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Ptolemaic Phalangite Project: Phase Three


The Underpinnings

Now we get to the fun part: matching Jeff’s sample figures.  I wasn’t planning to try and paint the unit exactly the same way that Jeff did, mainly because I don’t know all his secrets.  But my goal was to achieve much the same effects as he did, using the techniques that I know and with which I am comfortable.
Jeff achieves a very subtle effect in shading and color gradation.  Since I don’t know exactly how he does it (although I could guess), I’m going to rely on layering and washes.  For the first step, I planned to lay a dark color in the deepest spots: up under the tunic between the legs, and behind the shield.  I don’t really believe Jeff consciously places color in those spots, but relies on washes to do the work.  I’m never really satisfied relying on washes for that; I tend to get results that aren’t quite consistently dark enough.

So the first thing I did was slop some Vallejo Military Color (VMC) 826 German Camouflage Medium Brown into those places.  It was a thin coat of paint, laid in with a wet brush.  If you must know, it’s a workhorse brush: a Grumbacher Golden Edge #1.  It gets a lot of use for base colors like this.  It’s old and worn, and the tip is starting to curl, which is actually convenient for getting into deep spots.
This photo shows the medium brown in addition to the next step, the flesh “shadow” color.  As you really can’t see up between the figures’ legs, and all you can see is the medium brown behind the shields, there wasn’t much sense in taking a shot of just that.

You can see that this went on fast, and it didn’t matter if some got slopped onto the face of the shield, or onto the left arms or the thighs, or even… yes, I managed to catch the edge of the helmet on the left-hand figure!  No worries: it’s all get covered by other colors, and it even works to add a little bit of a gradation under those colors.  The point of the exercise is to work quickly.

Again, it was a thin coat, which Vallejo provides right out of the bottle when well shaken, and thinned a little by the wet brush.  It reminds me a lot of what “Uncle” Duke Seifried used to call his “stain painting” technique, which he’d teach back in the late 1970s as he’d stump about the country peddling his then-new acrylic range of Heritage Models paint.  And it’s also reminiscent of the effect that Hummel figurine painters achieve by using a thin coat of paint over matte-glazed porcelain.

During this step, I noticed a few things.  One was something I forgot to mention during the assembly process: the Newline shields that Jeff supplied not only had two different faces, but had a variety of backs as well.  I also noticed some spots that required a little more removal of mold lines.  This is a good time to either file those again and re-prime, or in a couple of cases, to start planning to conceal the problem area during the painting process (if removing more metal would actually have a worse effect).  I also apparently noticed something about the straps on the older generation of models.  Unfortunately, at the time, I wrote down just “straps on older models” in my painting notes, and I’ll be darned if I can remember what that meant!
At the end of the first step, it was essential to go back and check each figure.  Sure enough, a couple had one aspect uncovered.  Always double-check.

The next step proceeded directly after the first; with 35 figures, the first step on the first figures was be plenty dry by the time the last one was done, even working quickly.  This second step was to cover all the flesh areas with a “shadow” color.  Now many of you will be familiar with the “Foundry” style of painting, developed by Kevin Dallimore.  This involves laying down a coat of a reddish-brown color and then painting over two sets of flesh and highlights, leaving the reddish color at the edges, and as lines to mark the boundaries between major muscles, knuckles, and other joints.  I don’t care for it myself: the result always looks too much like a butcher’s meat-cutting chart to me.  And it is completely incompatible with Jeff’s more subtle style.

So my reddish-brown went go all over, but would probably be only directly visible right at the edges of the flesh areas, if at all.  It was there to make sure that there is a darker boundary area in those places.  It also served a second purpose, which was to undercoat the flesh with a reddish color.  I don’t know for sure that Jeff does not use a “flesh wash”, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t.  I often do, but did not in this case.  Because I would be using thin layers of flesh color over it, this undercoat would provide a subtle reddish tinge from underneath.  (Jeff has given his Egyptians—both native and those officers of possible Macedonian descent, a fairly light overall skin tone.  I may do something darker on my own.)

