Celestial Lions: A Parting Gift

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I’ve been a bit cryptic recently, regarding some real-life unpleasantness. Well, here it is. It’s a long one, and it gets pretty dark in places.

That’s a thumbs-up from her, there.

This is my mother. She is in her late 70’s, and she will most likely be dead before this week is out. It might be next week, but it’ll be soon, regardless. She sadly has a terminal condition, which I have no intention of going into in any detail, but she’s weaker and weaker each passing day. She’s been pretty much immobile for 3+ weeks now, and has been in and out of hospital over the last month+. She reentered hospital at our urging a couple of weeks ago, and she will not be returning home. Ever.

So far, so fucking depressing.

Anyway, while I was sitting next to her last Thursday evening after work (yes, I kept going to work until the end of last week, in an attempt to get shit sorted out for the end of the year and to retain some of my own sanity in the circumstances. I’ve finished for the year now, using a combination of carer’s leave and what will soon be bereavement leave. hm.)

Sorry, lost my train of thought, and fuck it, I’m going to write this one as more of a stream-of consciousness and less carefully edited as I usually do.

So anyway, I was sitting next to her, and a thought came into my head. I should paint something for her. Now we take a brief tangent of an equally depressing nature:

Anyone who has been around this blog for some time may remember this post from last May. In it, I talk about being on the phone to my sister, spotting them on the shelf and not really being up to painting zombies at the time. I was on the phone talking with her about the recent (at the time) death of my oldest brother when I spotted the slayers. The growing horde of slayers in a sense became a tribute to my brother. Fitting really, since he was a bad-tempered prick of a drunk with a ginger beard. We canonise our dead, but that description is the truth. We never became friends as I grew older, which was a shame, but by the time that friendship might have been possible, he was too much of an uneven and unpleasant drunk, and frankly – fuck that noise. I’ve got no tolerance for that level of bullshit, and I haven’t been willing to tiptoe around other people’s stupidity for quite a long time now. Still, he was my older brother, and his influence is still strong in me with an interest in WWII, history, as well as musically. Try to take the good and leave out the bad, basically.

So that’s one brother.

Then there’s my other brother. Also an older brother, just a touch younger than the oldest. Without any risk of overstatement or exaggeration, he was the single biggest influence on me in my life. He was the cool older brother that you wish you had. He introduced me to fantasy role-playing at around the age of five in the 1970’s via a mixture of make-it-up-as-you-go-along storytelling, and Tunnels & Trolls solo dungeons, which he’d read to me and act as “DM”. He gave me a copy of Lord of the Rings which I read in Primary School/Grade 6. As the years progressed, he went from older brother to best friend. He was also the one who got me into miniatures, with his collection of Fantasy and medieval-history Minifigs which were eventually given to me shortly before I discovered Warhammer 40,000. My Humbrol enamels came along with the Minifigs, and in turn they were used on my first Space Marines and Imperial Army and Space Orks.  We played T&T for years together with a few others until we ended up segueing into computer games, playing games like EverQuest and Battlefield 1942 together for years. This finally came to an end in 2005 one Saturday evening, when I went to his place to see why he hadn’t been answering his phone and found his dead body on the floor of his kitchen.

Yeah, I said this one gets dark.

He apparently had a congenital heart condition, and he wasn’t the best at taking his meds. Not sure if that’s why he had the massive heart attack that killed him, but at this point it hardly matters now, eh?

At the time he passed, I was painting Orks. For that 500-pt combat patrol as per 4th or whatever was current at the time. These Orks. For reasons that should be obvious here, when that happened, I downed tools for quite some time – and it took until recently for me to be able to face the Orks again.

So what I’m saying here is that the resurrected Ork army is both a group of models that are hopefully cool and good looking as well as a tribute to my departed brother. I had planned to write this up in its own post sometime in the near future, once I completed the “original” force I was working on in 2005, but I guess my mum has forced my hand on that account, eh? Thanks, mum!

So back to the story. While I sat next to her in her hospital bed last Thursday, I had the idea of painting something for her as a tribute – in the same way that the Slayers and Orks had unintentionally turned out to be. Well, except intentionally this time. So I told her the stories that I’ve recounted to you all above. About the phone call and the slayers. About the Orks and downing tools and them sitting in a case for over 10 years before I could get back to them. And then I told her that I’d like to paint something for her as well. Obviously, you already know what I chose to paint for her, but not the why – because Space Marines? Really?


As the regulars around here know, I like to paint different Marine Chapters. Celestial Lions are one of the many who have been “on the list” to do at some stage. I chose them for her because:

  1. The colour scheme looks good.
  2. They have an “African” flavour to their background, and my mum has always liked African people (and African-Americans, Māori… )
  3. Celestial – because, well, she’ll be gone soon. And while I’m not religious, I appreciate the connection between looking at the sky/towards the heavens and respecting my ancestors.
  4. Lions – the most important, actually. My mum is a Leo. And while she’s never been “into” horoscopes or any of that stuff, she’s always really loved lions.
  5. I’ll find an appropriate actual lion model at some stage. I’m sure Reaper or someone like that has something. I can even incorporate a lion model in with the Celestials as a pet.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines WIP

