Monday, 7 November 2016

Flames of War: Polish Cavalry - The Mounted Elements

So it occurred to me a good while ago that if I was ever going to be a Polish flames of war player I would never be able to take myself seriously unless I had sizeable options to fight from the back of a horse and over time this thought came to dominate my mind...
I decided that having spent at least a years graft knocking a Piechoty army (and all its variables) into shape I just had to go and do it again and as the Black Brigade were well known for having steeds with wheels I decided that it would just have to be a Polish Cavalry force...and I opted (as I believe I mentioned in my premature Polish Cavalry post) for the 19th Volhynian Uhlans who took such a central part in the Polish victory of the Battle of Mokra on 1st September 1939
As with my Piechoty I have decided to get everything I need to cover all options BUT this time I would need a lot less than I did with my Piechoty because:
i) Polish Cavalry are expensive in points so you don't need to buy so many figures
ii) They don't have a massive amount of variety in what they can field... so you don't need to buy so many figures
iii) Most of the vehicles that are required by the Cavalry I have already bought and painted up.. so I don't need to buy so many 'other' figures! :D
As I see the majority of my Cavalry fighting on foot the mounted elements were relatively limited so I limited myself to the Regimental Commander (being used as a Company commander), a platoon of Tzcankas and two platoons of mounted Uhlans of a single section each.
The complete mounted elements of the Pulk Kawaleria

The complete mounted elements of the Pulk Kawaleria (or Cavalry Regiment for those who don't speak Polish)

...and again, all of the cavalry's mounted elements.... seen from the side this time!

So going into a little more detail we'll start with some better shots of the Regimental Commander who is accompanied with the Regimental Banner Bearer whilst his 2iC is accompanied by the Bugler mounted on his grey charger!

After the commanders of these titans of Polish military come the actual coal face troops themselves. The troops that charged tanks with lances (or not as the case may be) and actually one Brigade which stopped two entire German Divisions for a day. 

The troops:

A Cavalry platoon with the Commander and protection section on the left with the platoons single section along with its Anti Tank rifle team arrayed to the right

Each platoon of cavalry was led by a platoon commander with a protection section. Seen here are the elements with my hand made pennants. We can see that the standard pennant for the 19th was a white and blue pennant whilst the 1st company command elements carried the same pennant with a red box on the inside edge

Another view of the Platoon Command

A closer look at the platoon commander with an opportunity to take a closer look at the 1st Company command pennant

A better look at the make up of a mounted section. We can see the four Uhlan bases with one lance per base (which follows the 25% of troops issued with lances in 1939) and the small anti tank rifle team which accompanies each section. 

A top down look at the complete platoon which is really just an excuse to look at the bases :D

A closer look at a couple of the Uhlan's bases!

One of the attached Anti Tank rifle teams. You can see the Anti tank rifle (wz.35 Ur) slung across the back here, barrel down as they were actually carried

A better look at the wz.35 Ur across the Uhlans back. This is an AT Rifle that was hacked off of a sniping figure. Polished up and strapped to the guys back. Looks good enough for what I wanted!
Last but not least, after the actual mounted infantry which is the bread and butter of Polish mounted troops comes one of the more interested troop types... the Tzcankas

From the time of World War 1 heavy machine guns were carried in carriages pulled by horse teams which enabled heavy support to keep up with the fast moving troops that were so common on the Eastern front.

Poland retained the idea until the fall of Poland in October 1939.

The full tzcanka platoon of 4 tzcankas

A look at the rear of the tzcanka... the business end!

A front view of the tzcanka showing the three horse team that they used.

A rear view of the tzcanka platoon.

So there we have it. All of the mounted elements are now complete and I'm already working on the dismounted elements starting with the dismounted infantry and horse holders. I'll do a post on them as soon as possible and then all I will need to do to complete my Pulk Kawaleria force is a platoon of anti tank guns and a battery of field guns.

Then... finally... I will do my 10BK! (next year maybe :D )

Long Live Poland!

