22 November 2014

Just the Clear Acrylic Varnish Left. . .

Here's where things stand with the last few items for the supply and pontoon train.

Snatching bits and pieces of available time yesterday and today to get those RSM95 and Minden pieces finished and varnished.  I worked through the painting process a bit ***backwards this time around just to shake things up, so the alkyd oil fleshtone on the faces needs to dry before I can apply two coats of glossy acrylic varnish and then attach the five drivers, currently astride a paintbrush and a pencil, to their previously completed teams and do the groundwork for the caisson and four-horse team in the background.  

Except for the oil-based fleshtone, all of the figures and horses shown above have been painted with acrylic stains and washes over a base of my usual white acrylic gesso (two coats) this time around rather than the usual treatment of oils thinned with Liquin Original and acrylics for some limited detailing.   I used Liquitex Flow Aid to thin the various Citadel and old, old, old bottles of Ral Partha colors used.  

The more eagle-eyed among you might also notice that I've skipped picking out small metal details on any of the limber horse harnesses, straps, and so forth in this last batch of figures, opting instead for my now usual wash of dark brown over the white basecoat.  And I've left it there.  That method of painting the "leather" items involved looks convincing enough in 25-30mm.  Moreover, I, for one, don't notice much difference once everything is done.  Not worrying about picking out admittedly tiny details like bits and buckles, likewise, speeds up the painting process form start to finish without a dobut.  Stay tuned for more photographs once everything is completely finished.

Then, it will be time to get started on those two companies of pontooniers in the distant background, General von Bauchschmerzen and his wicker carriage, before finally moving along to that long-planned 80-figure regiment of RSM95 infantry, which will join the Army of Zichenau once completed this winter.  And somewhere in there, I'd like to stage a solo game since it has been quite some time since the armies of Stollen and Zichenau took the field against one another.  Some kind of bridge crossing or wagon train scenario should do it.  I'll need to persue the relvant Charles S. Grant scenario works when the time comes.  

Of course, those three new Crann Tara mounted English general officers finally arrived yesterday from the United Kingdom, so they'll need painting before long, and then it will be time to redo the evil, twisted, and nefarious General Phillipe de Latte and his obsequious sidekick Major Paolo di Biscotti using Minden figures.  Funny how even when you think you're done, or almost nearly so, you're never really done.  Know what I mean?

-- Stokes

15 November 2014

The Last Few Bits and Pieces. . .

The final few bits and pieces of the wagon train, barring the previously mentioned Colonel von Bauchschmerzen, his coach, horses, and uhlan escort.  Von Bauchschmerzen, due to be painted next month, has in the meantime stopped off for several days in Karlsbad, to take the springs, before continuing on toward Dresden.  Once there, he is to pick up a large order of porcelain tableware ordered by his wife, Frau von Bauchschmerzen.  

Call it an exercise in speed painting this weekend.  I've got a bit of a lull for a few days before I am inundated with various student papers and/or drafts thereof, which will occupy considerable time from now until the end of the term in about three weeks.  So, I've decided to see how far along I can get with the four-horse team and the various drivers pictured above by Sunday evening.  

Cross your fingers and toes though.  The Grand Duchess has a day-long regional conference here in town all day today, so it's just the boys here at home.  I've promised the Young Master that we will bundle up and go for a walk outside after lunch with, depending on his wishes, perhaps a trip on the side to his favorite cafe downtown for a cookie and some hot chocolate.

-- Stokes

14 November 2014

Throwback Thursday. . . um, Friday. . .

The young, long-haired Stokes, referred to occasionally here.  I was about 17 (Thank you Janis Ian), and I think the photograph dates from April or May of 1984.
Not sure which one of us looks more wilted here, the potted plant, or yours truly.  In any case, there are not many photos from those heady days of the 1980s that have been digitized, but here is some evidence that might be used against me in a court of law.  

The curl is natural, assisted only by a few spritzes of Vidal Sasson hairspray (what was I thinking?), although it looks from this photo like the poodle-like souffle of hair on the crown of my head had fallen, or been mashed, by this point in the day.  Look closely, and you'll also spot a RUSH concert t-shirt.  The Canadian band was a favorite of my drummer buddy Donny (we still talk on the phone once in a while), a year ahead of me, and I admired the playing of that band's bass and keyboard player Geddy Lee a great deal at the time.  

This was also the time, more or less, when I had the bright idea of attempting to paint up 15mm corp-sized Waterloo-era forces.  Blame the late Paddy Griffith and his book Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun.  Sadly, and despite painting sporadically for the next 20 years, the project never quite came to fruition due to life, college, graduate school, and so forth.  I really must figure out what to do with those boxes of painted and unpainted 15mm figures one day!

