As a modeler, I primarily stick to military vehicles, with the occasional detour into ridiculously OP city maintenance mechs.
For 2020, I’m looking to branch way outside of my comfort zone and tackle something completely different.
In large part because my interest in history extends well beyond 20th and 21st century military vehicles. In college, I majored in history, with a focus on classical and early medieval Europe. And outside of some artillery and siege contraptions, you’re not going to find many military vehicles among the Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths, Franks and Normans.
What you will find are some pretty impressive-looking figures.
This won’t be my first time tackling figures. I did a few Verlinden jobs as a kid and…they were about as good as I could do at the time, which wasn’t very. Since my return to modeling, I’ve avoided them for a few reasons.
First, intimidation. Painting eyes, shield artwork, and other intricate shit has brought me up short.
Second, ignorance (see post title).
Third, I’m just not a fan of the prevailing painting style of hyper-accentuated, almost clownish highlights, shadows, rosy cheeks, and all that. While I have no idea what I’m doing, I do have a pretty good idea of what I don’t want to do.
Why come back to it now? A bit of a change of pace. A bit of a challenge. And a way to really develop my brush skills, particularly with painting small, intricate details. If nothing else, I figure I’ll be able to bring some of that back to my other work.
The best advice I’ve received so far has come from Ian Candler: “honestly just start one up…pick something you actually want to do and for the love of god pick a good sculpt”.
With that in mind, I went hunting, and came back with this snazzy 75mm Byzantine skoutatos from Altores.
The Byzatines had a very interesting sort of evolution from the Roman legion. With the legion, the focus was the legionnaires. Cavalry, skirmishers, archers, all more or less played supporting and harassing roles. But facing off with the Persians (and later various Islamic states) and their highly mobile fighting style, legions wouldn’t cut it. Just ask Crassus. Oh, wait…
In time, Byzantine tactics came to focus on the heavy cavalry, the cataphracts. Infantry acted in a supporting role, and was organized into chiliarchiai, units of 1000 containing roughly a third toxotai (archers and skirmishers), and two thirds skoutatoi, named for their shields (skouton). Unlike earlier Roman legions, these were truly mixed formations that used combined arms to operate effectively, and typically as an anchor and support for the cavalry.
This dude represents an 10th century skoutatos. Obviously armored in a chainmail tunic. He’s lofting a spathion, basically an evolution of the Roman spatha (the long cavalry sword – Maximus used one in Gladiator) that came to more resemble a European arming sword. Just one problem.
The sword was warped all to fuck. Now…I did manage to straighten it in some hot water. But it kept bending back, so I ultimately trapped it between two metal rulers (using the cork backsides) in a vice to let it set up. Then I fucked it all up with a butterfingers move while releasing the vice, and the sword snapped.
Yeah…fuck that noise.
Rather than trying to fix the sword, which I was kinda bummed about anyway, I decided to go a different route. Skoutatoi carried spathions, sure, but their main weapon was a long spear called a kontarion. Like, 12-14 feet long. I figured that would look rather striking, so I lopped off the sword, drilled out the hand, and readied a piece of 1mm brass rod as the shaft. The spearhead is another story for a later time.
To deal with the sword, I scratchbuilt the crossguard and hilt, added the original pommel, and stuck them onto the scabbard. The result looks pretty awesome so far:
Now primed and with those modifications made, I got my start blocking in the various colors. From what I can gather, colors could vary and were usually coordinated at a unit level for quick identification. So I guess one unit might be in blues, another in greens, and so on. I opted for blue, with plans to do several variations between the tunic, shield, and horsehair plume stuck to the helmet.
For the chainmail, I’ve used Ammo’s Steel. The blue tunic is Vallejo pale gray blue, and the pants and boots are AK and Vallejo paints. My initial skintone base was a mix of MRP Tan and Pale Roundel Red.
Next, I hit the various leather torso bits and the straps hanging from the helmet with MRP figure acrylic Brown Leather and Scale75 Arabic Shadow. The face got a mix of Scale75 Basic Flesh and Pink Flesh which to my eyes looks way better than my shitty MRP mix.
And…that’s where things stand now. Since I’m getting out of the blocking phase, I’m going to have to start playing with shadows and highlights and different tones, and to be honest it scares the shit out of me. But there’s no better way to learn than by doing, so…stay tuned!