As a collector of toy soldier things, I found this toy soldier postcard entitled Une page de tournée (“a turning page”) on Etsy for a few pounds. I was intrigued by the toy soldiers escaping from a battle illustration in a (French) book.
A little surreal … especially the connected or disconnected collection of objects around them:
A knight statue. Spider webs. Old French postcard. Unwritten postcards. Bound volumes or old books. Lautrec style Paris Moulin Rouge / Can Can print of group de Mlle Eglantine.
They carry light machine guns and look a little like chunky Airfix British Paratroopers or Atlantic ‘euro figures’. Presumably they may be ‘modern’ 20th century French Troops? Or generic modern infantry?
Some figures escape the page or several of the figures are still in the book, covering their retreat or just wounded.
Paintings like this are designed to provoke questions.
What are they escaping from?
Have they been defeated or routed?
What story are they in? Is it a history or a fiction story?
They reminded me of a modern version of the Bronte “Twelves” toy soldiers in the famous children’s book and the art installation at Bronte Parsonage Museum.
They reminded me also a little, albeit in modern combat fatigues, of the toy soldiers which come to life in E. Nesbit’s The Town in The Library, an Edwardian children’s book:
“André Martins de Barros was born in 1942 in Pau, a small town in the foothills of the Pyrénées near the Spanish border. He married in 1974 and has two grown-up children.” Apparently he worked in Paris.
There was a very interesting quote about his work by Christian Germak –
“His painting are never simple; they tell more than the story depicted on the surface and are often deep philosophical statements in themselves revealing great thoughts, secrets and symbols. They can be poetic or full of humour.”
“Each painting belies more than than one interpretations and in some pictures you sense as he is playing with his characters arranging them as children would with their toy soldiers. Whether he is using books, bodies, horses or cans, it is all a game.”
Comment by Christian Germak (translated in English by Fiona Remnant)
How odd that he doesn’t mention “arranging them as grown men and women of a certain age would still with their toy soldiers.”
Christian Germak goes on to say about Martins’ work: “The artist’s ultimate aim is to lead us in his world of dreams and fantasy and in so doing offers us the opportunity to be surrounded by and confront our own philosophical thoughts and beliefs inspired by travels through the subconscious. Experience his work and enter his world.”
This makes me think that what we do, collecting and displaying toy soldiers in vignettes and dioramas or gaming with them, is quite similar to how Martins and other illustrators create character, scene and story along with tension, peril and emotion in a scene.
This could be said of the striking Airfix ‘Box Art’, especially for the figures and vehicles. A freeze frame from real life or a 50s 60s war film?
The same could be said of our gaming scenarios, diorama making and writers.
In some ways, painting, scriptwriting, (graphic) novels and TV scripts, some types of figure gaming and RPGs share similarities – they are all creative, character building, involve setting the scene, overcoming challenges and coming to some form of resolution.
There is an old writers maxim – “Impediment makes a narrative“, whether it is a fantasy RPG or historical War Game, a Hollywood script, TV or Radio cliff-hanger, theatre or musical performance.
This “Impediment” in our games is the contested pinchpoint of a bridge over impassable stream, the unbalanced force, the dice roll delaying the arrival of reinforcements, the ammunition running out, the Paratroops arriving off landing zone target …
What is written on the “turning page”?
What does the book say in Martins’ strange painting?
The illustrated page is captioned “[… dade] de l’ennemi” (… of the Enemy) and the other page
“… the war costing us nearly two billion a day … we must foresee the moment when the [re…] gold of our public treasury … be started, only to settle the orders that we have made abroad. Today we export less and import more. At present we find ourselves debtors of a few nations. Here are the realities.”
It doesn’t make much sense, being roughly translated using a French to English translation online website / program.
Blogposted by Mark Man Of TIN, 15 August 2022
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Another artist who collected and featured ‘toy soldiers’ in his art – Andrew Wyeth
My local history research project talk on WW2 in my local area (as a fundraiser) was postponed by COVID from autumn 2021 to late May 2022.
