I’ve not been idle on the model soldier front over this past week or so. In a return to the venerable Napoleonic Cavalry Project I’ve been turning my brush on to figures of horses; 17 in total, so that’s quite a herd!
In a change to my usual process, I thought I’d shake things up a bit by making a start on the horses before I paint the riders. So, here are the finished equines now let loose on the pasture and patiently awaiting their riders.
I won’t mention the regiment’s name yet, but the green shabraques provide a clue, if not the impressive sculpting. What a tease I am…
There’s an officer’s charger included which wears a very exotic horse blanket made out of leopardskin. You may be able to make out the head of the deceased big cat hanging out over the rump. That was great fun to paint being not at all familiar with painting African wildlife skins!
There’s a trumpeter’s horse too; a grey, naturally, but with a starkly different coloured shabraque to the rest of the regiment.
That leaves 18 cavalrymen for me to paint for those 17 horses. No, I’ve not misplaced a horse somewhere… the riders are currently still untouched in the box, so I ought to pull my finger out, if not my brush, and get painting!
In the process of painting some more Crimean War personalities, I’ve been particularly concentrating on a specific character who, though unnamed on the box artwork, bears an unmistakable resemblance to the 7th Earl of Cardigan.
Strelets’ “Into the Valley of Death” set dedicated to the Charge of the Light Brigade was purchased about 5 years ago and the figure in question is wearing the uniform of a hussar. Given the set’s topic, this means that it must belong either to the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars or 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.
Plastic Soldier Review feel they can identify him – “The [figure] could well pass for Lord Cardigan, the man who actually led the charge.” There’s certainly a strong resemblance. The Light Cavalry Brigade’s commander was Major General James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan of the 11th Hussars.
Arriving some months after the Battle of Balaclava, photographer Roger Fenton took some images of officers of the 11th Hussars, survivors of the charge, but not of the Earl of Cardigan himself. Below are his images of Cornet Wilkin and Lt. Yates of the 11th. Also below is Fenton’s famous image he titled “The valley of the Shadow of Death” itself, a gulley strewn with spent cannonballs.
So anyway, who’s Ronald?
That’s Ronald above, Cardigan’s charger shown as a small detail in Caton Woodville’s painting of The Charge. He was a thoroughbred chestnut gelding coincidentally sharing the same russet-colour as his owner’s ginger whiskers. Ronald was the horse that led the Charge of the Light Brigade, over 670 men (and their horses), into – and out of – the ‘valley of death’.
As with his aristocratic rider, Ronald was indeed incredibly fortunate to survive having ridden at the very head of the brigade right into the teeth of the Russian artillery position, escaped from being surrounded by Cossacks, and then returned all the way back again unscathed. Of the famous charge, a shocking 475 other horses failed to do the same. Furthermore, he should be considered very robust for even surviving the trip over to Crimea by troop ship (many horses did not), and then making the same arduous journey back home again.
Ronald continued to prove particularly durable, managing to enjoy life until 28th June 1872, nearly 18 years after Balaclava and a full four years after the passing of his master. There are, it seems, a number of tributes to Ronald on the web. Including:
Of his many depictions, I’ve based my painting of Ronald on the Alfred Frank de Prades portrait. This shows Ronald to have markings consisting of two white ‘stockings’ and one white ‘sock’, although other portraits I’ve seen occasionally differ. I do know (thanks to the perfect preservation of his head!) that he had a star on his forehead and a snip near his right nostril, all of which I’ve been careful to try and reproduce on my own little tribute in 20mm figure form. Strelets horses certainly aren’t their strongest feature (the leg positioning on this figure isn’t quite right, I feel), but otherwise it’s not too bad a sculpt.
The Earl of Cardigan himself is a pleasing figure, I think, and Strelets have captured something of his features and ornate uniform. I’ve used a darker red than I commonly use to achieve the cherry colour of his busby bag and overalls, a feature unique to the 11th Hussars which gave rise to their nicknames “The Cherry Pickers” and “The Cherry Bums” or, for when ladies were present, “The Cherubims”!
