Sovereign 2000 French Voltigeur Bust

Since visiting the IPMS Scale Model World a fortnight ago, I have been working on one of the kits I bought there, a 1:9 scale bust of a Napoleonic French Voltigeur, or skirmisher. It was actually the last kit I bought that day and I decided to buy it partly because of the subject matter and also because I've never tackled a bust before and thought it would make for an interesting change from a full figure kit. If I had had some more money I would have purchased a suitable pedestal base for it as there were several stalls selling beautiful wooden bases at the expo, but I shall just have to send for one.
The kit is in a cream-coloured hard resin and comes in four parts, head, torso, backpack (plus a bundle of kindling) and an axe head. It's nicely modelled by Mr Tony Williams and required only a little tidying up before making a start on it. Being made of resin only superglue and pins really do the trick, fortunately I had both, so was able to get cracking straight away, gluing the head and torso together. There was a noticeable gap between the neck and the scarf that it marries into, which was rather obvious, but this was easy cured by my trying out another of my Scale Model World purchases, namely a pack of Green Stuff. I've previously used Milliput and Plasto fillers, but Green Stuff seems pretty good too and as it comes on a dual yellow/blue strip it is much easier to cut just the right amount of putty and hardener. This mixed up into a nice pasty blob of green putty that I was then able to shape to the top of the scarf making the fit of the neck seem much more natural.
I had a reasonably sized blob of the Green Stuff left after doing the job, so decided to add to the figure by giving the shako something it lacked, namely the appropriate company pom-pom, which for voltigeurs was usually yellow. Sometimes these had a worsted tuft on top of the pom-pom, but I have seen them illustrated with just the round ball. So, after letting the ball of Green Stuff harden overnight, I drilled a hole in it and inserted the end of a straightened paper clip which I glued into place. This I coated in PVA (white glue) and rolled it in some railway scatter which gave it a nice fluffy appearance and reminded me of making toffee apples when I was a kid. When this had all dried I trimmed the wire down and having already drilled a hole in the right place on the shako I stuck it in place. 

As it would be the first part I would paint, I initially undercoated the head and shako in Humbrol flesh enamel (Humbrol 61) leaving the upper body unpainted as I needed something to hold onto, not having yet found anything suitable to mount the figure on. I painted yellow on the collar and on the pom-pom to cut down on later difficulties, then tackled painting the face proper.

Normally for larger figures I use oil paints to render skin, but I have been reading up on using acrylics in a more balanced way, so tried my hand at getting the right skin effects. The skin was painted with Games Workshop skin tones, Tanned Flesh, Dwarf Flesh and Elf Flesh, with added mixes to achieve a more subtle transition between them. To give the face a more weather-beaten look I gave him rosy cheeks by mixing in a little thinned solution of GW Blood Red up around the cheeks. After this I used Humbrol 62 (Leather) acrylic on a large brush and having wiped off the excess, flicked my thumb along the bristles which deposited small speckles across the surface of the skin, giving it the more natural-looking uneven mottled skin texture that most of us have. You need only a small amount of paint on the brush to do this as if you overdo it the figure can end up looking like he has some sort of scabrous skin disorder. Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes. The figure's hair was also painted, first black, highlighted with GW Scorched Brown, which was further highlighted with Humbrol 62.
The shako and its tatty covering were then tackled. The shako only shows through in a couple of places, through rents in the covering. These were painted black, but with a yellow band near to the top of the shako, where I had carved a band with an engraving tool. The pale shako cover was then coated with a mix of Citadel matt white and Humbrol 110 (Natural Wood). It's a tip I had picked up from reading Bill Horan's Military Modelling Masterclass (a very highly recommended read), where he points out that this gives a more subtle off-white shade than grey does. I actually mixed this particular off-white with more wood colour than he perhaps intended, though I would also use a paler solution on the white parts of the uniform. The resulting mix gave me quite a pleasing colour, which once it had dried I shaded with a thinned solution of Army Painter Strong Tone ink, that I later highlighted with more of the original colour.

