17 December 2014

Pontonier Painting Update #3: The Whites. . .

That's it!  The whites are done except for one or two very small touch-ups on shirt collars and/or cuffs.

Here's where we stand this morning.  We're decorating the Christmas trees this evening, but I hope to get in a bit more brushwork -- maybe simple stuff like the boards and hand tools?  Or perhaps the wigs/hair on the men? -- this afternoon before we do that after supper.

-- Stokes

Apropos tree-decorating, here's another old Swedish Christmas card illustration from very early in the 20th century.

16 December 2014

In the meantime. . .

An old-fashioned Swedish Christmas greeting that features a charming (and very traditional) straw goat.

Took the evening off from painting yesterday, but back to the painting table this early afternoon.  You know, procrastinating and delaying getting to that next batch of student papers.  And wouldn't you know it?  The darn battery in the camera needs to be charged.  Grrrrrr. . .   Tune in again late this evening (we have a wedding and reception to attend) for an update on those Minden pontoniers who are coming along -- wait for it -- swimmingly.  In the meantime, enjoy this seasonal greeting card from Sweden.

-- Stokes

14 December 2014

Pontonier Painting Progress Update #2. . .

Here is where things stand this late Sunday morning.

You know, it's funny.  Sometimes it seems almost like figures paint themselves, and that has been the case so far with these Minden pontoniers.  Painting is, most of the time these days, a real chore, especially since free time is such a rare commodity.  However, the ol' brush and painting hand have been fleet of foot this weekend.  Yes!

The next step later this evening after a preschool Christmas presentation, in which the Young Master is singing (hopefully), will involve damp-brushing white on various shins, calves, shirtsleeves, and the exposed chests and tummies of those figures who have unbuttoned vests/waistcoats.  Then, it's onto the boards and oars as well as various smaller details like hair, stocks, buttons, and shoe buckles.

The uniform depicted is imaginary, but my painting has been informed by various Kronoskaf illustrations of Hanoverian artillery and engineers as well as Bavarian artillery.  

For those who might be interested, oil colors used thus far include: Fleshtone, Ivory Black, and London Yellow (Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colors) and an ancient tube of Grumbacher Manganese Blue that once belonged to dear ol' Mom, along with healthy doses of Liquin Original to thin small blobs of these colors down quite a bit and help then flow nicely over figure surfaces.  Bases have been painted with two thin coats of Citadel Goblin Green (when it was still labeled as Goblin Green).

-- Stokes

And here is today's seasonal illustration, from Sweden this time, depicting 'Tomten' delivering gifts and goodies to (presumably) good little Swedish boys and girls.  I wonder if there are any Holger Eriksson figures in his sack?  The letter J is for 'julgran,' the Swedish word for Christmas tree.  The Norwgians are more straightforward -- some might say characteristically blunt -- and use the more obvious 'juletre.'

13 December 2014

Pontoniers in Progress. . .

The current unit under the brush, now well and truly in-progress.

Well, the painting muse has decided to kick off her shoes and stay a while, so I've struck while the iron is hot and done a lot of work on the 24+ Minden pontoniers during yesterday evening and early this Saturday afternoon.  Still lots to do, but at least they look like tiny humans now.  Be sure to tune in again tomorrow, for another painting update.

-- Stokes

And here are the four designated oarsmen, cemented permanently into place within their pontoons and more for display than gaming purposes.  Whoops!  Just noticed that they still need their fleshtone applied.

Last of all, here is a seasonal image, depicting Santa Lucia, who brings brings delicious saffron buns called lussekatter (and coffee) to sleeping parents in Norway, Sweden, and possibly Denmark on December 13th each year.  The Grand Duchess (assisted by the Young Master) will bake a batch for us later today as a seasonal nod to her own Swedish ancestry.


The Young Master is five now, so this is the year.  I've dug out the large box containing all of my old green and blue plastic soldiers, tanks, and guns.  Some of these are 40+ years old now, and I enjoyed many years of imaginative play with them before they languished unused for several years once I discovered things like girls and guitars during middle and high school.  I finally packed them carefully away sometime during the summer of 1985.  Flash forward to 2014.  Among his other gifts beneath the tree this Christmas, these will be waiting for the Young Master.  They will become his now, although I suspect he might ask ol' Dad to play along once in a while.

11 December 2014

The Pontooniers Are Underway!

The current work-in-progress. . .   Two companies of ragtag Minden pontooniers.  The homemade oars should look a bit better once everything is painted and glossed.

