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Showing posts from December, 2018

2018: A Year in Review. . .

The Grand Duchess and I are looking forward to a quiet evening at home tonight with a sparkling wine toast at midnight.

Well, here we are at the end of yet another Christmas season and year.  On a personal and family note, it has been reasonably good as far as years go.  The Grand Duchess and Young Master continue to go from strength to strength in their work and school activities, as does my sister with the former.  She relocated from Phoenix, Arizona back to Washington, D.C., after an absence of 20 years or so, in December 2017, which was followed in fairly short order by quite a promotion,  Good ol' Mom and Stepdad continue to tick along and have recently relocated back to the United States (Pinehurst, North Carolina), so they are a bit closer than in Merida, Yucatan State in Mexico, and my stepfather has begun his phased retirement, planning to conclude professing at The University of Pittsburgh in another couple of years. 

As for yours truly, things have been reasonably good d…

It's Aliiiiiiiive!

Not an overtly Christmasy image, but the child on skis is gazing at a particular bright star in the heavens.

Blaaggh.  I have caught The Grand Duchess' nasty cold, and have felt crummy for the last 24 hours or so.  However, I finally pulled myself out of bed, showered, shaved, put on clean crisp pajamas and some Gray Flannel aftershave before staggering down here to Zum Stollenkeller with a second mug of coffee.  I might just make it after all.  The curative powers of a warm shower and a shave.  

Hopefully, I'll feel like sitting down to the paiting table for a bit this evening and playing that small solo game on New Year's Eve tomorrow.  I've been thinking of a simple Featherstone scenario with two infantry regiments, a cavalry squadron, and a gun each.  You know.  Just to test the water and push some lead around the table for a couple of hours in a low stakes game.

-- Stokes

Carbines Attached and Some Inevitable Touching Up. . .

Here are the two squadrons together with the colonel in command and his trumpeter at the fore.

Righty-oh.  As far as I can tell, the necessary touching up is now finished.  Not too many, but there were a few tiny areas to address with some red, black, and/or white paint and my trusty 000 sable brush, which is just starting to develop a hook after about 20+ years, but it still manages to do the trick when I need it.  Plus, I needed to do the gold tassels on the silk bags of the the red-coated Wurttemberg squadron at left.  Just their carbine barrels and brass bands on the carbine stocks, then we can begin glossing everything.  I don't know about you, but I can almost hear the thundering of hundreds of hooves.  What a frightful thing it must have been to be on the receiving end of an enemy cavalry charge.

-- Stokes




Yet another quiet old Christmas greeting from long ago to stretch out Christmas Week just a  bit more.

Keeping Up Christmas Standards. . .

After holding my breath for what seemed like hours -- It was like defusing a time-bomb in some action adventure movie or other -- the standards are attached, in place, and furled reasonably well.

Spent another hour or so at the painting desk yesterday evening after tucking The Young Master into bed for the night.  Managed to snap a couple of quick photos just to give you a taste of where things stand at this point after touching up the edges of the standards with some additional GW/Citadel gold acrylic . 

I'm pleased with the way things have turned out although I had to go back and tone down the highlights on the blue standard a bit after looking at the pictures last night.  But I think things are about where I want them this morning. 

Today at some point I need to retouch a few of the fleur de lis, but afterwards, I'll call 'em done and attach the cavalry carbines to the red squadron.  Once dry, a few touch ups to those, and then it's onto the acrylic glossing.  Charge!

-…

Some Christmastime Cruisin' in the Painting Chair. . .

Except for the touching up once they are attached to their respective flagpoles, along with some judicious red and blue highlights, the squadron standards are done.  Oversized in the fine tradition of Peter Gilder and Doug Mason, who, more than any other modellers, continue to inform how I approach figure painting.

Not quite two hours in the painting chair this blustery, wet afternoon, but I've managed to get the two squadron standards to a point where I think they'll, provide a reasonable approximation of the real thing once mounted and glossed.  I used a #4 round with a good point to apply the thinned dark read and navy blue acrylics, than a brand new #1 round to dab on squiggles and lines of GW gold plus a bit of to the standard at left.  This is the first time EVER that I have attempted the painting standards BEFORE attaching them to the flagpoles.  

While far from perfect, they'll do the trick, and I'm very pleased with the results.  Live and learn as the saying goe…

Another Seasonal Vintage Illustration. . .

Here is a fun old Christmas card that I stumbled across online somewhere in the last year.  Just imagine what this scene might really sound like.

Ahhhh.  Nothing like that first mug of coffee for the day.  Followed quickly by an eggnog chaser.  Fear not however!  I am not hitting the sauce this early in the day (9:42am), and the eggnog is not doctored with medicinal substance.  Just frothy and cold, straight from the carton and into a large juice glass.  One of my December indulgences each year.

