11 November 2018

1914-1918. . .

A field of poppies.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism, nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. . .  In saying ‘our interests first and who cares about the others,’ we erase what a nation has that’s most precious, what makes it live, what is most important: its moral values.” -- French President Emmanuel Macron

-- Stokes 

28 October 2018

We Once Went to War. . .

Along with millions of others, my maternal grandfather and various great uncles -- Methodists, Episcopalians, a Baptist, and one Catholic -- once went to war almost eight decades ago, in part, to stop the sort of thing that happened yesterday.  On Saturday during religious services at The Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an individual with a history of antisemitic behavior murdered 11 people: 

Joyce Fienberg, 75, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, David Rosenthal, 54, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69, Richard Gottfried, 65, and Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86.  

During the first half of the 1990s, I used to catch the bus to and from college daily just up the street from this particular temple in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood where you might think this kind of thing would never happen.  Have we learned nothing?   

-- Stokes

30 September 2018

Red Facings and Turnbacks Finally Finished!

Here's where we stand now with the second squadron of (Germanic) horse grenadiers in cuirasses and bearskins.  That's not a warped base in the rear row, but rather a hardened dollop of super glue dripped onto the cutting mat ten or more years ago that causes the slight lean of one particular pair of cavalry figures and mounts.

Very quiet here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen during these last couple of weeks.  The usual encroachments of life into free, uninterrupted hobby time you understand.  

It's pointless cataloging the various impediments to painting since school began again a month ago.  There has to be an easier way, but, as yet, I have not figured it out.  As lamented any number of times here before, by the time The Young Master is tucked in at 8:30 in the evenings, I simply want to collapse into bed myself and not do anything but read or binge on the latest British or Australian TV series that the Grand Duchess and I watch via Netflix or Amazon. 

In any case, I have managed at last to get the 'red' distinctions finished on these 14 figures plus the usual retouching of the blues and white shoulder belts after the fact.  I think I'll tackle the white wigs and queues next with an undercoat of light tan followed by a sparing highlight of white on top of that before coming back to the white straps around and atop the valises at the back of the saddles.  

Still not feeling like the back of the current project has been broken yet, but we're getting there.  At some point, I'll need to pull up my socks, tighten my belt, and simply get on with attempting a dapple grey for the trumpeter.  This particular horse has been in its undercoat of medium-dark gray for quite a few weeks now without anything further being done to it.  It's high time to do something about that.

-- Stokes

16 September 2018

A Mountain Is Really Just a Series of Small Hills. . .

The figures in question, looking not so very different from their last Kodak moment in August.  Isn't it funny how the figures seem like lifeless blobs of metal and paint for so much of the painting process?  At some point, however, there will be one key step completed that breaks the back of a project and makes them spring to life.  Hopefully, I'll get there before too much longer.

Or so went the wisdom in the war adventure Snow Treasure (1967), a film adaptation of the Marie McSwigan novel by the same title, all about secret efforts by Norwegian school children to transport gold bars out of the country following the German invasion of Norway in April 1940. 

A mountain (large task) is really just a series of small hills.  This is how I prefer to think of figure painting , especially during those times when progress slows down to a glacial pace.  

And so the small painting hill yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and again in the evening was to do the black leather stocks around the men's necks, apply Ral Partha 'Leather Brown' to riding breeches, the long waistcoats that peek our from beneath the black cuirasses, and the same color to the riding gauntlets.  Following the Young Master's bedtime, I returned to highlight these same areas sparingly with the same color lightened with white.

This is where things are this (Sunday) morning.  Still not much to look at, but we're getting there slowly and steadily with the second squadron of my composite unit of SYW-era horse grenadiers in bearskins.  

If life is kind today, and I can get through planning for tomorrow's two classes, I'll grab a small brush and that medium-dark gray I am so fond of to apply sparing highlights to the toes of riding boots, sword scabbards, and cuirasses.  Cross your fingers!

-- Stokes

09 September 2018

Experiments with Camera & Light Tent. . .

Two photographs of Eureka Miniatures' "Oh, you're so awful!" vignette, painted by yours truly in June 2018.

After a busy Saturday putting finishing touches on some hobby-related projects (not actual painting or gaming I fear), and whipping up a batch of delicious spaghetti meat sauce in the late afternoon, I retreated back down here to Zum Stollenkeller Mk. II for a couple of hours to play with a camera and my light tent kit.  You might recall that the latter was purchased via Amazon after Christmas and the New Year last January, courtesy of an online giftcard from my parents.  

Took about a dozen or so photos of the above vignette, two of which seemed good enough for some minor editing (basically just clicking on 'Auto Levels') and cropping in Pixlr online.  Not quite Orson Welles, Anthony Mann, or Edward Dmytryk quality as far as deep focus (depth of field) is concerned, but we're getting there.  

