Modeling Project – The Horror Revisited

Note: I had this article online a while ago when the project ground to a halt due to some other events in my life. I have been itching to complete it, and I am going to try to use this blog as an inspiration to do just that. The army project mentioned below is no longer going to happen, but this character is pretty sweet so I will definitely complete him in the future.

The Horror of Liegnitz

The goal of this project is to create a centerpiece character for my mounted hordes of chaos army. The character is a champion of the Yusak named Morrodai who acts as general for the army of raiding horsemen. My initial concept was very much about the champion himself, who I was going to have mounted on a warhorse. It occurred to me that I would have a cool modeling opportunity if I had Morrodai riding a demonic steed instead. As Morrodai and the rest of his warriors are followers of Nurgle, the form of the steed was obvious – that of a giant maggot-grub-monster. I always thought that the fly – maggot motif was under-employed to represent Nurgle. I have always found anything remotely maggot, or grublike to be really nasty and alien like, and I am sure that I am not alone on this! Thus a primary goal for this project would be to make this critter as disgusting and unsettling as possible. What better way is there to leave an impression on the army’s opponents?

This character and his steed are collectively known as the Horror of Liegnitz. I like the idea that they fall into local folklore as a true monster whose return is feared and warded against. The appropriation of the name ‘Liegnitz’ into my own little piece of the warhammer world’s collective storyline is a reference to a city in Northern Europe that was attacked by Mongol Horsemen, who are something of an inspiration to this project.
Character Design – Concept – Sketches – Tools Used

The idea of using a maggot, or some other larvae as a basis for a creature of chaos, especially Nurgle, has been in my head for years now. The only time that the idea took form was when I made models representing chaos spawn for an old warband that were essentially giant maggots writhing on the ground. I made these out of Sculpy III, and mounted them on large square bases. They had a simple off-white paintjob, coated with clear nail polish to give them a glossy sheen. Since I made these critter’s back in 1992, my skills and toolset have changed some. I’ll have to try to scare up some photos of the old models to do a comparison.

This project started with several sketches that were essentially done on whatever bit of paper that I could find laying around. I was careful to save them so that I could look at them all at once and see what ideas really rang out. As of the writing of this, the concept for the mount is very well developed, while that of Morrodai himself is a bit less so. Even though I have a base model that I will use for his conversion (a Bretonnian Pilgrim model from Games Workshop), his final appearance will have to be revisited later. The warmaggot however…

For this project I used several different materials and a pile of different tools. It is easy to use make a list of useful tools, but if you are like me, you will use one or two of them for about 80% of the work. Below is an image of the tools that I used here. Most of these are available from art supply stores, or from online art supply retailers. Some tools may not be shown here but mentioned later. In the case of these specialized tools, I will include a picture so that you know what I am talking about.

The tools that I am using:

1. hobby knife or scalpel
2. pin vise
3. soft wedge color shaper
4. wax sculpting tool
5. home-made modeling tool
6. large embossing tool
7. pointy color shaper (a bit harder than the other one)
8. small embossing tool

Starting Point

The first step in actually creating the grub-steed, was to build what I call a base sculpt, to build layers of detail onto later on in the project. This serves a similar purpose as building an armature for a fig, but also allows you to block out the shape of the figure quickly and easily. Another major benefit of creating a base sculpt, is that you can save materials that may be more expensive or just more suited for other applications. In this case, using a baked polymer clay, I didn’t waste any Greenstuff on general shape of the figure.

In this case I made a worm like form out of Super Sculpy and baked it in the oven as per the clay’s directions. I didn’t worry about the smoothness or other surface qualities of the base sculpt as it would all get covered by the detail layer.

Once the base sculpt was done baking, and had some time to cool off, I mounted a pin (made from a bit of paperclip) on its underside to attach the model to its base. Small holes were drilled where I wanted the pins to go, then they were glued into the holes with super glue. Another pin was mounted into the area where the head would be sculpted later. I trimmed this up with a knife some before gluing the pin in place.

The base (which you can see in the bottom of the photo) was made ahead of time, and allowed to dry fully before it was used in this project. The base was coated with plaster, which when dry, was cracked up with my wax carver. The broken bits of plaster were glued into place on the base with normal craft glue. The rest of the base’s area was coated in sand for texture. I usually make bases like this in large batches so that using them later with models is very easy. This also assures that bases within a group of models have a consistent look.
Detail Layer

Once the base sculpt was pinned and attached to its base, I was able to get along with building the detail layer with greenstuff. What I wanted to go for was a series of segments that looked like they were quite maluable by the muscles under the skins surface. To achieve this, I wanted the segments look compacted in some areas, and stretched out in others. Another detail that I was keen to add, was that of stretched skin between the creature’s segments.

