27 June 2017

The Baltic German Town Center on a Bright(-er) Day. . .

 A half-timbered, or fachwerk, house.

A delightful couple of hours spent this late morning and early afternoon tweaking the construction of my foamcore lightbox and then taking a slew of better-lighted photographs of the recently completed model buildings.  While some a re rather good, others need to be reshot.  I've tried three-point lighting, but that still leaves shadows and certain important details in the darkness, so a fourth source of diffused light, probably positioned behind the camera and  bounced off the ceiling of the lightbox, will solve the problem.  Stay tuned.  

By the way, the Young Master, who returned Sunday evening from 10 days visiting his grandparents in Seattle, approves of Dad's recent construction boom.  We're planning a very simple Featherstonian-type wargame this weekend using his soldiers that he received last Christmas.  A few of the buildings here just might make an appearance.  Can't wait!

-- Stokes

 Another half-timbered house.


The Duke of Brunswick Gasthaus.  No trouble figuring out what goes on here.


A better photograph of the sign hanging above the door into the pub and inn.


The more interesting front half of Das Heiligen-Geist-Hospital, or The Hospital of the Holy Spirit.


The local Latin school, or Lateinschule. 


Das Rathaus, or town hall.


Die Universität, or as we like to call it in English, the university.


Das Waisenhaus, or town orphanage.  And just what are those two ladies with the generous decolletage doing outside an orphanage??!!


Two more half-timbered houses.  The timbering on all four of these was done with a combination of magic marker, colored pencils, and crayon.


And finally, das Zollhaus or the custom house where duty is collected on all goods entering town, and paperwork is processed for all imports and exports.  It's almost Kafkaesque!

25 June 2017

It's Market Day. . .

At last, it's Market Day, and the square between the Rathaus and local university is abuzz as townsfolk and country people alike journey to the center of town to have a look around.  Perhaps, they might also purchase some common necessities like seasonal produce, flowers, or freshly caught eels for instance.

Finished the important surprise details mid-afternoon, and have had a little time to set up better lighting, the tripod, and camera for a few slightly better photographs.  Still some tiny things to see to and some final painting, but nothing anyone but me would notice.  Ladies and genetlemen, I give you the town of 'name-yet-to-be-determined.'

-- Stokes


Children frolic around the corner in the square before the old Hospital of the Holy Spirit.  And is that?  It is!  It is!  Here comes Magarete the Marketenderin on the way to set up her stall around the corner for Market Day.  A bit further afield, in front of the coffee house, just behind the Rathaus, you'll observe Father Tibertius attempting yet again to save the souls of notorious local madame 'The Naughty Lola' and her coworkers, all of whom plan to take full advantage of Market Day too.


 The Rathaus and Hospital of the Holy Spirit beyond have, if you look very closely, had their clocks installed, so that the townspeople can keep better track of time during the long summer days.


Meanwhile, Gerda, Helga, and Big Daddy plan to take full advantage of the increased foot traffic to peddle their beer and spirits.  You didn't know that Big Daddy is the proprietor of The Duke of Brunswick, did you?  Many local students from the nearby university spend considerable portions of their already meager stipends here in the afternoons after classes have finished for the day.  The university, by the way, offers various courses in jurisprudence, canonical law, grammar, rhetoric, Greek, Latin, medicine, and philosophy.  The faculty of the latter is especially strong when it comes to Metaphysics.  Indeed, a recent public disputation, which ended in fisticuffs, dealt with the number of angels one might fit onto the head of a pin. . .  Ergo the appearance of Big Daddy and a platoon of infantry to restore order in the lecture hall.


Across town, Herr and Frau Tesdorpf stop in front of the Zollhaus (Customs House) to say hello to a young Prussian officer, who hopes to make the acquaintance of their daughter, Lady Antonia Tesdorpf.  Notice too the town coat of arms above the door, which really is the town coat of arms for Lübeck in Germany, but I like the design so much, it seems like a good idea to borrow it in miniature.


Last of all, Aunts Gertrude and Waltraud have decided to see what all the fuss is about.  Pleading a migraine, Aunt Hiltrud did not accompany her sisters and remained at home.  Meanwhile, a few terminally errant soldiers have decided to risk running into their sergeant to see if they might instead meet some local  farmers' daughters in town for the day.

24 June 2017

A Few Sneakpeaks at the Baltic German Town Center. . .

A tiny peak at the town center to be. . . 

