What with a computer melt-down, a blast of hot fine weather, and a slew of overseas guests, slipping away into my study to do a spot of painting has been quite difficult so far this year. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t progressed just a little on at least a couple of projects.
Firstly, I picked up a few sets of Minden Miniatures figures last year. These included a couple of sets of general officers (Prussian, and – for some odd reason, as I don’t have any such army – Austrians). But best of all, I also got the lovely mounted civilians, the ladies riding sidesaddle. Exquisite figures, that I couldn’t resist painting straight away.
I decided to paint them up as two separate pairs. The first pair (seen on the left below) are ornately attired, and so I could let my rococo urge go wild. The other two (seen below on the right) are somewhat more plainly dressed. The young man, in fact, could be young Barry Lyndon himself. Note that they are still waiting to be based.
Moving forward 100 years, my most recent purchase has been a naval landing party by Empress Miniatures, the latest in installment in their New Zealand Wars range. You can see them below, undercoated using my usual technique of black automotive primer, dry-brushed with light grey to make the detail pop for easier painting.
They are absolutely exquisite, as expected. Fantastic animation and facial expressions. Lovely clean castings (so clean that when I did my usual filing and cleaning prior to their detergent bath, there was nothing to remove apart from one mould-line across the top of one hat!).
The figures depict some cool and unusual subjects. There is an officer (or is it a mate) blowing a bosun’s whistle (top right in the above picture). He wears a Napoleonic-looking long tailed coat and a peaked cap.
I also like the top-hatted officer in the picture above. Here you can see his long coat very well.
Another character is the bare-headed guy in shirt-sleeves, running forward waving a cutlass (centre right in the above pic). Maybe it is Lieutenant Philpotts, who famously ditched most of his naval clothing when charging into his last battle at Ohaeawai Pa? Though his features look a bit too negroid, so maybe he is an ordinary sailor.
The 32-pounder gun is immense. To think this massive piece of equipment really was dragged miles through the rugged New Zealand bush.
I was initially puzzled by the two man rammer crew – I’d never before heard of two men ramming at once, as photographed on the Empress Miniatures website. But it turns out the second rammer figure was actually designed to be handing the ramrod to the first rammer in readiness, and not both of them jointly ramming the gun as the photo on the Empress site. I’ve set them up correctly in my photos, though the second rammer is bit obscured.
My problem now is how to paint these sailors. Should they have the light blue neck-cloths with white border that we associate with sailors today, or were the 1840s a smidgen early for such uniforms?
Looking closely at the models, the collar appears to be that of the shirt folded over the jacket, not of the jacket itself. You can see at the front neck of the figures how the collar disappears under the knotted neckscarf and inside the jacket lapels.
The paintings of the New Zealand Northern Wars of this period appear to show collars the same dark blue colour as the jacket – though the figures in he paintings are not particularly detailed, so one can’t be too sure. So if the collar is a shirt collar, but looks in these paintings to be dark blue like the jacket, does that mean the guys in shirtsleeves will have blue collars on their white or grey shirts?
But other period photos of the mid 1840s I’ve seen (not in New Zealand settings, though) show a light blue collar, presumably the colour of the shirt collar over the jacket, or maybe an early form of the traditional detachable sailor collar. An intriguing puzzle for me to solve …
Finally, what was it that happened with my computer? Well, a strong smell of burning plastic led us to find one dead computer in the study. The local repair shop said a capacitator had failed catastrophically, taking out quite a few other components at the same time. Luckily they got my data of the hard drive.
So off to the shop to buy a brand new laptop as a replacement for our old bulky desktop. Much joy and happiness to have a modern, up-to-date beastie – until we found out that its Windows 8 operating system is indeed a beast – a bad beast! I just couldn’t figure out how to work it. For week I soldiered on with it, getting more and more disillusioned
Then luckily a friend told me about a freeware program called Classic Shell. It downloaded and installed simply, and – hey presto! – has given me back the capability I’m used to from previous Windows versions.
So now all is well. And my study desk is a lot less cluttered! Here is the new beastie in place – compare it with the photo of the old one above.