Wednesday 31 August 2011

A Beer and a Bag

These days alarm bells would be ringing if you were to witness  two men pass a small grip seal bag, discreetly across the table of a busy public house.  However in the this case the two men were myself and a good friend, often referred to as the 'Provost Marshal' at a particular Gentleman's Forum, and the contents of the 'baggy' in question were as bizarre a collection of lead as could possibly be imagined!

The Provost Marshal has been a hugely supportive ally as I took my tentative first steps into the world of war-games and miniature painting.  It was he, for instance, that very kindly donated the 'charge of the light brigade' miniatures and is always on hand with box loads of appropriate reference material or the benefit of his encyclopedic knowledge.  That said he is constantly trying to persuade me to broaden my oeuvre to encompass the vast and often colourful world of the Napoleonic era but in this instance it was an altogether more bizarre direction that lay in wait!

It's fair to say that The Provost Marshal has a mischievous nature and likes to throw down a challenge once in a while and so it was, when we were supposed to be celebrating his birthday, that I found myself pondering what on earth to do with the contents of this package.

So then, over to you can anyone envisage a scenario in which all these would be present?  Unlikely I grant you but I'm sure someone out there will think of something amusing!  Moreover can anyone identify the 'mad, running, Japanese lady' and she has been dubbed.  She is a 28mm scale figure but I'm struggling to find any reference for her.

Looking forward to hearing some of your suggestions.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Have a care!

Following on from this morning's post I thought I would share a few more recently edited snaps from our day at the medieval festival at Herstmonceux castle.  So taken, as I was, with the exploits of the 'Compagnie of Seint Barbara' I couldn't help but post a few more examples of the wonderful level of detail they went to in order to bring to life the role of the 'gunners' on the medieval battlefield.

This hand gunner is making his way to the starting position for the morning's siege of the castle.  Fast and dangerous, he is not encumbered by the plate armour many of the men-at-arms were wearing. 

During the afternoon the the 'Compagnie' treated us to a demonstration of the beautifully and authentically created field pieces.  It was here that we learnt where the possible derivation of the phrase, "have a care" comes from.  Apparently this would be yelled by a gunner before setting the fuse in order to warn those who might be about to open their powder cases or perhaps be just be a little too close for comfort!

The Triple Barrel Ribiquald or 'Trinity' as she was called heading back to the camp after the demonstration.  Dating from about 1460, this early breech loading weapon was capable of shooting somewhere in the region of eight rounds per minute.  A short ranged but fearsomely devastating weapon that would be the last thing you would want to see having successfully charged over the drawbridge!   

Back at the camp we were able to get up close and personal, with members of the 'companie' on hand to answer any questions you might have.

The mighty trebuchet, another working replica albeit this one scaled down a little, was in action in the morning's siege.  Several projectiles were effectively launched but I have no doubt the 'sappers' were under strick orders not to actually breech the walls - the current owners not been best pleased!

Excitement over it was time for lunch at the 'Buxom Wench'!


This is the moment which left a ringing in the ears for some considerable time as the shock wave of the mighty bombard roared past us; the climatic moment of a wonderful display during our recent visit to England's Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle last weekend.

The festival itself runs for three days with plenty to see and do including reinactors storming the magnificent 15th Century moated castle, music, pageantry, skill at arms contest, falconry and of course mead!  For me however one of the main highlights had to be the 'Compaignie of Seint Barbara'.  This living history group represents a mercenary Burgundian gun company and provided the 'gunners' for the event; the star of the show being 'Pyppes Dowghter', the mighty bombard.   This "one and a half tons of medieval fury" is a copy of an 'English' design built around 1450.  

Vital Statistics: 8' Long, 15" Bore and weighing an impressive 1.5 tons!  

Mounted on an oak firing sledge and requires the assistance of an elevan foot high oak and elm lifting 'gyn', Pyppes Dowghter is said to by far the largest working replica of this type in Britain.

This beastie would fire a limestone cannonball, which may have been wrapped in lead and weighing 140 pounds (that's ten stone!) up to a mile in distance!  Truly an awesome sight to behold.

The mouth of the beast

Saturday 27 August 2011

Book Review#5. - Rifles

Now this choice of bedside reading came about having purchased the box set of the wonderful, Napoleonic adventure series, 'Sharpe'.  It was one of those impromptu buys when I was supposed to be supporting the good lady wife on a recent grocery shopping trip - clearly I need a stronger lead!  The knock down price for fourteen feature length episodes was just too much to resist and so it found its way home hidden under a rather delicious ready made paella.  A couple of episodes in I started to wonder how accurately portrayed the characters were and with a couple of carefully placed clicks of the mouse Mark Urban's 'Rifles' was winging its way towards 'Awdry Towers'.  

