Monday, June 15, 2009

Egyptians for Ed

Ed is about to get some of the new Egyptians I've just released. I think he's going to use them for the Larger than Life rules. It's a great pulp-type rule set.

Some of these guys are dressed in the Egyptian galibeyah, a loose nightshirt-looking kind of garment, while others are dressed in a hooded djellabah. Some wear turbans and others a fez--some fezzes have tassels and some not. Fezzes are always maroon, turbans white. The djellabahs are usually brow or gray. The galibeyahs can be white or colored with stripes. I'll do some of each.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Postscript: the animals

After finishing the "people" figures I did the animals--mules and donkeys. The Foreign Legion used quite a few mules in North Africa for carrying supplies, ammunition, mountain guns--even for troops in mule-mounted companies. These are general-purpose mules: and who doesn't need mules?

I painted these in a traditional overall brown color. I first painted the whole animal, base and all, in a very dark brown: Dark Burnt Umber in Folk Art colors or Nubian Flesh in Howard Hues (to my eyes they're identical except for the price.) Then I lighten mule with a mix of Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre and a touch of Alizarin Crimson. It's the same combination as for a bay horse. The mane and tail are almost black with dark gray highlights. The muzzles and maybe the socks are light gray, the eyes are black and the hooves a dark gunmetal gray.

All the leather is, well, leather-colored brown with brass highlights on the buckles. (Hey, those buckles took a long time to model, so you'd better paint them!) Actually, the buckles are easy to paint by dry-brushing them. The wooden boxes are dry-brushed a medium brown, leaving that overall dark brown in the lines between the "planks." Paint the bags a variety of browns and beiges.

The donkeys, below, come in basically two colors. The most common is brown, much like the mules. Occasionally there's a white one--I did that one in light gray because the white mules are never really a pure white. The bags (as I saw them) were a kind of loosely-woven canvas or hemp in one piece that formed two large bags over the donkey's back. These could contain grain or dirt or any number of things that need to be moved. I painted these a light beige color for grain. The donkeys are patient and long-suffering little creatures that plod slowly along, prodded occasionally with the stick of the owner. No bridle or halter is used (or modeled).

Monday, March 16, 2009

French Command Figures

I tend to paint the command figures last, all together. This is partly because they lack the equipment of the troops and partly because the uniforms themselves are different. The officers above both have white-covered kepis, although you could just as easily paint them blue and red. The officer on the left wears a shorter tunic while the one on the right wears a different model--one often worn by senior NCOs. In fact, I've painted him as an NCO with a gold stripe near the cuff. NCOs in the Legion carried a whistle which he is blowing. And while the figure on the left wears white trousers over his boots, the one on the right has red riding breeches and boots. They could as easily be red and khaki or white, respectively. With khaki breeches and brown boots, he makes a nice post-WWI Legion figure. Lots of options.

The Legion bugler (and corporal carrying the company fanion) really do have the same uniform as the troops and I painted them all together. But I did save the bugle, flag and drum for painting all together. The bugle cords are first painted all white then dabbed with blue and red to produce a red-white-blue twisted cord effect.

The Tirailleur command figures are also finished at this time. Like the bugler, I painted the drummer along with the troops but saved the brass-colored drum to do along with the bugle.

Finally, I finish the General. His uniform is the standard blue-black tunic with red breeches, red waist sash worn under the coat and a blue/red kepi. I chose not to paint the tunic as dark as I could have so that the black frogging would stand out more. As with the foot officers, the breeches or kepi could just as easily have been white. I hadn't painted one this way yet; hence my choice. The figure comes with a pompom on the kepi. That's useful if he's going to be painted as a cavalry officer; for a general, just clip it off.

I had glued the rider to the horse--something I don't usually do--and painted the horse first. So although the men are all complete, the animals are not. They're up next.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Last unit: the Tirailleurs Algerien

I saved this unit for last because I thought they were going t0 take the longest to complete and I wanted to get "warmed up" with the other units first.

Ed helped me out here. I asked whether he wanted the blue or white trousers and he definitely wanted white. After about 1882, all the units in Africa--Legion, Tirailleurs, Zouaves--wore white cotton trousers on campaign and also for daily wear in garrison or on exercises. The red or blue colored ones were still retained, however, as you can see in this postcard.

