The Waving Flag: Painter's Miscellany #5

Monday 1 January 2024

Painter's Miscellany #5

It's been a while since I posted anything in this occasional series.  This is more a "thought piece" delving a bit deeper into my approach to painting ancient and medieval toy soldiers.

It was prompted by a post by Dave Hollin on the Society of Ancients forum:

"I have to ... admit that I obsess over the appearance of my figures.  Whether this is [the] accuracy of their clothing (including getting the colours right), [their] weapons or [their] formation, as well as how they actually look on the table."

I began to think: to what extent did this fit with my approach to painting armies?  After some reflection I decided that the look is all important, but not necessarily accuracy because:

  • I am heavily influenced by the famous comic artist Jack Kirby and view all figures I paint as cartoons with all that implies for simplicity and the approach to shading etc.  I've even been known to paint three fingers not four (if you know, you know).
  • In achieving the above I have been influenced by the likes of Steve Dean & early Kevin Dallimore.  The former has painted some really atmospheric 15 mm armies which I try and emulate.  But this is technique not historical details.
  • With this in mind, I research the period, but only so I can set a suitable colour palette to give the army the "right look".  After that I try to paint freely within the palette.

Invariably the final result will not be "accurate" but I aim for something suggestive, and hopefully evocative, of the period.

Of course the final look may be historically based, but it could equally be based on a film (think Hollywood Romans) or a clichéd toy soldier look that has stood the test of time (purple & gold for generals etc).

I also bear in mind that the figures have to be easily distinguished on a wargames table during a game.  So I use flags and paint to do this wherever possible.  You know the sort of thing: knights with mainly red and yellow heraldry and pennons.

For me this approach has a number of benefits.  Firstly, the armies look different from one another.  Secondly, I don't stress too much about accuracy etc.  Finally, I stay well clear of painting every army the same mix of red, blue & green (the modern curse of contrast paints).

After all, you've got to get some pleasure out of painting otherwise you'll go crackers.


Venta Silurum said...

yes and some would say I have already gone crackers! Very useful comments Martin and perhaps I should be more 'Hollywood' and less 'precise'

especially as my painting finesse is not that good!

Vexillia said...

I couldn't possibly comment ....

Venta Silurum said...

er, well, yes....


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