Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Painted Warriors

The painting has gone well, I think.  Though it's only been a day since my last post, truthfully this project is proceeding more slowly than that.  The work I showed you last time (cleaned figures, with conversion and glued to their washers) took about a calendar week, twenty minutes at a time when I could grab a moment.  The painting was done at a similar pace.  A short spurt at a time in off moments.

And it will continue that way.  My hobby time is constrained (who's isn't?) but I get along as I can.

My process goes something like this: over a white undercoat, I block in the flesh and hair first. I apply a stain using my favorite Windsor and Newton Peat Brown ink, then block in all of the other colors. The W&N ink gives a nice warm shading tone to the flesh and hair.

I picked out three or four off-white colors, four or five browns, and a half dozen muted, earthy colors. Each figure got a random assortment of browns for leather and wood parts, one piece of clothing in an off-white tone, and another in a relatively muted color. Then I picked a few bright colors and painted the shields, cloth trim, and one pair of pants (a salute to Ross Macfarlane's character "Redlegs"). 

All of those colored bits got an undiluted wash of GW Devlan Mud for shading. I like the dirty brown weathering I get from this ink very much for this kind of subject.  It's not great for bright paint jobs like Napoleonics, ACW, the Crimea, etc., but for many ancient and modern figures it yields a nice grubby shading.

Next all the metal parts were painted a dark steel color, with a few small accents picked out in brass. All of the metal got a wash of GW Nuln Oil (a black ink, essentially).

I drew in the pupils and upper lash line with a black radiograph pen, then set to highlighting. I'm about half way through with the highlights now. Generally I apply two highlight steps. The first is the base color with a little dark brown added, to get it just a shade lighter than the result of color + Devlan Mud already on the piece. The second step is the original base color. Both steps go on pretty thinned out, to aid in blending. Flesh gets a single highlight in the original base color, concentrated on cheek bones and fingers/knuckles.

I plan to do a little more highlighting. Not all parts will get that treatment, but some of the lighter and brighter areas will really benefit from a little sprucing up.

I'll also go back at some point and add more detail and color to the trim on the tunics.  Those little details can make a big difference to the perceived individuality and character associated with a figure.

Below are shots of each, as they stand today. 

The Warlord. The brass replacement blade worked very nicely. The pants and shield face will get more highlighting. Possible the beard as well.

The archer. The flights on the arrows need highlighting for sure. His tunic has already been highlighted, and I'm pleased with the result.  The brass replacement bow looks pretty good, but lacks a convincing taper.  Still, it's better than tossing this figure into the bits bin.

"Redlegs" himself. The pants will get a final highlight to bring more attention there. Probably the highest points on the fur cloak as well.  And the beard/hair.  Choosing all earth tones from the waist up wasn't such a good idea.  It leaves him feeling bottom-heavy and a bit bland.

The spearman. One of my favorite poses. The tunic has been highlighted. I'll probably touch up the beard and braids. I forgot to mention that the steel bits on all of the figures have been highlighted as well, with a careful drybrushing of the original steel tone.  I might hit the highest points with a really bright silver, to emulate sun glints.

This guy really ought to be more impressive with that great Dane Axe of his. But the pose is very two-dimensional, the axe haft was cast a bit bent/curved, and his head is tiny. Also there's a hunk of undetailed plastic between his arms...a casualty of the two-part mold.  He's destined for the rear rank in the shieldwall, I'm afraid. 

Swapping this figure's original (and damaged) upraised seax for a spear made all the difference. The tunic and beard need a highlight, but this is another of my favorites.

The faces on almost all of the Ehmar figures are really something. Nicely sculpted and full of character. A joy to paint.

As you can see, the bases are in progress. They've had a layer of sand applied, then a coat of medium brown paint and a stain of W&N Peat Brown ink. I'll flock them and call them done. More pics as these get finished.

On another note, I stopped by the local game store on the way home tonight for a few minutes, and found some old friends playing SAGA, from Gripping Beast.  It looked like quite a fun rule set, but I noticed a distinct lack of shieldwall tactics, despite there being Vikings on the field.  Still, it's a very popular set and probably for good reason.  I may well pick up a set when I can.

Next up, the first six Marx Vikings, and news of some new acquisitions for the project.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New, short term project

Over the past little while, Ross MacFarlane has been posting again about his long-running, infrequently occurring skirmish games based loosely on the Prince Valiant comic strip of our youth.

He also posted a short and sweet set of semi-skirmish rules called Stout Hearts and Willing Swords.  Now there is nothing like the combination of evocative photos of nicely painted figures and a fun looking set of rules to get me sidetracked into a new project. 

So away I go. 

Last year some time I bought a set of Emhar's 54mm hard plastic Vikings on a whim. And somewhere in the depths of my garage lurked some Marx 54mm Vikings in bright red plastic. A little spelunking and I had a collection of figures I could get going with.

