Friday 26 September 2014

Original Art - Part 7: Ian Miller's Scavvy Concept Sheets

Ian Miller is intrinsically linked with the early art of Games Workshop. His iconic and often disturbing images set the tone for many Games Workshop publications, including Rogue Trader and Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness. Ian has long since left his work with Games Workshop behind, and is a respected and well-recognised artist outside of the sci-fantasy genre.

Six months or so ago, my friend Graham Apperley got in touch with Ian and arranged to buy a few pieces of GW artwork. I had always assumed Ian Miller's pieces were well out of my price range, but when I was given the opportunity to buy the sheet below, I jumped at the chance:

Sheet 2: Note the flamer crew, robotic dogs and preponderence of weird prosthetics

What you are looking at is an A3 sheet of concept sketches for "Hive Gang Scavvies" by Ian, drawn in 1989.

The sheet is one of a series of five wonderful sheets, providing a rather different take on Scavvies as envisaged by John Blanche (published in WD131) and sculpted by Jes Goodwin:

Scavvy concepts by John Blanche, published in WD131 (Nov 1990)

Scavvy sculpted by Jes Goodwin. Wonderful paint job by archae opteryx 
Jes Goodwin's figures, based on John Blanche's concepts have a rather different feel to Ian Miller's more sinister, spiky, organo-robotic approach. Ian was kind enough to collate his thoughts on his work on the Scavvies back in 1989. I'll hand over to Ian to talk us through it:
Sheet 1: Ian has explored a range of robotic claw arms on this sheet
I did the hive gang study sheets in isolation with just a brief explanation / suggestion in the Brighton office of GW Books (as was). All I knew about the gangs was that they were an up and coming feature.

Design wise I did what seemed appropriate at the time. I sent the designs off to Nottingham when finished and never heard another thing.

Sheet 3: The figure on the left has "stilts for sewer walking", while the small sketches on the right are for a "flying gun raft / magic carpet"
In truth, I never saw John's designs, nor how they were presented as actual model figures. If my contribution was in any way meaningful or helpful, I never heard.

Sheet 4: I always wondered how scavvies got around; now we know it is by "pipe bikes", "main duct cruiser" and personal hanging backpacks!

Sheet 5: This detailed character sheet is now in the collection of Graham Apperley

Having spoken with Ian about the Scavvy study sheets, I commented on the close family resemblence to some of the characters he drew for James Herbert's 'The City'. In fact, some of the images have been published on the same page of Ian's recent artbook 'The Art of Ian Miller'. Ian confirms that "they did indeed provide a basis for some of the characters / elements in The City".
Pages from 'The Art of Ian Miller'

So there you go - a tantilising glimpse into what the Underhive might have looked like. Many thanks to Ian for taking the time to chat about the images - perhaps one day someone might attempt to translate one or two of the designs into miniature form!


  1. No words left. This is amazingly splendid... , you've just opened the door to a new room in a castle we thought we knew...
    Only right thing to do is to get to our putty and bits now.

    mind blown

    1. Believe me JB, I have spent hours with a mind blown also. And then tried to work out how to actually make some of these. It's a very difficult look to get right I think :)

    2. Great article and amazing concepts. I think Neil101 (from the at the moment defunct blog Opus Maius) has come closest to capture Miller-esque drawings in miniature form

  2. Awesome work ! He is a master !!!!!

  3. Woooooo. That's sooo wonderful!!

  4. I agree with you guys...Ian's work is just incredible.

  5. Excellent artwork - also quite scary. Thanks for sharing!
    Btw, thought you might want to know that the template you are using for this blog makes it impossible to read your posts on an iPhone. At least for me; whenever I scroll down the text will be swallowed by the dark background and only the pictures be visible (in this case from ca. where Ian is quoted). Not a big problem but thought you might want to know, and I always seem to forget to come back when I am at a real computer.
    All the best,

    1. Thanks're not the first to mention the background issue on iPhone / iPad. Not sure how to rectify it...I have the settings arranged so that mobile devices should see the simple layout (as I do on my android devices). I'll look into it :)

      And no problem at all for sharing!

  6. Wonderful stuff! I love Miller’s Scavy/City work. Just FYI I recently found an 85mm sculpt based on Miller’s sketches called, Stranger Mk. 11.

    1. They really are fantastic, aren't they?! I saw that 85mm figure - it does a brilliant job in replicating the artwork :)

  7. There seems to be a few sources for that excellent 85mm, not sure if it was a case of selling the repro' rights or just a name change - I think the most current one is a company called red piano miniatures where it's on sale with a print of the art.

  8. I love Ian Miller's artwork, very good and grungy and so 1st edition 40k! Lots of neat conversion ideas in this artwork!