20 January 2018

Time to Quit Fooling Around. . .

The almost finished Hanseatic flags and standard bearers in question.  These were the town flags for Bremen (L.) and Elbing (R.). I like them very much, and so borrowed both into my semi-fictitious setting.  They strike me as just the thing for a regiment based on the infantry of the period from Hamburg, Bremen, and Luebeck.


I finally got down to business this afternoon and painted two Hanseatic flags, which will, after glossing, join my 60-strong regiment of RSM95 Hanseatic infantry that I completed back in, oh, late 2011 I think.  They still need a couple of coats of acrylic gloss, but I'm calling them almost done save for a few final touch-ups.  

This (Saturday) evening, I managed to return down here to Zum Stolenkeller, where I assembled two Minden Austrian guns that have been floating around here since 2014 (?) and the two French 8pdr. guns given to me this Christmas by the Grand Duchess.  I also glued a number of artillery tools into the hands of several French, but soon to be Lauzun's Legion, gunners.  All in all, not a bad way to get back  into the painting and modelling chair after too many months away.  Onward and upward as they say.

-- Stokes


Sunday Morning. . . 

Thank you everyone or your kind comments about the flags above.  I typically copy files culled from the web into MS Word, resize, print, cut out, and attach them to flagpoles.  Then, I carefully paint in my own colors and try to add some subtle highlights here and there before glossing everything.  It is not a fast process by any stretch.  

This morning, however, I am fired with enthusiasm, and if I can get through preparations for Monday's class quickly enough, I hope to return to the painting table to tackle another pair of replacement flags that have been sitting around for a year now.  Time to get these done!  I can then move on, in good conscience, to all of the cavalry waiting in the wings.  Yet more painting backlog that should have had considerably more attention during 2017.



Still tinkering with online photo editing tools via Pixlr (Photoshop Elements is better, and I really need to purchase an updated version).  This time, I have used Pixlr's 'Sharpen' and 'Denoise' to get a finer, better defined photograph of ol' Fred and his good buddy von Seydlitz.

19 January 2018

Friday Morning Light Tent Experiments


Wasting time this morning taking a bunch of test shots with my Sony Cybershot camera and new light tent stuff.  Still trying to find that sweet spot though I might need to drag out the bigger, maddeningly more complex camera to manipulate f-stop setting for a better depth of field.  I have become the Orson Wells of 30mm.  Except that I do not plan on drafting a 50-page memo to studio executives complaining about how they have tampered with my work.  At least not yet.  See what you think and let me know.

-- Stokes












14 January 2018

Presenting the Freshly Rebased Frederick II and von Seydlitz!!!

 Frederick II and von Seydlitz Chew the Fat I


 Frederick II and von Seydlitz Chew the Fat II


Well, here we are.  The newly rebased Minden Frederick II and von Seydlitz figures.  I am reasonably well pleased with the way things turned out.  The 3mm ply Litko base looks much better than the old hand-cut base that was roughly square in shape and, frustratingly, warped later.  Not very fitting for King Frederick II and his officers you'll agree.  

Litko Game Accessories, by the way, sells a number of different amorphously shaped 'terrain' bases that are perfect for command vignettes, small copses, a building or two, or other basing needs that might need something a bit different than the usual square and rectangular bases on which we typically mount our combat troops.  I used a bunch of these to mount my collection of Zvezda Fir and cake decoration Birch trees back in June 2016 with the help of the Young Master shortly before he finished 1st Grade.  To view bases like the kind I used, and other precision-cut bases, visit Litko Game Accessories by clicking here

Anyway, I opted not to crowd the new base with any addition small tufts of greenery or brambles, sticking with just the discarded sword, chunk of cannon wheel, and the tree stump.  The latter came originally from our old front yard in Bloomington, Illinois quite a few years back before we decamped for Mid-Michigan in 2015.

I picked up an interesting piece of advice recently while reading online about photographing military miniatures and wargame figures.  The particular blog, whose name now escapes me, advised focusing on the faces of the figures, which will yield the most visually pleasing results.  I've tried to do so in these two informal snaps taken atop my painting table.  The profiles and facial details of the two figures show up remarkably well although I never do more than give faces a wash of alkyd oil fleshtone over a white undercoat.  Richard Ansell, the original sculptor for the Minden line, is an extremely talented individual.  

