Hussars of the Tsar

This year, I have added a regiment of Russian Astrakhan Cuirassiers to the Nappy Cavalry Project and also finished painting the 17th Regiment of Foot for the 2017 Benno’s Figures Forum Group Build project.

What to tackle next? Why, more Napoleonic cavalry, of course! So, I’ve picked up my box of Zvezda Napoleonic Russian Hussars which are my 22nd Nappy Cavalry Project regiment. I originally intended to have a go at these before Christmas, but there was something of a problem with these figures, so let me explain:

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My daughter kindly holds up my latest box of Napoleonic cavalry!

Now – I find Zvezda figures need special preparation before painting, which I forgot to do. I charged on carelessly! Without some pva glue as an undercoat, I find my careful paintwork can just fall off the figures at the slightest touch. Having neglected to do this before spraying my primer, I now found I had the problem of removing all the flaky paint again. Although the paint flakes off easily, it does so unevenly, such that I struggle to completely remove it. I’ve tried scrubbing the figures with toothbrushes and also leaving them to soak for days in both Dettol antiseptic and bleach; none of these techniques were entirely successful. I’ve now tried blotting the figure with sticky Blu-tac which does indeed lift the paint off – but it’s hard and slow work. Finally, I’ve managed to clean up the last few figures ready to ‘begin again’.

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Zvezda Russian Hussars – primed and ready to go (finally…)

All fairly dull stuff, I’m sure anyone will agree who’s reading this! So, a far more fun thing to do, I find, is to decide upon which of the many colourful Russian hussar regiments I want to depict. I was pointed in the right direction very kindly by “matgc“, a talented Brazilian painter on Bennos Figures Forum (and I urge anyone to visit his excellent blog ‘My Ever-Growing Armies’ and view his own wonderfully vibrant Zvezda Hussar figures).

There were 12 Russian Hussar regiments in 1809, each wearing their own unique array of colours which is just what I love about Napoleonic cavalry. Out of these choices, I whittled them down to these preferred options (with their brief uniform descriptions):

  • The Pavlograd Hussars – Dark Green dolman / Turqoise pelisse / Yellow braid / Dark Green trousers
  • The Elizabethgrad Hussars – Grey dolman / Grey pelisse / Yellow braid / Dark Green trousers
  • The Soumy Hussars – Grey dolman / Grey pelisse / White braid / Red trousers
  • The Izoum Hussars – Red dolman / Dark Blue pelisse / White braid / Dark Blue trousers
  • The Olviopol Hussars – Dark Green dolman / Dark Green pelisse / Yellow braid / Red trousers

Hmm, choices..choices… Of the other regiments, some wore black or brown dolmans which look terrific, including the said matgc’s chosen regiment,the  Akhtyrsk Hussars. However, having previously painted Prussian Hussars wearing both black and brown dolmans, I fancied a different colour for my cavalry collection. So, my choice is…

The Soumy Hussars! These hussars are in grey with red trousers (see contemporary prints below). Perfect – I’ve not got a cavalry regiment in grey and red! I’d better shake up my bottles of grey paint in readiness…

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A Soumy Hussar
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Russian Hussars – Left: Akhtrysk Hussar; Centre: Izoum Hussar; Right: a Soumy Hussar.

Russian Hussar regiment info courtesy of the very splendid “Blunders on the Danube” blog – visit it here.

Astrakhan Cuirassiers (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #21)

The 21st regiment in my ongoing series of Napoleonic cavalry are a very fine set from the excellent Russian manufacturer, Zvezda. I’ve praised these figures in previous posts and, now that they are finished, that praise has proved entirely appropriate, I think. The sculpting is first class and the poses are good. The final result is an excellent addition to the project’s ranks.

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I needed a little extra preparation to ensure that the paint stayed on the figures, but it was worth the attention as all seems to have stayed on without any problems. The riders fitted the horses without any trouble as well, which is always a bonus. Painting 16 figures, rather than 10, in one go has certainly added to the time taken to finish them, but it was worth doing and never felt onerous.

