Saturday, February 25, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: Union Cavalry Completed and what's next.

Paint Table Saturday sees me leaving the American Civil War behind, temporarily, and moving on to the North West Frontier, which I first started two years ago. . I will concentrate on these Artizan British and Sikhs, which I began back then.  The problem is is that it is really dark again this morning so how much I can do is not clear until I start.

I bought The Men Who Would be Kings to use with these and, as I have now played a game with the rules and liked them. it is time to work out some forces. For the British I need 36 infantry and a unit of cavalry or one gun.  Artizan don't do any cavalry (they really are dreadful for starting ranges and not finishing them) but do a nice mountain gun, which will be a lot quicker to paint than eight cavalry anyway.

 So far I have painted eight British troops and three officers and have four more rank and file and two officers under way, so I can get the first unit of 12 finished quite quickly. The next unit will be Sikhs and I already have eight started

For the Afghans I need 68 foot and 20 mounted figures. I have painted 28 foot and have about 16 more already started. Artizan don't make mounted Afghans.  I didn't know who dd so went onto The Men Who Would be Kings Facebook page and asked the question.  I had lots of helpful answers, particularly that both Studio Miniatures and Perry have them in the works.

The big achievement for this week is that, I have finished my first unit of American Civil War troops (since Airfix plastics, anyway), in the shape of this unit of Perry plastic cavalry.  I enjoyed painting them, despite some ongoing concerns about my eyesight.  Fortunately, we had a bright day yesterday so I was able to get them finished Friday morning, after my meetings in London were cancelled due to electrical problems with trains for those I was supposed to be meeting.  I always intended to paint these just to wargames standard and I did, having realised that I now cannot manage the standards I could even two years ago.  En masse they look OK, though.  So, next up I should finish my first Confederate unit, which will be the Texas infantry. The picture isn't brilliant as it always seems to be the case that whenever I complete a unit and want to photograph them the weather is too dark to take pictures!  I have now painted 44 figures this year which is more than the whole of 2015 and 2016 put together! Hopefully the next batch of ACW will move along quicker as they will be infantry.

Lack of cavalry has also been one of the reasons I didn't get on with my 1864 Danes but North Star have just announced Danish Dragoons are coming out next week.  So I will get on with my Danes after the Confederate infantry I think.

Recently, Eric the Shed has announced that his latest project will be skirmishing in the Peninsular, something I have been thinking about for many years (well, since I saw the first Sharpe on TV in 1993).  This was prompted by his acquisition of a bargain 28mm model Spanish village and Chosen Men.  As I said last week, I was not convinced by the rules when I first read them through but Eric is much cleverer at rules than I am so it will be interesting to see what his thoughts are on them.

Two more good reasons to watch Sharpe

I have been watching Sharpe again on TV, usually accompanied by chorizo and Rioja and had forgotten how much I enjoyed it and quite how many lovely young actresses appeared in it.  I am still very tempted by Paul Hicks lovely Brigade Games figures for this period but now I will be able to see how the rules work in practice (as it were), hopefully.  Anyway, I have just ordered some new figures for another nineteenth century conflict I have wanted to do for some time! 

I will continue to alternate ACW and other units this year, which will, hopefully, stop me getting bored.  I keep projects which are under way in these plastic boxes on my desk, along with those paints I am using currently.  It would be nice to see if I can empty some in the next few months.  One thing about having painted the Perry figures is that they are quite challenging and also the ACW figures are on the small side.  I am hoping that the Artizan ones will be easier and I hope to move them along quickly, although I have just ordered another three packs.

On the scenic front I just took delivery of an American colonial house from Charlie Foxtrot Miniatures.  This will make a good tavern for Centerville but looks like a challenging build!  Something for the summer holiday, I think.  I am going to start painting the Renedra American church, shortly, though.

Today's music is Alfred Newman's score, appropriately, for Gunga Din (1939).  The CD also contains Max Steiner's music for the Errol Flynn The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), although much of the film actually takes place in India.  I have been tempted by the Crimean War many times and even bought a box of Warlord's British infantry but sensibly disposed of them some time ago!

