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Deux Soldats Français , Août 1914

Discussion in 'vBench (Works in Progress)' started by Old Man, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. Old Man Member

    Country:
    United-States
    I am starting to try and get two decent figures of French soldiers at the start of the Great War out of the ICM French Infantry 1914 set. I suppose this is where I should post up, as the 'getting started' forum seems mostly queries nowadays. I am pretty much a fledgling on figures, though I did a number of them in my teens --- that was a long time ago. I have been doing aircraft, mostly biplanes, for the last fifteen years or so.

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    I got the ICM 'French Infantry, 1914' set a year ago. While I certainly wanted to do a figure of a French soldier at the start of the Great War, my intent was that this set would serve, too, as practice for doing a couple of white metal Napoleonic figures I had also bought.

    The ICM figures have, however, to be assembled before they can be painted, and that --- well, that is something else again.

    The set contains parts for three enlisted men and an officer, all in 'action' poses. I got started on one soon after I got the set, but set it aside. Now that I have put two of these together, I understand most of that work was wasted. I was painting as I assembled, in the fond hope things would fit as the project progressed....

    I really should know better by now.

    I would definitely not recommend this set for the novice or the unwary.

    Here are the two figures assembled; rifles are not final, merely in place to illustrate positions, different pieces will be used).

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    The basic problem I see with these figures is the coat skirts. A double-breasted greatcoat was worn, and the skirts were brought back and buttoned to the rear of the coat a bit below the belt, getting them out of the way of the legs. The coat fastens to the right, so the left skirt rides over the right skirt, and its 'fold' comes to the belt well to the right of the buckle. When men were standing still, and the coat at fresh inspection standard, this doubled portion tended to bell out a good bit, but when the thing had been worn a bit and the man was in motion, things were different. The kit parts would provide a belling out of nearly half a foot in scale, which is not appropriate for the sort of poses the figures are in. The relevant portions of the greatcoat's skirting comes in three parts (front left, front right, and a small center piece), and they are so consutructed that test fitting of the unit really is not possible --- you have to glue them to see what you have got. And this will be wide belling, and centers that do not happily align anywhere near where they ought to with the belt.

    On the first of these I did, the soldier with rifle leveled, I cut broad 'vees' into the skirting and pressed these together, removing much of the belling. I then had to build up a bit on the top edge of the skirting, particularly on the center piece, which I did with half millimeter sheet. A good deal of CA gel was employed for filler and minor sculpting. The second one, the man with the rifle a'slant before his body, I piled into after the first was complete in an 'if I'd known then what I know now' spirit, and it went together much more quickly and easily. On this one, I simply fitted the left and right front pieces so there was little belling to start, and constructed my own center piece to fit, from two bits of custom trimmed half millimeter sheet. This proved much easier to bring off.

    The second problem is accoutrements. Things like cartridge cases, haversacks, etc. are separate pieces. This has its points as a method, but the things are not molded in ways that accommodate their attachment to a body. I thinned cartridge cases down a bit, put a bit of hollow into their interior faces, and scraped some recess into the figure to receive them. The haversacks on the left hip, if treated as the kit would have you do, would ride ride out on the belling of the skirts as if that were so much sheet steel, which is simply ridiculous. I cut away portions of the skirting there to accommodate the haversacks.

    There are some problems with the arms, and if I had done only the first figure I would be especially critical of their fit. The cuffs have no opening; the hands stick out from a flat solid surface. They have to be opened up. On the first one, the man with leveled rifle, I opened the cuffs before dressing the sprue attachment, and went on to other things. When I got back to them, I mistook a small tab on the top of the shoulder for excess to be trimmed off. On the second figure, I noticed that this is part of a two-lobed shoulder tab which is part of the uniform, and serves as decent locating indicator, when matched to a similar tab on the shoulder of the torso piece. Without this piece for indicator, I had a devil of a time getting the arms on the first figure. I suspect I would have in any case, because I am pretty sure I did find the 'proper' mating of the surfaces, and it did not work; the angle of the rifle in the hands was very off, and the rifle would not clear the cartridge case on the right front. I wound up sawing a good crease in the crook of the right elbow, to the outside, and bent it so the forearm was both wider from the body, and bent a little more sharply at the elbow. The left arm I fitted to the figure so it gripped the rifle well, which left a sizeable gap to fill with CA gel (a good deal of this was required on the right arm to shoulder joint, too). The arms on the second figure, though, went on quite nicely, and accommodated the rifle well without much fuss. I replaced the tab I cut away on the first figure with a bit of square rod.

    Here are the figures under primer, ready to begin painting.