Still not quite there with everything, but I wanted to share a few early photographs of the almost finished Baltic German town center after a quick trip to my local 'big-box' arts and crafts store midday where I found, in the scrapbooking aisle of all places,  12" square heavy (vinyl?) textured sheets the make perfect cobblestone mats on which to place the various town buildings!  Who knew?  Allow me to reiterate that I will never again sneer at the scrapbooking set. 

At any rate, there are various companies out there that produce cobblestone gaming mats in various sizes, but looking at them online, the colors seem either too dark, or the size of the cobblestones depicted seem too large for 28-30mm figures and buildings.  So, I thought that I'd take a gander at the dollhouse and scrapbooking aisles to see if I might ind reasonable substitutes  Lo and behold, there they were, the perfect randomly patterned, sized, and colored heavy sheets of whatever they are made of at 50% off the listed retail price.  I purchased six sheets with two extras for future use.  

The mats have some sheen, admittedly, but if you have ever observed a town square or cobbled streets anywhere, especially on even a slightly damp day, you will have noticed that so too do the real things after centuries of foot and wagon traffic have smoothed out their surfaces.  Add some light rain or mist on top of that, and the cobblestones have a bit of sheen to them.  One can easy slip and fall if wearing shoes with leather soles in fact.  So, my initial thought to dull the mats with a few shots of something like Testor's Dullcote will remain just that.  A passing thought.

Before leaving the store, I also stumbled onto large foam core sheets that have one side in non-reflective sky blue.  These will perform admirably as neutral backdrops for future tabletop photography exploits.  All of this is simply a round about way of saying take a look at the town center yet to come!  

Of course, I already have quite a few civilians, wagons, and cart painted up that can be used to populate the as yet unnamed town, but at some point in the near future, I fear there might be a "need" for a few additions from Black Hussar and Redoudt, both of whom offer quite a few suitable mid-18th century men, women, and children.  A few well-chosen additions to the collection can help clog the streets of the town center shown as well as smaller villages and settlements set up for future actions and battles.

Ok.  Enough talking about it.  Time to paint in the windows and doors on the final building and add  some surprise detailing to a few of the buildings.

-- Stokes


The almost finished Rathaus at rest.  Or is it?  What 'burgerly' intrigue might be at play inside? 


More of the town center, which has been placed on one of my recently acquired felt Hotz Mats, which will drape over hills more convincingly that my old Woodland Scenics mats. 



Once everything is done, I'll get out the Hotz fields and roads that I purchased last year, and set up some true tableaus, panoramas, and the like for your perusal.  Who knows?  I might even have to stage a solo game. 



The windows and doors are all done!  Now, it's time for a break (Supper and a walk. . .  It's a spectacular Saturday evening here in Mid-Michigan.), and then back to work for some touch-ups to a few things and those few small surprise details I keep babbling about.

Windows and Doors Are Almost Finished. . .

'The Buddenbrook House' on Mengstrasse right across the street from the Marienkirche (Saint Mary's Church) in Lübeck, Germany.  This was author This was author Thomas Mann's family home for a time wen he was a boy.

No photographic update this morning everyone, but I can report that the windows and doors are just about done on the dozen new buildings that comprise my Baltic German town center.  Just the university/palace to do, and then a final few small surprise details, and the project will be complete.  A scant month plus a few days since it began.

Today's photograph is of Thomas Mann's boyhood home in Lübeck, Germany.  I am unsure what is in it now, but there was a bank in operation on the premises way back during the winter of 1986 when I first visited the town.  I cashed a traveler's check (Remember those?) there the morning I left heading north to Copenhagen.  

In 1990, when I spent another week  in Lübeck, the bank had gone, and there were various doctors' and dentists' offices in its place.  Oddly, although the Grand Duchess and I walked by the house in 2009, when we spent a long weekend in the small city to celebrate our third anniversary, we did not think to stick our heads in the door to see what businesses were in operation at that point.  I wonder what we'll find the next time we visit?

Lübeck is one of those places I could happily reside.  Pretty quiet and sleepy, steeped in history, yet not always one of those places to which throngs of tourists flock.  A bit off the beaten track you might say.  But I don't think I could ever tire of seeing it, being there, or breathing in the air.  For me, Lübeck has always been a place where I have felt instantly at home, ensconced, and, perhaps oddly, rooted.

