Sunday, January 24, 2016

Entry #9 to the AHPC - Heidi & Hildegarde von Biguns and the Death Bell of Breugel-Bosch

I'm having a lot of fun with this Painting Challenge, ricocheting between different projects and enjoying working on a wide variety of figures. This time I return back to the Renaissance, or a perhaps a slightly skewed vision of the Renaissance.

This set of 28mm models is from Lead Adventure Miniatures. I'm a huge fan of most of their ranges and I really love the aesthetic of their Renaissance models. While they are certainly grounded within a historical context, these figures have a rather odd, very mannered, twist to them.  I've been so taken with them that I've collected a whole series of related miniatures that I hope to form into a distinct collection - but more on that later.

As soon as I saw this set advertised online I knew had to get it as it's just so whimsically dorky.  Depicted here is a 'crew' of a highly improvised artillery piece, a great town bell, 'The Death Bell'. We see that the bell is just about to be fired in the defense of their town of 'Breugel-Bosch'.

The leader is a rather formidable woman, dressed for the occasion in helmet, partial Landsknecht regalia and sword. She wields an improvised rammer made of an old broom stick and scullery brush. This is Hildegarde. She is overseeing her sister, Heidi, in the firing of the Death Bell. Heidi, as we can plainly see, is a little more of a reluctant soul than her brash sibling. Both sisters are trying very hard to ignore the sage advise of their cousin Henri, who lost both his legs as a gunner serving in the Italian Wars. He is seen here on his hand cart, bringing up more ammunition for the ladies.

While working on these castings I came to the conclusion that they deserved a little more pimping out. The stock bell came with a cavernous opening, but with nothing to put in it. I thought that this wouldn't do. It was just crying out for some deadly missile to be nestled inside, ready to be blasted out at their enemies. At first, I made a big cannonball with some greenstuff and popped that in to see how it looked. It was okay, but it still seemed rather, meh, a bit boring. 

Then I came upon the idea that these citizens would want to pack this thing with whatever they could find in town that could be considered lethal. I immediately thought of a blacksmith's anvil and laughed aloud. I rummaged around and, surprise, surprise, found one as part of a Napoleonic forge set from Westfalia Miniatures (sorry Kawe!). From there it was just a matter of trimming down the anvil and adding some other bits, such as a sword, spear, and a few polearms (donations from the town's armoury). Done! Now the gun has a load of improvised scattershot to wreak havoc amongst their foes!

I really liked the pillow as a recoil brake and made sure to give it a nice needlework pattern. I imagine that it's been donated to the cause by one of the town's worthy ladies - a noble sacrifice from her sitting room. 

For the groundwork I wanted to try something a little different. I really liked Sidney's cobblestone base which is featured in his latest theme entry. I didn't have anything like that handy, so I made a rather impressionistic version of a cobblestone road by gluing oblong shapes cut from an index card. Once dried I simply painted, drybrushed them up to look like flagstones, and then added some grass between the 'stones' (clipped-up tufts work well for this).

I've kept to an autumn theme again so that this 'HEAVY artillery unit' can fit in with my other Renaissance stuff.

So, there you have it. The Death Bell of Breugel-Bosch, crewed by Heidi & Hildegarde von Biguns (and helped by their cousin Henri).

Thanks for visiting folks and have a great week!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Entry #8 to the AHPC - Three Denizens of Edgar Rice Burrows' Barsoom

First, I want to tip my hat to Sander for this project's inspiration. During last year's Painting Challenge he submitted a wonderful entry that got my mind whirling and my pocketbook prised open to order these great figures.

In 1912 Edgar Rice Burrows published 'A Princess of Mars', the first in what would be 11 novels making up the John Carter of Mars series. Burrows is seen as one of the founding fathers of science fiction and his writing, while a bit anachronistic, still entertains today much as it did over a century ago.

These figures were a close contender for my 'Nostalgia' entry as I've had a real soft spot for the series since I was a teen. I have fond memories of going through the turnstile of novels in our town's pharmacy (which was the only place to buy novels and magazines) and taking furtive glances at the salacious covers of the John Carter paperbacks, trying not to be seen by the store's staff. To me, the art of John Carter is inseparable from the writing itself and I can't help but think of all the wonderful overwrought covers from artists such as Frank Frazetta, Frank Schoonover and Joe Jusko as I reminisce about the novels.

So here we have three denizens of Mars, or 'Barsoom', as Burrows called the Red Planet in his novels.

These 28mm figures are from Tin Man Miniatures. They are really wonderful castings, with very nice poses and, for the most part, requiring almost no cleanup.

