Painted my first Empress ‘New Zealand Wars’ figures

Hot off the painting desk, here are my first eight 1840s New Zealand Wars figures from Empress Miniatures.

The first four figures depict some of the Māori characters in Empress’s range. They include one of the basic warriors, another rather portly Māori warrior, the elderly chieftain Kawiti, and (of course) Hone Heke, wearing his oft-portrayed merchantship captain’s hat.

It is hard to detect in this photo, but I have indicated the tattoos on the faces with pencil. This has come out very subtle indeed – possibly even too subtle, some might say. But I am concerned that anything darker will look wrong, as it would be too hard to do justice to the full facial tatoos of those times.

The second four figures I’ve painted are two privates and two officers of the 58th ‘Black Cuffs’ Regiment. I love the characterful faces (not too successfully reproduced in these photos). The uniforms are quite simple, but did still take me a while to paint, as it took some work to get the straps looking right. This is because Empress (like Perry) sculpt straps of realistic thickness, unlike those of other ranges such as Front Rank, where the straps are more exaggerated in depth, but are therefore more simple to paint cleanly.

I am particularly pleased how dry-brushing a light touch of mud colour to the bottom of the trousers and shoes has given the figures a nice campaign look.

The last photo includes the plastic bell-tent that Empress threw in to our order – a nice touch.  You can also see some of my other Empress figures waiting on the sidelines for their turn to face my paintbrush. 

8 thoughts on “Painted my first Empress ‘New Zealand Wars’ figures

  1. Excellent work, Roly…the painting is to your usual high standard and you’ve made painting those thin straps look easy…even if they weren’t.

  2. Thanks guys.

    The skin tone was easy:
    1) I used Foundry’s Spearshaft Brown B.
    2) I washed the skin with GW Devlan Mud wash.
    3) I did the main highlights with the same Spearshaft Brown B.
    4) I mixed a little flesh with the Spearshaft Brown to do the lightest highlights.
    5) I touched up the eyesockets and gap between the lips with a little more Devlan Mud wash.

  3. Fantastic work, Roly. I really like the way you’ve painted the Maori in particular. I’d never have thought of Foundry spearshaft but it works very well – an inspired idea! Looking forward to seeing more painted figures.

    Best wishes


  4. Fine painting my friend, realistic skin tone on the dark fellows, and lovely work on those chaps in fine red coats. The weathering works very well and contrasts nicely with the vivid red.

  5. Marvellous work, Roly. The idea of using a pencil for the moko is an interesting idea that i will try on my next miniatures. Did you add some additional ornaments to the rapaki of the second from the left and to kawitis korowai cloak?

    I am looking forward to seeing more of this.

    Cheers, Bjoern

  6. Yes, Bjoern, I did. I must admit that I haven’t done much research, so I may have got things wrong (I’m certainly no expert on Maori costume).

    For the ornammentation on the skirt of the second from left, I did a very simple chevron pattern in the colours I most associate with Maori – red, black and white. Despite my best efforts, it didn’t come out too tidily when viewed close up, so it is a bit ‘impressionistic’!

    For Kawiti, I gave him a whole lot of individual white feathers hanging from his cloak. Again, this is more from memory of real cloaks I’ve seen, than from any historical research, so I may have it wrong. But it matches my “mental image” of a Maori cloak, so that’s fine by me.

    The same goes with Hone Heke’s chequered skirt – this too is based on what I *feel* looks right, not necessarily on what is accurate.

I hope I've given you something to think about - please do leave a comment with your thoughts or reactions.

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