Eternal Hunt is four – drawing from the distant past…
Eternal Hunt turns four this week, and while I am still going through a bit of a rocky patch in my personal life, this does like a pretty cool achievement to me: Who would have expected this blog to keep running for such a relatively long time, back when I posted my first dodgy photos of some World Eaters back in 2012? Not me, I can tell you — especially since blogging tends to get more and more work the longer you keep at it, at least if you’re trying to put some actual effort into it 😉
But here we are, four years later, with exactly 305 posts (including this one), about 590,000 views and 255 followers from all around the world — what a wonderful development!
A heartfelt thank you to all the readers, commenters, referrers and people who keep sending me little pieces of plastic from halfway across the globe! In fact, as if to prove the incredible amount of generosity fellow hobbyists have been showing me over the last couple of years, I received a package from PDH only today, containing – incredibly enough – his version of Lord Zhufor the Impaler!
I recall Peter painting this guy in another life, when he was still a follower of the one true chaos god 😉 But actually seeing the model before me on my desktop as I am writing this just makes me grin like a madman.
And here’s Zhufor hobnobbing with his new BFF:
Those two guys are doubtlessly sharing the best skulltaking tricks from ten millennia of warfare…
Anyway, this is an incredibly gift – thank you so much, Peter! – and it’s also one of many examples for the good things that have happened to me hobby-wise ever since I started up this blog: Having you join me on this Eternal Hunt has really made the hobby so much better for me. And I remain committed to keeping this blog going as long as I can — in fact, I’ve had a rather successful hobby year in 2015, in spite of everything, so let’s hope it’ll be the same way this year!
Now, in addition to all the self-congratulatory babble, I would like once again to use this birthday post to give you a look at a veritable blast from the past in the form of some exclusive material from my earlier hobby years: I recently came upon a folder with lots and lots of drawings, half-baked background texts and ideas for grand sweeping narratives that never really went anywhere from my teenage years, and I thought it might be fun to share some of the artwork with you, at least.
Just to put this into perspective, I used to do a ton of drawing during my youth, from cartoons and caricatures to the stuff you’re about to see. And while I was certainly no Johan Egerkrans, for instance, I do think my fineliner pen and me had a couple of pretty good years 😉 It seems strange – and slightly inappropriate – to show you my somewhat dodgy sketches back to back with a celebration of Wayne England’s wonderful work — and yet, maybe it’s really rather fitting, because it’s proof of how important artwork and illustrations were for me when getting into this common hobby of ours. So let’s take a peek, shall we?
A couple of pointers, however, before we begin:
- Most of this stuff is about twenty years old at this point, some of it even older. So be gentle with me, okay? 😉
- What strikes me is how utterly derivative some of this work is — or let’s rather say: how heavily it draws from the seminal influences of the time, ranging from Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf books to videogames and, of course, GW’s various offerings. You’ll find a wild mish-mash of all those influences, so I guess looking at those cobbled together drawings gives you a pretty neat psychological study of my formative hobby years, I suppose…
- back then, I didn’t yet have a grasp of the intricacies of the Warhammer background, as my only real GW publications back then were the booklets from HeroQuest and the Advanced HeroQuest sourcebook. This is why you’ll see lots of symbols from the Warhammer background, especially the Skaven symbol for some reason, crop up in entirely inappropriate places…
So with that out of the way, here we go, just step into the time machine with me:
It’s the early 90s, and totally high on a mixture of Choose your own adventure books, HeroQuest and classical pen and paper RPGs like D&D and the German blockbuster “Das Schwarze Auge”, my younger self decides to come up with a roleplaying campaign. While some of the details escape me now, I remember the campaign was about infiltrating the keep of a powerful undead warlord (yeah, I know, shockingly original material…), and since it would ultimately have played out as some kind of pen & paper RPG, it was clear to me that I would need lots and lots of flavour material to really set the stage for the adventure.
I had always loved the way Gary Chalk’s small illustrations were used in the Lone Wolf books, so I just stole them wholesale for my own story and sprinkled them throughout my – thoroughly unoriginal – background section.
I also had a number of maps ready for use, including the arch villain’s retreat:
Those of you familiar with D&D will probably recognise many of the map symbols from there.
In addition to copying artwork I liked left and right (I remember carefully tracing several characters from a huge illustration by Chris Achilleos, for example), I at least tried to come up with some concepts of my own. For instance, my idea was for the story to use a number of pre-defined player characters, and some of the sketches for those remain. Here’s the character I liked most back then:
I really had a bit of a thing for mysterious, cowled characters in those years, as you can see. And the “Schwarze Auge” rulebook provided me with an abundance of armour designs I could copy in my own drawings. In hindsight, the most original thing about this guy are probably the bold colours of his outfit — quite a fashion statement, if I do say so myself… 😉
There’s also this wizard who may or may not have become another possible PC:
And while it’s easy enough to see the numerous shortcomings in those drawings in hindsight, I am still enormously fond of them, warts and all, because they really show what kind of stuff influenced me back then and how I tried to disassemble the parts I liked and put them together again while trying to put a personal spin on them — something not at all unlike the conversion work I love so much these days, come to think of it…
Ultimately, my bold RPG venture never amounted to anything much. It’s probably safe to say that I had bitten off more than I could chew.
That didn’t stop me from trying again several years later, during the mid-to-late 90s: This time around, evene more influences had been added to the melting pot, among them Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy as well as Blizzard’s Warcraft 2 (yes, children, there were actually games set in that universe before WoW. They were pretty great).