So what makes these Tirailleurs (and the Zouaves) so time consuming to paint? It's all that zouave-style trim on the coats and trousers. And not so much the trim itself as the color. Yellow just doesn't paint over blue (or almost any other color). So what I end up doing is painting the trim white, sometimes fairly sloppily. Then I go over the white with yellow. Finally, the light blue. If you look closely at the coats you will notice that the trim you see is mostly around the edges. That being the case, I do save some time by not painting the blue at all until the trim is done. If the trim around the false pockets or on the back seam is visible, the white and yellow sequence must be done after the blue--and then the blue might have to be touched up again.

The same is true for the red waist sash: it comes out much better undercoated with white. It's fairly prominent in the photo but the figures' stances do obscure it and the yellow trim somewhat. You can see different bits visible on the two different figures in the photos.

The order of painting follows the usual technique: inside to outside, light to dark. Here also we can divide the figure into upper (face and head) and lower (trousers down to base) and work alternately on these areas. This used to be important with slower-drying enamel paints but can also be helpful if the acrylic paints are still wet in crevasses or you really don't want alternate colors to blend.

Painting the equipment follows the usual technique for the French. The light blue color of the coat is painted everywhere on the top part since it is also the color of the roll around the pack. Then the pack itself and most of the equipment is painted black, followed by gunmetal gray for the metallic parts. Note again how the buttons and seams on the gaiters just pop out when a light drybrush of light gray is applied over the dark gray base.

Despite the time it takes to paint them, the Algerians are one of my top-selling units, as are the Zouaves, whose uniforms are identical except for the colors. In fact, I've actually worn out the first set of their molds and remade them this fall.

Numerically, the Algerians formed the largest body of troops in the Army of Africa and fought everywhere the Legion and the Zouaves did, even being combined with them in regiments de marche, temporary regiments formed for specific campaigns like Madagascar.

Ed did well to pick them for his army.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Foreign Legion

Ed's second French unit is Foreign Legion in their blue overcoats (FR-9). The trousers are the usual white painted in light gray with some white highlights. The kepis, like the other FFL unit, are bright white.

The capote is dark blue. There was a fairly pointless discussion online recently about exactly which shade of blue they were: the main point is, they were the same as the rest of the French infantry of the time. But likely faded by the desert sun and full of desert sand. So your choice, really, as to what you make them look like. I undercoat the central part of the figure with a dark blue, then mix it with a bit of white to create highlights.

So far, the figures don't take long to paint. What really takes the time is all that equipment the Europeans are carrying. Jeez, hadn't they heard of traveling light? Guess not.

I painted the blue waist sash a bit brighter than it should be so that it will show up nicely over the dark blue capote. The haversack is off-white; I used a light tan. Much of the equipment is black--like the pack and the ammunition boxes--and some of the rest is gunmetal gray and I undercoat that black, too.

For speed, the sequence goes something like this: the tan haversack, gray blanket roll (around the pack), black just about everywhere else. The rifle somewhere in there is painted overall brown. I don't try to paint all the black with the same brush: I find it's simpler to paint all the things that require the same size brush at the same time. When all the black is done, I go over all the gunmetal gray parts--the rifle barrel, mess tin and canteen. Silver on the bayonet and brass belt buckle up front and you're just about done. One really nice touch is drybrushing a little dark gray over the black parts like the ammo boxes to highlight the edges, straps and such.

The hands were painted dark brown along with the rifle (right?). Now is the time to drybrush the flesh tone over it. That brown is a little different than the undercoat used on the face but no one will ever notice. And it's a good speedy shortcut.

There are 21 figures in this unit because there are 3 x 6 privates, a bugler, fanion corporal and officer/NCO. The officer I save to paint with the officer from the other FFL unit since their uniforms are the same. The bugler and corporal I paint along with the privates but I don't do the flag or bugle. I could but I'm going to save all the command figures to finish up as a group.

I'm getting close to the end and I'm all about speed right now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Begin the French

With the Berbers finished, it's time to do the French.

