Monday, June 11, 2012

The Great War in Greyscale - German Infantry, Officers and Maxim Machine Gun



Here are some early war Germans in their distinctive 'Pickelhaube' helmets and full packs. In planning out this project, I knew I would have to find a way to make the various nations' uniforms distinct from one another while being restricted to a fairly generic grey palette. In looking at black and white photos of the period I found the tonal diferences between the tunic of a French Poilu, a German Landser and a British Tommy quite similar, so I knew that I would need to amplify or mute certain aspects of their uniforms to better differentiate them from one another.

With this in mind I purposefully began with the Belgians as their uniform was the darkest of any in 1914. My thinking was that once I established the greyscale palette for the Belgian's almost black uniform then all the others (German, French and British) would reference from that benchmark. 


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As an example, the photos above and below illustrate the shade/tone differences between the Belgian uniform (on the left) and that of a German infantryman. While I'm currently finding this a perversely fun challenge I know I'll be happy when I have a template set down for all the major nations.


As a subject for this group I've selected the Ober-Elassiches (Alsatian) Infantrie-Regiment Nr. 171 which was part of the 39th Division within the German 4th Army. During the first few months of the war this formation operated in Belgium and took part in the Battle of the Frontiers, the Race to the Sea and the Battle of the Yser. I thought it ironic that this regiment, being composed of men from one of the 'lost provinces' of France, ended up fighting French Marines at Dixmude and then went on to face the French again in the cauldron of Verdun.


I was very, very happy to 'discover' that the 39th Division had a regiment which had an easy-to-paint numeral designation. Freehanding a '171' on each German helmet cover is infinitely easier than something like '589' (which I know I'd continually bugger up and make a mess of). The only thing better would have been the 111th Regiment! 


These are 28mm Great War miniatures which, while are very nice castings, usually require a bit of filing and careful bending in preparation of painting. I based the rank-and-file on washers whereas the officers and NCOs are on hexagonal bases from Litko, again to better differentiate them from the other figures representing the lower ranks.



The Maxim machine gun and its crew (also from Great War) is on a 60mm round base. I added a couple of tree stumps for some variation to the groundwork.




I mentioned at the onset of this project that it was my plan to use a 'Sin City' effect with the officers and NCOs by adding a splash of colour to some aspect of their figures - with the Germans it is their helmet covers.  I'm fairly pleased how they turned out -  the light tan covers with their red numerals seems to stand out from the grey surroundings. There should be no problem knowing which figures are the 'Big Men' in games of 'Through the Mud and The Blood'.



Next up will be some French infantry and perhaps some more terrain.



42 comments:

  1. The helmet colour work is a stunning look, excellent contrast, I like it a lot!

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    1. Thanks Fran! I see that your guys' efforts at Broadside were well-received. Congratulations on putting on such a good game, it really looked magnificent!

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  2. Simply fantastic Curt, this is such an excellent project, keep up the excellent work!!

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    1. Cheers Ray! As above, great work at 'Broadside'! Your guys' layout looks so great in 15mm scale. It really conveys that sense of mass.

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  3. I am not sure how I missed this project Curt, I just went back and read your previous blog posts and am absolutely amazed. I have never seen a project like this, certainly quite unique and very challenging. The figures look fantastic, I would not even know how to start!

    Being a fan of different cinematic techniques, I really look forward to seeing it unfold. I really like the chiaroscuro technique. Are you familiar with a Newfoundland artist David Blackwood, google him if not. His greyscale sums up my home for me.

    I also believe that the Great War is the perfect canvas for this.

    I am really looking forward to the terrain.

    John

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    1. Thanks very much for your kind words, John. It really means alot to me.

      Yes, I love David Blackwood's work as well! I find his art to be both serenely beautiful and strangely unsettling (especially his whaling subjects). Very powerful stuff.

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  4. Fantastic work Curt. I'm loving seeing how this project is progressing.

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  5. The helmet covers are perfect. As soon as I saw them, I knew what they were. They are understated but fit your theme to a T. These figures are still just brilliant.

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    1. Thanks very much for your feedback - its very much appreciated.

