" I started painting my first fifty Clanrat models as a complete block. This proved to be a bit of a mistake as I later had to go back and paint some standard bearers and musicians for their regiments. Worse still. painting such a huge block of figures seemed to rake years! With subsequent painting I've stuck to doing groups of about twenty models at a time. If I paint quickly I can get that number finished over the course of maybe four or five evenings just putting on a couple colours at night.
This system of gradually building up colours on a large group of models rather than trying to complete several smaller groups does tend to make your army appear visually uniform and is more satisfying as the army progresses in perceptible leaps and bounds. Character figures are best painted separately so that you can lavish your full artistic attentions on them. Ideally regiments should be painted as complete blocks. I wasn't too sure exactly how big my regiments were going to be so I just painted with a view to having a consistent looking group of figures that could be organized into different regiments as necessary."
While this passage gives an overview of Chamber's approach and provides some indication of his goals, it scarcely touches on the specifics. Luckily for us, Andy recently offered some insight into his technique on the Oldhammer Facebook group:
"I used a black undercoat and pretty much dry brushed the colour on from a limited palette including a lot of white. Because of the black undercoat the inkwash is probably lighter than you think it is - Burnt Sienna and Peat Brown in a 3/1 mix thinned out with water - so it's a sort of dark amber colour rather than brown. I went back over them after the wash was dry and picked out some things - teeth, weapon edges, war paint on fur - in lighter colours to make them stand out a bit and relieve the brown-ness. Note; this all sounds very considered but I really just made it up as I went along."
I think the key to understanding how Chambers avoids this problem can be found in two synonymous phrases quoted in the passage above: "visually uniform" and "consistent looking". Its my contention that these reference a concept that Mike McVey would later dub "coherency".
At its most basic, coherency refers to the consideration of how well the colour schemes of the models comprising a unit or an army fit together to create an overall effect. Normally this approach entails choosing a principal colour and one or two subsidiary colours for a unit, with the largest area on each model painted in the principal colour and smaller areas in the subsidiary colour(s). Any smaller details; such as belts, sheaths, bags, quivers; are then painted in neutral colours (brown, black, grey, white, etc.) so as not to distract from the colour scheme. Army coherency is then achieved by switching out the principal and subsidiary colours between units.
What makes Chamber's Skaven army unique is that the principal colours are themselves neutral colours. The difficulties posed by this are, in my estimation, counteracted primarily by Andy Chamber's use of muted colours, iconography, and unique bases.
Update: Modestly, Andy Chambers offered this clarification: "By the way I should note that those lovely banners and ribbons on weapons were done with a great deal of help from the 'eavy metal team and the banners themselves were photocopied down from the Jes Goodwin designs in the first Skaven article. You're absolutely right that they added a needed strong splash of colour to the army but I can't claim sole credit for it." A fair enough concession.
"I used blobs of milliput (2part modelling putty) to make the stones during assembly and painted them grey as part of the painting process. The flock I used is a coarse-grained one intended for railway ballast I think.I chose to base them that way because I felt like it would extend the corruption theme better than having them on perfect little green lawns. An added plus was they were still suitable for using in D&D. When I started the army I had a couple of dozen assorted Skaven I painted with a friend to use as monsters for a D&D campaign, they were like the seeds of the whole thing."
This attention to detail serves both to tie the army together and strongly contrast it against the game board and opponents. The combination of dark stonework strewn with what could be autumn foliage or the run-off of sewers, accentuates and enhances the colours of the troops and adds another layer to the cohesion of the army. Chambers also utilizes several movement trays that mirror and extend the visuals of the bases. Its the bases, I firmly believe, that cements the powerful impression left by the army on all who see it.
"Though I've still a number of rank and file to paint before the army is completed to my satisfaction, I've already started converting and building extra stuff for the army. The first thing I did was convert a special riding Rat Ogre for a Clan Moulder Warlord - after being consistently mauled by mounted heroes I've decided it's time to get my own back! ( For the moment we're just counting him as a Rat Ogre, hopefully we'll bang some rules together at a later date). Other projects in hand involve building a Screaming Bell cart, some Wolfrat conversions and a two-rat Gattling team."
I've written about Chamber's Screaming Bell prototype in a previous post, though its worth sharing here again:
Wolfrats, oddly, were excised from the army roster as of 4th edition and (besides a brief appearance in the Moulder Hell Pit army list in White Dwarf #310) were only recently re-introduced via Forgeworld and the 8th edition supplement Storm of Magic (infamous for also re-introducing Fimir and Zoats, albeit in a rather limited fashion).
Fred Fouchet was likewise inspired by Andy Chamber's Skaven army in his recent Oldhammer contribution:
UPCOMING: Skaven in Space, the history of the Hrud and the 40k army that might have been; Shroedinger's Skaven, a look at the Ratmen's roles in GW's boxed games, from HeroQuest to Mordheim; A Rat By Any Other Name, a look at the varied Skaven proxies offered by other miniature creators over the years; and The True Name of The Horned Rat, exploring my personal theory as to the secret identity of the Skaven's deity.