Classes are now over for the fall term (Hurrah!).  Form here, it's just reading a bunch of papers, most of which I've seen once or twice already in draft form, from three classes as well as tallying up everything and submitting final course grades online over the next week.  Tedious, yes, but freedom from having to read or re-read course material, plan, and prepare for classes makes all of this end of semester stuff much easier to get through.  You can do grading and enter final grades online in your pajamas if you want to, right?  

Usually, with grading there are very few surprises by this point too.  The students who have been diligent and engaged all semester typically produce much better work throughout the term than those who have sat "at the back of the room," literally or figuratively speaking, so it makes things pretty easy most of the time.  Of course, there is the occasional student who comes from behind at the last minute to pull off decent work and a reasonable passing grade, but in almost 20 years of working closely with undergraduates, I've seen this happen less than a handful of times.

Which is just a long way of saying that I had a couple of free hours last night following the Young Master's bedtime and, so I retreated down here to Zum Stollenkeller for another mug of after supper coffee and to apply a second coat of white acrylic gesso to those Minden pontooniers.  These are a pleasing mix of civilian and military laborers as well as a few Austrian artillery crew wearing coats and equipment slung over their shoulders.  The four oarsmen in the foreground still need their second coat of the stuff, but I'm pleased with the evening's progress. 

I opted for this odd assortment of figures to approximate a hastily formed and ragtag mix of men that form the pontoon train of a very minor social and political backwater -- either The Grand Duchy of Stollen, or The Electorate of Zichenau -- in my semi-fictitious mid- to late 18th century Europe.  If all goes well, this evening, I'll undercoat the areas destined to be black (hats, shoes, and gaiters) with gray, and also apply my usual fleshtone alkyd oil thinned way down with Liquin Original.  And we're off!

Behind the pontooniers, by the way, you can see various new command vignettes, including the new and improved General Phillipe de Latte and his aide de camp Major Paolo di Biscotti at far left, as well as the perpetually unsettled General von Bauchschmerzen lolling about in his whicker carriage.  He is next in the painting queue after the pontooniers are finished.  

The Young Master gets a real kick out of coming into the Stollenkeller and asking questions about von Bauchschmerzen.  Since he now speaks good German thanks to the efforts of his mother, The Young Master understands the play on words about tummy aches although he insists, through snorts of laughter, that the good General's ailments will improve with time.  We know differently however, don't we?

-- Stokes

07 December 2014

Heute war Stollentag (Today was Stollenday)!

Fresh from the recently delivered stove, the first stollen of the 2014 Christmas Season.

Well, I just sampled a slice of freshly baked, yeasty, and authentic Dresdener Stollen with some fresh black coffee post-supper and following the Young Master's bedtime.  The Grand Duchess and the Young Master, who assisted, outdid themselves this year!  For his part, the Young Master was more interested in consuming the gingerbread man I purchased and brought home for him when I was at the local cafe reading and grading student papers this afternoon.  Naturally, the head was the first thing to go from our poor, unsuspecting Mr. Gingerbreadman once he was presented to the Young Master after supper before we cleared the table.  

Long-time visitors might recall that the idea for the Grand Duchy of Stollen was hatched right about this time way back in early December of 2005.  The Grand Duchess was baking an early stollen to share with her German students one Saturday afternoon while I doodled away across the hallway of our old apartment in my old office, aka The Purple Room.  At that point, I was giving free reign to my imagination, cooking up plans for fictitious mid-18th century combatants in much the same spirit as the late Brigadier Peter Young and Charles Grant Sr.  When suddenly, it hit me. . .  One of my two perpetually warring countries would be called The Grand Duchy of. . .  Stollen!

Over the next few months, the idea took firmer shape as I threw myself headlong into the 18th century, reading more about the actual War of Austrian Succession and Seven Years War, their personalities, campaigns, the armies involved, and their delightful uniforms.  Here we are nine years, and several hundred 25-30mm figures later.  If only free time weren't so rare and precious though.  It seems like I either have time only for painting, or very occasional gaming, or writing about some feature of it, but rarely all three at the same time.  Much like real life, finding the right balance seems to be a challenge.  I don't know how greats like Donald Featherstone seemed to manage it.  But, ah well.  I'm enjoying myself at any rate, and that's the main thing.

And now, if you'll pardon me.  It's back upstairs to the kitchen for another slice of stollen and a refill of coffee.

-- Stokes

06 December 2014

Leuthen Day. . . a Day Late. . .

An atypical seasonal image: Ol' Fritz speaking to his officers before the Battle of Leuthen began in earnest on 5 December 1757.

