Friday, 22 May 2015

Dark Ages Fun: Feeling all Anglo Saxy

Yes it is time for my weekly "wot I did been paint'n this week" spot, and it hasn't bee a whole lot, the flow is constant which is good, if slow as a wet weekend. To mix things around and keep it fresh I decided to paint some command figures and try to reclaim some of my old painting prowess (if that is what it was) and work on some nice soft transitions, things didn't go quite according to plan, the reason, although glaringly obvious, did not occur to me until the job was mostly done and dusted. Soft transition? The bit in between changes in paint tone, if you soften them your trying to make that line between the shadow tone and the mid tone disappear same with the line between mid tone and high light. Enough with the jargon and general wankery lets make with the photo's already.

Last time we saw this bloke he was standing around with his hand on his hip, guess what? Yep, he is still trying to do the "I'm a little teapot" routine (although his "here is my spout" needs work) thing is he is now performing it on an exquisite (pffft, please, a used plastic) base. A single figure base is required here as this figure is to be my "opportunity marker" (required in Impetus), he can also pull double duty for SAGA as well seeing all the figures are individually based.

Other changes... muddied up the bottom edge of the cloak, the pants and the shield, which has also had some naff battle damage added. The main thing is that even though the damage may not have turned out so well I've learned where I slipped up and how to go about it next time. You learn just as much from an idea that bums out as from one that goes right


I still haven't located my tufts so I expect they are in the storage container with about half of my household (while we renovate), the prospect of having to unload god knows how much of the container was too terrifying to contemplate so I have ordered some more improved tufts of just about every shade known to man, in fact I believe they had to invent three more seasons just to accommodate all the different colours.  Pulling apart my cow pasture mat might have been OK for the Impetus bases but a bit of a stretch for a single 25mm round base, anyway with the new arrivals and what eventually resurfaces from the storage container I may well have a couple of lifetimes supply of grass tuftery and other scenic goodies. I could put down a bit of static grass in the interim but I absolutely hate the stuff gets everywhere and ruins your painting, so I never use static grass in the vicinity of my painting area, the problem is I have been relegated to shed division for painting (formerly my flocking locale) while the house is undergoing much needed surgery.

With these command figure types I decided as with most of the other repaints to keep the colour as close to the original as possible to save time and drama, if I decided thatI wanted to paint them in a completely different colour it would probably more beneficial to strip the figures back rather than fight a battle hiding the juxtaposed original. A lot of purple was being bandied about when these guys were being painted first time round, being command and undoubtedly high status chaps I figured it would probably be OK to stick with the purple theme.

We have two figures in basic chainmail ie the smurf cos player holding the draco standard thingumy and his mate hanging fat and looking all Brian Blessed, not much to do here nice simple repaints with  Brian Blessed having a really interesting head and face which gave me a few ideas.

The next two figures have lovely large cloaks that will provide plenty of room to practice blending (softening) the transitions between highlights midtones and shadows. Now because I paint with fairly well thinned paint and blur the transitions with even thinner glazes of paint I need to make sure the suface to be painted is relatively free from surface blemishes ie pitting and crazing in the casting. If these are present the thin paint gathers in these and make the whole job look like a dog breakfast so it is time for a TIP!

I paint the surface with 2 or 3 layers of varnish to fill in these little horrors it also has the advantage of smoothing out the whole job softening sharp angles etc which is really just the ticket for large surfaces of cloth. With my two cloaked figures I mixed in a very dark purple and blue with some varnish and gave the two cloaks 3 coats each, the chap with the blue cloak had very sharp angles on both the convex and concave folds and this trick worked wonders in taking out some of the sharpness of the cloth as well as making all those small pits and defects in the surface just go away

It was very hard to paint the draco bearer in anything other than a blue and white outfit, in the end it was pretty standard fare and I was happy with the way it turned out, although in hindsight I should have ripped the pole out of his grasping chubby fingers and reset it into the hands properly. It is not a criticism of these figures in particular, lots of brands do it, but it would be nice if the hands and fingers were long enough to be wrapped around whatever it might be that they are holding.

