Friday, May 26, 2023

Painting Styles: A Thirty Year Journey

This week a new unit was mustered into my 18th Century Russian army, and a suitable parade was organized. The First Grenadier Regiment’s new banners (flags by Adolfo Ramos) were blessed by the Czar’s preeminent mad padre, Father Mikhail Petrovich.  

Then, the Grenadiers passed in review before the commanding officer.  So why is this the First Grenadier Regiment?  Because it is the first such regiment that I ever painted, some thirty years ago, sometime around 1990 as I recall.  

Here below on the front of the right-hand base you can see three of the original figures, Front Rank Russian SYW grenadiers advancing which I purchased from the long defunct and legendary Emperor’s Headquarters, which I once visited on the south side of Chicago (I think it was the south side, it was a long drive).  I was a starving graduate student at the time, on a tight budget, so I think I purchased sixteen figures.   I was working from black and white drawings in a book on SYW Russian uniforms that I was lucky enough to find, and used whatever paints I could lay my hands on.   The green of the tunics was from a bottle of FolkArt craft paint (I want to say the colour was named Clover??) which wasn’t as dark as the traditional Russian Green of the period but I thought maybe the coats could be faded?

The other figures with the upright muskets are recently purchased from Foundry, which as I’ve said here before is now my go-to range for 28mm SYW.  Once I started rebasing my SYW figures six foot to a stand, I realized that I needed more Russian grenadiers to flesh out the unit, so I ordered another 18 of these figures from Foundry and got to work on them last month.   

In thirty years I’ve learned a few things about painting.   As you can see on the old Front Rank figures, I was fairly ignorant of layers, shading and washes.   The skin was very pale, and I had an idea that if I mixed red with flesh for their cheeks, they’d look a bit like toy nutcrackers,   I did my best with the eyes, but hey have that starey look to them.    I think I mixed some red with a bit of yellow to try and give some highlights on the red turn backs, but highlighting was something I didn’t really understand well.



The difference now, besides thirty years experience, is that I can afford better materials and brushes, which offsets the slight deterioration that my eyes have experienced.  The Foundry figures are painted using he tri-tone Foundry paint system in the school of Kevin Dallimore, and as someone kindly said on Twitter the other day, these new figures are done at a good tabletop standard, a compliment I’m glad to take.   

It gave me great pleasure to fold these old and new figures into a composite grenadier battalion, and to give them spiffy new flags.   It’s a small tribute to thirty years of trial and error and slow improvements, but I love them all.   These figures and the rest of the Russian army are rumoured to be preparing to march against Turkey.   More on that soon.

Thanks for looking.  Blessings to your brushes!



  1. Great looking figures Mike. I shudder when I look through my first units I painted. They look like I painted them with a 4 inch brush!

  2. Huzzah! A well turned out body of men. I'm sending a case of champagne to the officers mess and kegs of beer to the ranks.

  3. I reckon that whatever improvement the new paintwork represents, they follow a pretty high standard to begin with. The problem with refining techniques is that it is hard to abandon them! On the matter of eyes, I rarely bother, but when doing so, just use a black or dark brow line with a dot below it but touching. At the sort of range that you see a person with the apparent 'size' you see the figures - maybe 50 or 60 foot away - that's about all you would see.

  4. Interesting to see the changes/similarity of your painting progress 🤔

  5. It's also interesting to note how much the miniatures have improved in 30 years. The proportions of the head and hands are much better on the newer figures and the older figures seem much more chunky. Sure, the skill of the sculptor plays a part in this, but I wonder if improvements in casting, metalurgy, and molding materials have also contributed.

    But yes, there's a definite improvement in your technique as well.

  6. A few old veterans will stiffen the ranks in a crisis! Well done by not retiring them!

    I can't help but feel an emotional attachment to the handful of minifigs, still answering the call despite having been painted in the 70s when I was at CMR, (with occasional touchups to scratches, broken spears etc and to help them blend in).

  7. There is nothing like weathered Veterans to add some spine & spice to a unit! Delightful to see. I also once visited The Emperor’s Headquarters (mumbly decades ago). Still have & use the GeoHex terrain I purchased that giddy night. ~ Tom T

  8. I think incorporating new figures into existing armies is good. It is even more so when bolstering existing units. While my armies are not 28mm my newer figures are visually more pleasing than some painted previously, including those in the ‘80s and ‘90s. However, these new recruits are just that, they haven’t yet experienced the previous campaigns. Thanks for posting.


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