Friday 30 January 2009

3rd Painting post.

Peter Gilder was a great innovator in many areas of wargaming. I well remember someone fielding a late roman army after returning from the wargames holiday centre. It had a splendidly dusty and battle worn appearance which was entirely due to the simple trick of lightly dry brushing the final painted figure with white.

I noticed that a splendid blog has started celebrating the works of the master. and not before time.

The authors other blog on 19c armies is also one of my favourites. And while I am at it here is an outstanding blog on the late 17C, which does not seem as well known as it should be.

not only fascinating but 59 posts in January alone!!

But I digress.

The simpler the pot the older and better the paint. Just like life really.

Dry brushing. This really depends upon the consistency of the paint for its success or failure. I have dry brushed with everything from watercolour to masonry paint but the only thing that really works on toy soldiers is enamel paint. Ideally Humbrol and from at least before the last two times that they changed the paint. I wondered if it was me being picky but I notice that old tins of Humbrol are changing hands on ebay for more than the price of new paints.

But I digress.

Thursday 29 January 2009


I still use enamel paints for areas which are likely to get a good deal of handling while painting. From experience I know that the toe caps and musket ends will have white showing through if I use a water based paint.

Next I add depth and shading with a mixture of washes. I have used Indian Ink, acrylics ink, water based paint and enamel paint here. None of it works as well as the new washes, some of it has puddled or left watermarks. But it does not matter for these figures. All we want are a series of deep but sombre colours.

Sometimes it seems to me that people will agonise for ever over shading and graduated colours without giving a single thought to what colour it is that they are applying. Here the clothes are not necessarily those worn by poor people. They are likely to be made of heavy and well dyed cloth. Nevertheless they are vegetable dyes and almost certainly stained by aging and dirt that cannot be washed out in cold water. Indeed a good coat can well be a family heirloom and on its second or third owner.

If the colours are starting to look OK it is now time to dirty them up with some dry brushing. Come on you're all old enough to remember dry brushing.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Painting with Uncle Igor. part one.

I never cease to amaze myself, the speed with which I can take a perfectly sensible wargames project and by degrees turn it into something which borders on the surreal - well frankly its a gift.

I was amazed by the comments and really helpful suggestions which flooded in after the last post. (Well 15 is pretty much a flood by my standards.) So what I thought was a mild trespass into the wild woods has become a major part of the fictional nation project.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much junk, sorry wargames treasures, I had stored away against a rainy day which could become useful. Just for one there is the Zvesda log fort that I bought at Abingdon show because it was too cheap to resist and after all it would make a good US Cavalry outpost. Absolutely perfect for a frontier post on the wild edges of Moravia.

But of course first off I had to spend money on more figures. My wife would certainly utter the phrase 'throwing good money after bad', but fortunately she rarely reads this blog.

I mentioned the 'Cossack wars' range from Old Glory, they seemed to have everything I needed to set up the game I was thinking of. I don't know how I resisted a Cossack leader on his throne carried by 8 slaves, but I did. Instead I bought a bag of villagers and a very useful bag of a wagon and four pack riders. Andy Copestake helped me with the catalogue, sent two helpful emails and had my order with me in 24 hours. That is good service in my book.

So I thought I would say something about how I painted up these particular figures. First off its important to decide just what effect is actually wanted. Frankly, these are not exquisitely sculpted works of art. They have an appeal and bags of character but they will not repay hours of detailed work in my opinion. So lots of paint slapped at them not too much worrying about mistakes and get something that will look OK from six feet and will be finished quickly.

A couple of coats of car spray white primer from the local garage at £2 a tin. Next we block in the main colours. These are big figures with a large surface area. So I do not want to use several jars of expensive high pigment model paint on them. I have always found Daler System 3 to cover without brush marks and to be very cheap it dilutes to at least double the volume. A few tubes of slightly better quality paintsfrom eg the Finity range will fill in any gaps.

First off I mix up some pale grey, this is the base for all other colours. It takes off the garishness that will appear if artists colours are used neat. Buff Titanium can do the same with other pastel colours. Next the colour is mixed using water that has about 1:4 flow extender in it. I make up a dropper bottle full regularly for all acrylic thinning. The brush used at this stage was least a three and up to a five depending on the make.

Flesh is painted at this stage and is usually standard flesh heavily lightened with white, though these figures have a lot of yellow ochre in as well. Once the flesh is dry I wash it with a mixture of Winsor and Newtons Indian ink. One part Burnt Sienna,Nut Brown and distilled Water.

That's the end of the first stage I let everything dry thoroughly and reach for my old favourites Humbrol Enamel and spirits of turpentine.

Monday 19 January 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

I can't think of anything more removed from the austere elegance of Holgar Eriksson than the figure above.

Several years ago I was toying with the idea of the Seven Years Wars in the Balkans, (as you do). Well I was at Partizan and after a lunch of several glasses of their sub zero lager, I fell into conversation with that smooth tongued charmer, Andy at Old Glory UK. In a blur money changed hands and I took away several bags of the 'Brand New' Turkish line. With a dreadful hangover I unwrapped my purchases !!!!! Hurriedly I wrapped them up again and put them at the back of the shelf. Of course ideas for them have crossed my mind since then; scaring children, putting one in a sock to deal with intruders that sort of thing but they have stayed firmly packed in their box.

Until last week, I was painting some Charles Stadden Grenadiers and musing upon my fictional nation of Bohemia/ Moravia. I was wondering about the eastern borders surely they would be composed of mountains and impenetrable forests and not a million miles from Transylvania.