-- Stokes

12 November 2014

Five Down and One to Go. . .

Here's where things stand as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Hmmm.  I need to be careful.  Otherwise, I might actually tick a few things off the long-term painting "To Do" list.  As usual with the ground work, I've tried to suggest minor roads, tracks really, somewhere in region of historic Courland where the Grand Duchy of Stollen is supposed to be located.  

As usual, the bases were treated with sand that the long-haired, much younger me collected from my maternal grandmother's creekbed in the summer of 1984, which was then stained with a thin wash of Raw Umber acrylic paint and a flow aid.  Then came the Woodland Scenics ground foam rubber, tacked down with acrylic matt medium, along with a few judicious clumps of foliage material held in place by careful drops of Gorilla Superglue.  Funny how terraining the bases, even a tiny bit, really pulls everything together and helps the figures and equipment to look well and truly finished.  Seems to bring everything to life in other words.  Contented sigh.  

Time now to paint that team of four horses lurking in the back row plus a few Minden drivers, for the items shown here and a couple of previously completed wagons from last summer, that are still waiting for their drivers.

-- Stokes

11 November 2014

Armistice Day. . .

American doughboys "over there" in 1918.

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. . .

-- Stokes

09 November 2014

We're almost home!

Here's a photograph of the final six wagons and carts, teams, drivers, and ox just after receiving their second coat of acrylic gloss varnish earlier this afternoon.

Contrary to any rumors you might hear, I have not been abducted by space aliens.  I have, however, been so bold as to take some time for myself the last few days since my 4-th, er, um, uh. . .  29th birthday and get back to the painting table.  Time to wrap up those last few wagons and carts that are part of what is becoming a rather formidable supply and pontoon train.  So, that means glossing before a few tiny metallic bits are touched up and then the usual ground cover can be added.

You'll also notice that I've replaced the horses that came with the red caisson last summer, courtesy of one Mr. Kinch, with the new ones from Minden along with a civilian rider, part of the small but respectable bunch of Minden Miniatures given to me as a birthday gift last week by the Grand Duchess and Young Master.  In the middle distance, astride the rather fat paintbrush, is another such driver, this time in a round hat, who has already received his base coat pf white acrylic gesso.  After he is painted, he'll be attached to the front left horse of the brown lumber wagon to his right. 

But I've saved the best for last.  The Maurice de Saxe wicker carriage vignette, which was given to me by the Young Master, is destined to become the conveyance for my own fictitious quartermaster, who is, perpetually, not feeling well.  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present General Joachim von Bauchschmerzen (German for tummy ache), who could not be present here today due to, you guessed it. . .  a bad stomach.  Nothing that some Milk of Magnesia and a hot water bottle won't soon put right though.

It's funny how things work.  When I ordered all of these extra wagons and carts after last Christmas, when the Grand Duchess and Young Master started things off by presenting me with a few of the then recently released Fife&Drum pontoon wagons and teams, I naturally thought that would do it.  Then, later in the spring, I decided one more pontoon wagon and a few extra pontoons were necessary.  

Then, in the summer, the forthcoming Maurice de Saxe vignette came onto my radar screen, followed a short while later by a hay wagon and an ammo cart from Westfalia Miniatures, which simply look too good to resist.  If those are not beneath the Christmas tree this year, I'll order them in early 2015 and paint 'em up in fairly short order.  Then, no more wagons or carts.  Honest.  But at some point in the future, I hope to add limbers and four-horse teams plus riders for my 10-12 cannon.  Building a collection of model soldiers, even a fairly small one, is indeed a slippery slope.  Something I'm certain many of you visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen know already.

Anyway, be sure to stop back in a few day's time to see the finished final six wagons and carts, and then next weekend, I'll have to try my hand at a few panoramic photographs of the entire supply and pontoon train.  That should be an interesting exercise in miniature photography.  

Ol' Von Bauchschmerzen, by the way, is at present thought to be making his way circuitously from the family estate somewhere in Bavaria northeast to The Grand Duchy of Stollen via Nürnberg, Dresden, Berlin, Stettin, and finally Königsberg before crossing the Stollenian frontier a few days later.  He is not due to assume command of the train until sometime in December.  

-- Stokes

 And, for good measure, an Orson Wells high angle shot of same.  For what it's worth, the Grand Duchess ventured down here to Zum Stollenkeller mid-afternoon today and noted that she liked the red wagon and caisson, which she feels are a nice change from various shades of gray and brown .

