Friends of the Champion

I was reminded today that I had started a bookbinding project with the short stories for the Dragon Age II companions, but had never gotten around to finishing it.

I was trying to come up with an in-universe reason for the companions to have shared these parts of their backstories and decided that it would be a single volume print as a birthday gift for my canon Hawke, Lyanna.

My husband deserves credit for his suggestions, particularly for inspiring the exchange between Anders, Varric and Bodahn, and for letting me use his own handwriting for Anders.

The plan is to get this printed and hand-bound once I’m done with my prototype, so I may be opening commissions on these eventually, with comments addressed to your own Hawke.  But for the time being, the collection can be viewed by clicking on the cover pages below.

Friends of the Champion cover page 1 - resize

Friends of the Champion cover page 2 - resize

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2017 Update

Four months in, 2017 has thrown me some real curve balls so far, which has badly depleted a lot of my energy and motivation – but my cosplay builds are still miraculously crawling along.  I am going to get around to full posts for each project but for now, here’s a quick update on how things are going.

Empress Celene

Celene has fallen onto the back burner a bit recently, as I had to postpone my plans to go and make the ballgown.  That said, she now has a mask and a wig is on its way, so I’m going to have to get myself sorted out for dress making and fittings in May, otherwise my brother isn’t going to have an outfit to wear to the ball when The Calling comes around in June!

Celene mask

The other big task is going to be the lion’s head for the back of the dress, so I’ve been doing a few experiments with resin casting and need to find the time to actually sit down and make a clay master.

Lindiranae

My Emerald Knight is slowly but surely coming together.  I’ve finalised the embroidery design and started drafting patterns for the sewn garments.  Her foam armor pieces are pretty much ready for priming and painting – just the sabatons to build and a few tweaks to the breastplate, then I need to settle on which shades of paint I want to use.  I decided that I wasn’t happy with the foam scalemaille that I made for Mahariel, so I’ve been busy weaving chainmaille for Lindiranae’s sleeves, which is almost finished, and to remake Mahariel’s Regalia of Weisshaupt.

Other DA-related Stuff

A while back I booked an appointment to get another geeky tattoo and decided to get the Inquisition sigil just above my ankle, to balance out the Stark direwolf on my other leg.   I have a couple of other designs pretty much ready to go – I just need the funds and to decide exactly where I want to put them!

inkquisition

Last month we went to MCM Birmingham and (after a few trips back and forth waiting for a quieter moment to queue) I got Gareth David-Lloyd to sign my Inquisition art book.  I’ve since started stalking the other voice actors’ Twitter and Facebook pages to see if we’re likely to get any of the others at relatively local conventions so that I can get the other character pages signed.

Solas sig

Our next scheduled event is The Calling in June (UK Dragon Age fans, go check it out!) so I badly need to crack on!

Evanura – Part Three

ICYMI – Part One and Part Two

Here she is!

There’s quite a few layers of paint, starting with base coats in gold and pewter, followed by varying shades of metallic acrylic, then watered down browns, blacks and reds for dirt and rust.  The grip is actually brown vinyl painted blue, which gave the closest match in colour and texture to my screenshots.

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The last thing I want to do is to add some watered down acrylics to the knuckle-bow to dirty it up a bit, then I think Evanura is ready for sealing.  As she has a Master frost rune in-game, I had originally intended to add some frosting spray to the blade but I think it may be overkill at this point.

We don’t have any conventions or shoots planned until MCM Birmingham in March, so (in theory, at least) I’ve got a few chilled out months to prep and build Lindiranae’s armour.  I’m growing quite a nice collection of fabrics for her… the difficulty is going to be choosing which ones I want to use!

Evanura – Part Two

ICYMI – Part One

The knuckle-bow turned out to be much more frustrating and time consuming than I imagined.  Getting a good reference image was a nightmare – I ran poor Cassandra around a few different locations, trying to find a spot that was well-lit and with a handy boulder/wall/staircase available to stand her against so that I could force the camera as close as possible.  I ended up with three actually useful images – two that showed the shape and curve, and one fairly clear shot of the depiction of June.

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Almost a week on, I’ve got the hard part done and the longest part (waiting for layers to cure) is almost over.

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I tidied up the edge below the spines with some 2mm craft foam, sealed it with two layers of PVA and tried out my can of Plasti-Dip on it… which just seemed to make the entire thing bendier.  I coated the whole thing in a thin layer of resin to give it a bit of stability, then slapped three layers of PVA/water/casting powder over it.

I damp-sanded the blade and sprayed on three coats of Plasti-Kote as a base.  Once it’s done curing, I can make a start with the acrylics.

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Evanura – Part One

floral paper or parchment

**SPOILER(ish) ALERT**

Like the Ardent Blossom helm, Evanura is secreted away in the Emerald Graves and can only be acquired after picking up the codex entry The Silver Knight (a tale which I have rambled on about in other posts, so I shall refrain from doing so again).  It is restricted to warrior class characters, so I was gutted that my Dalish rogue couldn’t carry it.  I really wished that there were a way to display certain unique weapons on the walls of Skyhold because their designs are gorgeous and the backstories make for interesting reading.  I think my Lavellan would have felt much the same affinity for this blade as I do and it seemed a pity that my options were to sell it, keep it hanging around in my inventory or stick it in the Undercroft chest.

evanura-blade

When I began making plans for Lindiranae , Evanura was the first thing I wanted to tackle. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of foam creations (Silencer – which I must get around to finishing! – and Mahariel’s breastplate) and decided that foam was probably going to be my best bet.  I spent ages working out how the measurements for Evanura in-game (based on an estimate of how wide Cassandra’s hand is!) and made a cardboard mock-up… that was absolutely enormous!  The stupidest part is that it wasn’t until I had finished taping it all together that I actually realised how badly I’d calculated it.  So I gave all my mangled mathematics to my engineer husband, who laughed at me and scaled up my reference sketch to the right size.  The difference was more than a little bit ridiculous…

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“Can I climb it?” – Bran

I stocked up on 3mm yoga mats when our local Poundland had them in, so armed with my new template, I started hacking mats into pieces.  I built up the first layer around the cardboard to give the foam a bit more support and slapped on a couple of coats of PVA.

