Golden Demon Winners Challenge – PRELUDE
Last year, I was lucky enough to win a gold demon at Golden Demon Classic at Warhammer Fest with my Hell pit Abomination of all Hell Pit Abominations. In the summer, I went to the Golden Demon Winner’s Day at the GW headquarters in Nottingham, a yearly celebration of those, who won demons that year. There we were all invited to take part in a new project at White Dwarf. A challenge… as readers of White Dwarf may remember they have had ‘Eavy Metal challenges a couple of times before, where members of the ‘Eavy Metal team would paint the same model or make a model to a certain brief and then compete in the pages of White Dwarf. Just a fun little challenge. This time they had come up with the Golden Demon Winner’s Challenge. All winners of demons this year got an invitation to take part. We would have to make an entry of our own choice, it must be mounted on a round 60mm base, it must be Age of Sigmar, It must epitomize the grand alliances somehow.
Well Challenge accepted!
I went home and thought of my possible entry for the Golden Demon Winners Challenge. We had a deadline in November, where all entries must be in the hands of White Dwarf, to be in the challenge. Ample time, but as all such projects go, a little stress in the end. I thought good and long about it, I had to come up with a good idea…
I always liked the Varanguard models. Those big chaos knights on steroids, that serve as bodyguards of Archaon himself. I sort of needed an excuse to make one. So the grand alliance of Chaos was sorted, but I did not think that was enough… I needed to put more on that 60mm base, I needed my chaos knight to be part of a greater whole, to tell a story. I could make a duel, I just needed to find a suitable opponent. To really epitomise the factions, I thought Order would be the fitting opponent, preferably Stormcasts. They are sort of the natural opposite of Chaos. Ancient enemies. Enter the Vanguard Palladors, approximately the same size as the Varanguard, they are beautiful models. The Varanguard Palladors are young stormcast knights riding demigryphs; griffons without wings. I really liked Chris Clayton’s Varanguard regiment at Golden Demon and was inspired to try to make my own at some point. A natural choice as opponent.
Now my idea for the Golden Demon Winners Challenge began to take shape. A duel between two mounted opponents of similar size, natural enemies, one representing order, the other dark and evil Chaos. I thought why not take the idea of the conflict a little further? By making a light situation that supported it, by making a warm orange low light on the Varanguard, he would be in his right element and mood. In the same vein, the Vanguard Pallador could get a cold blueish light, making him pure and aloof at the same time. Those different lights could reflect from figure to figure, thus tying them together. Those lights could easily be achieved with the basing, it was only a matter of creating an environment, that supported the light situation that I wanted.
If I made a sea of lava to one side, it would be mostly bright orange, the big chaos knight would be riding in it, such a big Varanguard and his beast could take it… then the firelight of the lava would create a low light up on the big black fellow. That would be an awesome dramatic OSL effect. Then the other half of the base could be plain green nature, intact but burned at the edge of the lava. The lava glow would hit the areas turned to the lava, the rest lit up by a slightly blue, cold twilight. So it would be the elements themselves clashing, amplifying the whole expression of the eternal battle between good and evil, Chaos and Order.
So with a firm vision in my mind, it was time to get to work. After a couple of mock-ups I chose a Varanguard and a Vanguard Pallador, that would fit the bill. The Pallador would attack, the Varanguard would defend.. sort of turning the tables a little, one would expect the evil one to be the aggressor, here I would blur the differences a little, because of a story emerging in the back of my mind.
I chose a demigryph, that was leaping at its foe and a Varanguard on a prancing horse, a little like it was startled by the attack.
I cut of the horses hooves at the ankles and reattached them at an angle, to tilt the horse beast a little to the side, as if it is loosing its balance from the attack, almost throwing its rider. The rider himself was twisted as much as possible to the same side, with a raised left hand, both fending off the attack and pulling the reins to control his beast. The other hand as far back as possible, tense holding his sword, just about to swing at his foe. I waited for a bit attaching the head, so I could align it perfectly with his attacker, when everything came together. I needed to resculpt the ankles of the beast, where I had changed their position.
The demigryph and its stormcast rider would need similar surgery to fit the scene. I cut of the rearmost hoof of the beast and reattached it pointing backwards, to make it at the point where it leaves the ground in its leap at the enemy. The claws needed repositioning as well, both to facilitate a closer position to the enemy and to give them a more natural pose, as they hit the enemy, resculpting here as well, subtle but important conversions.
In order to align the two figures properly and to make the attack seem natural, I had to place the Vanguard Pallador a bit higher than the Varanguard. I built up some ground work using bark and milliput, by stacking the pieces of bark I could adjust the height so everything fit.