Finally, here are a few more of the recently received Minden civilian laborers who have just had their bases pared down, so that they will stand in two extra Fife&Drum pontoons.  After a fashion, they will have punting poles added to their hands and become part of the 26-strong (two companies) Corps of Pontoniers.  In the distance, you can see their fellow pontoniers, already holding bridging timbers at the ready.

06 November 2014

Ah, another 29th birthday. . .

A rather idealized portrait of the Duke of Cumberland.

Today is again my "29th" birthday -- funny how quickly these seem to come around -- and, in celebration, I've ordered myself three new Richard Ansell sculpts, sold by Crann Tara Miniatures in the United Kingdom.  With any luck, the Duke of Cumberland, Lord Albemarle, and Henry Hawley, plus their steeds, should wing their way to my doorstep before too many days elapse.  Once here, they'll form another wonderful little staff vignette, which I'll paint up during the long Christmas Break.  I'm looking forward to it.  Can you tell?  The remaining six wagons and carts are just about done by the way, and afterwards, there is a rather large regiment of RSM95 infantry in the painting queue.  Sigh.  No rest for the wicked!

-- Stokes

Later. . . 

Thank you for your kind birthday wishes, everyone!  It has been a low-key, but nonetheless joyous birthday celebration.  In silent observance of the occasion, I even wore a recently acquired double-breasted, drape cut wool flannel suit in cream and charcoal Glen Plaid to campus today.  Admittedly, I felt a bit less like Cary Grant and more Jimmy Cagney, or perhaps a young Edward G. Robinson (but taller), albeit without the requisite fedora and nickle-plated heater inside my coat.  "You dirty, rat!  You killed my brother!  Yeah, you!  See?  Yeah!" 

Undoubtedly, I looked like a complete freak to my students (we don't see too much of this sort of thing in my neck of the woods, you know), but I felt good, and this must be one of the most comfortable suits I've ever worn.  It's almost like having nothing on at all, and yet it is surprisingly warm on a blustery, raw day like we had today.  Sorry, guys.  No photographic evidence since the darn battery was dead in the camera.  Next time, ok?

An early dinner out with the Young Master and Grand Duchess followed this evening, and then chocolate cake, cards, and a few gifts at home afterwards.  These included the recently released Maurice de Saxe vignette from Minden Miniatures, given to me by the Young Master, and some of the new limber horses and civilian riders (to finish the supply and pontoon train) as well as some of the agricultural laborers, from the Grand Duchess.  As I always say, a birthday with model soldiers, especially when they are as high quality as these are, is a good birthday.  Come on Christmas Break!

And the 28mm version of the Duke by Crann Tara, soon to be making its way to Zum Stollenkeller along with Lord Albemarle and Henry Hawley.

27 October 2014

A Long Delayed Painting Update. . .

The last few wagons and carts are just about done.

This past weekend has been one of those rare three-day periods (Fall Break Day today, so no classes) where things were relaxed, quiet, and just a real joy.  A nice blend of family time, alone time, and time with the Grand Duchess.  For instance, the two of us enjoyed a campfire in the portable firepit late Saturday evening.  Chilly, dry air, a slight breeze, and the spicy aroma of woodsmoke plus warmed apple cider flavored with cinnamon sticks.  It was a delightful way to end an otherwise delightful day.

On the painting front, I've also managed to sit down to the painting table for about 90 minutes or so the last couple of evenings to work on the drovers and drivers, which, as you can see from the photograph above, are just almost done.  The horses are finished too, although their harnesses and such still require a few judicious dabs of brass and silver to suggest buckles, bits, and baubles.

You'll also notice that a few of the horses have not had riders attached, and that is because I'm waiting to get my hands on a few of the new Minden Austrian and Prussian horse team riders with which I'll finish everything.  And, darn it, it seems like some new Minden Austrian and Russian ammunition wagons and carts are poised to hit the market before long.  And you know what that means?  Yep.  The supply and logistics train that I've plugged away at since the spring of this year will absolutely  have to have a few additions.  Models as nice as those that Der Alte Fritz produces just scream "Add me to the collection!"

I might be able to steal away for some painting this evening, but it seems doubtful.  "Why?" you might ask.  Well, the Young Master turns five today, and we'll celebrate with supper (he has requested pasta with a sage & butter sauce of all things), a cake, candles, cards, and gifts plus a bit of playtime before bed since he does not have preschool tomorrow.  I got him up, dressed, breakfasted, and off to school this morning, and clearly he felt special today.  The greeting he received from his teachers and classmates was also lovely to see.  I kissed his cheek and told him to have a good morning, but I don't really think he noticed me leaving.  It was one of those moments when your heart swells so much with happiness for your child, and a bit of pride too, that it feels like it will just burst.

