I made a small amount of progress on my painting backlog….okay this is all just a few hour’s work I did just before and immediately following Christmas. Anyway, I thought, what better way to get me back to the painting table than showing off some of my (albeit limited) progress? The big plus is that my progress was over several models and not just one model or one squad.
Flames of War
I’ve been working on my Canadians in Italy, circa 1943, for what feels like forever now. And let’s be perfectly clear: when I say that I’ve been “working on them” what I really mean is that they’ve been sitting on my painting table collecting dust. However, last winter I decided that instead of having one Flames of War project, I clearly needed two. So I started up a German force. In fairly short order (short order for me, anyway) I managed to get two platoons of infantry done up, but …ended up getting stalled up with the various vehicles.
Because I’m awful at painting vehicles –thoroughly unpracticed with them– I always shy away from them. So to alleviate that I decided my German force should be vehicle heavy, just not necessarily with tanks (thereby giving me lots of practice with lots of different vehicle forms). With that in mind, I chose to make a Panzerspahkompanie, an armoured reconnaissance company. The company still requires infantry: the aufklarung –scouts who arrive to the battlefield in their half-tracked scout transports, the Sd Kfz 250s. But I also get to paint up a variety of armoured cars, half tracks, vehicles and tanks. By the end of this, I’ll hopefully consider painting vehicles to be not such a big thing.
Of course, the infantry were the first to be completed; below is one platoon of the newer Battlefront plastic infantry.
Much as I consider painting full platoons of 15mm scale infantry for Flames of War a real grind, my ‘painting brain’ easily gets it. Even though working on two platoons of infantry at the same time is is an excessively repetitive process of painting, shading and highlighting (sixty or so tiny 15mm men), that brain-dulling repetition melts away once I build up some momentum. Unfortunately, to the same extent that I’m pretty capable with human figures, I’m equally incapable –or at least unpracticed– with vehicles. I can base coat them just fine, but my difficulties begin as soon as I start applying shade tones and highlights–which is dumb, I know. But that’s where it is. Still here’s where my half-track transports (for my painted infantry platoons) and single Panzer IV tank platoon sat last summer:
Though many associate German tanks in the Second World War as being uniformly grey in colour, German tanks easily spent as much time being yellow as they did grey. The main reason for this was the Russian steppes: grey tanks were easily seen at long ranges amongst the wheat fields and grassy plains in the steppes, so, German command switched from grey to a shade more suiting the terrain they were fighting through. The dark yellow paint used, called dunkelgelb, was applied to all vehicles as a primer while still in their factories, and it wasn’t until the vehicles then arrived to the front that they had other camouflage colours added.
**Of course it’s not exactly this simple –I haven’t even brought iron oxide into the conversation– but enough to gain a basic understanding of Germany’s vehicle camouflage….and of course, despite this disclaimer I’m still expecting to be taken to task with my overview of German colours from certain club members!
So, while Dunkelgelb can range anywhere between a tan / beige /or even an almost brown all the way up to a mustard yellow, it’s commonly represented by the Vallejo paint colour, Middlestone. Though definitely a function of mustard yellow, Middlestone has a fairly pronounced green tinge to it, enough that I don’t care for it. Thus, as mentioned above, I opted to make my own home-brew Dunkelgelb for my German vehicles (that I envision as being stationed in Holland in the autumn of 1944). The interesting thing, as seen above, is that once a brown(ish) wash was applied, the Dunkelgelb vehicles ended up looking like they were slightly greenish anyways…though still not as much as with the Middlestone.
A long while back, I had started some German recon vehicles and opted to spray prime them with Vallejo’s Middlestone Surface Primer; Vallejo’s surface primers are fantastic air-brush-applied primers that can also be applied by brush if need be. (Though the quality of the primer is good, it was on these models that I discovered I didn’t care for Middlestone whatsoever.) Since starting my German force proper, the elephant in the room, task-wise, was how I was going to get my Middlestone models to colour match the models where I used a Dunkelgelb tone more to my liking. I decided a very brown wash to eradicate Middlestone’s greens was the answer; I’m not sure it was the best choice–and I knew it almost as soon as the wash was close to dry. Consequently, I worried more about fixing the colour than capturing it for posterity, so I only have one (not so evident) photo of the overly dark wash …and no photos of the green-yellow primed vehicles.
With all my obsessiveness over the colour, “dark yellow,” now out of the way here’s where my force is at right now. What I’m looking for in the models right now is making sure the Middelstone-primed vehicles exist on the same tonal palette as the Panzer IV tanks. (But so far only the Anti-aircraft gun trucks and two-thirds of the armoured cars are at the same painting stage as the tanks.)
Where Next, Columbus?
Well, obviously I need to scrape together enough time to finish doing all the highlights. Following that, I’ll be adding the patches of Olivgrun (dark green) and Rotbraun (brown) that typified the camouflage used by vehicles on the western front in late summer and fall of 1944. Then all that’ll remain will be the smaller details (including crew for the platoon command vehicles) and lastly the decals for tank markings. But honestly, right now I’m just struggling with applying convincing highlights down on flat surfaces, and I feel like I’m in uncharted waters. Perhaps I just need to really study some reference photos of paint jobs I like (I mean, all that will cost me is some time….right?).
Once these are out of the way –or at least once the Dunkelgelb is fully established on all the models– I’ll then move on to some other choices in my list, namely my already-assembled half-tracked mortar platoon and a Konigstiger (and followed by the last batch of half-tracked recon vehicles, the Sd Kfz 250/9 (2cm) half tracks).
Of course, there’s still the whole Canadian army I’d like to make progress on; I’d really like to be able to contribute models for the annual D-Day event, Canadians at Juno Beach, that our local Flames of War club, the Regiment runs at the store every year! Though my Canadians are kitted out as mid-war (not to mention fighting on the Italian front), I still have a certain amount of models that can used for assaulting Germany’s Atlantik Wall, namely Sherman tanks and infantry.