned down – bright colours on a corpse look cartoony, and I avoided grey or white fur (befitting an older Dwarf seeking warmth rather than riches) so it wouldn’t blend into Balin’s white hair. The skin is closer to a light tan than the warmer Dwarf Flesh colour GW’s paints reserve for their (living) Dwarves. And with that, Balin is now at rest.

The larger base was added last weekend and early this week - more thick card with thinner card for flagstones (some are deliberately offset to show some age) and more detritus - I guessed at the colour mixes for the stone floor and strewn papers and got lucky! There's also some green stuff here - a couple of skulls (a frequent destiny for any left over blobs of green stuff late in the evening), some plastic shaving ribs and a rather grisly spine and hip combination; Tolkien himself spared no detail of the carnage that took place there, so I followed suit.

And with that, my time with Thorin Oakenshield's late company is finally at an end! or my nest project I;ve promised myself models with more stature, more colour, and less individuality. And I know just the subjects...

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