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.

24 thoughts on “Celestial Lions: A Parting Gift

  1. All the best to you and your mum in this trying time. At least you’ve got the time to say goodbye to each other and show her she’ll be remembered. I’d imagine that’d be very gratifying.
    It sounds like you’re doing very well by her, remember that and good on you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good of you to write this, it was a touching piece and such a lovely gesture towards your mum. I can only imagine how stressful and depressing times you’re going through, and it would be nice to be able to contribute more than a blog post comment. It’s good to hear painting is helping you cope, and I appreciate you writing these thoughts out loud – with plenty of wargamers being in their 30s to 50s, it’s an issue we all have to deal with at some point in the more or less near future if we haven’t yet. All the best to you and yours and remember to go easy on yourself.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. A sad but nice post Azazel, made all the better for your direct and honest approach to it.

    I’m glad that your hobby is giving you a way to cope and even to connect with your family during difficult times.

    Look after yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Those lions are magnificent, your mum will be very proud of them. I don’t know how common it is to paint models as a way of processing trauma but I suspect it’s fairly widespread. I know it’s something I’ve done several times, indeed it’s something I’ve done very recently. As you say painting is our yoga, or gardening, or what have you, so it makes intuitive sense to paint something deliberately by way of acknowledging and dealing with a situation that causes us grief.

    Take care of yourself. Lots of people, with the best will in the world, will want a share of your time and energy and you’re going to have little enough to spare. One of the best pieces of advice I received in recent months was “What do you do when a airplane is crashing? You put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help anyone else”. It’s absolutely true, you need to be a little selfish and make sure you’re taking care of yourself, otherwise you won’t have what you need to help the ones you love.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Oh man, sending all my thoughts & best wishes to you & yours – what a torrid time. Show your mum your blog, help her realise just how many people her creation (that’s you) inspire with your creations… I am sure she will be delighted with that thought, and I trust that she is proud of you.

    Look after yourself & those closest mate – this too shall pass.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Those marines are a truly beautiful tribute to your mom. The Lion proud, fierce and glorious. Thanks for sharing these and your story.

    I can’t add anything other than to send you thoughts and wish you well through these dark days.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Painting our little plastic or lead friends is the best therapy. I’m so sorry to hear about your mum mate. My mum loves my hobby and is always asking to see my models. Mums are great like that. It’s going to be tough brother but what a touching and unique tribute and reminder you’ll have.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So sorry to hear about your current situation. It’s always tough to see our loved ones like that, but with parents, it does hit especially close to home, doesn’t it? In the most proverbial sense, come to think of it…

    So while I wish you and your Mum all the best, for now, and for what will come later, I just want to say that creating a little “memorial” like that is a fantastic idea: Our hobby, as I see it, is really all about telling stories. Even if you never play the game, those models tell stories by the very way they have been put together, posed and painted. And we do remember those we love by distinct memories: Single moments, anecdotes. Thinks that remind us of them. Small objects. Certain smells.

    To connect both things and turn them into something that fuels your hobby is a fantastic way of paying tribute and, ultimately, remembering loved ones. Plus, those are also some killer-looking Celestial Lions, so there’s that, too (as an aside, you’ve really managed to sell me on the paint scheme, when it used to feel a tad too flashy for my taste).

    Anyway, all the best to you! And keep doing this, especially if it helps! 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can’t think of a better tribute for your Mum, my good friend. I have the fortune of knowing Azazel’s Mum for years now, & I believe she would LOVE these wonderful fully painted Marines.

    Our hearts go to Azazel & his family, & as always mate, if you need anything, just ask away.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mate, it takes a lot to bring my emotions to the fore, as I tend to bunch things up, drink myself into a stupor in the attempt to forget it all, go on with my life. What you have penned down here is heart warmingly, soul crushingly, beautifull and sad.

    As a South African, who learned a few frases in one of the 11 African languages, mind if I teach you two?

    1. Nkosi ka khulu- this is thank you in Xhosa and Zulu.
    Pronounced Like a nasal N alongside cosy, ka like car with no R and khulu like cool loo.