I would like to tell you that I am able to devour military history books with ease but sadly the opposite is true as far too often my concentration is broken by the most trivial of things.  I was relieved then to discover the Urban's style of writing was suitably fast paced to keep even me well and truly hooked, "an exhilarating work of narrative history".

'Rifles' charts the progress of the now legendary 95th or Rifle Regiment of Wellington's army, Sharpe's original regiment in the fictional series, and its progress through the Peninsula campaigns up to and including Waterloo.  What was particularly fascinating to learn was that the tactics employed by the Rifles were a relatively new way of thinking with regards to soldiering and one that would ultimately form the basis of modern skirmishing tactics that we see in use even today.  Told using anecdotal evidence, the stories of the riflemen were riveting and  it clear to see how this band of tough and resilient men formed the inspiration for the characters created by Bernard Cornwell for the 'Sharpe' series of novels.

A thoroughly enjoyable piece of work and a must for anyone with an interest in the period of who, like me, just wanted to know what happened to those men that marched, "over the hills and far away".  A well deserved four crowns.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Working with etched brass

A great fan of Rugby Union, particularly the internationals, I was already fully aware of the famous New Zealand 'Haka', traditionally performed by the 'All Blacks' prior to the start of a match.  It is very difficult not to be mesmerized by the sheer passion and spectacle of the event.  The reason for mentioning the 'All Blacks' here, however, is to point out their chosen emblem - the silver tree fern -  Cyathea dealbata.  Like many countries New Zealand has adopted a floral emblem (here in England we have the Tudor Rose) and theirs appears to be the Silver Fern, which is clearly part of the bracken family.  Anyway I digress, what I wanted to do was to incorporate this emblem into the bases for my recent Empress Miniatures, New Zealand Wars Maoris, giving them a unique 'Kiwi' theme.
Photograph: R Land/Getty
I had spied some etched brass items on the Hasslefree Miniatures website and on further inspection was delighted to see that they actually had a sprue of bracken itself!  As you can see they arrive in delicate flat sheets with the individual leaves on small stems.  They needed a little bit of clipping to release them from the sprue and although I can be seen here attempting this feat with a pair of snips I later found it much easier to do with a sharp craft knife or scalpel.

Initially I thought that I would cut pairs of leaves and glue them, with superglue, to the bases.  All good in principle but I had already prepared the bases and was left with the prospect of having to fiddle around in order to complete the task of painting the ferns.  In a blinding flash of inspiration, it doesn't happen often, I decided to prime the ferns on the sprue using Games Workshop 'Chaos Black' spray.

With this successfully achieve I also made the executive decision to use more ferns for each base allowing me to twist the brass to shape to give more aesthetically pleasing results.  I was struggling with the superglue and in the end opted for the quick fix of the trusty glue gun.  Even though I knew that this would leave a very obvious 'blob' of glue I was happy to accept this in return for a quick and solid fix.

With the fern safely in place it was just a case of painting to requirements including, of course, the offending 'blob'.  When it came to the final basing I continued to camouflage the 'blob' with a little static grass and the occasional tuft in a bid to mimic the lush pastures of the North Island.

This is more effective with a knife!

Definitely easier to paint on the sprue.

Paint as desired
Can be disguised later

In the end, although a little more time consuming than I had expected, I am particularly pleased with the results as it does help to theme the unit together and at the same time give a brief nod to the strength of this proud nation.  With regards to the British units, I have mimicked the tufts and grass but not the ferns deciding, instead to reserve these for the Maoris themselves; a sort of home turf advantage if you will.

Please enjoy the the movie below of the 'All Blacks' performing the Haka before a match with my beloved England.  I cannot vouch for the translation but you get the general idea.  Whilst clearly intimidating, (I can remember when they would creep ever closer towards the opposition so that in the end they were face to face - awesome), I am led to believe that it is also a mark of respect for a worthy adversary.

Interesting Fact: The 'Silver Ferns' is the name given to the New Zealand ladies' netball team.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

More Empress Maoris

The latest efforts to shuffle off the paint queue; once again more Empress Miniatures, Maoris from  their New Zealand Wars range.  I have to admit to have really enjoyed painting these figures, top quality sculpting and wonderfully dynamic poses.  I've taken one or two creative liberties but on the whole tried to be honest to the research that I'd come across.  This set includes a realisation of Chief Hone Heke Pokai of the Ngapuhi tribe.  Hone Heke was the chief protagonist of the First Maori War, credited with repeatedly chopping down the flagstaff that provided the spark for the conflict.  Seen here wearing his sea captain's cap, sculpter Paul Hicks has paid homage to artist Richard Scollins' illustration for the Osprey title, "Queen Victoria's Enemies (4)".