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  6. I am continually wowed by this project, and whenever a flash of colours peeks throguh I am put in mind of the little girl in the red coat in Schindlers List...

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    1. Thanks Scott! I'm very happy that you like the effect. That scene from Schindler's List is one that runs through my mind while working on these.

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  7. Really getting to capture the look Curt, well done.

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  8. Outstanding Curt; this project is going from strength to strength. The spectral quality is well and truly evident and those touches of colour - genius!

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    1. Thanks very much, Michael. Your comments mean alot to me as I'm a great admirer of your work (having just discovered your blog recently).

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  9. The contrast and the balance of the colours are wonderful. They appear to be from a movie. You have a very interesting challenge here.

    Best regards.

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    1. Cheers Juan! I'm delighted you're liking the project. BTW I'm looking forward to seeing more of your Bush War efforts in the future (that and your Peasant's War, and oh, your French & Indian War, and...)

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    2. Yes, a lot of project, so I´m painting a model from every one of them... In ten years I expect to have finished them.

      Best regards.

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    3. Well at least you're being an egalitarian about it...

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  10. Amazing effect. Juan is completely right, they look like coming out straight from the screen of an old contemporary silent movie. I bet that Woody Allen would love this.

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  11. Thank you! I was just reading the WWI damaged tank scenario you have on your blog thinking it would serve as great inspiration to collect some late-war Brits and Germans. Off to buy a Mark IV now...

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  12. Looking real good!

    The more you do, the more I love the greyscale idea!!!

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  13. This is beautiful work, I'm more and more impressed with every new picture. The flashes of colour are very well executed here. I had one thought seeing picture of the Rejects' game, you could have markers like explosions and craters similarly picked out with colour, to similarly set them apart from the greyscale terrain.

    A brilliant yet challenging idea, it look like you're going to pull it off with panache. Hanks for sharing it with us all, as always I look forward to seeing more.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Phil!

      Yes, I've been pondering how I'm going to approach the terrain. I think it will be largely muted (much like the figures' groundwork) with specific features 'pulled out' with higher contrast greys and perhaps some colour from time-to-time. Explosions, with vibrant yellows and reds could be quite dramatic. I'll have to try a test 'crump' to see how it looks.

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  14. Wonderful imaginative work Curt! Really a cool looking project!

    Christopher

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  15. Curt, this is simply brilliant. I love what you've done to the tones and colours in the figures. I particularly love the ghostly pale blue hue you've managed to impart to the rank and file. And contrasting that with the subtle colours for the Big Men is another really effective way of distinguishing the Big Men when you're playing the actual game. As for terrain - I've a feeling that what you'll produce will be just as wonderful. Bravo, Sir....and encore!!

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    1. Sidney, thanks very much for your kind words of encouragement - I find it very helpful as I'm a bit of a plodder. I'll be drawing much inspiration from the work you've done on your terrain. If I can secure a portion of your success I'll be very happy indeed.

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  16. Inspirational. These guys really pop. The right choice of item to colour really makes a difference. I'll be following with interest...

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Derek - much appreciated!

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  17. What a great blog I really like these figures and the history they bring thank you very much for sharing this information greetings AndersonApuestas deportivas sports betting

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    1. Thanks a lot Anderson - I'm very happy you're enjoying the blog.

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    2. Please allow me to add my voice to the approving masses: this is a stunning project! Ambitious, creative and you are pulling it off beautifully. I look forward to seeing it evolve and wish you all the very best for it!

      Paul
      http://tasmancave.blogspot.com.au/

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    3. Cheers for that, Paul! The words of encouragement are much appreciated and very helpful as I'm finding it a bit of a slog.

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  18. Just catching up a bit on the blogosphere, and I'd certainly like to add to the chorus of positive voices in saying I love your greyscale Great War project. I've thought about using it for Gothic horror skirmish before, but it's just perfect for WWI. Plus your execution is excellent! Good luck with the rest!

    Jason

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jason. I agree, a greyscale effect would work for gothic horror as well. I'm testing it out with some Cthulhu style miniatures to see how it goes (perhaps with the monsters in colour?)

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  19. Ah, there are the Germans! I was on holidays at the time so I missed them. Very good job Curt.

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