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

09 August 2018

Paint a Dappled Grey and a Dark Grey. . .

Basic Horseflesh. . .

A thin glaze of the alkyd oil Ivory Black over a medium-dark gray acrylic undercoat yields a pleasing basic black horse which can then be tailored by the random addition of white markings, hooves, and the occasional flesh-colored nose or lips.

After a few evenings off doing other things, I buckled down and spent two sessions yesterday afternoon and again in the evening applying a glaze of Winsor & Newton alkyd oil Ivory Black to the rest of the horses in the second squadron with the exception of the trumpeter's horse, which will get a lighter treatment with some additional dappling if I can pull it off.  Need to think about how to do that though. 

This morning early when I stole down here to Zum Stollenkeller Mk. II with that first mug of coffee before anyone else was up, the air was faintly redolent with the aroma of oils.  Ahhhh.  Not everyone's cup of tea, of course, but to me, this is one of the most pleasant side effects of using this particular medium to paint figures.

This evening, besides applying black to the boots and bearskins of the humans, I'll apply some antique white acrylic to the trumpeter's horse and then see where things stand with that.  Afterwards, for the next few evenings, I'll work on the horses and get those more of less finished before turning my attention back to the horse grenadiers themselves.  The new semester begins three weeks from yesterday (Wednesday), so time is of the essence!

-- Stokes

04 August 2018

Test Figure Finished!

Three edited images of the test figures (after Auto Levels, brightening, and cropping) to make everything a bit easier to see.  I almost think this second batch will be more fun to paint, and turn out even better, that the first batch.  I spent two sessions today undercoating the horses in medium-dark gray,  Tomorrow (Monday) evening, a glaze of Ivory Black alkyd oil thinned with Liquin Original.

Three shots of the almost finished test figure(s) for the second squadron of horse grenadiers.  Thought the trooper still needs some light dry-brushing of medium-dark gray on the upper parts of his bearskin, I must admit that I am pleased with the way he and his trusty steed have turned out so far.  I especially like the effect of the metallic oils and the fleshy upper lip of the horse.  

Yes, the horse's lip.  In much the same way that men's neckties enable us to personalize our more formally attired selves just a bit, hoof colors, white markings, and the odd pink nose/lip allow us to impart a bit of variety to our figures.  This is especially important when all of the horses in are one single color, as is the case with this batch of 14.  Just one more way to add a bit more glitter and panache to that metal or plastic cavalry.  The trumpeter in this squadron will be mounted on a different horse, however, a lighter grey that I plan to undercoat with an antique white, dry-brush with bright white, and then attempt some dappling here and there.

The tack on the test figure above relatively easy this time around since the horse was already painted black, so it was simply a matter of adding the leather brown stirrup leathers and girth plus the medium-dark gray highlight to the rest of the tack and then tiny dots or dabs of either silver or brass where necessary.  Horse and musket-era cavalry, even fairly staid fellows like this one, ought to have some glitter about them in my view, which the oils provide rather nicely.  And no.  No recordings of Slade, Sweet, T-Rex, or (shudder) Gary Glitter were used in the painting of this test figure.

As with the previous scarlet-coated squadron, a nice toy solider effect has been achieved here, and a lot of progressing as a figure painter is learning when to stop.  So, stop I will and set this figure aside for a few days for the tiny oil bits to dry while I jump headfirst into the remaining 13 figures.  

Sadly, syllabus revisions and preparation for the autumn semester are looming on the horizon with all that entails.  Classes resume again on Wednesday, August 29th, so my relatively unstructured days and evenings are approaching their end for another summer.  I want to get, therefore, as close to finished with these 30 cavalry figures and horses as I am able before the end of the month.  

Then, there are just  a few model buildings to construct, the fourth part of my summer painting and modelling plan outlined in May you might recall, before the first student projects roll in near the end of September during Week Five of the term.

-- Stokes

02 August 2018

Another Test Figure Underway. . .

Two views of the current test figure after a couple of happy hours or so at the painting table.

I spent some time, after my usual summer evening walk around the neighborhood, in the painting chair yesterday (Thursday) at work on a single test figure for the second squadron of 14 horse grenadiers.  Everything is pretty simple and even mindless at this early stage.  For instance, the blue coat and saddle cloth began with an undercoat of very dark Ral Partha 'Dark Blue' with some judicious 'True Blue' highlights on top of that.  The silk bag atop the bearskin has been given a quick slop of dark 'Cherry Red,' which is later highlighted with 'Scarlet.'  A few of these recently purchased cheap craft paints have their uses.

The horse was painted with a very, very thin glaze of alkyd oil 'Ivory Black' over an acrylic 'Zinc' undercoat, a color I would describe a medium gray.  He appears a wee bit dark in these photographs, but the horse's musculature comes out nicely in person, though I think I might try a lighter gray undercoat on the rest on the squadron's mounts.  I might also try 'Paynes Gray' for the wash on a second horse to see how that looks before I dive in headfirst and tackle the rest.  

