Friday 7th April

Display Bases - Tree on a Cliff

Today we're going to take a look at how I built the display base for my Coven Throne, here's a list of materials we're going to need:

  • PVA glue
  • Newspaper
  • DAS Modelling clay
  • Garden wire
  • Some bark/wood
  • Stones
  • Any accessories or decorations you fancy

Let's get going!

First off, here's the finished product:

This was my first attempt at anything like this, and I learnt a bunch doing it, so hopefully I can pass some of this learning experience on to you now.

Construction

I started off by making a papier mâché base, I got a ball of newspaper, and stuck the piece of bark to the front and then built it up using papier mâché and DAS modelling clay for support where required.

Eventually I ended up with something like this.

Be warned! This thing is heavy, and it'll take multiple days to dry. I put mine on the box you see on top of a radiator. Do so at your own risk! It still took a week to dry out properly.

The Tree

While this was drying I started working on the tree, unfortunately this is kind of a one, two, skip-a-few situation as I don't seem to have any photos of the work in progress, but I will try and describe this as best as I can.

First make the skeleton of your tree using garden wire. I used particularly thick stuff as one of the armatures was going to have to support the Coven Throne once complete.

I covered this in my papier mâché and did about 3 or 4 layers to give the initial shape some body. Once that was dry I covered it in a thin layer of DAS modelling clay.

While the clay was drying I used a modelling knife to create the bark texture, I found small upside down V shapes worked well, overlapping them to give a more natural feel.

Again, this will take a while to dry.

Details

Now we're getting somewhere!

Next I needed to make the top look a little more natural, flatten it out, and make the tree not look like it was floating. I used more of my beloved DAS modelling clay to add some top soil to the base.

Giving the soil a little lip over the top of the bark gives a more natural look, as if there has been subsidence over time and the soil is actually on top of the small cliff face.

Time to add some texture, I used a mixture of small and large stones, and sand. The larger stones went around the edge, pressed and glued into the DAS clay.

I added a few hidden details around, such as the skulls pressed into the side, and some decoration on top with the gravestones. Around the base of the tree I was going to try and create some leaf litter using blended moss pieces, which you can see in the picture below. That didn't work out great, so I probably wouldn't bother if I did it again.

You can buy the gravestones (and the little raven on the same sprue!) from Element Games.

Painting

I primed the whole base in black, and then applied some strong base colours. The soil was Vallejo Earth, the tree was GW Ushabti Bone, and then the stone was whichever grey I had to hand. It's a mid-tone, potentially a small hint of blue, but nothing ridiculous.

You'll need to play the next steps by eye somewhat. I used Agrax Earthshade on absolutely everything which darkened a lot of the colours.

My general route for drybrushing earth is Ushabti Bone > Wrack White > a very light pure white.

I would advise mixing in a few other colour washes into the rock face which should give the stone a more natural appearance.

When dry brushing your lightest colour, I would aim for the edges and anywhere I thought would be catching a particularly large amount of light.

Note that the lightest colours are top left, top right, and then the right side of the tree.

Note the white added to the top edges of the stones, gravestones, and a few areas of earth.

There's no real science to making earth look natural, but the thing I try to remember is that nature is random... So whatever you do, don't use large blocks of the same colour, or aim for uniformity. Being random is your friend.

Finishing Touches

For the final few touches I used grass tufts with touches of red in them, and plant tufts with white leaves. I liked the way the colours worked together here.

At this point it was looking reasonably complete, but I wanted to add a final few touches, so used a leaf punch from Green Stuff World, and a leaf from the garden to create some tiny leaves to dot around the base.

And with that, the base was complete.

I hope my process helps you in working out your own display bases, if you have any feedback on this or anything else then please give me a shout on @_Ritual on Twitter..

If this helped you and you want to support the site, feel free to drop me a few pennies in my tip jar.

See you next time!