Anyway, although the Lübeck was badly bombed during the Second World War, the old center was rebuilt, restored, and I simply fell in love with the winding, cobble-stoned, medieval, fairy tale-like layout of the town when arriving for the first time on a cold, snowy winter's day in early February 1986.  That impression was helped, no doubt, by the numerous tall spires, red brick North German variety of Gothic architecture, and the charming gabled merchants' houses all around. 

Coal smoke still hung in the air at that time, and a few days into my stay that first visit, I happened upon a very tall, very blonde young man dressed in traditional chimney sweep clothes with a tophat and the tools of his trade over his shoulder walking along a side street in the snow.  Sadly, I was out of film in my camera at that point, or I would have asked to take his photograph, but that brief encounter remains one of my very best travel memories all these years later.

-- Stokes

22 June 2017

Fenestrating. . . Slowly. . .

The Hospital of the Holy Spirit model is just about finished.  Remarkably, I made no mistakes that need later touching up.  That happens so rarely that I am still a bit stunned.  Clearly, one is able to paint somewhat better when not distracted by the trials of normal day-to-day life.

Taking a lunch break here in Zum Stollenkeller Mk. II at Totleigh-in-the-Wold, but I thought I'd share where we are in the process of suggesting windows and doors.  This one was the toughie!  Fairly smooth sailing from here on in with comparatively easy rectangles representing the doors and windows on the rest o the buildings.  All that is needed on the above hospital building though is the clock near the top of the central gable, two strips of "corroded cooper" stripping on the front edges of both shorter gables, and this particular wargaming structure will be done.  I plan to come back to those kinds of details a bit later though once the addition of stylized windows and doors has been completed on the rest of the buildings.

-- Stokes

21 June 2017

Fenestration, Part Deux. . .

In the midst of adding the suggested wondows and doors to the town orphanage this afternoon.

After completing a reasonably good half-timbered effect --  achieved through a combination of brown magic marker, olive green crayon, and mid-brown colored pencil -- on the four model buildings that required it, it's time to suggest those carefully traced windows and doors with the addition of some equally careful brushwork.  This time with diluted acrylic Burnt Umber.  I've done this with water before on earlier buildings, but you risk the color running everywhere.  

This time, I'll use more viscous acrylic glazing medium (pictured above), which thins out colors, makes them quite a bit more translucent, and enables you to maintain a fair degree of control over the paint while still drying pretty quickly.  Above, you'll see the results, minus the tiny bits on the dormer and circular window, which await their wash of translucent brown.  Black, to me, looks too stark, and gray is either too dark, or too light.  A diluted brown, to the point of becoming a translucent glaze, suggests a shadowy interior in a more convincing way I think.

This method of fenestration is very similar to how Charles S. Grant renders windows and doors on his more recent model buildings.  Hence the merest suggestion of windows and doors, which imparts a rather stylized look to everything.  Nevertheless, the buildings have the right shape, profile, and proportions more or less.  They also have reasonably accurate coloring.  They will function as an appropriate 'backdrop' for the armies of Stollen and its arch enemy the Electrate of Zichenau, without distracting from the 25-30mm units.  The card and balsa structures are vastly underscale in relation to the figures, of course, but they are large enough to look "right" without dominating available tabletop space.  

The dozen structures occupy approximately two square feet of table space, less if moved closer together.  They can easily be used to represent a rather large and prosperous 'town', split into various configurations to represent smaller towns or villages, and/or mixed with the two dozen or so other wargaming built up areas I've cobbled together since December 2006-January 2007.  Hmmm. . .   Maybe I should start building casinos and hotels?

So, that's where things stand today, the first official day of Summer 2017.  Time for all night bonfires, inebriated  naked dancing in the woods, the drunken orgies that invariably follow, and an apparent inability to recall any of it by late the next morning.  Um, yeah.  Right.  The all night bonfire sounds kind of nice though, but I'll leave the other activities to our friends in the Scandinavian and Nordic countries!  I am, after all, over 50 now, happily married, a parent, out of shape, and repressed.  Just give me a good book and allow me to climb into a crisply made bed by 9pm most nights, and I'm happy.  Still, what might've been, eh?

We are, returning to the subject at hand, edging ever closer to finishing everything up with the Baltic German town center, calling the project done, and moving back to some painting of actual toy soldiers.  Fear not, however, a few small detail surprises are coming once all of the windows and doors (and there are M-A-N-Y. . .  Whew!) are painted in.  The use of a new, angled  #4 flat bristled brush like the one above really helps to stay neatly within the lines though.  I recommend it should the model-house bug bite you.

