About seven years ago I hosted a large Napoleonic game at my house. Of the 3-4,000 figures in use I painted all but a handful myself. All of my figures were carefully shaded, dry brushed and washed in ink and pretty well what I would regard as the best I could do. But I was short of Russians and I dipped into an army I had acquired twenty years or so ago. All were Hinchliffe figures, many of them early period castings and all were competently painted in Humbrol straight from the pot without shading, lining or any other fancy frills.
To my surprise and dismay when the game was underway it was agreed that the antique Hinchliffe figures were the best looking on the table.
I have reflected on this ever since and the conclusion is inescapable figures that look superb from 18" away do not keep the magic once on the table. Certainly if you are the one that has painted them then memory will supply the missing details to the eye and you will see the subtle beauty, but sadly to others they will be appearing dark and lifeless. Why this is I do not know but I suspect it has something to do with the eye being unable to register the colours and blurring them into a darker whole. I notice at shows that some people attempt to get over this by painting their armies in increasingly bright colours. And good luck to them, it certainly gives some eye catching results. But it never seemed to me to be a complete solution and so I pondered quietly on.
I began to make a little more sense of it when I read an article on the Japanese tradition that by eliminating unnecessary things, more necessary things come to the foreground.
Which brings us neatly to our last post on French artists. You will remember that the things which stood out to the critics of the impressionist movement were that the colours were flat blocks of unshaded colour and that the figures seemed to be unfinished by the standards of the time. However by eliminating all unnecessary detail and shading of colours and conveying only that information that the eye could take in as an impression they were able to create paintings full of light, life and energy.
So what would that look like as a wargames unit? I am not sure but I have had a first stab at applying the principles. Now here we hit the first snag, I cannot show you what the figures look like from five foot away in a good light. I can only show you a scan of them close up. I will try some photos under sunlight if we ever have some but in the meantime..
The figure on the left has what I would regard as the absolute minimum detail to convey the 'feeling' of the uniform. However when put on a table four feet away the red on the jacket has long disappeared and the face is distorted by the presence of a beard. The belt across the sash disappears but has the effect of making the sash itself look darker and duller. The figure on the right conveys just as much 'zoooviness' and looks much more vibrant and distinguishable. And yes the figure on the right does look unfinished to me too. I really want to at least put a beard on but I keep reminding myself its supposed to look like its not finished.
I tried to use a bright palette of colours: Maganese blue Coat, Cadium red trousers, GW vomit brown flesh.
I used yellow ochre for the pack and two shades of sky blue for sash and fez tassel. I wonder whether the figure would be cleaner if I kept to only one shade for both areas. The base is a home mixed green of Chrome oxide (Goblin Green) and flesh to give a neutral background.