Sunday, January 5, 2014

Announcing The Second Fortnight Theme Bonus Round: 'Villain(s)' & Curt's 'Winter of Discontent'


Well, our first Fortnight Theme Bonus round was a rousing success with many amazing entries illustrating the 'Non-Combatant' theme. This week's focus is 'Villain(s)' and I can assure you that we have many stonking entries for you to feast your eyes upon. So, please follow this link to see the entire gallery of submissions.

For my own part I decided to be a bit more abstract in my idea of 'villain' for this fortnight's theme. Being born and raised in the Canadian prairies I have a tremendous respect for the power, danger and desolation of winter (it's -51 today with the windchill btw). I  distinctly remember as a teen seeing 'The Duellists' and watching the section on the French retreat from Moscow and thinking that Ridley Scott and his cinema-photographer had done a brilliant job conveying the horror of being exposed to sub-zero temperatures. 


The Grande Armee began its 1812 campaign crossing the  Russian frontier with over 600,00 men in its ranks, but within six months less than 35,000 Frenchmen had returned to the safety of Poland. I have Charles Minard's graph of the French retreat hanging in in my den and it provides a horrifyingly stark visual analysis of the destruction of the Grande Armee and the power of winter.

Minard's Graph: Tan goes in and Black struggles to return...
So for my entry I have defined Winter as my Villain with the following Napoleonic French troops illustrating the misery of being a poorly equipped soldier in such a pitiless climate.




All of these are 28mm castings from Perry Miniatures. I must say they are some of the best miniatures I've ever worked with. It's evident that Alan Perry, in preparation for sculpting these figures, spent some time studying people's postures in extreme cold. I've shown the models to several people who were here over the holidays and they all remarked how grimly realistic the poses are.



These figures took quite a long time to complete for some reason. I guess it was because I mulled over each one of them, wanting them all to be unique in their assortment of scrounged coats, hats, shawls, etc. I also spent a bit of time working on their bases as I knew the whole 'winter-as-villain' effect had to be strongly reinforced through the basework. For several of the bases I sank shakos, muskets, belts and other accoutrements into the snow to convey the idea that the men are walking behind an army which was jettisoning anything that could slow its retreat to safety.



Snow can be a bit tricky to pull off in miniature. Personally, I find many 'overthink' snow too much, using materials such as crystals, glass and powder flakes, but I often find their effect doesn't work in small scale. Snow in sub-arctic environments packs down hard and is almost smooth - there is no slush and it is not flakey or fluffy. Any texture it has is how it forms into 'snow drifts' which are formed very much like sand dunes in deserts. For my bases I wanted hard-packed snow that has been trodden on by hundreds of feet so I used a dental tool to depress marks in the half-cured gel to mimic well-trodden ice and snow.



The other thing about winter is the buildup of frost on anything remotely warm. For men with beards frost quickly forms into clumped ice on the moustache and chin whiskers. It actually forms on anything near the mouth such as scarves, hats and high collars of coats. So when painting these figures I wanted to give their faces and scarves a liberal coating of frost.



Also, with the texture of heavy wool fabrics, like the greatcoats common to this period, you would see the skirting of the coats becoming fouled with snow and ice as it clung to the coarse weave of the wool. This rim of ice on the coat skirts will get quite stiff and heavy depending on the weather conditions. Accordingly I liberally edged these figures's coats with ice and frost to try to convey the misery of being out in the elements.



I know that Stefan's group is developing a purpose-designed set of rules for the 1812 retreat, and I very much look forward to getting a copy of those, but in the meantime I'm going to use a modified version of 'Muskets & Tomohawks' so I can get these chilled fellows out for a game or two.



These poor, long-suffering Napoleonic Poilu will provide me, in addition of the 50 point Theme Bonus, 115 points. Woo!

Next up for this little side-project will be the obvious: Urahh!! Cossacks!


82 comments:

  1. Curt, those are really wonderfully painted figures; well done!

    BTW, I've also got a print of Minard's chart in my office; not only, as Tufte states, "may be the best statistical graphic ever drawn" but also captures a blending of my professional and personal interests like nothing else I know of.

    All the best to you and Sarah for 2014!

    Cheers,

    Paul K.

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    1. Paul, thanks very much for the kind words and well wishes - it's great to hear from you! My best wishes to you and yours for 2014 as well!

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    2. I've used the chart in one of my Actuarial Science courses. I asked one group of students to use the data to estimate a survival time model for members of thh Grande Armee. The other group got the data from Anson's circumnavigation/pirate expedition.

