Rob Henden talks Military Modeling through Classicae's 'Compassion.
The old Monty Python Saying "And now for something completely different" amply describes manufacturer Classicae's first release. Unlike most other 1:9 scale figure releases for Classicae Mark Ricketts has created a vignette featuring two figures, both of which are seated and have no equipment at all. This doesn't sound like a recipe for an interesting model subject, but in reality this minimalist approach has been used very cleverly to capture a very human story, which conveys emotion, which is something that is sadly lacking in the majority of military model subjects.
The piece is designed around a photograph from the Second World War, which shows an American officer who is offering some emotional support to one of his young soldiers who has just lost one of his buddies in combat. Careful attention has been paid to the original scene, and the design has cleverly taken the anatomy of the two men into account so that the two figures fit together from a total of five, light grey resin castings including the base. The officer's head is separate, and has a convincingly natural face, and restrained yet well-sculpted hair detail. The young soldier's head has a close cropped hair style, with both of his eyes closed and has been cast with the officer's left arm cast as an integral piece. This may sound strange and look odd, but when the two figures are fitted together, the unique design shows just how much thought has gone into making this piece different and well executed.
Assembling the various parts gave me a very satisfying feeling, as they fit together so well, and as there are no gaps, there's no need for filler, or the removal of excess resin. The pair sit on a large, substantial moulded rock base, which has a natural texture with no mould seams or cast faults to worry about.
Step 1: Unpainted Models
Pic 2 Detail of the unpainted figures. Pic 3 The officer's unpainted head. Pic 4 A detail view of reveals a well-executed expression. Pic 5 Light damage to the left eye (lateral line) on the young soldier's head was initially a concern and was repaired by careful trimming with a scalpel and then sanded, but once assembled it isn't seen!
Step 2: Painting
The polyurethane resin Classicae has chosen to cast their first release in is a very pleasing pale grey colour, which is ideal as a base colour to either paint straight onto with enamels or acrylics, or to take a primer coat, unlike some of the lighter colours used by many companies. As I planned to paint the whole model in acrylics, I decided that I would prime all of the parts using a grey automotive primer, in this instance from Halfords. Despite being almost an exact match for the resin colour, this offered a slightly better key for the Olive Drab colours that I wanted to use.
As there are no colouring instructions supplied with the figures, I sought reference from the from Histoire & Collections Army Service Forces Catalog G.I. Collectors Guide, which has colour pictures of every imaginable piece of equipment that was issued to the American soldier in the European Theatre. These items are shown in colour photos and they appear to be new items of original wartime stock, which has remained in as new condition. The boots worn by these two American soldiers are of 1943 issue and so this helped to date the piece, ruling out anything prior to 1943. These boots have attached brown leather buckled gaiters, which appear to be separate to the uninitiated, and have a different colour and texture to the boots themselves, which seem to have a rough and possibly untanned finish.
Step 3: Shades of Olive Drab
The only other truly recognisable garment is the M1943 Field jacket that is worn by the young soldier, and there are several variations of this jacket shown in the book from which I chose one that had a distinctly different colour to the other clothing to add a touch of contrast, and interest to the piece. The officer wears just a shirt and a pair of trousers, both of these items were seen in many variations of Olive Drab, add to this the degrees of fading, and amount of times they were washed, they could be painted using an infinite choice of Olive Drab shades. Although mainly designed for use with AFVs, etc., I decided to use Life Colours Olive Drab set of six colours.
Step 4: Airbrush
Pic 6 The 1943 issue boots with their attached gaiters. Pic 7 The hands are well sculpted and once painted very natural in appearance. Pic 8 The large resin base was sprayed with Halford's car body primer. Pic 9 All parts were also primed in Halford's grey acrylic car body primer and dry fitted; note that both heads were drilled and metal pins added so that the painting could be done without the need to spoil the freshly applied paint. Pic 10 A set of Olive Drab acrylic colours available from the Airbrush Company in the Life Color range was used for the uniforms. Pic 11 The base colour Olive Drab was airbrushed without masking. Pic 12 A darkened Olive Drab was airbrushed into the creases and folds to add shading to the trousers. Pic 13 The arm on the M1943 jacket was airbrushed without masking, before the officer's jacket was painted. Pic 14 The main area of the M1943 jacket as it was painted using UA223 Faded Olive Drab, again without masking.
