Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, May 30 2020 04:50PM

I am in the final stages of finishing off the Black Prince’s archers. It may be wishful thinking but as the painting progresses, the marked differences between the proportions of the Front Rank and Perry figures seem to dissipate. The eye does have a natural tendency to correct faults.

The figures are now more or less finished apart from my magic ingredient. This is a very thin Raw Umber wash over everything.

Liquitex’s Raw Umber is the best for this, thinned so much that it is little more than dirty coloured water.

The Raw Umber wash transforms the figures. It provides definition by settling into the groves to outline detail; it tones down the colours adding a pleasing and realistic patina; and it helps to blend the colours.

It used to be that I avoided applying the raw umber wash over the colour blue (as it gave a greenish tinge) or over armour. For ancient or medieval figures, however, the greenish tinge to blue is probably quite realistic.

The raw umber wash over armour gives a slight rusty tinge which can be seen in the above photo. For most men in the era before stainless steel a bit of rust would be the norm on campaign, unless they had armies of servants to polish theri armour.

I base the figures 5 to a 60 x 40 cm base. I use card with adhesive magnetic bases on the underside. This helps for transport and storage as well as adding a little weight. I then varnish the figures brushing on Liquitex Matte varnish which not only protects but also enhances the colours.

I paint the bases green and then cover with a water based natural colour wood filler. After adding a few bits of gravel and green foliage to set in the wood filler I let it all dry. In doing so I place the magnetic bases on a steel ruler to prevent warping as the filler dries.

After leaving overnight to properly dry, I apply a wash of Raw Umber over the base, this gives the base an appropriately earthy look.

Some medium green flocking comes next, applied with white glue.

Then some tufts of lighter coloured static grass to brighten and lift the colours.

Here then is the finished unit.

Next up: the Black Prince’s knights.

By smacdowall, May 29 2020 03:57PM

When I paint a unit I try to do just that — paint the unit as an entity rather than several individual figures. I find the key to getting the right look is to keep to a relatively small number of colours and use those colours that complement each other.

Black will be the predominant colour as the Black Prince’s livery. I am not entirely certain that black was Edward of Woodstock’s livery colour but decided to go with it anyway, even though the Black Prince did not get that sobriquet until the 16th century. I like the look, so my little men (or some of them) will wear black.

Natural linen for the aketons matches nicely with the black and I use various shades of green and red as the other main complementary colours.

Black is quite a tricky colour to get right. I start with a very dark grey (with some tan mixed in) thinned down and painted over the white undercoat to create highlights and shadows. I then touch up the highlights with a medium grey followed by a very thin pure black wash over the whole thing to deepen the shadows. Then I added a white feather as the prince’s livery badge.

I created the unit banner on my computer then sized and printed it. The design of the three white feathers on black is from the Prince of Wales’ ’shield of peace’. Legend has it that he adopted the badge along with the motto 'Ich dien' from the King of Bohemia whose bravery so impressed him at Crécy. The veracity of this is far from certain.

I then cut the flag out and overpaint it. This may seem like an unnecessary chore but I find a printed flag looks like… well, a printed flag. Overpainting makes it look more natural and vibrant. I paint the bit between the two halves the colour of the flag pole. In this case I have experimented with a few bars to represent the cloth that would have been wrapped around the pole — not something I have done before.

I attach the flag to the pole with white glue. I know banners tended to be stiff in this period (held at the top as well at the side). But without having a horizontal pole at the top I don’t think it looks right. Therefore I do give it a bit of flow but not as much as I would normally. I create the folds by gently wrapping the flag around a cocktail stick or paint brush handle when the glue is still wet. When it dries the falg will remain in place.

By smacdowall, May 28 2020 04:02PM

I am painting the Black Prince’s archers in my usual way: white undercoat, then armour, then the rest from the inside (skin) to the outside. The reason I start with armour is that I do it by dry brushing several layers over a dark base. Inevitably the rest of the model gets streaked with various metal colours which would make a complete mess of any other painting. I find that painting everything else from the inside out (starting with skin and ending with belts and shoes) is the best way of avoiding inadvertently smearing something I have already painted (although it still does happen)

Faces and hands are done with a pale base flesh, followed with a flesh wash (I like Games Workshop’s). The wash brings out the detail and deepens the tone. I also apply flesh wash over some of the armour. This gives it a light slightly rusty patina which any non-blackened iron would acquire pretty quickly in the era before stainless steel.

Then I touch up eyes (with dark brown), mouths (with red-brown) and highlights (with pale flesh and a bit of red for the cheeks).

As I paint the flesh I am painfully aware of just how large the heads and hands of the Front Rank figures are (right of photo from viewer’s perspective). The Front Rank figure at front right has a Perry left hand holding his bow, the oversized right hand is the original. Yet when I look at them from a distance they seem OK. The eye and brain have an uncanny ability to compensate and correct flaws. I’m hoping that the painting will blend the differently proportioned figures together.

I will post photos of the remaining stages over the next few days.

By smacdowall, May 26 2020 06:28PM

The virus lockdown is a great opportunity to make some dent in the lead mountain. Having reduced the pile of unpainted Wars of the Roses miniatures by quite a considerable amount, I now have all the contingents I need to fight both Bosworth and Barnet.

Still staying in the Middle Ages, I am now turning my attention to the not inconsiderable mountain of unpainted lead for the Hundred Years War — more specifically Crécy.

This is only a fraction of the unpainted Hundred Years War miniatures I have amassed over the years.

The project started way back in the early ‘80s when I began to build an English army for Crécy with Essex miniatures — at that time they were the best around.

They inspired me to paint the intricate heraldic devices. It was a labour of love and it did not matter that it took so very long to paint up a few knights with their colourful shields, surcoats and horse caparisons.

Things being as they are, I moved on to other projects long before I had finished the English, let alone paint up any French.

I resurrected the project some 8 years ago and began to paint the French, some of whom can be seen above in my display case. By then the Essex miniatures with their overly large heads were beginning to look a little caricaturesque alongside the much better Front Rank, Wargames Foundry and Crusader miniatures that had come along in the intervening years. So I did my best to use up some of my old Essex figures blending them in with (mostly) Front Rank.

I have hundreds of unpainted Hundred Years War miniatures that have been languishing in boxes — some for nigh on 40 years. But as time has moved on so has the quality of the available miniatures. I find myself wanting to incorporate some of the newer miniatures into my collection — especially the plastic Perry figures.

These beautiful multi-part figures are a joy, both for their flexibility and well-proportioned detail. Although designed for the Agincourt period, this is really only a problem for fully armoured knights as the relatively simple dress of archers and spearmen did not change that radically over the years between Crécy (1346) and Agincourt (1415).

My problem is one of visual compatibility. Essex miniatures have grossly oversized heads and hands, Front Rank a bit less so. Perry plastics are perfectly proportioned with much smaller heads and hands than Front Rank, let alone Essex. After much deliberation I have decided to give it a go — mixing Front Rank and Perry figures to create a contingent of archers for the Black Prince. Although I have quite a few of them in my unpained box, I could not bring myself to include any Essex figures as their heads are far too large compared to Perry.

Will they fit together?

With a couple of the Front rank figures I decided to cut off their hands and bows to replace them with the much slimmer Perry ones. I’m thinking this will help them blend better together. In the photo above the man on the left is a Front Rank original with much larger hand and wider bow. On the left is a Front Rank figure with a Perry hand and bow. Another spare is in the foreground waiting for surgery.

We’ll see how it works…

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