 The Young Master and Dad fooling around at a local park on the Saturday just gone by.

Time is such a funny thing.  On the one hand, it seems like years have gone by since I brought the Young Master and the Grand Duchess home from the hospital a few days following his arrival.  And on the other, it seems like no time at all since we were in the midst of 11pm, 2am, and 4am feedings for a little, wrinkled, squawking bundle, who refused to sleep anywhere except on his mother.  The poor Grand Duchess had almost no sleep for the first two months, and it wasn't much better for Dad either.  But time marches on, and the Young Master is really becoming quite an interesting, funny, and even charming personality.  

For example, on Saturday afternoon, the three of us visited one of our local cafes for refreshments following a couple of hours at the park.  As the Young Master and I waited at our sidewalk table for the Grand Duchess to join us with the beverages, I began speaking to him in German, the language his mother has spoken to him since he was a newborn. Although he is effectively fluent in that language at this point, the Young Master answered with, "Dad, please speak in English."  

When I countered in German, reminding him that he and I can also speak together in German, plus Norwegian, he replied in a humorous yet firm tone just as the Grand Duchess arrived at the table, "Yes, but we don't want to right now!"  Sigh.  Young Master -- 50. . .  Dad -- Zilch.  Laughter ensued on all parts in any case.

That particular linguistic slap-down aside, I cannot wait for the Young Master to unwrap his brand new Ibanez acoustic guitar after supper and cake tonight.

-- Stokes

09 October 2014

That Boy Took My Love Away. . .

This model of acoustic steel string by Ibanez is on the way to Stollen Central!

A completely unrelated post here, but I'm excited.  At the end of the month when he celebrates his 5th birthday, the Young Master will receive a guitar like the one above from Ol' Dad.  Like many children, he loves music, often requesting Diana Krall for suppertime listening when we sit down at the table together.  Sting, Peter, Paul, and Mary,  and The Beatles are among his other favorites, and he enjoys listening to me play the guitar on rare occasion.  Yours truly first received a guitar on the day I celebrated my own 5th birthday way back in 1971, and it seems like a sound idea to continue the tradition.  I think he'll be thrilled when he unwraps it.  For my part, I'll certainly be thrilled to present a guitar to the Young Master on the big day.

-- Stokes

05 October 2014

Slower Than Molasses in Janaury. . .

The now finished Prussian Blacksmith vignette, which I call 'The Thrown Show.'  Figures are from the amazing Minden Miniatures range while the mobile field forge and tools are by Berliner Zinnfiguren.  The table was scratch-built using the ends of round toothpicks for the legs and a couple of pieces of white illustration board along with very careful cutting and gluing.  Holding one's breath is always extremely helpful with tiny stuff like this.

How's the painting coming along, old man?  Thought you'd never ask.  Slower than molasses in January to be frank.  The usual stuff associated with my courses and students I'm afraid, but I did manage to wrap up an article and send it along to the people waiting on it last weekend.  I also managed to finish, finally, the Prussian blacksmith vignette above (the table and tools), and take a bunch of photographs of various things completed earlier this year to send along with the article.  

So, while no painting occurred, Saturday was a delightful late morning and afternoon of miniature photography, followed with a bit of careful editing using Photoshop Elements 9 to brighten, sharpen, correct color cast, and crop everything. Hopefully a few of the pictures might be selected for eventual publication.  

Miniature photography is almost as absorbing a pastime as painting and wargaming.  Needless to say, it is fascinating to learn about how we might present our collections to their best advantage photographically speaking, and when I think of my early attempts at photography back when the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog started. . .  Well, let's just say that my pictures have improved ten-fold during the last year or so.  Still lots to learn and try, of course, but the rapid progress is nice to see.

With that in mind, I thought I'd include one picture from yesterday's batch of the blacksmith vignette for your viewing pleasure.  As for today (Sunday), I am taking some time for myself, darn it, and will sit down to work some on the harnesses and traces of those final half dozen or so wagons and carts.  They have sat idle and patiently behind me on the painting table for the last three weeks, but I want to get 'em finished because there is an 80-figure unit of RSM95 musketeers that I want to start.  

The plan for these is to paint them as the various contingents of Ernestinisch Saxon infantry, part of the Reichsarmee, with each of the four planned companies in a slightly different uniform.  That should help keep things moving forward without too much drudgery.  I don't know that I can again face the thought of painting 80 figures in nothing but white uniforms like the two such regiments that already exist in my collection as part of the Army of Zichenau.

In the meantime, let's harness up!

-- Stokes


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