The Kelpie (1913)

Today's wallpaper is a watery maiden by Herbert Draper (1864-1920). Kelpies were spirits who haunted rivers and lakes and would prey on sailors and other travellers. Draper's Kelpie does have something of the sinister about her, although the picture was not well received when it was exhibited; critics thinking that the girl's figure was "too modern" for a mythological subject.  Kelpies were creatures of northern myth and her background setting reflects this. Draper was fascinated, as were other late Victorian artists, with portraying beautiful but evil women and this figure joins his sirens and snake women as another metaphor for the destructiveness of women's sexuality.  The fact that her toes are dipped in the water symbolises the fact that she has lost her virginity.  No innocent maiden, therefore, but a dangerous sexual predator. Draper was an expert at combining source material from different places and fusing them together to provide a realistic and convincing looking whole. In the case of The Kelpie the source material appears to be some photographs he took of a stream in Scotland, together with some detailed pencil studies he made in Savoie. The rendering of the transparently clear water in the foreground of this picture is nothing short of miraculous. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: Union Cavalry and a brief look at Chosen Men

It was nice and bright today and, indeed, even as I start this post at quarter to five it is still light and bright.  Spring is coming!  Hopefully the good start I got to my painting year will continue, aided by the better light.  Sadly, given today's conditions, I have now realised that my eyesight is now not up to the standards of painting (low though they were) I had a few years ago.  Even with 3.5 magnification glasses I just can't see very well any more.  I noticed this particularly today when I was trying to paint the black bits on my union cavalry.  I was finding it very difficult to distinguish the dark blue from back.  I now know never to undercoat any figures in black from now on!

Anyway, today I finished all the black bits on the Union cavalry which is the bit I hate the most, especially as they are mainly straps.  This is usually the worse bit of doing figures but I have the prospect of yellow trim on these figures around the jackets, collars and down the trousers.  I just hope I can manage this.  I put off trying in the dying light so put the base coat down on the base instead.   Hopefully I can get some more done tomorrow.

Interestingly I was catching up on reading some wargames magazines over lunch (not, Reading Wargames Magazines over Lunch TM) and their was a piece in Wargames. Soldiers and Strategy, by one Gordon Lawrence, bemoaning the fact that people feel pressured to achieve the sort of paint jobs seen in the magazines, to the extent that they fail to get enough figures painted for a game.  That's me, that is, I thought,  He also ventured that people put too much contrast on the faces of their figures compared with what real faces look like from a distance.  I have been guilty of over contrasting painting in the past and with my union cavalry I am, while still using three shade painting, consciously trying to be less contrasty than in the past.  There were two (really small) pictures of some of Mr Lawrence's troops (admittedly 15mm ones) and I thought: "Those are rubbish".  Not just rubbish like I now achieve but ten year old's first attempt with a cheap nylon brush rubbish.

Here are some Hinchliffe French Imperial Guard I painted with a cheap nylon brush when I was ten.  I would not dream of putting figures like this in a game.  I am unable to paint quickly, partly because my eyes get tired and I can only manage a couple of hours at most, as today, and partly because I now spend an inordinate amount of time squinting at the figure and thinking: "Is that the belt?"  Is it the bottom of the jacket? And such like.  Now, in the same issue, there was piece by Rick Priestley wondering why so many people use 28mm for games as they take ages to paint and need big boards to play one. "Are we wargamers really more interested in modelling than gaming?" asks Mr Priestley, after an interesting discussion of the history of scale creep.  Well, yes, I am actually.  As anyone knows who has played against me in a game knows, I have no tactical sense, no ability to memorise rules and therefore no ability to use rules to my advantage (known as 'gaming'.).