      Cheers
      PD

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    3. Very interesting! I'd be interested to see their resulting analysis from Minard's chart. I'm sure its pretty horrific.

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  2. Awesome work Curt, great theme for the mini's and great paint job.

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    1. Cheers Byron! (and thanks for being patient ;) )

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  3. This is a most creative way to approach this theme. Your idea reminds me of "Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton. Winter was not just a setting in the book, it was a character. And to understand the book, one had to understand the harshness of winter.

    These were brilliantly painted. All those little details you paid attention to brought the plight of these soldiers into cold, stark reality. Well done!!

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    1. Hey, thanks very much Anne. Yes, I often like it when writers and artists feature the environment as a pivotal character in their work. Cormac McCarthy is another writer I much admire who puts much life into his environments.

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  4. Superb work! I really like the snow and the whole set-up.

    Great idea, too, and I think especially appropriate this winter (anyways for those of us in North-America) ;-)

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    1. Thanks Iannick! Yes, we certainly are getting a solid kick in the crackers with a frozen boot this year, eh? That which does not kill us...

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  5. Wowsers! That's absolutely gorgeous mate. Your snow is really convincing and the colours really pop.

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    1. Cheers Millsy! The colours should actually be more muted but I still wanted them to stand out on the white tabletop when we game with them.

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  6. These are some of the best snow modelling I've ever seen you actually feel their pain they look so nice, ver clever painting

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    1. Hey, thanks Kent for your kind words. It took me a little pondering how to approach the bases so I appreciate your comment.

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  7. These are absolutely brilliant!

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    1. Coming from a man who slogs through snow & ice probably more than anyone I know that is a great compliment - thank you!

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  8. Those are some of the best figures of the Challenge, Curt. I hope you ave yourself considerable bonus points for all the extra work.

    I've long been tempted by these Perry figs; not for the retreat from Moscow, but to use in the 1814 campaign, or even Eylau and the Polish campaign, though the shakos are wrong for 1806/1807.

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    1. Ooh, yes! The Polish campaigns are my favourite and Eylau is a fascinating battle with its famous snow storm. If I had the time and money I'd love to do the French and Russian armies in winter gear. Hmm, perhaps in 15mm.... Don't get me started!!

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  9. Truly fantastic, what an entry

    Ian

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  10. The contributions in the gallery are mind-blowing but your own entries are equally stunning and specially when photographed against such an evocative scenic backdrop!

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    1. Thanks very much Sander! It's amazing what you can find for winter wargaming scenery in craft stores during Christmas time. I think I got enough trees to cover a 6x4 table for about $15.00. All those twee Christmas-themed village scenes that provide very inexpensive terrain options.

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  11. Wow !
    These figures are excellently painted, Curt. You Canadians have a real feeling for snow and cold. A unique result!

    Cheers
    Stefan

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    1. Yes, it's not something we choose to learn but it's driven into us at an early age - that or you get frostbite or worse!

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  12. Fabulous work Curt and a great interpretation of villainy

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  13. Wonderful figures Curt, and a great interpretation of the theme. I have these figures in the painting queue, and am currently reading Marbot's memoirs for inspiration. The Perry figures really are spectacular, and you have done them proud.

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    1. I thoroughly recommend this for conveying the horror of the retreat... http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2999232-memoirs-of-sergeant-bourgogne

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    2. Yes both of those memoirs provide great insights to the 1812 campaign. On the fictional side, I highly recommend Delderfield's 'Seven Men from Gascony' - my favourite piece of fiction on the Napoleonic period hands down.

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  14. Fantastic, Curt. Very evocative, chilling and a terrible wonder to behold. These are really spendid figures. I particularly like the frost effect on the greatcoats - but you never mentioned how you did that! Is it a trade secret?

    As a project, 1812 and the Retreat is such a great idea. Curse you Sir, you've got my fingers hovering over my copy of "The Duellists" and the Perry Miniatures website....!

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    1. Oh, the frost on the faces and clothing is a doodle. I simply dapple two lightening shades of grey with a final application of bright white. I use an old battered brush with cheap acrylic craft paint ('Americana' I believe the line is called). You can go pretty heavy with it, as you want to convey the built-up nature of the frost and ice - just be sparing around the face, scarf, collar, etc. as you don't want to obliterate fine details.

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    2. And a copy of the memoirs of Sergeant Burgoyne !

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  15. A great set of models and very nicely painted. Love the frosting effect.

