Saturday, January 25, 2014

Men of bronze (and brassy women)

I just completed the first eight figures of my growing tribe of Bronze Age warriors. The figures are from Monolith Designs/Graven Images 40mm Prehistoric Europe line. I recently reviewed these favorably and find that I love them even more now that I've finished the first batch.

Bronze Age hedonism
I'm in the midst of painting another 10 figures and have eight more cleaned, assembled, and primed. After I prime them and before I start painting, I attach the figures to a 25mm x 30mm Litko base and apply a slab of Golden Coarse Pumice Gel to build up the area around the figure.

Based and gelled
However, I've run out of Litko bases, more of which should have arrived yesterday according to the USPS tracking website prognostications, but it looks like they're stuck in Valparaiso, IN. I can't think of a worse fate, unless it's being stuck in Barstow, CA (which almost happened to me many years ago).

En garde!
The figures are mostly dressed in a kind of kilt. So far, I've painted these in solid colors. I may get creative with some figures and try painting some sort of proto ur-plaid pattern. The Iron Age textiles I saw in the Danish National Museum had patterns like that and I recall thinking back then that I would paint that pattern on a figure some day. The man and the moment have met...

Bowman and slinger
My color palette for these figures is pretty subdued. I'm not sure what kind of dyes they had available ca. 3000 years ago. Browns, grays, muted greens, perhaps some orange and madder red. There are books on Neolithic-Bronze Age cloth, but they are very expensive. If you think wargaming is a spendy niche, try following prehistoric textile studies.

Bronze Age champion
So far, I've used Vallejo Hammered Copper for the metal, although I brushed some Vallejo Brass on the sword blades and armor highlights. Over that I did a black wash.

Snazzy kilt, shiny sword, knobby shield
I've given the figures just one shot of dullcote so far. I'll give them a spray of Krylon Matte Finish, which is just a bit satiny, and a final dullcote after that. The last touch will be brushing some gloss (or maybe satin) clear over the sword blades and armor to give them a polished sheen.

The way of all flesh

The first eight figures gave me a sense of how they would paint. I thought I would need to experiment a bit more with new methods. My biggest concern was that there is a lot of bare flesh (and even more so with my cult dancers "Fella and Ursula") and I didn't think my standard methods of painting skin would scale up to 40mm. However, it did.

I applied an overall base coat of Howard Hues Ruddy Flesh. When dry, I apply a thick wash made up of two big drops of Liquitex Matte Medium, one small drop of Ceramcoat Burnt Sienna, and about six to 10 drops of dihydrogen monoxide. The result is a not-too-thin varnish that adds a patina to tone down the starkness of the base coat and seep into the crevasses and contours to provide depth to the surface. I've been doing this for caucasian flesh tones for about a dozen years or so. It works.

Contours and crevasses
The wash has a mind of its own, however, and it tends to pool sometimes in places I'd rather it didn't. The effect can look like the figure has been playing in the muck or shat itself. For the Bronze Age I suppose either could be true. Other times, other customs. I won't judge. Nor will I try to clean up the awkward brown pools. I might just mess things up further.

Damn your eyes

I hate painting eyes, mostly because I suck at it. I've abandoned it for 28mm figures to no ill effect. Unless you pick up a figure and scrutinize its wee face, you won't know that it's blind like a mole. But I thought that the bigger 40mm figures would require more attention. So they do, but the sculpting of the figures seems to have a lot of the eyes in a squint. For these figures, I just applied a second, slightly thicker wash to they eye sockets. In the few cases where the eyes appear more open, I painted the sclera using Vallejo Silver Grey. I opted for that instead of white so as to keep from getting too much of a popped effect. I then just gave it a dark dot (as near to a dot as my feeble skills can manage) for the iris/pupil.

Eyes help when shooting a bow
The effect works pretty well. Although, I always fear getting the cockeyed look when you don't (or can't in my case) manage to synchronize the pupils. It will look like there was a lot of lazy eye in the Bronze Age.

I can tell by your eyes that you have the legs of a dancer
Or art thou base, common and popular?

After I complete painting the figures, I give them their initial spritz of dullcote, and then I finish the base. I apply a slightly thinned coat of Vallejo Mud Brown from their Model Air range of airbrush-ready colors. When that dries, I drybrush over it with Vallejo Iraqi Sand to give it some highlights.

For flocking, I apply a coat of Mod Podge and then sprinkle Woodland Scenics Earth Blend Turf. I do a second coat after the first has dried and I've removed the excess. I have to daub a thinned coat of Mod Podge over the first layer of flocking, otherwise I'll smudge it all around. Two coats give a better depth and coverage. On top of the Earth Blend flocking, I daub on patches of full strength Mod Podge and then apply a layer of Woodland Scenics Light Green Coarse Turf. I press this on to get a thickness. I have to carefully remove the excess after it dries, which usually requires tweezers to get into tight spaces. Finally, on a base or two, I apply some of the Army Painter flowers for a nice touch beauty amid the mayhem.

Les fleurs du mal
Next steps

If my Litko bases arrive today, I'll get several more figures prepped to paint. They paint quickly—no Napoleonic piping nastiness—and even spending time individualizing each figure is no hinderance to rapid progress. Unless I see a shiny thing in the near future, I should have the figures in my first Monolith Designs order finished by the end of February.

I ordered a chariot, another champion, and some of the bucklers for the tucked-in-shield-arm guys. Steve Mussared mentioned that he will be getting to making some more masters in February. I hope that means there will be more figures to order. I'm planning a game for our upcoming Enfilade! convention in May.


In case you're wondering, yes, that stuff in the close-ups is cat hair. The little furballs get everywhere.


  1. Nice work so far, David. I'm keen to see these in-person. Hmmm, 40mm - that is an odd size, and I'd like to see just how much smaller they are then 54mm - which there is an abundance of figures. Great work nonetheless. Dean

  2. Great start and super figures.I like the thickness of your bases,much more solid looking than my mdf ones.Are such bases available in the UK?

  3. Great paintjob, details are really good!

  4. You should be able to order the Litko bases in the UK. I use the 3mm thick ones. I also get the thin adhesive magnetic base to affix to the bottoms. All y storage boxes are lined with metal or flexible steel sheet so I don't have the problem of things shifting in transit.

  5. My last order of Litko bases came in yesterday's mail, so I've already based the next eight figures and troweled on the coarse pumice gel.

  6. Great paint job. I have some of those miniatures.