Step 5: Detail on Clothing
The first stage was to paint both soldiers' trousers in UA219 (Fs33070) Olive Drab, airbrushed using the Iwata Eclipse SBS, and no masking was required at this early stage. Once the trousers were dry, some black was added to the OD and the creases and folds were airbrushed to add depth of shadows, to help to see where this needed to be exaggerated the two figures were test-fitted without glue. The trousers were highlighted using the OD with Dunkelgelb added to lighten the colour; this was applied on the crests of creases and the knees, etc.
The next stage was to airbrush the young soldier's M1943 Field Jacket using Faded Olive Drab UA223, this lighter colour OD offered a good contrast against the darker shade of the trousers. The jacket colour was also airbrushed without the need of masking and was shaded using a mixture of UA223 with some Vallejo Model Air US Dark Green. The young soldier's left arm is moulded as an integral part of the officer's back and so was painted and shaded at the same time.
Pic 15 Humbrol Maskol was used to good effect to mask the soldier's arm before the officer's shirt was airbrushed. Pic 16 Maskol was gently lifted from the surface of the model, by using the tip of an old airbrush needle; it comes off in one piece using this method. Pic 17 Boots were painted in their base colour. Pic 18 The boots after shading with a darker brown mixture.
Once the arm was fully dry, it was masked by brushing the area with Humbrol Maskol liquid, and to anyone who has not used this medium, it is a liquid latex rubber which is simply brushed onto the area that requires masking, then once the airbrushing has been done to adjacent areas, it can then simply be peeled off as a rubbery skin revealing the unpainted/masked area.
Using this method the arm was masked and the officer's shirt was airbrushed using UA222 Olive Drab and the main torso was also airbrushed. The darkest areas were then shaded with a darkened shade of the OD, especially in the very darkest areas were the figures are attached, i.e. under the legs, and under the arms, etc.
At this stage the Olive Drab colours had been completed with the exception of the young soldier's belt, and so attention was turned to painting the boots, firstly using Vallejo Sandy Brown which was then airbrush shaded with Burnt Umber with the moulded details bordered using Burnt Umber mixed with black. The attached gaiters were painted in a slightly lighter, but more of a tan shade than the boots themselves as they appear this way in the colour picture in the book I was using as a reference. Finally, the lace holes were painted black together with the manmade moulded soles.
Pic 19 The officer's head painted in the 'white and Sandy Brown' base flesh mixture Pic 20 The shading was applied next, using thinned Burnt Umber. Pic 21 The whites of the eyes were added in white, but with a touch of Burnt Umber added to kill the starkness. Pic 22 Painting completed on the officer's head, with all eye, and hair detail applied by careful brushwork. Pic 23 The young soldier's head, with the officer's arm may look strange at this stage, but it fits perfectly when assembled with the other parts. A little clear gloss (Johnson's Future acrylic floor polish) was added to the eye to give the hint of tears. Pic 24 Close up the two figures fitted together.
Step 7: Flesh Tones
Next I decided to concentrate on the flesh tone areas, as I have used Vallejo Sandy Brown as a basis for my flesh tones in recent years, this was mixed with white to produce a basic flesh mix. Both heads were airbrushed using this colour, The Officer's right arm and the soldier's right hand were masked using both tape and Maskol, as the individual fingers were too thin to get the tape to stick, and the soldier's left hand was brush painted, as this seemed easier.
Once the base flesh colour had fully dried, a secondary colour was mixed to shade the flesh areas; this colour was made from Vallejo Burnt Umber, added to the base flesh mixture. To obtain a very subtle graduation of tone, I thinned this darker colour so that it was quite thin, but was not too runny to loose its ability to cover; it is difficult to explain the consistency, but it is slightly thicker than milk.
Both heads were painted using the same colours and shaded using the darkened mixture; this was lightly applied by airbrush at approximately 28psi and layered gradually to emphasize the recesses of the features, and mainly accounted for the mid tones of the skin colour. The deeper shadows were further shaded by the addition of some thinned Burnt Umber, applied where the officer's arm is moulded to the young soldier's back, and areas such as between the officer's right arm and the soldier's face to add depth and separate the two adjacent parts. This was also added to below the jaw line of each of the heads and either side of the nose where the eyes meet the sides of the nose below the eyebrows.