When Mom is away. . .   The Grand Duchess has taken a bunch of her students to the annual Kristkindlmarkt in Chicago today, so it's just the boys around the house on a dark, windy December Saturday.  After breakfast, I thought the Young Master and I might take a walk downtown to one of the cafes there for some hot chocolate and a cookie of some kind for the boy plus the usual observations and conversation about whatever happens to catch our eyes along the way.  Then it's back here to Stollen Central for whatever Saturday activity the Young Master might imagine for himself.  Ol' Dad will, at some point, retire down here to Zum Stolenkeller for some painting time -- basecoating 24+ Minden pontooniers with my usual white acrylic gesso -- and final assembly of the Minden/Westfalia Maurice de Saxe carriage vignette. 

 The next several items in the painting queue here at Stollen Central.  

Before signing off for today, allow me to provide a few more details about the middle photograph above.  Along the back row, the new General Phillipe de Latte at far left, currently awaiting the arrival of his ADC Major Paolo di Biscotti, who should be with us any day now.  Skipping over the partially painted and head-swapped RSM95 Prussian hussar officer, a recently acquired group of Crann Tara British staff (the Duke of Cumberland, the Earl of Albemarle, and Lt. General Hawley), who in my semi-fictitious Europe of the mid- to late 18th century will become Lord Huffington-Blather and his officers, all three on loan from the Army of Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg (also known as Hanover), who oversee the pontoniers to their left and before them in the mid-distance. 

And last of all, a decidedly less martial and more characteristic seasonal image: December 6th is Sankt Nikolaustag in the German-speaking world and, no doubt, in some other cultures as well.  Sometime in the night of December 5-6, Sankt Nikolaus visits homes and leaves small treats in the shoes of boys and girls.  Sankt Nikolaus visits our household each year and leaves a number of small goodies in a pair of the Young Master's shoes. . .   and yes, in Mom's and Dad's too.

Finally, in the foreground, we have the exquisite Minden-Westfalia collaborative vignette, featuring Maurice de Saxe (aka General Alfons von Bauchschmerzen) and his whicker carriage, which needs only its traces attached before base-coating and painting can commence.  Von Bauchschmerzen, besides suffering from perpetual tummy problems, is the officer in charge of Stollen's recently completed supply and pontoon train.  Can't wait to begin painting ol' von Bauchschmerzen and his coach as well as his uhlan escort(s)!

-- Stokes 

01 December 2014

Today is December 1st. . .

The Holstein Gate along the way from the train station into the old center of Lübeck , Germany.  My thoughts always turn to this sleepy North German city as Christmas and Winter approach.  It looked much like this the first time I visited the old Hanseatic capitol during January and February of 1986.

While there will continue to be plenty of in-progress photos of model soldiers during the month of December, I will occasionally share seasonal photographs and illustrations as I've done in previous years here at the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog.  While I always grow nostalgic for my formative years in southeastern Pennsylvania as Christmas approaches, at the same time, I also wonder it might be like to spend Christmas and New Years in some  of the places I've fallen in love with over the years.  Lübeck is one of those, to me, magical places.  That special blend of the past and the living present.  Maybe one day, the Grand Duchess and I can arrange something special for the two of us and the Young Master there, and we could invite our Berlin friends to join us for Christmas Week?

In the meantime, planning for the Christmas holiday begun in earnest, and the Young Master should be surprised and pleased come Christmas Morning.  It's funny how once you have a child , their delight and happiness become paramount.  In no way do I advocate raising overly pampered, spoiled brats, of course, but within reason it is terrific fun, from a parent's point of view, to provide them with a few nice and fun things when occasions like birthdays and Christmas roll around each year.  You know, besides the obligatory underwear and socks.

On another seasonal note, and you'll pardon me I hope, but I have heard Justin Bieber only once on the radio so far this Advent season.  Some tune called 'Mistletoe.'  I must admit that I am now ready to wretch until there is nothing left to bring up.  I ask you. . .  Who in all of God's creation hath wrought this inexcusable dreck and pablum on the eyes and ears of humanity?  There are plenty of rock and pop artists around in 2014 who display genuine talent or some other redeeming quality, and I try to keep an open mind.  But I fail to see any such features where young Justin is concerned.  Ugh!

But back to wargaming.  Two Austrian 12pdr. cannon, just released by Minden Miniatures arrived with the mail earlier this afternoon, and they are wonderful little castings, which seems kind of an understatement.  I made a small contribution to Jim 'Der Alte Fritz' Purky's Kickstarter campaign to help finance the production of the new range of Austrian artillery, and received these in return.  The new guns, once painted, will replace a couple of the older MiniFig guns in the Grand Duchy of Stollen collection, which aren't bad, but they don't hold a candle to the Minden guns.