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Having confirmed what I already knew about Zvezda supplying excellent figures, I am minded to tackle the remaining Napoleonic cavalry regiments in their catalogue. These include the somewhat similar looking Saxon Cuirassiers and the Russian Hussars, the latter being my next intended regiment in the project. This may have to be relegated to the back burner for now however, as my next paint job will be my RedBox 18th century British infantry figures intended for the Benno’s Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade!

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In addition to the other ranks, you’ll see that I’ve painted the regiment’s trumpeter with his red plume and ornate uniform (sans cuirass); their officer and also their guidon bearer holding the black and yellow regimental flag. The sculpting on the flag appeared to show details that appear only on the flags of two other Russian cuirassier regiments; the Emperor’s and Empress’ Cuirassiers. The Astrakhan Regiment had a slightly different design which I’ve tried my best to approximate! Anyway, here’s plenty of images of the figures comprising my latest regiment in the project – the Russian Astrakhan Cuirassiers!


Biography: Borodino and the Astrakhan Cuirassiers [Russia]

The Astrakhan Cuirassier Regiment was formed in 1811. Russian Cuirassier regiments wore similar uniforms with a black cuirass and white coats, differing only in the colour of their collars, cuffs and turnbacks. For example, the Glukhov Cuirassiers  wore blue, the Novogorod wore pink, the Emperor’s cuirassiers wore red and the Empress’ sported a light blue. The Astrakhan Cuirassiers, named after the city in southern Russia on the Volga, wore a distinctive yellow. Together with the Emperor’s Life Guard and Empress’ Life Guard regiments, it comprised the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cuirassier Division of the Russian Army under Major General Nikolay Depreradovich.

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Contemporary print of an Astrakhan Cuirassier

During Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, the Astrakhan Cuirassiers greatly distinguished themselves, most particularly in the great battle of Borodino. During the fight for the Semenovsky ravine, the French cavalry corps under La Tour-Maubourg engaged the remnants of hard-pressed Russian troops who were defending the Bagration fleches (defensive earthworks). The French cuirassier division broke into the rear of the Russian Guards regiment’s squares. To assist the guards at this critical moment, the Astrakhan Cuirassiers arrived along with other Russian cuirassier regiments.

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The Astrakhan Cuirassiers (right) engage the Saxon Garde du Corps at the battle of Borodino.

Barclay de Tolly, the Russian Field Marshal, praised their bravery during this engagement, reporting later that “the great loss of men and horses killed or wounded [did not] disrupt their ranks, each interlocking each time in order.”

The bloody battle ended in the complete reverse of the French cavalry – thrown back over Semenovsky stream. However, the Astrakhan regiment had suffered very heavy losses: after the battle of Borodino, only 95 of them remained ready for duty out of a previous total of around 400.

In August 1813, the entire regiment was awarded the prestigious Order of St George with the inscription “For distinction in the defeat and expulsion of the enemy from Russian territory in 1812“.

Notable Battle: Borodino.

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


 

White Russians

My Zvezda Russian Cuirassiers (the riders, that is) have progressed to the stage where they are nearly ready to be varnished. I’ll say it again, Zvezda have produced some lovely figures and these are no exception. The detail isn’t always very crisp, so the emphasis is on taking care to bring it out clearly with the brush. Being the Astrakhan Regiment, these cuirassiers have yellow facings.

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The officer, flag bearer and trumpeter have more work to be done on them, so will therefore lag behind the rest somewhat. Next up: time to begin painting all those Russian heavy cavalry horses. The grim January UK weather is keeping me in doors more than I’d like, so there’s no excuse to push on with them.

Here are some photos of how they are looking so far (bearing in mind that white uniforms seldom come out clearly as a photograph)!

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And, until my next post, here’s how the Russian Cuirassiers are supposed to look in this detail from a truly enormous and beautifully detailed panoramic painting of the battle by Franz Alekseyevich Roubaud:

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Russian Cuirassiers at the Battle of Borodino, 1812.