It’s competition time! I have entered the novice category of r/minipainting’s Tint Your Tribe competition. The rules are simple: pick a theme which represents my country of birth, and convert, paint, and post a mini which represents that concept.
Maybe your country conquered Gaul once upon a time and you want to recapture the long gone glory of your ancestors! We encourage it!
The prize is a set of five halflings and a fencer from Westfalia Miniatures. There’s no limit to the options for British miniatures: there are historical figures from Warlord Games Boudica Triumphant! to WWII soldiers; bowler-hatted steampunk professors to the vast ranges of British fantasy and science fiction miniatures of the last few decades. But the most British miniature I know of is Rogue Miniatures’ Britannia. The very personification of Britain.
On 18th February my Britannia arrived by Royal Mail. Here’s the unpainted submission, complete with reddit username and date of entry (as specified in the contest’s rules), alongside the finished piece. There’s more finished photos at the bottom of the post, and work in progress along the way!
This is quite a big, heavy mini. Britannia fully conceals a 30mm round base behind her skirts, so for such a substantial piece the purchase £4.75 feels like a real bargain. The size of the figure gives me some options to make my mini stand out from the competition. You can’t have missed that it’s been a turbulent 12 months in domestic and international politics, with a sense that a lot old certainties are suddenly unsettled. From the start, I wanted to try to set Britannia on a base of ancient ruins, littered with autumn leaves, implying the transient, classical antecedents of Britain’s past hegemony. I’m definitely not a confident enough sculpter to do that from scratch, but I found a good 40mm ‘ancient’ base in one of the trays at Dark Sphere – I’m not sure if this was Scibor or Micro Art Studios. After cutting off the slotta tab and filing the joining areas flat I was ready to drill and pin the mini to the base. I think the larger base is really just about right for the piece.
The next decision was the colour scheme. I knew I needed to do more than the basics – there’s not enough sculpted detail on Britannia to let washes, drybrush and edging carry it. But those wide, flat areas of clothing open up the possibility of painting some designs in freehand. After a short Google image search, I found (very small and in low resolution) my muse. Britannia, in classic red, white, blue and gold colours, decorated with the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.
I was confident in my ability to paint a two-by-two grid of red and blue (in fact painting the skirt in pure white seemed like it would pose a greater challenge. For the first coat though, I didn’t take too much care and just blocked in the basic colours). I debated using decals for the coat of arms, but after seeing the unbelievable heraldic details that other, more experienced painters have done before me I realised I at least had to attempt something myself. I also wanted to push myself on the base, and try a marble effect rather than painting the masonry in plain slate-grey stone. I decided to avoid object sourced lighting and non-metallic metals. The former because the sculpt lacks a torch (or other source of light), the latter because I actually really like painting with true metallic paints. I think this might have been easier before pinning Britannia to the base, but epoxy resin doesn’t remove easily so I’m stuck with it now. I followed, with some adjustment, this guide from Centrepiece Miniatures for painting marble (it’s come out better than I expected but worse than I hoped. The use of weathering medium – in this case the tub of burnt sienna artists’ pigment powder visible to the rear of the photograph – was a real revelation). To protect the loose pigment when I shade, highlight and layer the mini, I immediately applied gloss varnish. I wonder if this will clog up some of the details or affect the behaviour of further layers. Time will tell, but for now here’s Britannia as she looked over the weekend of 24th-26th February 2017.
I was pretty much swamped between work and study for a month, and only able to grab a few minutes of painting time here and there. I guess the lack of consistent progress discouraged me from taking many photos, which is a shame because looking back now there were a lot of opportunities to record the steps I took.
I started applying layers, practicing wet-blending technique. It worked particularly well on the front of the skirt, so in the end I decided not to ruin that with any low-quality freehand. It was less successful round the back, which I blame on the base’s broken columns. For the face, armour and the leaves on the base I used a fairly standard process of building up successively lighter layers, then glazed the lips and added eyes. I’m not really happy with how the leaves turned out but I had an idea of how to fix that. The armour seemed to work well with a 50/50 mix of Citadel Nuln Oil and Lamian Medium over metallic, so I’ll use that method again. The shield and the fiddly gauntlets took a while to get smooth and straight (enough) edges, and again I picked out the rim using lightly applied Nuln Oil and Lamian Medium. I probably could have spent longer on the shield’s interior, but there were bigger challenges ahead, and deadlines tomorrow! Progress picture from 19March 2017:
When I started minipainting after a ten year hiatus, I decided to avoid falling into routines, and always try to improve my technique. I am after all not particularly collecting an army for war gaming; I don’t need rank upon rank of identical units. I’ve also always been a slow painter, so I have more than enough minis to simply move on to the next one when an experiment fails. With that in mind, I’m following three rules:
I’ve already tried something new with Britannia, but since it’s a competition I wanted to try freehand painting the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. I’d previously divided Britannia’s coat into quarters, and to them I applied home-made transfers of very thin outlines – the three lions, the red lion, and the harp. Curiously there’s no Welsh dragon, but there have been dozens of different versions of the design over the centuries and I think he turns up in some of them. If I’d had a bit more time I considered painting up a unicorn and a dragon mini to flank Britannia. I might yet, but not in time for the competition.
I suffered my first major setback here. After about half a day to let the transfers set, I overpainted them in the appropriate colours. But at the end of the day I picked up the mini only to find the transfers hadn’t adhered properly – other than Scotland (ironically?) they slid right off Britannia, leaving a residue that wasn’t visible at small scale but that the high resolution photo shows in excruciating detail. I was pretty confident in the designs by this point so just repainted them freehand. The lions might look a little odd around the face and the harp is a bit off-centre, but it’s best freehand painting I’ve done to date. I’ll improve.
Finally, I sprayed the mini with Army Painter’s matt varnish to the whole mini, and brushed Vallejo water effects as a very thick gloss varnish over the marble areas. Then I just applied some static grass, tufts, lichen and leaf litter to the base, working to obscure the sculpted leaves that I wasn’t happy with. Britannia was ready to rule the waves. My second and final setback actually came after I’d photographed her: there are a couple of mold-lines left which aren’t really visible to the eye but which my camera really picks up. There’s basically nothing to be done about them now, so I will follow rule 3 and live with them.
To finish, here’s a gallery of the final piece and a link to the competition entry. I think the winner is chosen by public vote at the end of the month. I’ve really enjoyed this, it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone, and prompted me to paint a really cool miniature I might not normally have chosen. Bring on the next competition.