A useful trick seems to be backing off the zoom a bit, which keeps more items within the frame in sharper focus rather than the tiny camera brain zeroing in on a single point.  The lady in the peach dress and her larger table are sharpest if you look very closely, but the items and figures around her aren't too fuzzy.  Of the two, the lower photograph seems best.

My tendency has always been either to zoom in too much with the lens, or get the actual camera too close to the subject in an effort to fill the frame.  Frustratingly, that almost always throws off the focus with modern cameras and devices that "think" for themselves.  I believe that Henry Hyde discusses just this point somewhere in his chapter on photography within The Wargaming Compendium.  

Instead, you can fill the frame by cropping your photograph(s) in post-production using a photo editor like Photoshop Elements or similar.  Currently, I use Pixlr online, which does the few things I need plus a whole lot more if you have the inclination and patience to figure it all out (I don't).  But focus is the main thing to, ahem, focus on when taking pictures of your figures and/or tabletop set-up. 

Anyway, these two shots seem to be a move in the right direction.  Now, I just need to figure out the larger Sony camera body and lenses that were passed on to me last spring when ol' Mom upgraded her photography gear. 

-- Stokes

02 September 2018

The Heroes of Borszchardstadt. . . Starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris!

"One o'clock and all is we-ell!"  Or is it?  The sleeping Village of Borszchardstadt somewhere in the Mark of Schleiz a contested territory nestled between The Grand Duchy of Stollen and its nemesis The Electorate of Zichenau. 

Borszchardstadt from the south at approximately 1:15am on the morning of 2. September 1763.  No, those are not Dalmatians grazing in the background but rather a small herd of 1/64 Holstein cattle.

Our heroes lurking in the woods south of the village.  From left to right: Captain Pedersen from the Stollenian Corps of Engineers, Corporal Heinrich 'Heinie' Rahnzahn from the 1st Musketeers, the legendary Oberfeldwebel Klatschen from the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers, and Gustl 'The Kid' Goshen, who volunteered to come on this mission chiefly because he idolizes the older and more seasoned Klatschen.

Our band emerges from the woods at the start of the game and makes its way carefully across the fields northward toward Borszchardstadt for two turns.

They reach the village warehouse at last at the start of Turn 3, where, according to Stollenian agents, gunpowder has been stockpiled by the enemy.  Captain Pedersen takes several minutes to spring the lock on the doors.

". . . And I would hold thee, and kiss thee, and love thee fair Hildegard.  La-dee-dee, la-dee-dee, la-dah-dee, la-dah. . .  Eh?  There now!  There now!  What's all this then?"  Our heroes are overheard by a sentry, who rounds a corner by the church at the village crossroads just in time to see the men entering the warehouse.  The sentry sounds the alarm with a warning shot and repeated cries for help.

Our heroes barricade the doors behind them quickly during Turn 4.  Oberfeldwebel Klatschen and The Kid take a couple of potshots out the windows at the approaching Flickenhoffer Fusiliers while Captain Pedersen and Heinie dash upstairs and set the charges intended to blow up the stockpiled gunpowder.

In Turn 5, Klatschen and The Kid take down two of the approaching fusiliers as Pedersen and Heinie make their way to the top floor to lay and set the last of the charges.  "For the love of God, hurry up!  We can't hold them off much longer!" shouts Oberfeldwebel Klatschen up the ladder to the 1st floor.

A full company of the Flickenhoffer Fusiliers arrives in strength during Turn 6 and begins trying to force the barricaded doors.  Reinforcements are close behind them.  Klatschen and The Kid let loose another couple of shots but hit nothing.  Luckily, the heavy walls of the warehouse manage to protect them from the clatter of enemy musketry that now fills the night air.

The charges set at the start of Turn 7, all four of our heroes make for the loading door at the rear of the uppermost floor where they jump for dear life, hoping to land in a pile of dirty straw on the ground below at the rear of the warehouse.  But oh no!  Heinie lands wrong and brakes his right ankle.  "Go on without me!" he screams to Pedersen and Klatschen, who are already well on their way.  The Kid is not as lucky.  He makes his way to his feet after landing in the straw pile, but Gustl's young body is riddled by several enemy musket balls, and he falls the ground.  Expired. 

Musket shots buzzing wildly in the night around them during Turn 8, Pedersen and Klatschen hightail it south back across the fields toward the safety of the woods south of Borszchardstadt.  Will they make it?

During Turn 9, two companies of the Flickenhoffer Fusiliers give wildly disorganized chase when suddenly. . .

The night sky lights up brilliantly for an instant as the explosive charges laid by Pedersen and the now captive Heinie go off.  The mission has been a success and the Zichenauer gunpowder cache at Borszchardstadt is destroyed.  But at what price?  Poor Gustl (aka The Kid).  He only came on this mission because he so looked up to the grizzled Klatschen.

Captain Pedersen and Oberfeldwebel Klatschen live to fight another day and make their way into the woods at the start of Turn 10, just before 4am by the captain's pocket watch.  The two easily evade the enemy search party sent after them and within hours rejoin their escorts, a company of Stollenian jaeger who wait three miles to the south.