This flesh “shadow” was Golden (brand) Burnt Sienna.  I like Golden acrylics for their heavy pigmentation.  This needed to be thinned a bit out of the bottle to flow better, matching about the same consistency as unthinned Vallejo.  Once again, it went on fast and a bit sloppy.

No, that’s not really the same photo as above, just brightened.  It was actually zoomed in, which will teach me to stop doing that!  But you can see again that neatness didn’t count.  Some went onto the armor and in other spots.  It’ll be covered with other colors: and as with the first step, these coats are thin enough that they will not obscure detail.

I took care to get the flesh shadow into all the necessary spots, including under the chin, onto the neck in front, and around the greaves on the figures that have them.  I went ahead and did the whole bare legs of the figures without greaves, as I planned to paint the greaves over them as Jeff had done with his samples of the older generation of figures.  

I started to pay attention to the face at this point, and came to the conclusion that I would change my plans a bit.  I had intended to suggest eyes before the next flesh step, but looking more carefully now, I could see that this might not be a good idea.   I don’t know who sculpted the first generation figures, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Rob Baker, who originally sculpted the 1st Corps ranges when he started the company.  These don’t look like his faces, which are very identifiable.  Their eyes in particular are awkward to paint, with prominent upper and lower lids, with only a slit in between.

The newer generation of figures are obviously Rob Baker’s, the Curtises having gone back to him to do the new Successor range.  Now on those, I could have a go at suggesting the eye, but it would be odd to have the rear rank figures more detailed than the ones in the frant ranks.  And looking at Jeff’s samples, I could now see that he hinted at eyes for the rank and file, although he was more definite with the command figures (see Part I).  So I made a mental note to address the eyes a little differently, but at a later step.
After laying down the flesh shadow, I went back and checked each figure.  Sure enough: I’d missed a face.  Always double-check.

The third “underpinning” step was to lay down the base color for the tunics.  This was VMC 967 Flat Green.  This went on again in a thin coat right out of the bottle, using the same #1 Grumbacher as for the first two steps.  I applied it with a little more care, so as not to slop any over the flesh portions or the areas of fabric armor.  The only place requiring any special care, though, was laying in a stripe on the upper left arm behind the shield.  Here’s the in-progress shot, now at a better camera angle.

In the photo, which has been brightened a bit, it appears quite light for a shadow color, and it is.  The thin coat self-shades in the recesses, leaving the raised spots lighter.  This is extremely useful, as it shows you right where to highlight in a later step!
By now you know that I double-checked.  No problems, but I touched up a few edges while checking.  Always double-check.

Now it was time for the fourth step, applying the main flesh color over the flesh shadow color.  I used VMC 927 Dark Flesh, still using the trusty #1 Grumbacher, which was washed thoroughly between colors.  Again, the paint was a thin coat, right out of the bottle.  But I did one or two figures, and didn’t like the result.  It was going to turn out too light in the end, and I needed to darken it and make less of a sharp change from the Golden shadow coat.  Well, the solution was right at hand.  There was still thinned Burnt Sienna nice and wet on my wet palette, and a brush-tip of it mixed with each brush-full of Dark Flesh gave just the right result.  I applied the thin coat liberally, just taking care not to slop any over onto the tunic or armor.  (Yes, I was still practicing taking out-of focus shots!)

I did not worry about letting it flow all over the facial detail or between the fingers and toes.  Remember, I was not using the shadow coat to define the detail in those areas.  A later wash would do that.  I just wanted to get a fairly consistent coverage, and as with the tunic base coat, le the thin flesh coat make its own highlights.  The “Macedonian” troops in linothorax and metal helmet have sandal straps incised on their feet; I went right over those, planning to pick them out later.

At some point during this step, I laid down my cleaned Grumbacher #1, and when I went to pick it up, I picked up a Winsor & Newton University Series 233 #1 instead!  I didn’t notice the difference for a while.  It’s a synthetic brush, and just fine for this sort of work.  But I went back to the Grumbacher later, when I noticed that I had inadvertently switched.
Double-check?  Check.  No problems.  But always double-check.

