25 August 2008

A Slight Change in Direction. . .

The regiment of plastic Revell Hussars, pinned to their magnificent steeds and just about ready for a basecoat of artists' acrylic gesso, followed by my usual black undercoat.

Well, I’m putting the cuirassier conversions on hold for a bit longer. But let me explain why. You might recall that my painting progress chart update from a few days ago showed only two units remaining unpainted for the Army of Zichenau, a 30-figure regiment of hussars and an 80-figure regiment of infantry.

It occurred to me during the last few days that it might make more sense to go ahead and wrap up the painting for said army before proceeding with the rest Stollen's larger army. Mentally, having one of the armies concerned all finished by year’s end would help spur me on to keep going with the rest of the project. Not that I have ever considered stopping, but as all of you probably know already, sometimes it’s all too easy to let a BIG painting project slow down and take much longer than necessary. Hence the mental games like this that we devise to keep us going!

Now, one of you Stollen regulars asked a number of days ago about how I base coat my figures. Please excuse the delay in my response. Basically, it’s a two-step process. For both plastic and metal figures, I first apply a thick coat of artists’ acrylic gesso (available from better craft stores and art supply stores). It dries bone white, shrinks to the figure without obscuring any detail, and, because it’s acrylic, flexes with the figure without cracking like an enamel basecoat. The gesso also provides great “tooth” for the later paintwork.

Next, I apply a coat of Games Workshop “Chaos Black” over the gesso. One of the advantages of this particular brand of black paint is that it spreads over the entire figure much more easily than other brands of black paint that I’ve tried. After the entire unit has been treated thusly, you’re ready to apply the actual uniform colors, flesh tone, etc.

With a little practice, and a #1, #2, or #3 round brush, it’s fairly easy to leave thin lines of black showing between each of your colors and in the facial depressions like eye sockets, lines on either side of the mouth, and so forth. You can see examples of this technique by going back several days and examining the yellow-coated Count Pavel Petrovich von Butinski and his ADC.

The black undercoat method is a nice painting compromise for those of us who lack the time (or steady hand) to apply genuine “old school” black lining with a fine brush. By the way, GW paints contain a lot of pigment, meaning that even colors like yellow, red, and light blue don’t require a second coat to look bright on top of a black undercoat. Give it a try! You’ll be pleased with the results.

Finally, one of you asked a while back about the gloss "varnish" I use. Well, it's the not-so-very glamorous Future (Klear in the U.K.) acrylic floor finish! For very little money, you'll get a bottle large enough to varnish several thousand figures. I like working with this stuff for a couple of reasons. One, it goes on very easily and covers the entire figure with almost no effort on my part. Two, it's hard to apply too much, and if you do, it wicks off very easily when you touch your bristles (or Q-tip!) to the flooded area. Finally, there are no harmful fumes, only that lemony fresh, clean floor scent.

This reminds me of that riotous old Benny Hill spoof of floor cleaner commercials years ago where he was wearing an apron, dress, and Maggie Thatcher-like wig -- Male Voice : "Fresh?" Benny: "Yes fresh! Are you bloody stupid or something?"

But anyway. . . Other than that, there are no tricks to the way I paint, just the plain old, sometimes maligned, block painting of colors with occasional, very subtle highlighting if the color warrants it. And it works for me. The trick is in making oneself sit down at the painting desk often enough to get these big units completed in a reasonable amount of time.


Fitz-Badger said...

As I've often said, I think, you're painting style works very well on old school minis, very evocative of toy soldiers.

Grimsby Mariner said...

Block painting and black lining when done well, as here with the grand Duchy of Stollen, always looks good enmass.

Mike Siggins said...

Have you considered black gesso?

Major Wittering said...


I really love your painting style and the effect in the mass using your large units is superb. If I hadn't decided on a different route myself, it'd be a style I'd love to try and emulate.

As I've said before, one of your key virtues seems to be patience. Or perhaps diligence (= 'patience + care'). This, above all things, I've taken from your work and tried to learn from. Oh, and dedication.

Oh, and an obvious deep love of the hobby.

Oh, and a very old school courtesy in all your communications.

You're clearly an inspiration to a lot of us.

Shutting up now........


Bluebear Jeff said...

It is also worthy to note that even very short painting sessions add up rather quickly . . . as long as you are regular about doing them.

Sadly I am a "burst" painter. I paint in bursts as opposed to the regular painter . . . and just as the hare lost his race to the tortoise, I don't get as much done as you do.

-- Jeff

A J Matthews said...

Sometimes it is necessary to trick yourself in order to get on with a project and bring it to completion. ;) You do have a lovely painting style, and your collection looks great. I find painting a few figures, anything up to 15 or so at a time is enough for me. As Jeff says, even a number of short painting sessions can soon tell up.

Stokes Schwartz said...

Thank you men! Mike, yes, I have thought that a coat of black gesso would speed things up a bit. It's something I want to try soon, but I must use up my bottle of white first. You know, watching the hobby budget, minimizing waste, and so forth. I enjoy your columns in Battlegames by the way!

Best Regards,


MurdocK said...

Tricks are good!

Whatever floats the boat.

For me just having the goal and a definate deadline is a good motivator.

400+ minis in two months once Vimeiro was set in my mind.

Now I shall be working on the 5th Coalition...lots of Austrians and maybe some Bavarians!

tidders said...

Its a nice idea to get one side finished. It gives you the feeling of getting somewhere.

I built up the Monrovian and Witenberg armies in stages. I've stalled with 1 battalion left to go for each on my initial unit lists. Perhaps I don't want to finish ? Need to revise my plans.

-- Allan


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