Anyway, once again I drew it all together in my adolescent mind and created a scenario that drew from each of these sources. I even started to write my own fantasy novel – provisionally named “Ydgard” – to provide the setting with the necessary sense of depth (I still have the ancient .txt document for the first third or so of that novel, although I shudder at the prospect of ever having to look at it again — maybe for the blog’s 5th birthday).
So I wanted to tell another sweeping fantasy story, but I was a little more clever about it this time around, basing it on the – rock solid – foundation of the Advanced HeroQuest rules: My idea was to take a part of the background I had come up with and run Advanced HeroQuest games in that setting to tell the whole story as seen from the worm’s eye-view, so to speak. If I remember correctly, I even managed to run some of those games with both my dad and my best friend at the time, and they were really fun. Then I went and wrote up “novelised” versions of those games to make up a part of the greater background story. Fun times! 😉
Now what’s interesting about this whole endeavour is that I decided to accompany it with lots and lots of drawings. I came up with all kinds of stuff, including flags for the various provinces of the evil overlord’s realm (heavily inspired by the various clan symbols from Warcraft 2):
Oh my, it just occurs to me that the blade of that halberd at the top was actually influenced by one of my all time favourite illustrations by John Blanche:
But anyway, what really made the drawings rather interesting this time around is how many of them were actually based actual models.
For instance, I had all those different greenskin models from various (GW) games, and I decided to use them as different ranks and enemy types. And then I drew up some art based on the actual models in order to create a kind of bestiary for the background section of my scenario. Take a look:
First up, the goblins: From left to right, we have the humble footslogging gobbo (based on the goblins from Battle Masters), a goblin rifleman (based on a Space Crusade model) and finally a wolf rider (once again inspired by the corresponding Battle Masters) model.
The drawings from the various types of Orcs followed the exact same approach:
On the left, you can see a bog standard Orc resembling one of the classic HeroQuest Orcs. The guy on the right was, once again, based on a model from Battle Masters (I am actually still rather happy with that drawing, apart from a few minor minor quibbles).
The rest of the Orc ranks were firmly based on the GW Warhammer plastic models of the time:
The two guys on the left are basically the plastic Orcs that could be bought in small boxes of ten. Those models seem so rough and silly nowadays, but back then, the discovery of plastic models depticting Orc archers really blew my mind. The big guy on the right was my drawing of a Black Orc, from the same series of one-pose, single piece plastic kits.
I think it’s really rather entertaining how those sketches capture an entire generation of Citadel plastic greenskins, wouldn’t you agree? 😉
As a matter of fact, these drawings really had their day in the limelight some time in 1998, when my good friend Phil and I actually used them to illustrate a school presentation about the various races appearing in Tolkien’s Hobbit — since we were reading the book during English classes in the eleventh grade. That was really a triumph, to be able to use some of my fantasy drawings to actually scoop a high grade 😉
While we are on the matter of illustrations copied from GW plastic models, here’s another example:
A Chaos Warrior heavily inspired by these guys:
Take note of the completely nonsensical use of the Skaven rune on the warriors, breastplate, though…
GW wasn’t the only source I was happily stealing inspiration from, however. Just take this demon lord…
…and compare his face to the cover illustration for the – then brand new – Diablo. Yeah…
In spite of the derivative nature of my work, however, I did occasionally have my moments. I still rather like this – original – drawing of a Minotaur, for instance (except for that pesky Skaven rune that has once again managed to sneak into the picture…):
This wizard is another one of my favourite drawings from that time, and I think the illustration has managed to age fairly gracefully:
Once again, however, the heraldry is all over the place, with a (WFB greenskin) Bad Moon making an appearance alongside the symbol for Mutant Chronicles’ Brotherhood. Oh well…
And to round things out, here’s a pretty detailed, yet anatomically rather wonky dwarf warrior for you:
At least this guy doesn’t feature any Skaven symbols for a change…
And once again, while I can easily see the many hokey parts in each of these illustrations, I was probably at the top of my game back then, at least when it came to drawing fantasy pieces.
Soon after, I properly got into Warhammer Fantasy Battles (and finally learned the meaning behind all of those runes and symbols — no more misplaced Skaven runes). And for some reason, the drawing of characters more or less fell by the wayside — maybe because I could now actually build them? I think it also had to do with my dabbling in designing stuff digitally and using layout software: Having to draw it all out on paper started to feel pretty old-fashioned — what can I say? I was young and foolish.
This must have been around 1999/2000, and while I would still occasionally sketch some fantasy creature or other – like these two sketches made to kill some time, if I recall correctly,…
…you can basically tell that my heart was no longer really in it at this point. Those dragons are just idle scribblings without any greater narrative (or, for that matter, a corresponding Citadel model) to inspire them.
But those were fun times, and they paved the way for my hobby activities today: Maybe the derivative quality of my drawings explains why I have so much fun converting models, because, in a way, it’s just the same approach in a different medium: I take all kinds of elements that I like and reorganise them into something new that embodies the qualities and characteristics I enjoy about the background.
Looking at those drawings, I also feel that maybe I shouldn’t have given up drawing, even if I wasn’t a genius or anything: These days, I can still pick up a pen and make a fairly brave attempt every once in a while, but I no longer feels as natural, nor does it come to me as easily as it used to, making rendering my ideas on paper quite a challenge more often than not. If anything, it feels like a muscle I haven’t exercised in years, and I suppose that’s a very apt comparison. That said, I can still occasionally pull it off with a bit of work, as I discovered when a friend working in employe recruitment commissioned me for a spot of graphic recording a couple of months ago.
But anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane — or you’ve at least gotten a chuckle out of some of those crude drawings of mine. In any case, thanks once again for taking an interest! It goes without saying that I’d love to hear any feedback you might have. And here’s to the next year of Eternal Hunting, eh? 😉
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!