Sunday, 31 January 2016

Roundwood Recommends Number 4: "Wargames Illustrated Paints"

I've been enjoying a consistent run with the paint brushes this January, trying to spend at least 15 minutes each day painting up some late 17th Century figures as part of my “new” (actually older and now resurrected) wargaming period. Lots of things have helped me achieve of a rare purple patch of painting consistency.

Remembering each evening to sit down and pick up a paintbrush when getting home from work has helped a lot. The more I’ve done, the more I’ve wanted to do – regular painting creating a bit of a momentum as I see the results very slowly building up over time.

Curt’s Painting Challenge has really helped, sharing the experience of winter painting with a great collection of other hobbyists, painters and wargamers throughout the world.

And also, I’ve been reading painting guides. I blogged about “Painting Wargames Figures”, a great little book from Javier Gomez, “El Mercenario” last Autumn, which I find really useful. This post, I’d like to recommend “Wargames Illustrated Paints”, a super little magazine supplement from the publisher of Wargames Illustrated, and available from North Star Miniatures and from some newsagents in the UK such as W.H. Smiths.

Written by the very talented Matt Parkes and Dave Taylor, “Wargames Illustrated Paints” takes the reader through a complete guide to painting wargames figures. At 74 pages, it’s a shorter publication than “Painting Wargames Figures”, but it covers everything you could really want from a painting guide. Preparation, undercoating, basic techniques, and face and skin painting are all covered before Matt and Dave move offer some very interesting sections dealing with more advanced techniques.

There is an exceptionally good, but quite advanced, section on painting different fabric textures. The section on painting faces is excellent, giving several different methods of painting skin textures and features such as scars, freckles and black eyes! There's a lovely section on painting wood, which I have never seen addressed before in such detail, or so well.  And there’s a great section on metallic, illustrated with the example of a plate armored nobleman, which includes a stunning black-plate decorated Tudor armour painting guide. Sections on horses (always useful) and bring end up the booklet, each of which gives some very useful advice.

“Wargames Illustrated Paints” is very well illustrated in colour throughout, with lots of photographs and sidebar sections setting out “how to” guides. I would have added more images to this blog post, but as the publication is only short I didn’t want to “give the game away” or infringe copyright. 

Therefore, I’d simply say that “Wargames Illustrated Paints” is an excellent booklet, full of sound advice for all wargames painters. I think that the booklet is more focused on the intermediate, improving, or experienced painter than the total beginner, with some of the techniques being quite advanced. However, for anyone having painted a couple of dozen figures and who wants to improve their brushmanship or brushwomanship, it should definitely have a place on your bookshelf.

One of the best things about the booklet is that it is also very reasonably priced – only £5.95 in the UK, and in my view worth every penny. I’ve been using it on a near-daily basis to try and refine my painting techniques, and I’ve really had fun try to recreate some of Matt and Dave’s effects. If you fancy doing the same, give “Wargames Illustrated Paints” a try, with my firm recommendation!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Curt's Painting Challenge - Themed Entry No.2 "The Artist Chance Card"

The second of Curt’s “Themed Rounds” in the Analogue Hobbies Sixth Painting Challenge is entitled “Epic Fail”. You may already have seen the wonderful entries HERE, on the Painting Challenge blog, and I am sure you will agree that the Challenge's participants have been incredibly inventive in what they’ve come up with.

I wanted to try and follow not only Curt’s theme of “Epic Fail”, but also make my second themed entry consistent with the first one I posted a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what I came up with … which is somewhat of a tribute to the vicissitudes of the Chance Card in wargaming.


"Chance Card #20: One of your regiments is delayed arriving in the field owing to their commander's portrait being painted by the famous artist, Laarden van Rijn.

I've always loved introducing "Chance Cards" into my wargames. I think this is some deep-rooted memory from avidly reading Donald Featherstone's "Wargames Campaigns" and "Solo Wargaming" when I was a teenager. I loved the way that Chance Cards can dislocate even the best laid plans. A few years ago, we fought a seventeenth century battle and I added a Chance Card to the deck which forced one side to have a unit delayed reaching the battlefield as a result of the commander having his portrait painted by the famous Flemish painter, Laarden Van Rijn (a lesser known brushman than his more illustrious Dutch cousin).

I liked that card. It wasn't game breaking. It was a bit of fun. And it was clearly an “epic fail” in keeping with Curt’s theme, albeit quite in character for the "professionalism" of some historic Flemish commanders of the seventeenth century.

So, for this themed round, I planned on bringing that Chance Card to life.

We have the local civic militia, delayed in the Grote Markt while Mijnheer van Rijn prepares to paint his masterpiece. The cobblestones match the basing of the first Themed Round, and yes - the chickens pecking around the base of the statue of the Satyr have spread to this entry as well, clucking around the soldiers as they pose dramatically for the paintbrush. 

