Saturday, May 06, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: North West Frontier and mud-brick houses

Sadly, I didn't get my first company of ACW Confederates finished over the long weekend, due to tedious family commitments, although I did get some progress made on them.  So this weekend's plan is to get these first nine figures finished.

Also on the go at the present are the last nine figures for my TMWWBK 1878 North West Frontier force.  These are six British infantry, to complete the two units of the 70th foot and three Sikh gunners.  The weather wasn't brilliant again first thing this morning but it looks like iis brightens up now.

The missing element has been the mountain gun for the Sikh artillery, which I ordered back in February.  The crew arrived but not the gun.  There was no explanation from North Star and I had to ring them up.  They told me that they had been having 'production difficulties' with all the Artizan artillery. Anyway, the gun turned up this week, although it has something of a bendy barrel, which I hope I can straighten.

More annoying is that this gun appears to be the RML 2.5" mountain gun which didn't enter service until 1879 and my force is designed for 1878.  On The Mminiatures Page at the moment there is a poll which, essentially, asks if you are fussy about historical accuracy in your wargames armies. There were people who said things like "I can't be worried about the difference between a Belgic or stovepipe shako"  What?  This is a historical hobby not Hollywood!  I am compelled to get things as correct as I possibly can. 

Anyway, I sent off for the Perry Afghans with mountain gun set (and some more Confederates in frock coats) as this appears to be the 7lb gun which was used before the RML 2.5" was introduced, so it was in service in 1878.  I will use it with my Sikh crew, therefore.  Here we have some Sikh artillery with a 7lb gun.  What it means, though, is that I still don't have all the elements of my British force yet,

When the light is too poor to enable me to paint I have been working on my Renedra mud-brick house, which I bought at Salute last year.  I am hoping to use this for games set in the Sudan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Darkest Africa.   Looking at the box it looked like a very nice model and has something of the old Airfix Fort Sahara about it.  One of the things I am often tempted by is some sort of French Foreign Legion escapades and there are good ranges from Unfeasibly (although beware the latter's postal service - best to order them from Mike at Black Hat Miniatures) and Artizan but I have resisted so far!

Once you start to put the thing together, however, the experience is less happy.  This is the fourth Renedra building I have made and the least satisfactory from a construction point of view.  The first one I built was the ramshackle barn which was OK to put together, although the roof never fitted properly.  It was also rather flimsy and needed a base (I  don't like bases on buildings).  Next I made the American Church (the best of the four for fit) and the American store which needed a bit of filling but not too much, really.

The mud-brick house was, however, a pig to do.  The parts didn't fit well at all and the separate components, like the little wall and the stairs, took no account of the wavy surface of the main building's walls.  There was barely enough plastic from these pieces to contact the main house and have enough glued surfaces to make a strong fit.  Once the pieces were stuck I then dribbled more plastic cement down the joins to help bridge the gap.

In the end, however, I had to resort to a lot of Humbrol plastic filler.  Now this is what I cover my figures' bases with, usually but it is designed for plastic kits and I used to use it for its proper purpose when I use to make 1/72 aeroplane kits.  Usually, with those, you only needed  a bit along the wing roots and down the fuselage centre line but the mud-brick house needed more filler than Amanda Holden's face.

Fortunately, the filler apes the surface of the building so when it was undercoated it actually didn't look too bad.  Somewhere I have the accessory kit which gives you a dome and a canopy, which I bought in Orc's Nest, but I have no idea where it is.  I will buy at least one more, despite it's shortcomings, as by flipping the front and back parts you can have the stairs on the other side.  In fact Renedra offer two at a discount so I could build a domed one and a flipped one.  Not looking forward to it, though.

The question, then, is what colour to paint it?  Mud bricks vary depending on the mud, of course and I did start looking at different mud brick buildings in different parts of the world to see if I needed to paint them differently, depending on where they were supposed to be located..  This, I decided, was insane, so I am going for the Egypt/Palestine look (above) which is pretty spot on for Humbrol 121, which is the colour I paint the bases of my figures for these hot countries with.  They seem to be mostly rendered in more mud rather that the bright white you see in the Middle East.  I am going to paint the ready made model and the 4Ground one in the same colour.

Oxshott brickworks (demolished in 1958)

 The area today - just more million pound houses (except the ones which back onto the old clay pit which cost twice that!)