After the super-detailing of the skin and shako, painting the uniform was a breeze by comparison. The dark blue was Humbrol 104, which is usually listed as Oxford Blue, a very good matt dark blue. French Napoleonic uniforms are often shown as being quite a pale blue, but surviving examples in museums reveal that it was a very dark blue shade, sometimes almost black to look at, so this paint served the purpose well. The epaulettes were to be green (though these seem to have been painted blue on the box illustration) with a yellow edge to the crown. I mixed GW Snot green and Humbrol 102 (Army Green Matt) to give a toned down pale green. After coating the edge in white, the yellow crown was done with GW Sunburst Yellow. This was the same colour that I had used on the collar and pom-pom. The piping on the collar and edge of the uniform plastron were done in GW Blood Red and as already noted I coated the white parts of the uniform and straps in a mix of white and a little natural wood. The whole of the uniform was then toned down with a thinned coat of Army Painter Strong Tone. I went on to paint and dry brush the off white areas of the uniform with pure matt white to make it stand out a little. The thin string that would be supporting the soldier's canteen was gone over carefully in Citadel Gore Red and the two uniform buttons were coated in Vallejo Bronze.

The backpack and bedroll, plus a rather pleasing large bundle of kindling and an axe were the last parts I assembled and painted. The backpack has a furry texture, so I imagine that French backpacks were made of cowhide with the hair still attached. This I painted in Humbrol 62, a leather tone, I know, but it matched the tones I have seen, then I stained this with Army Painter Strong Tone to give it some definition before highlighting with the original colour. The bedroll was then easily done with a mixture of Humbrol 64 and a thin wash of Citadel Nuln Oil black wash. The straps were completed in the off white colour previously mentioned and Vallejo bronze for the buckles.

The bundle of kindling atop the bedroll took the most work and I think the final effects achieved are largely accidental and in most cases would be down to the individual whims of the model maker. After undercoating with enamel I coated the bundle in Humbrol 110, natural wood, stained it heavily with AP Strong Tone to get into all the nooks and crannies and whilst it was still slightly wet I started to blob patches of darker brown tones over the surface to simulate bark, except on the ends were the bare timber would show. This I then blobbed with a variety of pale greens, such as Humbrol 86 and 117. For reference I fished out my binoculars and took periodic long looks at our apple tree at the back of our garden to get the shading how I liked it. To blend the colours a bit better, I continued to ladle on Strong Tone to flatten the effect and kill the brightness of the individual paints. I've never really tackled natural wood effects in the past and though I think there's room for improvement I'm reasonably happy with the finished result. The haft of the axe is tied up in the bundle, but I coated this with some Daler Rowney Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber to give it a stained look. The last part fitted was the axe head, (which I nearly forgot about) that I painted with GW Boltgun Metal and stained with Nuln Oil.

The model all finished I glued everything together and filled in the gaps under the figure with a mix of Plasto and Green Stuff before giving it a coat of black enamel. Dedicated model makers would doubtless then fit such a bust on a splendid plinth, which in time I may do, but for now I have mounted the piece in the shaft of an old bradawl that was doing nothing and after drilling a hole I have mounted it on an offcut of wood that had been sitting unloved in the greenhouse. As I noted at the beginning I may buy a suitable plinth, either online or when I take my next trip to Telford later this year, but for now I rather like the rustic charm of my home made stand.

IPMS Scale Model World 2015

I attended the model show at Cosford back in April which seriously whetted my appetite for these events, but the biggie, of course is the two-day Telford show, held at the International Centre on 7th and 8th November. This is the first time I have ever been, though I doubt it will be the last as I came away quite satisfied with my haul.
I booked into Premier Inn a couple of days before and did a tour of the local area. Telford city centre is just a glorified shopping centre, modern and rather bland, but there are a few picturesque places to visit nearby such as Blists Hill Victorian town, the Ironbridge Gorge museums, etc. (Incidentally, the chips at Blists Hill are to die for - cooked in beef fat, bad for the arteries, I know, but delicious.) The main reason I had gone, though was to visit the model show, mostly to pick up a few useful supplies rather than buy models, but who amongst us can resist? I spent close on £100 on a small collection of stuff, but many were leaving with bags full.
The first day was very crowded, the photos above show the crowds in the afternoon when things had actually quietened down a little. Being a claustrophobe, I don't really do too well in dense crowds, so I much preferred the Sunday when things were a little more civilised and you could take your time going around the various stalls and club displays. Sunday was Remembrance Sunday, so it was nice to see it punctuated with a two minutes silence at 11 am.

Here's what I bought for myself. These should keep me good for a few months.