-- Stokes

20 June 2017

Fenestration!!!

To aid my fenestration, the word for today, I made  nifty little template this morning.  Time for a new and extremely sharp hobby knife blade.

Relax!  It's nothing obscene, immoral, or lascivious.  'Fenestration' is just a fancy word architects use in relation to the placement of windows and doors.  I must admit the need to look up the word in my trusty dictionary when I heard it for the first time in an architect's video on YouTube.  

The meaning should have occurred to me given the similarity of the word to the German and Swedish words for 'window' (Fenster and fönster respectively. . .  presumably the word is derived from the Latin.), but there you go. Funny how the ancient Romans remain with us in so many ways in 2017.  "I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, this, that, and the other. . ."

Anyway, I started applying the half-timbered effects to a few of my smaller building models yesterday, and that went reasonably well although the activity was time consuming.  I also used a small plastic stencil full of rectangles, squares, circles, and other shapes to begin tracing in the windows and doors on the structures comprising my Baltic German town center.  Again, a time consuming process and, shall we say, a bit imperfect.  "Surely, there has to be a better way," thought I.

So, this morning, after that first mug of coffee, as well as my daily feline lovefest following their daily treat of a small can of Fancy Feast, I set out to solve the problem at hand.  Above, you'll observe the fruits of my 30 minutes or so of labor, a custom made stencil that enables me to quickly and easily trace in consistently sized doors and windows on model building walls.  No fingertips were severed during the process. 

And it worked like a charm!  Once the stencil was finished, I was able to outline the windows and doors on nine of the dozen new town buildings in about 20 minutes.  All I have to do now is carefully paint in some translucent  brown, to suggest the, ahem, fenestration, and Bob's your mother's brother.  Stay tuned!

-- Stokes

19 June 2017

A Couple of Questions. . .

 
 An old print of the Holstentor (The Holstein Gate built in the late 1400s) outside the old center of Lübeck, Germany, which I've always meant to have a crack at since visiting the city for the first time in February 1986.

Thank you everyone for your continued interest in the Baltic German town center project currently underway here at Stollen Central.  After a bit of real life midday today, Monday, it's back to trying to render some half-timbered effect to four of said town buildings.

But first, a couple of questions this morning from long-time reader Gerardus Magnus, Bishop Emeritus, who asks: "Will this possibly be used in games such as a fighting withdrawal through the streets on some future gaming event or is this to serve solely as a picturesque backdrop? There is also a second question which has piqued my curiosity: will you ever be doing city walls for this civic grouping, either medieval or Vaubanesque? That would certainly increase your possibilities for using this for more active gaming."

Thank you for your questions, Gerardus Manus, and "Yes," to both of them.  The buildings (with ruins inside the shells) can, of course, be split up as needed to represent any number of smaller settlements or villages, or be kept together to represent this rather sizeable town, which occupies 2' x 2' on the tabletop.  There are, however, a few Charles S. Grant Scenarios, in his books on generic wargaming scenarios from the 1980s, that feature large (-r) towns at the center of the featured scenarios, and these are what I have in mind. 

Likewise, at some point (i.e. when I need a break from figure painting again), I'll take a crack at some Vaubanesque walls and a gatehouse (see the photograph below) along the lines of those made by Ian Weekley as featured in an old issue of Military Modelling, or perhaps Miniature Wargames, 30+ years ago (Yikes!).  I think there may also be a chapter on this particular project in Mr. Weekley's book Buildings for the Military Modeller (1989).  But that is down the road apiece.

In any case, and in keeping with my North German Hanseatic theme, I'll probably take a crack at a town gate based on Lübeck's Holstentor below since it has always captured my imagination.  The gate and, indeed, the now largely gone fortifications that surrounded Lübeck, which was a very prosperous town during its heyday, have an interesting history, and those interested might want to have a read about the subject by clicking here.

-- Stokes



 Here is a more recent photograph of the Holstentor gate, one of two remaining, that has a fascinating municipal museum inside the two towers.  The gate underwent two restorations, one in 1934-35, and a second during 2005-2006.  The Grand Duchess and I toured the museum inside during a couple of days spent revisiting the town in June of 2009.


 
Last, here is an artist's sketch of the various gates which were still in place about 1700.  Don't worry!  I don't have the inclination to attempt all four of these with their various rings of walls!  But the old medieval Holstentor gate, and possibly the somewhat more modern outer gate with some sections of wall might be an interesting project down the hobby road.