As befits a local militia, the soldiers have every variety of arms and armour, from classical helmets to flintlocks, from matchlocks and the Twelve Apostles to Flemish steel rapiers. Some are dressed in sober grey, others less conservatively.  And one, in the front rank, is dressed in a frankly gaudy costume – perhaps an ambitious younger son of a Flemish nobleman, out to impress his fellow citizens.

As for the inspiration, well I am sure you might have guessed that it is Rembrandt van Rijn’s incredible painting of “The Nightwatch”, featuring Captain Banning Cocq’s militia company passing out of the Amsterdam city walls in the 1650s. 

My late seventeenth century figures are too late to match Rembrandt’s, but I tried to capture the essence of movement and chaos in Rembrandt's incredible masterpiece. A jumble of soldiers, armed with all types of weapons, some carrying out the mechanisms of foot, some obviously preening in their flashy bright buff or red jackets.

Nothing I could do with a paintbrush could ever remotely rival Rembrandt, so I didn’t try. I did think of creating a tiny photo-shop version of Rembrandt's "The Nightwatch" on Laarden van Rijn’s easel, but I decided the barely-started sketch he's drawn is more in keeping with the theme of “Epic Fail”!

As I wanted to try and recreate a mixture of colours, I also did a plan of which figures were wearing what. This was pretty simple to do, but helped me a lot to keep track of the 12 different figures as I painted them last week.

The cobblestones are made from brass etch, available from Scalelink. They’re a little pricey, but arrived very quickly by post and are a lovely representation of North European paving. You can see paving like this in any Flemish of Dutch town. The figures are Wargames Foundry and Dixons, and the wonderful chickens are from Warbases. Laarden van Rijn, a Wargames Foundry figure, started life as a sedan chair passenger, but only last week did I find a perfect use for him. 

The flag is hand painted, and I thought that the Pelican (slightly comical, avaricious, but quite vicious when roused) would be a perfect civic symbol for this imaginary Flemish town in the final Indian summer of the Spanish Netherlands in the 1680s.  I love the flags being produced by various companies (such as GMB and Flags of War) at the moment, and they certainly save time. However, they sometimes are (to my mind) a little on the small side for what I want flying alongside my foot regiments.

I like making my own flags out of artist’s paper, and then gluing the two sides of the flag together (using Araldite expoy resin) and then folding the flag into shape before dry. A wash with PVA then seals the flag, making it robust enough for the wargames table and ready for undercoating and painting. The results are never as perfect as laser printing, but you do get the size of flag you want. And of course, if the flag is conjectural, or simply downright made up, you’re in a good place, rather than having to persuade the good people at GMB that “ ... there’s a flag I would really like, can you please help ..?” ! 

I scratch-built the easel and the pot of brushes which van Rijn is leaning for as he starts the painting. I didn't need to add much conversion work to the soldiers, but I did add a few greenstuff feathers and created the militia Captain’s ceremonial civic goblet (which came out more like a vase, if I’m honest!) from modelling putty.

I liked the idea of recurring themes and echoes running through the themed rounds.  Perhaps there'll be more chickens, discarded hats, pelicans and cobblestones in later submissions!  And who knows, perhaps that gaudily dressed nobleman's younger son might also re-appear ... 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

After a quiet 2015 on this blog, I’m hoping to offer you all a little bit more in 2016. No hugely ambitious plans (I’ve been there before!), but hopefully some more regular blogging.

After a long period of time wargaming the First World War (almost to the exclusion of other periods), one of the decisions I made in late Autumn last year was to move on to a different period for building up armies and terrain. I say “different” as the period is not really new to me – it’s more a case of returning to one of the periods of my wargaming roots, namely the late seventeenth century in Flanders, France and Germany.

With this in mind, I’ve had fun digging out units and figures over the past month or so, becoming reunited with some battalions I had forgotten about, and re-discovering a seventeenth century lead mountain which has not been added to since 2007!

Getting “back into” a wargaming period is also, I’ve found, a slightly strange experience.

I’ve found a couple of hundred unpainted figures, some old notebooks containing a half-finished campaign, lots of ideas written own and even a set of rules I had written and used just a couple of times.  A bit like walking into a house with the furniture covered in dust-sheets.  Everything is exactly where you left it – good memories, half-finished projects, jewels-in-the-crown, warts and all. 

Looking through what I have for the period is as if everything came to an abrupt stop in 2008, and was simply put away (which is pretty near the truth, as I moved onto other periods).

Picking up the reins again and taking stock of an old period is an interesting process. My main thoughts are - “how can I do it differently this time around”.  More to come on this in due course.

Alongside this transition (from an old period to a newer old period), there’s also the excitement of Curt’s Sixth Painting Challenge. Here’s my first entry, which Curt has entitled “The Satyr”, and is the for the "Nostalgia" themed-round. It looks back to the wonderful times of the 1980s and the “Talisman” board game, but you’ll perhaps also spot just a few hints of the seventeenth century creeping in …

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