Sunday, 9 February 2014

Having Spencer Smithed - what next...

I will not share my painting efforts here suffice to say that they were not as hoped for. I am rather taken aback,it must be a lost/dying art as John Preece remarked here in his comment.Nevertheless I am not sure what to do.The instant reaction is to say that's enough and stop,even contemplate passing the splendid chaps on. The bubble has burst ,the initial enthusiasm floating away...
Perhaps I should wait until I am less tired/better lit/older/wiser/more talented/retired? I just don't know...


  1. Don't give up!! Spencer Smiths do not take paint in the same way as more modern miniatures and you might be not too far away from having perfectly acceptable table top toys. Did you paint plastics or the more modern metal figures? Did youy use oils or acrylics or enamels? The reason I ask is that each comes across differently. Are the figures balck or white primed? While black priming works for some people I find that on the smaler Spencer Smiths the figures become too dark. In addition, I am always certain to use contrasting colors on the figures. They are much fun to do and may need only a touch of repainting to get to a point where you are pleased with the end product.
    A/K/A The Celtic Curmudgeon

  2. I have had similar problems in the past. The last time I painted some figures (some US infantry) I thought that they were not very good ... but once I had based them they seemed to improve no end.

    I had used a new (to me) painting method. White undercoat and then stain painting (i.e. A thinned down coat of paint over the entire figure). The details were then picked out and the figure varnished. Once the varnish was completely dry I gave the figure a thin coat of Nut Brown India ink. This gave the figure shading as it dried.

    At this point the figures looked rather dull, but once the bases were painted and flocked they looked quite good.

    So don't give up yet. Once you have a regiment or two painted and based I am sure that they will look much better than the seem to now.

    All the best,


  3. At least you got further in a few days than I did in the last 30plus years! Perhaps they're just waiting for the right moment. Mark Dudley has some recent ACW examples on his Ilkley Old School blog

  4. Courage, mon brave!
    It's alright to set a project down when you've had a bad day, as long as you tell yourself that it was just a bad day.

  5. It's probably wise not to paint when tired. Don't give up and certainly don't get rid of them. Mojos come and go but Spencer Smiths are for ever. Or some such twaddle.

    Watch the snowboarding on the beeb for a bit of youthful exuberance.

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  7. Oops that link didn't work - try again . I've painted a lot of Spencer Smiths and find a 'toy soldier' style works best (from my blog) - bold colours and no shading and a high gloss finish , try again in a while , good luck Tony

    1. Rats ! my links are not working tonight - look under SYW on my Stead fast tin soldier blog

  8. Oh dear!

    well, I am trying to think of something a bit more useful than ' its a lost art.'

    My opinions only -
    You cannot paint them without black lining, often there is no edge between say the tunic and trousers or face and rifle. A black line is essential for definition. I have used a pen but its hard to maintain 90 degree angle so I use a fine brush.

    Don't expect too much, Henry Hyde can paint details on but I cant, if the water bottle is moulded as a blob it will still be a blob after painting. In fact I find one of the problems is trying to decide just what the blobs are supposed to be.

    Just get the main colours in bright shades, black line and gloss varnish and that's it. Step back a couple of feet (some would say yards) and look at them you either like it or you don't.

    If not don't beat yourself up they are by no means the best figures HE ever designed. Its time to move on to something more modern and high tech, S range Mini Figs for example.

    best wishes

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  10. Messed up the last comment.Here is an idea. Undercoat white with a spray (less likely to flake off plastic). Then paint the whole figure the basic uniform colour and add on detail (such as it is). Do this en masse to say 20 figures, paint the bases, varnish with PVA (it really does dry clear) or/and yacht varnish, line them up and photograph them, then look at the photograph. Figures always look better on the screen and it removes that personal self doubt part of the painting issue).

  11. Ah well as someone who has been there I shall offer my opinion....

    My first C18th Spencer Smiths were direct from Ronald Spencer Smith in around the late 1970s early 1980s. White undercoat followed by block coloured enamels.
    They have always "underwhelmed" times "they look bloody awful" was how I felt about them. That said they have soldiered on. Oddly in a big game of better painted carefully shaded figures they stood out, second only to the white spray painted Austrians with some daubs of brown & flesh.....

    So when revisiting SSMs for my Imagination project I did things differently.
    I'm sorry but you cannot paint SSMs as you would more modern figures. They simply don't have the details. Believe you me you can spend hours trying to work out what some "blobs" are! Things like straps have to be painted on in most cases.

    Now yes I know Henry Hyde spent ages on his, but quite frankly I think it was excessive.....

    Here's MHO. Prime with gloss varnish (or seal...) spray with acrylic black car undercoat (have used both gloss & matt....). Then block in "shapes" leaving black lines where coat meets cuffs & turnbacks. Try to leave the shapes of the straps, but don't worry if you splodge over as you can always go back. Once I've done coat, trousers, turnbacks & blobs of flesh on face & hands, it's out with a finer brush & correct any mistakes, put in black lines, make the straps neat black lines.
    Then it's out with the white & a fine brush, white stripes for belts & lace at cuffs etc.
    Gaiters look good left black with brass dots for buttons or white with black dots & knee band.
    Hat lace & small details often need a another correction followed by touch up.

    What I aim for is a toy soldier look but with black to delineate the ill defined details; the black also helps tone it down.

    Sadly it's an art that requires practice but one that I find very liberating. You simply cannot spend hours in careful shading as you would on a Foundry or Perry sculpt, instead it's about a stylised "look" IMHO.

    If you cannot face them however, I will happily give them a good home & incorporate them into the ranks of the armies contesting the Crimson Throne! :-)

  12. Loads of good advice there, the best being to sleep on it. Style is a very personal taste sort of thing. So other than agreeing that they don't respond well to being treated like modern 28s I decided to just do a quick blog post on the handful I painted a few years back with a few comments.

  13. Much good advice above, and I cannot really add to it. Sad to hear your having some doubts, but I did have a couple of thoughts.
    If you'd trust my painting, pass me a company or squadron next time you are passing and I'll try to do them for you. Just write me a uniform guide.
    Or, if you ever feel like passing them on, I would certainly give the SYW figures a good home, and you'd be welcome to take them back for a game any time you wanted.

    However, a couple of thoughts.

  14. I had the same reaction when I opened up my first box of SSM metal figures. I was very disappointed in what I saw and ended up trading them to Henry for a copy of The Wargame. I just didn't think that I could paint the,little guys.

    I have since seen others' attempts at painting the SSM figures and they can look quite nice. I saw a whole table full of them at Historicon and was amazed by how nice they can look "en masse"


  15. I've never painted (or even owned) any SSM figues, so feel free to ignore the following (people mostly do). From what I have seen they might respond well to a 'traditional toy soldier' approach - rather as Springinsfeld suggests above. Paint a few and then look at them from a 'game' distance (the '3-foot rule'). But don't give up.

  16. You could just spray them the main uniform colour and then paint the faces etc. When I get sick of painting something I just stop. Sometimes for a couple of weeks.