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Through the looking glass

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When we launched the Warlord Games website we showed you a snippet of our magnificent artwork on our homepage. Now we bring you the full piece in all it’s glory!

We asked artist Peter Dennis (of Osprey books fame) to give us the lowdown on how it all came about. Over to you, Peter…

Tricky stuff, box art…
It’s this thing about making a picture that interests the viewer, but uses the elements that are contained inside the box that it fronts.

Being of the ‘Achtung Schweinehund!’ generation, and weaned on those curious Airfix boxes, I‘ll fess up straight away to being a bit too literal in my early efforts. I mean, if I saw a box with a man in a particular pose in the image, I’d expect to see that bloke represented in plastic on the sprue.

In the modern world of multi-pose hard plastic though, things are different. They’re also different in the world of Wham! Pow-kaboom!

Games Workshop box art. When John Stallard, late of GW, rang me and invited me to do these boxes I thought I might be in for a challenge.

The first challenge was Paul Sawyer’s idea of having a single piece of art that two boxes, Romans and Gallic Celts, could be extracted from. It’s a really nice idea, particularly if you imagine the boxes side-by-side on the shelf, where the image reads across.

Full view of Peter's pencil drawing

Much trickier to come up with a composition that really works in all three modes, and in this case, the Gaul’s side of the image, in which they essentially have their backs to us or present the shield face, has to carry the compromise.

The Celt section of the artwork close-up.

Warlord are determined to come up with really animated, characterful figures, and they impressed this on me from the start. The poses of the Romans had to be aggressive, not just waiting for the Gaul’s charge, but getting stuck in, stabbing under their shields or hurling pila from the back ranks.

My first-drawn Centurion, full height and imperious, became much more combative in the final pencil.

Pencil sketch close-up of Roman battleline

This refining process was detailed, much more like doing a book jacket. I suppose box art does the same job. I realised I’d under-quoted… damn. On the upside, I may be able to mug them later for some wee soldiers – what I’ve seen so far looks fantastic!

Anyway, we’re here to learn. Eventually, after far too long on the drawing board, the piece begins to look finished. The bruised sky goes in towards the end of the process and I sent the first photos to Paul and John for checking. I do this before I’ve rested the painting – that is, put it to one side for a while to get a’ fresh’ look at it later.

My camera also tends to bleach the colour out of things, so under Paul’s guidance the sky began to get darker and darker. I must remember to warn people about that camera…

Suffice it to say, there were many tweaks and minor amendments (just how long is a Gallic sword?) all to the good, as the painting headed towards a finished state. I can’t pick up a piece of artwork without having a dab at something, but there’s always something else pressing for attention and so off into the Warlord world it went.

Imperial Roman Centurion with vinestick

Single box images from now on, I reckon!