The purpose of my painting is not to get figures on the table quickly, as both Mr Lawrence and Mr Priestley advocate.  It is to research historical uniforms (I bought all those expensive Lord of the Rings production art books for my only fantasy figures too) and paint them to the best of my (declining ability).  That is my hobby.  The wargaming (thanks be to Eric the Shed) is the excuse for painting. I was in a model soldier shop (the much missed Bonaparte's) in Bath some years ago, with an ex girlfriend, when she asked why if I could never finish wargames units I didn't just paint bigger figures for display.  The answer to that, of course, is that the standards of those who paint larger figures is so staggering it is pointless to try to do the same.

I had a quick look at Chosen Men this week, in a vain attempt to see if I could get a feel for the game by reading the rules. The back cover of the book says that the rules depict skirmishes "with each model representing a single brave soldier".  I also had heard it was supposed to principally represent the skirmishes between light troops in the Napoleonic wars.  Ideal for Sharpe style action in deserted villages, I thought,  So I was surprised that figures in a unit have to remain a maximum of one inch apart.  Really?  For a one man equals one man skirmish?  Then, looking at he makeup of the units the British line unit consists of a sergeant, a standard bearer a drummer and seven infantrymen.  Again, a standard bearer and drummer in a small ten man unit?  At first glance it looks like the way the units are organised goes against the aim to depict individual action.  They recommend battles using 250 points and, for example, most of the British units are 45 points each, which could mean 50 figures a side on a suggested board of four feet by four feet.  The book also has rules (there are a lot of rules - this is not a set full of fluff and padding) for column of attack, for example.  In a skirmish game?  I think this is a set which can't make up its mind what it wants to be: proper one to one skirmish or just a small unit representing a bigger force game (like The Men Who Would Be Kings, for example).  I'd be interested in reading some reviews of them.  Interestingly, in the same issue of WSS I read today there was a review of Sharp Practice 2 which may be just the thing (naturally) for Sharpe.  I am resistant to anything by Too Fat Lardies, though, as I can't stand the name (I also thought it was Two Fat Lardies and imagined people like TV chefs the Hairy Bikers, which put me right off).  Unfortunately, the review assumed you knew how the original game worked so didn't offer much clue as to how it was against Chosen Men.

Today's music is, not coincidentally, Sharpe: Over the Hills an d Far Away the 'soundtrack' to the TV series.  In fact I doubt that there is very much of the series music in it and it is a mixture of Dominic Muldowney's soundtrack, John Tams' interpretation of period songs and some jaunty marches.  It's a bit of an odd mixture really and is almost really a folk album than a real soundtrack one.

I listened to it because as I was flicking through the channels looking for some property show for the Old Bat to watch (she can't operate the TV) I caught a bit of Sharpe's Battle and, in particular a striking young actress in a hussar's jacket (the splendid Siri Neal, above).  It's a long time since I have watched any Sharpe and I think some of them I have only watched once so I may dig one out to watch later.

Marie-Louise O'Murphy(1752)

Today's picture is probably my favourite painting of all time: Mary-Louise O'Murphy de Boisfaily by François Boucher (1703-1760).  A picture I fell in love with when I was about eleven (at the same time that I noticed that Carol, Cathy and Heather in my class were really pretty).  She was the fifth daughter of an army officer of Irish extraction, Daniel O'Murphy de Boisfaily.  She was born in Rouen on October 21st 1737. After her father died her mother took her to Paris where the widow traded in second hand clothes whilst finding work for her daughters. Mary-Louise became a dancer at L'Opera and a model. Casanova knew her (she is mentioned in his diaries) and she may have been his mistress, briefly. Casanova certainly introduced her to Boucher who painted this picture of her in 1752 and also had an affair with her (33 year age difference not withstanding). It has been argued that the picture was produced as a direct invitation to Louis XV; demonstrating that she was available to be his mistress. Rather like leaving a photographic postcard of a girl in a phone box outside a Park Lane hotel. There was no issue about presenting a fourteen year old girl as a sexual object in France at the time. The age of consent was, after all, ten during this period and girls could get legally married at twelve.  

