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Clash of Arms

Clash of Arms

by Bob Caruso

I figured that one day all those historical books I’ve bought were going to pay off and I’d paint a perfect figure. I do a quite a bit of research on a figure before I begin painting it. I find all the information I can on the piece by looking through the extensive book collection that I have at home.

Lately I have surfed the internet with ferocity for information on any and everything I can read on my subjects. Since I was a college dropout whose major started out to be history, this is one way of receiving a continuing education in what I really wanted to do.

The figures featured in this article were done almost exclusively with acrylic paint. Any differences are noted in each description. Acrylic was my choice of paint for a couple of reasons. Well, not exactly a choice, because its usage is almost equal to the other two “choices”: enamel and oils. I use acrylics now mostly, because of the colors now available – and there are quite a few – in acrylics that weren’t readily available before. I also like their fast drying qualities, although they are somewhat harder to blend and shade.

I still use oils on many occasions, and also use enamels often enough. Enamels still dry faster than oils. They also have great metallics that acrylics have yet to duplicate because of the binding agents. The metallic enamels allow the metallic pigments to flow smoother than water based acrylics.

On the other hand, oils are so much more vibrant in color and are easier to mix and blend. Unfortunately, the drying time is excessive. I think I have found the happy medium of mixing the “three choices” and in knowing which figure or bust to paint in the preferable medium.

You get completely different results depending on which medium you use. I try to perfect, to my ultimate satisfaction, each medium for the qualities each possesses. Simply put, I work a medium until I am satisfied with the results, then I intermix mediums or jump back and forth from oils to acrylics to enamels and so on . . .

Blending paints on figures requires a good bit of practice, especially with acrylics. Isn’t it always the case: just when you practice and practice with a certain paint and are pleased with your results, a new method using a different type of paint becomes popular with everyone. As I was becoming fairly competent with enamels, oils became the paint of choice with the “in” crowd. When my oil paint trials became quite satisfactory to my eye, out come the acrylics. It seems as if everyone has jumped on the bandwagon too, with names such as Andrea, Vallejo’ and Tamiya on the market. Each type demands a little different technique too.

Enamel paints require that you paint the base coat, then paint some shadows with a little darker shade of the base color and some highlights with a lightened base color. Then, within a matter of minutes, blend with a larger, softer brush until the demarcation line disappears. With a little luck and some fairly new paint and thinner this worked fine. (Oh, yes, don’t forget the practice.)

Oils required less maintenance, since the oil paint dried rather slowly. They also dried rather glossy until someone discovered Dorland’s wax medium, which allowed the oils to dry with a less than glossy finish, but with an even longer drying time.

The colors of tube oil paints are brilliant and vibrant, which make them a perfect choice for the more colorful uniforms. The thing I find that dries oils faster, to a less than eggshell finish, is using mineral spirits or turpentine for a thinner. Blending oils are usually done with the “wet on wet” method. You let the paint dry for a short time and then put in the shadows and highlights with wet oils and blend away.

Acrylics require the first coat be a good solid coat of the base color. Then washes are layered in to darken or highlight. I guess this is what the Spanish painters call filters.

German Uhlan Trooper- 1914 (75mm Fusilier): This is a great sculpt, and a period of history that I favor above all. Fusilier, to me is the best, because the figures look the period. Although Metal Modeles do have a wide selection of fine WWI figures, I think they are posed too formally. This figure was painted entirely with Andrea acrylics.

A UHLAN was a German LANCER, a Light cavalry trooper who carried a lance. The last of the Uhlans were the Polish Lancers in WW2, at which time the lance was deemed impractical. (Contrary to the popular belief of the period, the lances were not faster than a speeding bullet and could not pierce Panzer I armor).

World War I appeals to me for many reasons. It was a mechanized, revolutionary event that gave birth to many innovations and brought the world into the 20th century. All thought it would eventually lead to a better world. Aircraft, the tank, more modern artillery, and the need for trenches to hide in (instead of a shoulder to shoulder assault into the face of cannons firing and/or a fusillade by that other famous discovery, the machine gun) all added to the brutality of the Great War.

French uniforms reflected a more somber appearance as a matter of camouflage. They changed from the red and blue uniforms to the horizon blue. The Germans had a feld grau which was close to the WW2 color (although more gray) The Americans were pioneering the Olive Drab theory.

Landsknecht gunner (54mm EMI figure): Interesting figure painted in Humbrol enamels and Andrea acrylics. I wanted to paint something a little different than all the other carnival colored costumes. I tried black for the major portion of the figure and I think it worked great.

Landsknecht General (54mm EMI): A truly a great figure, it depicts a Landsknecht General breaching of the walls at the battle of Pavia. Pavia was the most decisive battle of the Italian Wars, which raged between 1494 and 1529. The French were smashed by the Imperial army, King Francis I captured, and the cream of his nobility slaughtered.

