Friday, October 14, 2005

Wee Highland Laddies

In the past couple of weeks I have taken delivery of a second-hand, ex-library copy of Charles Grants "The Battle of Fontenoy". Thank-you

I also have to admit to a slow and growing bias toward structuring my Armies after those that fought this battle.

These factors, along with my own long-standing interest in the French and Indian War has led me to believe that a unit or two of Highlanders are absolutely indispensible to my collection.

I have plucked up the courage to start painting some Highlanders.

Courage? I hear you ask. Why yes, I reply. Highlanders are famously intimidating for more than just their reckless charges with the Claymore.

It's the tartan.

How do you paint it? It's so complicated! I know, I've tried.

My first experiment was with the Royal Stuart Sett (this is a technical term that means "pattern" as far as I am concerned) that looked like someone had been ill on a pizza. Yuk.

My references have pointed me at two regiments for the periods/theatres I'm interested in. My Blanford "Uniforms of the Seven Years War" has men of the 42nd and 78th regiments, both in a dark green tartan with black or very dark green overstriping. Figure 133 is a grenadier in a fur cap that would have not been out of place in the AWI. His sett has a red "overstripe" (ie, a thin, sparse, red stripe over the larger pattern of the sett) in addition to the basic "Government" tartan. Apparrently this was an additional mark of his status as a grenadier. Alan Saphersons' "A Basic Guide to Armies and Uniforms of the Seven Years War" is in complete agreement. My Osprey MAA-285 "King George's Army 1740-93: (1) Infantry" offers on plate A3 an alternative in the form of the short-lived 64th Highlanders who should have had the same sett as the 78th or 42nd, but may also have had a red tartan of the kind you might see on a tin of short-bread. Maa 48, "Wolfe's Army" likewise ascribes the red sett to the 78th, but this is conjectural according to the notes on the plate.

Based on all this I am most definitely doing the 42nd Regiment in their green sett and buff facings. I am also thinking very hard about doing the 78th who could double up as the 64th at Culloden - both seem to have had white facings. Whether I do them in the green or red sett is another thing. I like the red sett as a point of difference from most other Highland units, but feel that the darker tartan stands ou better against the red doublets.

So, on to painting the Tartan.

I prime my figures white and then paint all the flesh areas in their base colour and follow that with a thin was of sepia ink. This includes the knobbly knees.

I give the kilt and plaid a thinnish coating of a nice mid-green. In my case this is Vallejo "Goblin Green". Because it is slightly thinned down, it shades and highlights itself enough without being heavy handed. I then over-paint a grid of dark stripes with a mix of 50:50 black and green with no more than three horizontal stripes and a vertical every 2-3mm.

When dry I mix up a lightish blue (whatever looks good to you) and paint a little square wherever the dark lines intersect on a flat or raised part of the kilt or plaid. Likewise, I mix a 50:50 white and green and apply it to the raised or flat parts of the kilt/plaid - this is also a good opportunity to do a little cutting in on the grid lines - these are never steady or even and can always do with some tidying up.

The hose are very simple. Starting with the white undercoat, paint 4-5 clockwise spirals down the leg, eack reaching abour half the circumference of the limb. Do this first clockwise then anti-clockwise. Paint a circle of red around the top of the hose, a black shoe at the bottom, then cut in with white where coffee has caused your brush to err!

I'll post a pic in a day or so to demonstrate all this palaver.

As for the red sett, give me time to nut it out. I suppse the key here is to give the impression of Tartan while not driving oneself insane.


Anonymous said...

You might find some re-enators sites useful for pictures of a red sett - here's one:



Anonymous said...

Also, this site gives a closeup of the Government sett, which may lead you to reconsider the quantity and location of the blue in the tartan. I certainly recall when painting (years ago) 53mm display figures always starting off with a basic blue andd then painting overstripes of thinned green and black.



Bloggerator said...

I think this website agrees with you:

but the finished product looks just the same as the method I described in my blog!

How's that!?!

Anonymous said...

To understand why you can paint it backwards and get the same result you have to look at a real piece of tartan which isn't done by over laying stripes of paint. Its done by weaving bands of coloured wool. The dark blue areas (which came out mid blue on yours in all the real kilts I've seen the dark blue, black and various greens are so dark that on a cloudy day from 20 feet away it looks like solid dark something, mid blue helps make the patern more recognisable) are where the horizontal and veritical blue meet, the brighter green bits are where the horizontal and vertical green bits mix, the dark blue green is where horizontal blue crosses vertical green and vice versa. You can get a really good impression of this by starting with blue, and over laying green stripes which let the green come through but its hard to do consistantly, esp on a small figure (best on 75mm + figs).

Looks good!
-Ross Macfarlane

Bloggerator said...

Ross, both you and John make convincing arguments. I'll give it a try your way on the weekend and post a couple of pictures for the purpose of comparison!