Arch Imaginer Neil Roberts lays down his paintbrush and picks up pen today to write us a guest blog about his stunning primarchs artwork.
Okay, I happily admit it - I love Warhammer 40,000.
I have done since, with my own pocket money, I bought a copy of Rogue Trader at Beatties Toy Shop, Milton Keynes way back in 1987. I read, re-read and re-read over and over again that rulebook, months before I even bought a miniature to paint and play. The artwork and background was what immediately hooked me - all incredibly potent fuel to a fervent young imagination.
Nowadays I try to distil that knowledge and respect for the world of 40K (or should that be 30K?) into my book covers. With each cover I’m trying to produce an image as striking and jaw-dropping as John Sibbicks’ cover to that first rulebook.
And sometimes, that means I get to draw Primarchs for a living.
The cover brief for The Primarchs was to illustrate a key moment at the Parade of Ullanor where Horus has a quiet word with Fulgrim. So, knowing what I did about Ullanor, I had to have the parade in the image somewhere, but I didn’t want to have to paint millions of troops and thousand of craft. The Primarchs were to be the focus of the image and the parade would form the backdrop.
As a quick way of visualising it, I was thinking this would be like the Live Aid ’85 concert for Space Marines and an unseen Emperor was to be their Freddie Mercury.
My starting point was to have a classical feel to the piece, so I researched a lot of JW Waterhouse paintings. I like the soft light, architectural details and warm tones (a result of ageing varnish) in his classical pieces. Also, it would give the piece an aged look as if, even in context of the Heresy, this was an historical event.
The setting would be the viewing platform, so I knew I wanted to make it more Romanesque (pre-Gothic, rounded and ‘clean’) than Gothic (pointed arches, flying buttresses and heavy stone). Again, to reinforce the historical nature of the event. So I painted lot of white and black marble, red cloth and gold detailing in keeping with the theme.
Ullanor itself would be straightforward to paint, a flat and featureless landscape, covered in marching troops, Dreadnoughts, Speeders and Titans. Cool.
The Primarchs were based on John Blanche artworks where possible, as that’s the most accurate source of Warhammer information. What you see in the final image is my interpretation of the Primarchs, which may not be to all tastes, but I try to cover all the major details to keep the many readers and hobbyists (including myself) happy.
The key was to depict certain Primarchs and imbue each with their own character. Horus and Fulgrim were having their chat and the others would be cheering, conspiring, saluting or musing. I’ll let you make up your minds as to who is doing what…
Also I like to reference my own previous Horus Heresy covers, to keep consistency – Angron, Magnus and Fulgrim are basically the same designs and armour types as the on Tales of Heresy, Thousand Sons and Fulgrim covers respectively. I want to give the Heresy covers continuity; as much as the authors create a cohesive world, I’m aiming to do the same with the covers.
Hope you all enjoy it as much as I had fun painting it.
Now, I need to get into space, there’s a boarding action I need to paint…