Overnight, I had another idea: Why wait? If I really pulled out all the stops, I could try to have a model painted for her before she goes, so she could see it. Touch it. Hold it. When I woke up on Friday, I went outside to the War Room, found the open sprues of Primaris Marines from the 8th starter box, came inside with the one with the Lieutenants on it, clipped both of them off and bagged them, and took them to work – trimmed the flash during my breaks – went straight to the hospital from work for a few hours, and she was much worse – tired and not all there – when we left, we stopped to see my dad for a couple of hours on the way home – and then once home I assembled them, let dry, and spray primed over several drying-breaks until about 1am. Woke at 6am on Saturday and got to fucking work.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines WIP

If I had more time, I might have replaced the bare head with a different one, or added some “flavour” parts from my Warlord Games Zulu models. But no time for that. Standard builds – just get the paint done! Turns out that they’re “supposed” to be on 40mm bases as well, rather than 32mm ones. I guess it works to distinguish them on the table. Ah well, tough luck on that one. These models aren’t being rebased.

I didn’t get them entirely finished in time, because as the hours ticked by on Saturday, so my anxiety level raised – I desperately wanted her to see them before she went back downhill. So when they were a good 80% done – finished to the point where I was satisfied that they were good enough to show her, it was time to go to the hospital. I also took a few of the Slayers and a few of the Orks. I started by mentioning the models I’d talked about the other day, and showed her them, one by one. Because a model in the hand to look at is obviously much better than a photo on a mobile phone’s browser.

Once she had looked at the Orks and the Dwarves, I showed her the almost-finished Lions. Naturally, she loved them. She’s my mum, so what else is she going to do? But she also knew well enough that if I didn’t think they were up to scratch that I would not have brought them to show her. She said something about her living on forever through them, and while “forever” is a long time, the figures should certainly outlast my own existence, so good enough.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

And here we are. The completed figures. Final details done less than an hour ago. The next step is to pack them up again and head out to the hospital so she can see the final completed models.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

I’ll throw some painting notes in here, just because, and because I’ll paint up a bunch of these at some stage in the future – and I’ll really want these models to be consistent. Base coats were all sprays, followed by an all-over wash of Reikland Fleshshade Gloss. Armour drybrushed with Retributor Armour then Liberator Gold and then a tiny bit of Model Air Gold mixed in. Blue panels painted with Vallejo “Ultramarine” blue coloured surface primer, washed with thinned down Vallejo Game Air 72.720 Imperial Blue, then re-highlighted with Vallejo Game Colour Ultramarine Blue, then highlighted with thinned VGA 72.724 Electric Blue.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

Aquilas done with Vallejo Model Colour Dark Grey, then highlighted with a couple of greys, washed with Nuln Oil Gloss then highlighted again on the edges with Army Painter Warpaints Ash Grey. Weapons done with Dark Grey, then edge highlighted with Citadel Incubi Darkness, washed with Nuln Oil Gloss, then re-highlighted on extreme edges with Incubi Darkness again. Probably too subtle to actually see, but it is what it is. Leather done with VMA 71.042 Camo Black Brown spot washed with Nuln Oil Gloss, then highlighted with That VMA brown I use for everything and the code and name have worn off the label. I know which one it is, though.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

To designate the models as Lieutenants, I used VII Legion decals from the Imperial Fists HH transfer sheet on their right kneepads. I also added tiny “Fists” shields to their left pauldrons, along with a Maltese Cross on the right pauldron of one, and the backpack of the other, to represent their brotherhood with the Black Templars. The Lieutenant’s helmet stripe I left without the white bars to show consistency with the Crimson Fists style of helmet stripe.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

The lion-head Chapter icons came from Matrillo Y Cola on Shapeways. They’re not nearly as detailed in hand as they appear on the webpage, so I had to paint in the dividing line between the lion’s chin and their mane, and also the eye. Still, they work well enough and give consistency better than freehanding the icons would.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

Since I have also been painting Minotaurs, I wanted to ensure that the Celstial Lions were as easily distinguished from the Minos as possible. To that end, the gold here is much brighter and “oranger” – and washed with Fleshshade than the pale brass of the Minos, which is made from sepia washes over silver, later washed with green. The “dark grey” aquilas could easily have been done in metallic tones, but again I went with non-metallic greys as the Minos have theirs in metallics.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

I’m out of words on the painting process and thoughts behind it, so I’ll just leave the final images to speak for themselves.

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

Celestial Lions Primaris Lieutenant Space Marines

Now, I don’t usually share much in the way of my personal details on here, and I’m completely aware of how much of an infodump this is. So why?

Well, my mum is dying, and I’m trying to cope with that. Painting is my Yoga, my Gardening, my Zen. It’s what I do to relax. This has given me something to work on, concentrate on over the last few days. I’m also completely powerless to do anything about her situation, so again, this is something I can do for her. Blogging about it all? Like I said, I’m trying to cope with what’s going on, and we’re past the “hope” stage of medical intervention, so now it’s just a waiting game.

In the end, this is a thing that we all go through – We bury our parents. Unless your parents end up being the ones to bury you. I’m working through the process in my own way, and since I paint, this is part of my process. I just hope these models are good enough as a personal tribute.