This figure was painted in Andrea acrylics and Gunze metallics. The pike was polished before priming. Then I wiped the primer off the head and clear coated it.

The base that came with the figure was used, but rebuilt extensively by adding more epoxy bricks to fill it out more and to look more like brick rubble. It was then painted with enamels and acrylics.

The term “Landsknecht” was first coined by Peter von Hagenbach, recorder for Charles the Bold of Burgundy. “Landsknecht” translated literally means “servant of the country”. These soldiers served their countries in military service under the Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I, Charles V, Ferdinand, and Maximilian II. These troops were originally created by the “father of the Landsknecht,” Maximilian I.

The weapons that these fearsome warriors carried were glaives, pikes, halberds, Zweihanders, axes, Arquebuses, broadswords, shortswords and maces, though not all by each man.

The Arquebus was a muzzle-loading rifle with a simple match lock. When the trigger is pulled, the serpentine arm holding the lit cord is plunged into the powder pan, igniting the powder and firing the shell. Most Arquebuses were heavy and had to be fired from a rest, but Landsknecht felt that men should be able to use an Arquebus without the rest.

English Knight (54 mm Al Charles): Al Charles did a fairly large series of these knights in action poses many years ago. This one was particularly interesting as this was the first no helm, bald headed figure of a knight that I have ever seen. It was painted in acrylics.

Frederick Barbarossa (54 mm Pegaso): Frederick took an empire that was shaky and put it on solid ground. He did so at the price of giving away many rights to the German princes, and the wisdom of that has been much debated by historians, but at the time and for centuries afterward, he was regarded as one of the greatest of monarchs.

This is a nice little figure that I found interesting to paint because of the expanse of white. White is a color that scares most painters because it is hard to do correctly. I love it, especially with a warm brown or green based shading color instead of the cool gray or blue.

White as well as black are two colors, or lack thereof, that are hard to highlight or shade properly. While most people use black or white straight from the jar You
have to use off white and dark grey as a beginning. It was done with Andrea acrylics. Remember: You can only “highlight” black and “shade” pure white.

Briton Warrior (54 mm Pegaso): I am as fond of the Pegaso Celts as I am of WW1 figures. This particular figure was painted with all Andrea Acrylics. I tried for a somber color on the figure and then I saw this blue Andrea acrylic and knew it had to go on the shield. It works!!!!

Highlander (54 mm Andrea): The Highlander is a great figure, full of character. The cape is in multi-parts and must be carefully fit together. Once you get it done, it bears a striking resemblance to the movie persona highlander.

I researched the tartan for the particular clan and used that as the reference; the tartan on the box is too purple. It was painted in Acrylics and a lot of drybrush with enamels. Painting tartans is like anything else – you never know what you can do until you try.

The way to approach painting tartans is to take it in steps. The base color, the larger lines, the blocks and finally the fine lines done in multi-media (oils, enamels and the acrylics all play an important part). Start by covering with the predominate color, progressively working your way to the least used color.

The cape has to look like cloth and be dead flat. Good primer, base coat, dark shadows and some heavy, thick drybrushing is the way to achieve this look.

Highlander Officer -Crimea (60 mm Tiny Troopers) The same techniques used on the Highlander were used on this one. Tiny Troopers is out of business now
though, but I have a few tucked away for rainy days.

Venetian Pikeman, Venetian Crossbowman (54 mm Friulmodel): Italian subjects by an Italian firm. All these figures were painted with Andrea acrylics and Gunze metallics. This line of figures is virtually unknown, but is reasonably priced and are quite accurate. They are easy to paint and look good. The subject matter is O.K. but they have a line of crusader knights that are really nice sculpts.

The Pikeman’s axe, helmet, and polearm were primed with lacquer primer. I then wiped the blade clean with some thinner. Following this, the pieces were clear-coated with acrylic smoke. The wood parts were painted and the blade highlighted with different silvers using Gunze and printer’s ink.

The Venetian’s armor and metal parts were painted with Gunze metallic steel,
buffed highly when dry, and then some highlights were added.
I didn’t put any shadows on it because the Gunze steel is dark; some silver drybrush would do the trick.

All in all, figure painting is a most relaxing, enjoyable way to recreate worlds in miniature. The masters of this hobby can relive a piece of history in their works. A final note on figure painting:

I started painting when the Masters were cranking out some of the most beautiful pieces in the 60’s, 70’s and the 80’s with contributors like Shep Paine, Joe Berton and on and on. Shep Paine was a great influence on my hobby times, and I would venture an educated guess to say that he was the most influential painter in this hobby, starting many of the top-notch painters on their road to success.

With all the excellent information just waiting to be found out there on the net, research has gotten a lot easier and more readily available to the figure painter. Research is 50% of the fun in this hobby and a very necessary part to insure you paint the most accurate uniform you can.

Photos by Phil Novak