ICM 1:35 British Infantry 1914

Well, as I had hoped, the modelling world has enjoyed something of a minor explosion in World War One kits over the last couple of years and all I can say is it's about bloody time! For decades we have had rafts of WW2 kits but precious few other eras of history represented in the 1:35 or 1:32 scale. Yes, Historex of course does it's nice if rather pricey Napoleonic figures, Airfix used to have it's historical Collectors Series and ICM dipped its toe into the Franco-Prussian War with a couple of kits, but it has taken much longer to get anything more represented in hard plastic. Now, along come ICM again with a whole new series of figures, French, Austrian, German, Anzacs and British soldiers from World War One. Tamiya too I notice has introduced a few Great War kits, but my first plunge into this new set of figures has been with ICM's British Infantry 1914.

My choosing this kit has more than a little family history attached to it as my grandfather was a pre-WW1 regular and saw action throughout the war, starting with the mobile fighting near Armentieres where he was wounded and invalided back to Blighty before returning to the ranks six months later after things had settled down to static trench warfare. After that he saw service in all the picturesque spots, Hill 60, the Somme, 3rd Ypres, but wisely kept his head down, didn't do anything daft and got through the war without further incident for which I'm very grateful as I wouldn't be writing this now. So, as you might imagine I am pretty well versed in the Great War and am glad to have found a kit representing the professional British soldiers from that early phase of the fighting.

When I first opened the box I was surprised to find that rather than a small set of pieces to make the four figures depicted in the box art that there is a mass of extra parts that can be used to turn the soldiers into troops from later in the war. There are a set of Brodie steel helmets (introduced in 1916) and numerous other weapons and tools that really only came to be used in the pell-mell fighting of trench warfare. Soldiers of the 1914 BEF travelled fairly light in comparison with stiff topped soft caps and a minimum of equipment and as it is these I want to represent the remaining bits will got into my spares box for future use.
Oodles of spares, always nice for future projects.
As can be seen from the pictures,  so far I've taken the figures to a semi built state and have left the guns for later. The figures have gone together extremely well with very little filling needed. One thing I have noticed (something I was very wary of when I plumped for an ICM kit) is that the quality of the plastic has improved. Anyone who has read my earlier post about the ICM Prussian Line Infantry will have noted my problems with thin pieces breaking, but the plastic on this kit seems more robust without sacrificing any of the detail. Someone somewhere has obviously taken note and improved the plastic mix. Nicely done, whoever you are.
No, it's not just foreshortening, he's got a big head!

Any little niggles? Just minor ones so far. The first soldier I built has a big head, just marginally bigger than the others and he looks a little odd, but lets face facts we aren't all classically proportioned adonises, so I'll let him have a big head, I can live with it. Then there is the officer. A good model in a good pose, but he is represented as an officer later in the war wearing his pips on his epaulettes whereas officers in 1914 wore their rank insignia on their cuffs as a series of worsted bands and badges set around a scalloped cuff flaps. These were later replaced with the epaulette rank as the older style meant that the Germans could easily spot officers and pick them off from a distance. I have noted that the Tamiya WW1 British Infantry kit shows an officer with the cuff insignia leading troops from later in the war. Perhaps ICM and Tamiya could do a swap? Just a thought. Anyhow, the problem is only a minor one and I have been able to manufacture cuff detail with some thin strips of paper and a little shaped plastic card. I've made him a captain, he looks like a captain.
The corrected cuff details


RAF Museum Cosford and the Shropshire Model Show

This morning I took a trip out to RAF Cosford, partly to have a gander at their fine collection of historic aircraft, but also to visit the Shropshire Model Show and see if I could pick up any useful kits, equipment and/or tips to help with my hobby. As normal it was a pretty eclectic collection, mostly military, but with some civilian, sci-fi and fantasy thrown in, and frustrating and inspiring in equal degrees when you realise how rough your own work looks in comparison. It was good to see modelling fraternities from across the country well represented and the numerous trade stands were an obvious draw, though in my opinion, some of them have rather inflated ideas that their rather inflated prices might be considered reasonable. Still, I did buy a couple of good model kits to try out.
But, you don't want to listen to me prattling on, time for some pictures.
A Space 1999 Eagle. (I must get mine finished!)
Armour a go-go

A great collection of kit and scratch-built sci-fi models

Classic sci-fi whimsy. Clangers and the Soup Dragon
A great collection of military busts.
The detailing on some models was superb.
Guy Gibson and his non-PC named dog.
TV nostalgia for a 50-something model maker
The full Airfix Collectors Series. A man after my own heart.