25 January 2015

The Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Musketeers after Painting Sessions #3 and #4. . .

Here's where things stand after a couple of nice painting sessions this weekend.  Time now for red facings, turnbacks, and various smaller details.

Moving along reasonably well with the current crop of 20 or so figures, which are being painted in uniforms worn by the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach contingent of the Ernestinisch Infantry.  Drummers, according to a couple of sources I am referring to, wore brown laced coats faced red hence the rather odd color of the drummer at left. 

An old illustration from a packet of German cigarettes, I think, that matches pretty closely the written Kronoskaf 'Project Seven Years War' description of one possible drummer uniform worn by Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach drummers.

So far, I am not displeased with the way things are going, but my new bottle of Liquin Original is not imparting the flow qualities to my alkyd oil colors that I've become used to in the two years since I began using it.  Grrrrr. . .   So, it took rather a long time to work the thinned Prussian Blue onto and around the coats of the figures.  Might just have to visit the local arts and supply store and see if there are other brands of similar mediums available. 

Anyway, the figures still look rough around the edges, but adding red facings and cleaning up the shoulder belts should neaten them up a bit.  Time to begin painting a bit more carefully now.  Then, muskets and barrels, musket slings, cartridge pouch badges, and sword/bayonet scabbards, hair, etc., etc., etc.  Possibly, just possibly, I might come very close to wrapping these up during the week.  We are still early enough in the college semester that extra time in the evenings is still available although I get first papers from my various classes at the end of this week on Friday, January 30th.

On a related note, I've finally worked out a basing scheme for my line infantry units of 60-80 figures that will help speed things along on the table during those all too rare games.  It's a combination of Pater Gilder's basing scheme laid out in In the Grand Manner but adapted to work with the larger units from Charge!  Or How to Play War Games. . .   one of my personal wargaming touchstones for many years now.  Remember that in the latter, a company of line infantry consists of 19 figures. . .  16 enlisted men, an officer on foot, an NCO, and a drummer.  

Here's what I'll do to adapt that to Peter Gilder's basing scheme.  Basically, multiple bases measure 60mm wide x 40mm deep and hold eight figures each.  I'll have two such bases per company, with the officer stuck to one.  The two NCOs per company will remain singly based to form a third rank.  Drummers, of which there are three-four per battalion for units of 60-80 figures, will be based in pairs to occupy their place on either flank of the battalion.  That means that I'll need to paint up a few extra musicians at some point for my 60-figure units, divided into three companies.

The colors, mounted officer, Regimental Sergeant Major, and another foot officer will occupy a slightly smaller base that can assume it's place in the midst of a marching column, or in the middle of a firing line, or in the center of the rarely formed square.  I've tired to strike a balance between actual Prussian formations/drill from the SYW period and, as mentioned previously, Young & Lawford's approachon the one hand, and Gilder's on the other.  

I actually began rebasing most of my existing units in this general direction a couple of years ago, using In the Grand Manner dimensions and configurations, so it won't take too much occasional work to standardize things even more over the next year or two.  I've always liked unbased figures, mind you, but it simply takes too long to move multiple units of them around the tabletop, and time for games is such a rare thing anyway, so my plan seems like a reasonable compromise.  In any case, it should help immeasurably with set-up, play, and tear-down.

If all of this reads in a convoluted way, and I fear it might, the photograph of the current company above gives some indication of where things are headed.  Questions and comments from interested bystanders and more experienced wagamers are, as always, most welcome.

-- Stokes


I also managed to tack down my Black Hussar 18th century Lutheran pastor and several Suren ladies of ill-repute to an irregularly shaped base yesterday in preparation for evenutal base-coating and painting.  I plan to call the finished vignette something like "Pastor Kurpjuhnait Confronts the Bawds" or something similar.  More on this at a later point.

19 January 2015

Evening #2: The Second 20 of 80 FIgures. . .

Still lots to do, but at least they are starting to look like small men.  Sort of.

Two good painting sessions today, the second to last day of a rather long Christmas and Winter break from school.  The first was actually this afternoon, as the Young Master played in the outer room of Zum Stollenkeller and periodically asked to come into my inner sanctum to see what ol' Dad was up to.  The second, concluded a short while ago, about 9:15pm here.    