To get this going, I mixed up some Greenstuff and rolled out a large segment to start with. This was essentially a cylinder that was tapered at one end, to show where the segment was compressing as the creature’s body was bending. I pressed this onto the base sculpt and blended the edges down with my fingers.

When I am getting the general shape of something sculpted in putty, I often use my fingers to get the basic shape and help make sure that I have a consistent surface to apply the next details or layers.

I made another segment and put it next to the first. Once I had it where I wanted it, I blended the two edges together with my larger embossing tool. The opposite edge of the segment was blended into the surface of the base sculpt. At this point, I left the model alone for about 15 minutes to let the Greenstuff set up a bit, to make refining the form, and adding details a little easier. Several segments going down to the tail were made this way.

After sculpting this initial segments on the model, I thought forward to some details that I planned on adding later on, namely the legs that this critter would have on its upper body. I wanted to have an idea where I was going to place these in mind early on, so that when it was time to make and attach the legs, they wouldn’t seem out of place with the rest of the model. To help me out here I took the time to create some guidelines on the base sculpt. I made two parallel lines that ran along the flow of the creatures body (only one of the lines is visible in the photo below). These would get covered up pretty quickly, but they would help me keep the placement of the legs in mind as I made the areas where they would eventually attach.

Blending and Smoothing: These are two terms that I will use in this article a lot. They are very similar, and easy to mix up with out clarifying their specific meaning in this article. Blending is when a transition is created between two surfaces. In the case of this example, blending is used to roughly shape, and create a joining surface between segments. This is done by using the larger embossing tool to join the edges of the segments. Smoothing on the other hand, is the term that I use to make a rough surface more smooth with either a sculpting tool (clay shaper, homemade sculpt tool, or wax carver) or my finger. Two surfaces could be blended together, and then the area that was blended could be smoothed for example to create a single continuous and smooth surface.
A Different Method

When I am sculpting, I try to keep an open mind about how I am working, and consider other ways to do the same job. In the case of this model, I decided that I wanted to make sure that I had a good amount of control over the sizes of the various segments. A way to do this was to apply a coat of Greenstuff to the base sculpt, and ‘draw’ the segments in with a sculpting tool instead of adding them on one at a time as I had before. This would also speed things up some for the rest of the critter’s tail.


All of the Greenstuff on the model was the same ‘age’ at this point, and I was pretty happy with the general shape of things. The Greensttuff had been setting for about one half an hour at this point, which made it very easy to add fine details with out moving the Greenstuff too much.

The area between the segments had parallel divots where I used the embossing tool to blend one segment into the next. I went back to this area and refined these divots turning them into stretched skin. This was done by smoothing the divots down a bit, and then picking out several of them with the smaller embossing tool.

The area where the segments were made all at once on the tail didn’t have this detail. The larger embossing tool would be too big to get in between the segments so I used the pick end of my sculpting tool to poke similar details into the area. When doing this, I realized that I really liked the creases that were made by drawing the pointer lightly over the surface of the segment after I poked down the detail.

When Greenstuff is at this point in setting, you can play around to see what looks cool, and find options that you didn’t consider before. If you do something that looks off, you can always massage, or press the detail out.
Preparing the Neck Area

Based on the way that the neck of the grub was twisting, and changing direction, I felt that I really needed to add some more guides to help me get the segments in the right places. There were several occasions where I would mark these down, and then do them again to make adjustments. They really helped a lot, so it was worth the extra time that this step took.

I built the next several segments much in the same way that I built the ones at the beginning of the project. I made their ends recede into the part where the body turned and bent upwards. I pressed the folds in very deep here to help show that the segments were really compressing because of the grubs position. With a little refinement of this area I became very happy with the way that things were coming together. I let this set for about an hour before moving on to the area where the neck started (I guess maggots have necks…)
Building the Neck Segments

Once the bend area at the base of the neck was refined, and cleaned up, I moved on to the segments that would work up the rest of the creatures body. These segments were where I was planning on giving the grub some nasty little insect legs that would be positioned as if they were flailing about.