Toy Soldiering plans for today include tinkering with that first squadron of red Wurttemburg curassiers from last summer to attached their carbines as I mentioned in my previous post.  Then, there is the table to set up for tomorrow's planned solo affair.  Finally, if the world, wife, and child permit, I've got some unpainted lead to review with an eye to determining the next unit in the painting in the painting queue.  Maybe.

I hope your Christmas Week is  equally and as delightfully uns…

Metallic Bits, Buckles, Stirrups, and Etc. DONE!!!

Looks closely, or you'll miss the the stirrups, bits, buckles, sword hilts, and scabbard tips.  Just the squadron standard and glossing to do, and these babies will finally be ready to take their place on the tabletop field of Mars. . .  Or at least in their big plastic storage bin with a lid.


Well, I managed to get myself focused and to the painting desk after the Young Master's bedtime this evening and very quickly get several tiny brass areas painted.  And all with just one tiny mistake that was corrected easily at the end of the session.  Now just a couple of days for the mix of silver and gold Grumbacher oils to dry, and they I can address the suadron standard.  

While I wait on that, I'll give the first red squadron it's carbines with tiny dots of super glue gel.  Ahhhh. . .  It's nice to feel like things are moving ahead  again.  Funny how the smallest things will do that for you.

-- Stokes

Happy Day After. . .

Another seasonal image, but less traditional this time.  It's Calvin and Hobbes napping by the fire at Christmastime.  Looks like a sound idea to me!  Sadly, the comic strip ended on December 31st, 1995, but you can still find anthology books of Bill Watterson's brilliant stories all about an imaginative boy (Calvin) and his stuffed tiger (Hobbes), their philosophizing, misadventures, mishaps, and general mischief.  These resonate with the Young Master as much as with yours truly, and I presented our son with two of his very own Calvin and Hobbes books this Christmas, which were an immediate hit.  He liked especially the one entitled 'Something Under the Bed is Drooling.'

Happy Day After as my late. and much missed, maternal grandfather (also a fan of Calvin and Hobbes above) used to say.  A quiet Boxing Day here at Stollen Central as we continue to overindulge on leftovers, cookies, candy, and and the afterglow of Christmas Day.  

At the moment, I am enjoying that first…

Merry Christmas from The Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

A vintage feline-themed Christmas card that tickled my heart when I came across it two weeks or so ago.

Well, just over three hours left of Christmas Day.  We had a delightful one with gifts (some new soldiers too), far too much food, treats, a dusting of new snow outside, telephone conversations with distant family members, and a long walk for the three of us around the neighborhood mid-afternoon.  

The Young Master has been tucked in for the evening, the Grand Duchess is having a few minutes to herself, and I have brought my second mug of after dinner coffee down here to Zum Stollenkeller for a break before we reconvene in the living room a little later.  There, The Grand Duchess and I will listen once again to this year's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the chapel at King's College Cambridge.

Before the day slips away, allow me to wish you a Merry Christmas!  Wherever in the world you are, I hope you have enjoyed a day of calm, good company, and a light mood.  Remembe…

It's Christmas Eve in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

One of my favorite old images of Santa Claus/Father Christmas.  More understated that the Coca-Cola version that has taken over everywhere, eh?

The ground is white with fresh snow east of the sun and west of the moon in the far off Grand Duchy of Stollen. Billowing, silvery drifts are piled throughout the country. The rivers and lakes are frozen solid. The woods are still but for the distant jingle of sleigh bells in the bracing air. The sky is slate grey, and heavy coal smoke hangs over the villages and towns. It is almost Christmas here in the Grand Duchy, somewhere very near to Frederick’s Prussia, sometime during the mid-18th century.  More or less. 

Citizens of Krankenstadt bustle to and fro through snow-covered streets of the small capital city of the Grand Duchy, running last minute errands before the Christmas festival begins in earnest. The red brick North German Gothic storefronts feature special Christmas items and treats like the marzipan for which…

T-Minus 11 Hours or So. . .

One of several classic wargaming photographs that has stayed with me for 30+ years, providing a hint of today's planned hobby activity.

Well, Sir. . .  The Grand Duchess and Young Master return home from Chicago in about 11 hours.  It is 9:59am right now as I write this post.  Coffee and cats at the moment.  Still much to do, including a quick and hopefully final run to the supermarket for a couple of last minute things, dusting snow from and putting away the back porch furniture (I know, I know. . . ), as well as assembling a couple of dishes and a pie for Christmas Eve Dinner.  