I don't suppose anyone remembers the BBC children's series of the sixties, tales from Europe. They were foreign films that depicted fairy tales that took pace in a sinister and incomprehensible landscape of forests and goblins and trolls and ogres.
It occurred to me that if I was to explore this a little I could have a setting in which frontier raids and brush warfare could thrive. All I needed was a generic Balkan style range to depict the barely human inhabitants if the great forest.

To think is to act, out came the neglected figures and a big brush. Crudely and quickly painted and they are exactly right for what want. I put a partially painted Stadden figure from my painting table alongside to give an idea of scale.

Looking around at the blogs and sites of the established Imaginations, it did occur to me that a historian of the modern school might be tempted to describe them as 'Euro centric'. Most of the rulers look to the courts of France and Prussia as models for their civilised and elegant activities. In Bohemia and Moravia we are forced to be much more aware of the Nations beyond the dark forests; Muscovy, Tartary and of course the ever threatening Ottomans.

To be honest I did feel a slight twinge of uneasiness about creating a Germanic state which regards its Eastern neighbours as primitive barbarians. The trouble is that what you want are terrifying shapes moving in the forest. Slaving parties raiding frontier villages to sell the inhabitants to the Turks. Sacred Oaks stained with the blood of human sacrifices and mysterious Shamans.

What you definitely don't want are a gentle pastoral folk famed for their nose flute music and interesting birch bark paintings.

Thursday 15 January 2009

General Steiner: A Nation Mourns

The court of Bohemia was shocked to hear of the death of General Steiner, in the service of the Vereinigte Freie Stadte. The General was a much regarded visitor at court and held considerable estates and vineyards in the southern mountains of Bohemia.

Rumours persist that before his death, words were uttered by Count von Swartz which should never occur between one gentleman and another. General Steiner felt that the only way he could redeem his honour was to place himself at the head of his regiment and to seek an hero's demise. Sad to say a beneficent fate granted his wish all to easily.

General Swarz is rightly renowned for his martial accomplishments, however many officers are daily leaving the employ of the VFS to seek more relaxed and congenial conditions with the Prussian service.

For a full account of these matters and much else on the late campaigns in Germany our gentle readers are commended peruse the Lorraine Journal; obtainable bound within the 'Raid on St Michel' from the Partizan Press at Baker Road.

An anouncement is daily expected of an important appointment to the Army of Bohemia.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Pure Inspiration

I don't imagine that anyone reading this blog will be unaware of the Wargame Companion, indeed most of you will have had a copy for some time. I hoarded mine till Christmas and spent the holiday with it at my elbow.

I have been wargaming for 43 years now so you will not think me blase if I say that I very rarely see or read anything that really stops me in my tracks. However this book did just that. It was the way that the sheer enjoyment of the hobby leapt from every single page. Of course it made me want to jump up and start painting Spencer Smiths like mad, but fortunately my painting table was packed away for Christmas guests so I was forced to just sit and think.

And what I thought was, why am still not doing the things that are most important to me. If I am run over next week I doubt I will lie under the bus wheels regretting that I never got around to finishing that 3rd regt of Napoleonic French Dragoons so that I could field an independent cavalry corps of dragoons in 1813. I might however whisper, (Citizen Kane like) 'Stadden, Royal Welch Fuzileers' when I think of the hopelessly expensive unit I coveted for so many years and never ever got.

Well you get the point anyway! So my New Year resolution is that I will paint and model only those things that I really want to do, and the best structure for this will be 18c fictional armies. Those who read the book will remember that these differ from imaginary armies in that they are a mix of real and imaginary units brought together solely at the whim of their creator. In Brigadier Youngs case he mixed his old regt, the Bedfords, alongside imaginary 18c German states and if he liked the figures then he brought in Napoleonic reinforcements as needed.

Then a few days ago I got a copy of Brigadier Grant's brand new wargames book and what a splendid read it is. It is like a gale of fresh air blowing away the dust and revealing the Grant rules and army in all their shiny splendour. I urge you all to buy this one it is a perfect compliment to the Wargames Companion in that it displays the rules and armies in all their relevance to what we do today.

Raid on St Michel describes a mini campaign fought by the author and Phil Olley is a joy from cover to cover and is just published by Caliver Press. I regret that I cannot tell you the price as my copy was a gift from the author, but it is worth every penny.

(Note to self: must try to avoid this constant and repulsive name dropping in 2009.)

Monday 12 January 2009

A Happy New Year

Well like everything else on this blog it's a bit late, but nevertheless I wish a belated happy New year to everyone.

Traditionally this is the time to review progress, cut out the dead wood, and stride forward reinvigorated to a new beginning. Well something like that.

As a record of the creation of a Marlburian army this blog has been a pretty spectacular failure. There is alas, no Marlburian Army to record.

I have simply failed to get it off the ground. In many ways this is hard to understand. I had an interesting project, wonderful figures, a well thought out plan. I think the reason is that I failed one of Phil Olley's rules for a successful project. I didn't get anything completed quickly. For a variety of reasons, I was unable to actually get paint onto units in the first half of the year. Inevitably interest wained and I now regard getting the figures out as a chore.

So pack it up for a year or two, learn the lessons and move on.

On the positive side I bought more than a dozen books on this interesting period and I started this blog, which I have enjoyed doing and has brought an interest and camaraderie in the doings of other 'bloggers'.

Not a tragedy but not a success either so no pictures. just drawing a line


The painter rose and twitched his mantle blue
tomorrow fresh woods and pastures new.