I sculpted a rippled lava surface out of Green Stuff. I put some bits of slate on top of it, to represent rocks and dry lava floating on it. I pushed my Varanguard into the Green Stuff to make indentations where the hoofs would go, so placement and angle would be perfect. I also placed some demon’s heads and an arm to represent demons materializing in the lava, reaching up to drag the looser of the battle down…
I dry fitted the riders to their steeds, I would need them separate for most of the paint job, everything looked right. There were these scrolls dangling from the Stormcast, they were made of fat plastic, I replaced them with copper foil. At this point I attached the head and spear to the Stormcast, so they pointed in a straight line at the Chaos knight. Now I placed the head of the chaos knight so he looked right up at the threat, looking his opponent in the eyes. So the knight’s face turned right into the straight line of the stormcast, his demigryph and his spear, maximizing the contact and dynamic of the whole vignette, making it as dramatic as possible.
As I worked on this the story of the two antagonists formed in my mind. They were twin brothers, loving each other like only brothers can. Identical to look upon, yet of slightly different minds, one tended to be coldly aloof, always righteous, the other slightly brooding, more passionate. They grew up together, always supporting each other, always needing each other, one never complete without the other. They learned to fight together and grew to become great heroes in their homeland. At some point one got tempted by the lure of chaos, as the other got enrolled in the ranks of the Stormcast Eternals, so they went down different paths. The split between the brothers was a bad one and they both vowed to kill the other…
Many years and adventures later they finally lay eyes upon one another across a nameless battlefield. They both forged ahead to the other, to finally end their conflict. The battle would be titanic, a battle of champions, a battle of hate. The battle between Order and Chaos epitomised in the deeds of these two heroes, the battle between light and darkness. They say the hatred between loved ones is the deepest!
A base coat first! I went all opposite on this. As the Varanguard was to have this strong red and orange glow from below, I chose not to base coat him black, even though his armour was to be black. In order to make the reds and oranges stand out bright, I base coated it a light grey. In hindsight I think white would have been even better, but I don’t think I had a white spray at hand at the moment, so I settled for mr Surfacer, which is a very light grey. That worked out nicely.
My Stormcast and his demigryph which were to be more cold and bright, got a, for me, more traditional zenithal undercoat of black first and then a little Mr Surfacer from the top and front, so I had a clear picture of how the volumes reacted to the light. The demigryph would be airvrushed, so this was rather unnecessary, but I think it is a good starting point anyway. The Stormcast with all his golden armor could sure use some black in the recesses, metals work best on black undercoats, bu I still had the cloak, shoulderplates and many other details and areas that would benefit from a zenithal undercoat.
COLOURING THE VARANGUARD
To begin with I airbrushed the complete Varanguard,I put the rider on top without glue, so everything would get the same treatment. I airbrushed it with Magenta and Carmine Aerocolor. And on top of that a little orange. Now the light of the lava was established. Then I airbrushed it from above with black, going all the way down to the red and orange. I repeated a blast of the red, followed by orange for a smooth transition. The armour was supposed to look like it was gloss black, so I airbrushed small white highlights. These white highlights went over tops of curves and prominent areas, where I thought the light would be most concentrated. In the end those highlights became way too big, but that was not a problem, as I planned to glaze it all down for a more subtle and smooth effect, but the light areas were placed with smooth transitions and that was what I needed for the moment. Airbrush done for now, I set the Varanguard aside.
COLOURING THE PALLADOR
I airbrushed the Demigryph in brown and sandy tones, going for something like the fur of a lion or a puma. These colours I worked up from a very dark shadow to a proper highlight, focusing forward towards the animal’s head. At a fairly early stage of painting I blocked in a blue base coat on the head, feathers and saddle cloth. Thus the basic light situation was established. I started the armour of the rider in a mix of gold and brown, to get a mid tone to work from. I set it aside.
The base got some earth tones and greens in the nice parts and the lava got the first of many build-ups of black, red and orange, letting the colours run together wet in wet.
At this point the basic colour composition was down and now it was just a matter of refining it and adding detail.
REFINING THE VARANGUARD
At first, I glazed the armour a LOT!! I used black, sepia, blue, more black, a little purple here and there, a little green here and there as well. The am was to turn down the white highlights I had airbrushed and creating a smooth transition as well as represent the colours that would be present in the piece, to create the ambience and thinking that the glossy armour would reflect its surroundings. I rehighlighted the highest points along the way, making sure I got small sharp highlights within areas that were lit up more than the surrounding areas. At the same time, all my glazing created a nice, varied and living black colour, much more interesting than just a flat black. Lastly I painted on a few dots and lines of pure Titanium White for direct reflections and that extra definition.