This tall, green, four-armed fella is called a Thark. They are a warrior race which show up frequently in the John Carter novels.  He's armed with a pair of cutlasses and has a holstered pistol as well.

I decided to eschew metallic paints for this project as I thought the NMM approach would provide for a more interesting cartoony, cell-shaded effect to the figures.

The above figure is a female Barsoom assassin. I spent some time mulling over what colour to go with and finally decided with a simple deep red as it's often heavily used in the series' cover art

I did a blocky highlighting style to make her robes and boots quite pronounced.

The 'Wild Ride' vignette is a fairly complex white metal model with around 20 parts. It required a fair bit of pinning and filling to complete, and while I'm still not completely happy with it, I still really like the sense of movement it gives. 

I decided to go with a blue skin tone on the beast as I like the sharp contrast against the red-themed groundwork and, well, it's a freaky looking alien so it seemed to fit.

In regards to the bases, I was at a bit of a loss as at first.  I wanted groundwork that was distinctly alien, but yet not so over-the-top to overpower the figures. In the end I decided to use bits of bark built-up with glue to create a stratified rock effect which did a decent job of blending with the original bases, and then went with a pale orange/red base colour and just highlighted from there. 

As to the vegetation, Burrows describes much of Mars being covered with loamy, yellow-red plants so I thought I'd use some old 'autumn' foam flock which I've always thought looked a bit too weird for Earth anyway, but it's finally found it's home on Barsoom.

Thanks for dropping by for a visit folks!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Entry #7 to the AHPC - 28mm Napoleonic French Officer During the Retreat from Russia, 1812

This week, for the Challenge's 'Epic Fail' theme, I returned to a project I began a few years ago. It depicts a campaign which I think easily fits the theme: the 1812 French retreat from Russia.

So here is a single figure of a French officer, ragged and cold, in the midst of attempting to rally his comrades. In my mind's eye I see breath misting, desperate figures shuffling through the snow, and the ominous shadows of Cossacks emerging from a distant treeline.

28mm figure by Perry Miniatures and I would argue one of their best sculpted ranges.

Thanks for dropping by and have a great week!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Entry #6 to the AHPC - 28mm Italian Wars Bolognese Crossbowmen

I've been suffering through a terrible headcold these past few days but I did manage to get these boys off the table.

This is a unit of crossbowmen from the Italian city of Bologna ca 1500. We see them here, shooting from behind their pavise shields, while under fire from some opposing missile troops.

I chose Bologna for a couple reasons. The first is pure laziness: Bologna's heraldic crest, a red cross on white background, is relatively easy to do freehand. 

A depiction of fighting between militia factions in Bologna, from the Croniche of Giovanni Sercambi of Lucca.

I also I appreciate Bolognese civil politics of the time. It seems that Bologna was the only Renaissance Italian city (and probably one of the few in Europe) who allowed women to excel in any chosen profession, even permitting them to attend the city's university. Also, Bologna was a center of the arts in its own right, with a residence of painters that rivaled that of Rome and Florence during the period. (BTW, In 1506 it was invaded and sacked by Papal armies, its art was stolen and its progressive civil liberties squashed  (yet another tick-mark in the scorecard of enlightened organized religion...).)

...and finally, let's not forget that a good Bolognese sauce is in of itself worthy to fight for...

These ten 28mm metal figures are from the Perry's 'European Wars' range while the pavises (pavisii?) are from their European Mercenaries box set. 

For the stricken crossbowman I used a plastic Perry Napoleonic British casualty figure, shaved off the offending detail, gave him a breastplate (roughly) made with a bit of green-stuff and then added a sallet helmet and crossbow. The city pennon is a repaint of one of the cutouts provided in the Perry box sets.

I often hot-glue a stump, boulder etc. at the back of my large bases to give players something to grip on to when moving them on the tabletop.

The irregularly shaped MDF base was a sample sent along to me from Simon Miller (aka BigRedBat). He's developed these for use for his 'To The Strongest' ruleset. (Thanks very much Simon!)  For the past year or so I've been thinking of creating basing like this and so I was really stoked when I saw Simon's bases on his website. I really like the organic shape of these bases and am planning to do-up my upcoming Italian Wars collection using these in various dimensions. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Entry #5 to the AHPC - 28mm Modern German (SEK M) Special Forces Frogmen

These five frogmen depict members of the Spezialisierte Einsatzkräfte Marine (SEK M) a German special forces unit which focuses on maritime operations.