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I found foam too fiddly and flimsy for the grip and despite my best efforts to carve my thicker floor mats into the right shape, I just couldn’t get my edges even.  I ended up building a scaffold out of corrugated cardboard and layered sections of hardboard over it to keep the octagonal shape.  I experimented with a few ways to make the cross-guard and decided I would have to do it in three sections – the écusson built onto the grip to keep the defined edges, then the foam quillons were slotted on underneath.  The knuckle-bow has a design worked into it so I thought it would be easier to build that separately to be attached prior to priming.

Building up the layers was significantly easier than I expected.  I thought I would end up having to take a rotary tool to it where the edges meet, but by the time I had finished gluing it down, it already looked pretty much how I wanted it.  A third layer under the spines went on in the same way.

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“If I can’t climb it, I’m sure it would make a good scratching post…”

The next job is to get the knuckle-bow finished and then I can start getting it ready to paint.

 

Alistair’s Rose – quick craft

 

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I’ve already got several posts sitting in my drafts folder that need editing and finishing, but between the day job, events and costumes it’s been a busy month or so!  As I’ve spent all of my free time over the last few weeks working on Mahariel, when I decided I needed something quick and easy to get me away from the sewing machine for half an hour, I thought I’d try my hand at the gift received by the Warden if Alistair is romanced.

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If you want to make your own, there are loads of instructional vids on YouTube.  This is the one I used in the end, and slightly modified the size and shape.  My original plan was to paint it a darker shade of red but I quite like the shades of pink I’ve ended up with, and to fit it to a long bobby pin to wear in my hair, but it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than I imagined so I think I may just fit a chenille stem and a couple of foam leaves.

Regalia of Weisshaupt – Part One

floral paper or parchment

I was more than a little bit apprehensive about putting together Mahariel’s armour – other than the scale maille, I haven’t had very much experience crafting with and painting foam, so it’s something of a relief to now have the most complicated part finished.

The Regalia of Weisshaupt armour, from Dragon Age II, has three slightly different designs depending on Hawke’s class.  A slightly updated version is seen in Inquisition – the armour worn by your Grey Warden contact looks like a cross between the rogue and warrior versions – but as my Mahariel is a rogue, I found it easier to screenshot reference pictures of the armour on Hawke.

The armour is listed as four separate components in game, which I broke down into the following pieces:

  • Warden Scout’s Cap: Hooded bolero jacket.
  • Warden Scout’s Tunic: Scale maille tabard; breastplate; tassets.
  • Warden Scout’s Gloves: Gauntlets and couters.
  • Warden Scout’s Boots: Gaiters and poleyns

Since I’ve just finished painting the breastplate, that’s where we’ll start…

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When I was putting together my references and writing up my shopping lists, I had planned to do all of the armoured pieces as Worbla over foam.  As it happened, I’ve not had time to play with the pieces of Worbla I bought a few months back, and I ended up just bodging it together.

The first piece I actually made was the griffon insignia and built the rest of the breastplate around it.  It wasn’t until I was ready to glue everything together that I found something I had missed in my reference pictures: the raised edge around the larger piece.  After spending a good ten minutes cursing the pictures, the computer and myself, I cut the extra pieces and layered it all up to see whether I needed to either cut a smaller pair of griffons or a taller base.  Then I decided I actually liked the effect of having the tips of the wings over the border, glued it all together and sealed it with a coat of clear glaze.

Glazed
After first coat of glaze

After  gently heat-shaping the foam, I tied the corners together to support the shape and gave it another couple of coats of glaze.  I have loads of silver PlatiKote left from the scales, so I decided to use the spray for the base colour.

First spray
After two coats of silver PlastiKote

Once it was dry I thought it was much too shiny and “new” looking, and all of the creases and marks on the foam were suddenly glaringly obvious.  I made up a bucket of not-quite-gesso* and gave it two generous coats, which have left the breastplate pretty sturdy but it still has plenty of flex.

Gesso
Second coat going on

* Not-Quite-Gesso

  • 1 part casting powder (I use Scola, which sets really quickly so I recommend making lots of small batches rather than making a whole bowlful at once)
  • 1 part PVA glue
  • 1 part warm water

Once it had set, I sanded it down (I definitely need to get a rotary tool!) and painted the front with black acrylic and PVA…

Breastplate - black primer

Then layered on the first coat of silver acrylic.

Breastplate - silver

I much preferred the acrylic paint to the PlastiKote.  Yes, it took significantly longer than the spray but I think the matte finish really suits the piece and it made weathering much easier.

Finished paintwork - flash
With flash
Finished paintwork
Without flash

I may find myself adding a little to the weathering over the next couple of days, and I still can’t decide whether I want to risk going overboard on it to work in some darkspawn blood before I seal it.  Other than that, the only job left for my breastplate is to fit all the straps and buckles!