Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Verdigris this!

Last month, my friend Chris asked if I'd paint a pewter statuette for his wife, Nancy. Nancy’s father served as a Marine in WW II and she inherited his Iwo Jima statuette. My friend wrote "the monochromeness of the piece made it look like a jumble. In person, the size of the Arlington piece and the dynamism of the poses makes it awe inspiring. For our little piece, I think color would make the marines stand out more and give the whole piece more definition. In my mind's eye, it would be really nice."

I agreed to paint it if I could do it gratis for two dear friends.  I'm honored that they'd trust me with this, honored and a bit nervous. Worse comes to worse, Pine Sol has my back, right? So, here's my Work in Progress.  The piece is fairly large; 5" tall, 5" wide and 8" long.  I suggested the piece could be reworked in verdigris. Nancy and Chris agreed to give it a go.
Prime black.  So far, so good!
Blocking a mix of bronze & brown for a weathered base.
Two heavy washes with GW Agrath Earthshade.  This turns out to be a bit of a misstep.  
I was tempted to stop here because the piece was looking quite nice! But that's not what I offered or what my friends agreed to.  Time to buckle up and move to the verdigris.
I used my brightest Vallejo blue and green, very watered down. The names on the jars are worn off but they're Game Color and quite bright.  I started with a 3-1 ratio of blue to green for the first wash and then in successive washes, I moved to 3-1 ratio of green to blue.  There is lots of flat space on these figures and the washes took me only so far.  For the last coat, I painting vertical highlights onto the figures, trying to mimic the weeping effect of verdigris. I did also try to mix in dark streaks but that didn't work in this scale.  It was looking pretty bright so I flattened it out with a watered Agrath Earthshade wash.     

Then on to the base.  I may need a wash to flatten it out as well.  
The final trick is the flag, and it's freaking huge. I'm thinking verdigris but that's not my call. The Arlington memorial is topped with a real flag and Nancy was thinking color at the start of this project. I'll confirm which way they want to take this-red, white and blue, or verdigris.   

This piece has been a riddle and a challenge. It's not like anything I've painted before but then again, it's good to get out of my comfort zone  I've really enjoyed seeing the piece evolve.  Here's hoping I get it across the finish line in good order!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Norse go South

The Varangian Guard were elite Norse mercenaries who served the Byzantine empire from the 9th through 14th centuries. To get an idea of how important they were, consider the spoils of war.  After a victory, the Byzantine Emperor took 1/3 of the booty, the Varangians took 1/3 and the rest of the army divided the balance. The Varangians were also the first to plunder a city and upon the death of the emperor, the
privilege of plundering the palace.

Much like Napoleon's Old Guard, the Varangian Guard were committed to battle at critical moments where the action was most fierce. Chroniclers described them as "fighting like madmen, as if ablaze with wrath,"  "frightening both in appearance and in equipment, they attacked with reckless rage and neither cared about losing blood nor their wounds." During the Battle of Beroe, Byzantine troops tried but couldn't break a  Pecheneg wagon laager (fort).  Byzantine officers cried for the "Emperor's wineskins" and up came the Varangians.  Heavily outnumbered, they broke through the circle and slaughtered the enemy. 

These are all Gripping Beast figs.  The hafts on their 2-handed axes were reportedly 5' long, so I trimmed the axes to keep them at or under the height of the figures.  

In Saga, the Byzantines can take Harald Hardrada as a hero & Captain of the Varangian Guard.  Part way into the project, my customer asked to add a Harald, plus 4 Viking Hearthguard for his Viking warband.  I modded a Hereward the Wake figure by cutting the sword out of his right hand and drilling out his left.  In it, I put a clipped spear in and added an axehead. Bingo, the Captain of the Varangian Guard with a a few Vikings running amok. The Viking basing was done to match an existing Viking warband.  

I recently switched to Krylon Matt Finish for sealcoating. It dries with a satin finish that looks brighter in the photography lights than natural lighting.  I'm not sure why the matt finish is coming up satin but I knocked it down with Army Painter Matt varnish after the photos.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Byzantine warband unleashed

My friend Jack painted up a lovely Byzantine army for Impetus that he ported into Saga.  Tempted as I was to paint one up myself, I generally avoid painting over my friend's armies. Then the fellow who bought my Vikings asked if I'd paint him a Byzantine warband for Saga. When asked for painting instructions, he said I had free reign.  The opportunity to paint Byzantines to my own vision is as good as it gets!

I did have a vision in mind, thanks to a profile folder on the desktop of my PC. I love the bright, vibrant colors in their mosaics and artwork, and the story of the Eastern Roman empire chugging along 1,000 years after Rome falls is fascinating.  The Dark Age palette goes on ice for this one.  I'm using bright reds, sky blue and yellows that appear in Byzantine artwork. These colors also appear in the LBMS Byzantine banner and shields as well.  I'm guessing their Byzantine folder looks a lot like mine!

