Monday, October 3, 2011

Progress, and a problem

Years ago, my wife and I met at the University of Arizona cafeteria where she worked as a cashier.  One of her first memories of me is that I always ate dessert before the main meal.  Thirty years later, I'm much the same when it comes to this hobby.  Logic dictates that when you're painting an army, you save your best units to be painted last.  They are a treat to be earned only after you log hours of practice with the rest of your army, a reward for all of your hard work.  Or to quote Pink Floyd, "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding!"

Try as I might, I couldn't resist gobbling down my dessert first thing this weekend. I've loved these Serbian Hussars figures since I saw them.  Nothing says "style" like going to battle in a splendid top hat with feathers!
Serbian Hussars are a great light horse option for the Hungarian army. 
Unfortunately, I had a problem from the start.  I've been using Armory Spray Primer for over a year and this time, even with two light coats, the primer wasn't adhering properly.  I thought I was missing spots when I primed them but it turns out it the primer was coming off when I handled them.  I fetched more figures, washed them with soap and water and after priming them black, I had the same results.  I hit another set of figures with Armory white primer and it adhered properly.  Clearly, it was a bad can of primer.  Not a big deal, right?  Well, this is the third time I've had a problem with Armory.  I had a can fizzle out when it was more than half full.  I bought a replacement only to discover it didn't come with an agitator/bead inside.  As a result, when I shake it, it doesn't mix quite right.  I searched for a telephone number to report these problems but there is none to be found either on the product or on line.  I'm sorry to say I'm done with Armory.  Good price but too many quality control problems and no recourse when their product fails. 

I switched to Vallejo Spray Primer after balking briefly at the $16.99 price tag. If the primer doesn't do its job, my efforts will be squandered if the figures don't hold their paint.  I've used Vallejo paints for years and they're generally acknowledged to be top notch so, fingers crossed. Oh, and Vallejo provides a customer service telephone # on the label which I take as a good sign. 
Base colors.
Highlights in 2 tones up from the base colors.
Shields a little better but still...
Every project is a learning experience so, what were the lessons learned?

1. Paint a test figure first.  I usually paint a test figure or two to make sure I like my color combinations. Matching colors is not something I'm good at, even with a color wheel.  Since there were only 8 figures total, I skipped this step and as a result, I ended up changing colors in a couple of spots once I looked at the results and didn't like them.

2.  The mystery of yellow.  The yellow braiding on the jacket should pop.  One trick is to put black down to make a highlight pop, like the chariot wheels.  I know yellow struggles on a base of black and I was worried that putting 2 coats of yellow over black would swallow up the ornamentation.  I painted the yellow right over the red jacket but I feel like there might have been another option I missed. There are a lot of tricks of the painting trade and I've just scratched the surface. 

3.  The mystery of detail.  These figures were loaded with detail and a few times, I had trouble figuring out what I was painting.  For the Hussars with the cape, what is the tube with fringes?  Is it a blanket roll or the cape? The first time I paint a new figure, I'm pretty slow as I struggle to figure out where the boot ends and the pants begin!  I'll probably suffer from this through the whole army. 

4.  Don't be cheap! Like most people, I'm on a budget but even so, there are things I shouldn't scrimp on.  To that ever growing list, I'll add primer. I'll touch up the boots just before I put the GW Purity seal on these figures.  Hopefully, that will take care of the problem. Either that or I'll have to convince my opponents that these Hussars have the exceedingly rare "steel toed boots," option, garnering them an additional point of advantage in the impact phase.   

5.  Quality versus quantity.  I generally do highlights in a single tone after a Devlan Mud wash to take the base color down and darken recesses.  This time, I highlighted in two tones up from the base color with no wash.  It is more time consuming and the results seem subtle to my eyes.  I think I'll wait until the Hussars are completely finished and put them next to a unit painted with single tone highlights to better compare the results.

I spent a considerable amount of time on these figures.  I've come to conclude that skirmishers and light horse give you an opportunity to shine, since figures are mounted 2 to a base.  As such, detail isn't swallowed up the same way it is in a 3 figure or 4 figure stand. Up next are the Hussars' mounts, which look to be every bit as good as these figures.  

So, what about you?  When you start a new project, do you paint your best units first or last?