These segments were made individually, and when they were blended into one another, and refined to a decent degree, I poked holes into the putty that would act as sockets for the legs. After this I uses the spoon part of my sculpting tool to press down the putty around the hole, giving it a ridge where the segment would join with the leg. These raised areas were given some details by pressing on them with the spoon, and then gently pulling away from the hole.

When I was ready to move onto the rest of the neck, I let the putty set up for a while. It was good to get past the area where the grubs body curved around and up, I was nervous that it would be very hard to sculpt that area properly. I mixed up some fresh putty and put it on the base sculpt in the same way that I did the tail previously. After letting it set a bit, I drew the lines that were the beginning of the development of the segments.

The way that the fresh putty looked like a cloak’s hood was really funny to me. Little Red Riding Maggot.

These segments were refined in the same way as their predecessors.

After they were refined some, I added more leg sockets. It was pretty easy for me to visualize where to put these thanks to remembering where the guidelines were for them, that I had been staring at throughout this project. I refined, and widened these holes, as well as the four that I had made before, even though the putty was mostly set.

When the neck was finished up, I left the model to set up before I went onto the head. Taking a look at the model at this stage, I planned the position of the head’s elements as well as the saddle for the rider.
The Head of the Beast

Time to move on to the head of the grub-steed. This was the most detailed part of the model, and the most challenging to create as I had pretty high expectations about what the end results would be. What I wanted to end up with was similar to the illustration at the beginning of this article, a long muscular neck that would have a beaked mouth emerging from a toothed one.

To get this going, I mixed up some fresh putty, applied it to the neck and head area, and started blending it into the area where the previous segment ended. After I had things where I wanted them, I used my fingers to roughly for the upper and lower jaw for the beaked mouth. Once this was done I put the model down to let the putty set up for about 10 minutes.

When blending and smoothing one surface into another, I tend to use some sort of lubricant to keep the putty from ripping when it gets too thin. In this case I used petroleum jelly, which leaves a residue on the surface of the putty after it has set. A lot of sculptors avoid using this stuff because that residue can make it very hard to get other details made with bits of putty to stick when added on later. I take time to clean off the areas where this could occur to keep putty added later from sliding around, or not staying affixed.
Building the Neck Segments

I knew that I wanted some details to emerge in the neck as the last segment transitioned into the more muscular area, but I wasn’t sure what they would be. So to start off, I pressed some gouges into the neck, where it meets the segment. I could use the raised areas of putty to sculpt muscles, veins, chiteuos ridges, or what ever else I thought would work. In the end, I made area where the skin opened up, revealing sinewy muscles below. This detail would continue to show that this was a super-natural creature, in cadaverous form. Zombie-maggot!

As the putty set, I sharpened up and refined some of these details.

Once I was happy with the strange skin openings, my attention went to further up the neck. This area was very smooth and simple, and I wanted to make it more detailed, and complicated, to offset the relative regularity and cleanness of the segmented areas of the creatures body. I put deep gouges that flowed along the necks surface. If I were trying to model something that was more representational of something ‘real’, I would have made the muscles make sense anatomically. In this case I took some artistic liberty, and let the position of the muscle fibers be more chaotic. To break up the surface of the neck further, I poked deep pours into the muscle area, and gently pulled back creating a subtle divot. These ended up working well with the openings in the skin that I had made earlier.

Throughout this entire section, I would return to the neck and sharpen the details that I had made before.

It was time to take another break to let the putty set up, but before I called it quits, I pressed in some detail into the inside of the mouth.

Composition & Working in the Round When you are designing a model, and when you are sculpting it you should keep the full composition of the piece in mind. It is easy to get lost in the details of one area while not really seeing how those details work with other areas until it is too late. Take a step back once and a while and consider the piece as a whole. It is also easy to get fixed looking at your model from one angle or point of view. You can be sure that your work looks hot from that angle, but is it weak from any of the others? Move the thing around as you work on it. Take time while putty is setting to study your previous work. Sculpting is a 3 dimensional practice, and that can take some getting used to.
“Mom, Can We Call It Beaky?”

When all of the putty was fully set, it was time to get going on the next part of the head. This was the beak like mouth at the end of the critter’s head. Fresh putty applied to the head area was then blended into the muscular area of the neck, bulking it out a bit. I pulled up a slight horn on the top of the creatures beak as the idea spontaneously struck me.

