ICM Prussian Line Infantry

Here is another older model of mine, dating back a year or so when I was getting back into models once more after a break from making them. Again, the kit is from one of the many new scale model companies that have sprung up in Russia, Ukraine and other countries of the old Soviet bloc. ICM along with Master Box and MiniArt seem to be producing increasingly interesting lines of figures, that make a nice change from the WW2 subjects that still seem to dominate the scale model scene. A couple of years back the company produced two kits bases around the combatants of the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War and of the two I chose the Prussian Line Infantry as it looked the most animated set.

I don't usually do multi-figure pieces as I know from past experience that I tend to get bored with them and move on to something else. The same thing happened with this set, but over a period of about six months I did get around to finishing them and at the time I was fairly pleased with the end result, though I now have a few issues with my painting and as normal my basing, which I do really need to improve upon. Still, it was an interesting kit to take on, so much so that I am contemplating purchasing the accompanying set of French Infantry at some future point.

The 1:35 scale kit contains parts to build four Prussian soldiers, three infantrymen and an officer + his horse. The figures seem to have been designed as a group to look as if they were on the advance, which of course, the Prussian army did very effectively during that brief but violent conflict.

Of the four, though, the first figure I tackled was the least mobile, the infantryman standing still taking aim at some figure outside of the diorama, which went together easily enough with only a minor amount of filling to be done. Then I took on the officer and his horse and this figure proved to be the major challenge, most notably with his sash and sword, both of which gave me a great deal of trouble. On looking through other peoples' pictures of this set I see that many have left the officer's sash off and having done the model myself I can understand why as it did take an effort not only to fit the pieces around the body correctly, but also to then get the sash to hang correctly once the officer was astride his horse. With careful bending and numerous running repairs when it split rather than bent, I did finally get it to something approaching a satisfactory state.

Then there was that blasted sword. It looks good, held high, you can imagine the officer shouting "Vorwarts!" and urging his men on like old Blucher himself. Unfortunately the sword did have a habit of getting bumped and snapped in two. It was probably my own fault, just being clumsy, but it did seem that I spent a great deal of time crawling around on the floor with a torch trying to find the top of the blade when the blighter pinged off once more. Compared to the troubles the officer gave me, the two remaining infantrymen were a breeze.

Notable points with the figures were the headgear, the officer's peaked cap, the peakless cap of one of the infantrymen, but most of all the pickelhaub helmets which I did enjoy painting. I had a few issues with the lengthwise splitting of the helmet, which obscured the detail of the crest on the front, but with care I managed to get around that. I also felt that the faces had a certain amount of character to them, which is always good. Though some might say that the 'character' with these is mostly moustache, it makes a change from the shaved faces of most 20th century model soldiers. Another thing I noted and something which I may bear in mind for a future project (yes, I have a lot of those), is that the figures do offer a number of opportunities for conversions, the basic Prussian uniform (minus, or with a modified pickelhaub) was afterall used as the basis for numerous European uniforms after 1871, most notably the Zulu War period uniforms of the British Army.

Nausicaa's Gun and Saddle Bags

I got around to painting Nausicaa's rifle and the two large saddle bags that are fitted on either side of Kai. The gun was pretty easy to paint, but the bags took a little more work.

The rifle and bags after being cleaned up were roughly undercoated with white which was allowed to dry before I moved on to adding the basic colours.

Before painting I had used a very fine drill to put two holes through the lugs where the rifle's sling would be suspended. I'll be manufacturing a sling later on.

Holding the rifle steady with a trusty clothes peg, it was then given a coat of Humbrol leather (62) This was then allowed to dry thoroughly before the next stage.

Once the paint had dried, I then gave the rifle a thin coat of Daler-Rowney Burnt Umber artist's paint. Care is needed to keep this paint thin, especially around the details of the rifle mountings, as it can build up, but also to retain the brush strokes as this gives the effect of wood grain. I've always found this to be a quick and easy way of simulating wood grain. As can be seen, I had also by this point given the saddle bags a coat of Games Workshop's delightfully named Snot Green.

While the artist's paint dried on the rifle I again used the Humbrol leather to drybrush the raised areas of the saddle bags. This can be rather imperfect and I'll be doing more work on the bags to get them looking just how I want them.

