Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Pilgrym: Samael Urkston, Lord of Bones, A Tribute to Wayne England

The Emperor Expects.

The passing of Wayne England earlier this month hit my brothers and I pretty hard, as his art has become synonymous with our ideas of the 41st millennium. This caused us to reflect on his contributions to Warhammer 40,000 and to look back through his seminal 40k art.  Perusing his pieces brought us back to one particular illustration, one that completely encapsulates the grim-dark ethos of Warhammer 40,000.  The illustration that I speak of is of the sneering scribe inking skulls in the 3rd edition 40k rulebook.  The beak-like nose, frazzled hair, and stretched skin combine to create a wonderfully macabre character.  Seeing this artwork again inspired me to create a model for the Church of the Red Athenæum in his likeness. We had been planning to create a Chronicler for the Church, someone who keeps track of the bodily sacrifices and the Church death toll (and might have started to sell body parts on the side).  And what better than modeling our Chronicler after England’s iconic skull inker?  This lead to our creation of the Lord of Bones:

An iconic piece of Wayne England artwork, one that has defined 40k for us.

Samael Urkston, Chronicler of the Church of the Red Athenæum, Lord of Bones:

When a member of the Church dies, it is their custom to remove the head of the individual, stripping it of its flesh and muscle, and removing the brain.  The last necrotizing tissue is cleaned with the help of Dermestid beetles, readying the skull for “chronicling.”  The deceased's life and contributions to the Church are written directly onto the bleached bone with ink tinged with the their blood.  This tradition dates back to the foundation of the Church, with every past member’s skull lining the walls of a cyclopean sepulchre within the Red Basilica.

Since its induction, the Church of the Red Athenæum has had a Chronicler with the chief task of recording the Church’s history.  This is primarily done with the aforementioned skull-inking. The Chronicler also assists members of the congregation in preserving the bones of their limbs and other body parts that were offered to the Emperor in veneration of His suffering.  Additionally, they work hand in hand with the Chief Bibliognost, transcribing the Church’s sermons and other doctrines.

Samael Urkston, Lord of Bones, is the Church’s current Chronicler.  He has been working at the craft for longer than any other person has been a member of the congregation, joining the Church shortly after great Ormond was elected Cardinal (811.M41).  Such is his skill and clout, that he is virtually beyond reproach, a paragon of the Faith.  But recently there have been hints that he may have had a change in “perspective,” and has begun shifting away from its stricter tenets.  Furthermore, cadavers of recently deceased Church members have been disappearing in increasing numbers as of late  Normally after the head is harvested from a departed member of the Church, the rest of the body is cremated and the ashes are mixed with sacred incense and balms, but recently the quantity of these ashes have not quite matched up with the losses to the congregation...  And it is said that the bodies of pilgrims on a quest to the Golden Throne are worth a fortune to the right buyer....

After searching through our collection of models, we found one of Brian Nelson’s old priest models, and decided that it would be perfect for the conversion.  Fitting with the Church’s requirement of amputation, his hand has been removed, but he has an ink quill grafted directly to the stump of his hand to aid in chronicling the achievements of fallen Church members.  It was based on a Dark Eldar Wrack hand, but with some major reworking, repositioning the ink well to be angled in a more natural writing position, and using green stuff to correct all of the little tubes and connections.  To make the apparatus look more like England’s creepy artwork, I added a thick cable trailing into his robe and added a feather right above the nib (from the Dark Eldar Scourge kit).

The majority of the conversion work went into creating his ink quill; I even shaped the hypodermic needle from the Wrack kit into an ink nib.

To add to the notion that he works with skulls, I removed his other hand and replaced it with an Empire Wizard hand (from the Hurricanum warmachine).  Initially, it had been holding a magic orb, but I replaced it with a skull.  I also used green stuff to make it looks as though his hand was gloved (adding cloth folds around his wrist).

One of the most important elements for establishing the link to Wayne England’s art, was to make his hair look crazy, dry, and frazzled.  I decided to make his hair forked, as though he had two horns.  Although it took a lot of rounds of careful green stuff work, I think I achieved the look pretty well.

What would a tribute to Wayne England be without skulls (admittedly they are more anatomical, rather than Wayne's angular horrors, he he)?

As a final touch, I set about replacing the Ministorum icon around his neck.  I must admit, the task reminded me how difficult metal models are to work with, ha ha.  After getting it off, I replaced it with an hourglass, since it is a major component of the Church’s symbol.  For his base, I used plasti-card cut little flagstone tiles, to give the impression he was in some old monastery.  I also added a few skulls to the base.

I had a great time creating Samael Urkston; it was wonderful to get completely lost in Wayne England’s artwork and try to capture its essence in miniature form.  I am pleased to say he is
about done, but wanted to show everyone the model and get peoples’ thoughts before I started painting him. Any comments or suggestions are welcome. We are thrilled that we were able to celebrate Wayne England’s legacy, by creating a model.  It was the only way we thought could truly convey what his work means to us, and how it shaped our vision of Warhammer 40,000 and this hobby.

– Adam Wier


  1. Really great conversion, The quill hand turned out great with the feather addition. Can't wait to see him painted.

    1. Thanks! The quill underwent a lot of revisions, but I think they were worth it in the end, making it pretty convincing. I still have not decided on a paint scheme for him or the Church as a whole for that matter.

  2. Fantastic model and you couldn't have chosen a better piece of art to base it off. I love that piece!

    1. I am glad you like him so much! I was a little uncertain how the conversion would turn out. I am glad that I think it captures the essence of England’s work :)

  3. A wonderfully elegant conversion, and certainly a great tribute to Wayne England's fantastic artwork! The quill-hand is just ingenious, and the use and placement of those very delicate skulls is sublime.

    Fantastic work all around!

    1. Many thanks! It is amazing what just changing the hands of a model can do to change the nature of a model!

  4. Thats a great conversion. I saw someone playing with monochrome painting and this guy would look awesome with a muted palette to look like the artwork.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. The idea of a very monochromatic paint scheme is a very intriguing idea, one that would certainly fit the artwork in spades. I will have to seriously consider it, thanks!