– INTRODUCTION –
another model released, another blog post where i will talk about its creation process. I have a lot to say about ‘The Mycophile’ – possibly the character to which, at least so far, i feel connected the most.
That’s not only because this old man embodies one of the hobbies i love most in the world – strolling through the woods – but also because it reminds me of a very specific moment in my life. An instant where i was among the woods of Trentino-Alto Adige and that for some reason left a permanent mark in my memories.
But first of all, let’s have a look at the star of this article:
A senile man, his body showing all the signs of old age. Clearly, for some reason he’s quite happy… however, some of the mushrooms aren’t happy at all.
I received many questions about this character.
– Why are the mushrooms “alive”?
– Are the mushrooms some sort of small demons, and is he the summoner?
– Is he high? I want whatever he’s having!
As usual, best way to answer them is by heading to the lore page and discover his background! But to learn even more about the true meaning behind this character, please bear with me while i make a jump into the past…
– PART 1: THE CONCEPT –
The abstract i wanted to explore by creating ‘The Mycophile’ was:
“The importance of being able to always see the magical side of life.”
As i said above, walking in woods is one of the things i like the most. It’s something that helps me ease my mind and escape the daily worries.
The green (my favourite color!), natural environment combined with the silence interrupted only by the sounds of nature, is something that can completely turn around a bad day and help me look at problems from another perspective.
I’m sure this passion of mine comes from the fact that i’ve spent my childhood in a small mountain town, the place where my grandparents come from. A magical place named Serra Pamparato:
A piece of my heart, captured in a picture.
Actually, the place where my maternal grandparents lived, Serra, is a small hamlet of the chief town Pamparato, and in truth i didn’t live there all year round: but I spent every possible vacation there, especially the three summer months when i was off from school.
This had a major impact on my development. There i built my first real friendships, experienced adventures with my cousins (some of them were so in love with the place that decided to move there), met my first summer loves and much more.
Furthermore, just to get back on topic, the place is literally surrounded by woods. Previous picture shows the town square, here’s another one where you can see a different area of the town and the house my grandparents left to me:
The red arrow points to the lair of the mastermind behind Indaco Models.
Serra was the theatre of my first ‘role-playing games’, when i ventured into the wild with my cousins pretending to be adventure-seeking heroes. We played being on the trail of some monster to defeat, or questing for treasures… at that time we were children, and the woods really appeared to us as magical and mysterious places.
It’s been ages ago (i’m turning 40 this july), nevertheless those memories are still vivid, and they keep my heart warm.
Likewise, it’s crystal clear the memory of me and my father going mushroom hunting. Dad was a skilled and passionate forager, and he often ended up donating most of the mushrooms he found.
And by the way, he’s still somewhat active even today:
My father holding a giga specimen of hen-of-the-woods, also called “Berbesin” in our local vernacular. It weighed around 7 kilos.
To be honest, though, mushroom hunting bored me! I simply wanted to enjoy nature and my dad’s company, and couldn’t stand having to constantly look to the ground in search of hidden shrooms.
This situation about me and my father is mentioned in the very beginning of the background:
” In truth, most of his bounty often ended up in the bellies of his friends – because like him, they loved mushrooms very much, and for the scavenger the task itself was what was truly to be enjoyed.
Immersing himself in nature by taking a quiet stroll in the woods provided peace and comfort in the way trees only can, for to the hunter, these truly were magical places. “
A friend of mine says how, unconsciusly, ‘The Mycophile’ appareance and habits are inspired by my father. That’s very possible, but as i said at the beginning of the post there was one last seed, perhaps the most important, which led to my decision to create this character.
It was 2015, and i was spending some summer vacation in Trentino Alto Adige with my girlfriend of the time. I remember she told me how she was used to takin holidays by the sea, but she was happy about visiting the mountains for the first time, because with me she felt safe.
<< You will be my guide through woods and mountains! >>
Two pics of the gorgeous Dolomites i took while hiking above the alpine town of Canazei.