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    On the off chance that a painting technique would work, and possibly be of use to someone else, I kept pretty close track of what I did from here on. In looking up information on how to paint flesh tones, I came upon a technique called Verdaccio, also known as 'dead coloring', in which flesh areas are first painted a grey-green, after which the flesh tones are added. As this tone is dead opposite to the colors commonly employed for flesh, it gives some depth and shading almost automatically when the flesh tones are applied over it. Some experiment showed it did indeed give decent results. It occurred to me the same principle, if applied to other colors, might give good results, so I prepared the figures in a sort of 'color negative' by applying washes of opposite color over the primer, which concentrate in the recesses: orange where blue will go, dark green where red will go, blue where tan will go. And, of course, the 'dead color' grey-green on the face and hands (with the eyes scraped clean of the wash with a toothpick point). I think the technique worked well enough to persevere with, though it seems better suited to light colors than to dark ones.

    Here are the figures in their 'color negative' undercoat (a bit of burnt sienna was run into places on the coat that wold be particularly dark).

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    I began by doing the greatcoats, the largest part of the figures. I am using artist's tube acrylics, thinned with water. The basic color here is ultramarine blue with some black and a bit of white added. Here are the figures with just a coat of the basic color applied to the greatcoats:

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    While this did give some deep shadow, I thought it needed more in many places, so here are the figures with some shadow (ultramarine plus black) put in:

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    Here are the figures with highlights put in (straight ultramarine):

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    (somehow, the lens got a bit smudged, but this was not noticed till wife processed the pictures, and more paint was on by then...)

    Here are the figures with all other basic colors put in:

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    Les pantalon rouge are done with cadmium red mixed with a little burnt sienna. The undercoating worked very well here, what you see is a single thin coat of the basic color. The haversacks and blankets are a PollyScale deck tan cut with a little ultramarine, the black is a Model Master black also cut with a little blue. This will let me use straight black for darkest areas, and most of the black surfaces will be tube acrylic Mars Black, which has a reddish cast. The undercoating worked well on the tan areas also --- I expect the technique is most useful when the opposite color is darker than the color to be applied.

    What is on now is only the basic coloring; there will be blending coats and considerable touchings up, and the various belts and straps have to be done, along with some detail painting. But this is pretty much what things will look like.

    Next is the faces, and please, wish me luck on the eyes....
  2. Nap Forum Moderator

    Country:
    England
    Hi there Old Man ,

    Firstly a big welcome to PF

    Thanks for posting these and the way you are approaching them is interesting to see

    Looking forward to seeing more

    Nap
  3. peedee A Fixture

    Country:
    United-Kingdom
    A very interesting approach.
    You have done well with the build, the poses look very natural.

    Paul.
    Huw63 likes this.
  4. Huw63 PlanetFigure Supporter

    Country:
    Switzerland
    I couldn't agree more.

    Cheers

    Huw
  5. taff edwards A Fixture

    Country:
    United-Kingdom
    Well come
    Going to follow the post with interest looks an interesting project
    Chris
  6. Old Man Member

    Country:
    United-States
    First, thanks much for the welcome, guys. I signed up here more than six years ago, the last time the figure bug bit me. It comes and goes. That time I did an Art Girona 54mm white metal English officer, of the 66th Foot at Maiwan (not such a bloody good show for the Raj). I got some useful critique on it (it was a bit shiny, and the eyes were a bit too much). Last year I gave it a decent matte coat and re-worked the eyes a bit....

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    Second, thanks for the interest and kind comments on the project. ICM I know from their airplane kits; it is a good manufacturer, but they tend to over-engineer, never using two parts where six will do. I can generally horse something into shape, and since I do a lot of scratch-building (old biplanes in 1/72 mostly) I have few reservations about piling in and tweaking something, or making my own parts. I am glad you guys think they came out looking well (at keast pre-painted...).

    I remain a bit shy of tackling the face and eyes, and so decided to go ahead and do the blendings on the basic colors. Here a few pictures (flash in indoor sunlight):

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    The greatcoats got a thin coat of the basic color over everything, then a dark wash, then highlights picked out with a paler version of the basic color, then another thin coat of the basic color.

    On les pantelons rouge I reinforced shadow with cadmium red heavily cut with burnt sienna, highlights were picked out with straight cadmium red, and then the whole thing got a thin coat of the base color.

    The shadows on haversacks and blankets were reinforced with the basic ot of bottle tan hit heavily with blue, highlights the tan with a bit of yellow, and the whole given a thin coat of the basic tan.

    The black got a thin coat of Mars black cut with some of the dark tan (just because it was ready to hand).

    I piled in and did the straps and belts, though I had not intended to at the session's start (it pt off the face and eyes, after all...). Touchings up where the strap color got on the greatcoat I did with the highlight color, to help the black stand out against the dark blue.