At any rate, things should begin to look a bit more, well, interesting on this test figure after additional parts are painted this evening.  Stay tuned!

-- Stokes

The Ral Partha 'Dark Blue' above is one of two remaining bottles that I purchased as a graduate student more than 20 years ago from a now long gone gaming store on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin where I lived while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Amazingly, it just keeps going and going as does its partner bottle of 'Leather Brown.'


 Two versions the uniform worn by The Royal Cravate Cavalrie from Kronoskaf.  The lower 1753 version is a bit simpler and thus perfect for the second squadron of my composite regiment of horse grenadiers.  Both serve as the inspiration behind the current test figure and planned second squadron of my composite regiment of horse grenadiers.

01 August 2018

Metallics Done!

 No question about it.  You just cannot beat oil-based metallics for their glittery brilliance.  Silver, gold, and brass (a nice bright mix of the first two colors) where appropriate.  The finial and cords received a heavy dry brushing of gold.

Two more, slightly better, in-progress worktable shots of the first squadron of Wurttemberg-inspired horse grenadiers with all of the metallic bits done.  All very small to miniscule, but they impart a nice glitter to the unit that was absent before this step.  The trumpet banners still need so work, but for now these 16 figures have been put in their Allen Edmonds shoebox while the remaining 14 men and horses get some TLC.  First up this evening, undercoating the horses with yellow, tan, light gray, and off-white before the subsequent oil glaze of Paynes Gray or Ivory Black.  I haven't decided which yet.  Probably best to try a single test figure before spending the time to do all of them, eh?

-- Stokes

31 July 2018

In the Midst of Applying Metallics. . .

Not the greatest photograph, but look closely, and you'll spot silver stirrups and bits along with brass rings and buckles on the halters of the horses.

A few different painting sessions today to finish highlighting the black leather and next begin applying the metallics (silver and brass oils).  To approximate spurs on the rear of the boot heels (not visible here), I satisfied that particular need with a nice small dot of silver using my old 000 sable round.  Happily, not too many flubbs with the brush today.

Just the scabbard tips and sword hilts to do, and then I'm taking a break from these for a few days to allow the oil bits to dry.  While the painting iron is hot, I'll jump to that second squadron waiting in the wings and apply yellow, tan, and maybe some orange undercoats to the 14 horses before adding the oil washes to get that multidimensional glaze effect that so nicely approximate horseflesh.

-- Stokes

30 July 2018

Highlighting the Horse Tack. . .

A close-up of the dark gray being applied with a feather touch and an old 000 sable that has served me well for 20+ years believe it, or not.

So, how are we faring with those horse grenadiers?  

Well, getting very near the end, or rather nearer.  This weekend, I have spent various painting sessions, usually no more than 60-90 minutes at a time given the tedious nature of the work, applying dark gray highlights here and there to the various areas of horse tack.  Yes.  I know, I know.  It's official.  I need my head examined.  

Once dry and at arm's length, however, it adds some nice dimension to the figures and the overall impression they make.  Blame the work of Doug Mason and others as featured so long ago in Miniature Wargames and early issues of Wargames Illustrated, which has always been my pot of gold at the end of the proverbial painting rainbow where my own efforts with the brush are concerned. 

Just a few more brush strokes -- dabs really -- to get the bridles highlighted, and then silver and brass oils for the stirrups, bits, and various tiny buckles on the bridles plus the two trumpets.  Then, touch-ups, trumpet banners, as well as the cords, tassels, finial, and colonel's standard.  Little by Little if you'll excuse the mid-1980s Robert Plant reference.

-- Stokes

A Painting P.S.

Yes, there are indeed a few tight spots when painting cavalry already mounted in pairs to their permanent bases, but anything to reduce the number of steps necessary before the figures are all done, you understand, since the number of miniatures is effectively doubled when tackling riders AND horses.  

Good lighting is a must, of course, and when working on smaller bits, I try to think like a dentist or surgeon and look for the best angle of approach as far as the lighting and brush go.  It might not work for everyone, and it is certainly somewhat unorthodox, but it works reasonably well for me.  

However, I have found recently that the old eyes sometimes need help focusing, or take a moment to do so.  Sigh.  I fear the time for bifocals may be at hand when the next eye exam comes around this fall.  It will be time for the Grand Duchess to put me in a home for the aged (or the criminally deranged) before you know it.

28 July 2018

Now, where were we?

Here's where things stand for that first squadron of horse grenadiers this early Saturday afternoon.  All harnesses, reins, straps, etc. are finished.  Metalics are next! 

A few enforced days away from the painting table here.  The Grand Duchess and Young Master returned from their visit to the maternal grandparents very late Monday evening this last week, which, as is so often the case, threw a monkey wrench into my painting plans.  And we just have the one child.  I don't know how  men in larger families find any time at all for themselves.  It is certainly a challenge for yours truly.