The 28mm figures are from Lead Adventure Miniatures. They're bit off-the-beaten-path, but I thought they would be fun to do. While the sculpts themselves are fantastic, the only thing I find a bit odd about them is how they're armed. I believe units of this type are typically utilized for close-in assaults, ship-boarding, hostage rescues, stuff like that, so I think it would more likely that they would be armed with compact MP5 SMGs, or shortened HK416s, rather than the relatively hulking G36 seen here. Who knows, perhaps they are landing on some foreign shore where they may have to stand-off at medium range.


Being special forces frogmen, it would only stand to reason that they would be kitted out completely in black, so I had a merry time working with various shades of grey to prevent them from disappearing into the shadows completely. With their bases I tried to create the sense that they are coming ashore (and to add a bit more colour for interest).  In the end they turned out alright, though I might go back and pick-out a few metallic edges on their assault rifles and give their Tag watches luminous dials. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Entry #4 to the AHPC: 'Zarg the Terrible' for the 'Nostalgia' Theme Round

Zarg the Terrible
I ran into an old girlfriend this past summer. Her name is Lois-Anna. Actually Lois-Anna is not just an 'old girlfriend', she was my first girlfriend, my first girlfriend at the very tender age of 16. 

We made plans to meet for coffee, and a few weeks later we met at a cafe and had a great time, reminiscing about old friends, old haunts and good times gone by. Just as we were about to part she gave me an envelope that contained a few Polaroids from back when we were together.  Among those photos was one of me wearing a cheesy pair of Foster Grants, posing behind a mushroom-topped stump with a trio of little lead miniatures atop it. They were in fact the very first miniatures I had ever painted. I was speechless. I had completely forgotten that this photo had ever been taken and it made me laugh aloud.

'Zarg' in the red circle. I'll pass on the sunglasses but gosh, I wish I still had that hair... ;)
I'll give you a little context to this photo. I was raised in a very, very small town in northern Saskatchewan, where the nearest hobby store was around 120 miles away. My best friend Gary and I mail ordered our 1st edition Players Handbooks, DM's Guide, Monster Manual and several lead miniatures direct from TSR in Lake Geneva.  When they arrived it was like Christmas in summer. I was so excited to paint the figures that I used enamel car paint from my dad's shop and my mom's toothpicks and push-pins to apply it to the figures. Yup. Pretty primitive I know, but sometimes you just can't beat raw enthusiasm.  

Anyway, after I got the photo from Lois-Anna I spent an afternoon searching through my lead shed and managed to find my character figure - the very same as in the photo. Yes, 'Zarg the Terrible' emerged in all his glory. (It's funny, even back then I was a complete cynic as I came up with his name as a tongue-in-cheek reference to my ability as a player.)  Anyway, poor Zarg had not weathered the intervening 33 years very well, so I didn't even bother to photograph him as I found him.  Rather, I just brushed away the paint (yes, the 'benefits' of high lead content and absolutely no primer) and began afresh. So, here he is, 'Zarg the Terrible' in all his splendor, painted by a middle-aged version of that boy from 1982. 

Zarg and Curt 33 years later.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Entry #3 to the AHPC: 28mm Landsknecht 'Handbuchse' Light Gun

I've been promising a Renaissance-themed submission for a while and so here it is. 

This an example of an early heavy rifled musket, sometimes called a 'Handbuchse'. These tripod mounted guns were often too cumbersome and slow for field engagements but would be utilized during sieges, assumably to pick off defenders and make a general nuisance of themselves. I had an opportunity to see one of these weapons close-up on display in Les Invalides in Paris and marveled at what must have been the bravery of its crew. From examining the contraption, its gunners must have been in as much danger from it flying apart as to those they were supposedly shooting at. The risks of being on the cusp of cutting edge technology, I suppose.

These figures are a mix from both Warlord Games and the now defunct Pro Gloria Miniatures (Warlord bought the range a few years ago). 

I recruited a Master Gunner from Warlord's Pike & Shotte range and re-purposed him for this vignette as I liked his pose.

He has a technician/alchemist air about him.

I imagine him as a Spaniard mercenary gunner in Imperial pay who has dropped by to help his German friends sight their 'silly Teutonic popgun'. 

The two Landsknecht and the light gun are pretty much stock from the kit, except for a  bit of careful bending and re-positioning for the vignette.

I thought I'd indulge myself with an autumnal setting for these boys as I thought it worked with their colourful garb. Hmm. I sort of like it and am thinking I might maintain it as the theme for my developing Renaissance collection - we'll see. 

'Rodrigo, get that blasted thing out of my face... Niles! Wait! No, not yet you fool!!'