Once the Burnt Umber was dried I coated the rifle's metal mountings in GW Boltgun Metal and then shaded it with Nuln Oil, letting it overrun accidently/on purpose onto the surrounding wood to create a little shadowing and grime. I'm rather pleased with it.
I've also been using some Army Painter Strong Tone to shade the deeper recesses on the saddle bags and added some Boltgun Metal to the metal buttons. The very end of the rifle still needs painting, but that is soon done.
More to follow...  

Nausicaa on Kai continued (2)

I've managed to get a couple of hours work done on my Nausicaa and Kai model this afternoon. I had been working on the model mostly in the late evening for the last few days, so it was good to be working in full daylight for a change. I've now glued Nausicaa into her saddle and have been finishing the painting with her in situ on her feathery steed.

As I noted in my earlier post I was hoping to make the entire model more realistic looking than suggested in the instructions and things have been going quite nicely in that respect. I've finally got around to painting her tunic. In the manga and anime, it is made clear that this tunic was originally a pinkish dress that Nausicaa had been given, which she later adapted into a shorter tunic. This dress had been stained 'purest blue' by the blood of a wounded baby ohmu and I was hoping to give the impression with my paint job that the tunic had been dyed.

To start with, I painted over an earlier colour with Humbrol enamel 65, which gave it something akin to the pale blue suggested in the kit instructions, but that never was the colour I wanted. Out came my citadel paints and I gave the tunic a thick wash of Azurmen Blue shade. This ran nicely into all the folds and darkened the rest of the tunic so that when dried it began to resemble a home dyed pair of jeans. I then highlighted this with the new Citadel Ethereal Blue drybrush paint, which has given the tunic a nice fibrous look in keeping with a homemade garment. The only parts of the dress that were not stained by the blood were a white bird motif on the chest and a red ornament, which I have rendered as a red jewel, hence my earlier post on the subject.
Nausicaa's hat and gloves were painted with the same Humbrol enamel 87 that I had used on the gaiters. The metal armour plate on the hat was painted with Games Workshop Boltgun Metal and then stained with the new Nuln Oil (old Badad Black) and some Gryphone Sepia to simulate a little rust. The backstrap was painted with Humbrol leather, but I'll be painting that with Burnt Sienna at some point. 
I then made a judgement call, which I've been fairly pleased with. In the story Nausicaa is a princess, but she's an outdoorsy girl, flying around on gliders, riding horse claws, and it seems, a redhead to boot, so I decided to give her a more rosy, weather-beaten complextion than suggested. Thinking of her more as a farmer's daughter than a princess, I also decided that she wouldn't be afraid of a bit of dirt so I then used heavily watered down Army Painter Soft Tone ink and coated the whole model apart from the face. Dry, this has given the figure a slightly grungy look which I personally like.

The bulk of the work now done on the figures, I'll be moving on to the extras, the saddle bags and weapons next.

MiniArt (2) Netherlands Musketeer

Another early MiniArt figure I took on, and perhaps my favourite of the ones I have done so far, is this figure of a 17th century Netherlands Musketeer. The figure is tied in with similar figures of a French Musketeer and a French Guardsman, familiar figures to me from the 'Three Musketeers' films. That is perhaps the reason why I chose this figure, because it was unfamiliar to me and seemed to have a great deal going for it, both in pose and overall style. I could see that the figure with its long gun, musket rest, powder flasks and ornate sword, as well as its quaint mode of dress, was going to be fun; difficult, maybe, but fun. Sure enough, I did indeed enjoy putting it together and overcoming the numerous niggles and problems that it presented.

Assembly of the figure seemed to be pretty pain free and I quickly put all the major parts together and checked them against each other before final assembly. The arms needed some filling, but that seemed the only major problem until I noticed that the foot on one of the boots was wider – noticeably wider – than the other. To remedy the situation I decided to partly narrow the wider right boot and widen the left boot, which required a bit of surgery and some heavy duty filling and sanding back. I thought I had done a pretty good job, but looking at the model now with fresh eyes, the right boot is still slightly wider than the left.  

