Here is one of Aventine Miniatures' fine Tarentine cavalry models. I decided to give these guys white shields - partly because I thought they'd look good, and partly because, I must admit, I like the cover of the recent Osprey book on the Tarentines (I don't think much of the book overall, to be honest, but more on that another time perhaps). Anyway, one of the drawbacks of the dip is that it makes white look rather mucky. Sometimes this can be an advantage - I don't have any difficulty imagining that anyone wearing a white tunic to a battle is going to look fairly grubby pretty quickly. But sometimes you want to make something stand out - like these shields.
A while ago, whilst shading a batch of figures with Army Painter, I failed to notice a big blobby run down the back of a white tunic, until it was, I feared, too late - i.e. well into the drying process - the figure was still a bit tacky, but the 'dip' wasn't soft enough that I could 'wipe' it away with a tissue or a brush. It looked, frankly, awful, but I really didn't want to have strip and repaint one figure. So, what to do? In desperation, I reached for the pot of white spirit which I use to wash out the brushes I use to apply the dip. I dipped a clean brush into it, dabbed most of the white spirit off on a tissue, and then gently 'damp-brushed' over the run. To my delight, as I brushed over it, it gradually softened and wiped away. I kept going - adding a tiny bit more white spirit, stroking a bit more 'dip' off, wiping that off on the tissue and so on - it takes longer to type than to do. And... When I'd finished there was a nice neat 'highlight' on a fold in the tunic. As none of the rest of the figures had a highlight, I had to do a bit of remedial work with a bit more dip to disguise it a bit, but it did set me thinking.
There are things on my figures that I do apply highlights to - sometimes over the 'dip'. It isn't an ideal process - for one thing acrylic paint doesn't 'stick' to the dip very well; for another, the highlights, without a lot of effort, tend to look quite 'stark' against the soft shading of the rest of the figure. And it slows the painting process down a lot. This method - applying the 'dip', waiting 20 minutes to half an hour or so for it to get 'tacky', then using a brush dampened in white spirit, is very controllable, and allows for a soft graduation between 'dipped' shadow and highlight.
The shield above was painted by this method. White primer, pale brown on the 'spine', gold on the rim, and then a coat of Army Painter 'Soft Tone', which was allowed to dry for a wee while. Then I took a smallish brush (a #0 which had seen better days - it wasn't completely knackered, but the point wasn't good enough for proper painting), a tissue and some white spirit, and set to work removing the 'dip' from an area either side of the spine, to create a highlight, and make the shield as a whole look rather brighter. It'll work on areas other than shields too and on colours other than white too - clothing for instance, but it is fiddly to do then - if you aren't careful you drag the 'dip' out of the shadows as well as off the highlights, and it's quite easy to end up with a 'sharp' edge to the highlight too.
I wouldn't do it on figures painted with enamels - I fancy you'd take the paint off as well as the 'dip', but white spirit doesn't dissolve acrylic paint, so it should be safe enough. Because it's fiddly, and smelly, I don't expect I'll be doing it all the time. But for things like these shields, it's a godsend.
Here are the Aventine Miniatures Tarentine Cavalry. Slightly awkward to photograph - you either get a view which is all horse and shield, or one in which they don't appear to have shields! They're lovely figures and a pleasure to paint. The only change I made was that I added a javelin behind 2/3 of the shields.
So much for getting my Tarentines painted. I got them prepared and primed by yesterday, and started painting - I got the flesh done on four of them! But then I realised that my left elbow was beginning to get sore - probably from leaning hard on it while preparing the figures. I know by now that to continue just means blisters, more pain, and a fair bit of time before I can paint comfortably again. …
I've spent most of the morning beginning to lay out "AVGVSTVS to AVRELIAN" in Indesign. I was going to use the word processor file to send out to play-testers, but for some reason known only to itself, it decided to object to having the diagrams inserted (i.e. inserting one single, solitary, diagram screwed up the whole document), so Indesign it had to be - the play-testers will get a fairly tidy PDF instead of a grotty Word file!
