Friday, 18 November 2016

A touch of Foss

When we were kids being dragged around town on parental shopping expeditions, my brother and I would often attempt to break free and head for a bookshop. Not because we were insatiable consumers of the written word or anything. More like the opposite: we liked looking at pictures. So in those bookshops we headed straight to the sci-fi aisles to stare in rapt fascination at all the amazing covers with their images of huge starships, covered in patterns and graphics, cruising around the galaxy, towing asteroids, fighting off pirates or docking with glittering space stations.

It was only years later that I realised a significant proportion of these covers were painted by the same artist, Chris Foss.

Not only did Foss paint mind-blowing pictures for the covers of books, he also created concept art for several major movies. His first role in film was providing psychedelic hardware designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky's famous, but ill-fated adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. While working on this project he met Dan O'Bannon and H. R. Geiger. The three of them later teamed up again to work on Ridley Scott's ground-breaking Alien (1979) where Foss helped design the Nostromo. He also worked on Superman (1978), Flash Gordon (1980), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2000), and more recently on James Gunn's adaptation of the Marvel comic Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

His work still looks amazing today, so if you're not familiar with it, and partial to a bit of awesomeness, then look at the images tab at the top of this Google search. Or even better, if you've got some spare cash, maybe grab a copy of this collected art book, a comprehensive retrospective of all his sci-fi work.

But why have I mentioned Chris Foss?

It's to do with my latest vehicle project, another model from Ramshackle Games, the rugged-looking Rhebok APC.

Foss usually painted his vehicles on a huge scale. Ships the size of ocean liners, and trucks large enough to tow them. Unfortunately, not only is it impractical for me to indulge in a modelling project of that scale, but you don't score many points with the missus when she has to clamber over a toy spaceship the size of a car just to get to her wardrobe.

So instead I've chosen to reference something else from his signature style.

Many of Foss's vehicles are painted in bright, almost garish colours, sporting large, geometric patterns covering much of their hulls. It's these vibrant, bold, super-graphics that I've tried to allude to in the paint scheme for my Rhebok.

To keep things simple, I chose an orange base colour and applied black caution stripes following the contours of the middle section. I then tempered everything with a little weathering so it doesn't feel too bright and garish (after all, it's not Eldar).

And besides, I wanted to ensure the finished tractor feels like it belongs to the same world as all my other models.

That world is Ancora Fornax, and the Rhebok model represents a civilian tractor found in one of the larger hive cities, Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda. The caution stripes (not to mention the vehicle's general design and robustness) indicate some sort of industrial usage. Perhaps this tough-looking tug is involved in the primary extraction of raw materials, or is designed to transport workers to the more hazardous environmental areas surrounding the city, or maybe it belongs to one of the starports, pulling smaller craft into bays, or transferring cargo and supplies.

As with several of my other models I like to think of it as something that could have graced the pages of one of Dan Abnett's Inquisitor books. Both his Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies bring civilian life in the Imperium into sharp-enough focus to see all the cracks, grime and decay, and have provided much of the inspiration for my ongoing city project.

Outside of those books, but still within the WH40K background fluff, there's the fabled civilian Land Crawler. A workhorse machine that we don't hear much about these days, and one that I probably would have forgotten altogether had it not been for Predrag Vasiljevic mentioning it on Twitter. It is meant to be one of the most ubiquitous vehicles in the Imperium, so could my tractor be some kind of local variant on the standard template version?

Like most of my projects the back-story isn't quite as important as the finished model, so whatever it turns out to be, its more essential that its bulky, hunched shape looks cool on the streets of my urban sprawl.

Henceforth known as the sprawl's rule of cool.

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