Empress New Zealand Wars Maoris

Paul Hicks' sculpt of Hone Heke

During my research into the period I'd come across numerous paintings depicting Maori warriors with a shock of white hair, this would be my effort at recreating a more senior statesmen of the tribe.

Gottfried Lindauer painting.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Empress Miniatures - Maoris

It seems far too long since the last post, what with the demands of work and the distraction of Lego - 'Pirates of the Caribbean' for the Wii, I have been found in dereliction of my duties with regards to this blog and painting in general.  

These fearsome warriors have been sitting on the paint queue for some time; part of the problem was the trepidation as to colour palettes, fortunately help was at hand in the form of the Osprey's 'Queen Victoria's Enemies 4 (Asia, Australasia and the Americas' but more importantly the work of Roly at 'Dressing the Lines' and Giles at 'Tarleton's Quarter'.

Empress New Zealand Wars Maoris

I've long been a great devotee of Empress Miniatures and this range fits perfectly within the parameters of 28mm Victorian Warfare.  The sculpts, once again by the talented Paul Hicks, are simply sublime with wonderful attention to detail.  Three of these are wielding tewhatewha a wooden war club with a striking edge; the fluttering feather ornaments apparently there to distract the enemy.

When it came to the basing I knew I wanted to represent the iconic silver fern (or bracken as we like to call it here) so associated with New Zealand.  These ones can from 'Hasslefree Miniatures'  and are part of their etched brass range.  All things considered I'm pretty pleased with the results although there have been one or two liberties taken with colours, particularly with the kiwi feather shawl.  Just now need to crack on with the others.

Female Warrior

Sunday 7 August 2011

New Tenants

While still enjoying the holiday minibreak we took the opportunity to visit an old favourite, Borth Animalarium.  A slightly strange and run down looking animal sanctuary for unwanted pets.  Just couldn't resist posting these given my recent terrain building project.

Friday 5 August 2011

Wish you were here!

Enjoying a lovely minibreak with the good lady wife visiting my parents, hence the reason why there has been little or more correctly no 'blogging' updates.  That said I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms and have caught myself looking at things and saying, "Now I wonder what I could make with that?" or "Do you think there is a Regimental Museum around here?"

Fabulous scenery and spoilt rotten as usual; a wonderful break.


Devil's Bridge

With a bit of plasticard and some greenstuff I'm sure that ... "Yes Darling, just coming."
Llechwedd Slate Caverns

Monday 1 August 2011

28mm Meerkat Manor - The Conclusion.

Part 2 - Paint & Detailing

By initially spraying the piece with black undercoat, paying particular attention to the little beasties themselves, I was able to more easily access all the deep nooks and crannies that a paintbrush find it a little harder to be get to.  The actual terrain, the rocks, tree trunks and sand, was then coated in a chocolate brown matt emulsion.  Once this had dried the subsequent colour stages were simply dry brushed.  Slowly this was added to the sand areas and pebbles starting with Vallejo 'Japanese Uniform WWII', Foundry 'Spearshaft', Foundry 'Ochre', Foundry 'Buff Leather - Light' and then finally Vallejo 'Silver Grey'. This might appear excessive but in truth not everywhere is covered, I was hoping to create areas of shadow and depth by just leaving the hard to get to areas black.  The tree trunks and roots were also dry brushed but not to the same extent; simply Games workshop 'Dark flesh' and then a little foundry 'Spearshaft'.

Final dry brushed layer applied.
When it came to the little fur balls themselves I was suddenly struck with a very clear understanding as to why it was that I don't collect and paint a smaller scale than 28mm!  How some of you manage to focus on such a small miniature is beyond me.  That said I was able to keep my hand steady enough to pick out their white tummies and characteristic black eyes.

The finishing touches were a few strategically placed tufts and a new feature, sisal string.  I first heard about this most fibrous of strings from a fellow 'Gentleman of the Parlour'.  The Pudding Wrestler's website, 'Terrain for Hippos' is definitely worth a look jammed packed as it is with all sorts of techniques and ideas.  

All in all a successful build and the meerkats have a place they can call home - "Simples!"

Completed terrain piece
Don't look now but ...
someone is watching you!

Now because you have all been very patient and indulged my predilection for pantomime, sit back and enjoy the sweeping epic that is 'The Battle of Nervousness' a wonderful Meerkat movie!

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