On Cardigan and Ronald’s return to the Brudenell home in Deene Park, it became apparent that their adventures had found them considerable fame and both were greeted as heroes by the thronging crowds. Such was the fervour that many tried to pull out poor Ronald’s hair for a keepsake as he passed! A well-deserved long retirement for Ronald ensued until the Earl of Cardigan passed away in 1868, at which point his famous steed was required to follow as part of the cortege. However, it seems that the old war horse very nearly didn’t make the funeral procession thanks to a very comical series of mishaps:-
“However, the old horse, having endured ghastly sea journeys, life on the foreign front, the atrocity of battle, near starvation and probably deep terror, found the whole prospect of a funeral procession far too exhilarating and became boisterous. To avoid the solemn pageantry of the day being ruined by the over-excited horse, they administered laudanum. But, in the heat of the moment the dose must have been inadvertently overdone, for then no one could move the dozing charger. Eventually an inspired individual called for the sounding of the cavalry charge. Stirred to duty, Ronald jumped into wakefulness and set off as required.”
Such was the affection felt for Ronald by the Brudenell family and the British public that, when he did eventually die, the Brudenells preserved his head and tail which continues to be displayed at his home in Deene Park, Northamptonshire. His hoof was turned into an inkwell (a popular tribute for beloved horses of the time) with a sculpture of him and his master atop.
To me, it has sometimes seemed that some of Tennyson’s famous lines on the men of the Light Brigade could have equally applied to the brave horses like Ronald who suffered so much in the charge, dutifully carrying their riders through hell:
Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.
I’ve handful more ‘personalities’ I’m working on, which I’ll doubtless share in due course.
Just a quick update on my progress with my FEMbruary challenge – Bad Squiddo’s Catherine the Great and her horse “Brilliant”. The latter’s name refers to the Russian word for diamond. Well, the sculpting is a real gem, for sure (groan…).
I’m not used to painting greys at 28mm, or in metal for that matter, so I’ve had to go back and re-adjust my paint job a couple of times. There is supposed to be a very slight dapple effect on the coat, but it’s got lost a little with those readjustments. Hopefully, the end result is satisfactory.
Still a couple of things I’d like to do get Brilliant’s face looking slightly better. Unlike in Eriksen’s painting of Catherine the Great on Brilliant, I painted them in a light colour instead of black. This is correct for a grey – and what’s more, I am rather sad and very fussy about these things!
I must confess that reproducing freehand all that rich, ornate embroidery seen on the saddle cloth isn’t something I’m a natural at. And it probably shows too, but it’ll do!
Catherine herself is, I’d say, half to 2/3rd’s done. Her face and hair are up next, with plenty of other details still to do. All will be revealed when she’s finally finished and glued on to the back of Brilliant!
When painting 1/72 scale cavalry, I always enjoy adding white markings to my horses’ faces as this provides them with a little individuality and personality. Indeed, these markings are used in real life to identify individual horses in a herd. On the face, they are variously identified as blazes, snips, stars and stripes, depending on where on the face it appears and how extensive it is. Likewise markings on their lower legs are unique to each horses, these can be stockings, socks or boots, depending on their length up the leg.
Putting the finishing touches to the Prussian Cuirassier horses, I was looking around for a little inspiration and was drawn to my collection of Harry Payne postcards.
Born in 1858, Harry Payne was a Londoner, a son of a clerk. He went on to produce an enormous number of paintings on military subjects, many being sold as postcards produced by firms such as Gale and Polden, or Raphael Tuck and Sons.
After attending art school, he worked for a time for a firm of military contractors. By the 1880s, he had developed into a talented military artist and was enormously prolific. Furthermore, he even sold his work to members of the royal family including several commissions during Queen Victoria’s 1887 Jubilee.
Much of his work was produced with assistance from his older brother Arthur, although in exactly what capacity, I am unsure. No doubt, his assistance was invaluable in being able to produce such a high number of artworks to order. The two brothers produced a book together for the Queen’s Jubilee year with the original illustrations being presented to Queen Victoria herself.
