Forward Observer 12

Atelier

Like many oldies in the hobby I use oil paints quite a bit, finding that there are some things they still do better, and in some cases they are the only solution. Even so, it is very easy to forget how we worked before acrylics and the incredible advances they have bestowed. Still, if you asked me about acrylic shortcomings they would always be durability, finish for horses, and the fast drying times, but only in that they don’t allow blending. I have tried retarders, but I still don’t get the right feel.

Now, technology has moved on again. Atelier Interactive is a new range of acrylics that have built in delayed drying and, unadvertised, oil like qualities. Me being me, I wanted to try these for horses and wet in wet blending. And they work, as long as you work quickly. I painted a black horse and the paints stay open just long enough to blend. You can also ‘pull’ the paint off with a sponge. To help matters, they do a range of mediums that extend, shorten and allow glazing. Of course, being acrylics at heart, they go on to dry rapidly and waterproof, in this case with a slight sheen ideal for our equine friends. Just don’t ask me where oil-like acrylics and acrylic-like oils meet.

I know this will sound a little precious, but paints are very personal things. The simple truth is that, as with Vallejo, I liked working with these. Cleverly, there is a discernible ‘break point’ where the paint begins to tauten – hard to describe, but it is there. This is a signal from the paint to add water, ideally by way of spray, to keep the paint workable. Cunning, eh? In years to come they’ll be talking to us, “You missed a bit, near the hoof.”

The only downside to these paints so far is that the Burnt Umber (the horse colour staple) is a little muddy and green tinted, and that the normal 80ml tubes are £4 and upwards, but are huge. The saving grace is that you can get a very reasonably priced starter set with small 20ml tubes. I bought my paints from artdiscount.co.uk, but there are other outlets.  While I am not going to proclaim Atelier as the best thing ever, I think with experimentation they are going to prove very useful at least.

Many thanks to Andy O’Neill for the steer on this product.

28mm Plastics

Well, it is all getting very interesting. The Perries announcement was followed quickly by Wargames Factory and Warlord Games, and then compounded as WF listed future period releases. WF have gone for computer modelling and a rolling disclosure that has some people wondering what they have ready, but quelled the concern by listing formal release dates and pricing. Warlord are being very secretive and teasing all round at the moment – I know what they would be called in my native Essex – perhaps they are waiting to see how the Perry launch goes? All the while the masters themselves are just getting on with bringing the product to market. As I write I am expecting the ACW infantry to drop through my letterbox, and I have to say I can’t wait. I am not a betting man, but I think the Perries will have a major success on their hands.

That would not be true of everyone in the hobby. In the same way there is a knee jerk reaction to 40mm figures, because of what they are, there seems to be a real backlash against these new plastics. Is this a carry over from the soft plastics? Snobbery? Or that old chestnut of lack of heft? Perhaps it is simply the period chosen.

Let’s look at it this way. If they do nothing else they will adjust the cost of core army building back to a reasonable level – ignoring for a moment the smaller figure scales. It wasn’t that long ago that I was talking about £1 per figure being a watershed price point, now we are fast approaching £2 as an ‘acceptable’ tag in some quarters. Whether this is sustainable in the face of plastic pricing, and during any forthcoming recession, we shall have to wait and see. I also read about a lot of people intending to give plastics away to young relatives as presents, with hopes that they will be swayed (either before or after their encounter with Squigs and what have you).

A number of people have suggested this means the end of metals. I would say definitely not, at least in the medium term. Remember that the Perries and Warlord are offering metal characters. Rest assured no one is ever going to make 28mm plastic figures for the Italo-Abyssinian war, but Anglian Miniatures are doing metals. They will be rewarded with sales to, well, me for starters. Longer term, I think it is now inevitable that computer modelling and 3D printing will impact the market in a major way. Enterprising companies are already accessing the technology, and as equipment falls in price it will come into range of more and more of us. Then, perhaps, the metal figure archetype, and relative pricing, may change for good.

The Wonderful World of MIG

In the last three months I have probably spent more money on MIG products than anything else. Good reason for that; it is excellent stuff.

The now well-known pigments, with which excellent effects are possible, have always been model oriented, rather than for wargame use. The simple reason being that they can rub off over time, although if applied into crevices that is not an issue. The latest addition to the range is a Pigment Fixer, which when mixed with pigments will permanently secure them. So now you have no excuse.

The Abteilung oil paint range is specially prepared for modelling use. Essentially this means that they come in useful colours, obviating the need to mix, and are very finely ground. Just be aware that some of the colours have a lot of oil medium and this can splurge out of the tube before any colour is forthcoming – these are the first oils colours I have needed to shake! I have found some of the colours more useful than others, especially the faded tones and earth colours. Again, an excellent quality product.

The best of the new releases are the washes. These come in three shades and are essentially ready made enamel washes. Again, shake well! The colours are coded to the colour of tank on which you are using them, and I am most impressed with the Neutral tint which gives a very professional look on light/sandy coloured tanks. Highly recommended.

The only product I am down on is the odourless thinner. It isn’t odourless, which would seem to miss the point somewhat. Now I do have a bionic nose, but the odour is definitely there. I may have got a duff one? Otherwise, stick to Sansodor, Bob Ross or the very good bargain stuff now available from Colourfull Arts.

And finally, there is a very good DVD to explain the mysteries of pigment use. While I am not sold on the American presentation and the military sound track, everything on offer here is very useful.  FAQ: The Pigments can be bought for £9.

Looking Ahead

Beyond all that, there is very little showing in my forward observer binoculars. With the Spring shows coming up, I hardly think that will continue to be a problem. There is talk of US Paras from Bolt Action, for starters, and a new joint venture from Copplestone and Artizan. Richard Ansell, eBob, Paul Hicks, Tom Meier, Mike Owen, HLBSC, Perries, Zvezda, Revell, Italeri and Caesar will doubtless be making good things. I have a horse painting DVD on order by my hero, Max Longhurst. And of course, the Age of Plastic begins. Now where is that postman?