Tag Archives: John Blanche

John Blanche inspired flying galleon

A few months ago, I was moving my office/dungeon/work area around and started thumbing through some of my artbooks. One of the books I opened up was my copy of ‘Ratspike’ which is a collection of the work of John Blanche and Ian Miller. I’m a huge fan of both artists, Miller for his detailed line art and mythos inspirations, Blanche for his bright, powerful images that fuel much of the Warhammer universes.

One image drew me, the flying galleons which sometimes appear in the background of his picture and theres one picture with one of them as the main focal point of the image.

As I haven’t made any one off models for a while, I took the inspiration and decided to try and make something similar.

The build

Guessing the basic shape of the hull, I sketched out a couple of rough profile plans to try and establish the dimensions. There’s a lot you can get away with in 2D that you can’t when you translate it to 3D, so there was a couple of things I had to add or change to make the shape work. What I was left with was a set of loose paper templates and some vague ideas of the shape. I didn’t want anything too set in stone, simply as I knew I’d be making stuff up as I went and sometimes that looseness helps.

The basic shape was blocked out with plastic sheets which I skimmed in places to smooth the shape, then glued coffee stirrers over the surface.

To get the bendyness into them, I soaked the stirrers in water for 24 hours. This made them more flexible so they followed the shape I had made for the hull.

Details started to be added like the ramparts, beams to simulate support struts, the rudder and pencil marking out locations for the mast. The square hole in the starboard side is the mounting point. I used a square one so it wouldn’t spin or roll in place. This is a similar technique used for mounting models when filming them, the mounting points are hidden in different places to allow it to be filmed from different angles without the camera seeing the supports.

In this case, I only wanted one mounting point but its in a hidden enough spot to give the idea the ship is flying. Next came the sculpted prow and bow faces.

I blocked them out and then sculpted in Aves Apoxie Sculpt.

At the same time I did something I said to myself that I wasn’t going to do. I ordered bits, lots of bits.

I originally wanted this to be built using only materials I had on hand but quickly gave in to my weakness for buying extra parts. An anchor, a ships wheel, ladders and different dowels for the mast and rigging.

oh and…

Barrels and minis to convert for the crew. One of my first ideas was to use some of my old minis, but balked at the idea of cutting them up to convert so ordered some plastic Empire troops to use.

The mast went in, I started to pile in the detailing as well. Rivets, planks, sculpted ends to the mast, the crows nest and anything I could to add little details to the hull.

Speaking of the hull…

I started carving more details onto the woodwork as I wanted to exaggerate the grain. Unrealistic I know, but this is a flying ship. The rule of cool applies here.

More details are added, including the spars at the back for the rigging.

And then its time for some paint.


Once primed, I started to paint it with different browns as well as washes of reds, greens, blacks and blues to give weathering effects.

The rest of the ship slowly gets covered in different paints and washes.

Next up is the details like barrels, wheel, anchor etc…


Then onto the crew. I wanted to theme it around a crew from the Empire, so painted each of them as having uniforms from different regions.

We have the powder monkey, captain, a young deckhand mopping up after the monkey, the first mate who is watching out from the aft and a lookout with his oversized pipe up in the crow’s nest. Each of them is converted in some way as well. The captain has a peg leg I carved from some dowel. The deckhand wields a mighty mop sculpted from Green Stuff along with a bucket I made. The lookout has his pipe. While the first mate had some parts cut from him and his hands replaced with different ones. Even the powder monkey had one of his tails removed as the model comes with 2.

You’ll see the flag in that last picture as I was working on the flag and sail at the same time. To get them to hold in place, I thinned PVA glue and soaked them both in the mix before leaving them to dry.

I had to spend quite a bit of time getting the rigging in place for the sail. It was fiddly but I’m glad I took the effort as it came out well. The flag was based on a design from my copy of the Empire Army book from the 4th edition of WFB. I wanted to keep with the Empire theme of the ship so found something which fitted. The sail in the painting has a huge figure painted on it but my freehand skills are not great. I bottled out and left it blank if a little stained.

The rock

The last part to complete was the background. For this, I wanted to have a rock as if it was floating, the same as the picture. I carved up some foam blocks and glued the shape over the wooden support.

First, it was given a thin mix of paint and PVA as a base coat. This mix makes the foam quite tough, and helps to fill a few of the seams where I had glued the foam together. The rest of the painting was just lots of shades of grey, brushed, dry brushed, washed and stippled over the surface.

I did consider adding a few trees and houses like the original painting but thought it would be enough as it is.

Flock and lichen came next along with a small waterfall made from clear silicone sealer and a few rocks scattered around. The plants got a thin spray of different shades of inks to break up their colours and help to blend them into the scenery a little better.

And lastly, the base, I didn’t want to paint it as I liked the wooden texture. I thought it matched the ship nicely so a couple of layers of shoe polish worked to stain it.

Shopping list

A few people have asked me over the course of the build where I was getting stuff from, so here’s a list.

Wooden coffee stirrers, scrap wood and plastic card for the start of the build, came from somewhere. The bottom of my materials box mainly.

The miniatures (Empire State Handgunners and freeguild) as well as barrels came from Element Games

The foam, flock and some modelling bits came from 4D Model Shop

The anchor, chains, ladders, tackle blocks and ships wheel came from Hobbies

Everything else pretty much came out of what I have kicking around the house.