Friday 28 February 2014

Hussarettes: “I know how shoot - my boyfriend was in Military”

(This was originally published on 28 Feb 2014, but I have merely updated near the end with a new email address. Apologies in advance if this causes any confusion)

Count Gregorius looked down at the girl. Although there was a slight chill breeze in the wine cellar of Grunburg castle, she showed nothing but pride and strength. If she felt cold then there was no sign of it and the flickering torchlight gave a warm glow to her skin.. On her head she wore a black fur colpack with gold cords, across her shoulder was draped  a yellow woollen pelisse lined with grey fur and fastened by a gilt strap matching the lace button loops. Her yellow leather Hungarian style boots also had gold tassels. She slowly discarded the red military style short waistcoat which she wore when she had entered the room, and placed it on a stool. She wore nothing else except a remarkable gilt bracelet. The Count couldn’t help wondering what had become of her undershirt, or her dolman, and not least, her breeches.  He glanced, for some kind of explanation, at two stern Grunburg Dragoons, the guards who had brought  her into the wine cellar, but there was none forthcoming.

He walked slowly round her, admiring her Eastern beauty and pondering on the story of her capture. It was during the Prussian army’s pursuit of the Russians following Frederick’s  rather doubtful victory at Zorndorf. She was cornered in an inn wearing what appeared to be the uniform of an officer of the Gruzinsky Hussars,  but she  had fought three of his Dragoons to a standstill until forced to surrender by overwhelming numbers. He realised such a combination of spirit and feminine charm could be put to good use in his long term ambition to become Elektor of Reikland. But first she had to be put through her paces.

“Who are you?” he demanded
“I am Countess Natasha Gruzinskaya”. The surly expression never left her face as she spoke in a rich Russian accent. “I know how fight - give me sabre!”.
“Why are you naked?” He could contain his curiosity no longer.
“Better to fight, of course!”
With a little trepidation he handed her the elegant oriental sabre which he had taken from a captured Croat officer in the Prague campaign. She handled the curved hilt and weighty blade with confidence, all the time staring at him with the contempt of a superior being for an underling. He summoned forward his fencing master, a Captain of Dragoons, who took up the en garde posture which gave the Countess little doubt that she was to be tested.

Gregorius could hardly bear the thought that her perfect skin might be pierced in this contest, yet her spirit had to be broken somehow........

"I know how fight - give me sabre!"
Natasha of the Gruzinsky Hussars, 1758
Acrylic on canvas 14" x 10"
NOTE Copyright - not to be copied elsewhere without my permission, CG
.....But no need to worry, for this is part of my Imagi-Nation. “Natasha” was in no danger for she is really Yaroslavna acting the part of a Hussarette for my most recent photo-shoot to gather yet more reference material for the project. And the beautiful sword is real, but a dull-bladed, reproduction.  As she is a former professional model from Russia I was very fortunate to be introduced to Yara . She was keen to get back into “practice” after a few years doing other things.  She is a very confident young lady with loads of expressions and a willingness to take direction sometimes overtaken by her own exuberance for her art.

She entered the part so seriously that I had a bit of difficulty at first as she took on the discipline and austerity of the military persona as a kind of professional test.  I was showing her the Napoleonic carbine and was putting it at half cock, ready to fire, when she grabbed it with the words “I know how shoot - my boyfriend was in Military”. This photo followed  immediately afterwards

After a bit of this attitude, with which we got many good shots, I told her to lighten up - “Remember you are a pin-up - who wants to look at a miserable pinup?”  That got results and I do have smiling

In fact one of the key drivers for this photo session was  a beautiful miniature brought to my attention by Jean Louis (abdul666) back in 2012. A female version of a French Imperial Guard Chasseur a Cheval, but minus a lot of uniform. Here is a link to the original and lots of other novelty ladies too.

I hardly dared believe back then that  my project would enable me to  recreate it - a Chasseurette rather than Hussarette.    Yara posed for this from many angles, including the classic pose of the miniature (above), but I won’t show you that one as it will be a definite for a painting later.  But here is another variation.