I went back to using the old Citadel paints for the flesh tones on these figures so mixes of tanned, dwarf and elf flesh, dwarf is a bit too orange for me and elf to yellow but they make a pretty decent mid tones and highlights when mixed. The old Citadel colours (or GW if you like) were quite plasticky paints and I find with the flesh they are a little easier to work with when your wet blending and making for soft transitions.

Brian the Saxon, again pretty straight forward in fact he is nearly all chainmail, which I find incredibly dull, quick and easy to paint yes, interesting to look at, no way. I've read that not only was chainmail blackened to protect it from rust but coloured versions of protection were often applied, I dont think I have ever seen anyone attempt this but I would dearly love to have a go if I could find out more about it. I really liked the hair and facial expression of this figure so I thought I might have ago at painting greying hair rather than grey hair which is often the norm. I put a little bit of salt into his beard and roots, looking at it now I could have gone with a bit more grey in the roots

This guy comes across as a bit of a grump and pretty stilted looking (dark age pile perhaps), being sculpted as an older chap, quite possibly an earl, it seemed appropriated that I should enhance his grumpy old fart vibe so I made sure to highlight the eye brow ridges so he gave the impression of frowning. As I mentioned earlier the folds in the cloth on this figure are really angular and sharp, the prepaint with the varnish softened up the concave creases quite a bit, if I was painting a newly purchased version of this figure I would definitely knock those sharp ridges back with some  carborundum paper.

Another big cloak to paint but this time with soft flowing folds, I find it really hard to get a good bead on areas where the folds aren't regular either horizontally or vertically so the big billowy section to the left  never quite seemed right to me and I stuffed up visualizing what should be in mid tone and shadow, so instead of getting the shits on and throwing another tanty I thought it best to draw a line under it and spend some time over the next week looking for some samples of billowy cloth on the interwebz so I'm all set for the next time. The sword was painted in straight Mithrill or something like it and black glaze used to slightly darken the reverse side and blade down the centre line. The blade also received a touch of blue and green glazes front and back to reflect the world around it (not orkses). For the chainmail on thes figures I used Reaper honed steal, a very matte silver with a hint of blue, and a light black wash which I think better reflects (a pun, moi?) the blackened nature of the metal ie bloody dull

It's all jargon to  me
So where did I make the glaringly obvious mistake I made mention of at the beginning (so many hours ago), well it isn't going to be obvious to you and it wasn't obvious to me until I had a little tanty about how everything was going wrong. I have hardly ever worked from a black base in the last 4 years, I work from a white, light grey or light olive (for bare skin) but mostly white undercoat. Now if everything you do suits a particular style changing something as fundamental as the undercoat colour totally throws your whole painting vibe off course, particularly when you are too thick too realise the bloody obvious right under your nose. I kept painting the deep blue base tone over black blue undercoat and wonder why nothing was happening then doing the same with the purple.... what a silly bunt!

Thanks for looking


  1. I absolutely cannot use black as a primer. I like my colours to be vibrant and black just sucks the light right out of them.

    I use the trick of putting down a layer of matte varnish to smooth out transitions as well. Sometimes I'll even use it every time I layer up to a lighter colour.

    Nice work again Dave!

  2. Great looking Dark Agers, Dave. The portly guy in the purple tunic is disturbingly similar to a local gamer here.

  3. thanks for stopping by guys,
    Dean that figure you mentioned is the one that I thought looked very similar to Brian Blessed which is why I painted the hair and beard red with a bit of grey. He then had an even more disturbing look about him, google Brian Blessed if you want to know more, great performance in I Claudius which everyone interested in Roman history should see.

    Anne I have completely lost my ability to paint from black undercoat... well I can do it if I can throw a tantrum. If your putting down a coat of clear between layers it might be worth trying a very tiny amount of paint in it in glaze proportions, thanks for stopping by. I have cutting in to do around the windows and doors and I have just about finished painting inside, I want these renovations to finish! LOL

  4. Great looking figures Dave, Brian's gotta be my fav!

  5. Cheers Ray, luckily Brian wasn't booked to go on QI so was able to make a cameo appearance here at Slowly Over A Low Flame.

    I love having figures that look like someone you know IRL, I'll se if I can find a Derek Jacobi lookalike and make a you tube!


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