Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sometimes it's the Little Things

After the marathon blog of the other day, maybe it's time to slow down, relax and just appreciate some pieces without all the brou-haha.

My two favourite pieces from the Cadian Special Ops Kill Team that I did for CBW, using Forgeworld Cadian drop troops with suppressors added to their guns and in the case of the officer, an added head from Pig Iron Productions. Bases from Dragon Forge.

These Forgeworld Tau pieces are so subtle, little in the way of equipment, just jumpsuits, a bit of armour, no helmets, and an imperious Tau glare. Love these guys.

And finally, from the Pearson collection, a figure that cost an arm and a leg. Picked this guy up from Ebay, wanted him, was going to have him, but not for the price that was being asked. Hit the wrong button on the Ebay page, and found that I was the proud owner of a splendid figure that many others got for free when they bought a GW army pack. Wasn't free for me however. Have become far more cautious when dealing with Ebay since.

Won't say what the price was, my mother may read this.

Despite my faux pas, I like this figure and the scarlet and crimson accoutrements lend a splash of colour to a grim warrior.

Especially when he leads the rest of the Dark Angels. Suitably brutal figures.

Hope you like. Going off to watch Carlton play Sydney in the mud tonight, with my brothers.

Go the mighty Blues.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Finding the Best in a Tenuous Situation

It's 4.35 am.

I hit the sack early thinking, okay, voice-over in the morning, have to be there at 9.00, booked for two hours, get an early-ish night, wake up fresh.

Doesn't happen. As is all-too-often the case these days, sleep is interrupted, not by outside noise (actually the peaceful sound of a long and sustained rain shower at the moment), nor by the need to relieve myself (a new wrinkle in getting older, I have noticed).

What happens is the inner alarm goes off as my subconscious reminds me that the industry I have devoted much of my life to (acting) is slowly going down the gurgler, and that the voice-over I am doing in the morning is a mere shadow of the workload I used to do.

Now, compared to the problems of others, this is a small and probably meaningless hiccough. Many would see it as such. And I agree. I so very much agree. I always believe that things will get better, that change is around the corner, "Onward and Upward" is always my call to arms.

I know, I just know deep down where I keep my deepest beliefs, my warmest memories and my coldest fears, I know it will get better.

But sometimes, just sometimes, when the rent is due, when I am reminded how old I am, when I see the latest offerings from networks and studios out for a quick buck at the expense of taste and talent, when I see that a 15 year old barely-talented boy, famous for a haircut and being discovered on Youtube, is writing his auto-biography, or a woman herself hardly out of her teens, who feels she needs to wear a meat suit to be noticed, is complaining about how hard it is to earn millions and be a superstar . . . sometimes a touch of despair creeps in.

 Where do I go? How do I dispel this feeling of pointlessness and insignificance? Strange to say I go to something even tinier than me.

All I need to do is look at my boys.

Can't say it makes me feel that all is right with the world. I doubt that anything could do that. Not that I'm not hoping.

But I look at something like this and realise that within that world, specifically my small corner of it, there are good things, things to be cherished, things of which I can be justly proud, things I have worked hard to achieve. And all the petty injuries, failures and defeats, the panic and despair, all the regrets start to take a backseat. They don't disappear altogether (again, nothing could achieve that), but they don't have quite the significance they had when they managed to wake me from a well-earned slumber.

For a while I can enjoy the results of my work, and I am reminded of other achievements, acting performances that have pushed me beyond the expectations of my peers, painted figures that came together with clarity and painting skill in a moment that was unexpected, a scene in a script I was writing that reduced me to tears or had me laughing a deep belly-laugh that caught me by surprise.

And right at that moment, I know things will get better.

Here endeth my very personal discourse.


CBW came to me with a box of Perry War of the Roses archers. Now CBW is a willful young man, he doesn't hold with the "GW is the only range of figures to be used with WH or WH40K rule sets", oh no. Don't get me wrong, he loves the GW figures and Forgeworld, and all the other eye-openingly expensive figures that we all drool over in our own special ways. But he also understands the power of a well-earned buck.

So he came up to me one day and said "Turn these into a Dogs of War unit, I reckon they'll come up a treat." He used a sobriquet for me as he always does, but I won't embarrass myself by repeating it.

His request prompted some thought. The Perry box set is full of plasticky goodness, 40 figures all told, 28 archers, 10 polearm troops and 2 command in the configuration I eventually chose. And all for less than $30 AUS.

Now, I'm not going to compare prices, but that's not too damn shabby.

And, at the risk of repeating myself, this is what I came up with:

Same pic as above, but I didn't think you would mind too much.

Here's some more:

Now you will notice some interesting details. So I will go through them. First: all the bows are strung. Have had problems with plastic bows in the past when it comes to stringing them, too delicate, easily warped. That is until I found quilting thread, available from any haberdasher apparently, thin, strong and doesn't fuzz when paint is applied. Works like a charm.

Second: basing, stole this idea from Dave Taylor (thanks, Dave). Normally, GW basing is in singles and in some instances it makes sense, space marine squads, small units, and so forth. But if you have a large unit, what is the point? So long as you can remove the requisite numbers for casualties, how they are based is of no real concern.