Another photographic tip that  am finally coming to grips with is the distance between camera lens and subject.  In short, don't get so close to your figures with the camera that your macro setting kicks in.  This will mess up the focus because, apparently, macro photography is more useful for items even smaller than 30mm soldiers.  Think insects, the centers of flowers, grains of rice, and earthworms here.  You'll get better photographic results for military miniatures if you back up a bit and instead zoom in carefully with your lens.  Later -- after adjusting your auto levels, brightening, whitening, sharpening the image, etc. -- crop the photograph(s) you decide to post to your blog, website, or send along with an article submission to remove any superfluous items that you do not want to show up in your pictures.   Assuming, of course, that you have not already used a light box or light tent and special backdrops to both isolate and illuminate your subject more effectively.

On that note, a new 24" x 24" light tent, backdrops, mini-spotlights, and mini-reflectors with light diffusers are on their way from Amazon as we speak.  A late arriving gift from Mom and Stepdad, courtesy of their online Christmas gift card last month.  These items should kick my more careful photographs into the stratosphere once I get the hang of using everything.  

Long-time visitors might recall that I have experimented the last few years with a makeshift light box, made from pieces of white foamcore board.  In general, though not always I hasten to add, these experiments have yielded much nicer photographs that have sometimes appeared here as well as with several magazine articles.  I finally figured it was time to upgrade to some purpose-made equipment since I find photographing my figures and games to be as much fun as the painting and gaming.

-- Stokes

A Quiet Start to 2018. . .

A Knoetel (???) illustration of King Frederick II and von Seydlitz at Zorndorf.


Not a whole lot going on here at the moment in Stollen Central with the usual hubbub of daily life, the start of the new university semester, and so forth.  But I did manage to snatch a few hours yesterday to assemble that pair of French 8 pdr. cannon and begin to sort out the accompanying crews, all of which were given to me for Christmas last month by the Grand Duchess.  These, you might remember, are slated to be given uniforms resembling those worn by the artillery contingent of Lauzun's Legion.  A medium to dark blue with lemon yellow facings and turnbacks rather than the more usual red of the French artillery arm.  I've decided to paint the woodwork of the cannon red with black metal fittings simply because it is a striking and attractive color combination.  When I get to doing so of course.

**********


I also spent some time yesterday rebasing a pair of figures, Frederick II and von Seydlitz, that have been in the GD 0f S collection for some years.  They were perhaps the first two Minden figures I purchased and painted back in 2010, I think, when Frank Hammond still owned and produced the line. I was never quite happy with the basing job I did at the time once painting was done, so I popped 'em off the old base fairly easily along with a tree stump, a discarded sword, and a piece of wagon wheel yesterday afternoon.  

Following a family outing on skis mid-afternoon, plus a delicious North African tangine, prepared by the Grand Duchess, with couscous for dinner, I returned yesterday evening post-bedtime for the Young Master to attach the two figures to a new 3mm ply, irregularly shaped base from Litko that has been taking up space in a drawer here for a couple of years.  I next applied sand to it, using acrylic matt medium, with brown ink to that a bit later.  

Even later, I sprinkled some finely ground Woodland Scenics grass material atop that while everything was still wet and tapped off the excess.  It's very important, I have learned, to be sparing with grass.  Too much, and it just does not look good.  The end result of scenic basing looks much more realistic when some of the darker ground is allowed to show through.  Blame a book I have on my shelf about model railway and diorama scenery.  In addition, Jim 'Der Alte Fritz' Purky once advised me that command and other small vignettes tend to look better when placed on irregularly shaped bases rather than square-edged, hence the rebasing explained here.  Most of the vignettes in my collection are on such bases already, but Frederick II and von Seydlitz, being one of if not the first such groupings, needed some TLC in the basing department.

Anyway, still a few things to do before I'll call the rebasing done, but ol' Fred and his droog von Seydlitz already look much better, and their presentation has improved ten-fold to my eyes.  Watch for a photo or two later just as soon as the blasted camera has recharged.  

********** 


Post-soldier tinkering down here in Zum Stollenkeller, the Grand Duchess and I finished the evening with some leftover Gluehwein by the fire and, after that, an episode of The Indian Doctor via Amazon on her laptop.  Naturally, we both conked out well before the 50-minute or so program ended.  What a couple of lightweights!  And to think I used to be habitual a night owl within living memory.

**********


Finally, Otto posted a question yesterday, in which he asked about my thinking -- 'philosophy' is too high falutin' a word -- behind The Grand Duchy of Stollen.  I'm afraid it is not much more complicated than my dreaming up a few minor, tiny and contentious territories way back at the end of 2005, setting the scene in the mid-18th century (very much in imitation of Young, Lawford, and the Grants), and placing them geographically just beyond what were then the easternmost reaches of Prussia, somewhere in in the vicinity of Poland-Lithuania and Courland.  The various ruling families are all supposed to be Baltic Germans, minor branches of more prominent Central German noble families of the era, which lends the entire project a quasi-historic feel.  

