Saturday, May 19, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Byzantines, tempting figures,models from the past and an art blog

So, it is another Royal Wedding today and, luckily, the Old Bat will be glued to the TV all day, enabling me to get a decent amount of painting done.  The Old Bat doesn't even like the couple; Harry is a 'dim, bush mush' and Markle is an 'American trailer trash golddigger' who is 'making the Royal Family a laughing stock'. It won't stop her watching everything, though! Mainly so she can insult guests fashion choices.

I hope to get on with my Byzantine Infantry, which I have done a bit on this week.  If I can get all the black and leather bits done this weekend I will be pleased.  I have also got the shields started and have got some transfers for them, although I am already getting stressed about how to deal with these.  I have bought some Micro Sol and some Micro Set but even with my glasses I can't read the instructions on the bottles.  The key question is: do I still need to paint them with gloss paint or gloss varnish before I put them on? Also the transfers have no hole for the boss so I have no idea how I am going to deal with that.  Stressful times ahead!  As my particular friend A says.  Isn't this supposed to be a relaxing hobby?

Why come to Israel?

To relax I am enjoying watching the Giro d'Italia at present (although possibly the accompanying regional selection of Italian wines is helping in this) , although they haven't had the best of weather. It was even cloudy in Israel.  Talking of Israel, during Eurosport's coverage we are getting the usual travel advertisements for Tel Aviv Jerusalem; two places I wouldn't dream of visiting, despite the (rather engagingly old fashioned) use of alluring girls in the commercials.  

Follow me!  Oh, alright then

Last year's advert (only people who work in TV call them commercials) had top Israeli model, Shir Elmaliach, filmed in a point of view way, leading a lucky man through carefully selected highlights of the two cities.  Linking them together as a destination is quite clever (the original advertisement won a lot of awards) given that Jerusalem is an interesting historic city and Tel-Aviv appears to be like Basingstoke on sea with added bus bombs.  It was one of those adverts that I actually used to stop fast forwarding through the advert break for, so as to better appreciate Shir's pert posterior in a variety of clingy outfits.

This year, although they have bought back Shir (sadly, largely filmed from the front - it was like when FHM did a pictorial on Jennifr Lopez and only photographed her from the front) they have teamed her with British presenter Sian Welby (no I have never heard of her either - perhaps she is on the Shopping Channel or some such).  The new advert dumps the disembodied man being led through the two cities' delights and just has the two girls taking selfies of each other and people taking selfies annoy me enormously. Instead of intimating at naughty fun in the sun for the male visitor, as in last year's advert, in this one the girls actually look like they would prefer naughty holiday fun with each other.  Using two girls is not necessarily more effective than one! Sian is quite annoying, gurning her way through the film, and is not a patch on Shir, even though the latter looks like she has patently never ridden a bike in her life as she wobbles through the scenery.  Epic fail, as my son would say. It is supposed to evoke an Instagram story, apparently,whatever that is.

It doesn't quite have the Marmite effect of another travel campaign, for Tui (originally Preußische Bergwerks-und Hütten-Aktiengesellschaft), shot in Turkey and featuring gap-toothed British model Bethany Slater.  This advert carpet bombed our screens from last October and started to drive me mad with its stupid dancing crabs and annoying, gets into your head, synthesizer riff. The simpering singer, murdering the Rufus and Chaka Khan hit Ain't nobody, makes you think the girl miming in the advert is an insipid simpering girl herself; probably called Alison who probably lives in an unfashionable part of North London somewhere and works in HR.  Sorry if you know someone called Alison but I once had a simpering, insipid girlfriend called Alison (very briefly) who lived in Belsize Park.  She didn't work in HR but was a nurse which should have been more exciting than it was.

The advert has Bethany as a rather tragic singleton whose life is transformed by flying to a Tui resort in Turkey on a Tui airliner (they probably have their own Tui tank division as well,  so at least they might be able to get you out of Turkey if there is another attempted coup), having her face painted green and dancing badly, to the extent that in the follow up advert she appears to have sex in the pool with some random man (hopefully she uses a Tui condom).  Well, that's the way it looks to me.  You too can have naughty fun on a cheap package holiday, although not as much fun as promised by Shir in Israel (I would imagine). One of my friends loves gap-toothed Bethany and watches it every time it comes on, although latterly Tui seem to be using other more normal looking people in their adverts now, disappointingly for my friend.  Maybe the concept of Bethany being a tragic singleton is just too unrealistic, given her leggy charms.