The deal we have is something of a mutual goal for art’s sake, apart from her fee. In her case a self confessed “passion” for posing and modelling, and a real interest in representing this in painting. In my case I needed a model who was unfazed to go further than the lovely ladies I had already used, and across a wide range of themes. These themes featured a good selection of my props, by no means all of a military nature, but also to allow me to develop more sophisticated reference material.  A lot of that need not concern the wargamer blog follower, but for you chaps, and even ladies, here are two more themes.  The first is taking the “Tales of the Golden Head” girls into the jungles of the Dark Continent –  If I’d known her earlier Yara could have modelled Constance perfectly.

For those who prefer jodpurs I take consolation from a book I’ve recently read - Draw and Paint Fantasy Females  by Tom Fleming. He says if you want to put skin-tight clothing on your fantasy females best to use a naked model first!

The second is along the lines of the classic fantasy females made famous in the art of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo in the 1950s - 70s.  Yara found a variety of  ethnic looking jewellery, and with dagger, axe and "spear" she took on the role of empowered warrior queen, both fighting and looking dignified in royal splendour. They will make some lovely paintings with imaginative backgrounds and atmosphere.

Another photo set may be of interest to viewers of this blog, which will be the 18th century Hussarette “wet T shirt” painting. Hussarettes playfully washing in a fountain or village pond is a theme that was suggested to me at the outset of the project and I have collected some good material from the Duchess and my original model “M”, but I have to say, nothing quite like that produced by Yara. We used some images from Peter Scheck’s fabulous model les baigneuses of the 18th century as inspiration and here is just one interesting pose of the many I have.  All it needs now is a sponsor to see a big painting take shape using loads of material and probably a variety of regiments’ disrobed uniforms!

OK. Now the sales pitch! A model of this quality does not come cheap, and she, quite reasonably will have  a royalty on any painting sales. So I’m very keen to be able to use some of the marvellous material at my disposal for painting - anything considered from £50 upwards. And you can engage with me by private email (Chris Gregg ), to discuss what sort of thing you might like. 

And please show your appreciation for Yaroslavna by commenting on this blog. I’m sure she will be delighted to know that she has not lost her considerable charms since her previous work experience.

FINALLY - A FRIENDLY REQUEST. I've noticed that copies of some of my other Hussarette paintings have been posted elsewhere on the internet. That is fIattering and I love sharing this aspect of how my work and hobby combine. But it does cost me a lot of time and a fair bit of money, as well as original artistic imagination and effort, and 40 years of practice as an artist, so please have the common courtesy of asking me first, and ALWAYs give me credit by name and preferably a link back to the blog or my website. Better still, as some of my clients will attest, commissioning a painting from me, whether fantasy or military, male or female, can involve you in a lot of insight into my working practice and the opportunity of selection of further images.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Waterloo Project: Kevin forges ahead!

Putting me to shame Kevin East just told me he has finished one of the 180 figure French Light Infantry battalions for his Hougoumont scenario...but we'll have to wait yet for some photos,. Meanwhile here is news of a little vignette and accessories he painted in a "rest period". In Kevin's own words..........

"Now heavily embroiled in the crazy scheme of painting 700 figures by June 2015 for our series of Waterloo games at 1:3 scale, I came across a painting window of 5 days, when for some reason or another, I had just managed to complete my first French Line battalion of some 150 figures a week earlier than expected. Yes, there is a schedule in mind when I started on the project although it only exists in my mind's eye as something to try and work to. But generally speaking I am trying to paint at least 36 figures a month.
British Royal Artillery Officers
"I had in the spreadsheet some wagons, horse teams and various officers for the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Foot Artillery too, with very little thought of when they might be ‘scheduled in’. Well here was the opportunity! So with paint brush in hand I set to getting on with it.
Two views of the RFA team, limber and gun
The gunners can be detached from the limber, and dismountable
gunners with teams moved rearward will be reflected in our rules

"The first thing I had to do was create a Royal baggage train head conversion to some of the riders of the wagon. The model was a Perry but had RHA tarletons – not what was required for the Royal baggage team. I did a little research and discovered two options from different sources. “The Waterloo Companion”, and The Mont St Jean website which we have been using, conflicted in the hats that were worn. 

