The Chosen of Khorne: Creating the Blood God’s Best

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Chosen of Khorne: Illustration Process

Though I consider myself an illustrator, I haven’t done a large, finished piece (foreground, mid-ground, background) in years…maybe a decade or more.    So it was interesting to capture the process on digital camera, which I don’t think existed in a decent consumer form the last time I did one!

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This is the earliest design; I sketched it on a piece of printer paper while waiting for something at work to finish.  The design is very rudimentary.  The dais looks more “chair” like, and the axe is on the wrong side (I picture Malvin entering left and seeing Kharn on the right for some reason) so Gorechild should be left rather than right in the frame as he sees the weapon before he sees The Betrayer.  I was also drawing from memory and messed up Kharn’s helmet design.

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The original pencils just for putting in placement.  His helmet in the story is said to be in the sand at his feet, so the one thing I consciously altered from the terrific narrative description was to put it on a level of the stone dais, purely for composition purposes.

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I stood on the shoulders of Black Library giants to design Kharn’s armor and wargear for this piece.  It was fun to put my own touches, like the way the skulls are attached to his armor backpack.

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I added some extra battle damage to Kharn’s helmet, just because it was interesting to draw.

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The skulls appear as mentioned in the drama: two on the left, four on the right; one with shrapnel in the cheek, one with chain weapon damage on the forehead.

I added the manacles described in the story as being large enough to restrain a large beast or being of great strength.  I put in dark tunnels behind Kharn based on the dungeons beneath the Flavian Amphitheater.

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Before I started shading I thought it would be easy, just walls and stones.  But then I decided to shade every stone essentially individually and it took much longer than I intended…

20140209_155303For so many reasons I’m lucky to have Raven.  One of the lesser reasons is she inks for me in our comics!  I had to darken the graphite before shading (I drew in 4H).  I hate this process because it’s essentially drawing the same image TWICE but worth it to get the desired result.

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I accidentally over-shaded the left tunnel and made it seem too short.  It took some correcting to get it closer to right.  I added the close foreground of silhouetted scattered remains based on the description in the drama. I left it vague but clear enough to be picked out if closely analyzed.

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It’s actually at this phase I start to get excited about a composition.  The background is essentially one, which means I can start the character!

See the Original Kharn Post Here Featuring the Finished Piece!

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As a bonus: I’m also working on a version of the Fleshtearer as described in the story.  It may be a single character piece, but here’s the face design I’ve been toying with.

Chosen of Khorne: The Arrogant Warrior King Upon His Throne

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My Original Illustration inspired by a scene from Chosen of Khorne.

Kharn from Chosen of Khorne
Click for a detailed view!

I have to admit that Games Workshop, though they get a lot of stick from forums, has made a great game and created a terrific universe with some wonderful characters.  When I first got into the Warhammer world I purchased a lot of used books, old codexes, whatever I could get my hands on to learn more about it and immerse myself completely in the grim darkness of the far future.

During my hunts for anything narrative 40k I could find I came across Gav Thorpe’s Raven’s Flight and regular readers of RevPub might guess why I decided to get that one!  That one audio drama, read wonderfully by Toby Longworth, got me hooked on the Black Library audio drama/audio novel series.  I’ve got almost all the ones I could find and have a few favorites.  Raven’s Flight remains on my top list because of its terrific narrative and the rousing action sequence when Corax charges the Iron Warriors.  The Garro series is also a superlative series and Mission Purge was a nice surprise and a great Deathwatch story.  Recently there have been some terrific Horus Heresy dramas (Censure is excellent, as was the short Warmaster) as well as some good additions to the Space Marine Battles series (Veil of Darkness’ first person narration is wonderful).

My favorite and the one I’ve listened to the most, however, is Anthony Reynolds’ Chosen of Khorne. In the 40k universe I am a staunch, staunch loyalist (For the Emperor!), which is why it speaks volumes to both the writing and performance this drama, one that is centered wholly on traitor Chaos Space Marine characters, that this one is my favorite.  Of all the dramas I’ve heard I don’t think I’ve heard any of them with as vivid imagery and as clear a narrative as this Chosen of Khorne.  Not only is the story very tightly written and the settings so clear, but the action set-pieces wonderfully well-described and easy to picture.  Not only that but the story arc of the narrative’s star, Kharn the Betrayer, is remarkably well done and, despite my pro-imperium stance I found myself cheering for him as the story went on.

The hands-down star of Chosen of Khorne, after the writing, is Chris Fairbanks as Kharn the Betrayer.  Fairbanks’ performance is ferocious and subtle.  His Kharn isn’t a wild, bloody brute but a smoldering killer slowly building to a burning crescendo.  I first heard Fairbanks’ Kharn in The Butcher’s Nails before I knew anything about the character, but Chosen of Khorne had me running to the game store to pick up a Kharn model that day.  Fairbanks’ performance is so good I was even cheering for him over my own chapter master, Azrael, in The Trials of Azrael.

One image in this audio drama has always stood out for me, so much so that, despite years of not drawing large, finished pieces I had to get the image of it down in graphite.

When Malvin Bitterspear first enters Kharn’s lair beneath the arena the setting is described as a gladiatorial dungeon.  Kharn is said to be “slouched on the dais like an arrogant warrior king upon his throne” with Gorechild nearby and his collection of skulls laid out before him.  I couldn’t get the image out of my head, and so interpreted it as best as I could.

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My Kharn differs from the official Games Workshop/Forge World Kharn in that I gave him hair.  I’m actually a little tired of bald Space Marines and Fairbanks’ accent for Kharn reminds me of a more-intense, brutal Bela Lugosi so I gave him a bit of a 1930s Dracula-style cut.  Not only that but it went well with the description in the drama as his face being long and noble.

I relied heavily on the Warlords of the Dark Millennium to do Kharn’s wargear, taking my favorite aspects from previous interpretations and including them in the design.

One of the most fascinating parts of Reynold’s writing of Chosen of Khorne was Kharn’s outward demeanor compared to the raging inferno within.  He gives the character amazing depth and provides clear motivation for his actions, something very few narratives do well.  Because of his description and his actions, I tried to give Kharn a look of impassive malevolence, outwardly calm but promising rage.

Anthony Reynolds’ story mixed with the magnificent performance by Chris Fairbank really provided me with great inspiration.  This illustration was amazing to work on, and I hope it lives up to what the writer and performer had in mind when they made Chosen of Khorne!

Here’s where you can buy Anthony Reynolds’ Chosen of Khorne.

And Reynolds’ Kharn short The Eightfold Path which is another very personal look at the scion of the Blood God.

Where to get yourself a Kharn model.  Some say it’s a little out of date, I think it is terrifically expressive.

And Reynolds’ WordPress site!