Now time for a little detail work. I painted all the decorative edges of the armour, both on horse and rider, in a mix of P3 Blighted Gold and black, this I highlighted up through pure Blighted Gold, mix of Blighted Gold and Vallejo Game Color Glorious Gold and lastly pure Glorious Gold. Instead of going for smooth blends and transitions, I used my brushstrokes to create a textured surface, like beaten metal with lots of dents and pits in it. In the areas where the gold edges touched on the red/orange glow of the underside, I faded the colour out into the orange, so the glowing underlight would gradually take over. After that I glazed the metals with the same colours I had used on the rest of the armour I added extra purple in the sjadow areas. When everything was nice and dark and relatively smooth, I highlighted the metals, first Glorious gold, then mix of Glorious Gold and Vallejo Model Air Silver, then pure silver. I did this in the same textured way as with the lower levels, still working in smaller ad smaller areas towards the most prominent and upwards turned points. A glaze of Windsor and Newton yellow ink, followed by a last rehighlight of pure silver and the metal edges were done.
Now bear in mind that I don’t work so much to recipe, but in a more universal way… Many of these processes can be achieved in the same time, but here I describe them separately for clarity.
I airbrushed the sword Vallejo Metal Chromo for a real shiny finish, only the top side though, the underside got a lot of orange lowlight and reflects the lava.
I painted the various leather straps on the armour of both the rider and his beast in fitting browns. I started with P3 Umbral Umber, then highlighted by gradually mixing in some flesh colour and a sand colour, I think it was GW Bubonic Brown. I glazed it with blue, green and Army Painter Strong Tone in the shaded areas, then rehighlighted with the same colours, this time with the brushstrokes perpendicular to the straps themselves to create wrinkles and scratches. A bit of satin varnish mixed with GW Agrax Earth Shade for a slightly shiny finish and lastly some scratches at the edges and most worn areas to top it off. Painting the leather straps, I faded into the orange low light as well, I did that with everything so the orange colour would take over in all the reflected light.
The various horns on the horse’s armour and the hooves basically got painted in the same way as the leather, just going up to a creamy white colour, this time making the brush strokes along the lines of the part, to make the texture go that way. Shading with sepia and Strong Tone. Small dots of Titanium White i the end.
THE END OF THE VARANGUARD
I lightly airbrushed a little red and orange from the bottom up across the transition into black and other colours to tie everything together and to make the transition smooth. This is called misting, it is roughly a glaze applied with the airbrush. The Aerocolor I used for all this lowlight dries gloss, so I airbrushed on a little matt varnish, to take down the shine a little. I highlighted this whole area with Vallejo Orange Fluo, then Wicked Color Fluor Sunburst, both fluorescent orange, the Vallejo is darker, the Wicked Color is a light orange. Once I was satisfied with these highlights I added some dots and lines both for edges and extra definition and some dots to represent glowing embers and sparks. These final white highlights got painted over with Sunburst for an even brighter orange finish.
All the gems got the fluorescent oranges and a little fluorescent yellow. I glazed in a bit of OSL around the gems, the eye part of the helmet and the chest. Gloss varnish on the gems. And now the Varanguard was done.
REFINING THE PALLADOR
The Stormcast’s golden armour had got a mix of GW Gehenna’s Gold and P3 Umbral Umber. This I highlighted up through pure Gehenna’s Gold, mix of Gehenna’s Gold and Vallejo Game Color Glorious Gold, then pure Glorious Gold. Then I glazed it down with brown, purple, black and Strong Tone. I made sure that the shaded areas got a matt non metallic finish. Once I was satisfied with my shadows on the armor, I started highlighting it. First Glorious Gold, then a mix of Glorious Gold and Vallejo Air Silver, lastly pure silver. This got a glaze of Windsor and Newton Yellow ink, followed by a purple glaze in the shadows.
Finally small direct highlights of pure silver. Very much the same method as the metal areas on the Varanguard. I painted the fur cloak in tones of khaki, cream, brown and black, trying to imitate the play of colour in a wolf’s pelt. The underside of the cloak got Vallejo Model Color Dark Sea Blue highlighted with airbrush to a lighter shade of the same blue, then I painted on wrinkly lines in dark and light blue to represent the texture of leather or skin. His gem clasp on the cloak got the same orange as similar parts on the Varanguard.
The Demigryph was all about texture! I painted tiny hairs all over the body in a lighter mix of the same brown colours I had airbrushed it with in the first place. I glazed this with a little strong tone, then a little sepia and at last purple glazes in the shadows. Then I moved om to the feathers, They had got a blue base coat, which I shaded with Prussian Blue. I then painted on the tiny ribs of all the feathers in a mix of P3 Menoth White Base and Prussian Blue.