Anyhow, after that, I did finally assemble the figure, minus its various weapons and painted it up using oils for the face and a mixture of Humbrol and Citadel paints that gave me the nearest approximation of the colours on the chart. To read this it sounds like I did it in an afternoon, but the painting gave me quite a lot of trouble as I was still learning how best to use Citadel shades. The longest part in decorating, though, was the white piping on the edges of the musketeer’s belts, which gave me immense trouble. I was, however, rather pleased with the light grey shading I gave to the ornamental white tapes on the musketeer’s tunic.
The weapons were easily painted, though the long sword with its ornate swirly hilt guard took some time to finish and assemble as the delicate plastic parts kept breaking at an alarming rate and I had to figure out how to assemble the guard as the instructions were none too clear. Finally, though, I got there.   
The various strings used to support the powder flasks and represent the match for the musket were fashioned out of coloured cottons. The twisted blue and red cords were simply red and blue cotton strands twined together, the ends being held by two clothes pegs. When I had twisted the cord enough, I covered the string in PVA (white glue) and let this stiffen off for a couple of days before releasing the pegs. Hey presto, pretty cords for my dandy musketeer. The match was done in a similar manner, but with roughed up light brown cotton. When I had threaded the cords, some parts were then touched up with red and blue paint and stiffened further with a little super glue.
Final impressions; a very pleasing figure despite the jip it gave me and though one boot is still bigger than the other and fact that the figure seems to be staring into space rather than at his musket,  I gained a lot of satisfaction in completing the model, learning a lot in the process.

Mini Art (1): Roman Legionary

I have to admit to being a big fan of Mini Art models, specifically their 1:16 historical figures and I'm on my sixth kit, a French knight. However, before I get on to talking about that project I'll post a few pictures of some of my older models. The first figure I tackled was their Spartan warrior, but I made something of a bodged job of that one and have yet to photograph it, but the second one I made turned out quite nicely. This was their 2nd Century Roman Legionary. Following the Roman theme there is also a 1st Century Roman Legionary and a Praetorian Guardsman in their 1:16 collection, but I chose the 2nd Century figure as it came supplied with the famous rectangular shield and the Roman pilum, or throwing spear. I liked the overall look of the model and spent quite a long time on its construction and painting, often putting it aside whilst I worked on other kits.

Like all of the Mini Art kits I've assembled, there were a few issues with pieces fitting together correctly and gaps to be filled in, etc. Personally, that kind of stuff does not bother me too much, I regard the effort I have to put into correcting any such problems as part of the fun in assembling a model kit. I've read some reviews of kits that complain  at some length about such problems as if it was the end of the world because there is a gap or two to be sorted out; big deal, fill it, sand it back and move on. Equally, I'm not all that concerned about researching whether a model is historically accurate, for the most part I'm pleased to assemble and paint the figure as the original modeller intended. I have nothing against experimentation or originality or historical accuracy come to that, it's just my personal taste. Saying that, I did take some effort in getting the baldrick suspending the legionary's sword just right, but this was more to do with getting the sword to look as if it was hanging correctly. The strap as it stood did not look right and I carved some of it away, replacing it with a new belt made from thin flattened strips of Milliput.

What do I recall about decorating this model? Firstly, this was where I switched to painting faces with artist's oil paints, which do give a much more defined skin-like finish and this figure has a face with real character, so it was a pleasure to paint it. The only problem with oils is that the paint takes about three days to dry, but patience is a virtue best cultivated. This kit was also the first one where I started using acrylic paints, notably Games Workshop acrylics with their many curious names (though the latest incarnation of these otherwise excellent paints have been christened with even more bizarre titles e.g. 'Doombull Brown' - what the hell..?) Take a look at the tunic; is that Ultramarines Blue? Nope, actually its a similar dark blue emulsion from a Dulux tester pot, I painted the tunic with it before taking a visit to the local Games Workshop store, but was so pleased with the result, which had a rather rough, fibrous look like homespun cloth, that I kept the colour, shading it in the old fashioned way with matt black enamel thinned in white spirit as I had yet to discover the joy of Citadel inks. The lorica segmentata armour, though is painted almost entirely with GW and Citadel acrylics, as are the helmet, pilum and the figure's arms and legs.