The only additional nod to actual history is the rationale that my made-up territories disappeared from the map of Europe during the final partition of Poland in 1795.  At that point, the families ruling places like The Electorate of Zichenau, as well as the principalities of Tauroggen-Fiebus, Pillau-Reuss, et al  either returned to their ancestral lands in Central Germany, or moved on to the Russian court in Saint Petersburg,  joined society life in Riga and Koenigsberg, or they withdrew to their estates and relative obscurity in the nearby Baltic provinces.  However, my ongoing and rather circuitous narrative is set firmly in the mid-18th century, roughly the 1740s-1760s, although it's hard to say more precisely.  In any case, we don't need to worry quite yet about the disappearance of the Grand Duchy and its neighbors from the maps and history books.  There is still some life left in the old gal. 

**********


That's about it really.  Otherwise, my small armies are based on the Austrian, Prussian, Hessian, Saxon, and Reichsarmee units of the era, and the various military and civilian characters who flesh out the narrative are the product of my imagination, composites really of various literary and cinematic figures, along with a very healthy dose of P. G. Wodehouse, both the actual stories and their televised versions, namely the wonderful Jeeves and Wooster programs from the early 1990s.  It occurs to me that it has been more than two years since I have written any further exchanges between Irwin-Amadeus II, the Grand Duke of Stollen, and his gentleman's personal gentleman Hives.  Another grave error I must attempt to correct.  If only real life would ease up a bit in 2018.

-- Stokes


A map of Prussia 1740-1763.  The Grand Duchy of Stollen and its immediate (and tiny) neighbors are in the vicinity of the upper right-hand corner of the map just adjacent to Eastern Prussia.



Even more specifically, the Grand Duchy of Stollen and it's immediate neighbors might have been just between Riga, Mittau, and Jacobstadt, occupying territory that  was really part of Russia, Polish Livonia, the Duchy of Courland, and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, what I believe was also referred to as Poland-Lithuania.

 
Finally, here is Maurice, Duke of Courland, who doubles as my Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II.  Just look at that regal bearing, his noble features, his steady gaze, his impeccable dress, his joie de vivre!


01 January 2018

Happy New Year from the Grand Duchy of Stollen!

A final vintage image for the 2017-2018 Christmas season.



Happy New Year from all of us here in The Grand Duchy of Stollen!  May 2018 see you enjoy more hobby-related reading, painting, gaming, and socializing.  It's still frigid and snowy here in Totleigh-in-the-Wold, so following a special breakfast of Swedish waffles made for us by The Grand Duchess, the three of us are heading out for some more cross-country skiing shortly -- The Grand Duchess discovered a local place with groomed trails and even a warming hut with a wood-burning stove yesterday -- before returning home to clean up and take down the Christmas trees and the related decorations before enjoying another helping of New Year's dinner this evening.  And the perhaps some toy soldiering of some kind this evening following the Young Master's bedtime.

-- Stokes 



And some suitably 18th century themed dancing.



Finally, the three of us enjoyed two hours of special New Year's Day skiing through the woods of Mid-Michigan just outside Haslett.  Loads of fun, but the best part has to be seeing the eight-year-old Young Master herringbone up hills and schuss down the other side.  At some point, I expect he'll be a better skier than yours truly since we first put him on skis at five, while I did not begin in the sport until I was 33!  The Grand Duchess snapped this neat photograph, by the way, on her phone during our tour today.

31 December 2017

Freicorps Musings on New Year's Eve. . .


Two different versions of the Chasseurs de Fischer infantry gleaned from the web.


Yes.  I know.  The promise was not to bore you with grandiose plans for much in 2018 given my relatively lackluster hobby activity in the year almost ended.  But I find myself getting excited by the prospect of building up that tiny freicorps, and some shortly to be released Crann Tara figures aren't helping the matter any.  If I keep things small and modest, what can go wrong?  

On second thought, don't answer that!  But if all goes well, I might even be able to get things finished before this time next year AND make up some lost ground on the figures I had hoped to paint to completion in 2017.  