Talking of mud bricks, we bagged up the soil from where the Old Bat dug out her new pond and took it to the dump (sorry, waste re-cycling station). The earth in our garden is clay and is not nice granular Monty Don Gardner's World type soil but you have to dig it out with a pickaxe and it comes out in hard-packed, grapefruit sized lumps.  There is a reason that there used to be a big brickworks in Oxshott, although today only the clay pit is left.  We took these to the dump (sorry, waste re-cycling station) and were told that we would now have to pay £4 a bag to leave it in the skip there and we had six bags.  We are allowed one free bag a day, we were told, so I asked if we could come back for the next five days and dump the rest for free and they said that would be fine. I couldn't dump them all at once, even thought they will likely end up in the same skip. The logic of this escapes me. It's the same amount of earth going in the same place but by polluting the environment with five extra car journeys it's free, whereas dumping it in one go would have cost an extra £20. That's a box of Perry ACW artillery, I thought, as we drove the bags back home again.

I was in London the next day so decided to walk from Waterloo to Dark Sphere and see if they had a box of Perry Artillery.  Having trudged all the way there I found it closed due to a power cut.  Grr!  So (take that Mr Treadaway) I trudged all the way back again.  I was very early for my lunch with my former PA (or 'Mexicans' as I told the Old Bat) so I walked across Hungerford Bridge, for the exercise (two runs last week) and headed up Charing Cross Road towards Orc's Nest.  This was fatal as I stopped off in one of the second hand bookshops and acquired books on Gustav Klimt's drawings and late nineteenth century and early twentieth century erotic (well, saucy rather than erotic, really) postcards.

Pork and black pudding.  Yum,yum!

I got to Orc's Nest and bought my Perry artillery there, although it was more expensive than it would have been in Dark Sphere ,who usually offer a 10% discount.  We had lunch in the Portrait Restaurant in the National Portrait Galley, which I hadn't been to before but is a favourite of my sister..  In fact, I can't have been to the NPG for decades as they have a whole big modern extension I don't remember at all. I chose the NPG because I don't like the new decor at the National Gallery Cafe, my previous favourite in the area.  The only problem with the Portrait Restaurant is that it is so popular you can't just turn up.  I booked five days ahead and the earliest booking we could get was 1.45pm.

The restaurant has a wonderful view over the rooftops of the National Gallery next door and across to Nelson's Column and the Houses of Parliament.  The food and service is truly excellent.  They indicated, when booking, that you would only get an hour and a half slot (I hate that, who can eat a proper lunch in an hour and a half?) but we were still there at four thirty and we never felt hurried..

Today's music is a recording I have been looking for for ages, as it is not available as a digital download but I managed to get the (imported) CD.  It is John Lill's Brahm's Second Piano Concerto; a live recording of his winning performance at the 1970 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition.  I first heard this performance on a record I borrowed from Ashford Library when I was about twelve.  Although I have a very good performance by Ashkenazy with Haitink and despite Rozhdestvensky's USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra sounding a bit like a chamber orchestra, Lill's performance, especially in the second movement, is electric.  I don't usually like live recordings but this is excellent.

Tropic evening (1933)

Today's artistic distraction comes from one of America's finest illustrators, John LaGatta (1894-1977).  LaGatta was born in Naples in 1894 and after his family moved to New York studied art at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, having first started off in his father's jewellery business. He first came to prominence during the period of the First World War, going on to do illustrations for the likes of Life, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal and Cosmopolitan, together with advertising work. In 1916 he joined the Amsden commercial studio and never looked back. Unlike many later illustrators, who worked from photographs, LaGatta always used models, who he carefully selected himself.  LaGatta's family, although having aristocratic lineage, were very poor and later in life, as a successful illustrator, Lagatta very much appreciated the finer things in life. At the beginning of World War 2, LaGatta moved to California and taught at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. He died in 1977.

Women were very much LaGatta's favourite subject and even when depicting women in clothes (as he largely had to do for his magazine and advertising clients) his approach was unbelievably slinky; delivering some of the most sensual paintings of women ever produced.   Perhaps surprisingly, this rather daring nude was produced for a lipstick advertisement in 1933; one of a series he did in the late twenties and early thirties.  I can't see you being able to get away with an image like this in an American women's magazine today!


  1. I have to say I totally agree with you on the historical accuracy point. I really do research everything I paint as much as possible. However if you need to game 1805 Russians for 1812 why not? I have come to the point where I endeavour to use my figures for a number of rules/games options. The more the better!
    The soil here in Newbury sounds the same as yours. The area was famous for its brick kilns, digging the garden is a major effort. Monty Don, pah!

  2. Seconded on two points: I detest hand waving over accuracy of miniatures, otherwise why bother & the fit of the Desert House kit is truly dreadful.
    Regards HGA.

  3. Another excellent piece. Once I find out something is not right I simply have to fix it come what may as it does matter to me. I am no fan of the Rule Of Cool.

  4. Great blog! Which I only today discover (courtesy of TMP). I, too, was buying and painting one of those NWF Sikh mountain guns and crew a few months ago. And painting new Legionnaires and oggling old pinup art! Great minds, etc....

  5. PS: You've never digged until you've digged in Central Texas. Rocks in clay, with scorpions in between.