Original life sketch of Marie Louise

Louis XV knew a fine piece when he saw it (he liked the painting too) and she quickly became one of his second tier mistresses and stayed so for two years. Louis had an official mistress, of course, Madame de Pompadour, who may have been happy at first for the king to entertain this plump little distraction as she was increasingly exhausted by Louis voracious sexual demands. Mary-Louise bore the king an illegitimate daughter, Agathe Louise de Saint-Antoine (1754-1774), but she tried to oust Madame de Pompadour from top mistress spot and was soon kicked out of the court and married off to Comte de Beaufranchet, who must have been very cheered by this development, as Mary-Louise was still only 17. He didn't get to enjoy her for very long, though, as he was killed at the Battle of Rossbach in 1757, where Frederick the Great smashed a combined Franco-Austrian army. Mary-Louise subsequently had two more husbands, including one who was thirty years younger than her who she married at the age of 61! Although she was imprisoned for a time during the French Revolution she survived The Terror and died in 1814 at the age of 77. The painting now hangs in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. I was lucky enough to see it displayed in an exhibition in Berlin,some years ago (and purchased a very splendid mouse mat of the picture which is too precious to use). It is a comparatively small picture: about 24" by 29" and was just the sort of sized picture Boucher would turn out for the cabinets of his wealthy gentleman collectors.

Boucher also painted another version of the painting, which is in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, but it doesn't quite have the plump pliancy of the original.  I also saw this one in the Berlin exhibition. 

Boucher (1703-1770) was a prolific artist, producing over 10,000 drawings during his life, and at the time was criticised for churning out paintings for the money. A more telling criticism came from the philosopher Diderot who accused Boucher of "prostituting his own wife" as he had her pose for erotic pictures which he sold to collectors. This led to increasing notoriety and his art was criticised more and more towards the end of his life, as neo-classicism ousted his frothy, Rococo style.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: The Germans are Coming!

Time for another Paint Table Saturday, without a lot of actual painting having gone on.  It was snowing lightly this morning but the Old Bat has me on an exercise programme, mainly so she gets some exercise herself, and made us go for a run.  Well, I say a run but I have been running a bit and walking a bit (like the 95th Rifles) since we started this torture last Saturday.  Today, however, on our fifth outing in eight days, I managed to run non-stop for twenty minutes (something I could not have managed last Saturday) and half ran, half walked on the way back (which I did in eighteen minutes; which shows that my walking is faster than my running).  It is a long, long time since I ran the London Marathon (twice) but there is some muscle memory there at least. I think this all came about when she went over to her parents last week and when she rang her mother didcovered she was playing tennis (outdoors, in February) and when she got there the next day her mother was out for a run...and she is 82!

Anyway, by the time I came back, the light still wasn't good enough to finish shading my ACW Union cavalry but I did paint the base colour faces and jackets on my new Unfeasibly Miniatures Germans.  These are designed for a theoretical German invasion of Britain at the beginning of the twentieth century.  One issue with the range is that they were posited upon a late nineteenth century situation but, with the provision in the range of a Krupp 77mm field gun (first produced in 1906) this date has slipped and the concept of British red coated infantry fighting in 1906 does seem ridiculous.  I know it is a fictional scenario but it would have been better to have gone for an 1890 date, I think.  I may abandon the Krupp that came with my order and set the whole thing in 1890 if I do, indeed ,paint enough figures for a skirmish.  

I actually bought the figures for use in In Her Majesty's Name but the British look so nice that...  One issue seems to be that the figures for this Kickstarter were promised a year ago and have only just started to be sent (and I gather that the British still aren't quite ready).  I didn't mind waiting as it's not as if I haven't got any other figures to paint but some of the other backers were getting very annoyed with the man who runs Unfeasibly, who failed to answer queries on his Kickstarter page and seemed to be coming up with a series of excuses as to why things weren't ready. This is a stupid thing to do as now I am loathe to buy more figures until supply settles down.  The least he could do is a weekly update when he knows people are cross.  It is like waiting for a train that is delayed;it is better to be kept updated regularly, even if the news is bad, rather than not hearing anything.  So I shall see if I buy any more.   The figures themselves are very nice but they do have full kit which means they will take a long time to paint.  I have done a bit on my ACW troops this week, too, so they are still moving along and I aim to finish them by the end of the month. 