Anyway, the brushwork completed today really just paves the way for the more interesting colors over the next couple of evenings, which will really help this batch of figures come alive.  For now, painting was limited to fleshtone, gray undercoating of eventually black areas (ala Peter Gilder and Doug Mason), and the green figure bases.  Next up, and in this order, I'll apply the following thinned Winsor&Newton Griffin alkyd oil colors:

1) Ivory Black to hats, shoes/gaiters, scabbards, and cartridge pouches
2) Yellow Ochre to breeches and waistcoats
3) Prussian Blue to coats
4) Cadmium Red (or maybe Scarlet Lake) to facings, turnbacks, and coat tails

Then, it will be onto small details like muskets, musket straps, gun barrels, etc., etc., etc.  Mercifully, the mid-18th century RSM95 figures, while realistically proportioned and rather nice in most cases, do not have much in the way of extra pouches, bags, straps, buttons, and badges that require painting.  Certainly, nothing like, say, most Napoleonic figures on the market in 2015.  I figure the four numbered items above will take me two-four evenings if there are no 'real life' snags along the way before getting to the rather limited detailing.  We'll see.  

It is the final day of vacation tomorrow, and then I'm dropped back in the soup as of 9am Wednesday morning.  Sad to see the break end, and at the same time rarin' to go.  I always have mixed feelings about the end of vacations and lengthy breaks, but that's life I suppose.

-- Stokes

18 January 2015

Second Batch of 80-Figure Infantry Regiment Started. . .

Here they are, the second batch of infantry with the new, improved General Phillipe de Latte and his sidekick Major Paolo di Biscotti in the background.

Despite a few difficult days, for various reasons, I've managed to get my syllabi updates finished, have set up my course Moodle pages online, and basecoat the 21 figures and two horses above since roughly 11:30am this morning.  Amazing what you can do if you set your mind to it, and the start of the next semester looms.  

Monday is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States, so no school for either the Young Master or his parents tomorrow.  I might, then, be able to squeeze in a couple of good painting sessions depending on how the day goes.  This particular batch of figures will be based on the uniforms worn by the Sachs-Weimar-Eisenach contingent of the Ernestinisch Sachsen infantry during the SYW period, more or less.   Below, you can review the various period illustrations -- from the New York Public Library's online Vinkhuijzen Collection -- that I'm using as a painting guide along with information from the Kronoskaf Project Seven Years War website.

When this current batch is finished, I'll reward myself by painting the small vignette of that most notorious of post-SYW cads and bounders, the French mercenary-adventurer General Phillipe de Latte and his aide de camp Major Paolo di Biscotti.  Then, I'll return to the third batch of 19 figures in the planned 80-figure unit.  Let's see how things progress over the next few weeks, shall we?  And somewhere in there, I've got to paint up two dozen or so Minden pioneers before they gather any dust.  As usual, too much to do, not enough time to do it, and then there is this thing called 'real life' that keeps getting in the way of everything.

-- Stokes

16 January 2015

Kurmainz Grenadier Company Officer and Drummer Done. . .

All ready for shiny acrylic gloss and basing in the next couple of days.

Not my best painting by any stretch, but they're done and just waiting for the final couple of steps.  Sadly, I've got a four-hour professional development seminar of teaching research and writing to undergrads on campus tomorrow morning, so that will delay everything else by a few hours.  And we just learned today that the wife of a neighbor couple we a close to has had her Cancer return, and it has spread throughout her system -- not the kind of news anyone wants -- so we might spend some time with them tomorrow afternoon, and see if there is anything we can do to assist.  Suddenly, toy soldiers seem rather less important.

-- Stokes

Kurmainz Grenadiers Update. . .

Almost there with the Kurmainz contingent.  Nothing fancy, but decent looking, unfussy painting.  It's difficult to observe here, but the green bags hanging from the bearskins have gold tassels and careful gold lining along the outer edges.  I wasn't going to add the latter, but green and gold look so pretty together.  And they are grenadiers after all, you know!  The cartridge pouches were also given small brass badges in the center.  The painting hand was especially steady that evening.

Well, the long Christmas break is coming to a close.  Between enjoying our snow by teaching the Young Master the rudiments of cross-country/Nordic skiing in a couple of local parks, syllabus updates for the new college semester starting next week, and some related professional development activities on campus, there hasn't been much free time the last week or so.  But I did manage to sit down and work on the mounted officer at left last night for a couple of hours.  This evening, if all goes well, I can finish the drummer and officer on foot, and then it's time for the usual two coats of acrylic glossy varnish, and classic, early Peter Gilder-inspired basic basing before starting the next batch of 20 figures.  

