There is now a special page dedicated to the BfK Limited Edition Figures project and a link to it has been added to the navigation menu in the header above. This is the place to go for a summary of the genesis, history and progress of the project; the figures themselves and how you can order them from me. Oh yes, it also covers the prize draw and painting guide!
Posted by Martin on October 13, 2012
Posted by Martin on April 28, 2013
Sorry, I’ve fallen behind with posting paint-ins, so some of you may have already completed painting yours. Let’s see if I can start to catch up. This session covers painting trousers and footwear with the added fun of painting on my favourite battlefield mud for that grubby campaign look.
Soldiers of the artillery train often wore grey cavalry overalls though there were variations with red stripes on the outer seam. Grey was not the only colour used for overalls: others include cream and a beige shade commonly referred to as Paris Mud. For both my artillery train figures, I kept it simple with the grey. This is built up from a basecoat of Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), followed by a first highlight of Vallejo Neutral Grey (VMC992) and a second highlight of Vallejo Light Grey (VMC990).
By 1813, shortages meant that Marie Louises were equipped with trousers in a huge variety of colours from white through to many shades of linen, brown, grey and even blue. In this case I opted for white, mainly because I already intended to use those other colours across the set of figures. The base coat is the Second Shadow from the Andrea White Set and the first highlight is the Base from the same set. Both these paints benefit from being applied in two thin coats and make sure you leave adequate drying time between each coat. The second highlight is Vallejo White (VMC951) which can be an awkward paint to work with but gives a nice bright result for which I have a weakness. A few tips for using this paint are shake it really thoroughly, be prepared to use more than one coat to build up coverage, don’t overwork the paint and let it dry completely between coats to avoid the risk of a chalky finish.
Lastly, we come to the drummer. It’s important to remember that he’s an artillery drummer, so white trousers are not really appropriate. Most reliable illustrators show artillery drummers wearing blue trousers though one of Rousselot’s plates (Planche 55, Artillerie a Pied, 1805-1815 (II)) shows a drummer in Imperial Livery wearing green trousers, so that would make a nice variation for you to consider. I painted my drummer’s trousers blue using the same paints that I used for the Marie Louise’s pokalem. Drum aprons were white leather, so I used the same paints as described for the white trousers above.
After all that work it may seem odd to choose to obscure it by painting over mud effects but I always try the represent soldiers as they would have appeared on campaign. I know of several other painters who also apply mud effects and most of them seem to go for random relatively uncontrolled techniques like flicking a loaded paint brush to splatter the figures with brown paint. That way of doing things isn’t for me – I like to know precisely where the paint is going to be placed on my figures. So I actually paint on areas of mud very deliberately. I use a Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941) base coat, followed by Vallejo Beige (VMC875) and finally Vallejo Cork Brown (VMC843) which is one of my favourite colours in the whole range. The effect I aim for is one of mud starting to lighten as it dries out.
So that’s it for this time. In the next paint-in, I’ll turn attention to coats and jackets.
Posted by Martin on April 14, 2013
Sometimes there are long gaps between my painting sessions so unused paints have time separate out with the pigment gradually sinking to the bottom of the bottles leaving a layer of carrier on top. All of which means that I need to give the bottles a vigorous and thorough shake before using them.
I’m fundamentally lazy. So I’m always on the lookout for ideas that will take the effort out of paint shaking. When I buy new bottles, I open them up to insert beads to agitate the paint during shaking, I used to store paints upside down (which I’ve now decided isn’t such a good idea) and I’ve even considered marrying a clamp with a jigsaw as some weird kind of heavy duty power tool paint shaker! However, some time ago, I came across one labour saving paint shaking idea so strange that I never forgot it – even if I didn’t do anything about it for years. The credit for this idea belongs to Martin Stephenson who described the concept of using an ultrasound cleaner to shake paint on his blog The Waving Flag.