As is my habit, I started with my favorite units first.  Cavalrymen were the elite arm of the Byzantine military. One of their tactics was to soften up the enemy with compound bows. If the enemy spread out to lessen the damage from the missile fire, the Byzantine cavalry would charge in with lances.  If the enemy held in place, they were likely to be disrupted from the storm of arrows.  And then a charge would come!
The LMBS banner and shield transfers really bring these fellows to life.  Scratch painted shield are an art  but I can't match the perfection in the shields below.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Irish warlord & champions

In Saga, the Irish can take up to 2 champions (Curaidh).  They have better armor, more attack dice in shooting and melee, and ignore the first non-cancelled hit.  They're a must have for the faction and I do like the way Gripping Beast modeled them with their uberspears.

Our special guest today is a traveling bard.  As you can see, he got lost in the dark forests of Killkenny. Luckily, he found two local boys to point him the way back!

The Irish were primed white and washed with Daler Rowney's Burnt Umber acrylic ink.  Basing was a blend of Woodland Scenic fine and medium ballast topped with Americana craft paint Milk Chocolate. Once dry, the bases got a Burnt Umber ink wash and highlights. I'm going to use this for basing my future Saga warbands.  With this, the Irish warband is complete.  These are going to a local friend so I look forward to seeing them in our Saga matches as well as Dux Britanniarum once they release the next supplement.  

I've been scrounging for quality military history podcasts to listen to lately. Last week, I signed up at for a free audiobook. Since Byzantines are up in the painting queue, I chose Lars Brownworth's "Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization." Painting to a quality audiobook is a treat. If you can afford the monthly fee, I highly recommend it.  Their military history selection is huge and the hardest part for me will be to limit myself to just one book a month.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

If you see a head, hit it! Irish, Pt 2.

This delightful quote was Brig. General Michael Lawler's favorite Tipperary saying, which explains his decision to lead 4 Union regiments in an assault on rebel entrenchments at Vicksburg.  Charging entrenchments was a recipe for slaughter in the American Civil War. To make matters worse, Lawler and his troops had to wade chest deep through a bayou to get at the rebels.  A reporter described the charge as "the most perilous and ludicrous charge I witnessed in the war." As the Irish are prone to do, Lawler and his men achieved the impossible. They got through the bayou, into the trenches and routed the rebels, capturing 1,200 prisoners for their efforts.

There were times I almost hit my head against the painting desk while painting up the Irish hearthguard. Tartan is exceedingly slow work. You really can lose yourself and your sanity between those stripes! I do like how Gripping Beast modeled the Dark Age Irish here. There are only 2 figures of the 12 with chain-mail and most are barefoot.  A couple men sport leather helmets. Don't let the ragtag look fool you. As the rebels learned, the Irish can wade through a bog, hit you upside your head and then run you down for good measure. Long odds and common sense be damned!

I've thought about having a T-shirt made with the old Irish saying,  "If you see a head, hit it."  I still might one day but what if someone takes me up on it? For now, I'll safely wear my favorite Pogues shirt featuring a man fighting the devil.  Does the devil represent whiskey, lust or addiction to painting? Depending on the wearer, it might represent all 3! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Irish unleashed!

The Irish are tough as nails in Saga.  Armed with javelins and a battleboard that amps up shooting, they'll bleed our an opponent with deadly missile fire. Sons of Dana allows them to shoot out of terrain even when they don't have a unit in it.  Imagine one minute you're walking next to some trees and the next, you've got a javelin in your backside!

When I start a new painting project, I'll often lead with my favorite unit from the bunch.  I love the energy of these Gripping Beast figures so they were the first on the painting table. The Irish can field up to 8 Irish Wolfhounds.  The hounds move as fast as mounted units and they're not slowed down by terrain.  That makes them a fast moving left hook and another reason to avoid terrain. Javelins and man eating dogs, how much worse can it get? Whenever I go against the Irish with my Vikings or Normans, it always turns out badly for me.

The tufts are from tajima1 and the plowed field is from Andrew's terra firma studios.  Shield transfers and the banner are by LBMS.  I kept the painting schemes fairly simple for the warriors, saving the tartan for the hearthguard in the next round.

Today, I ran a demo game of Saga at The Source Comics and Games with the Normans facing off against the Vikings.  There was a steady flow of onlookers to our table and I might have picked up 2 new converts to the system.  While it's a challenge to book a table at the store, the foot traffic and the compliments on my painting make it worthwhile!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Old West Civilians & a kick in the rear

Up today is the last batch of figures for Dead Man's Hand.  I was glad to find a woman in the lot.  In addition to her sterling figure, she was the perfect excuse to bust out Reaper's MSP yellow triad.  Once again, Great Escape Games has served up an eclectic mix of characters including Billy the Kiddie.  This was a fun set to paint and I'm looking forward to an Old West game down the line.

This week, I went into work only to learn that I'd been furloughed and had 30 minutes to shut down and go home without pay.  Since the furlough was a slow train coming, I'd already grabbed some painting contracts to stay busy. Never one to miss an opportunity, my wife also gave me a "Honey Do" list. Once I saw none of her "Dos" involved painting, I chucked it.  Kidding!  I'd like to remain a married man so I'll work on her projects as well as the Saga contracts.  I'm spending long hours at the painting table to keep from moping around the house. Thank goodness for this hobby of ours!