I think the NGY Irresolutions 2020 will still stand after a year or two interrupted but who knows what might happen in 2022?
New Gaming Year’s Irresolutions 2022
In no particular order
1. Cataloguing Peter Laing 15mm figures as part of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the now out-of-production Peter Laing figures, possibly the first 15mm figures when they launched in October 1972.
As well as cataloguing what I have over the next ten months, fellow members of the Peter Laing collectors circle on MeWe have been helping me identify figures and supplying photos of figures I don’t have. Then there’s painting and basing more of my unpainted Laing figure stash and getting in some more 15mm skirmish games?
Peter Laing 15mm Chasseurs d’Alpins (WW1 Range) complete with walking sticks!
2. England or Cornwall invaded – Variations on Operation Sealion / Leon Marino
Still playing around with skirmish ideas as part of my Look Duck and Varnish Blog ongoing Operation Sealion Home Guard games, but also found out more about the WW1 ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ or Volunteer Training Corps, good for futureVTC Wide Gamesand Victorian / Edwardian / WW1 era ‘what if’ games.
Arma-Dads Army! 1590s Home Guard Elizabethan Muster of conversions and ECW figures against the Spanish Fury, Chintoys Conquistadors and pound store Pirates …
Two Britain’s Ltd. broken Scots charging – a favourite pose – with part repaired rifles, two more figures from the Waifs and Strays group of figures 2021 – “Waifs and Strays” sounds like it should be a Victorian Regimental nickname.
4. I look forward to some more enjoyable tinkering with 54mm repairs of broken lead figures to add to various units. Over the years I have been stashing away battered and broken figures from various donations – cowboys, Indians, redcoats, Scots and Khaki figures – along with the odd intriguing figure bought online.
Arrived last year and put away for Christmas – some very heavy, solid lead and fairly paint distressed Terraton 54mm-ish German semiflats to repair and rebase. Indians, redcoats, trees and farm animals …
5. What else might happen?
Weather permitting maybe will even get some more home casting done outdoors?
Pound Store Plastic figures, Early War Miniatures 1940 Range (for Svenmarck invaded!) and vintage Airfix OOHO figures to restore or rebase for some skirmish games.
Unlike many in the world I am fortunate enough, being of “the Airfix generation” and clinically vulnerable, to have had my third Covid ‘booster’ jab on Friday. Thanks NHS.
**** Pre-emptive note: Any Anti Vaxxers or conspiracy theorists who are upset reading this first paragraph, please note that I am not debating this topic on my hobby blog or for that matter, politics or religion either. Enjoy the toys instead. Thank you.****
Knowing that I might feel a bit rough, as indeed I have done with the common side effects of aches, tiredness and headaches, I planned a quiet weekend with two good books to see me through.
The Timpo Model Toys (A to Z of TIMPO) 4th edition 2020 by Michael Maughan
This was a family gift, as I ‘look after’ the family “hand-me-down” collection of Timpo 54mm / 1:32 figures.
It is a great little book, akin to the Airfix OOHO reference books, and fully colour illustrated. This will help greatly in putting our surviving collection back together as close as I can manage – right legs, heads, torsos, horses etc. – with a slight nod towards Timpo purism!
Available through Amazon (Amazon Createspace online publishing) at a very reasonable £26.
The book has the cheerful feel of a Plastic Warrior magazine series of articles, which is what it originally developed from. Fourth edition – this is obviously an ongoing labour of love for the writer Michael Maughan.
The book covers only the ‘swoppet’ style plastic Timpo range, not the solid Action Pack boxed figures or original metal hollowcasts.
Seeing the illustrations of packaging, buildings and the railway stuff was a rare treat, and this book ultimately saves me from bankruptcy having to track down, buy and store this stuff!
I didn’t buy many Timpo ‘swoppet’ type figures myself, except the Vikings and a few WW2 figures (probably in the Toyway packaging). Most came down to me through the family toy box, a motley collection of knights, romans, Mexicans and Wild West figures alongside a few solid Action Pack figures.
Usually the weapons were missing, losable parts being one of the things that I disliked about Timpo and Britain’s Deetail, especially when gaming in the garden.