I’m not going to elaborate on the theory of how this works because Martin has already covered that. But what I do want to do is describe my experience of trying this. Before I go any further, I want to reassure you that I haven’t taken leave of my senses and purchased an ultrasound cleaner for the sole purpose of shaking paint. That would be mad, wouldn’t it? Yes, er, yes, of course it would…
No, our household has other uses for such a device. I need only mention hard water supplies and blocked shower heads to give you an inkling of our domestic agenda.
Anyway, back to the plot. I asked Martin a number of questions before taking the plunge and he helpfully gave me the benefit of his long experience with this technique. Here are a few of the tips I gleaned from him in answer to my questions:
Q: How many paint bottles (I mostly use Vallejos) can you fit in at a time?
A: The cleaner on my blog will hold 6-8. If doing this you would need to hold them together with an elastic band.
Q: How do prevent the water from soaking the labels off of the bottles?
A: You can’t. New labels survive three of four sessions but be prepared to loose your labels [so I've decided that a permanent maker pen will be called for].
Q: Have you tried putting the bottles inside something like zip lock bags to keep them dry?
A: Contact with water is required to transmit the ultrasound waves [meaning that this won't work].
Q: How long a cycle do you need to achieve a successful outcome?
A: Ah! The piece of string question. Depends on how badly the paint has separated, how old it is and how much has been used. I have left paint in for 1-3, 8 minute sessions.
Q: Do you load the paints in the basket or stand them on the floor of the cleaner?
Q: Presumably you stand them upright, yes?
A: Yes. Doing a couple together helps.
Q: Lastly how far up the side of the bottles do you fill the cleaner with water?
A: There is an ideal level marked in the bath. It’s between half and two thirds of the way up the bottle. I have used less if there isn’t enough paint in the bottle to weigh it down.
Q: Have you got any other tips?
A: Buy one and try it. If you don’t like it your wife will love cleaning her jewellery with it.
My first experiment was an unused bottle of Vallejo Golden Olive (VMC857) paint. It had never been opened or shaken previously so the pigment and carrier were completely separated. I gave it one cycle of 480 seconds in the ultrasound cleaner without seeing much visible reintegration of paint and carrier. Ditto for the second cycle. Then I succumbed to the temptation of just a few seconds manual shaking and was surprised at how quickly and easily the paint was mixing. Encouraged by this, I gave it a third cycle and then squeezed out a blob of paint on to the old ceramic palette to perfect results.
Every good scientist likes to demonstrate that his experimental results are repeatable, so I conducted further trials with unused separated paints to confirm that it works. And, as further evidence for your enjoyment, I kept a video log. When I get a free afternoon, I’ll edit the clips together into something coherent and post it here.
In reality, of course, I’m unlikely to want to shake a solitary completely separated out and unused paint bottle. Apart from anything else, it wouldn’t be very efficient. It’s far more likely that I would want to prepare several bottles of paint at once for a painting session and that they would be in various states of readiness for use. My personal nemesis is a rogue bottle of Vallejo Ochre Brown (VMC856) that never seems to quite be right and always dries slightly shiny or doesn’t have a high enough pigment to carrier ratio to give good coverage. So that little rascal was the next to be subjected to the ultrasound treatment.
After that I moved on to some bulk processing to see how many bottles could be done at once and whether increasing the number of bottles meant that more or longer treatment cycles were required. I found that I could fit a dozen bottles of paint at once in my particular model of ultrasound cleaner and still leave enough space around them for the water to be in contact with as much surface area of the bottles as possible. Spacing them out this way means that the number of treatment cycles does not need to be increased.
In conclusion, using an ultrasound cleaner to shake paint does work. However, if you only need to shake the odd bottle, it’s hardly worth the time and effort. Where it really does come into its own is when you want to shake a whole batch of bottles (for example at the start of a painting session or when you want to restore several paints you haven’t used for a while). In these circumstances, this method is a highly effective labour and time saver. And once you’ve done the first batch you can put more into the machine while you get on with painting. In the past I have considered the Robart Paint Shakers but an ultrasound cleaner beats that option hands down: it’s cheaper, is readily available in the United Kingdom (I got mine for £29.99 from Maplins) and it can shake a whole load of bottles at a time rather time than just one – not to mention being much quieter. Oh, and you can use it for its intended purpose of cleaning things too!