18 June 2017

Decorative Stonework Underway. . .

A close-up of the Rathaus (town hall) at left and the Zeughaus (armory) on the right.  Much like the black-lining of Spencer Smith figures helps better define their various body parts, so too do fine lines from a very sharp 2H artist's pencil help define and bring out the decorative stonework on the corners of buildings.  It's a trick I picked up recently from one of the many videos on YouTube about designing, building, and detailing architectural models.

A delightfully productive Father's Day afternoon spent down here in Zum Stollenkeller Mk. II carefully painting in cornice work on the fancier buildings of the Baltic German town center.  I also pulled out a North German church built in 2011, which will get its spire redone shortly to approximate aged copper.  Every town center needs a religious building of some kind you know.  Next up, I'll approximate the half-timbering (fachwerk) on four of the less fancy building models that make up the town center depicted

-- Stokes

 The university building and the Gasthaus in the foreground.


The town center seen from the other side.  That's the Waisenhaus (orphanage) in between the Zeughasu and another strucutre that will shortly get a half-timber treatment.


16 June 2017

Basic Colors Blocked in on Baltic German Town Center. . .

Burnt Sienna and white make a nice dusty brick color, with lighter values of the mix used on the higher parts of brick structures are darker closer to the foundations and in corners.  I like flat-bristled brushes for painting model buildings.  They make it much easiesr to controll the brsuh, paint in straight lines, and trim color into tighter areas without slopping it onto other areas that have been painted already.  As my aritist mother once told me many, many years ago as I sat on the floor at her feet while she worked at her easel (I must ave been four or five), it's all about controlling the brush and, by extension, the paint.

Just a few more in-progress photographs of the Baltic German town  center this afternoon to show where we are at the moment.  The remaining items to address now include:

1) Painting in the low foundation walls on most of the dozen structures. -- Done!
2) Painting in the cornice work on several of the same. -- In progress.
3) Approximating the timber work (fachwerk) on four of the smaller models.
4) Suggesting the placement of windows and doors with the use of a stencil and careful painting.
5) Final finishing touches in the form several small detail surprises.
6) Paint the internal ruins of the main front part of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit.


While I have always enjoyed producing model buildings made from heavy card and balsa, I don't think that I have ever enjoyed the activity as much.  To say that I am having a blast with this current batch must be the understatement of the year.

Meanwhile, the Grand Duchess and Young Master have left for ten days to visit grandparents in the Pacific Northwest, so it's just yours truly along with the two felines Gunnlaug and Onyx, plus the Young Master's fish in the fishtank.  I hope to finish everything here during their trip.  Cross your fingers and toes though because there is still quite a bit to take care of before I can call the project finished and get back to the toy soldiers. . .  who, incidentally, are calling to me from various containers, drawers, and shelves down here in Zum Sollenkeller Mk. II.  It's madness, I tell you!  Sheer madness!

-- Stokes


A smaller flat-bristled brush next to get color into those tighter areas.


And the finished front half of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit after some final touch-ups and gilt applied to the weather vain atop the tallest spire.  In real life, a rooster weathervane resides in this space, but I consider myself rather clumsy and accident prone where hobby knives and fingertips are concerned, so you'll grasp immediately why I have decided to keep things simple here.


Here is my reference photo of the real complex in Lübeck, Germany.  Not perfect, but I'm still very pleased with my progress above so far.  Ok.  I see a few more thin areas on the front of the two lower gables where I need to approximate corroded copper.  Funny what you notice when you step back or a moment and observe your brushwork.


Back on the tabletop, here are all of the model buildings with the basic colors now blocked in.  


The lighting is not the greatest in these pictures, but the Rathaus at the center is in  very light pink.  The university building in the foreground at right is in a very light gray.


Here is the old town hall in Tallin, Estonia (ex-Dorpat), on which I am basing the color scheme of my particular Rathaus.  My model won't be quite as ornate.  The actual structure was designed by a German architect from Rostock and built during the mid-19th century, but it is not unlike older structures that you stumble on all the time in Northern German and around the Baltic region if your eyes are open.


Finally, three of the smaller buildings (one in the foreground at right) which will eventually be half-timbered have been painted with Antique White, to avoid that stark, bone white "Hollywood smile" look once everything is finished.  I recall reading in a book on model railway and diorama scenery years ago that it is more effective to avoid stark, dramatic colors like the purest white or black.  Whoops!  Still a few chimneys to paint too.  Darn.

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