This lad's not happy . . .

This must be something of a record, being the third consecutive entry about painting. That's a lie really as you'll see later. However, I've continued my desk clearing exercise and am actually achieving bits here and there. The photos below are of three odd (in the nicest possible way) command figures from my stalled 30 Years' War project of a couple of years ago. I've got more stalled projects than Soft Mick, but I'm now in control of my habit, despite what detractors may say.

Anyway, they're painted up as non descript generals that can be used as brigade commanders (should that be tercio?), but the point is (apart from the fact that I've forgotten to paint in the horses eyes) is that they were knocked off quite quickly, the real time saving being the reversion to the old fashioned 'oil paint wipe' technique for the horses. This means that, allowing for a short delay while the oil paint dries, you can knock off whole regiments of cavalry in a far less time than trying to paint and highlight with acrylics.

The bases are as far as I go with decoration. There's a (more or less) high angle view of each figure to give you a decent view of the base. It's an old truism that if you've got a decent figure, don't hide it on an over-done base and if you've got a pretty poor figure, use a highly decorated base to distract the viewer. It's true for a lot of things in life, painting leads is just one of them.

I've seen bases that are works of art, but with beautiful figures on them that you can't see properly or maybe barely notice at first. You'll know the sort of thing I mean. So, as I don't like the third general figure much, I thought I'd over-do his base to prove the point.Unfortunately, I only got so far and just couldn't be bothered. So much work for nowt really. The flowers on these bases are my only concession to the current fashion of basing figures so they look as if they're marching through a garden centre.

What to do with them? For a while they'll probably stand in as brigadiers for my embryonic War of the Spanish Succession project – you can never have too many command figures. After that they'll probably retire into obscurity rather than line the pockets of the eBay shareholders.

The figures are all Bicorne, from their ECW range, and paint up pretty easily. The range doesn't seem to have expanded for a while and that may be because the sculptor of the range, Nick Collier, now does work for The Assault Group (TAG). However, the figures from these two companies are compatible and the Bicorne ECW  range is pretty big anyway.

Now then, mobile phones. I've been with Virgin Mobile for a while now and never had any problems with them. I was contacted a couple of months ago and reminded that my contract was due up: did I want to upgrade? As it happens, my then current phone was a pain – a slide cover that took what seemed like ages to do anything on and, as my kids send texts all the time, it took me a lifetime to reply. So, I got myself a Blackberry Curve for thirty bob a month less than I was already paying and with a bigger chip than was standard. Well chuffed was I . . . until last week when, after only six weeks' use, the damned thing died on me. To cut a (not really) long story short, I've had the phone replace with a reconditioned one (because I'd had it for more than a fortnight!!!!) and the charger they sent with the replacement was broken. The replacement charger for the replacement charger arrived this morning and it's the wrong type. The good people at Virgin Mobile asked if I'd buy one myself and they'd credit my account. I wasn't too impressed with that suggestion – the second replacement arrives tomorrow.

Now, I can be a bit short tempered at times and I can certainly swear better than anybody I know (and I was in the navy too), but I was reasonable and as pleasant as anyone could be in the circumstances. However, I've still ended up with a second hand phone and an assortment of useless chargers. What I did discover during the course of the conversations with VM is that they use Blackberry's own people to repair the phones and they don't seem to have any proper control over them. The quality aspects of the equipment has been questionable for a while (yes, I know), but, it seems the quality of service is about the same level. VM weren't too happy when I called them again this morning.

I thought I'd share this with you to give you a snapshot of one incident in a market which is supposed to be saturated and in which companies are reportedly cutting each others' throats to get business and to retain custom. I've had a trawl around a few consumer forums (and the chat rooms of some mobile providers' sites) and, sadly, the situation seems to be the same all over.

See; I told you I'd lied about the painting . . .

More oil!

This is the second entry about painting – there are more on the blog, so I suppose I should say “for today”. In between domestic stuff, electrics and being a professional grandad, I've been was painting figures to clear the painting desk. It's not a desk as such, more a mobile scene of chaos, but there's a clutch of figures that've been hanging around for a while (absolute ages in some cases) which need to be killed off to allow progress with newer stuff to proceed with a clear conscience – and be able to find stuff! Just to give a clearer picture, this log jam of figures isn't that big really, but it's built up over a while because of a combination of insufficient time, idleness, a butterfly mind and an overactive imagination. Nevertheless, the upshot is about two hundred and odd figures primed and waiting to be painted. I must be crackers . . . .

