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Want to Paint Some Simian Legionnaires?

Simian Empire Legionnaires (2 models)
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$7.50 USD

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Hundvig Fezian writes:

Well written. I'm inclined to agree with you about purple being a problematic color for miniatures. Most shades are just a little too dark to look good on the table, it's hard to highlight, and if you go too light it looks, well, sissy. Lavender just isn't intimidating, even ona giant gorilla with a sword, you know? :)

Still, you gotta stick to the brief when you're painting for pay.


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24 July 2007page first published

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Chocolate Fezian writes:

I got up early one morning, I made myself a cuppa, turned on the computer and logged onto TMP. A few posts down, Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian had posed the question, "Want to paint Simian Legionnaires?" He was looking for someone of intermediate ability to paint 100 Kingdoms Simian Legionnaires, following the painting guides by the pro's in the previous Simian Legionnaires Workbench articles.

I followed the links, and found myself looking at pictures of painted Simian Legionnaire Gorla's. "Hmmm..." thinks I. "How difficult can it be to paint a gorilla in a frock?" I emailed Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian with the link to my Photobucket album - and the rest, as they say, is history.

So here I am, painting something for someone else, for the first time in a painting career spanning four decades. Like a lot of guys my age (in the U.K., at least), I started collecting and painting toy soldiers back in the early 70's, with Airfix kits and little soldiers. I then moved on to the GW hobby in its many guises and stuck at it for more than 20 years - for the first 15 or so years, I was the only person in the world that collected GW minis (or so I thought). That all changed when GW opened a shop in my hometown, and for the first time, I got to regularly meet other painters, collectors and (for the first time) wargamers. Inevitably I started playing GW games and I got, shall we say, a little too enthusiastic about some games.

Recently I've moved back to historical, in 10, 15 and 28mm. I've just finished a 28mm WWII project. Next up is a 15mm AK-47 Nationalist force, and when that's finished, it's off to North America, mid eighteenth century.

These days I paint and play for my enjoyment. I try not to speed paint armies or units just because I need them for some game-winning strategy.

I play about half a dozen different games regularly, none of them very well, victory is good and defeat doesn't matter, much.

First Impressions

The minis arrived, 2 pairs still in the blister pack, one blister opened. The first thing I noticed was no foam in the blisters, and the minis had suffered because of this. All the swords were bent (some more than others) and some of the detail was damaged, probably due to the minis rubbing against each other in transit.

The minis themselves were big and brutal, just as I would imagine a gorilla in a frock.

Painting with Vallejo Model Color and GW Inks

After I cleaned off the mould lines, I sprayed them black with GW Chaos Black. When that was dry, I mixed Black with some black ink and liberally applied the mix over the entire mini, paying special attention to the undercuts and hard-to-reach areas. (I prefer to thin paint with ink where possible, as it thins the paint but doesn't lose the pigment density.)

Next I drybrushed them with Cold Grey. I usually drybrush minis grey after a black undercoat, as it lifts the detail and makes it easier to see what you are painting.

Then I drybrushed the flesh and fur with Stonewall Grey. At this point, they looked a little too painted, so I applied a 50/50 black-ink-and-water wash over the fur.

Round about this time, I Google-ed some photos and paintings of gorillas. The thing that struck me was just how black they are. Older gorillas have patches of grey fur, there are also patches of grey on the hands and faces, but I couldn't work out whether this was colouring or light reflection.

I left the fur and flesh and moved onto the tunic

Purple… OK. At this point, I wasn't comfortable with purple. Covering such a large area of the mini with purple, next to the black of the fur and flesh, was going to make the mini very dark (too dark?). The Simians in the Hundred Kingdoms game are based on Imperial Romans. In Imperial Rome, purple was the colour of the emperor - fine for Praetorians, but the rank and file... ?

The purple tunic was going to give them a real retro look. I don't see many fantasy minis these days painted purple, painters now seem to use a more muted, natural palette. I wanted to paint the tunic off-white with a coloured trim.

Then the article on the Simian Javelin Corps by Blue Table Painting was posted on TMP. The painter, Jay, says in the vidcast that he was told to "…run with whatever idea I have..." so he paints one unit red and the other unit tan. I prefer the look of both these units to the purple legions, so I give some consideration to painting the tunics off-white with a purple trim.

In the end, I went for purple, as this was the brief.

I started with Royal Purple and then added white, then finally added more white, using a method something akin to the three-layer technique.

Next, I wanted to try to lighten up the minis, so I painted the helmet and the tunic trim white - starting with Cold Grey, then Stonewall Grey, and finally white.

Then I gave the armour a coat of Chainmail Silver, followed by a neat black ink wash, then highlighted with Chainmail Silver and finally Silver.

The straps on the armour were painted Beasty Brown, and highlighted with Dwarf Skin mixed with Plague Brown. Finally, I applied a 50/50 brown ink wash.

I then painted the inside of the belt Silver and gave it a 50/50 blue wash, then lightly drybrushed it with Silver.

Next, I painted the outer part of the belt and the helmet trim with Glorious Gold.

I moved onto the faces, and painted the tongue Dark Flesh, then Terracotta, and finally Terracotta mixed with a little white.

The teeth were given a coat of Cobra Leather, then Bonewhite, and finally, white.

The eyes were then painted white and given a black pupil.

Next up, the shield. This was another area that I was giving a great deal of thought to. I felt the shield should have a white field to lighten the mini, but I was reluctant to paint it white due to the complex design in low relief. If I painted it white, I would have had to paint the design in purple, which would be a time-consuming process and would have defeated the object of painting it white in the first place as there would be so much purple. (I would have preferred a plain round shield with the rope-twist rim - then I could have painted/transferred my own devices onto it.)

I painted the shield Silver, then a 50/50 blue ink wash, and finally drybrushed Silver.

Then I painted the rope-twist rim with Polished Gold, gave all the gold a 50/50 brown ink wash, and then highlighted with Polished Gold.

I painted the base Beasty Brown, then Bronzed Fleshtone. Finally, I mixed a little Elf Skintone into white and drybrushed the base.

I then took the Elf Skintone/white mix and did a little localised drybrushing on the face, hands and feet.

I painted the sword Chainmail Sliver, then a neat black ink wash, then painted on more Chainmail Sliver, and then drybrushed with Silver.

I then painted the rim of the base Yellow Olive, and finally mixed a little black paint and ink and touched up the black lining.

And that's it - 6 retro Simians ready to be sent home!

Before I could send them home, I needed to take some photos.

During the course of a day, I took loads of photos. The trouble was they all came out with the purple coloured blue! So I did what any self-respecting would-be photographer should do, I put a post on TMP!

Light tent
Light tent

I rigged up a light tent with 2 lamps and some white paper, and the minis came out purple.

Inside the light tent

I'm still not 100% happy with the photos but they're not bad, and I am sure that I can improve on this method and take better photos.

Ready for my close up!