The arid terrain mat I made for the Sudan project using caulk and canvas was a first attempt at a homemade mat. Despite a few bumps along the way I ended up happy with the result. The next job was to create pieces to add as terrain and scatter to dress the table for a game. Looking at period paintings and sketches the terrain in the Sudan looks generally flat but is broken up with distinctive rocky outcrops and it was some of these that I wanted to make first.
I've seen railway modellers using cork bark to make cliffs and thought I would try my hand at something similar. I looked for bark at local garden centres and found a bag of pine bark pieces that were about 25-30mm long and appeared as though they would make a good starting point for boulders.
As it comes the bark needs some treatment before it can be used for terrain making. From the warmth and condensation in the bag it was fairly obvious that there was living matter at work, after all, the bark is intended to decompose and provide fertiliser to plants. The best solution I could find was to dry it out in a very warm oven for an hour or so which seemed to do the trick.
I made up two pieces initially, really as a proof of concept and to be sure the method would work. I was really impressed how once painted the bark takes on the appearance of rocks. The layers of bark look remarkably similar to layers of sedimentary rock and that looks just right at 28mm scale.
Photographs of the Sudanese desert show a much darker colour to the rocks and one from the same colour palette as the sand (no surprise really given the sand is probably no more than the eroded residue of the rocks themselves).
So I tried painting them a darker brown colour followed by a dark wash. These looked much better and with that I settled on the colour scheme before beginning the more ambitious pieces.