Back in Black

Well, I’m back in black. Yes, I’m back in black.

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Plenty of free time yesterday allowed me to spend some time preparing the evening meal and – best of all – painting my soldiers. More correctly in this instance, I was painting their horses. Yes – I’m back at the Napoleonic Cavalry Project with the 37th Regiment in the collection. You can make up your own mind whether having painted 37 Napoleonic cavalry regiments is something to be proud of…

Still in progress: Brunswickian equines

When they were available, I prevaricated over purchasing Napoleonic HaT’s Brunswick Cavalry box. HaT figures are always nice, but they don’t often excite me a great deal. As the Nappy Cavalry Project progressed and options for new sets declined, I found myself belatedly wishing I’d secured a box before it had sold out. So it was with some pleasure that I discovered that HaT were releasing the set recently as part of a raft of re-releases.

Another Nap cavalry box presented by my assistant.

During the 1806 invasion of Prussia by Napoleon, one of the Prussian Field Marshalls, the Duke of Brunswick, had been mortally wounded during the Battle of Auerstedt. The Duchy of Brunswick itself spent the next five years as part of the Napoleonic kingdom of Westphalia, occupied by French troops.

The Duke’s son, himself a major general in the Prussian army, loathed the French as much as his father and dedicated himself to fighting for liberation for his Duchy. He raised a corps which became known in England as the Black Brunswickers for their all-black uniforms (apparently adopted ‘in mourning’ for their homeland). After some initial success, he and his troops fled to Britain to become part of the British army where they faught in the Peninsular War. A re-raised Brunswick corps faught at Quatre Bras (where – like his father – the Duke was killed fighting the French) and also at Waterloo where they saw the French finally defeated.

Death of the Black Duke By Friedrich Matthäi (1777–1845), Public Domain.

The Duke’s Black Brunswicker corps have been reproduced in various ways by HaT and recently by Strelets. The Brunswick Corps cavalry consisted of a regiment of hussars and a squadron of uhlans, both wearing the ubiquitous black uniform. HaT’s Brunswick cavalry box reflecting the relative sizes of the regiments includes 3 uhlan figures and 9 figures of the hussars.

Even his dog is black – “The Black Brunswicker” by John Everett Millais – John Everett Millais, Public Domain.

The pre-Raphaelite painter Millais, painted the above in 1860 following a conversation with William Howard Russell of the Times:

My subject appears to me, too, most fortunate, and Russell thinks it first-rate. It is connected with the Brunswick Cavalry at Waterloo…They were nearly annihilated but performed prodigies of valour… The costume and incident are so powerful that I am astonished it has never been touched upon before.

In terms of my own painting, I’ve been here before – painting black-uniformed Germanic hussars in 2015 in the early days of the project. These were Waterloo 1815’s Prussian Leib Hussars who also wore the death’s head symbol on their shakos. The key difference between those Prussian uniforms and the Brunswick Hussars is that the Brunswickers go even further with all that Gothic blackness, having black lacing and black breeches too.

Prussian Leib Hussars by Waterloo 1815

Better get back to those horses. Speaking of which, I’ve come to the conclusion that my horse painting technique has stood still for too long and have pledged to slowly develop my ‘repartoire’. Firstly, I’ve turned my attention to my dun horses. We own a dun pony called Woody, so I feel it’s important I always paint at least one in any given regiment. Trouble is, I’ve never been quite happy with them, so I’ve changed the colour mix and I’m already a little happier with the shade for the coat.

Next, inspired by Bill’s magnificent dapple grey from his glorious Spanish hussars (Tiny Wars Played Indoors blog), I might turn my hand at some variations too. Palominos, Piebalds or Strawberry Roans anyone?

Courses for Horses IV – Final part of my horse painting tutorial

Continuing my “tutorial” on painting 1/72 scale horses…

For Part 1: Preparation – click here

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Yours, Marvin.


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. 

Courses for Horses III – More Equine painting

Continuing my “tutorial” on painting 1/72 scale horses…

For Part 1: Preparation – click here

For Part 2: Base-coating, shading and highlighting – click here


Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 3

Snips, spots, stars and stripes!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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      A horse with a blaze marking and a single sock…
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).

Coming soon: Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 4

Courses for Horses II – Equine painting

Continuing my “tutorial” on painting 1/72 scale horses…

For Part 1: Preparation – click here


Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 2

Step 2: Base-coating, shading and highlighting.

  1. 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!

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      Base-coated horses.

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      Left: Painted Blue-black / Right: Just Black
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 slightly lighter 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.
  5. 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

Coming soon: Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 3


 

Courses for Horses

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

  1. 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.

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    PVA glue: essential for Zvezda horses…
  2. …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.

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    Zvezda horses already primed and stuck to bottle tops.
  3. 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.

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    My primer: black acrylic car spray paint.
  4. 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.

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    Base coat on: a dark bay painted with Vallejo’s Camouflage Black-Brown.

I’d better get to work with the rest of those basecoat colours!

Coming soon: Painting 1/72 Scale Horses – Part 2