Using my home-made sculpting tool, and both of the color shapers, I refined the beak area. With the poker end of the sculpting tool, I pulled gashes into the beaks edge to give it a broken up and jagged look. This needed to be worked over and over again to get it to a decent place. This was partially due to the way that there was little in the way of set material under the beak. Every time I would make an impression on the putty, it would move too much in one way or the other due to a lack of resistance.

Once this area was mostly set, I created a ridge around the neck that I would use to build up the secondary mouth that the beak would emerge from. This would be another tricky area, I was really worried that this detail would look ‘tacked on’ and not really fit as part of the beast’s anatomy. There is a balancing act that is done when you are creating a fantastic creature like this one. While you have the liberty to design, and create whatever you want, there should be enough that the viewer can relate to so that the suspension of disbelief can be upheld.

Developing the Mouth Area

Building off of the raised opening that was created around the beak, I made the creatures second mouth. It took a decent amount of work to make this seem like more than just a limp, toothy hole that the beak was emerging from. The lower jaw helped give a sense of a skeleton underneath the beast’s skin. Yeah, I suppose that a giant grub shouldn’t have a skeleton, oh well. This is my monster, back off! 😉

Once the form of the mouth was made, I chose where I wanted to put the teeth by creating sockets for them along the edge of the mouth. I created some details on the top of the mouth area as well that represent tendons and muscles underneath the skin.
Lets Give This Thing Some Teeth

The teeth would make the mouth convincing if done well. This caused some pressure when making them. Initially I figured that making each one individually would be the cleanest way to go about sculpting them, but after some trial and error I realized that pulling them from a single area of putty was the way to go. More often than not, creating a set of details from one consistent surface will yield cleaner and more structurally stable results.

Here, where the teeth begin to take shape, the excess greenstuff was blended into the surface below, or was cut off with the edge of the spoon on my home made sculpting tool.

After the general shape of the teeth was defined, I started to press in the area under each tooth and lifted up to create more curve to the tooth and define what its bottom edge looked like. While refining the teeth, I would revisit this area, pulling up on the tooth gently.

The bottom teeth were done in the same way as the top teeth, but after the top ones had set so that I wouldn’t damage the work that I had already done.

After looking at the mouth/head area for a while, especially the beak, I decided that it wasn’t pointy enough. Quite simply, I added a bit of putty to its tip, and blended it into the previous surface.
Twelve Legs…or maybe not

I let all of the work on the model set overnight. I knew that the next step was going to be complicated and would take a lot of handling. I began to wonder why I gave this thing so many legs… nothing ventured, nothing gained I guess.

The first thing to do was to place bits of wire (cut from paperclips) into the holes that had been drilled for the arms. These were then trimmed up some to get the approximate lengths needed. NOTE: I did not glue the arms in at this point.

I knew that I would want to model the legs both on and off the main body of the model, so I made a holder for them that would help me keep them organized and would give me somewhere to put them when putty on them was setting. I made this out of a scrap bit of pink styrofoam

This is a picture of a arm with the first layer of greenstuff clamped in the jaws of a hemostat tool. I can’t recommend one of these enough! They are great for holding parts when you are working on them. You can get them from science supply shops as well as most Art supply stores.

Well, as I was building the legs and attaching them to the body, I realized that I only needed about half the original amount. In fact, had I gone ahead and attached all twelve, the results would have been overdone.

Finishing the Legs

The next step with each of the legs was to bend them up to determine where the joints would be. The breakage is acceptable at this point.

The legs would each end with a pointy claw. These were made with plasticard that was trimmed and sanded into the appropriate shape. These were then glued to the wire sticking out of the end of the arm sculpt. Carefully, some putty was applied to hold the claw more strongly. Once this had set I could sculpt some details into its surface.

Several of the claws done and set aside to set up fully. The next step would be to glue them onto the body.

When the arms were glued on, some putty was added to sculpt the area at the base of each arm.

9 thoughts on “Modeling Project – The Horror Revisited”

  1. WOW!! I love it, it literally “oozes” character and the little limbs are brilliant. Looking forward to seeing it painted.

  2. Any chances you plan on casting this piece of brilliance and letting the less talented sculptors around the world have a grub of their own? Looks awesome

    1. Hah. I have done castings in the past of different projects, but I am not sure if I will be doing anymore soon. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Absolutely amazing. ive been looking everywhere for an in depth sculpting tutorial and this is the one. cant wait to try it myself!

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