"However, I had seen the British Light Dragoon style helmet in other sources, such as a contemporary painting, and thought that’s the one to go for. Chris, very kindly, scoured his mountain of “Waterloo” plastic and came up with the appropriate goods from a plastic Perry British Hussar box. Plenty of painting and twisting of wire to make ‘rope’ for the teams took place.

Two views of Kevin's Royal wagon train model

The smithy or field forge was also fun to put together and laying out in an interesting vignette for one of our 1:3 games.

The field forge. I think it would do for either side as a marker if a cannon is damaged
and undergoing repair. However, it will be mainly British guns on the battle area we can manage.
"After painting for 5 hours a day the whole lot came to fruition and will get used on the day! Can’t wait!" 

About the photos
(by CG) Kevin hinted at a new process for his model photography and I asked him to explain. This is what he wrote:
"If you are interested in the photographic process, here's a quick description of how.

The photo method I use is really easy to do and only involved an additional front lighting source to natural light and an A4 piece of white paper.

The models are laid on the front portion of the paper and, directly behind the model, the paper is curved up vertically to create the background. A miniature version of an infinity photographic studio! Dead easy.

Its best to use at least 2x zoom on the camera to foreshorten the perspective for a nice shot. Depth of field is hit and miss on my camera as it is a 'point and shoot' but it works sufficiently well.

 I use a table lamp directly above the camera for additional illumination making sure shadows are not too visible on the backdrop of paper. Will do some more tests in the future to get better results as I am not happy with the light source sometimes, as direct sunlight from a window is not recommended since the sun needs to be behind cloud to provide a softer image! That's what comes of not having a full miniature lighting kit and no 'blackout' room!

A quick crop and colour balance in Photoshop and jobs a good un! I might try a gradient colour backdrop next time created by a spray colour being applied only to the backdrop of the paper.

 I find it fun to try to get good photos of my models. Then I lose interest and put them in storage (until a wargames day that is!) and it's onto painting the next batch of whatever I have scheduled in. I love the painting process. Its a joy.

(and By Golly, Kev, it shows in your results - thanks for your great contributions to my blog, CG)

Thursday 6 February 2014

Waterloo Project: Nassau Light Company

Now here's what I call a pretty cool uniform (and it's not light blue!!). Whoever invented this smart rig of green with black facings and lots of yellow lace supported by buff equipment straps, ought to have won the Stella McCartney prize for fashion design, or whatever its Napoleonic equivalent was.
Trumpeter and Sergeant of Nassau Voltigeur company

I'm not being too fussy as I get a bit confused with the battalions of Nassau troops at Waterloo. They fought, at least, at Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte (LHS), behind the central ridge, and on the Allied left flank. Their uniform was still in their old French style even though now opposed to the Emperor. I only need one large light company for the LHS scenarios I'm organising, but Kevin needs the best part of a battalion for Hougoumont - the 1st battalion of the 2nd Nassau Regiment, I believe.  Mine is 54 figures, representing about 162 men - Nassau battalions were very strong at Waterloo, around 950 men in 6 companies. The "Waterloo Companion" gives 800 at Hougoumont and Kevin's spreadsheet shows he has opted for approximately 650 to allow for some losses - about 215 figures. Apart from my 50 we will be making them up from the contributions of 3 other wargamers, so maybe we won't see the full battalion till the day in Summer 2015. I will just be concentrating on my Voltigeur Company for this post.

