This piece is, in my own way, dedicated to two very unique creatives whose achievements and trust in me have both inspired and helped me take my work to higher levels. Ghislain Barbe( NOT because he is coincidentally now the art director on Eternal Crusade at BHVR , but because when I was a kid I played a PC game called Heavy Gear by Dream Pod 9/Activision, and along with it came a printed game manual with wonderful mecha illustrations and diagrams that blew my little mind, and he was the illustrator of my favourite designs in the book.), and Peter Cooper(an incredibly kind and talented writer/director who years ago offered me the opportunity to do the illustrated set pieces for his HALO fan-film, Operation Chastity). Moreso because I think they might appreciate certain aspects of this image in their own capacities, like the pew pew lazars. Ok really its just about the lazars and the airburst munitions.
And my special thanks and apologies to my truly professional and patient producer, Karen Miksza, for enduring and evaluating a chickenscratch-sketch of mine that resembled more of a Rorschach exercise than anything. You rock!
As for the artwork: Reading the brief, and visualising the narrative and technical approach, made me want to crawl under a rock somewhere and just go into a coma. But it dawned on me it was really about huge battlesuits and powered armour on bikes in a desert--the very stuff my favourite SF childhood memories were made of. So I put on some Bubblegum Crisis tracks to remind me of what I felt was special about the genre and what I would like to see happen again, and got back to work. "Say Yes!" by Maiko Hashimoto in particular, really helped bring back those memories.
Bearing in mind this is meant to be a triple-fold/paneled illustration; I was to illustrate a White Scars Stormseer fighting a Crisis Battlesuit with a tulwar on the front cover(rightmost third of image), looming Riptide in center third, and miscellaneous combatants filling up the remainder. The White Scars were to seem joyous in the midst of their hunt, armed with lances or tulwars in addition to the bolters on their bikes. All this was to take place on a dusty plain. I immediately thought that a scene showing a breached frontline would work best, to help put across just how fast moving and aggressive the White Scars are known to be, and for all the long distance planning of the Tau once up close and personal with Space Marines on bikes, it can quickly descend into unmanageable chaos. Troops having to divert their attention from the front to acquire stray bikers without hitting their friends, and crisis suits engaging their thrusters to quickly manoeuver along the ranks and train their guns on the bikes. Crisis suits... in a crisis of their own... aha..haha..h-
As a Chinese guy, I felt it got really hilarious at one point painting Fu Manchu 'roid mongols in sun-bleached white armour going to town on the Tau. So I just rode that wave as best I could Having my own front row seat and getting into the mentality of what it means to create a 40K flavoured illustration is making me more and more of a fan of what I think the franchise represents on different levels. When I say I find 40K really insane, I mean it in a sincerely optimistic way, and I think I am finally getting better at understanding where that balance point between grimdark outlook, cautionary tale/social commentary, and outlandish spectacle sits.
This reflection of what 40K meant to me, had me throwing out the idea that maybe in order for the Stormseer to even be in close combat with a Battlesuit twice his height, required he be presented in a way that could rival the nuttiness of the idea to begin with. So imagining a narrative, I assume these guys could have force-lances that they could also throw, using that as a medium range large-caliber stopping weapon (illustrated at bottom right) and then move into closer combat with their shorter range tulwars. (This of course sets up the visual excuse for the flapping blood-soaked hair plume on the end of the lance up front.) The stormseer would realise that his bolters might be ineffectual at getting him within close enough range so he would opt to just pop a wheelie off the frontline Tau and use the bolter riddled chassis of the crisis suit as a landing ramp and shield to buy him precious seconds to plan his next move. They're Space Marines. Seemed legit. "SAY YES!"
Other favourite details: -Please excuse the slightly overdone prismatic effect on the Riptide's shield. I still think it looks nice and it makes some sense. Just riffing off similar idea in the previous Tau codex supplement. I also wanted to illustrate how the hexa-projection areas might be linked to individual projection nodes, and we would see how individual 'tiles' pulse under stress as opposed to having a continuous 'texture pattern'. -I keep reading in the fluff how much advanced targetting tech the Tau pack, technically a Fire warrior would have onboard sensors and targetting aids, that eventually gets meshed with higher level networked data from sensor drones, add on to that markerlight data and more... basically it just sounds like a Tau shooter could be drunk, falling over, and still hit a fly in between its eyes having accounted for atmospheric disruption from 600 meters away. So that I felt gave me the right to imply that they can shoot incoming rounds out of the sky. Which we can see to great effect in the background and right behind the Stormseer. There of course is the consideration for fans who think its unreasonable, so they also look like they could be randomly hit because the relatively slow moving missiles are travelling through a firestorm of plasma. But I just wanted to say what the original intent was Also to the left is a inverted Phalanx-CIWS looking burst cannon drone that seems to be in charge of clearing the skies for ground troops (when I saw that design I almost stood up and clapped at the screen). And for those of you who absolutely do not buy any of that, there's this: warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Ai… -Poor Tau loses his head in the background -The bikes were initially block-modelled in Sketchup to help me give a sense of their geometry and what I could do with them.
This took over a week to do, the longest I've spent on any of the illustrations to date and burnt a weekend or so (gladly so) getting it done. I hope it makes the Tau and White Scars fans amongst you happy and rooting for your favourites and for mech heads in general
Brilliant stuff from you, i'm really glad you uploaded larger versions of your work and went through the brief with this one and the passion you're putting into them. I've been finding triple fold illustrations a real headache for composition so its intresting to see how you've handled them. I envy you working on the Black library stuff but I can't imagine what fanatic GW fans can be like.