01 July 2008

I'm just a dancin' fool!

Our salsa dancing class last night went pretty well for the first session. There are about 24 people in the class, mostly couples of all ages from late teens to middle age, which was nice to see. We practiced three dances, the salsa, the meringue, and another whose name escapes me right now.

Synchronizing your feet with the different 4/4 or 2/4 beats is a bit challenging to say the least, but we had lots of fun, and the hour was up before we knew it. It’s amazing how unbelievably warm you become when doing all of these Latin moves. Si, mi amigos -- muy, muy caliente! ;-) Guys, if you can find this kind of dance class, sign-up and surprise your wives, partners, or girlfriends by taking the course with them. They will really enjoy it.

Meanwhile, back in the Grand Duchy of Stollen, I finished undercoating the latest batch of soldiers (the Revell plastic Prussians) with Games Workshop Chaos Black late last night and began applying Goblin Green to the bases as promised. Only twelve figure bases to go this evening, and then I can move onto hair/wigs and the flesh tone. Another photo will follow once these steps have been completed. In the meantime, you can see how things have progressed so far in the photo above.

A couple of you posted some interesting questions yesterday with regard to this latest unit of figures, so let’s address those in turn. First, there was an inquiry about why I use artists’ acrylic gesso for basecoating instead of normal paint. Well, as you know, many of my figures are 1/72 (soft) plastic figures. One of the complaints about this type of miniatures is the difficulty in getting your paint to stick to plastic. Enamels, like those made by Humbrol, will flake off the soft bendy bits, for example swords, pikes, and spears.

The answer is to use a paint accepting, flexible basecoat onto which you next apply either oils or acrylic paints, which also have some "give" to them once dry. Initially, I tried the commonly suggested thinned wash of white Elmer’s glue, which seals the figure and provides a surface that accepts paint. But I found that this step took a bit too long and was just too much work to cover the figures thoroughly. So, back to the internet I went and discovered that some plastics enthusiasts used white acrylic gesso, a product normally used to pre-treat canvas and other surfaces painted by artists.

Gesso is a great way to prepare your figures prior to painting for several reasons. One, it goes on fast. You can slop on a fairly thick coat, but it will dry bone white without obscuring any detail on the figures. In fact, I like it so much that I now use gesso to basecoat all of my figures whether metal, or plastic. Second, the gesso sticks to the soft plastic that so many 1/72 figures are made from and at the same time imparts a degree of rigidity to your plastic figures. Because it is acrylic, gesso also flexes with the bendy bits on those figures, rather than cracking and flaking off, like enamels are wont do. Third, gesso provides excellent “tooth”, a fancy way of saying that paint sticks to it well.

So, that’s the reason I use gesso as the very first step in my painting process. By the way, you can buy a bottle of it at almost any art or craft supply store these days. Give it a try. You'll like the results.

The next question asked how it felt to be working with plastic figures again after that unit of RSM95 Irish grenzers and a couple of generals. Well, not that different, I guess, following the laborious removal of moldlines with an X-acto knife! Seriously though, once that tedious step is out of the way (the RSM metal castings are always so nice and clean that you can get down to painting business without too much trouble), there’s really no difference in the way I pre-treat and paint all of my figures now.

The only minor difference is, of course, that the plastic figures lack the same “heft” of their metal cousins. As one of you observed here a few weeks ago, my painting style seems to have developed in such a way that it provides some visual consistency between the various figures in the Grand Duchy of Stollen collection. So, when looking at the finished product, it’s not always immediately apparent whether a group of figures is metal or plastic until you pick them up in your hand.

Ok, time to end all of this long-winded and pompous professing. I’ll bet you didn’t quite expect a dissertation in response to your questions, did you? That's always the danger of asking someone about his pet project! I just blather on and on and on and on. . . until you have big X’es in your eyes and all four feet up in the air. Geeze Louise, no wonder the Grand Duchess gets that glazed look in her eyes from time to time!


Fitz-Badger said...

Not too long-winded, and I wouldn't've asked if I didn't want to read the answer.

guy said...

hi Stokes,

I have been using a huge bottle of black gesso when undercoating my Revell troops.I couldn't find white. I agree with all your comments. To prep my figures I wash them carefully in washing up liquid, give them a v light wash of water and white glue and then slop on the black gesso. The gesso does seem to shrink/contract on the figure so the detail is not lost. The black gesso does mean I can skip the black undercoat stage although I do touch up some of the black parts later ie boots and hats when highlighting/shading. I have experimented by throwing a completed figure around the room and the paint does not chip.

Congratulations on the salsa. A work collegue is a great enthusiast and she thoroughly recommends it. On a similar train of thought a friend many years ago gave a fantastic impromptu demonstration of tap dancing at a party. A great talent when performed well.





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