Aside from the postcards, Harry and Arthur worked on illustrated material for The Strand Magazine, The Navy and Army Illustrated, The Graphic, and various books for, amongst others, Cassell, Virtue and Routledge. In 1903, a set of 50 images were painted for a Players set of cigarette cards, entitled “Riders of the World”.
Harry Payne was noted for his attention to detail in reproducing the military dress of the British army in his paintings. He research could be extensive and his 23 years spent in the West Kent Yeomanry further assisted his knowledge. Working in oil on canvas or watercolours, he was to prove a popular artist for decades.
Although he also painted a range of other topics (cowboys, rural scenes, etc), Payne’s speciality was in depicting the military uniforms of the British army during the late Victorian / Edwardian period. The army was in transition during this time, adopting khaki for its campaigns but still retaining their brightly coloured uniforms for other ceremonial duties. His artworks captured the full range of different orders of dress.
Aside from accurate and detailed uniforms, Harry Payne was a painter who prided himself in his depiction of horses. The cavalryman was still considered to be a highly effective force at the turn of the century. Whether armed with a rifle, sabre or lance, a cavalryman’s military equestrian skills were highly prized.
14th King’s Hussars
16th The Queen’s Lancers
6th Dragoon Guards
Flicking through his depictions of horses, I copied some of their markings to be reproduced on my Prussian cuirassier horses. I’m not an artist like Harry Payne; but aside from our shared enthusiasm for depicting military uniforms, I like to think we might also have in common an ability to derive a certain satisfaction from painting military horses too.
For Part 2: Base-coating, shading and highlighting – click here
For Part 3: Snips, spots, stars and stripes! – click here
Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 4
Tack, tails, manes and hooves!
With the horse hide and markings done, there are still a few final touches to apply to the animals; the tails, manes and hooves. Tails and manes are fairly easy to do. Mostly, I simply paint the black and dry brush with a neutral grey. The grey is a useful and important highlight, bringing texture and detail to the flowing hair. There are some different colour manes to try; I sometimes dry brush red leather on to black for chestnut horses. For greys, I add a pale grey wash, wait for it to dry and dry-brush off-white for highlights. Sometimes, I may experiment with beige for a more cream-coloured mane for a grey horse.
Hooves are straight-forward too. A dark grey seems to be a good hoof colour. The only important thing to remember is that where a leg ends if a white marking (a sock, stocking, etc), then the hoof must be a lighter colour instead. I think that a cream or beige colour does the trick. I maintain an almost-dry brush to apply the paint for a little more texture. I know, I know…I need to get out more…
Now for the tedious and onerous part. The tack (the reins, bridles, breastplates, bits, etc) is the equipment required to control the horse and mount the rider. At this stage the tack on your figures are probably covered in lots of colour from all the dry-brushing. Care and a fine brush tip are needed to pick out the leather lines. It’s worth spending the extra time making sure it’s picked out neatly against the horse skin you’ve taken so much time to look good. Add in the small metal parts of the tack with a metal colour, I use silver to make it stand out clearly. It’s all a little bit tedious, yes, but necessary.
But the good news is that your horse painting is now virtually done! Just the horse furniture to do, some basing (if you want that), and not forgetting gluing your riders on.
Spend as much, or as little, time as you want in painting your horses – it’s your hobby to enjoy in your way. However, I like to think that a carefully painted horse can transform the look of your cavalry. I don’t claim to be an expert (far from it!), but this has been the technique that I use which achieves a result that I’m happy with, and hopefully it will prove useful to you too.
Check out the Nappy Cavalry Project page in a week or two to see how these horse figures turned out by clicking on the Russian Cuirassiers link, regiment #21.
For Part 2: Base-coating, shading and highlighting – click here
Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 3
Snips, spots, stars and stripes!
Now the highlighting and shading of the horse flesh is done, we need to turn our attention to some more horse details. Aside from the colour of their coats, horses can be distinguished by white markings on their faces and white or dark shading on their legs. I tend to add the dark markings to the legs using a very dark black wash. I could paint them black but I find a dark wash just retains definition on the legs.