    You might think I was now ready to proceed to the face and eyes, but you would be under-rating my powers of avoidance and putting off doing elements of a modeling project I suspect (or know) I will not enjoy.

    What I did was turn to preparing a base for the two figures, and I will cover this in a separate, succeeding post....
  7. Old Man Member

    Country:
    United-States
    A large expanse of tall grass, of un-mown meadow gone to seed, has always seemed to me a proper base for figures, especially ones on campaign in temperate areas.

    I have spent some time thinking how to achieve this look, and finally hit something.

    It took about ten hours solid work, but here it is....

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    The grass area is three inches by two and a quarter inches (76mm x 57mm).

    These are the materials and tools used:

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    Sisal twine, a green washable marker, white glue on a bit of foil, a bent-nose tweezers, and a scissors.

    To make a tuft, hold the twine near its end. Withe your other hand, twirl the twine against the braid, tap it down on the end, rake at it with the tweezer point --- anything to separate the fibers a bit. Hit the loosened portion with the marker, several times. It does not have to be all green, just mostly green. Hold the fibers at the bottom of the colored portion with the tweezers. Cut along the tweezer grip with the scissors. Dip what protrudes from the tweezer in the glue. Put that on the base. Repeat (for something this area...) something on the order of three hundred times....

    Here is what it looked like midway through....

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    The terrain effects are applied to a square of 1mm plastic sheet, painted dark green and covered with static grass, attached with white glue, as insurance against any gaps in tuft coverage. I marked where the figures will go before applying the static grass by putting black paint on the soles of the boots and touching them to the painted base. I started with a clump in the center, and then went at it like a jigsaw puzzle, doing corners and working along the edges. For the pictures at this stage, I put a few stand-alone tufts in, to show what the individual elements look like. You can see single tufts sort of flanking the central clump in the picture above.

    Here are a couple of pictures showing single tufts up closer:

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    The sheet bearing the grass fits into the recess in the base (which was a novelty miniature chalkboard in a craft store when it started life...). The fit is snug, but loose enough it can be prised out with a knife-point.

    I laying in the tufts, I was careful to leave the 'footprints' open, and to lay tufts pressed down where the men's feat would have gone.

    Here are a couple of shots of the base with the figures in their positions (taken about four in the morning with flash when the thing was finally done...)....

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    So, that is where things stand now.

    I confess I am running out of things to employ to put off doing the face and eyes. Sooner or later I will have to. I have read what I can find here on the subject of eyes particularly, but much of it seems aimed at larger figures. I have gathered that it helps to paint eyes in and then do the flesh around them, so to speak, rather than trying to put eyes in as the last step in the face. I would certainly be grateful for any advice.
  8. arj A Fixture

    Country:
    United-Kingdom
  9. Old Man Member

    Country:
    United-States
  10. Old Man Member

    Country:
    United-States
    Well, I have finally piled on in on the eyes and the faces. Here is what I have got so far....

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    (photos are indoor sunlight with some Kleenex over the flash)

    A couple of things I did not notice till looking at the pictures, and which I have fixed since they were taken:

    The right eye of the left-hand figure lost its lower lid lining; I have put it back in, to about the standard of the rest, and also brought back the white between the iris/pupil and the nose on that eye.

    The final color coat on the right-hand figure left something looking a stark line on the right cheek; I have blended that better.

    I neglected the sides of the necks, which shows starkly, and that I have addressed.

    I tried to get some color for the iris, but seem to have failed: I wanted the fellow without a mustache to have hazel eyes, and te fellow with a mustache to have brown eyes. I tried using transparent green and browns and yellows over the white of the eyes, but it does not seem to have worked.

    I first gave the eyes a wash of dark brown for the 'lid lines', put in the 'iris' as a line extending past the lids, then painted up to the 'lid lines' with a darkish red brown, gone over with paler flesh-tones. I mixed the flesh colors out of white, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue, getting a large pool with various shades for basic, shade, and highlight. Final was a couple of thin coats of a yellow ocher (on the dark side, called 'bronze yellow' by the maker, Liquitex), to give a sense of both olive complexion and tan from summer sun. The hands just got the ocher as a place-holder; I expect I will be bending fingers over the rifles at the end, and figure that will ruin and paint work.

    I did some final eye-work with sharpened toothpicks and barely thinned tube paint; probably infra-dig, but ... it's one of the things I have got used to doing on my aeroplanes.

    I am going to give this a couple of days un-looked at to clear my eyes, and certainly any suggestions for improvement will be most welcome.

    Next phase will be putting in buttons and such, putting on the hats (once I am sure of the face and eyes), and the rifles....

    So far, this has really been pretty fun, an enjoyable break from flying machines....

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