Anyway, you can see what I'm thinking  for a company of 15 or so light infantry types in the illustrations above.  The line portion will be an understrength two-company battalion (30) of Frei-infanterie (uniforms probably based on the Von Hordt regiment), a squadron of 12-14 hussars based on one or another unit of land hussars, and that new French artillery troop painted, more or less, as the artillery of Lauzun's Legion (medium-dark blue coats with lemon yellow facings).  

The idea is to assemble a small force dressed in a colorful array of uniforms that will not duplicate anything already in the collection.  To command the overall formation, I'll use a couple of mounted Minden and/or Crann Tara officers floating around here in a currently unpainted state.  Hey, anything to knock off the rust and fire up the painting engines in an appreciable way, right?

Happy New Year Everyone!

-- Stokes

New Year's Eve in The Grand Duchy. . .

One of just a few more seasonal illustrations his morning.  Nothing quite so striking as Cardinals against a snowy backdrop.


Still quite cold.  Snowy.  Swimming lessons for the Young Master and a family ski tour later this afternoon before the Grand Duchess whips up a New Year's Eve dinner of pork tenderloin with fennel and onion relish, roasted vegetables, roasted brussel sprouts, and a few other items including the last of a cranberry and orange relish that I make us each year.  

Which reminds me.  I need to put together a cherry pie for dessert.  Otherwise a lazy day ahead nibbling on the remaining Christmas treats and listening to some Christmas jazz one last time before we put things away for another year on Tuesday and settle into that post-holiday quiet, which is just as intoxicating in its own way as is Advent and the eventual celebration of  Christmas itself.  

Sadly, the start of school again on January 8th looms for all three of us, but we have one more week of relatively idle time.

And yes.  It looks like my planned Christmas Week game is slated to become a New Year's game.  Ah, well.  The journey is always at least half the fun.

-- Stokes

29 December 2017

Christmas Week Tinkering. . .

Another old seasonal image, this time wishing us good luck in the new year.

A bit of tinkering at the painting desk yesterday afternoon, opening and sorting several new packets of  Minden French artillery, pioneers, a mounted officer, and two 8pdr. French cannon, which were given to me by the Grand Duchess this Christmas Day.  Most of these are destined to be painted in the uniforms purportedly worn by the artillery contingent of Lauzun's Legion during the American War of Independence.  Some shade of blue (probably darker to mid-) and lemon yellow facings. 

Eventually, these figures will become the artillery arm of a small legion or freikorps that I envision, consisting of battalion of line infantry, a company of lights, a squadron or two of cavalry, and said artillery.  Rather than make up uniforms of my own, I think I'll depend on actual uniforms from historical formations since there are so many eye-catching examples out there.  More on this anon since it now seems like I have various 18th century irons in the fire without actually having done very much the last 12 months or so.  2018 has to be better.

-- Stokes

28 December 2017

Coming Soon. . . A Small Christmas Week Game!

Not the more usual Victorian or Edwardian Father Christmas this time, but a young boy on Nordic skis observing the Christmas Star.  This reminds me of when I used to set off for night time skiing on the miles of (unlighted after 10pm) trails just outside Trondheim, Norway during the winter of 1999-2000.  It was a snowy year that winter, and there was white stuff on the ground from the end of November through almost the end of March that season.  You see a lot when you are along in the woods in the middle of a snowy night.  A lone wolf was one particularly unnerving encounter.  Luckily for me, he was more interested in raiding a trailside garbage can.  I began making my daily ski tours during daylight hours after that.


Fairly quiet here at Stollen Central the last few days as we have enjoyed Christmastime with all of its cold and snow this year.  We have had considerable upheaval of various kinds the last 2.5 years since our move to Michigan, but I feel as though some calm and normalcy has returned recently. Certainly during the last several weeks.  Hopefully, we are finally settled.  

In any case, the planned refight, more or less, of Steve Hezzlewood's and John Ray's 'The Boucharde Raid' is slated to take place on Saturday, or New Year's Eve afternoon this weekend.  Stay tuned.

-- Stokes

27 December 2017

Some Christmas Skiing. . .

 The Grand Duchess managed to catch an amazing wintry sky on her phone during yesterday's ski tour.



The Young Master and Dad climb a slight rise in the woods.



The Young Master led all of the way and, apparently, had a really good time doing so.  It was one of our nicest family ski outings yet.


A lazy Boxing Day yesterday with more Christmas food and treats.  We did nothing o consequence other that suit up after lunch for some cross-country (Nordic) skiing at another park just a few minutes from the house.  Conditions were quite cold with powdery snow.  Just right.  Another round of skiing is planned for today given our current conditions here in Mid-Michigan.

-- Stokes



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