Thursday 8 August 2013

In the interests of Colonial authenticity............

I've been commissioned by the notorious author of the "Tales of the Golden Head" adventures to paint a couple of big battle scenes in oil based on some of the drawings that appeared in the Classic Wargamers Journal in 2011. (Sadly there is no longer a link to Phil's CWJ page... best consign it to history I suppose). One of the paintings calls for a number of 1920s British colonial soldiers in East Africa to be posed at unusual angles. From my previous attempts I knew what a devil it is to get the elongated elipses of those sun helmets right so I bought a reproduction of an "India pattern" sun helmet for my photo shoot.

Looking suitably tropical against the Duchess' potted fruit trees!
It was a warm day today and the lawns needed mowing so I thought I'd protect my thinning scalp and I'd give the pith helmet a try out.  It certainly protected me from the sun but eventually I felt something hit my nose and thought it was a fly until there were more hits and I realised I had a minor waterfall of sweat pouring down my face. Taking off the helmet to examine it I realised the head band is just leather and totally non-absorbant. This was completely different from my beloved 30 year old "Hang Ten" floppy hat bought in Melbourne market and which has been to five continents with me since then, and from my more recent soft baseball cap featured in many Facebook photos. They both do a good job with the sweat.
I had to be my own char wallah unfortunately but that young sparrow in the
background had me for his water carrier.
Here he is, enjoying the fruits of my labour
So the question I have for you colonial experts who've stuck with me is:
"How did our forbears, who had to wear these things in hot climates, stop the sweat getting in their eyes so they could shoot the dastardly fuzzy wuzzies?"
The reason I ask is not just so wargamers can model fetchingly coloured sweat bands, but so I will know what props to use to render my 1920s heroes of Umpopoland in a realistic way in the painting. Your views very welcome please.

Writing the above made me realise that many readers of this blog might have missed the delights of my illustrations for CWJ so I have put them as a download in my side bar under "Miscellaneous", or you can see them via this link. 
Please respect the copyright, and a few of the originals are still for sale  - if anyone is interested just email me.


  1. Good suuccess with your paintings in commission - I am sure they will be adorable! But also, I would like to exprime my great compliment for your new banner - it is a fantastic set and atmospheric picture, so impressive!!
    I am curious on your next posts and will follow your work.
    Best wishes, Peter

  2. Thank you Peter for your very kind comments. I had two very amusing photoshoots for the paintings with me dressed as soldiers and Arab bandits, resulting in about 30 poses chosen for two large battle scenes. As you have been a follower for some time I hope you have seen the two Stalingrad posts
    I'm afraid some of my friends have distracted me in recent weeks with planning for our group's Summer of refights of Waterloo in 2015, but I hope to get back to WW2 soon.

  3. Yes, Gregg, I rememeber this posts - it is unbelievable, how realistic you did this little sets - it is visible, that you have the artists´eye! Thanks for all that, it is apleasure to follow your blog.
    Waiting for some appetizing impressions of your battle paintings,
    best wishes, peter

  4. Thanks again
    The paintings are each 75cm x 60 cm so a lot of work, and I think it will be a couple of months before they are presentable to show.
    Chris (Gregg is my surname :-) )

  5. With regard to the Pith Helmet sweat band, it didn't stop the sweat. It's just that due to the lack of potable water, most explorers were suffering from dehydration and heat stroke, so didn't sweat much.

  6. Well, thanks, that's a very interesting theory. After I'd blogged without response I did ask one of the UK's foremost colonial military history experts, whom I'm lucky enough to know slightly, and he searched his records but did not come across any reference to how the sweat was swathed. So maybe you are right.