I finished last time with having completed the faces and hands of the figures and having made a start on the base colours of the Horizon Bleu greatcoats, tunics, trousers and puttees.
The next stages of painting the figures are fairly unexciting, and consist of adding the base colours to all areas of each figure. I tend to work in a “three stage colour” system of the type pioneered by Kevin Dallimore and friends in the late 1990s. The hobby owes a huge amount to great painters like Kevin and, as I have said elsewhere, I am only too happy to stand on the shoulders of giants! If you ever read this Kevin - thank you so much!
I like to block in the base colours for the pack, canvas bedroll, leather pouches and webbing, rifle and helmet as mechanically as possible.
I make a note of the three colours used for each part of the figure on a paper template grid. I’ve posted a copy on the Blog on the right hand side under “Play-Aids” with the other documents. I’ve done something similar for each of the armies I’ve painted over the years. On the template grid, I try and reduce the painting of the base colours and mid-colours to as mechanical a formula as possible. This helps with continuity over the course of painting an army or force, and also makes sure I don’t forget which colour to use for, say, the chinstraps on a helmet or the colour of the waist-belts.
In building up the template grid I try and refer back to resources, such as colour photos from museums, artwork or photographs from the period and, of course, the very helpful Osprey (and similar) publications on the period in question. As regards the French army, I was very well served with a large amount of images on line, photos sent to me by friends (thank you Curt!) as well as the two Osprey books below which were very helpful in showing images of troops and their equipment.
Having blocked in all the base areas of the figures, I gradually build up the mid-colours (with one exception, as mentioned below). Sometimes, when the mid-colour involves adding white, I move onto the highlight immediately after applying the mid-colour. However, as I try to use white as a highlight colour as sparingly as possible, I generally prefer to try to do all the separate mid-colours together, blending the tones of the figure where necessary.
I then get to stage of the figure looking about “75% done”, but without any of the vibrancy or highlights which bring the figure to life. I then add the highlights, trying to keep these as selective as possible so as not to drench the mid-colours. You’ll see in this regard that not all colours have highlights in the template grid – sometimes its not necessary to highlight absolutely every colour, especially when the item being painted is comparatively small on what is a 28mm model figure which is going to be viewed on a wargames table from a few feet away. As mentioned before, I try to use a different shade or tone for contrast instead of just adding white to the mid-colour. Hopefully the template grid helps give an idea of this. An example of this is the three shades used on the field packs …
I also like to do some of the detailing at this stage to try and bring the figures to life. So – moustaches, wood-grain on rifles and revolver handles, buckles and webbing get finished at this point. I think of this stage as a reward for working through the duller mid-colour tones …
That leaves me the figure looking finished apart from a couple of final items. The main one, as you’ll see from the figures below is the mid-tone and highlight for Horizon Bleu. I’ve decided on all the figures to paint only the base coat of Horizon Bleu (plus some deep shade) until right at the end. This allows me to ensure that the key colour – what you might call the colour of the late Great War French infantry – is done as the final item and is allowed to frame and dominate the figure.
Leaving the Horizon Bleu until the end also gives me the chance to adjust the tone and shade on the figures to make sure looks right. Somehow, it seems to work, as hopefully you’ll see in the next Blog post, along with the super detailing for the base and for the figure.
I'll try to post the final part of this short series in a couple of day’s time. Hope you can join me for that.