    2. The next one is loosly translated as i do not know the exact spelling, i am typing as I hear it and hear it: lala ngo sholo. This is rest in peace in Xhosa.
    Maybe you could tel mom this to mum, maybe she will appreciate it.

    Hope you stay strong, thank you for sharing this, thank you for the post. Ok im going now, these tears are pissing me of now😔. Take care

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m not sure there’s much I can say that hasn’t already been said better by others – I went through something similar myself, and for what it’s worth, thank you for sharing. Your mum sounds awesome, the marines look awesome (that gold!), and I’ll be thinking about you both. *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Very difficult, mate, but you seem to be coping and it’s good that the hobby is helping with that. These Lions look great, they are a very fitting tribute indeed. Stay strong and best wishes to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hey man – this is a beautiful post. It’s always tough, going through a time like this, and I think it’s amazing to have done what you have done. The miniatures are, as always, incredible – but these will always mean so much more and I commend you for that. Thinking of you mate.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. In these situations I never know what to say. Nonetheless I wanted to leave a line to make you know I’ve read your post and, as far as possible for a person unrelated to the matter, felt it. I’m truly sorry for your grief, mate.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. All my thoughts to you and your family. Thanks for sharing this, your words touched me as I went through similar event a few years back and I also ended up painting a miniature as a tribute for this person. Take care

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your post simultaneously made me sad and proud of you. What an honorable effort and tribute to Your Mom. Will keep you and your Mom in my thoughts and prayers. Very touching – you’re a special son.


  17. I stumbled across this blogpost while google image searching some Celestial Lions. I’m deeply touched more than anything, by what I read. A very brave and honest thing you have done here. A beautiful tribute to your Mother. My very best to you and the family.


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  20. Hey man, thanks for redirecting me here. I can hope to appreciate what it was like to go through any of those experiences, but i understand that there was no need to let people know then or to bring my attention to it now. I hope that blogging about it served a function in helping you process your thoughts, i also hope that you have and had people in your life to help you through your difficult time.

    You appologised for being a downer, but i walked i to that knowing there was potentially more to your statment and i appreciatebyour candor and willingness to educate me on your history.

    Its true that most of us will have to go through this loss at some stage but what while some people will go though a more painless or more harroeing experience… its clear that what happened to you and those you care about was painful.

    Im a realist and i try too, process things in a most neutral and logical way as possible. That being said im a pretty empathetic and openly emotional person… Maybe more than avarage for a guy? I dont know… Maybe the same as other guys but i dont hide it. Reading your post was importent… It made me sad, but also happy… No wait, that’s the wrong word… It was nice and heartwarming. I think i felt appreciation for the thought put into your actions. I dont really know you or your family, but as a brother, father father, etc. i like to think that your mum and anyone else who was aware of what you were doing, not only appreciated the effort you put into those models… But also that it was further evidence of your posatice character traits. I personally i would be very proud of my children to behave the way you did to cope with this difficult time.

    I know that was months ago now, but i hope you have reached a degree of equalibrium with your own feelings and that you and those you care about are well and happy. The world could do with more nice people in it.

    These are just words, but they are all i can offer. Thanks for sharing man and i look forward to many more posative interactions between us. Im glad i discovered you exist.


  21. Wow on several levels. I’ve been following your work for awhile, and that has to be one of the best minis I’ve seen you paint, which is a pretty big statement given the quality of minis I’ve already seen you put out. But this is also more than ‘just’ a fabulous miniature post…

    Even though it is quite dark and so hard to deal with for you, I find it to be a quite beautiful story. You were able to see your Mom before she passed, connect and share with her. That is really touching.

    I’m also pretty impressed with your ability to deal with all that pain through painting. So much easier for some people to turn to drinking or other unhealthy methods of escape, but I’m really glad you didn’t go that route.

    It probably wasn’t easy to share this either. I would have a really difficult time with it. But I’m glad you put it out there and that so many people responded and were supportive. Hopefully someday the pain is easier to deal with and when you get to reading this, you’ll know that you have friends out here to back you up. Keep on painting.


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