The trickiest part was undoubtedly the legionary's shield. The difficulty was not the painting, easy peasy; over a black undercoat I walloped it with dark green inside, tester pot blue outside, a mixture of GW golds for the trim and Boltgun Metal for the boss, shading it all again with thinned black enamel. No, the trouble was the decal, which I have to say was a real pain. I've seen many modellers complaining about Mini Art decals, some even discard them and leave their models plain in disgust. I do have to agree, the decals are very thin and have a nasty habit of just breaking apart almost for the fun of it. This model came with a single large decal for the shield  which had a central hexagonal gap for the shield boss, but when I tried to apply it the transfer broke into at least half a dozen separate pieces which had to be carefully re-aligned with lots of water and a great deal of swearing. In the process some of the decal edges gained a rather 'nibbled' look with my prodding them about with a cocktail stick and I had to don my magnifying glasses and touch them up with an appropriate colour.
Despite these problems I have to say that when finished the Mini Art 2nd Century Roman Legionary makes for a very handsome figurine and is well worth the time and effort you have to put in to get it right. The only thing I must get around to sorting out sometime soon is the rather pathetic bit of basing I did for it with some model railway scatter instead of some better grass. I think I must have been having a bad day when I did that.

Painting Jewels

Jewels sometimes feature rather heavily in fantasy figures and painting them well is never easy, but here is my version of a simple tutorial I came across a couple of years ago. Though probably rather simplistic, it produces pretty good results and with patience and practice the effect can be quite spectacular.

Basic Kit

Like all model makers, over the years I've built up a collection of tools and useful bits-and-bobs that can be used to help make the task in hand easier. This is my basic 'working kit', most of which, the larger items excepted, I keep in a plastic box that one of my larger models was supplied in. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though and I have a larger plastic box tucked away under the bed. In that I keep items such as boxes of fish tank grit and pebbles, scatter and other basing materials, my multi-tool + bits and safety goggles, sheet plastic, tubing and strip plastics etc.
Other useful items or materials not shown here and kept out of the house until needed are: 
- A small jar of plastic soup (sprue melted in liquid polysterene) for coating paper straps, adding extra detail, etc. This stuff stinks to high heaven and should not be used in an enclosed space.
- A bottle of Dettol and a jar for dropping acrylic painted models into - yep, Dettol, the household cleaner. Dettol is great for stripping off acrylics such as Games Workshop, Citadel and Humbrol, 12 to 24 hours generally does the trick, but the final cleaning is a messy process. Use rubber gloves to protect your hands from the Dettol and the now gummy paint then rub off the worst then scrub off the remainder with a stiff brush in warm soapy water. Keep an old bowl to do this in.
- White spirit and spray paints/varnish stay outside too.
- White glue, not overly dangerous, but I keep it with the others so I know where it is. Useful for fixing on clear plastic items, or for coating cotton or paper items.
- And my airbrush is only used outside, mostly to avoid the mess and for the fact that the Baby Elephant compressor does indeed sound like a baby elephant and we do have neighbours.

Nausicaa on Kai continued

Tiredness cut me off mid-flow yesterday and after a visit to the local baths this morning I'm left feeling my muscles and equally weary, but I can hopefully have a productive afternoon doing some more work on my model before going back to work tomorrow.
As noted in my previous post the two main figures are for the most part assembled and here are some pictures of the work so far. First, the steed, Kai. I have yet to add the beak and tongue as these will need some interior painting before I can fit them in place. Still, that gives me the chance to do some finer work on the bridle.

The saddle, straps and leggings were painted initially with Humbrol leather acrylic (62), then coated with Daler-Rowney Burnt Sienna artist's acrylic (221), which, I think, gives a much better 'leather' look to the paint. I painted the feet with Humbrol acrylic 93. It all dried quickly, so I then covered the leather work with Army Painter Strong Tone ink and just left that to dry overnight. The next morning I mixed a little white and burnt sienna artist's acrylic to drybrush the leather and some Citadel Terminatus Stone on the feet and black-painted claws. The feathers are just done in Humbrol matt black enamel. I'm sorry Citadel, Humbrol, Vallejo, etc, but your matt black acrylics are just not matt!

I'm fairly pleased with the saddle, the drybrushing has given a good effect of wear contrasted by the variation caused by the Strong Tone ink. The decorated leather sides have come out very well, but alas, two saddle bags, yet to be added, will all but obscure all my good work. Still, at least I know it's there.