So, at a certain point during this vacation we were having a hike among some picturesque groves. We reached a peaceful glade and while slowing down our pace to took a break, i couldn’t help but take delight in all the wonderful things around us:
different shades of green, the smell of summer flowers, light filtering through the trees…
It was my girlfriend’s voice that brought me back to reality, saying something like:
<< I love walking through the woods with you, because it really seems like you’re able to see their magical side, i mean like you’re treating them as part of a fairy world… as if you’re expecting them to be full of mysteries, sprites, and strange things waiting to be discovered. >>
In that moment something clicked inside me. I realized how that girl had been able to look at my soul and see a reflection of myself that not even i was fully aware of. That was when i decided i would have created a miniature to celebrate that moment and, well, also all the many things i talked about above.
PS. before departing from that glade i had to try climbing a colossal rock laying there. It took me like twenty minutes – and several very dangerous attempts. Why should one avoid doing stupid things? – before finding the right path!
That’s not even the whole rock!
So, after this LONG preamble, some more specific information on how i envisioned the character.
According to his background he would have been part of the “People of the Woods” faction: so the must-have key (more about this in a future article) and humble, practical clothing suited for a man coming from the common class and used to live among the woods. Plus, lot of mushrooms. A whole basket. But i wanted them to reflect his story. They had to be animated by the old man’s powers, and some of them had to be hostile.
I wanted to create a model offering many different textures to the painter, and the chance to create a natural atmosphere – maybe even a background displaying some verdant woods. At the same time i wanted the model to evoke a bittersweet feeling, so that someone could give it a darker interpretation like gloomy/nocturnal colors, a scary background etc
After all, the man lives in a delusional state and the artwork was supposed to represent this fact.
An accurate vision started forming in my head and again i swiftly sent my impressions to the skilled Daniel Comerci.
– PART 2: THE ARTWORK –
Daniel received quite a lot of pics and references from which to take inspiration and, since i had a precise vision about the old man’s pose, a rather rough (to say the least) sketch:
My idea was to have the man standing as if he was in the woods, holding a stick in his left hand; a basket full of mushrooms hanging from the stick, and those mushrooms had to be alive. I wanted one of them to be particularly “interactive” with the men, they had to make eye contact – hence the arrows i drew in the sketch.
In his right hand, the man had to held another “living” mushroom, possibly a very aggressive one depicted in the act of biting the hand. Daniel promptly sent me this first version:
This first sketch was already accurate. All relevant details were there, the happy expression on his face was spot on and Daniel offered me two head options, as well as for the bag/slash wood on his back.
Since ‘The Mycophile’ is an old poor man living among nature, i wanted to give him a worn look, simple and weathered clothes, and accessories fitting for his condition: e.g no out of context weapons, but instead a billhook useful for cutting wood and mushrooms. As for ‘The Flower Girl’, i imagined him coming from the french peasant class and the artist was able to incorporate the many historical references i provided in order to create a realistic attire.
Some references ranging from 1500-1600. The drinking character from first pic inspired me to make ‘The Mycophile’ wear those sort of leather leggings.
At this point i had an idea to better characterize the two head options:
– bald one had to show open, deranged eyes and some fungi growing on the temple. This was intended to be the “mad” version of the man, where he’s completely detached from reality and possibly showing some sort of fungine infection, due to constant closeness with mutated mushrooms.
– the other version had to be the “happy” one: joyful face and a characteristic hat, took from the epic illustration “Rusticus in Gallia”!
Daniel refined the sketch accordingly and also offered me the option of increasing weight and thickness of his costume, since the character is supposed to act during autumn:
In the end, though, i opted for a lighter costume. The figure was already going to be heavily detailed – like all my models so far have been.
Speaking about details, from this second sketch you can see how the hourglass was placed hanging from the basket and how the man’s pouch was transformed into a wineskin. It’s important to keep hydration while you go mushroom hunting.
Also, the character is now heavily hunched – another sign of old age i wanted to depict, like the ruined teeth.
For the final version above, i asked the addition of some living mushrooms on the base, biting at the man’s leg. Daniel took care of characterizing those in the basket, and enriched the basket itself with many natural details. I was satisfied and ready to find a fitting sculptor for this character.
– PART 3: THE SCULPT –
After the artwork’s completition i didn’t immediately look for a sculptor. At the time i was busy with the production of previous characters, and my intention was to hire again Alessandro Depaoli for this old man – and i’m sure his style would have been very fitting for the job, he’s one of the best at sculpting clothes.