Dropzone Commander: Painting the Post Human Republics Triton X

A little while ago I posted my first blogs that demonstrated the Tron-esque Post Human Republic army for Dropzone Commander that I had been promising for so long...

I was planning on publishing this one after the announcements for the September Painting Competition on Hawks forum but as they have set a new personal best in tardy timekeeping I thought I may as well just go ahead and post away...

After a ridiculously long build up period to me actually picking up a paintbrush (perhaps beaten only by my work up period for my DZC scenery projects) I finally managed to start churning out examples of what I had been rattling on about since the year dot...

They, and I am humbled to be able to say this, created such a stir that I had multiple hundreds of reactions to the work that I had done and more than a few people who asked me to go through the process that I had gone through to reach the finishing line. I should point out at this time that there is still a lot of room for improvement on these techniques that I use, although I have to admit that some of the techniques I wanted to use are totally beyond me at this time and will require some dedicated project time to see if I can ever conquer them!

After completing the batch that I wanted to get done to enter another Hawk painting competition I just couldn't face the hours and hours and hours that it was taking to do all of the remaining army (If somebody had told me whilst I was painting my UCM urban camouflage pattern vehicles that I would soon be undertaking an army that took three times as long to paint I would have laughed in the face of who told me!) miniatures. I just couldn't face doing any more for a while and so headed back to my Polish Flames of War project for some light relief...

Well, the dust has settled and Joe (Ljevid) has kept up his suggestions for a painting tutorial I decided that I would do one for all of you out there who are interested in seeing how its done.

This is a two part tutorial. In part one I paint a Medusa's Triton-X dropship whilst in the second tutorial I will paint the Medusa herself and show you how I go about doing the bases...

But for now... 

I give you...

The Triton-X dropship

Step 1
So, the Medusa's Triton X dropship, having been cleaned and built is given a coat of primer and an undercoat of matt black.  Now, I don't always use black primers and undercoats. I use the colours that the overall key of the paint will be. Flags for example will most likely have a white undercoat. My PHR however all has as deep a black as I can for two reasons.

The primary reason is that the overall colour of the Tron-esque PHR is black, although it does reflect the colours and shapes of their local environment (although this is abstracted to give a simpler painting process whilst also supporting the aesthetic being aimed for). No matter how much shapes and colours are added to the vehicles we want to do it in such a way so that the overall impression is of a black vehicle

The second reason is that at 10mm scale it is difficult to get right the range of light to dark on miniatures without having to use a 00000 brush on absolutely everything and right down to the fine levels. With a black undercoat on top of a primer the undercoat can also function as the deepest darkest shadows if necessary...

Step 2
The next step, and probably the most time consuming is to create the mosaic of reflections that create the texture of the miniature. If you look at any of my Tron miniatures you will notice that whilst the patterning has pretensions of being reflections of the local environment, in fact they are not. They almost look like a shattered glass jigsaw painted onto the miniatures.

One thing that I didn't like that I had seen others do was using the flowing lines of the vehicles to create the lighting areas on the vehicle. I had two problems with this. Firstly I felt that it didn't give the vehicles a hard edge enough feel and in fact made the PHR military feel softer to me, and secondly was the fact that in studying the concept art for the vehicles of the film Tron Legacy it is really REALLY clear that the curving panel lines are few and far between on the vehicles and none of them are back lit and therefore do not create the light on the vehicles. This light is all created by reflections and flat light designs on the skin of the vehicle. This is the reason why I opted for the mosaic.

The next major consideration is which way the mosaic panels should be oriented. I tried a couple of curved panels but wasn't sold on them and to be frank are a bit of a ball ache to wet blend properly. I decided to stick to the straight sided blocks. I'm not sure how to explain how I feel which way they should lean but essentially when I'm painting them I image how a skyscraper would be reflected in the vehicles surface from the direction which I am looking at the vehicles and I don't give a damn as to whether or not the edges of neighbouring blocks conflict with each other.