Unlike the officer, the soldier has his eyes closed, but despite this the eyelashes needed to be represented. These were lined in using a 00 brush with some thinned Burnt Umber. I began by painting the whites of the officer's eyes using white, but with a touch of Burnt Umber added to kill the starkness. The decision of which direction I wanted his eyes to look was thought out quite carefully, as this really alters the emotion that is conveyed, and could make or break the effect of the whole piece. With this very much in mind, I decided to centre the irises so he was looking or rather staring straight ahead, which was done by 'dotting' them in using Burnt Umber with black added. A smaller dot of a lighter colour was then added to the lower two thirds of the irises mixed from Burnt Umber with Sandy Brown added. To finish the irises the pupils were centred into them using black to make as perfect a dot as possible, then the whole of each eye was painted over with Future Floor Shine to add a good deep gloss. The top and bottom eyelashes were lined in with a fine brush using thinned Burnt Umber.
Pic 25 Dunkelgelb was the first colour sprayed onto the base. Pic 26 A darker colour was washed into the engraved detail on the base. Pic 27 Once the wash had dried, a lighter colour was dry-brushed to bring out the highlights; to this a variety of washes of different greens were added to represent moss, etc. Pic 28 I found Histoire & Collection's superb reference book, Army Service Forces Catalog G.I. Collectors Guide very useful.
Step 8: Hairstyles
The hair on both heads was mainly brush painted, however, both have different cast textures and so this meant that two different techniques had to be used. The officer's hair has a subtle moulded texture which unlike most 1:9 scale figures I have painted, does not have deep engraved lines of hair detail. With this fact in mind I brush-painted the base colour of the hair first, using Burnt Umber and then added the hair detail by using progressively lighter mixtures of brown to add a series of fine lines. This effect was altered by both adjustment of the colours and subtle over-spraying with thinned Vallejo Burnt Umber. The result of this is quite a pleasing chestnut colour with subtle tones, yet giving some depth.
The young soldier's hair has a totally different texture and looks like very close cropped curly hair. This was brush painted using black as a base colour and later dry-brushed using Burnt Umber added to Sandy Brown to pull out the highlights.
The hands were shaded using the airbrush with well-thinned Burnt Umber, mainly directed at the joints of the fingers and in particular the knuckles. The thinned mixture was also used on a fine brush to add character lines to the creases and details of each finger and outlines of the fingernails. The fingernails were then painted in the basic flesh tone with a little red added; the cuticles were then painted in with some white added to the basic flesh mixture.
Afterwards I carefully studied the hands in detail and some small alterations were made including some highlights to the fingers and knuckles (using a lighter shade of flesh tone) as well as adding fine lines to represent dirt in the fingernails.
Step 9: The Base
The base supplied really is a substantial resin casting, and I can't resist using the adjective 'chunky', as it certainly is as far as bases are concerned. The rock texture is nicely sculpted and cries out for a series of washes, and dry brushing to bring the detail out. Although the casting was already moulded in medium grey, I primed it using the Halford's grey automotive primer to provide a good key for the other colours I would be using.
The next stage was to paint the whole base with Life Color Dunkelgelb, as this seemed a good neutral colour. I followed this with a wash of a thinned, dark brown mixture to emphasize the texture of the rock. To further enhance the texture, a white and Dunkelgelb mixture was dry brushed onto the highlights of the rock, and finally selected areas were dry brushed with various shades of green to simulate moss and other such growth.
Step 10: Summary
It is always good to see a new manufacturer emerge, and especially when they bring something new to the table. Classicae have made a great start with this thought provoking piece, which is well sculpted, and nicely cast, with no apparent air bubbles, and it fits together precisely with no filling required. All in all, this can best be described as a painter's model', but on reflection would also look very nice as a bronzed display piece.
I found 'Compassion' a fun piece to paint especially as the large scale was perfect for airbrushing and getting to grips with detail of the faces. I can't help thinking about who the two men in the original photograph were, and what had happened to them, and for me this is the magic ingredient that sets it apart from the rest, and makes it very different. If painting is what you enjoy most, and assembling numerous weapons and equipment are not high on your list of priorities, then I can recommend this fine piece, which is a pure painters joy.
Thanks go to Classicae for supplying 'Compassion' to me via the Editor, and wish them good luck with their future products that judging by their first will be worth waiting for.
I would also like to thank The Airbrush Company for supplying the Life Color set of Olive Drab paints, as they were ideal for this project, and I look forward to trying them on a military vehicle in the near future.