This is how I configured the basing:

Nine files across and four ranks back. If you do your maths, it comes out to 36 figures, but I'm only using 32. Nine figure frontage, four figure side, gap in the middle. Or you can say that the unit has 36 figures, they are still straggling in. Justify it, who cares?

And I made a simple movement tray out of card and a length of square model-ship timber. As you can see plenty of individuals, a couple of threes and fours and a nice big command stand, suitably foliaged and displayed. The bigger bases give the modeller a chance to create little individual vignettes that will compliment the larger grouping.

I'm sure others have hit on this form of basing, but for a first try, I'm quite chuffed with this.

I call the unit the Bloody Stride or the Red Legs. The back story is simple: troops were raised by Baron Dietrich von Orken-Fleischeberg*, for defence of the cattle industry and abbatoirs developed by the Baron (as his name implies) and studded around the mountain owned by the family, since it was taken from orcs three hundred years earlier by the Baron's noble ancestor, Friedrich ohne örtlich festgelegten Aufenthaltsort**.

Baron Dietrich's youngest son prevailed upon his father to allow him to use the troops he had raised to lead an expedition across the sea to lands reputed to be rich in gold ("cities are made of the stuff, Papa"), and precious gems ("and you tread rubies beneath your feet"). His father agreed to the expedition ("if you will only shut up and let me read the paper"), giving the boy, Wenig-wiener*** by name, a small selection of the less reputable men in his forces and one drunken sergeant called Errol. He also gave him a ship, the "Fliegenschweinefleischrinde" ****. And so armed off they went.

After an uneventful trip, they landed on far jungle-covered shores, inhospitable and smelling slightly of rising damp and kerosene. Before they could get off the beach however, from the jungle burst a horde of slavering . . . Lizardmen! Not wholly expected. The first to fall was Errol, who tried to offer the lead lizards a draught of ale. He went down, his head split open by an obsidian axe, still giggling and singing a song about a feral cat called Tinkles.

The rest of the men turned tail and fled back to the jolly-boats that had brought them to shore. At the very edge of the water, Wenig-wiener drew his archers and halbards together and ordered them to cover the now panicked and disorderly fleeing. Man after man dropped, impaled by thrown axes or hurtling arrows, but the small band gave as good as it got, and the lizards started taking significant casualties, so much so that there was more blood lapping around the legs of the fighters than sea water.

In a moment of respite, as the lizards gathered for another attack, Wenig-wiener ordered the retreat of his men and they all took to the boats. Arrows and spears followed the retreating men back to their ship.

As the pitiful remains of the rear guard assembled, exhausted on the deck, the cabin boy, Lars, pointed out that their leggings were all red. The blood had soaked into their clothes. The significance didn't dawn on them at that point, because they suddenly noticed that not only lizard-filled canoes, but also flying lizards were starting to congregate around the ship. The prudent decision was made to weigh anchor and get the hell out of there.

It was decided later, when they all got home and the story was told, that an added layer of toughness could be given to the Baron's indifferent troops by associating them with the ill-fated expedition and the deeds of the rearguard . . . sort of making his cow-minding troops vicariously hard. All his troops were given red leggings, even the officers' armour had red painted leg plates, and new banners were given to the troops. They showed a tristar of running red legs and the words "Blutiger Fortschritt"*****, and the trumpeter's banner held the words "Stellung in einem blutigen Meer"******.

The Baron took to hiring the troops out to anyone who had the wherewithall, and they were found to be quite effective so long as they stayed in a tight little bundle, were close to water and someone beat the bushes for skinks and geckos.

Wenig-winer was put to work in a meat-packing plant, where he eventually stumbled into a seasoning vat and expired, although it was commented that his skin had never been so tender or fragrant.

Hope you enjoyed. This was quite a long post, but it's now 6.20am, and I am feeling a lot better. Thanks, guys, makes it all worthwhile.


* Basically "Orc Meat Mountain" - whether it is for the victory over the orcs, or because Friedrich had all the captured orcs impaled on poles and planted on the hillside, about 2,000 all told, is unclear.
** ohne örtlich festgelegten Aufenthaltsort - of no fixed abode
*** Wenig-wiener - "little sausage", nickname from his mother, who was singularly unimpressed at his birth.
**** Fliegenschweinefleischrinde - The Flying Pork Rind
***** Blutiger Fortschrit - The Bloody Stride
****** Stellung in einem blutigen Meer - Standing in a Bloody Sea

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The 3rd Hussars

I have always had a soft spot for the French 3rd Hussars. So when the Perrys brought out their boxed plastics, I had to give it another go. For it was not the first time I had painted these uniforms. Oh no . . . it wasn't  . . . (dramatic music sting)!

It was most certainly watching Keith Carradine as Armand d'Hubert, swaggering through "The Duellists", that first stirred my passion for this uniform. Airfix plastics, Minifigs (15 and 25mm), Foundry, and now Perry. I think I have painted these guys at least a dozen times, not including large scale, 54's and 90's, New Hope and Poste Militaire. Anyone remember Series 77? I do indulge.