I decided to "warm up" with the Foreign Legion in their white uniforms. These are exactly the same uniforms as the classic blue overcoats--except that the legionnaires are not wearing them. This is, most of the period postcards I've seen, the more common uniform worn in the heat of the North African desert. The bourgeron, pants, and kepi cover are all white. Like the Berbers, I start with dark gray and lighten with light gray and dry brush with some white.

The "on guard" figure above is one of my all-time favorite figures. Notice how the buttons on the gaiters stand out by not applying too much light gray over the dark base. The kepi is pure white. This is probably a-historical but I like the effect. (The "cult of the kepi" really began with General Rollet in the inter-war period.) One way to really make the white stand out is to paint a base coat of light blue under it. For this tip I am indebted to Bob Bowling of RLBPS.

The standard FR-8 unit pack comes with half of the figures in gaiters and no packs and the other half in long pants without gaiters and with packs. If you like, you can ask for all one or the other but almost no one does. I've done those without the packs first, including the bugler. Except for the bugle (which I didn't finish--but easily could have) his uniform is identical to theirs.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Berber Leaders

Finished the Berber leaders and with that, the native side is complete!

I often pull out the leader figures to paint separately as they may have different uniforms or other parts that are unique like drums. In this case it wasn't really necessary but it did help keep the batch size down to 9 and added one extra batch of seven. If the batches get too big, the paint starts to dry on the brush before you get done and that's a very bad thing for the life of the brush.

Same technique as used on the other Berbers. The main difference here is the color of the turban. It was recorded by European observers that Abd el Krim's leaders of units wore orange turbans and his personal bodyguard green ones. So I made the leaders with orange or green turbans. What orange? I couldn't stand the thought of a bright Halloween orange so I went with a more Texas A&M burnt orange--Raw Sienna & Alizarin Crimson pretty much. For the green, a mid-green the color of the prophet.

The figure at the top is (if you'll recall) that unreleased Berber/Riffi leader figure. I rather like him. OK, Ed, you've got the only painted one of him so far. The figure in the foreground below is holding a standard pole--I'll add the standard last. The Warflag site has a number of authentic-looking flags with Arabic characters on them but they're pulled from the movies, a dubious source at best. Abd el Krim, being trained by the Spanish, sought to create an independent Moroccan state and in so doing he created a flag for his Riffian republic. Could use that, too. I'll have to ask Ed what he wants.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More Berbers

There are four batches of Berbers plus one more of the leaders. I like to do all one pose at the same time: it seems to go faster that way. The leaders go at the end because they often have different things to paint, like swords or drums. I'm liking the 9-figure batch a lot. I'd rather finish 9 figures in one sitting than half-finish 18 figures. Plus, with the larger batches, the paint starts to dry on the brush before you get all the way to the end of the line. That's not good for the life of the brush.

Not much to add to describe these figures. I used a little more of the yellow-brown highlight on these.

Here's a comparison of Ed's Berber (left) with one of mine. Damn, Ed, yours look better than mine! You might be able to see that I didn't paint the eyes on mine--they looked awfully close to the turban. I gotta tell you: in maybe 20 demo games, nobody has ever picked up one of these and said, "You didn't paint the eyes!"

After four years and all those games, my Berbers are showing their wear, especially the bases. I had used matt board (cheap) with acrylic spackling and self-stick magnet on the bottom. Guess why I switched to a metal base with pumice?

Only the leaders to go and I'm done with the Berber side.

Back to the Berbers

Having finished the first unit, it's time to tackle the Berbers in their more traditional dress. Remember the Jawas from Star Wars? Guess where Spielberg go the idea?

I've cheated a bit here. Hey, anything to make the painting go quicker! Started with the usual dark gray undercoat and some dark gray touching up. Here's the cheat: almost the whole figure is painted burnt umber. The paint is a bit on the thin side and you might be able to see it pooling in the shadows, which is what we want. I've left the face unpainted so I can do the red-brown base coat, but the legs and hands are painted over, too. The rifles are not painted because I usually use Rifle Butt, but I have covered the rifles, too.