    Incidentally, I was listening to the weather news on the radio on the way into work this morning and they mentioned the current cold blast that North Amrica is getting. -51°c is bloody cold by any standard and makes our worst British winters look like high summer!

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    1. Yes, winter is giving us a good kicking right now but not as bad as the coastal regions where they are loosing power due to snow and winds.

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  16. They make me feel cold just by looking at them. Which must mean they are blummin' good.

    It is really great that you have "Winter" as the villain. It makes it clear that you are open to some interpretation with the themes. So I must thank you for that as I now realise that I do not need to be quite as literal as I had thought.

    Many thanks to you sir.

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    1. Absolutely, feel free to interpret the Themes as you will. I think that is a lot of the fun of them. I certainly had a great time with the Lead Adventure Forum's Painting League in this respect. Everyone had a slightly different interpretation of the topic.

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    2. Curt

      So what counts as 'vehicle"? or do we submit and you tell us it is a vehicle?

      Cheers
      PD

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    3. I really leave it to you folks to interpret the themes. I know some are doing space ships while others will submit tanks and chariots. Surprise us Peter!

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  17. Beautiful work Curt
    Very evocative scene

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  18. Now that is cool... or cold or freezing..i feel cold just looking at the, . lovely work Curt. It will make for an interesting game i am sure

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    1. Thanks Dave. Yes, not something I'll use a lot but they'll give a good thematic game for sure.

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  19. Probably some of the coolest figures the Perry's have made and you have done a fantastic job on these!

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christoper and I agree in that they are perhaps some of the most characterful sculpts the Perry's have done.

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  20. Bloody excellent, I can feel the cold and misery from here!

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    1. Trust me to spread a bit of seasonal misery!

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  21. Excellent work. Great to see these on our hottest January day in twenty years here in Darwin.
    Cheers

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    1. Yeah, yeah, live it up Kiwi. Just don't come cryin' to us when you run out of water and the AC decides to pack it in...

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  22. OOoooo this are excellent Curt!!!! Beautiful stuff!!!!

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    1. Thanks Ray, I'm delighted you like them.

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  23. Stonkin' great figures Curt.

    You've certainly got the look of the cold and frost bitten. Given the -50C windchill we've got, I've got plenty of opportunity to make sure you've got it. By the way, are you missing your face fur with the cold?
    Cheers
    PD

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    1. Thanks Peter, you'll get to play with them in a short while.

      Yes, the 'face fur' is currently rallying for a return. It couldn't be fast enough...

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  24. Fantastic, Curt; they are perfect! Very good models, I think, and perfect for an skirmish game!

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    1. Yes, I think their only real utility is either as display models or for skirmish gaming. Doing this for a whole army would make my head explode!

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  25. Excellent minis to lead us into this year's theme round, Curt. You've executed 'bleak' very well. And what a theme round! Great variation and interpretation of the theme.

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  26. Hi,
    Impressive vision of the misery of the poor soldiers of the great army !
    I vote give a bonus to Curt!

    All the best.

    GillesW

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    1. Thank you Gilles. The bonus was being able to get these guys done in time for the deadline!

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  27. Wonderful idea of casting "General Winter" as your villain. As for the figures, I can quote the Emperor himself. On witnessing the destruction of La Grande Armee in 1812 he noted that it is but a step from the sublime to the ridiculous. Had he seen these figures, he may well have said there is a leap from the sublime to the truly wonderful.

    I tip my shako Sir.

    Pip pip

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    1. Very kind and encouraging words, thanks so much for your comment - it's much appreciated.

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  28. Weel, truly worthy of a bonus. Lovely work Curt.

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  29. Really, really impressive Curt

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    1. Thank you Nigel and thanks for visiting the madness.

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  30. Inspirational and moving. I adore what you've done here, Curt!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Monty, I'm delighted that you like them.

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  31. These figs convey a real sense of desperation in the face of an enemy which cannot be fought. Excellent work!

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    1. Cheers Ev. This was certainly a mood I was trying to 'channel' when I was working on these figures.

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  32. Your painting is amazing as always. Looking at your pics I'm suddenly feeling cold despite the unusual warm temperatures over here in Germany. So I think this proves you're spot on with the theme!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Nick! I think I was helped with our current freezing weather.

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  33. Awesome work, Curt! Something I've always wanted to do - but seeing yours is satisfying enough. "I smell Cossacks in those woods!" Dean

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    1. Ah, a great line! Harvey at his best. Thanks for the comment Dean.

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