I have painted other hussar units, other nationalities, but I always return to the boys in grey.

This time it's a little different. All the others have been Imperial. This time it's Republican. Chris Blaxland-Walker got a hold of an old Republican French army I painted for Mark baker, many aeons ago. After a quick chat, it was decided to go thoroughly berserk and build a huge Republican army, using Baker's boys as a base.

Baker's old army will be rebased, new figures mixed in with the old to build demi-brigades using all manner of figures, and new regiments will be formed. The 3rd is the first of the new formations.

It is a 14 figure formation, based as 3x3 figure bases, 2x2 and a single. This way, all 14 can be used or it can be cut down to a 12 figure unit. The Perry figures are too good to not use them all.

I have them in summer campaign dress, sans pelisse. Hopefully the Perrys might bring out a metal pack of 14 pelisse-wearing top halves for winter dress.

The uniform was drawn from Histoires et Collections' French Hussars 1786-1815 Book 1., as principal source, as well as numerous texts, pictures and sources gathered over the last 40 years. The one thing you notice when researching the 3rd is that before 1804 they are arguably one of the least documented unit in the French army. There are few contemporary illustrations and little in the way of written material and what there is, is a little misleading and confusing.

Case in point: in the H&C book there is a nice illustration of a 3rd Hussar trumpeter, unusual in that he is wearing a grey tailed coat without distinctions (crimson piping or turnbacks) and a bicorne.

To my mind this goes against nature, but was intriguing at the same time. Dare I construct a 3rd Hussar unit without the reverse colours usually associated with trumpeters at the time?

You're darn tootin' I can.

And this is the result:

Using a plastic dragoon body and arms (Perry), a Victrix head, and Green Stuff for the tails I created a trumpeter of the 3rd circa 1793. His lace is silver, as it was for officers of the regiment, the tails are plain (no turnbacks), the horse is grey, the sheepskin is black.

The idea might have been to go for a tailed coat in reverse colours, but there is no evidence that this was practised at all prior to this time. The 1786 regulations indicate long-tailed coats for trumpeters, but it seems that colonels of regiments decided on the colours themselves. An example of the Chamborant regiment, pre-revolution, shows rank and file in brown dolman and pelisse, blue breeches, and their trumpeters in yellow long-tailed coats with false sleeves. Pretty, but not really regimentally sound.

I blame the colonel's wife. No real reason, just saying . . .

I shall now ride off into the sunrise, to the lonely sound of the whistling wind and the irritating sound of a whistling nostril.

More blogs to come.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dwarves and Hairless Chickens

When one thinks of Dwarves, one thinks of Celto-Norse berserker types a la Tolkien, horned helmets, chainmail, knot patterns on every surface, etc. Occasionally a painter can move away from the stereotype and work on a different style of the vertically-challenged, beer-swilling psychos.

West Wind Productions have produced a series of very interesting figures and one of my patrons, Chris Blaxland-Walker de Medici provided me with the opportunity to partake of their fare.

I like them. I like getting away from the established norm and playing with a different concept. So a couple of Macedonian style pike blocks were right up my alley.

Lots of bronze, leather pteruges (the leather skirts named for their resemblance to feathers) and small round spiked shields. Their eyes are shadowed by the heavy bronze helmets and their long, iron-pointed sarissas make a formidable addition to any dwarf army. Imagine another eighty of these guys marching across a field.

As a nod to the Celto-Nordic ambience of the dwarves, I have used some Nordic design features but the appearance is purely cosmetic.

It's just something a little different from your run-of-the-mill. Looking forward to doing a couple of cohorts of the Roman dwarves from the same range. The shields are already done.

My other patron, David "Julius II" Veasey (Il Papa Guerriero), has given me permission to rest from building his Golcondan forces and I can attack the backlog of WH40K that have been taking up room for the past few years. These include Tau, Kroot, Necromunda and various Marine units, as well as the Space Rat army, presently in pre-planning.

To this end I have finished a set of figures that have haunted my shelves for nearly ten years.

The mighty Knarlocs, Kroot war beasts, a cross between dinosaurs and hairless chickens.

In keeping with the otherworldly aspect I chose a colour pattern of deep green as the base skin tone, with lighter green undertone for belly and the inside of limbs, with deep red markings. Talons, beak and spikes were in bone, which to my eye always makes for a vicious appearance.

Mounted on the beast are two Kroot, manning an auto-crossbow. I strung the bow using quilting thread, specifically Güttermann 5201. Thin enough to be to scale and, unlike other thread, doesn't get furry with paint or varnish.

Three unmounted, wild Knarlocs complete the group.

And as outriders, three smaller Knarlocs with Kroot riders.

Check out the nifty over-the-shoulder carbine of the first outrider. A spare is provided in the set, which I will use later.

The Knarlocs are Forgeworld resin. And some of their best pieces, in my humble opinion.

More to come, painting another troop of Kroot right now, then more Necromunda for D"PJ"V, and probably Republican 3rd Hussars for CBWdM.