Next, I use light gray where the gandoura shows in the front and I'm well on my way.

Here they are complete. The face, hands and rifle are done in the usual way. The light colored parts are all light gray, not white. There are two highlight colors over the burnt umber: a yellowish color like Teddy Bear Tan is good. The string or piece of leather catches the dark color along the base and the lighter ones on the top. You may not even need to go over it later.

I did a couple of variations on different batches including starting with Nubian/Dark Umber instead of Burnt Umber. On that batch I even painted the base at the start.

By the way, this figure is modeled after a Berber in a period photograph.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ruturn of the Mummies

Yes, they're back. And for one simple reason: to illustrate the value of drybrushing. These figures took me not more and ten minutes to paint and I think the result is spectacular. I have to give the sculptor all the credit. Well, that and the dry brush technique.

Originally, mummies were wrapped in white linen but over the centuries it becomes a very dark brown so I gave it a base coat of a fairly thin Burnt Umber. This is something like a wash coat, where the paint collects in the deep spots. Then the drybrush with--what else?--Linen.

The drybrush technique is pretty simple. It's called "dry brush" because there isn't much paint on the brush. I wipe it off on the paper towel. Dry brushing is hard on brushes for some reason, so I usually use an older brush that has lost its point an spreads a bit. If there are a series of lines (as in these bandages) or folds, then brush perpendicular to them. That catches the edges and misses the deep parts. On these, I brushed mostly from bottom to top or from the hands in toward the shoulders.

Practice a bit with the amount of paint on the brush. The paint itself should be on the thick side. That's really all there is to it. I like simple.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Next batch complete

Here's the other half of the unit. Not much different to report about them. The burnous was white, probably unbleached wool. White cotton gandoura, white burnous, white turban. Fairly simple. Notice the lighter colored bands on the musket--really highlights it well. Notice also the eye, described in a previous post. If the eye looks too big you can always trim off the excess with a bit of flesh around the edges or even cover it over and try again. Basically, though, I don't find it's worth the effort. Just give it a good try and move on.

These and the previous figures are meant to portray Moroccan Berbers who live on the western edge of the Sahara, like the Ain Atta. With the influence of the Arabs of the Sahara, their dress is more like theirs than their Berber cousins of the Atlas. You could certainly use these as Arabs from Algeria. In the winter they might dress warmer by putting on multiple gandouras or even another burnous.

That's almost one Berber unit down and two to go. I like to do all the same or related poses at once: you get into a pattern and it's faster that way. So I'll save all six command figures plus that extra leader to make a separate batch at the end.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Painting Tools

Sure, brushes are the basic painting tool. But what else is helpful? I took a pic of my painting tray just to see what I've collected over the years.

The tray itself is just a piece of plywood, an off-cut from a long-discarded project. I think it's really helpful to have a solid base like this: all the lead and paints get heavy and I do have to move it around a bit. At the back is a little wooden tray I made to hold paint jars; there's a shoebox as well that I set on the right. Doesn't matter how you organize your paints, but being able to put your hand on just the right bottle quickly is a real plus.

At the back of the paint tray is a piece of paper. I've made notes about the colors I use. "Which blue did I use on the tunic of the Chasseurs d'Afrique?" Very helpful. Although you can't see it really, I've also made "chip charts" on 3x5 cards and stuck those to the left of the tray. Useful because the dried color hue is different than the wet one. But now that I've gone to using the artist colors more I find I don't have as many paints and don't do that as much. When I do, now I'm using bigger swatches and painting them on high-quality bright white paper. I have one for the khakis and tans I use a lot.

With acrylics, water is the essential clean-up medium. I have two little plastic tubs there. Got these from drinking a whole lotta powdered tea mix and I have an almost unlimited supply. One contains clean water for adding to the paint with the eye dropper and the other one is for cleaning the brushes. You'll note the bottle of acrylic cleaner--plain water isn't enough to keep your brushes clean, but regular dish detergent works just as well. When the dirty water gets really dirty I've been known to use it as a dark wash. There: now you know my dirty little secret.