This next group will have blue, Prussian coats (RSM95 figures again), and be based on the uniform apparently worn by the troops of Sachs-Weimar-Eisenach (red facings, straw or yellow small clothes, etc.).  They were part of the Ernestinisch Saxon infantry, a unit made up of small contingents from the various Sachsen duchies.  Some of their uniforms resembled Austrian infantry in color and cut, while some resembled the Prussians.  Some of the latter, apparently, wore coats with the skimpier Prussian cut, but these were nevertheless white rather than dark blue.  In any case, the 80 or so figures will make a colorful composite (and fictitious) infantry unit in the Grand Duchy of Stollen milieu with the Kurmainz Grenadiers above forming their elite company

Now, the eagle-eyed among you might notice a couple of Minden Austrian standard bearers lurking at the background.  As soon as some Front Rank cords and tassels arrive, I'll purchase piano wire at the local hobby shop and do "proper" standards.  Besides other hobby goals this year on the ol' mental list, I've decided that 2015 will be the year that I gradually replace most of my old infantry standard bearers with nicer Minden figures, add the cords and tassels, and painted paper standards.  That's the plan at any rate.  Blather, blather, blather. . . 

Up to this point, said standard bears have been rather squeezed looking old 25mm MiniFigs.  As I've continued painting and adding to the collection over the last 8.5 years (Yes, really!), these have begun to look out of place with the slimmer RSM95, Minden, Fife&Drum, and Revell plastic SYW figures that make up most of my units.  The Minden figures will look nicer heading up everything, even the plastics I think, and won't stick out like sore thumbs.  While I still really like the old true 15mm MiniFig Napoleonics (and other ranges), their 25mm lines strike me as somewhat less than elegant.

At any rate, each line infantry battalion -- there will be ten of these in another year or so, one more 60-figure regiment after current large one -- will eventually have two standard bearers by the way, a colonel's color and a company color.  At some point, I'll do something similar for the cavalry units although I do know that each squadron will receive it's own guidon or standard.  We'll see how things progress.  Maybe in 2016?  The reflagging of the infantry, however,  should help give my infantry units a more finished and consistent look especially since I like to think that my painting has improved a tiny bit during the last eight years.  In my own mind at least.   

Happy Friday everyone!

-- Stokes

08 January 2015

Kurmainz Grenadiers Update #6. . .

Here's where we stand at 10:25pm this evening after another 90 minute painting session.

Some evenings, nothing goes right, and it's best to clean the brushes and quit for the night before one might otherwise like to.  This evening was just such an occasion.  I was all set to paint in the black neckstocks carefully beneath the jaw lines and chins of the figures pictured above.  After about seven or so, it became clear that the ol' painting hand was a bit shaky tonight, and I've now got some touching up to take care of on the faces as the final steps approach before two coats of acrylic gloss.  Grrrr. . .   So, I stopped, snapped a photograph, and here we are.

That said, I think I finally have the white shoulder belts defined enough to look passable at arm's length after fooling with them for three or four evenings.  It is, I think, a combination of the sap green glaze and that the bottom edge of the shoulder belts on this particular RSM95 figure is not defined as cleanly as it might otherwise be.  Typically, I don't have this much trouble painting in this particular detail, but then the facing color is usually much darker, which automatically means that the white shoulder belts jump out at you without much effort.

This time?  Oh, brother!  The initial white coat didn't do it, so I repainted the belts a light gray and then highlighted with more thinned white.  Still no good.  So, last night, it was very sparse and selective sepia tone (a dark brown wash really) lining with my 20-year old sable 001 brush.  This morning, early, when I looked things over as I sipped that first mug of java, the lining itself looked sloppy.  So, this evening, the first order of business was to trim in a final thin coat of white to disguise the shaky brown edges and clean things up a bit.  I think it's finally there now, and I'm calling the darn shoulder belts done.  Whew!

Last of all, before I backed away from the painting table, I managed to apply a very thin oil wash of Grumbacher 'Light English Red' (a reddish-brown actually) to the mounted officer's horse at the far left.  When I've done this in the past over the white gesso basecoat, the horses have come out very red, so this time I got tricky and toned the end result down a bit by applying a tan undercoat to the horse in question a few days ago between other painting tasks.  That little step seems to have settled the color down just a bit, and the horse should make a nice Chestnut or Bright Bay when everything else is completed.  But I haven't determined the trusty steed's final coloring quite yet.  It is less reddish-brown in person than things appear, however, in this evening's photo.