Anyway, a few of these figures were part of an experiment with an idea from a fellow blogger: Olddorg – see Metal Mountain in the list of blogs on the left. He's got a very good method of preparing the figures for painting by (in a nutshell) undercoating in a light brown acrylic paint, which is then over-painted in burnt umber oil paint. This in turn is then wiped off to reveal what might be described as a pre shaded figures that shows all the detail and gives a great indication of the shades and highlights for painting. It's also a decent key for the subsequent paint. The figure is then finished off in the usual two or three (or more) layers of acrylics. Dead simple and really effective if, like me, your next stop is to skip the optician and buy the guide dog. So, do have a read of Metal Mountain and have a go yourself.

Now, I have to confess that I have a problem with Olddorg's method in that virtually all shadows are really grey, not brown, so I wanted to try alternatives to his scheme. I opted for two colour combinations to see if they made any difference: grey primer with ivory black oil paint and white primer with burnt umber oil paint. The white/brown scheme would give more contract than the light brown/brown scheme, while the grey/black combination would give (to me) proper dark shadows and be better for blues and greens etc. That was the theory anyway and it seems to have worked during the painting process. However, the end results are difficult to differentiate. Because you paint over most of the figure anyway, the brown option is really dark brown in the deep recesses, so looks more or less black anyway. However, I do tend to use thinner paint than most people and the black certainly did allow for the acrylics to show greater depth of shade. It's all a question of personal preference, so it's up to you.

O.K., now the evidence. I've uploaded two sets of figures; one for each scheme. The first three figures are done with the white/brown combination:

The nest two are done with the grey/black scheme:

Personally, I'm not bothered and I can happily live with both. I would use Olddorg's brown on brown, but I haven't got any brown enamel and I might as well continue the way I have. I've also got a couple of mounted figures on the go using this system for man and horse and I'll post them this week sometime. This 'oil wipe' method of painting horses is donkey's years old, dating back at least to the days of Peter Gilder, so for me, it's a step back in time because I used to do all my horses that way. However,I'm not just being nostalgic; it's also a very fast way of painting horses and, with a little practice, can produce good results in more realistic horse colours. Anyway, more of that another time.

Oils and such

This is the first of a couple of entries about painting – now there's a surprise eh? However, this is something I was pondering over while I was painting up a few figures to clear the painting desk of 'quick jobs' and experimenting with another idea from a fellow blogger. More of that anon, but I got to thinking about the lead pile and ways of getting it down other than by ditching it!

Years and years ago I used to use a variety of washes to add shading quickly. The sculpting wasn't anything like that standard of current figures, so fantastic detail wasn't all that important, especially as 25mm meant just that, before the 'herioc' 25's and now 28mm (which are really about 32mm) of today. Nevertheless, the part of figure painting most people seem to have varying degrees of difficulty with is the flesh and there's an easy solution. The answer is to give the figure a decent base coat of acrylic flesh colour and then over-wash with (very) thinned oil paint. There's no secret formula to this: any flesh or pale brown or sand colour will do for the basecoat and the best oils to use are sepia and burnt umber. There are only two things to bear in mind:

  • the paler the darker the flesh colour used for the basecoat, then the darker the final skin tone:
  • burnt umber gives a darker finish than sepia.

So, a Viking would need a pale basecoat with a sepia wash and so on. By the way, this is exactly the same principle as used on oil 'wash and wipe' horse painting. If yo want to add 'seven o'clock shadow', then give the appropriate are a wash with thinned paynes grey.

Now then, this is obviously suited to an assembly line approach because the oil wash will take longer to dry than acrylic ink, but the basecoat soaks up much of the oil and as the wash is thinned anyway, there isn't much oil to soak up anyway. However, I used to do a batch of about 50 figures at a sitting (not long at all) and then leave them for 24 hours. The actual drying time is much less than this, but it fitted in nicely with real life.

There are many variations to this method, the most obvious being to give the face some basic shading before the oil wash is applied and use it to pull it all together, so to speak. You can also add some highlights after the oil wash has dried to give more emphasis to the face – you're probably going to want to paint in the bottom lip anyway. Each variation gives its own 'look' to the figure , but I think the key thing to remember is that the oil wash is as flexible as you want it to be. It can be used by many styles of painter and can certainly cut down time otherwise spent slavishly trying to get that nicely shaded look. David Imrie uses a variation of this with Army Painter Strong Tone to cover the whole figures once he has blocked the colours in and then highlights over the top. Same principle; different medium.

I'l be using this for my squaddies from now on (unless I get bored again) , but I'll still have the freedom (and the time) to get fancy with command figures. In fact I'll probably take the David Imrie approach now and again for some units and get more involved with others. That's the kind of mentalist I am.

Anyway. I've uploaded some photos of heads from some Vietnam era Americans to show the effect:

The Song of the Dodo

Yes, nice to see you too. Where have I been? Nowhere really, but I've been reading and ruminating and the like. Been cautious about wha...