Talking of skirmishing, my copies of The Pikeman's Lament and Chosen Men arrived at the end of the week.  I  haven't had a chance to look at them yet but I have enjoyed the other Daniel Mersey rules I have played very much and the size of the forces you need its much closer to what I can achieve, painting wise.  

Some years ago I started painting some Musketeer Miniatures (now Footsore) Great Northern War figures and although I know I am never going to be able to field armies of hundreds, a few dozen is well within my capability.  I have painted a couple of dozen Swedes and eight Russians (my command unit for the latter is above) and the Musketeer.Footsore figures are very easy to paint.  The only issue is that I mixed a paint for the Swedes based on uniforms I saw in the Stockholm Military Museum but Humbrol number 24, which forms the basis of that colour has changed out of all recognition in shade since then.  It is now quite a dark blue (I used it for the jackets of my Germans at the top but it used to be a much lighter mid-blue.  Hopefully, adding some white will give me what I need. 

I also have about 100 painted ECW figures which are the large Renegade (see one of my units, above) and Bicorne ones.  These are completely out of scale with the Warlord plastics which Eric the Shed painted so many of last year but they would work for my own skirmishes.  I am now considering extending my study at the back of the house so I can get a wargames board in here.  These new skirmish games with small boards will be just right for that.   The only thing I am not sure about with The Pikeman's Lament is to what extent pikemen were used in skirmishes.  If you were going to beat up a village in the ECW would you have taken a load of pikemen with you or just dragoons and commanded shot?  Not sure.

As regards Chosen Men, this is about Sharpe, of course, in the Peninsula, which the rules are mainly centered upon. The figures for this that I have seen which look really splendid are the ones Paul Hicks has been doing for Brigade Games (above).  The US/British exchange rate being what it is means I won't be ordering any for a while (shame you can't get them in the UK) but I will eventually (when my mother's estate gets through probate and I can afford them).  Probably all I will have left is enough for a couple of packs of figures after paying inheritance tax, paying off the mortgage and paying the children's flat rentals at university!  I am sure my mother would have approved of me buying these, as she enjoyed Sharpe!

The Chosen Men rules also have a section for Waterloo (if ever there was an antithesis of a skirmish battle..) but I wonder whether I could employ my Dutch 27th jaegers here (the first allied troops engaged in the Waterloo campaign), the only Napoleonic unit I have painted.  The opening of Quatre Bras had a lot of skirmishing.  Something to think about!

Today's music is the wonderful Georg Solti Paris Version of Wagner's Tannhäuser.  Wagner put this new version together in 1861, fifteen years after the opera was first performed in Dresden, for a performance in Paris.  Parisian opera goers demanded a ballet in Act 2 for every opera, which the original didn't have.  This was so gentlemen about town could have dinner first and then roll up to the opera half way through, just in time to watch the ballerinas flashing their legs.  Ballerinas in the French theatre were, at the time, only a step up from prostitutes and then only because they were a bit more expensive (this must be true as Darcey Bussell told it to me at a lunch, once). The ballet in Act 2 enabled the gentlemen to make their choice for their after show entertainment. Wagner stopped all this by putting the ballet in Act 1, to their annoyance.

Salammbô (1921) by Henri Adrien Tanoux

Today's wallpaper distraction is Salammbô by Henri Adrien Tanoux.  Salammbô is the heroine of a novel by Flaubert set after the First Punic War and, amazingly for someone as non-literary as me, I have actually read it.  Tanoux (1865-1923) was a later orientalist painter producing many pictures of sumptuous harem girls at the beginning of the twentieth century when the genre was already becoming unfashionable.  Forgotten for many years, his pictures are becoming collectible again and go for upwards of $75.000.