Ok.  Off to bed to read for a while before rising early to see whether preschool is in session tomorrow for the Young Master, or not.  Schools in our neck of the woods have been closed the last two days due to the extreme cold blanketing much of the United States at the moment.  

Strange.  It was much colder for much longer most winters during the five years I lived in Minneapolis-Saint Paul up in Minnesota (in the southern part of the state mind you), and people didn't seem to notice the cold there.  Used to it, I guess, and some of us crazies, it is true, reveled in the winter weather.  We had a three-week cold snap in January-February of 2004 (no one used the term Polar Vortex in those days), for example, where the thermometer rarely rose above 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  Suddenly, one day, the temperatures finally rose to the mid-20s, and there were people were walking around in the sun downtown and on campus at the U of M with their winter coats unzipped, and their hats off!  

I don't know what all of these people in Illinois are complaining about when it's a balmy 3 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to -35 degrees Fahrenheit BEFORE the windchill is even factored into things.

-- Stokes

04 January 2015

Session Five: The Sap Green

The green facings, turnbacks, lapels, and waistcoats have been completed in one afternoond.  Whew!

A marathon painting session this cold, snowy Sunday afternoon (sadly, not yet enough on the ground for cross-country skiing), so four hours plus spent in the painting saddle carefully applying thinned Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd Sap Green.  As usual, a healthy dollop of Liquin Original mixed with a fairly small amount of the Sap Green.  As I gain experience using oils for the bulk of my painting, I find that less color and more Liquin -- No precise measurements, you know.  It's all done by sight and the seat of my pants. --  seem to yield better results, making the color easier and faster to apply and helping the pigment to settle in recessed areas while running somewhat thinner of raised parts of the figures at the same time.

Today, I used a #2 round synthetic Grumbacher 'Goldenedge' brush and went rather slowly to minimize errors that might need later touching up.  Everything went reasonably well, and besides cleaning up a few edges along some of the white shoulder belts with some later sepia brown lining, there are very few areas that will require retouching after the green has dried during the next 18-24  hours.  

Still lots to do, of course, before we can call 'em done, but the back of this particular mini-project has been broken, and it's simply smaller thing now like muskets, barrels, and bayonets, musket slings, wigs/hair, mustaches, the drummer's drum and shoulder wings, etc.  Maybe another two-four painting sessions before I can apply the usual two coats of acrylic gloss finish to these figures, set them aside, and move onto the next company-sized batch of 20 figures in this monster composite regiment of RSM95 infantry.   

Meanwhile, back in real life, the new college semester begins on January 21st for yours truly, so let's see how far along I can get with these before then.  You know, it'll be the same old song and dance as far as available free time goes once I am about five or six weeks into the term.  As the saying goes, I'd better get [painting] while the gettin's good!

-- Stokes

Another one of the several references, a grenadier of the Kurmainz (aka Wildenstein) Regiment, that I am using to inform my painting of the current batch of figures.

03 January 2015

Third and Fourth Night's Painting: The Whites

Starting to come together a bit more with the current batch of figures.

Things have gone so quickly and smoothly so far that we were bound to slow down considerably when it came to applying white to the coats and shoulder belts as well as touching up areas that are destined for eventual Sap Green with additional dabs of (total absence of) color.  So, two consecutive and tedious evenings applying white, somewhere between a wash and damp-brushing in consistency, have produced coats that are a very, very light gray, almost white on the raised areas really.  

The mounted officer and standard bearer in the back row were given an extra application of white on the shoulders, upper arms, and chests to make their coats a wee bit brighter as one would expect for officers, who usually wore better quality garments.  And then it was time to touch up the cuffs, lapels, waistcoats, and turnbacks in preparation for the Sap Green facing color, the same shade of green used for General von Bauchschmerzen's lap blanket and Uhlan de Saxe escort.  We are taking down the Christmas trees this evening after the Young Master's bedtime, so no painting this tonight however.  The next session will have to wait until Sunday afternoon.

Speaking of the Young Master, guess who spent quite bit of time standing at my left elbow asking about everything under the sun about painting these figures, and the three bright desk lamps, while I worked?  The Young Master it was.  He is also quite taken with the recently finished General von Bauchschmerzen vignette and asked various times when the general might appear once more, and whether or not his stomach ache was gone.  Finally, before we retired upstairs for the evening, the Young Master asked me to show him how to paint soldiers when he is older.  Yes, indeed.  Father and young son had a pleasant couple of hours chatting about soldier painting as ol' Dad plugged away.