Step 2 - A top down view of the panel mosaic

The painting of the mosaic panels is a little complex but is actually quite easy when you are on a roll.

Each panel in the mosaic is essentially one graded shaded block which has deepest black on one side graded to an almost blue white on the other, with the other tones wet blended through, in between the limits.

Each panel area is painted with a coat of Games Workshops Abaddon Black. This is chosen due to the Gloss/ Satin cast of the paint. It is well watered down in order to facilitate the wet blending that will be used.

The first wet blend colour is applied with Lifecolors UA517 Dark Ocean Blue. These colours are quite fluid already so they don't require a lot of water added but you commence the wet blend from the intended light edge of the panel and are shaded right down to the other side leaving a margin at the far side a complete black.

The next colour which needs to be applied very soon after so that the panel is still moderately wet and can still be wet blended is Vallejo's 966 Turquoise. Again the blend is applied from what is intended to be the light edge of the panel this time terminating with a margin of the Deep Ocean Blue being left over leading into the black. I like to apply the Turquoise quite heavily as when it isn't the vehicles come out looking just a little too black and anyway,,, I like turquoise! :D

The last colour to be applied on the mosaic is Games Workshop Space Wolf Grey. This is the least heavily applied and is used really just to provide the hard edge of the mosaic tiles. Without it the reflective design looks a little flat but with it, the whole design feels complete. It should be watered down as well, although not too far this time and slightly blended into the Turquoise. Be careful here because if you blend too much Space Wolf Grey into the Turquoise it mutes the colours and leads to a flat looking panel. Less is definitely more here.

Once the blend is done on some of the panels where you feel it is necessary paint a hard edge line on the panel with the Space Wolf Grey.

Step 3
The next step (3) is to start preparing all of the areas of the miniature that will be sporting all of the white areas. We are not talking about the glowing panels here but rather the aesthetic counter punch to the black and turquoise. For me, I chose all of the mechanical and engine areas but I wanted something that wasn't your average engine oil and grease looking set up.

Step 3B
I decided to go with a palette that was more reminiscent of Sci Fi, AI films and all things digital and for this the overall effect just had to be white. Plain old white just wouldn't be enough however. I needed a colour that evoked a clean, hard edge, high key feel and therefore I chose a Games Workshop Ice Blue as a basecoat colour.

All areas to be raised up to white were painted with Ice Blue first, as shown in the above photographs.

Step 4
The next step is the application of the white on all mechanical and engine areas. These areas do not glow and are simply white machinery. Any white will do so long as the paint isn't too thick and you spend some time on the intricacies of your miniature.

This is a REALLY important step as its the intricacies of the painting on the engine and mechanical areas that lend complexity to the overall painting aesthetic. Take your time with this bit. It pays off!

Step 4B
By this point the majority of the vehicle is painted. You will probably be looking at it and thinking to yourself "Well, it looks OK but not very Tron-ish!"

And you would be right, and its the next couple of steps that caused me so much issue and delays in knocking some of this stuff out.

The thing that really makes a Tron vehicle a 'Tron' vehicle is the glowing sharp edged designs that cover them. These had to be contrived.

Step 5
The requirement for really sharp edged designs in this step is so critical to the final appearance of the vehicle that unless you are one serious don with a fine brush I would advise the use of an airbrush with stencils. 

After some lengthy research into Tron glyphs and icon designs I made a selection of my own stencils using Art Tool Ultra Mask and store them away for repeat use. The repeat use of the glyphs provides a continuity to the army whilst also alleviating the ball ache of continually cutting out tiny patterns and attempting to airbrush them all the time!

One down side is that repeat use of the glyphs means that they become covered in paint making it difficult to position them accurately on the vehicles.

Step 5B
Position the stencil designs that you have chosen to use on the vehicles masking off the rest of the vehicle and airbrush a straight up flat white  in a couple of light layers until the white areas are not translucent and are complete blocks of colour.

There will be no shading on these designs as these will be the externally glowing areas that so typify the Tron vehicles.