And here is the last unit of this 'legion' - the Triarii. I am really pleased with Aventine's figures. Their elephants are great - if you remember I used them for my Sassanid Persian army - and I'm happy to say that their foot figures are every bit as nice.
The sculpting is excellent - lots of detail, realistic faces, good lively poses and lots of variety. It's hard to fault them. I think my favourite figure of all is that unit leader with the face-mask - I think he's really meant to be a standard-bearer, but to me he seemed to make a good officer. I'm hoping to swap the eagle (which isn't glued in place) for a boar.
I'm really excited about the project now - I'm really looking forward to them doing some Pyrrhics, particularly the phalangites. I guess that, if I'm honest, I've had a sneaking desire for some phalangite 'toys' since reading the Ladybird book about Alexander the Great when I was a youngster.
And, of course, there are the superb shield transfers from Steve at Little Big Men Studios. The figures wouldn't look half as good without them.
I suppose I'd better 're-jig' the site a little and start a gallery for this project too. Not tonight though, I'm going to sit admire my new 'legion' for a bit, and day-dream about the finished project...
It's been quite a week. We learned on Thursday that my daughter has passed the entrance exam for Lancaster Girls' Grammar School, which is a great relief. We've just been to her favourite Italian restaurant to celebrate. So that's her sorted out once she leaves junior school at the end of this academic year.
And I've been beavering away painting Republican Romans. Here are the Principes. Those who know a bit about Romans are probably going to complain that they have spears and not pila. In my defence, there is some evidence that the Principes didn't start to use Pila until after the war with Pyrrhus.
Another photo on the next page...
I've gone mad! Okay, okay, so you already knew that. But I've painted another unit of Aventine Republican Romans - Leves this time. They're rather plain-looking (which is why they were so quick to paint!). When I do the next unit, I'll do some Velites, which are a bit fancier, and then I'll mix the two together. What would improve things a lot would be if I could persuade Steve at Little Big Men Studios to make some transfers for the small round shields with designs to match the designs he's done for the large scuta, then it'd be easier to make the Leves/Velites 'match' the legion they belong to.
I had an interested response from Adrian Goldsworthy to a question I asked. Amongst other things I was wondering whether there was any evidence for the Leves of the early third century BC really being any different from the Velites of the later third century, based on a comment in Livy. Here is what he said:
"As usual, the real answer is that we don't know. Personally I am very suspicious of Livy's early legion, which does seem to owe an awful lot to the voting assembly of the first century rather than any military reality. The idea that velites got better equipped - i.e. proper shields and swords etc - during the Second Punic War largely comes down to one passage of Livy talking about 211BC and saying how they got the name velites. I suspect it is (1) quite possibly an Antiquarian invention, and (2) even if it is not an exaggeration based on a small incident I very much doubt any significant change in equipment occurred. I suspect that simply the light infantry got better as the war went on just as the rest of the army became more experienced. So I would see the early third century BC army as much the same in structure, tactics and equipment as the one of the Second Punic War and after. Average quality improved because of such intensive campaigning, but that's about it. Worth remembering the damage done by the velites to the Gaesati at Telamon in 225 in Polybius account."
This lunchtime, at long last, the parcel from Warlord Games arrived. So, I have some useable 'dip' again, at last. Without further ado, I got on and slapped some on the unit of Aventine Miniatures Hastati, which had been sitting around waiting for it. And here they are, finished, finally. I'm really pleased with them.
One thing I have noticed, is that this new can of 'dip' is a different colour. It's still labelled as 'Strong Tone', but, rather than the strong brown colour previous cans had, this is quite a bit greyer. I think I prefer it - for one thing, being more neutral in tone, it'll be more suitable for covering different colours - for instance blues should look better. I might have been a tad upset though, if I'd been half-way through a project, because the figures do look different.
Three weeks ago today, I asked Paul at Warlord Games to send me a package with a few items in - a couple of 'Architects of War' sets - "Buckets and Barrels" and "Siege Tools", some wire spears and a pot of 'dip'. A few days later, Paul 'phoned to ask if it had arrived - several packages sent the same day hadn't. …