Being generally a wargaming cheapskate I've opted for a lot of plastic in this project and I've got about 4 boxes of Victrix French infantry to dip into. So I raided them all to get the bits I needed to assemble 54 Voltigeurs. For those not familiar with these, here is a look at them in the raw state.
The big down-side is there are lots of fiddly pieces to identify, snip off the sprue, trim then glue. It took me about a week of spare time to make up this company, I used bits from various boxes, some moulded in different shades of grey (only two, not 50!)
Unless I had quite a few more boxes it would be very difficult to get the entire unit in the same position, but that didn't matter as, for a light company, I expect them to spend a lot of the game in open order, manning defences, or doing other non-linear escapades. More on the posing detail later but for now its 48 privates on 3- figure bases, 4 x NCOs  individually, and a command stand of the bugler and officer. Oh, and a casualty figure in case he's needed! By the way, sometimes I cut up old plastic credit cards and membership cards to make bases when I can't be bothered to shell out for commercial plastic or MDF ones; unfortunately, occasionally some of them warp a bit when the texturing is applied, so be warned - spend the money and be safe!
I find a very good product for the base coat is Army Painter spray paint.  Not only is it a good quality finish and doesn't clog up the nozzle, but it's well named "army" painter. I have used one can of "Army Green" so far on this project for about 40 x 95th Rifles, 134 x 2nd KGL light, 54 Nassau Light, and just added about 120 towards the Luneburg battalion, and it's still not finished after approx 350 28mm figures.  Once dry, for this unit I gave them all a quick thinned coat, with a big brush, of Citadel Snot Green followed by Caliban Green. That gives a variation in tone for shading. Then, to boost my morale, their distinctive green and yellow Voltigeur epaulettes, plus the faces and hands, so they looked human.
Here you can see that I had applied a coat of acrylic structure gel over the figure bases and the card bases to help blend them in. The green colour is just the "Army Green" spray base coat, not any attempt at grass. 

I won't bore you with all the painting procedure but now show the finished result before applying the Army Painter "marmite" - Quickshade.

The bugler close-up is an example of what I had to do for all the figures except the officer - paint on the Hungarian knot-like decoration on the breeches freehand.  My hand isn't steady enough to describe the circles in yellow so I first painted a yellow cross with slightly rounded edges. 106 yellow crosses later and I went back using a very fine brush and dotted green spots in each trefoil and a separator line going up to the waist. It wasn't as difficult as it sounds and I think the result is worth it as that's one of the distinctive features of this uniform.
Now to texture the bases with sawdust and sand mixture followed by Javis static grass, a good spray with matt varnish and they were ready for me to experiment with in formations! The initial assembly was done just before Christmas and I set myself to finish them by "the end of January" - that happened on January 31st.
The company deployed in skirmish order with one half forward and the other
half acting as formed reserve

Given the choice of Voltigeur figures in the Victrix box, I opted to make twelve
kneeling - firing or at the ready, intermixed with 12 standing looking as if they
 might be advancing or ready to fire. To my mind these are the best to represent skirmishers.

Then I chose parts to fit to two standing/walking torsos to make loading poses of different kinds.
The front rank being nearly "ready" and the second rank pouring powder and ball down the barrel
of the musket. I ignored the possibility of some of this company having rifles
as I already have enough rifle-armed troops for LHS, and need the variety.
Here is a close up of the back view . I wanted the brass bugle horn badges on the cartridge boxes to look good and didn't expect to be able to do that in paint, so I added a couple of hundred to my sheet of self -made transfers. A bit fiddly cutting them all up and sliding them on, but I think it was worth it. (Note the slight base-warping of the left hand stand)
To finish off my experiment I wanted to see how much space they occupy in  two, three and  four-rank line formations. The two rank line is approximately 50 metres at our 1:3 ground scale, so for shoulder to shoulder close order for 150 men that feels exactly right to me.

To conclude I'd just like to say that the only other time I've used Victrix was their Austrian Grenadiers box 
grenadiers anyone? and they proved simpler to assemble. I think these French must be an early design and if you are the type who likes minimal preparation before painting they are not for you, but if you are a diorama builder then the possibilities for variety of poses is very good indeed.