It's odd how society has shifted since I was a child in the 1970s and a teenager in the 8os.  Our mother and father played with us, took us places, and did things with us when we were small.  Maternal grandparents too for that matter.  Reading to us, running around outside with a ball, bicycling, tobogganing in the snow, museums of one kind or another, zoos, amusement parks, botanical gardens and so on when were were younger, as well as the obligatory mama-taxi stuff once my sister and I were older and became involved in school-related activities (chorus, plays, sports) or music lessons.  

As far as shuttling kids around to various and sundry activities, teenagers did not, as a matter of course, get their own cars handed to them on attaining their driver's license in those days, or even get their licenses right away on turning 16.  You borrowed the family car.  Imagine that!  You asked meekly and respectfully for the keys for a few hours (because most families still had one car, or at most two) and maybe Mom or Dad might hand them over with a warning to be careful.  Do parents even issue warnings and follow through with punishment anymore when stupid, or just plain bad choices, are made by offspring?  But I digress.

We were also all great talkers in my family and spent a lot of time around the kitchen table, on the front porch, or in the shady side yard, visiting throughout each day.  Moreover, our parents and grandparents always spoke to my sister and me like we were adults rather than in that annoying, slightly-too-loud Kindergarten teacher tone that so many adults adopt when talking to anyone below the age of 18 or so.  Listen carefully when next  you find yourself in a mixed group that includes children, adolescents, or teenagers.  You'll recognize that particular tone as soon as you hear it.  

The sort of thing I'm talking about resembles how someone might have spoken, at one time in the dim past, to the village idiot who,  in addition, knows no English whatsoever and is hard of hearing too.  You know the drill.  "And what's your name little boy?  Finnegan?  And what did you do in school today, Finnegan?  How do you like school Madison?  What's your favorite subject, Connor?  Lunch?  Oh, that's nice.  Do you have a boyfriend yet,  Addison?  No?  Maybe you should try the Tinder app?  Now, boys and girls, let's all put down our iPhones for just a moment and actually look at the person speaking to us.  Oh, that's nice.  Very good everyone."

Getting back to the subject at hand, for all of the interaction I describe above, my parents and maternal grandparents were not overly involved in every minute aspect of our lives and, significantly, they had their own interests, activities, and lives that they enjoyed pretty frequently during the evenings and weekends.  My sister and I were not the absolute epicenter of everything in other words.  For instance, my mother always had a canvas set up on an easel in a sunny spot on the ground floor of the house where she worked on her oil paintings, and my father could always be found either reading (a novel or non-fiction of some sort), tying flies, building his ships in bottles, or out fishing.  The point is, they had time during the daylight hours that was theirs.  

In 2018, children, and indeed family life in general, seem to suck up every single minute of the day.  It is relentless and even head-spinning at times.  How and when did this happen?  This constant whirlwind of activity cannot be mentally healthy for anyone, parents or children, in the longer term.

At any rate, here I am, and I have asked that I not be disturbed today and tomorrow, excepting meal, bath, evening father-son reading, and/or bedtimes, so that I might work some more on these 16 cavalry figures.  That's really 32 figures if you think about it.  Yikes!  

A few evenings ago, I reread a how-to article on painting cavalry in the 2013 or '14 Wargamer's Annual [the 2016 issue actually] , by Kevin Calder I think, that might be helpful in how I tackle the second squadron of this composite horse grenadier regiment.  He suggests painting the horses with their tack first, while one's drive and enthusiasm are high, and then the riders.  Kevin points out that this method is psychologically effective when it comes to painting AND finishing a unit rather than submitting to boredom and diving headfirst, and haphazardly,  into one of several other projects before the first one has been completed.  Makes good sense to me.  Too many irons in the painting fire at once lead nowhere except to frustration in my view.

Parenthetically, this 'painting butterfly' way of doing things was one of my biggest problems in the 1980s and early 1990s when I was in the midst of that failed 15mm corps-level  Waterloo Era project.  Ultimately, that venture petered out -- never to see the light of day -- when I returned to school in the mid-90s and time for much else besides work and my studies simply evaporated.  Live and learn as they say.

When I returned to the hobby in late 2005-early 2006, I promised myself to stick to a single period and just one painting or modelling project at a time, so that things would actually get done.  It has been hard at times, given the number of hobby butterflies out there, but I have managed to stay the course.  Some might call me Johnny One-Note, but available hobby time, or rather the lack of it, has been a deciding factor in how I go about painting and adding to my small collection.  More games and additional wargaming periods would be nice, but there we are.

Returning to the painting of cavalry figures, for some inexplicable reason, I've always started on the riders first.  Why?  It certainly makes painting all of the horse tack, manes, tails, and etc. a real chore by the time I get to those items.  Kevin Calder is certainly not the first figure painter to recommend approaching cavalry in the way he suggests (horses first), so I don't know what my problem has been.  I suppose if you crash headfirst into that figurative brick wall enough times during many years of figure painting that, eventually, you figure out it might be better to move two feet to the right or left where you may then walk more easily through the doorway.  Again, live and learn as they say.

-- Stokes


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