Captain Pedersen -- Kirk Douglas
Oberfeldwebel Klatschen -- Richard Harris
Heinrich 'Heinie' Rahnzahn -- Maximillian Schell
Gustl 'The Kid' Goshen -- Horst Bucholz

Stay tuned for additional description of the wonderfully fun little skirmish game I set up last night late and played this (Sunday) morning after coffee and breakfast, using just a few rules from The War Game and making up a couple of others as I went along.  For a short while, I was a slightly more organized 10-year old again without a care in the world except for my game of toy soldiers.

-- Stokes

31 August 2018

Blues and Bags Done. . .

Blues and red silk bags done, red facings and turnbacks next, but I should probably finish up the metal bits on the horse tack before that.

A spectacular late summer evening here, cool, sunny, with just the sound of crickets in the background.  A perfect time for an after dinner family bike ride around the neighborhood, or The Tour de Cul Sacs as we call it.  The Young Master had so much fun that he requested we go around twice.  We were away an hour.  The longest he has ever ridden on his own bike under his own power.  It was the most fun I've had since the three of us were out on cross-country skis together last winter.  

Following his bedtime this evening, I stole back down here to Zum Stollenkeller Mk II to finish up the True Blue highlight on the jackets.  Metal parts on the horse tack tomorrow, which shouldn't take too long, just small dabs of paint really, so I might take out three small shrubs in a couple of beds before the sun sets tomorrow evening.  Ahhhhhh. . .

-- Stokes

A Saturday Morning P.S.

We have picked up another couple of followers in recent weeks, bringing the number to 250.  Welcome, and I hope you enjoy reading about my various (mis-) adventures at the painting table, the lately very occasional game, and other hobby-related topics of interest.  Sometimes, things get a bit whimsical here, and I veer wildly off-topic, but we'll try to keep things mostly in the realm of toy soldiers.  Anyway, glad to have you following along.

28 August 2018

It's. . . The Final Day of Summer Vacation!

The blue squadron of my composite cavalry regiment with silk bags newly highlighted with Scarlet on top of darker Cherry Red.

Sadly, today is the final day of summer vacation 2018.  Classes begin tomorrow bright and early at 8am for yours truly with my Henrik Ibsen and Society course on social problem plays since the late 1870s.  

Syllabi have all been revised and uploaded to the cloud where students can access them after 1am Wednesday morning.  I've also uploaded various supplementary readings to the respective online course schedules and grade pages.  It has been a flurry of activity around here for the last two weeks, which explains the slow-down in painting and related updates here.  

However, I have been able to return to the painting table during the last couple of days and pick up where I left off back on August 12th.  After finishing the medium-dark gray highlights on the black leather horse tack yesterday, I decided to give myself a break and see to the much easier dark blue coats and red silk bags atop the squadron's bearskins.  If there is time this evening, I'll either add the light Royal Blue highlight, or begin the many small silver and brass bits of metal on the horse tack.  We'll see how it goes.

The first few weeks of the term are fairly easy as far as my workload goes, so I hope to squeeze in an hour or so pf painting most evenings before free time disappears about Week 5 when the first round of student projects will be delivered.  Until then, a few more glorious weeks of relatively free evenings and weekends.

-- Stokes

12 August 2018

Another Painting Update. . .

Still not much to look at, but the horses are starting to look more like, well, horses in this second squadron of horse grenadiers.

I've spent about six hours over the last couple of days working on the horses, painting white markings and hooves, plus applying black GW acrylic black to the boots and bearskins of the riders.  I'll go ahead and work on the horses now until they are finished before returning to the troopers and trumpeters.  

The next couple of steps will be the application of that medium-dark gray as a highlight to the horse tack plus the silver and brass oils to the bits and buckles of said tack.  The bald-faced horse in the front row (third from the left) will also get some fleshtone around its nostrils and lips.  I also need to work on the trumpeter's horse to prepare it for dappling.  Lots to do over the next several days then!

-- Stokes

11 August 2018

One of those dreams. . .

A pair of historic British infantry standards, which help to illustrate today's off-topic post rather nicely.

It's been some time since I have had one of those dreams.  Relax boys!  I mean a toy soldier dream that I remember the next morning.  

My dream last night was a little different in that it was actually a painting table dream, and I was painting. . .  A gosling green infantry standard for some Napoleonic battalion with green facings.  Can't recall which regiment, but in the dream I was actually adding lighter green highlights to some of the folds, and there were 50 or so red-coated figures already on the table in the background awaiting their glossy coats of varnish.  That's all I remember.  At some later point, I woke up.

Profoundly disturbing, and it can mean only one thing.  At some subconscious level, I am thinking of Napoleonics once again.  "Madness" to borrow a word from Young and Lawford's Charge! Or How to Play War Games.  Someone.  Anyone.  Help me!  Please.

-- Stokes


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