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.

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