Step 6

A little bit of housekeeping comprises this step (6) and may not in fact be necessary to all of you. Because of the fact that the stencils that I have designed need to be used on vehicles of all sizes it is sometimes necessary to tidy them up, if they are a little canted, or thin some of the designs out if they are too dominant.

With this Triton X I needed to tidy AND thin. I separated the army icon (the bracketed sphere with triangle) from the white engine block and I thinned out all of the other glyphs using straight up Abaddon Black. Don't worry too much about using as this will all be painted over when applying the 'glow'

Step 7
The penultimate step is creating the glow... and it is THIS that caused me so much trouble. I tried everything!!!! Glazes, washes, flow retardant, airbrush, a ridiculous amount of watered down layers and a partridge in a pear tree!

What did I end up using? Just plain old wet blending again! LOL

So, the glow is created using Vallejo's 809 Royal Blue. Beginning with a hard edge of Royal Blue around the edge of the glyph and is blended outwards from the glyph. 

Due to the rapid variations in colour on the underlying surface it is impossible to wet blend into each of these colours and because of this I wet blend into an ink paint. I blend using Games Workshop's Badab Black ink.

Don't worry about obscuring some of the underlying detail when using this black ink as it ends up translucent anyway and creates a greater contrast between the glowing areas and the underlying reflective black body of the vehicle.

Step 7B
...and so here we are. We are almost at the end and should have some pretty flashy miniatures at this point. 

However, looking at them they should be rife with flaws in the painting that you can pick out. This is because of the heavy reliance on wet blending that is required using this painting methodology.

The final thing that I do to fully emulate the super slick sci fi feel of Tron Legacy is I provide all of my vehicles and infantry with a gloss coat of varnish! Mainly to accentuate the super reflective appearance of the Tron vehicles this varnish manages to integrate all of the layers beneath it into an organic whole.

Step 8
So, thats it.

Personally, I'm really happy with the way this stuff has turned out. It does take a lot of work and it is all relatively time consuming but I just cant argue with the results. This will most likely turn out to be one of those long term projects as I'm going to need to keep moving away from this army and coming back to it but it would be really great if you guys took a stab at this and shared your results...

All comments are welcome! :D

Dropzone Commander: Creating Bases and Painting the PHR's Medusa

Alongside the rather long winded process of painting PHR vehicles in a mimicry of Tron Legacy's vehicles I also have to paint up all of the accompanying infantry.

The Triton X from the previous post is a specially modified Triton dropship that has been designed to carry one stomping juggernaut of a chick represented by the Medusa and her tribe of nano machines that she controls using force of mind.

I decided to create one of the bases that I employ for all of my PHR and paint up the Medusa for the base as well.

Here is how it all happened:

Creating the Bases

It all begins with Litko bases.

I had started to pursue a type of base painting design on the vehicles that is very reminiscent of the Tron-esque look and decided that I needed to achieve something similar with my infantry.

You cant actually get these in the UK so I had to reach out and buy them from the USA. I saw one of the Hawk Forum members using these as bases and i knew that it would be the way forwards for my PHR given what I wanted to achieve.

I had an idea of what I wanted to achieve and felt sure it would work so I decided to take the plunge and buy them.

They seemed to take forever to arrive but arrive they finally did. I had also already purchased a hexagon grid stencil from Anarchy Models.

Step 1

The idea behind these bases is to create a black mirror effect so the process that I followed was aimed at achieving this.

The first step is to place the hexagon stencil over the base and airbrush the lower side black. This creates the body of the black mirror on the underside of the base.

Step 1 - The Result
 Unfortunately the hexagon stencil has sides that are far too thick for what I really wanted but after much searching I determined that I just had to suck it up and deal with what I could get a hold of.

It definitely detracts from the overall effect I was looking for but at the end of the day its still a bit different and so long as the painting effect is similar across the whole army it will be OK.

Step 2
 Whilst the underside of the bases is where the 'black mirror' effect is executed, the upper side of the base is where the surface detail is applied.