However, i started to grow interested in the style of Sara Salmanpour. I discovered her works when the Kickstarter inspired by the art of Christopher Lovell launched, since Sara sculpted most of the models.
I really liked how she managed details and textures, especially on the “Fauna” and “Apples” sculpts, and so i decided to get in touch. To my great surprise, i discovered she works for Nocturna Models – actually, she’s the wife of Jesus Martin, head of the company himself!
They both proved to be super friendly and interested in the project. This made me doubly glad because Jesus had always been a painter whose style i admired, and it was exciting to have the chance to cooperate with him.
We discussed the character and his mood, Jesus suggested some changes to his pose and details and Sara sent me a first 3d sketch:
From what i understood, one of the main difficulties in sculpting ‘The Mycophile’ was implementing all the “ugly” features brought forth by old age: fat belly, tired shoulder, hunched back etc.
Tto be honest, i think this is one the the interesting feats of this miniature. We’re all too used to painting perfect, proportioned bodies and instead i wanted to offer my customers something realistic and challenging. Something “alive”.
That said, the sculpting process proceeded more or less smoothly. Sara proved to have understood the character very well. We discusses some minor tweakings along the way and soon i had this semi-final version:
At this point almost everything was in place. Textures, weathering and some small details still had to be added but i was already very happy. One thing i wasn’t convinced of, however, were the mushrooms:
their general look was a bit fun, having roundish caps and regular, round spots. Shortly after receiveng the above picture, i was sent some more wips of the “living” shrooms that confirmed my sensation.
As you can see from the above pics, at this stage the mushrooms were a bit too regular in shape, and i especially found the warts to be too round, whereas in nature they are rather uneven.
Plus, the animated shrooms were missing, but this was just a first wip and so i talked to Sara and in order to tweak these details. I received another version:
Now the “living” mushrooms were there, but honestly i found their appearance to be too much on the funny side. My vision was that of eerie, grumpy creatures, upset about suddenly being animated and picked from the ground.
I asked Sara for more tweaking and at this point we had some minor difficulties in communicating the changes, mainly because we both are non-native english speakers, but in the end she proved very patient and skillful and adjusted the mushrooms in what is now their final shape.
Creepy, angry mushrooms: that’s what i had in mind. The neutral one, curiously looking at the old man, is inspired by the Kodama from Princess Mononoke.
Sara then added all the final details – i especially asked extra care for the seams and stitches, i think they are an important bit in order to characterize the “historical fantasy” feel of my models. She also worked on the alternate head option, which is shown in the full-body render below.
Again, i’m obviously biased when judging these sculpts, but i’m amazed by the amount of details Sara packed into this old man, and by way she rendered the joyful expression on his face.
I really have to thank both her and Jesus for all the help they provided during the sculpting process as well in the promotion of this figure. Don’t forget to have a look at their range of wonderful miniatures at Nocturna Models.
– CONCLUSION –
We’re at the end of the article and i’d like to spend just some final words about its main theme, i mean “seeing the magical side of life”.
My theory is that knowing how to see magical things shouldn’t be an escape from reality. Life brings responsibilities, which (alas) increase with age. But i think this shouldn’t stop us from seeing how much beauty the world has to offer. There’s this sort of dogma stating adult people care only about factual matters.
But do we really want to consider it “normal” to stop getting emotional like children in front of a sunset, or a painting, or while reading a book?
Fairies do not exist and woods are only woods, that’s for certain. But in my opinion sometimes it’s useful being able to grasp reality and, at the same time, seeing something more. 🍄
I really, really thank you if you read it this far: it’s definitely the longest to date and something tells me the next ones will be on par, if not longer, since age is worsening my graphomania. 🙂
The thing is that writing these articles, besides being incredibly fun since it allows me to retrace the “birth” of my characters and narrate it to you, it feels somehow cathartic to me.
It’s actually a way to finally become aware about some part of myself, exorcise them and place them back into the right place they have in my memories.
When i started thinking about the Indaco Models project i simply wanted to create some cool looking models, but later on i discovered how i could use them to tell many stories, and if you like my products i hope you’ll follow me in this journey since i have so much more to say.
So thanks again for reading my ramblings, remember ‘The Mycophile’ is available in the shop, and stay tuned for the next exciting news.
Until next time!