Last of all, I was letting my mind wander, as you do, late yesterday afternoon, considering how I might use the recently arrived Crann Tara Duke of Cumberland figure along with General Hawley and the third guy.  Then, it hit me.  They can serve as the officers in charge of those two companies of Minden pontooniers due to be painted shortly.  Ladies and gentlemen?  Say hello to Lord Cadfael Huffington-Blather (and his two aides), an English mercenary of dubious origins, as well as a veteran of the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, who serves in the Army of Stollen, or, occasionally, that of Zichenau. depending on how the wind blows.  

It's funny what sometimes comes to you when thinking about other things.  Clearly, part of my mind wanders while reading and grading student papers.  At it's best, the activity is almost thrilling as the more conscientious and/or better writers walk you through their arguments and related discussions.  "Yes!  That's it!" you think to yourself.  And at its worst, reading undergraduate writing can be akin to having bamboo shoots driven beneath your fingernails.  Or maybe like having needles driven into your eyeballs?  It's definitely not for the faint of heart when you get a string of barely formed , to say nothing of coherent and cohesive, ideas typed into a computer file and printed onto paper at the last possible minute.

Ok, time to do something real, like maybe read and grade a few more student papers.  Or make a pot of fresh coffee.  Hmmm.  I like that second idea.

-- Stokes 

30 November 2014

Lightbox Photos of the Last Six Carts, Wagons, and Teams. . .

 No doubt, the huge casks carried by this wagon contain some sort of cheap rot-gut, which the soldiers of Stollen and Zichenau will nevertheless enjoy during the approaching Christmas Festival.

The first of two wagons that carry loads of lumber used  by the pontoon train.

This French Napoleonic caisson was generously donated by our very own Master Conrad Kinch late last summer.  Thank you again, Conrad!  It fits in well with everything else.  I didn't bother staining the sand with my usual wash of acrylic Raw Umber, and you don't really notice much of a difference, so I might just dispense with that particular step in future where command bases, vignettes, or future wagon/cart additions are concerned.

This horse cart carries a payload of items cobbled together from various bits and pieces -- two large barrels of coal, two small casks, three different chests, and a large sack of flour -- added during the last ten days or so, once painting, glossing, and basing were completed.

You can't assemble and paint up an 18th century supply train without including at least one oxcart, can you?

And finally, here is the second lumber/bridging timber wagon.  The various wagons, carts, teams, and drivers/drovers shown here come from a number of different 25-30mm (or, indeed also 1/56th) manufacturers, ranges, and periods (in the case of the lumber wagons which are for the American Civil War). . .  but I think they all work together rather nicely.

Next up in the painting queue?  Glad you asked, Mr. Kinch!  26 or so Minden pontooniers, including a couple of extra pontoons which are being punted into position by four of the gentlemen in question.  If the painting muse and Father Time are kind to me, I might be able to basecoat these tomorrow evening following the Young Master's bedtime.  Onwards, and upwards!

By the way, and if interested, you can review the second batch of wagons by clicking here, and revisit the first batch completed last summer by clicking here. No more vehicles, horse-drawn or otherwise, for a while. . .  barring Colonel von Bauchschmerzen's (Maurice de Saxe's) wicker carriage of course!

-- Stokes

Tomorrow is December 1st although today is the first Sunday in Advent according to the calendar.  To those of you who observe, Happy Advent Season!

29 November 2014

Lightbox Photographs of the Sutleress Vignette. . .

A better photograph of the various and sundry supplies stacked behind the sutleress tent.  Bundles, barrels, and bales of stuff along with a hammered tin lantern on top of the pile.

Here are two final photographs of the sutleress vignette, taken in the 'ol foamcore board lightbox a short while ago, this time against my preferred neutral light blue background.  The figures are, as mentioned many times already, from the various sub-ranges of 30mm Suren (Willie) figures.  The supplies and provisions come from several different manufacturers, including Minden Miniatures, Eureka, and (I think) Foundry.  The table and tent were scratch-built with white card for the former, copier paper for the latter, and bits of toothpicks.

Except for the alkyd oil fleshtone, everything was painted with acrylic washes over a base of white acrylic gesso.  Two coats of acrylic gloss varnish were then applied to everything in the vignette as and when it was finished.  Last of all, the base was finally treated with sand (stained with a Raw Umber acrylic wash) and then Woodland Scenics fine grass scatter material was added with several clumps of tree foliage glued atop that, to approximate clumps of weeds.  Now, I don't know about you, but I feel like some fresh bread, cheese, and wine looking at the various goodies these ladies are displaying for sale on their tabletop.

-- Stokes

And here's a fairly nice shot of the front side of the same vignette, showing various foodstuffs atop and beside a scratch-built table made from two layers of thick white card and bits of toothpicks for the legs.


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