Anyway, we have a date to play with the knights, dragons, and castle, which Santa Claus brought for Christmas 2013,  -- augmented with a few new pieces this Christmas -- after supper this evening before his bedtime, so I'll wrap things up for now.

-- Stokes

The Yong Master improvised his own version of General von Bauchschmerzen using several of his knights, horses, and a couple of small wooden building blocks for the carriage as we played together on his bedroom carpet following supper this evening.  Reminded me of when I was a boy, but it's even better now fooling around with YMP and his kit. 

02 January 2015

The Second Night's Painting. . .

Here's where we are with the current 23 figures as of midday Friday.

Managed to squeeze in a couple of painting sessions last night, a longer one followed by a shorter one later.  As indicated in my last post, I have managed to complete the application of fleshtone, Yellow Ochre, and Ivory Black to the requisite areas of the regimental command (lurking in the background) and the Kurmainz grenadiers in the foreground.  Very pleased with the Yellow Ochre on the breeches now that it has dried.  It looks less tan than I feared while applying it and more mustardy yellow, which is what I hoped.  Just fine.  

Next up, judicious damp-brushing of white onto the coats -- taking care to leave plenty of the tan undercoat showing around the edges -- and then Sap Green on the facings, turnbacks, waistcoats, and bags hanging from the bearskins.  Then, it will be time to begin picking out smaller details with the usual Citadel and Ral Partha acrylics.  If I'm not careful, these might be almost done before Monday next week.  Keep your fingers and toes crossed!

The four regimental command figures will be painted to represent the four contingents that will eventually make up this 80-figure  monster regiment.  So, the mounted colonel will also sport the uniform of the Kurmainz regiment (more or less), while the other three figures will have uniforms based on those worn by the contingents of Saxe-Hildeburghausen, Saxe-Coburg, and Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. . .  a.k.a. the Ernestisch Saxon infantry.  You can read about them in some considerable detail at the Kronoskaf Project Seven Years War website.

Otherwise, the Grand Duchess and Young Master are baking a batch of blueberry muffins upstairs in the kitchen, and the house smells delightful.  Looking forward to enjoying a couple of this a bit later with them. Tomorrow, we take down he Christmas trees and put everything away.  A bit sad, yes, but it will be nice to have everything straight once again, put away, and the floors vacuumed and/or swiffered.

-- Stokes

01 January 2015

2015 Starts with a Bang. . .

The current batch of figures underway.

Managed to snatch about two hours yesterday evening -- New Year's Eve here -- for some early painting of the first 23 figures of the monster composite regiment. When you have a small child, and your usual babysitters (female students) are away for Christmas Break, it's difficult to make plans.  However, the Grand Duchess and I opened a bottle of sparkling wine just before Midnight and drank most of it before hitting the hay an hour later.  Funny.  I can vividly recall staying out all night a few times during the first half of my 20s when it came to New Year's Eve celebrations.

 The wonderful old Knoetel illustration (the Kurmainz grenadier at far left) on which I'm basing the RSM95 Austrian grenadiers above at far left.

Anyway, the figures currently under the brush above will be painted, more or less, as grenadiers from Kurmainz by the way, so white coats, straw breeches, green facings, turnbacks, and waistcoats with black bearskins that have green bags.  I've opted to use the usual Sap Green from the Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd Oil range since it is a very pleasant, somewhat muted green once thinned with Liquin Original.

The most exciting painting last night involved applying a thin wash of green latex paint -- the same color used for my tabletop actually -- to the figure bases.  The gray undercoats on the shoes/gaiters, bearskins/hats, and cartridge pouches went so easily, that I decided to go on to the bases before calling it a night here in Zum Stollenkeller at 10pm.  

This evening after supper and the Young Master's bedtime, it will be onto applying thinned alkyd oil fleshtone to faces and hands and a wash of thinned Alkyd oil Ivory Black over the gray items painted last night.  And maybe either an acrylic tan undercoat to the coats. . .   or thinned alkyd oil Yellow Ochre to the breeches.  The latter makes a nice tan-straw color over a white basecoat when thinned enough with the Liquin.  If things go rapidly, I might even attempt to do both.  We'll see.  

Yes, indeed.  Right now at least, it seems 2015 is off to a promising start.  Happy New Year everyone!

-- Stokes


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