Plastic Victrix Vikings sketches

Anyway, these aren't the figures I was meant to be discussing. As is well known, I can'r resist a shiny new range of figures, so if I see thone I tend to make myself go away and calm down for a bit before ordering them.  Kickstarters are particularly bad, as I get carried away by them and end up buying stuff I don't want (like Mars Attacks).  One I saw recently was by eBor miniatures (who I get muddled up with eBob) for Seven Years War plastic French infantry,  Oh, plastic people with tricornes I thought, excitedly. Shiny!  But when I looked into them, despite the Kickstarter having launched, there is virtually no information about them and just a picture of one figure.  Given they are asking for a rather eye-watering £40,000 and have only raised about £2000 I think this one I can give a miss.  Maybe if they had started with British figures.... Likewise the new North Star and Fireforge fantasy ranges, while tempting at first, would seem pointless given the number of Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figures I have got.  If you are going to have elves and dwarves at least have them sculpted by the Perry twins. Much more interesting is the recent announcement by Victrix of plastic Vikings (first), Normans and Saxons.  The first Victrix figures I bought were their Napoleonics and I didn't like them at all but their recent ancients have been wonderful. I will definitely be getting these!

Fraxinus posted about the new Airfix Vintage Classics range, which they are bringing out shortly.  These feature many of the models from my past. Plastic models, that is, not the walking up and down on a catwalk (sorry, runway) ones I used to know when I was younger, when hanging out in Milan during Fashion Week. It was no coincidence that Lloyd's Italian brokers day was organised at the same time as Milan Fashion Week. No coincidence as I organised it, with my Italian colleague.  During one of these was the only time I literally saw grown women eating just lettuce for dinner, when I went to the birthday party of a Brazilian model and my Italian colleague entirely failed to chat up Carla Bruni. Should have aimed slightly lower down the model pecking order. Heh, heh.

The Vintage Classics line will use some of the old box art.  Models will include the Bismark, the first model ship I built (it sadly ended its life in the garden being riddled with .177 pellets from my air rifle) and the Panzer IV, which I must have made a fair number of in the past (did anyone ever make it with the tragic short barrelled cannon?). The Panzer IV was my favourite tank kit and I might just get one to put on my shelf somewhere.  I wonder whether you can get a 1/56 one?  But then it would need some Perry Afrika Korps and that wouldn't go well.  I was looking at the Airfix website recently and was amazed by the almost complete disappearance of their historic ships ranges but now, at least, some of these will return. I did build the Royal Sovereign model in the past and it sat in my mother's lounge for decades as I, amazingly, actually completed, painted and rigged it.

Under the sea

When I thought my eyesight had deteriorated too much to paint wargames figures I did think about going back to making model ships again but the question for me is where do ship modellers keep their finished models?  You can't really hang them from the ceiling like aircraft.  That said, I recall reading an AE Van Vogt short story, once, where an alien creature sat in a space craft under the sea but could not sense water, so passing ships appeared to be floating in the air above.  Could you hang your ship models at exactly the same height so that they appeared to be floating in invisible water? Like the Grand Hyatt hotel in Dubai where I used to stay, sometimes.  It would be worse than trying to get pictures to hang  at the same height, though.

That said, I did dig my model of the RMS Mauretania out of the loft after visiting the ocean liners exhibition at the V&A,  Maybe I'll take it to Cowes this year.   I never made the HMS Belfast , either. and always wanted to, although back when I made model warships you didn't have to worry about the dazzle paint scheme!  That would be a nightmare!  Usually the biggest stress with ship models is getting the waterline stripe right. At least there would be more room on my workbench, now, for a ship under construction.  These old Airfix models are very crude compared with modern ones but that is part of their charm, really, as no doubt Airfix hope.   They are promising more than the initial release of 25 models (depending on how they sell, I suppose) but some are lost forever, the original moulds having being destroyed in the Second Iraq war (they had been sold by Heller to an Iraqi firm), supposedly).

Odalisque (1873)

Given it is the Giro I should have wallpaper by an Italian artist, so here is a Turkish-style odalisque (the lowest grade of girl in the harem) by Francesco Paolo Michetti (1851-1929). The orientalist subject matter is unusual for the artist who specialised in outdoor scenes.  Michetti originated in the Abruzzo region of Italy and after studying at the Academia in Naples moved to Paris to continue his studies, exhibiting at the 1872 Paris Salon.  In 1883 he bought an old convent building, back in Abruzzo, as his studio and home and took much of his inspiration from the local people and landscape.  He also exhibited in Milan, Naples, Berlin and at the first Venice Bienalle.  For the last twenty years of his life he lived as a virtual recluse and stopped exhibiting.