Then glazes of Dark Sea Blue and Prussian Blue followed by tiny dots and lines of Titanium White. I painted the head in the same colours, just highlighting normally according to the volumes. The beak got a black basecoat, highlighted with a little Dark Sea Blue and Menoth White Base, glazes of blue, black and purple…. See how I use many of the same colours and methods as on the Varanguard? just with different priorities in the same palette, this will not only tie the figures together, but also form a more harmonious and coherent end result! In the end a couple of small dots and lines of Titanium White. The saddle cloth had got the same blue spray as the feathers. This I highlighted with a mix of Dark Sea Blue and Menoth White Base, this time making a lot of horizontal brush strokes to imitate the texture of cloth.
I keep coming back to the same colours, just tweaking them by different glazes and mixes, all very harmonious. The reins got the same blues as the cloth, this time making vertical brush strokes for texture. All the leather straps got the same treatment as the straps on the Varanguard. The saddle got some of the same brown as the leather straps first, then I smeared on random patches of Menoth White Base with an old brush to create an organic leather texture. This I glazed way down with strong tone, orange, Umbral Umber, sepia, P3 Bloodstone, went a little back and forth with more random smears and scratches of Menoth White Base, then more of the same glazes, until I had a satisfying feeling of worn leather.
The hammer detail on one shoulder and a freehand meteor, using the same oranges and yellows as elsewhere, to top of his armor. I painted the Pallador’s face with GW Cadian Fleshtone, Vallejo Beige Red and GW Elf Flesh. Shaded with Strong Tone and a bit of GW Reikland Fleshsdade, then highlighted through Menoth White Base and Titanium White. A blue-black glaze on the cheeks and chin for a slight stubble.
I painted the lava up with a lot of red, fluorescent orange and yellow (the same colours I used for the lowlight on the Varanguard). I did this in very thick and powerful layers always letting the wet paints run into each other, to create a random, glowing effect. I got inspired to do it in this way after seeing a video of Banshee doing something similar on Instagram, I can recommend watching his video if you are an Instagram user too. In the end I highlighted with Titanium white over which I painted yellows and oranges for extra brightness.
The grass and rocks got a lot of browns and greens. I planted a skull flower on the base, this I painted turquoise as a nice contrast to all the orange. I airbrushed an orange glaze where the ground of the base would be lit by the lava to start an OSL effect, once I had built up enough orange, I highlighted it in the same way as the underside of the Varanguard beast.
TYING TOGETHER ANY LOOSE ENDS
Time to finish of! I glued the riders on their mounts. I glued both knights to the base, a good thin that I had test fitted, tweaked and dry assembled countless times at this point! Everything lined up, just as it should. I was wonderful to see everything come together at this point!
I glazed in and painted some Vallejo Fluo Orange highlights on the demigryph, where I thought it might catch the glow of the lava. I also painted some orange light on the face of the stormcast. This made him look more fierce and created a bond between him and his enemy! They were looking right at each other, the whole Vanguard Pallador model formed a straight arrow pointing straight at the Varanguard, centered on his head, turned towards the threat, looking his brother straight in the eyes. I misted a bit of a blue glaze from above all over the Vanguard Pallador, the green part of the base and the top surfaces of the Varanguard as one last effort to tie everything together.
I think it turned out very well.
The Golden Demon Winners Challenge was a mammoth project, that I worked on for more than a month. There was a deadline, as I had to send it off to Games Workshop and White Dwarf in time to take part in the Golden Demon Winner’s Challenge. As it always happens with these big projects, I ran out of time and had a very intense last week of painting a lot to finish on time. Then send it to England.
It was a very funny feeling indeed to just finish this big model and just chug it in a box and mail it to England the same day as I’d finished it. I got an email back, telling me that my model had arrived intact and that they thought it was awesome, then wait for half a year. We were all on an agreement that White Dwarf had right of first use, so we couldn’t publish anything about this until White Dwarf had published the Golden Demon Winner’s Challenge article. That was a long wait, but totally worth it, once I saw my duel in the pages of White Dwarf and got a lot of nice feed back from people who saw it. Brothers is still (at the moment of writing) on display at the Warhammer World museum. I am looking forward to get it home at some point, once GW is finished with, but I am not in any hurry, just looking forward to see it again with my own eyes.
Thanks for reading, this was a long one, just as this model was a big project. I hope you found it inspiring and maybe got a nice hobby tip or two out of it. Until next time.
Award winning miniatures painter and modeler. An avid reader of fantasy, SciFi, art and history, this reflects more and more on my painting. I occasionally teach painting and modeling to people and I am here to do just that as well.