The pliers is for opening stuck lids and the X-acto is for cleaning the dried paint from around the tops. Another little tea tub holds all the toothpicks I use to stir the paint. I get a lot of "Do you paint with the toothpicks?" from non-painters so one day I tried it. Not bad to quickly "patch" a spot. When my brushes are ready for the trash I cut off the ferrule and viola'! A bigger and longer paint stirrer for the deep bottles.

A paper towel for cleaning and drying the brushes is on the right. I used to use old t-shirts in the enamel paint days but they don't absorb water well. I'll have to get rid of that one I just noticed. They tray tends to get so crowded sometimes it's hard to fit the figures on it. I also use the paper towels to take off extra paint when I'm dry brushing. If I continue to use the same spot, sometimes I go back there instead of the paint source for just a little bit.

Where to paint from? You can just dip your brush in the paint jar or sometimes the lid but as you can see to the left, the little bottles really make you squeeze out a couple of drops at a time. This helps preserve the paint from drying out so that's nice. Whenever I'm using that kind of bottle or just mixing colors, I put it all on the pickle jar lid you see in the center. They're a good size and I tend to make a color wheel of it as I go along. My wife really likes pickles so there's a never-ending supply of those, too.

Oh, one last thing. Glasses. 2.5X magnifiers from Walmart to be exact. I actually took a figure in to the store to try out the best magnification. Once upon a time I used to amaze all by telling those who asked that yes, I did paint all that detail with the naked eye. Alas, age has caught up with me and I would no longer be able to see all the detail on these little buggers much less paint it without some help.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finishing off the Berbers

Finished painting! (What did you think the title meant?)

When I last posted, just a few things to go. I painted the base brown and let that dry while working on the rifles and such. The rifles are painted overall Rifle Butt, but sometimes Burnt Umber is close enough. I've found it's important to paint the whole thing, as later the gunmetal looks and covers much better over the dark undercoat. Also, if you haven't done the dark undercoat for the hands (I did this time because of the forearms), just breeze right over them, too. Good time saver. Next, paint the gunmetal on the top part. If it's a musket with rings or has sights, I'll do those with a "steel" or other mid to light metallic color. Really makes the weapon stand out and takes almost no time. Didn't have that on this rifle.

The hands are drybrushed with a color the same or maybe a bit darker than the face. Notice on the figure on the right you can see the individual fingers. That's because 1) Tony made them (including fingernails) and 2) the fingers were drybrushed ever so lightly, leaving the dark spaces between the fingers intact. Great look, little effort. I like that.

The pouches are made of--what else?--Moroccan leather so I painted them red-brown. Burnt Sienna of course. Beginning to see a pattern here? The artist colors are very versatile. The fringes at the bottom were decorative; I painted these a mid-green. The cords holding the pouches were little more than strings and Tony has made these appropriately fine. When I drybrushed the gandoura, at least one side of the cords was left dark. No need to outline these in a dark color as people do (especially outlining Napoleonic belting!). Just barely touch the tops with the color you want and you're good to go. In fact, some of the cords had picked up a little of the tan-shaded drybrush color and I was tempted to do nothing.

Back to the base. An indeterminate brown on the feet: could be slippers, could be sun-browned and dusty feet. The base brown is drybrushed Raw Sienna and then again with Yellow Ochre. I could have stopped with the Raw Sienna but it was looking a little too Halloweeny for my taste and the Yellow Ochre really brightened up not only the base but the whole figure. After all, these Berbers are mostly gray and brown--a little color can't hurt.

There you go--first batch done! I think it's taken me as long to write these two blogs as it did to paint the figures. I definitely think finishing 9 figures in one sitting is more satisfying than doing half of 18 figures.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Painting the First Berbers

Let's start this out easy--sort of "warming up" as it were.

I usually like to paint in batches of 8-12 but with colonial units being around 20...well, the temptation is great to do them all in one go. This time, though, I'm going to do half of the Berbers in gandouras. Ought to be pretty quick.

I learned over time that it's the overall result you want, not the exact colors or whether you've "colored within the lines." For these Berbers I'm looking for a dirty, scruffy look. Their gandouras were made of unbleached cotton or wool and they wouldn't get washed very often. The turbans were just a long strip of cloth wound about a white skull cap--the hair cropped short. Prince Harry didn't refer to them as "rag heads" without cause.