Given I haven't started a new blog for ages I have decided to do one which just features art from my Paint Table Saturday wallpaper, Art Friday on my Facebook Page, as well as a number of my other blogs.  Initially I have collected (and in some cases expanded) the pieces I have posted before.   You can find it here.  Expect lots of naked ladies and the occasional military, maritime and Baltic landscape painting.

Italian music too, with Giuseppe Sinopoli's tremendous Nabucco.  It's not my favourite Verdi Opera, that is Aida, but the first act charges along at a tremendous pace and is full of fantastic melodies.   I bought my copy in the legendary Farringdon Records in Cheapside, from the legendary Tony.  I got it when it came out in 1983, having bought the DG Aida the year before.  It is excellent music to cook Spaghetti Bolognese to!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fireforge Byzantines construction and a chicken recipe for the Giro

I put two posts up on a couple of my other rather neglected blogs over the weekend.

Firstly, a look at building some of Fireforge's plastic Byzantine infantry which is here.

Secondly, a chicken recipe to go with Stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia which is here.

Hmm, I thought.  I'll never get a picture that links Byzantines and chicken to illustrate this post with.  Wrong.  Isn't the internet wonderful?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Byzantines, a tidy workbench and a trip to Cowes

Regular readers of my paint table Saturday posts may be surprised by the absence of paint in this picture.  Previously there were dozens of pots of Humbrol enamel to the left, where my mug now resides in solitary splendour.  Under the computer screen were piles of figures I was working on and to the right was a horrible pile of paints, unopened figures and paintbrushes.  Chaotic does not even begin to describe it.  Then I read about a storage system in a review in Wargames illustrated and in less than 48 hours was presented with a heavy box of nicely finished plywood pieces.  Perhaps emboldened by my work in assembling my Victrix war elephants I charged straight in to start working on it.

I was so impressed with the unit and my skills in assembling it (er) that I sent off for two more units of drawers from the same manufacturer.  These went together as easily, although were not quite so robust, being MDF, but once painted black fitted pretty well with the big unit.  Together, the two were the same width as the large unit, although a little less deep from to back.  They came with drawer dividers but I wasn't going to use them so chucked them out.  No doubt Eric the Shed would have used the bits to make a Northwest Frontier fort!

So, here are the three units in situ.  Glue, filler, files and glasses top left.  Paints I am currently using underneath them.  Below that three drawers which hold tall bottles of varnish and paint, taller figures in process (Byzantines with spears) and bases,  The big drawer underneath that has all my Citadel paints and washes and the bottom draw has other figures in progress.  In the centre there is a space for white spirit and matches for stirring paint.  Top left there are special racks for paintbrushes and next to that are  knives, my magnifying craft glasses and my water pot.  In the big drawer below that are bits and transfers.  The bottom two drawers are more Humbrol tinlets.  It really is amazing how much I got into this thing!



I couldn't quite get everything in.  My pots of sand and gravel with some overflow paints have gon onto my old paint rack behind the computer screen but it is an amzing improvement on what was there before.



This is just part of an ongoing tidy up of my study.  There is still an awful lot to do but I now have one tidy corner at least.  The next job is to file a load of DVD's into albums and free up some shelf space for books,  Step by step!

So now that I have a less stressful working environment what is on today's workbench?  I haven't forgotten about the Carthaginian elephant crew but I am waiting the arrival of some Micro-sol and Micro-set for the shield transfers.  In the interim I have started the Byzantine infantry I got at Salute.  These aren't as refined as Victrix plastics but are perfectly serviceable and do not suffer from gnomish big head syndrome like the Gripping Beast plastics I have seen (at least their Vikings). I bought the extra resin command and these are very nice indeed.  Assembling the resin figures was a bit of a pig as even superglue takes ages to dry on them and you need to wait an hour after sticking on one arm, for example, before attempting to glue the next piece.  This is the second batch for a unit of twelve for Lion Rampant.  I have already started painting the first five but will leave them now until I get these up to the same stage.

I didn't get any painting done last weekend as I was down in Cowes for my father in law's ninetieth birthday party at the Royal Yacht Squadron at the Castle.  The Squadron are brilliant at this sort of thing and the weather was wonderful, which helped a lot as it meant that guests could wander out onto the lawn overlooking the Solent.  Tea on the lawn (technically tea overlooking the lawn) being a popular activity during Cowes week. A couple of years ago I had a nice chat with Zara Tindall, Princess Anne's daughter, there. Princess Anne knows my parents-in-law and has been sailing on their boat a number of times.  She is very nice too and was quite prepared to muck in on the boat, clean the decks, empty the bin etc.  The Old Bat is not convinced about 'that trashy American' due to marry into the Royal family imminently.  'I wouldn't curtsey to her!' she maintains. "She just wants a title then she will dump Harry and will be back to America and hope to become Jackie Onassis for the rest of her life!" says the Bat.  She'll still watch the wedding on TV, though, so she can be rude about all the women's outfits.