As to the hot chick in the saddle, with a little filling and filing she was good to go, though I had to replace the stirrup straps with ones made from Miliput as they didn't reach the saddle and irritated me. I put a few bends and creases in the top of her shoes, which just looked like inanimate plastic blobs otherwise. After under- coating the body in white (I paint undercoat on, I never spray- just a quirk, I suppose) I experimented with GW Ultramarines Blue for the body, but didn't like it, so will be repainting that. I've concentrated instead on her gaiters (Humbrol Matt Enamel 87) and legwear (Citadel Bleached Bone) as well as the face which I shaded with a Citadel fleshshade.

A minor problem came late this afternoon when I snapped the left stirrup strap. That's the danger of working with Miliput, hard but brittle. I'll glue it back and be more careful.


My Latest Project - Nausicaa on Kai

I'm currently working on a kit I bought from Japan via Amazon a few weeks back. It arrived pretty quick too, top marks to the sender Japan Import, and in very good condition. It's a 1:20 scale Bandai model of Nausicaa, the main character in Hayao Miyazaki's manga and rather truncated anime, 'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind', a story set in a distant future following a great ecological disaster. The manga is a pretty good read, though as Japanese graphic novels read right to left, reading books 'backwards' takes some getting used to.

Anyhow, to the model, it is one of several kits in the series and in this Nausicaa is depicted riding Kai a 'horse claw', a sort of beefy futuristic ostrich. The others models show her riding her glider, rescuing a baby ohmu (think about a gigantic, wise woodlouse and you're getting the idea) and flying her gunship fighter plane. I chose this one because I felt it was more animated than the others - and because, what the hell, she's riding an ostrich!

The kit as can be seen comes on several colour-coded sprues and its relatively few parts seems to have been designed to snap together rather easily all of which suggests that the kit is aimed mainly at younger model makers. The colour and black and white instructions are in Japanese, but the pictures make assembly pretty clear. Certainly what assembly I have done so far has been trouble free, having already partially assembled and painted Nausicaa and Kai, prior to glueing the two of them together for the final painting. The seams were nothing to write home about and were easily sanded back and only a little filling was needed, mostly between Kai's legs, while a little feather detail that was worn away was quickly restored with a pyrogravure.

My main gripe about the kit is that it is very cartoony in style and is obviously modelled on Nausicaa as depicted in Miyazaki's anime. I've tackled a few Japanese models in the past and have happily painted them up cartoon style, but I'm looking to give this model a slightly more realistic look as far as I can, with shading and a more restrained colour scheme than the one suggested in the instructions. The figure comes with two sets of anime-style eye decals, but I may throw these and stick to painting the eyes in myself.

Me and My Models

Hello cyberspace, here is the first in what will probably be a rambling series of entries on my misadventures and occasional successes as a private model maker. I wish I could start this blog off with something deep like I have a stressful job and model making is my way of escaping from the pain of real life (think Wesley Snipes' character in the film 'Murder at 1600'), but that's not true, my job is pretty stress free. The simple fact is I just enjoy making models in my spare time. Some people draw, or strip motor bikes, cook, climb mountains, do crosswords, write novels, go fishing or exercise for the fun of it. I do some of those things too, but I'm never happier than when I get a fresh model kit and open it up, ready to tackle the next project.
Why am I a nervous model maker? Well, this has always been a personal, private hobby. I've never shown my models at shows or exhibitions, so taking the plunge with a blog and displaying my efforts on line is rather nerve-wracking, I think. I'd be the first to admit that my skills while reasonable and pleasing enough for me, are no great shakes compared to the Bill Horans or Shep Paines of the model making community, I'll never win Euro-Militaire or a Golden Demon award, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over that. This is a blog for the also-rans in model making.

When it comes to the models themselves, as seen with two of my creations - the Historex Red Lancer above and the figure of 2000AD's hard man Judge Dredd on the right - I tend in the main to tackle historical scale figures or fantasy and/or science fiction subjects. Only very rarely do I leave my comfort zones. For instance, I have a model of HMS Victory that was a Christmas present from my brother, which sits half finished in my wardrobe (and has for the last couple of years); an unopened Battle of Britain flypast set (another old Xmas present) and a kit of a Gloster Meteor jet. I have had the latter for about 7 years and occasionally when guilt gets the better of me I open the box, look at the kit still pristine on its sprues, poke at it tentatively to see if it moves and tut over my laziness, promising to get around to it sometime soon. Hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. Perhaps writing this blog will prompt me into taking it on, but I won't hold my breath, I have too many other kits still waiting in reserve.