Saturday, 31 March 2018

Let's start at the very beginning .....

A very good place to start ....

My "painting journey" (How pretentious, and I'm not even an artist!), began many moons ago, and like many, I've evolved through the usual phases of Humbrol enamels, black undercoat, acrylic layering etc.

About 10 years ago (about the time I started trying (badly) to make figures of my own), I started to think about what I was trying to achieve with the painting, I took it back to first principles and have experimented and evolved my technique ever since. In these posts I'll try to progressively explain why I do things in certain ways, whilst we walk through the painting of the unit. I'll try to keep a balance between "boring" text and images (likely to be more explanation at the start), but let me know if I'm saying too much!

I would argue that to make a figure look great, you need to achieve three main objectives, depth, colour, definition (other things may come to mind as I ramble on! 😄

So, all figures start with .....

Undercoat or Primer

Most folk, painting most things, start with a white or at least "light" primer. The reason is fairly simple, most paints don't fully mask the colour underneath them (unless you put them on very thick or in several layers). The colour underneath "bleeds through" and impacts on the colour on top. That's why most paintings, walls etc start white and then get painted on top. Not many of us would undercoat a wall black before painting it a light yellow for example.

So why do so many figure painters undercoat figures black? The answer is easy ..... it's a bodge, it's a quick way to create depth and definition by allowing some of the black to show through at the edges. However it's very crude in both respects and it directly impacts on our third objective colour. I would also argue that you can make a figure with a black undercoat "decent" fairly easily, but it's actually quite hard to make it really "good".

So ...... it's white then? Well err yes, but, as most folks painting figures know, a white undercoat is a pain, miss even the smallest bit and it shows and looks crap, also, while it helps with colour, it adds nothing to depth and definition.

So, the solution?

Mine is to Prime white, but then wash over with a suitable darker colour, which, importantly only lies in any strength in the creases and edges. Doing this "helps" us with all three objectives. The wash doesn't overwhelm the white primer, so it still helps us with the "colour", the lining effect which the wash gives us helps to create "definition" between different surfaces, and the gradation it produces on wider surfaces and curves helps to create a degree of "depth".

So in the next step on our figures I have washed over with an Oil paint and Liquin mix, in this case the Oil Paint is Winsor &Newton Raw Umber Artists Oil Colour

Shown for illustration is our first company of the rank and file (who are being painted in parallel with the command, so we'll alternate between the two as we go).

Next time I'll talk more about paints and show the next steps ....


Friday, 30 March 2018

Building a new unit

I'm just about to commence creating a new unit for my slowly evolving C18th project based in Italy in the 1740's (Great period and theatre, much overlooked), and thought it might be informative to folk about how I go about it.

I'll start with the unit composition, and run through painting, basing, making the flags, the whole shooting match. At my rate of progress that'll likely be progressively over the next couple of months of hobby time (I'm not rapid, but like to think it's quality not quantity! 😉 )

So, first things first, unit composition .....

Unit Composition

My units are put together for use with "The Wargame" rules by Charles Grant (other rules for this period are available ..... they're just not as good! )

So the basic infantry unit is 48 rank and file, yes that's considerably more than are a lot of folk are used to painting for a unit, but they do look damn good when complete. They also help deliver the mechanics of manoeuvring linear warfare units on the table very effectively (far too many wargamers love their "nippy" units way too much!)

Now in Charles's rules, the morale/command/cohesion of a unit is represented in the officer figures, for a line unit this would be four officers at one point each and a Colonel at two points, giving six points in total. Now, one of the things I really like about John Ray's fabulous collection is his use of vignettes to augment the visuals of the big units on the table. I therefore do use Charles's points system, but don't have them as single figures. Rather I create 5 Vignettes (typically of a couple of figures) to represent the equivalent "points" outlined above. Still keeping up with the "thread"? Good 😊

So my unit will have 48 rank and file and 5 Vignettes, in this case, The Standards, the Musicians, two times an officer with accompanying NCO, and a Colonel (mounted) with a supporting officer on foot.

In this case that will make 60 figures in total (I can here the exclamations already! Stick with me and I'll convert you)

Unit Selection

Ok, because I have the castings, and I fancy starting something new, I will paint my first Spanish/Neapolitan unit. From this point on, I will call them Neapolitan, although technically you could as easily label them as Spanish (as many of the units actually were).

Let's pick something colourful, I haven't painted a unit in yellow coats yet, which I think is an attractive option, so I've picked the Neapolitan Provincial Infantry Regt Basilicata, a pleasing yellow, with blue facings and brass/gold metalwork.


Easy! I'll be using my own! 😃 So it's Crann Tara Miniatures, Spanish marching foot figure for the rank and file, with command made up of a combination of French command figures (Not made by me) and various Savoia figures lightly tweaked to suit.

The Start

So, figures selected, ideas around the vignettes worked out, I then prep the figures with Halfords spray white primer. And here are the command

So we have (L to R) the Musicians group, The standard bearers and NCO for protection, The Colonel (sans horse) and foot officer, Standing Officer and NCO with Halberd, and Advancing NCO (and officer who's advanced off screen slightly)

Next .... The painting begins ....

(I know this has been text heavy, but trying to give a bit of background to what I'm trying to do here)

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Ted Suren - a largely forgotten figure making Genius

Not been "Blogging" for a long time, my web activity been pretty much focused within the bounds of the "A Military Gentleman" Forum for the last few years. Sadly that has now closed, so I've been reflecting on what (if anything) I do internet wise from here.

Still made and painted a reasonable number of figures (for my speed) over last year or two, but not been posting anything. We shall see.

Anyway, just finished painting a few Ted Suren figures for an upcoming C18th campaign. This chap in particular I think is just an outstanding sculpt. So much life and character, has anybody ever done anything better at this scale?