The fifth step (or as it turned out, a series of steps) was to put down a base coat for the fabric armor, both the (most likely) linen of the linothorax and pteruges, and the cotton of the native quilted corselets and helmets.  I thought about using just a pure white and relying on the subsequent wash to tint it as well as defining the detail.  But then upon examining Jeff’s figures some more, I thought I would give the base coat just a little more depth.  So I took VMC 820 White and added just enough VMC 977 Desert Yellow to make it just not quite blindingly white.
What made this more complicated than a single step was the fact that the new generation of figures had a fringe of long hair peeping out from under the cotton helmet.  This meant that for those sixteen figures, I would need to do the body armor, then break to do the hair in black, and then do the helmet.  I did the hair with VMC 862 Black Grey, thin enough that it self-highlighted.
Upon double-checking, I noticed that on four figures, I had managed to skip over the pteruges on the left hip under the shield.  So I did those quickly to finish the step.  Always double-check!

The sixth step involved the large metallic bits: the shields, the greaves on the new generation of figures, and the helmets on the “Macedonian” figures.  The greaves for the old generation of figures would be painted on later, and the grips of the swords and the chapes of the scabbards would also be last-minute detail work.
I made this step far more complicated than it really needed to be, but I wanted it to work out the way it did!  The first thing to do—and you’re going to be thinking now that I should be committed to an institution, was to cover all those areas with a coat of khaki: specifically VMC 988 Khaki.  A crazy color choice?  Maybe.  But I wanted to accomplish two specific things with it.  First, I wanted it to be very visible, so that I would be sure to cover over it in the following sub-steps and get good coverage.  Second, this particular Vallejo paint goes on with excellent opacity, and makes a very smooth finish: just the thing to make a new starting point for the metal—almost a second primer.

After the khaki dried, I went over it with the VMC 145 medium brown that I had used previously for the deep shadows.  It does not cover as well as the khaki, and required two thin coats to get both good coverage and a smooth finish; using the khaki underneath made a good indicator to make sure the darker color covered.
Then I went over the metal area with VMC 998 Bronze.  It also does not cover well or go on smooth, so required two coats.  More importantly, it is nothing like the reddish-coppery metal that Jeff painted his figures.  That would be tough to match.  The VMC bronze is brassy and greenish.  But it adds depth underneath another metal color.

The final metal “undercoat” was VMC 801 Brass, but not by itself.  It is quite yellowish, but nowhere near as red as what Jeff had used.  Indeed, I have nothing like what Jeff used!  The closest I could come was to add my favorite metallic powder that I use when painting Bronze: Venus Bronze Powder No. 98.  It’s redder than the VMC Brass.  When I use it on its own, I mix it into Delta 7011 Artists Gel as a carrier.  In this case, I just added it to the Vallejo acrylic; this made it slightly redder, but still not a good match for Jeff’s samples.  In the final detail phase, you’ll find out the secret of how I matched them.

Now Jeff did use a “brassier” or gold tone on the front part of the “Macedonian” helmet, and then filed it in with black.  I left that part the brassy Vallejo bronze, and did not go over it with the redder brass color at this point.  We’ll see if that is close enough in the final steps.  Here are the unshielded sides of the three types of figures.

And here are the shielded sides:

Again, a double-check showed no missed spots, but it provided a good opportunity to go over several shields with a thin coat of the final color just to even things out.  Always double-check.

The seventh step was quick and simple: just going over the straps from which the aspis shields are suspended, using a darker color than the final highlight.  One again, I used the Vallejo medium brown.  I did the sword scabbards at the same time, with the same color.  Here are the unshielded sides (on the “Macedonian” figure, note the groove running diagonally across the torso and across the belt caused by drilling the hands and ensuring they lined up to hold a pike; it’s not a flaw in the figure):

And here are the shielded sides.

A double-check showed nothing missed, but you know the rule by now!
Those are a lot of steps, but they took relatively little time.  Working quickly with thin coats, and working from inwards out, you automatically correct most errors as you go.
Now I was ready for the final detailing steps.  But first, a wash would be needed to pop out the detail.  But since this section has gone on quite enough already, I’ll cover the wash in Phase 4.


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