Sunday, September 18, 2005

Building An Ancient Indian Temple

I got an interesting project recently. Simon, a client from Britain who plays a "De Bellis Antiquitatis" (DBA), Ancient Indian army, asked us if we could make him a terrain piece. Specifically he was looking for a camp, or Built-Up-Area (BUA) for the army. He sent us the picture you can see over here on right.

Now, we don't do terrain. It's bulky and sometimes heavy which drives up mailing costs, and its not as cost effective as painting miniatures.

But man -- how often do you get a chance to build an Indian temple?

It wasn't a hard decision. I said yes and haven't looked back.




Ancient Indian architecture is dominated by statues. Let no pillar go unadorned with sculpture. William Durant in his still excellent History of Civilization wrote, "The Hindus built like gods, while the Muslims built like jewellers."

Our job? Build something godly, but on a jeweller's scale.

The first step was to go visit some temple vendors. Here are some stalls we visited outside the Kathiresan Temple in Colombo.



Happily, it wasn't hard to find lots of fairly high detail, miniature statues! There were lot that had already been hand painted too, but they were a little large. I asked some vendors, and the pieces had all come from India. This worked well for an Ancient Indian army order -- I was already going to use real Indian dirt for the basing.

I took some pictures of miniature statues, and sent them to the client with prices. He liked what he saw, and gave us a go ahead and our budget.


We decided on a temple to Hanuman,
the Monkey God.


Why Hanuman? Primarily because we couldn't find a Shiva that was the right size. Shivite devotion is the earliest known form of Hinduism, and if the BUA was Shivite, Simon's army would be appropriate in even the most ancient battle scenarios.

But we found no Shiva. So we went Monkey God. Mostly cause I wanted to be able to say I built a temple to a Monkey God, but Simon went for it :) . Above is a picture of an actual temple to Hanuman in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka (picture courtesy of wikipedia).




Over here you can see the miniature statues we picked out - a 28mm figure is next to Lord Hanuman for scale. Among the other, smaller statues were a Ganesh and a Lakshmi.

My temple plan was simple: a desert like area, with an avenue of smaller gods leading up to the larger Hanuman. Jungle would be on the outskirts of the temple, trying to creep in.




First, laying it out.

I had a piece of plywood cut int an 8in by 8in square. I measured an 8cm avenue down the middle, Simon needed it to be wide enough to admit a figure with a 60mm base.

Some of the figures didn't stand right, so they're shown here propped up with scaly green and graveyard earth :) . We fixed that problem with some expoxy cement.





The next step was to dirt base the plywood. I put down a thick coat of PVA glue and covered the plywood in dirt. I brushed off the excess, and threw down another layer of PVA and then more dirt.

After a second brush off, it looked this.







The next step was to make the dirt look a little more interesting. I painted it with a large brush using a mix of water; grave yard earth; dark flesh; brown ink; and PVA glue. The result looked more like red clay-based dirt than, well, the red-clay based dirt you see everywhere in Sri Lanka. I was pretty pleased with that.







The next step was the jungle plants. I got some regular aquarium plants (not the Games Workshop regular aquarium plants, mind you), and tore off all the rosy, colorful bits.

Then I tore up the plants to make them smaller, and give me a more varied range of plants to work with. It was important that nothing be much taller than any miniature statue it was paired with.

The problem was, the plants were just too bright and friendly.


I took care of that by dipping them in a very dark, polyurethane, stain. This also had the added advantage of making the plants look wet, like jungle flora in the morning covered in dew. Here's a side view.







.
Finally, I inked the detail on the Hanuman. This made him stand out more from the other miniature statues besides being larger.











Nothing too fancy, but definitely breaks the benchmark set by the sample image. Also, done within budget, and that's important when you're billing for time-intensive work.

After we did this, we got thinking about other terrain projects. A friend of mine has some floor plans of Angkor Wat I want to study, and we have some insane plans.

A giant temple? No expenses spared? Animatronic jousters? Oh its happening.

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