Lots to do in other words.  But, I also plan to attempt a Christmas-themed scene, based on the above picture, using my own figures, scenery, and perhaps a tiny bit of table salt here and there for some extra sparkle.  If all goes well, watch for a photograph here later this evening.

-- Stokes

A Seasonally Fitting Vintage Illustration from Military Modelling. . .

A centerfold (Relax, boys!). . .  one of two late 18th century illustrations from the December 1985 issue of Military Modelling.  I purchased three different issues from late '85 or early '86 in a hobby store somewhere near The Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium a little later that winter solely for these illustrations.  For the next 15 years (15 years!!!), I carted the magazines back to and across the United States until I finally got them into mats and frames during the late summer of 2000.  Just about the time I met the fetching Grand Duchess! 

Much going on here in The Grand Duchy of Stollen the last several days, getting in the way of painting, but when I finish the house cleaning later today, followed by a bit of gift-wrapping before dinner, I have set aside the evening to apply and wrap up all of those tiny metallic bits and pieces on the 14 horses and riders before calling them done save for the squadron standard.  If things go well enough, I'll glue the carbines int…

Musket Barrels, Dapple Grey, and Horse Bits Done. . .

Here is where things are with the 14-figure cavalry squadron that has been on the painting bench since at least September.

Still a way to go with the current unit of cavalry, but I had a reasonably favorable experience doing the trumpeter's dapple grey mount two evenings ago.  

Instead of blazing, sun-bleached bone white for the dappling, I used Antique White, applied it with a crummy, not-so-good brush that doesn't hold a point, and used a stippling motion.  In addition, I was careful not to have very much paint at all on the bristles and smudged it around as soon as it had been applied before the acrylic dried.

Knowing when to stop is, in my view, an important and sometimes overlooked part of developing as a figure painter.  Sometimes, I notice figures online and in magazines that look a little overdone, almost like the painter didn't quite know when to put down the brush.  The popular three-shade methods, while they have many followers, too often veer into this land of the…

A Trip on The "Real" Polar Express. . .

I completely understand the excitement felt by train spotters and vintage rail enthusiasts.  I got a big lump in my throat watching this beast let out clouds of steam, plumes of coal smoke, and sounding its whistle before we boarded one of a dozen or so vintage passenger cars for the trip.  It was an amazing experience.


A rare family selfie, taken just before we boarded The Polar Express in Ashley, Michigan to come home from the annual Christmas Village last Saturday evening.  The Young Master got to stay up way beyond his bedtime, and did remarkably well given how many other children of various ages fell to pieces during the train journey home.  And yes, it was as cold as it looks here.  About 19 F. by 8:15pm just before we found our car and climbed aboard.

Saturday afternoon, The Young Master, The Grand Duchess, and yours truly, aka Ogre Dad according to my son, drove up to Owosso, Michigan where we boarded the REAL Polar Express (Engine #1225 of the former Pere Marquette Railway), fo…

Just the Metallic Bits, Dappeled Grey, and Squadron Standard to Do. . .

We're just about there. . . 

Well, after a prolonged period of inactivity on the hobby front, I've managed to get myself back into the painting chair for a few sessions in the last week or so, and just a few items remain before the two-squadron regiment of cuirassiers in bearskins can be glossed.  

The title of this particular post says it all, so I won't go into excruciating detail here.  However, there is one very important lesson to learn from ol' Uncle Ass Backwards (aka yours truly).  

If  there are small parts to affix to your figures -- like, oh, I don't know, the muskets just to the left of the figures shown above -- it is far easier (re: better) to do so before ANY basecoating or painting begins in earnest.  You will, I trust, grasp instantly what I'm talking about.

When I began work on the first red-coated squadron last summer, I was in such a rush to get started with the project that I totally forgot about the muskets, which needed to be glued carefully …

Arrrrrggggghhhhh!!!

My level of frustration this morning thanks to Blogger's quirks.

If you have received a strange email from me recently to the tune of "Is this thing on?", please excuse it and disregard.  I tinkered around with things for an hour or so yesterday (Saturday) to see if I could address problems with leaving a comment on my own and others' blogs.  Sadly, no dice.  

Here's the story in short.  Since roughly mid-November, I have not been able to comment on others' posts in the blogosphere, or at least not those using the Blogger platform.  Needless to say, it is more than a little frustrating.  After over a dozen years of using Blogger -- a period in which I have never experienced any of the bugs, quirks, and hacks sometimes described by other bloggers -- it seems the platform is failing me, or rather my level of technical inexpertise is failing me.  

I might just have to explore Word Press if the problem does not sort itself out before long, which would be a shame giv…