You're generally going to paint them from the inside out, as if they were getting dressed. So we start with the fleshy bits.

In the pic above, I've undercoated the faces and arms with "Dark Fleshtone" (which I'd never buy again: at $2.99 a bottle it is indistinguishable from Burnt Sienna which I can get 4x as much for 97 cts, 58 on sale). The next step is to dry brush a medium flesh tone over that. The Berbers are thought to be descendants of the Carthaginians who in turn came from Asia Minor. They're quite Caucasian although dark from the sun.

When you do the drybrushing, make sure there's not too much paint on the brush. Better to go over an area twice than obliterate the color underneath. On these figures, drybrushing left the eye sockets dark, but no matter. Catching the edges of the ears makes them stand out nicely. Be sure to highlight the nose. Tony puts a lot of facial detail into these--they deserve to be painted.

Eyes are a technique I learned from doing larger figures. I don't always do eyes, but Ed's in luck 'cause this is after all a tutorial. You start near the nose and make a small oval or slightly more rectangular patch of white on each side. Practice gets it pretty quickly. Next--and this is key--a black line or blob from top to bottom for the iris. It looks right if the black is oval and covers a good bit of the white. Round and it looks like the figure has a case of the big eye; if both white and black are round it looks like a toy soldier. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes not. In the end, you'll get better at it and trust me: in the heat of the game no one will notice.

Once you've done the eyes, paint on the beard and a bit of hair at the back of the head. Tony likes to put on the facial hair. I use a fairly fine brush and am sure to leave space between mustaches and beard for the mouth. You can leave it there or mix a little red with the flesh tone to paint lips. But don't overdo! You don't want the dreaded Toy Soldier look.

We've gotten to that point above. Have left the arms alone; we'll get to those in a bit. Time to do the gandouras and turbans. Fortunately the dark gray primer is a nice shade to start with. Remember: black and white are too harsh. No "soot and chalk" for these lads. I take Charcoal and paint it in the shaded parts: under the arms, behind the rifle, inside the wide sleeves and in the folds of the cloth. I clean up the messiness on the turbans from painting the face as well. I'm also making sure I cover those hidden areas where the sprayed undercoat might not have reached well.

Then I drybrush a light gray over all, making sure not to get it into the folds of the cloth and such. Again, less is more. I start on the "brightest" parts of the cloth like the upper back and arms when I have the most paint on the brush. I very lightly highlight the turban. Frankly, the light gray looks white to the eye and that's the last we have to touch it. It would also be the last we have to touch the gandoura as well, but I'm really thinking dirt, so I mix a little tan into the gray and drybrush it in a few outer spots as well. No right or wrong here, just do what pleases you.

The camera seems to have squished this guy a bit, but here he is at that stage. We're almost done already: just arms, feet, rifle, bag, and base and he's done. I finished them all in one go but this post is getting a bit long and I want to take the final picture in daylight, so I'll finish this tomorrow.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


What are mummies doing on Ed's Army page?!

I wanted to share a new idea I had the other day. I bought a few mummies for an Egyptian-Foreign Legion game (think opening scene of "The Mummy"). I figure I can use THW's "Warrior Heroes" to play the semi-fantasy game or maybe even "All Things Zombie," treating the mummies like zombies.

The figures came with slotta-bases. A guy at the shop suggested cutting off the slot and gluing the figure on a metal base--which worked great. I wanted to use my standard 3/4" base but although the figure's feet fit, the base looked too small. So I bought 1" fender washers and just stuck the whole thing on top. The thin Gamecrafter's base doesn't add much height and actually helps by covering the hole in the fender washer. I'll cover the base with the usual pumice and maybe some stones.

Very cool.

As I worked with these lead-free figures I was reminded of why I chose a metal containing some lead for Askari Miniatures. The feet and legs gave off this crackling sound as I tried to adjust them. One of the mummies (not shown) was cast pretty much two-dimensionally and it wasn't possible to move the arms much out of that plane. It's also much harder to clean lead-free figures with knife or file.