Life In Miniature

I paint miniatures.
It all started back in high school, when collecting miniatures to represent D&D characters was a thing that people did. I began with old Ral Partha and Grenadier fantasy-themed miniatures, and my collection grew. By now, I have enough lead figures in my basement to build a radiation-proof bomb shelter.

There is significant debate among gamers as to whether using miniatures as a visual aid is helpful or a distraction. Needless to say, I’m in favor of using them, but most games I play these days — board and cards games, because they require less of a time commitment — don’t really use them. Still, every once in a while I get on a painting jag, and I add more figures to the pile of finished stuff. Above, though not more recent work, is a photo of the type of figures I’ve been painting recently: 15mm Napoleonics. You can see the dime coin in the photo for scale to give you an idea how small 15mm really is. The base on the left is a French Foot Artillery battery; the middle is a command stand of Austrian infantry (the 57th regiment to be precise) and the right-hand figure is a French Gendarme, or Military Police, on horseback. The right and center bases of figures are by Old Glory: the horseman on the right is by Battle Honors. That stripey banner pole on the Austrian infantry stand is hand-painted, and boy was that a pain in the butt to do! It looks great now that it’s finished, and that’s the style of flag pole the Austrian army had 200 years ago. The flag itself is paper and printed out out from an online site devoted to Napoleonic flags. I’m crazy for detail, but not insane enough to hand-paint all those tiny flags!

I only started to paint Napoleonics just over a decade ago. My wife and I were on our delayed honeymoon trip, and we were traveling with a tour through the heart of the territory that was the backdrop for much of the Napoleonic Wars: Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. It was a marvelous trip, and it really set the hook in me for a historical period in which I had always had some interest.

These next two are of the same dwarf figure from Games Workshop. I like this figure because he has a lot of character. First, he’s wearing a kilt, which I had fun painting in a plaid pattern I (I think) made up. The eye patch is also unusual, but frankly, a veteran warrior would have a few battle scars, am I right? This figure is roughly an inch tall.

This last figure is a treeman, also by Games Workshop. Note the tufts of turf used to decorate the eyebrows and elsewhere, and the anthill at it’s feet. Neither was a feature of the original model — I added them to give the figure a bit more character. The treeman is about six inches tall from base the the tip of its outstretched fingers.

So what do I do with all these painted miniatures? These days nothing much, though occasionally John Kovalic invites me over to his place so his Orks can smash my Empire (human) troops at Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Mostly, I paint to relax, and help take my mind off things like self-doubt and worries over life in modern America, at least for a little while.

I’m no master painter to be sure. Kovalic does a much better job with his stuff (professional artist — go figure) and a former co-worker of mine, Andy Statz, was a marvel with a paintbrush. We used to joke that he could paint the Gettyburg Address on the head of a pin, which was only a slight exaggeration at the time. I don’t see Andy much these days, and I sometimes wonder if he still paints, or if he gave it up for more “grown-up” pursuits. Maybe one day I’ll run into him again and ask. In the mean time I’ll keep painting, and hope that my skill will improve even as my eyesight wanes.

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