Baby It’s Cold Outside!
Months ago I came across an article featuring a model of a lend-lease Churchill tank of the 50th Separate Breakthrough Tank Regiment in the Leningrad theatre. The tank sported a nifty white camouflage scheme and I knew I had to replicate it in 15mm. The announcement of the Battle Barn’s upcoming Leningrad themed tournament at Ft. Lee Virginia gave me the chance to actually use the Churchills in a game. As these were the only winter themed models I owned, I thought what better time to do something else I always wanted to try, painting “winterized” Soviet infantry. I picked up two platoons of Battlefront’s strelkovy in greatcoats. These are nice figures but I was looking for a way to inject some more variety. I purchased a bag of heads in fur ushankas from Peter Pig. I find Peter Pig figures to be a little small in most cases when compared to BF, but their heads are just the right size.
The first step when performing a head swap is to separate the head from the torso using a sharp hobby knife. Gentle pressure is all you need, just take care not to cut off any of the uniform detail. Trim any excess metal from the neck area.
The next step is to drill a hole in the torso to accommodate the “neck”. The necks on the replacement heads are very long so I trimmed them back before fitting.
Test fit first and then simply glue the new head in place and your mini will feel like a new man! This very simple procedure can really add some nice variety to your force.
Once all the head swaps were done I glued the figures to the bases in preparation for painting. Some like to paint them before attaching them to the bases but since these bases were going to be fairly simple I decided to glue them first. I do not block paint so all my infantry is primed in white so the later colors remain true. I like to do all my models in large batches so I look to the airbrush or spray cans to get the base coat done quickly. I determine the most dominant color and that’s what I use for the base. In this case the uniforms would be predominately brown so I airbrushed each figure with Vallejo ModelAir 029 Dark Earth. This was followed by an overall black wash, then the highlights and details were done by hand. I usually apply the basic groundwork before priming, that way I can use the base coat to also paint the ground. I didn’t do that in this case and I’m not really sure why. It would have helped to speed things up. Instead I used Vallejo Pumice and Golden brand Modeling Paste mixed with dark brown ink and paint and trowelled it on after the airbrush coat was applied.
Once the majority of the painting was complete I started work on the bases. They were already in a muddy brown and I used some brown and yellow Woodland Scenics static grass to give them a patchy appearance that I imagine when I think about the swampy tundra around Leningrad. I knew I wanted some snow cover but I had no experience with it and no real idea how to make it work. I tried GF9’s snow flock but that dried too transparent and the consistency was much like tiny sugar crystals. Not what I wanted. I tried corn starch but that gave me pretty much the same result and made one hell of a mess. I tried painting white on the base before applying more snow flock but I still was not getting the effect I was looking for. Somewhat reluctantly I went back to the modeling paste.
If you have not used modeling paste before I cannot recommend it highly enough. The brand I but is Golden and you can find it at most big craft stores in the painting section among the gessos etc. It is pure white and has a consistency like cake frosting. Very smooth and easy to spread. Perfect for beach or desert bases or…wait for it…snow.
I applied the paste with a small trowel right over the snow flock, taking care to leave some areas bare with the flock or the ground showing through. This left me with a worn, trodden, slushy appearance which is exactly what I was trying to replicate. It was a slow process but it worked. A few final painting details and my snowmen were ready to rally behind General Winter and expel the fascists from the Motherland. On to Leningrad!
Extra special thanks to Jeff for the wonderful article!