Then it’s quickly back to dry brushing the base coat colour into the top of the tide mark of those leg black washes. This just blends the dark markings into the coat more naturally rather than leaving a sharp black line. No need to be fussy, just a very quick dry-brush around the top of the black legs.
Once the legs are dry, I add my white leg markings. These are described (depending how much of the lower leg is covered in white) as being fetlocks, pasterns, socks or stockings (see here for an illustration). Anything from none to all four legs can feature some white. Again, my old friend dry-brushing comes in to play here. I retain a little more white paint on my brush for this – it’s somewhere between painting and dry-brushing – and wipe the brush wherever I feel a leg marking should be. No need to be too precise – be creative! Give the leg a stocking, a fetlock, or nothing at all; whatever takes your fancy.
Next, I add some white markings to the faces. For this I add a little paint with a small brush – no wash or dry-brushing – imagine that! The key thing here, I find, is to be delicate but not too regular. Marks and stripes can be any shape. Above all, be creative and make your horses into unique individuals. See this good description of face markings for more info. The markings I generally use are:
Blazes – a broad stripe down the middle of the face from forehead to mouth.
Snips – a small white marking between the horses’ nose.
Stars – a white marking on the forehead.
Stripes – a thin stripe down the middle of the face.
A mixture of the above; e.g. a snip and a star.
Now for the eyes. Horses eyes are generally just black. The problem is that I find that painting the eyes simply black isn’t very effective. Instead, I add a tiny white spot or line to the back of the eye. And I mean very tiny. This adds a little definition to the eyes, perhaps even a bit of life or character to the face. Furthermore, being horses in battle, I think a little white of the eyeball showing suggests something of the fear and effort experienced by a horse in a mass charge. See what you think, but I believe this tiny bit of white makes all the difference.
Muzzles. These things can vary in colour but generally they tend to be a mixture of patches of very dark grey with white and/or pink for the snip or the very end of a blaze. I add a very thick German Camouflage Grey (a dark grey) wash around the muzzle, occasionally adding a little light grey dry-brushing highlight for definition. I like to sometimes add a that very light pink too. These are small details admittedly, but again I say that like to think it makes a significant effect, creating a little more realism and character in the horse.
Still following his tutorial? Great! It shows the kind of patience that will serve you well in figure painting! In the next part of this tutorial, we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel, tackling the final parts of the horse (tails, manes and hooves) and all that ‘tack’ (reins, bridle, etc).
Base-coats for horses will reflect the type of horses particular to your cavalry regiment. I use Vallejo Acrylic paints, which are invariably of excellent quality. Base-coat colours I use are:
For Dark Bays I tend to use their German Camouflage Black-Brown,
Sky Grey for Greys,
Desert Yellow for Duns,
Red Leather for Chestnuts,
A 40%-60% mix of Dark Prussian Blue and Black for black horses. This very dark blue seems to look more natural somehow for horse hide than does pure black. It also assists in creating some subtle light and shade later.
I also paint Lighter-shaded browns for a variety of other brown-coloured horses. Once these base-coats are on, it’s time to shade!
Shading involves creating a black wash. An exception is for greys, where I use Vallejo’s pre-mixed Pale Grey Wash. Essentially, washes are created by adding a little bit of water to black paint, but the trick is in getting the right consistency. Too much water and the shading will be non-existent; too little water and the base-coat colour will be lost beneath all the blackness. So, getting it right involves some experimentation, but the aim is to drag the brush across the folds of horse-flesh so that the dark wash falls off the peaks and settles into the troughs. I tend to add the wash to one side of the horse and leave it to dry lying on its side with the wash-side facing up. That way, the wash will stay and dry in the parts which we need to look shaded. Once dry, I then do the other side as well.
