Thursday 1 September 2016

The Sound of a Distant Drum – Painting Update

One of the things which always interests me is the way in which wargamers go about painting figures. Not just what they are painting, but how. I’m a great believer that you’re never too old to learn new methods, techniques and tricks-of-the-trade.

For years (perhaps since 1981, when I started wargaming) I’ve been painting figures stuck onto a sliver of thick cardboard. It’s been tried and tested over hundreds and (I guess) probably thousands of figures. But I’ve never been happy with it. The cardboard worked so that the figure was at the end of the strip – fine when I was painting the front of the figure, but not as easy to paint (for a right handed person) when painting the figure’s back. Also painting underneath the figure was a pain – the cardboard always got in the way of just that place my brush needed to get to. But it was familiar, and it kind of worked, and for years I persevered.

Looking on a few blogs over the summer, I realised that people were painting figures stuck to all kinds of paint pots, bottles and nails. And then the penny finally dropped. There was an easier way to hold the figures while painting. 

I found a couple of old wooden curtain poles discarded in my garage, and cut then to 24 short lengths each about 3 inches long. I then mounted my latest battalion of Laarden militia on the ends of the shorten pole lengths, fixing each in place with a blob of PVA. And bingo – once the glue was dry, the figures were easy to hold while painting.

I know this must have a few of you smiling. Or thinking I’m nuts. Or just laughing in astonishment. “Oh wow…. He’s been doing this for over 30 years and he’s only figured that out now? Sheesh – what a numbskull!” I confess, I do feel that I’ve been a bit slow on getting with the plan on this, dear Readers! Yet it goes to show, in this great hobby of ours, there are so many things to learn from each other in the community, even when it’s something I should have learned years ago!

Of course, nothing is quite perfect in the world of wargames figure painting. I’ve found that the pole lengths are pretty unstable – they can knock over easily, a bit like skittles – but I have tried to help with this problem using a box lid to keep all of the pole lengths in and bunched together. That seems to work well. No doubt there are other more elaborate solutions such as drilling out a plywood/ MDF board to the diameter of the curtain poles.

However, the good news is that with this handy improvement in my painting method, I’ve been powering through the third regiment of Laarden’s finest militia this week. I’ve been helped immeasurably by Dave Docherty’s great suggestion of “paint and chat” sessions on Google+ in the Analogue Hobbies painting community. For anyone wanting to give this a go, it’s been a great innovation. Here’s the Google= Community LINK – simply click on the posted link for the Google Hangout, and set up your PC or portable device and off you go.

I find painting a solitary activity. Very relaxing, it’s true, but also the sort of thing that you can slip away from for a few minutes and loose the motivation. The “paint and chat” sessions help keep the painting focus – and also have allowed me to connect with great painters from the Challenge – big hellos to Dave, Edwin, Martin, Stefan, Ian and others!

One of the topics which came up last night in the chat was flags. What we use, which units have them, how we do them, what works best for what we’re painting? Just like maps, flags are something I adore. I confess that I’m currently troubled about the best way to do them. 

I have always painted my own, often when the flags have been glued and shaped onto the standard pole of the unit concerned. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with painting the flags while “flat”, as you can see from the work in progress shots below.

Looking at the lovely flags produced by GMB ,  Flags of War and Warfare Miniatures, as well as the many flags posted online by generous folk such as Ray, I’m wondering whether the day for me to start purchasing ready-printed flags might have arrived. 

For this currently unit of the Laarden militia on the painting table, I’m sticking with my paintbrushes and painted flags – but will this be the final Indian Summer for painted flags at Roundwood Towers. 

The end of an era, perhaps?
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