No Timpo purist as a child (or now), all of these figures were mixed together in my skirmish games alongside a happy medley of 60s plastics, Airfix and my own Britain’s Deetail figures. I played with what we had. Our few Timpo figures, both solid and swoppet, provided some great character figures.
Timpo, like Airfix, sadly crashed out c. 1980 in the Great British toy company apocalypse of the early Eighties, so supplies of much of the fun stuff (waggons, railways, buildings) was not around for me to buy. This ‘boom and bust’ supply drought or even complete wipeout of toy ranges still affects my approach to collecting gaming figures today – buy them when you see them, even if you have to store them away in the ‘next Christmas’ cupboard!
The Timpo wagons etc. looked really good alongside hollowcast and early plastic figures in F.E. Perry’s Second Book of Wargaming which I bought in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Oddly I didn’t find the First Book (of Wargaming) to make it all make sense until a few years ago, a gap of almost forty years.
Looking through, I don’t recall seeing many of the short lived 1970s Timpo ranges at all in toy shops, even if I had the pocket money.
This fascinating A to Z of Timpo book by Michael Maughan showed me what I had missed. It’s a little like having a book of beasts or birds which became extinct within living memory. Well worth buying.
Timpo rarity value?
About ten to fifteen years ago whilst sorting our family 1960s-70s toy collection, we sold off a small handful of some spare Timpo bodies and bits that did not make up whole figures. We were astonished when one torso went for £20 to £30 on eBay, obviously we had a rare-ish colour variation without knowing.
Not missed – from a purely gaming point of view, who cares about the rarity of colour combinations?
My second book to curl up with this weekend:
The Folklore of Yorkshire by Kai Roberts (The History Press 2013)
This book is a lucky survivor of Storm Arwin blowing open our parcels box and soaking the contents. There’s wuthering for you!
Fortunately a shiny book cover and the very soggy Blackwells cardboard eco packaging took the brunt of the water and protected the contents.
Haworth gets the odd mention, the Brontes very few.
What struck me was the overlap in English folklore from my ancestral Cornish folklore and the Yorkshire versions. The fairish, fairy, changeling or elf stories were very similar. This was of interest to me because the Bronte sisters (and brother Branwell) had a Cornish mother and aunt.
Admittedly some overlap in folklore was by direct migration – the ‘ghostly shift’ tales of Yorkshire miners were similar to those of the Cornish hard rock miners with their tales of mine spirits (known as “Knockers”). Skilled Cornish miners were recruited to other mining districts in Britain or they emigrated further afield, especially when times were hard.
Anyway an interesting book on Yorkshire folklore that joins the Cornish folklore and Bronte books on my book shelf.
Beyond the Booster bleurrgh?
Normal ‘gaming butterfly’ blogging service will hopefully soon be resumed, booster bleurgh over. Hobby blogging is usually interrupted or slowed as it is each year at this time by the dark winter nights, festive preparations and working for a living.
My Battling Bronte Sisters (and Branwell!) are almost done, painted and based. Photographing them close up always throws up a few area to finish.
When they are not role playing their heroic parts in their juvenilia ImagiNations of Glass Town, Angria, Gaaldine and Gondal, they are all of course battling with the Dark Forces of Yarkshire folklore.
What started out as two packs of Bad Squiddo ‘Little Wolves’ (youngsters or child sized figures in Annie Norman’s 28mm Amazon Range) have been subtly converted to capture some of the make-believe of children at play.
I thought that they could be painted both as dressed as children role playing games and as heroic figures tackling Dark folkloric forces of Yarkshire.
Distinguishing the sisters is usually done by hair colour, especially in films.
I referred to the famous Bronte portrait by Branwell (centre, who later painted himself out) as well as the recent BBC drama To Walk Invisible for my colour palette.
Reddish hair – Anne – painted in grey with red sash
Brown hair – Emily – painted with longer skirt and green tunic, red belt
Black hair – Charlotte – painted with blue dress and red sash
Clothes – I kept the colour scheme quite dark coloured, sober and practical for parsons’ daughters in wet damp Tropical Yorkshire, even through early Victorians were often more colourful than our image of sober Late Victorians.