My parting piece of advice if you do decide to go down this route is to remember some basic physics. A lot of energy goes into generation of ultrasound waves in the water and that energy has to go somewhere. Of course, most of it is converted into kinetic energy to shake the paint but, if you do several 480 second cycles in quick succession, you’ll discover that a fair amount gets converrted into heat which will warm up your paints. I think this is an unintended consequence best avoided by leaving short rests between each cycle.
There, now you can all write in and tell me I’ve finally lost my marbles. I don’t care, they were too large to use as agitators in the paint bottles anyway!
Posted by Martin on March 24, 2013
I’ve been toying with this idea for a while now and the tipping point came at the end of last week when I found out that some of you (Giles take a bow) have actually got a lot further than me and have completed painting and basing all the figures in the pack.
So here goes… This is the formal announcement of the start of the BfK Limited Edition Figures painting competition. At the moment, it’s a “just for the fun of it” competition with the only guaranteed prize for the winner being the honour of victory and the accompanying bragging rights. If, however, I can come up with a suitably apt prize (or some kind sponsor donates one) then the stakes may get raised. l’ll let you know if that comes to pass.
Of course, I know you are all honourable BfKers but a few simple rules of engagement are in order:
1). The competition entry must comprise the four figures and campfire/marmite castings from the BfK 2012 Limited Edition Figures pack. Many of you already have one or more of these packs in your hot little hands but those of you who haven’t can still order them from me.
2). You may base the figures individually, or on one or more bases of whatever dimensions suit your preferences.
3). All the painting, varnishing and basing must be substantially your own work. If you use something that isn’t (such as a pre-printed flag or decals, you should declare it as part of your entry).
4). The closing date for entries is 31 May 2013. I think that just over two months should be plenty of time but squeal in the comments if you think I’m being to restrictive.
5). Entries should be submitted in the form of a single jpg image file of width exactly 550 pixels and up to 550 pixels deep. The image may be a collage of multiple photographs. You can send them to me via e-mail attachments or suggest other ways. For example, I may set up a Dropbox folder where you can upload your entries.
6). Judging will be by a voting poll on BfK to be held shortly after the closing date. I will keep the poll open for about a week and anonymise the entries.
I can’t think of anything else essential at this stage but feel free to post questions as comments below. It only remains for me to wish you “bon chances, mes amis!”.
Posted by Martin on March 17, 2013
So, after a brief diversion, it’s back to the painting table to finish off the faces (having done the eyes in the last painting session) and to deal with hair and hats (of various sorts).
The equipment checklist is the same as for the last session with the addition of a size 0 Da Vinci Maestro Series 10 brush. The chart below lists the paints I used in this session:
|Colour||Basecoat||Highlight 1||Highlight 2||Highlight 3|
|Black||Black VMC950||Dark Grey VMC994||Neutral Grey VMC992||Light Grey VMC990|
|Red||Hull Red VMC985||Red VMC926||Carmine Red VMC908||Orange Red VMC910|
|Flesh||Burnt Umber VMC941||Red Leather VMC818||Flat Flesh VMC955||Light Flesh VMC928|
|Iron Grey||Field Blue VMC964||(Grey Blue VMC943)||Union Blue NAC24||Azure Grey NAC17|
|Red Hair||Burnt Umber VMC941||Cavalry Brown VMC982||Red Leather VMC818||Orange Brown VMC981|
|Dark Blue||Andrea Blue Set 2nd Shadow||Prussian Blue VMC965||Andrea Blue Set 3rd Light|
In addition to those, I used Burnt Umber VMC941 and Gold VMC996 for yellow metal items; Dark Grey VMC994 and Natural Steel VMC864 for white metal items; and Old Rose VMC944 for lips.
