Imperial Guard Sculpt 120mm, Part 1: Concept and armature


2014 I went to an amazing summer program in artistic anatomy and sculpture led by Jim Vikström, a great sculptor who has studied and graduated from Florence Academy of Art in Venice who specialise in anatomy.

The first project that we all did was to sculpt an ecorchet, an anatomical representation of the human form, sculpting all bones and muscles that give volume. This massive undertaking had me and my classmates sculpting for several weeks and I personally sculpted for about 12-14h a day, every day and I enjoyed it immensely.

If you want to do your own Jim has a great video tutorial for it here:

Very cheap as well! :)

Now the second project was a personal one, to do the concept and sculpt your own full model. I asked how small I could do the sculpture and we finally settled with a 120mm project which was big enough for him to give good feedback on the anatomy and volumes.

I decided to do an Imperial Guard and this undertaking had me sculpting for the better part of 400h hours and still not finishing it entirely (of course the majority of these hours were due to my inexperience) but this summer I picked up the project again and now I intend to finish it finally. My first fully sculpted miniature.

I want to share the progress and some things I learnt during the way but I will divide it into smaller, more digestible, chunks.


Karl Kopinski is one of my favourite artists and I saw a drawing of an Imperial Guard that absolutely blew me away:

I think this was a concept for Lt. Mira in the Space Marine game. I wrote and asked him if he would allow me to use his concept and he graciously agreed.

I had some more complicated ideas about her riding some kind of Xenos animal or cutting the throat of an ork but given how long time just this more simple concept took I am very glad that I was convinced by Jim and some classmates to go with a simpler idea.

The idea was also to increase female representation just a little bit in what you see from the 40k universe and I’m glad to see that this discussion has really been gaining momentum lately. That’s one of the reasons I liked the original drawing so much, not an overtly sexual “top model” soldier, just someone doing their job.

When I had decided on the concept I just googled like a madman and printed images from lots and lots of different places. I found more drawings of female imperial guards that inspired me, especially this one:

...and as Lt Mira was the character I wanted to portray (at that time anyway, I think she’s taken on a character of her own now) I used in game footage as well.

Finally I decided on a pose. I wanted her to stand on a battlefield surveying the scene and having her foot on top of an ork head. I decided she had used her chain sword to cut off its head and that she would be talking in her headset saying something like “yep, caught the last one”. Or something like that.

I looked and lots and lots of pictures of poses and had some of my classmates and later friends pose for me to help getting the pose natural.


The armature work is very important, it both gives the miniature stability, sets the fundamental anatomy and gives the pose of the miniature. If you make this too stiff the entire miniature is going to be stiff and there are so many mistakes that can be made. Which I did, believe me.

As I didn’t have any experience almost sculpting from scratch I just measured measured and measured… and measured some more. I printed out an anatomical drawing of a female in the right scale on paper and then I used different measuring tools, comparing to my sculpture. I also printed out images of the pose in the right scale and measured a bit on those. The biggest difference between a body that is read more female and one read more male seem to be the hip to shoulder ratio where the female body has broader hips. So it’s very important to get this right early so that you won’t have to cut up stuff you’ve sculpted and rebend the armature. I did want her to be muscular though and the anatomical sketch I used had a woman with pretty broad shoulders so it suited the concept perfectly.

My favourite measuring tool is a caliper that I got from my mum, she had used it to draw perfect circles. It has needles for tips making for very precise measuring. You can see it the background of one of the pictures below but I don’t have it with me to Tokyo where I am right now.

I used steel wire for the armature, winding a thinner wire around the thicker to give some easier 
adherence of the putty. Then I bended, measured, bended… well you get the idea. I fastened and made the legs and arms more steady with copper wire, super glue and epoxy putty

I saw in a sculpting tutorial that someone used a pipe for the neck to be able to easily stick the head on and off. I did just that but using a small part of a pen. It was quite useful. I made a ball of putty that would make the foundation of the head and stuck it on top of a piece of wire that would fit inside the hole of the neck.

That’s it for now. This text has already grown much longer then I had thought. Any questions, tips etc. just comment.

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