The Emhar Vikings are quite nice. They are, to my eye, historically accurate.  And the detail on these figures is quite nice.  There are fewer shields in the kit these warriors carry than I'd prefer, but they'll work for skirmish games for sure.

Emhar 1/32 Vikings, with minor conversions and weapon replacements
The Emhar plastic is quite hard.  The figures cleaned up quickly with a sharp blade, but there were a few problems worth noting.  First, several of the weapons were either broken or badly distorted, out of the box.  The archer (back right) had a mangled bow and broken bowstring.  I replaced the bow with 1/16" brass (perhaps a little thick) and carefully trimmed away the bowstring where it crossed his face and body.  That was easier than I feared it would be.

Two of the figures had flimsy and bent swords.  I replaced these by hammering and filing that 1/16" brass rod into replacement blades (the figure I think of as "The Warlord" in the front right, and the guy in the front with the club and sword).  In this photo, the swords are just slipped into the holes I drilled in the hands, so one is drooping a bit...

"The Warlord" with replaced sword blade
All the way in the back is a figure carrying an axe and a javelin (or short spear).  He originally held a dagger/saex in that upraised hand, but he look under-armed and I wanted more spearmen, so I drilled out his hand and hammered/filed a spearhead onto another length of wire.

Three of the figure have pre-drilled hands to take long and thin-hafted axes.  Very nice, but those axe hafts are relatively thin, brittle plastic.  I used them anyway, but nearly snapped one when I dropped the figure.  I worry about their longevity, but I can probably swap out the hafts for thinner wire if I need to. For now, I'll handle them more gently.

A long deep dive into my garage yielded the Marx 54mm Vikings I remembered buying years ago.  There are nine unique poses, most of which are (mostly) historically accurate.  I'm not too worried about historical accuracy for this project really, but I did decide to remove the horns from various helmets, and to trim the heads of various axes from "meat cleaver" shape to something more Dark Ages.

The assembled Marx Viking horde
In order to get a few more poses out of the collection, I did a few weapon swaps.  One figure carries two weapons...an axe (note the trimmed axe head) and an oddly leaf-bladed sword.  I decided to leave the sword alone rather than swap the blade, but I may revisit that decision.  Swapping both weapons for javelins added another light warrior to the tribe.

Sword/axe pose, converted by swapping both weapons for javelins
This figure has a quasi-Norman shield...it's really more appropriate to the Hundred Years War...but I have yet to find a glue that will hold pieces of this slippery Marx plastic together securely, and I lack any replacement round shields, so I've left them.  Again...I'm not too worried about historical accuracy for this project.  I'm looking for a fast and furious "Dark Ages" bash more inspired by Hyboria and Prince Valiant than strict history.  This figure, curiously, comes with a stumpy dagger.  I swapped it out for a great big thrusting spear to get an alternate pose.  Eventually, after this pic was taken, I replaced the dagger blade with a brass longsword blade.

"Norman" shield and dagger man, and his spearmen alternate.
The figure on the right is the stock chieftain pose from the Marx set.  All in all, a very nice figure.  The variant has had his helmet wings removes, and a long spear swapped in for the sword.  The left hand resting on the scabbard hides enough of the top to let me convince myself he's got a sword in there if I don't look too closely.

This spear is deliberately long.  I may make him a standard bearer before painting begins.

Marx Chieftain and his spearman alternate
The whole collection is going to be based for skirmish games.  I prefer round steel bases for this, and use fender washers almost exclusively.  They're inexpensive, and ferrous enough to stick reasonably well to adhesive sheet magnet.  I found these boxes at The Container Store some years ago, and use them to store my figures whenever I can.  I'll line the box with sheet magnet and they'll have a secure home.

The collected horde, on their fender washer bases, and in their storage box.

Painting began right after all of the mold line trimming, weapon swaps and basing was finished.  I decided to do this collection six figures at a time.  That's a meaningful chunk of the twenty-four figures I have, and still not overwhelming.

At the advice of Rob Dean (of The Sharp End of the Brush), I bought Liquitex white gesso and their flexible brush-on matte varnish.  Starting with the gesso, painting in acrylics, then finishing with their varnish yields a tough, flexible paint job that will resist cracking and peeling over soft plastic figures, according to Rob.  He's painted hundred of such figures so I trust his advice.  I'll let you know how that goes.

But...even after washing my figures carefully with dish soap, rinsing well and letting them dry thoroughly...the gesso refused to stick to the Emhar plastic.  It beaded up and wouldn't cover.  Oh well. These figures are hard plastic.  I'm not worried about flexible paint on them.  A quick coat of spray primer stuck very nicely (thank goodness...I thought I might be doomed to toss these very nice figures).

Painting is underway.  Lots of muted colors, lots of off-whites for cotton cloth, lots of different browns for wood and leather.  And soon, lots and lots of chain mail.

I'll post much better pictures as the painting progresses.

First steps toward a painted collection.  I'll get better photos up soon.
Until then, I hope this was a fun read.  If you have any questions about these figures, conversions, or whatever, please feel free to ask in the comments.