I started with the faces and a first highlight of Red Leather over all but the deepest recesses (like eye sockets, open mouths, under the chins and so on). Remember that we already had a base coat of Burnt Umber on the faces. The next colour is Flat Flesh which again covers most of the Red Leather while trying to leave lines that represent furrows and wrinkles. The final highlight is Light Flesh which should only go on the highest points like the top of the nose, chin, cheekbones and brow. If you overdo this last step you run the risk of making your soldiers look like the undead! The finishing touch for the faces is a narrow line of Old Rose for the lower lip.
Two of the four figures in the set wear covered shakos (and a third carries one). This offers the opportunity for a choice of colours for the shako covers and, if I were doing line infantry or soldiers fighting in the Peninsular, I’d be tempted by canvas/linen shades. However, I’ve stuck to straight dark oilskin covers this time around. Before going for the shako covers themselves, I like to deal with the details on the shakos. Here that means the metal chinscales and the pompoms.
The train soldiers’ lentille pompoms are iron grey, so that’s a simple overall bascoat of Field Blue followed by successive highlights of the other colours listed above. You’ll notice that I’ve put brackets around Grey Blue in the chart. That’s because I didn’t actually use it on these pompoms – partly because I was experimenting and partly because the pompoms are so small that there’s not much benefit to be had from using a fourth colour. The artillery drummer has a nice bright red tufted pompom for which I mostly followed my traditional red palette but using Carmine Red instead of Scarlet for the second highlight. At the moment, I favour this approach because there’s a slightly more obvious difference between the Carmine Red and the Orange Red. For the chinscales, I basecoat in a dark non-metallic shade and then paint the metallic colour over the top. If it needs it, I then use an extremely watered down wash of the non-metallic colour and retouch with the metallic colour for highlights.
Black can be a very difficult colour to highlight effectively. Luckily, these shako covers are a relatively small area, Peter has sculpted plenty of folds into them and they’re the kind of item that I think gets dusty and faded. All that makes highlighting with increasingly lighter shades of grey quite forgiving though the important thing is to avoid making the whole look grey rather than black. To ensure this doesn’t happen, I leave plenty of the black basecoat showing through and, after the final highlight, this is one of the few occasions when I’d recommend some judicious blacklining.
That leaves us with one of my favourite uniform items from the Bardin regulations: the pokelem, which replaced the previously used bonnet de police as the forage cap. Many Marie-Louise’s didn’t receive a proper shako and had to make do with the pokelem instead though I suspect it was a more comfortable item to wear and had the benefit of fold-down flaps to keep the ears warm. The colours I used for the red and blue are listed above. Of note here is that I strongly recommend the 2nd Shadow from the Andrea Blue Set. It gives a dead matt and truly deep dark blue which is an ideal starting point for French blue – more of this in later paint-in sessions. The second point to note is my approach to the piping. I paint the piping first and I don’t worry too much if the lines are too thick or wobbly to begin with as I work up through the successive highlights. Once I’ve done that, I then paint up to the line of piping that I want with the blue basecoat. It’s much easier to get a consistent, neat thin line of piping that way round. Once I’m happy with the piping, I then go on to the highlights for the blue.
While I’m doing the pokalem’s piping, I also tackle the regimental number that typically appeared in red in the middle of the front panel. Let’s face it, it’s too small to attempt to paint actual numbers, so don’t bother! Simply paint a small red patch to give the impression of a number being present.
To finish up, I’ll leave you with a relevant video that Toby Thornton of Artmaster Studio posted recently on YouTube. It’s serendipitously appropriate and well worth watching. The approach to face painting is broadly similar to mine apart from using a slightly different palette of colours and tackling the eyes last rather than first. In the next paint-in session, I’ll turn my attention to trousers and footwear.