You are not really allowed to take pictures inside the Castle but I couldn't resist taking a shot of the Kaiser's racing ensign, from the Imperial yacht, just outside where the lunch was held (which isn't in the main building anyway).  There were two types of guests: yachtsmen and supercharged medical people.  All of them (and especially their wives) were snapping away inside on their mobile phones, disgracefully.  My father-in-law asked me to look after a girl (the youngest person there by about forty years) from a boatyard on the Thames who had single-handedly restored a Dunkirk little ship. He was worried she might be a bit overpowered by the type of guests (three potential Nobel prize winners) but there were enough boaty people for her to feel at home.  Last time I had seen her she was bending planks of wood to fit the hull of a boat. Talk about having all the skills I don't.  She came on her motorbike and despite wearing a nice blue dress, her arms and thighs (it was a very short blue dress) were speckled in paint.  Splendid, I thought, until I realised that I was old enough to be her grandfather. 

Lunch was excellent and, as a bonus the Old Bat wasn't there as she had to work and she certainly wouldn't have liked the Bembridge lobster. 'What sort of person eats something like that?" she cries in utter incomprehension.  Me, actually.  Isle of Wight lobsters are some of the best in Britain and when Mary Berry did a TV programme on them it was to the Island that she came.

The Squadron are very good at using local suppliers for their food and they had the full range of Isle of Wight cheese and even local crackers.  Yum yum.  It isn't that many years since the Isle of Wight was famous for being the only county in Britain without a single entry in the Good Food Guide but now it produces wonderful crustacea, lamb, tomatoes, garlic (especially), wine, beer and even gin.  There is even a Michelin starred restaurant on the Island now but I have never been.  The Old Bat would object to the price (she doesn't approve of going out to eat when you can 'buy the same food in a supermarket'),  Guy only eats breaded chicken and pizza and Charlotte is a vegetarian.  It's no wonder that I go out to eat regularly with ladies from my past!

I went to the Ocean Liners exhibition, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with one of these ladies recently.  This really is the best exhibition I have attended for some time and is highly recommended.  I have always wanted to cross the Atlantic on a liner, although my father-in-law says it is often a rough experience.  He lived and worked in the United States in the late fifties and returned home in the SS Saxonia.  He had bought a new car in the US and provided it was over a year old he would avoid the import purchase tax of twice the value of the car that would be levied on arriving in Britain. He had calculated that he would avoid this by one day but the Saxonia was making such good speed that it was due to arrive a day early and he would be clobbered by the tax.  Being my father-in-law, he asked the captain to slow the ship down!  This he couldn't do but instead, took an unscheduled detour to Le Havre instead and saved my father-in-law hundreds of pounds.

It is appropriate that today's music is the official CD of the Liners exhibition which is a great collection of twenties, thirties and forties music, which played inside the exhibition.  I bought the book too.  I really need to get my bookshelves sorted!

Nude lying on a couch (1873)

Today's wallpaper is by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894).  Caillebotte qualified as a lawyer and also an engineer but was drafted into the Garde Nationale Mobile de la Seine in the Franco-Prussian War. It was only afterwards that he began to study art seriously and he first exhibited in the second Impressionists exhibition in 1876. Although, as can be seen here, many of his paintings showed a tighter realism than his peers. Caillebotte's brother died at a young age and the artist (rightly) thought that he would not live into old age, so he wrote a detailed will leaving his collection of his and other impressionist paintings (Renoir was his executor) to the French State. Impressionism still wasn't really accepted in Paris by the authorities and they didn't want them balthough an exhibition of part of Caillbotte's collection, after his death at the age of 48, was the first show of impressionist paintings held in a public venue, at the Palais de Luxembourg.  More than thirty years later, the French government, having changed their mind about impressionism, tried to grab the collection but the Caillebotte family saw them off and many of the paintings in the collection were bought by Albert Barnes and taken into his Barnes Collection in Philadelphia, where the Legatus went to see them a few years ago.

This is an uncompromisingly realistic nude for 1873 and has none of the usual themes that artists used to justify painting naked ladies at the time; such as bathers or classical subjects.  As a result, it has a timeless quality which makes it look more modern than its 145 year old age.