A VERY dark bay…
Grey with pale grey wash applied
Highlighting can begin as soon as all the black wash has dried. At this stage ,the horses will look horrible, smothered in this dark wash – but stick with it, they will look a bit better soon! Highlighting involves dry-brushing the base colour on to the figures. For those not in-the-know, dry-brushing involves adding your paint to the brush as normal and then wiping it off repeatedly (on a piece of paper) until the bristles are virtually dry and no longer ‘paints’ the paper, but maybe still thinly shades it. The dry paint remaining on the bristles will be enough to still impart some colour but only slightly on to the parts it brushes across. Drag or stroke your dry brush repeatedly across the ‘peaks’ in the sculpting until the colour reappears. Again; experimentation is the key. Repeated stroking over the figure, avoiding getting the bristles into the troughs, should gradually reveal those highlights. Be cautious; the effects of a too-dry brush can be corrected more easily than by a too-wet one.
Even more highlighting can be done next, if you wish. See how you feel the horse is looking. I may choose a lighter brown for example or create a slightly lighter version of the base colour by adding a tiny dash of white to it and mixing together. This slightlylighter shade can be then dry-brushed on to the figure. The key is to be more discriminating in applying it. Don’t go mad; just aim to do the highest tips of the creases this time – it will make the highlights look more distinct against the black-wash shaded areas. It will also create a blended transition of colour from top lightest bits – to middle base-coat colour – to lowest shaded bits nicely.
Now take a short break and admire your horses coats! It will still look a mess but we’ll tidy all the details up next. All this shading and highlighting might sound exhausting, but with confidence the process can be done easily, and relatively quickly too. It’s a chance to be artistic, maybe even become the George Stubbs of the figure painting world! The next stage may require a little bit more patience, however. It’s time to tackle some of those details…
I’ve not been able to paint my 16 Russian Cuirassier horses this week. Part of the reason has been the lengthy process of preparation, which I thought I’d share on the blog.
I’ve been asked before on some words on how I paint my horses, so this is (very belatedly) a good opportunity to do just that. So, notebooks at the ready? Pencils raised? Then I’ll begin.
Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 1
Step 1: Preparation
Very first step is to get those horses clean! I leave them on the sprue and scrub them clean in a bowl of warm water and washing up liquid using an old toothbrush. A toothbrush is the perfect size to get into all the nooks and crannies. Leave them to dry and they should be ready for your primer.
…except they sometimes are not ready for primer. The Zvezda horses I’m working on, like all Zvezda figures, seem to have the feature of paint not sticking very well to them. I’m not sure why this is but my solution is this: I paint a layer of PVA glue over them. Don’t worry if it looks a little lumpy as it’s applied with a brush, so long as you don’t apply ridiculous amounts, it will dry leaving all the crisp details intact. This glue provides a nice gripping layer for the priming paint = no more paint flaking off. Don’t forget to trim any flash or excess plastic from the horses with a sharp scalpel. I stick my horses to large bottle tops with a blob of blu-tack. This aids handling them when painting later on.
Add the primer. Most paint manufacturers offer primers specially for the purpose. I don’t use them. I’m painting horses, not re-spraying my vintage 1966 Lamborghini Miura. In fact, I’d say that priming figures is the most boring job out of the whole hobby. So I make sure it’s as quick and painless as possible by using a spray can; it’s all over with in seconds! Again, no need to buy an expensive fancy primer, I just buy cheap acrylic black spray paint for cars (hey, maybe I could spray that Miura…). A £5 can will last me months. I always choose black for my figures as it aids black lining and shading.
Once sprayed, your figures are ready for their basecoats. No need to be too fussy and neat at this stage, but I like to be careful nonetheless – start off as you mean to go on, I say. You may want to choose your basecoats with a view to respecting the history of the regiment; greys for the Scots Greys, black for the British Life Guards, dark bays for the 1st Royal Dragoons. If you are no equestrian, you may want to familiarise yourself with horse coat varieties using a little “research”. For my Russian Cuirassiers, I don’t believe they had a specified horse colour so I’m just going to paint a variety of horses; dark bays, chestnuts, blacks, greys, duns, etc.
I’d better get to work with the rest of those basecoat colours!