A stencil that provides an interesting surface detail is applied to the top of the base and airbrushed in white using a couple of different of different layers of white.

This will create something that is similar to the above photograph. At this point it all looks a little scruffy, but not to worry! This will be sorted out later on  in the process.

Step 3
 Once the upper side designs are dry, the lower side needs to have a coat of Vallejo Turquoise paint applied to it in order to colour the hexagon pattern in a colour that supports the overall colour of the army.

Step 4 
The final step in preparing the bases is to tidy up the stencil designs on the upper surface. This is best done with a cocktail stick that is cut to a flat edge. This flat edge is rubbed along the areas where there is a need to remove paint until the borders of the stencil are as sharp as you require.

Once this is completed the base is finished and you need to move onto the miniature itself! 

Painting the Medusa

In all of the PHR armed forces there is none that can compete with the wrecking ball that is the Medusa.

These models are supplied on a base which is a part of a one piece moulding. Unfortunately this base is also resin and none see through and therefore will not appear to be harmonious element of the army. 

Step 1
 The first step in painting the Medusa is to prepare the miniature itself. The base needs to be cut away so that the Medusa herself can be mounted on a specially prepared base and after hack sawing away with less precision than I would have aimed for the separation of Witch-Bitch from base was achieved...

...and on achieving this the miniature was primed and undercoated with matt white!

Step 2
 One of the biggest problems with painting the Medusa is the bloody great column of Nanomachines that she is being supported on. Now, thankfully Hawks digital casting that they use for their miniatures means that the miniatures are usually covered with really fine well cut detail.

The question was how to bring out this detail.

I decided that I wanted to keep with the blue, white and turquoise high key colour palette on this beast of a woman that I have been employing everywhere else and so I pondered for a while on how to best bring out the detail on the Nano machines.

I opted to use a thin wash of blue oil paint which I left to dry under lamps over night before wiping off the surface excess with cotton buds (or cue tips for our American friends) dipped in white spirit.

Once all of the excess paint was removed as much as possible a coat of varnish was applied to fix the oil paint and stop the remaining paint being lifted off through excess handling.

At this point you will have a somewhat muddy looking and very messy miniature! I can be honest here and admit that I thought I had blown the miniature, straight off the bat!

Step 3
Because of the fine detail that comprises the Nano Machine column, this miniature lends itself admirably to dry brushing. I don't normally like dry brushing as it does lead to some very scruffy appearing paint schemes BUT there is just so much going on on this Medusa's Nano Machine column that I figured it was worth the risk, and more especially because of the muddy look that I had been left with.

I chose a large high quality brush, put some plain white paint on my wet palette and proceeded to lightly dry brush the Nano Machines in a succession of thinly built up layers. The idea here was to apply the paint thinly enough so that it didn't occlude the indented rings on the Nano Machine bodies.

This was achieved and I also felt partly that it had definitely rescued the miniature! 

Step 4
Finally it was time to turn my attention to the Medusa herself. In truth I followed the same paint palette and patterns that I employed on my Sirens.

The basecoat for the outfit was Vallejo's 906 Pale Blue which was highlighted with Games Workshops Space Wolf Grey

The dark blocks on the outfits are employed using Vallejo's 898 Dark Sea Blue whilst the uniforms Neon strips have a basecoat of Games Workshops Ice Blue and are highlighted with plain white of any manufacturer.

The hair has a basecoat of Vallejo's Neutral Grey with white highlighting whilst the face uses Games Workshops Elf Flesh also highlighted by adding white to the Elf Flesh.

Step 5
 Finally the Medusa, having polished off the extra details such as lips and eyes, is mounted onto the base that has been prepared for it.

Step 6
...and finally we apply the gloss varnish to the entirety of the miniature to provide the finishing touch! 

... and there we have it! The completed Medusa with her Triton X dropship. Not a particularly good photo but I'm definitely happy enough with them in the flesh!

So... what do you guys think of these little gems then?