Image: Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town. She uses the same hair colour system.
All paints were Matt Revell Aquacolor Acrylics, starting with a Matt black undercoat.
Faces – in keeping with the overall drab Matt colours of their clothes, boots or clogs etc, I avoided my usual bright gloss colours and toy soldier faces with pink cheek dots etc. Instead I chose a subtle mouth or lip colour ( a trace of carmine red) and a darker flesh using Revell Afrikabraun (or desert brown) instead of flesh.
To add that grungy, muddy feel of children out on the moors or getting mucky playing around the Parsonage, I used a brown shade or wash of Citadel Agrax Earthshade on flesh, faces and folds.
The Branwell ‘problem’
The two packs I bought from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo were all female.
As I failed to find any suitable 28mm boy figures, I set about converting one of the girl figures into a red haired brother Branwell boy figure.
Filing down an excess of plaited hair, I covered the rest of the luscious plaited locks with an old hooded travelling cape (it were wet, dark and cold up on those moors) made of tissue paper and PVA.
I considered adding breeches or trousers with tissue paper and PVA but thought that Branwell as a boy was the only one in Victorian times who could get away with bare legs and ankles. The parson’s three surviving daughters probably could not.
Branwell’s poems show a familiarity with the classical and heroic epic, so I painted him bare legged, just wearing his ankle boots. His trouser legs are probably rolled up and he is wearing an old smock to look like a classical hero with tunic and cape. All make-believe or possibly real, playing around with that dual use notion.
Branwell (left) and Charlotte (right). Branwell’s cloak hood needs defining by shadow.
Basing is onto 1 penny MDF bases from Warbases, with PVA used to fix a rough mix of grassy flock and fine Cornish beach sand to suggest the moors. Appropriate enough as the Bronte children’s mother was born and grew up in Penzance, not far from the source beach in Cornwall.
Hopefully gritty and northern enough? Until I can go up on the moor and gather some proper Yarkshire grit and dirt.
Battling the Bronte Sisters
These figures are great for duelling games using simple ‘parry and lunge’ (Gerard de Gre) dice or card rules from Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming.
On their way in the post, I have on order two packs of 28mm “Little Wolves” (Amazons range) from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo Games.
These will represent each of the three Bronte sisters in combat “role playing” in their fictional ImagiNations of Gondal, GlassTown, Angria and Gaaldine.
This will provide me the three sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne – and one spare (a friend?)
This should give me a focus for #FEMBruary 2022 – Each February, miniature or figure painters and gamers choose to paint or model believable female miniatures as part of a challenge by fantasy gamer and modeller Imperial Rebel Ork.
I will look around for a suitable brother Branwell 28mm figure, once I have ‘met’ his sisters. To me, he is usually portrayed on screen as Naughty Norman Price of Ponty Pandy, straight out of Fireman Sam.
Being a figure converter and tinkerer, an improvised tissue paper sash or two might feature to flesh out the girls’ ImagiNations uniforms, inspired by Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town.
Isabel Greenberg’s superb Glass Town graphic novel shows the Bronte sisters and brother in their ImagiNations uniforms.
I can easily see these fighting sisters being up and at ’em, duelling against other fantasy or historical figures in roughly 28mm scale – zombies, skeletons, regency dandies and assorted Bronte ImagiNations bad guys in Pride Prejudice and Zombies style – as this slides into gothic, RPG or fantasy gaming…
Bad Squiddo Figures
I have previously enjoyed painting Bad Squiddo figures of Land Girls for my ‘boycraft’ entry for my local flower and veg show, crafts section in 2019.
As a gamer with a love of toy soldiers and ImagiNations gaming, I have a lot of time for the Brontes and their intricate fictional Regency and early Victorian worlds of Gondal, Glasstown, Gaaldine and Angria.
If you don’t know them, check out the excellent recent books based on these tiny Bronte manuscripts – Celia Rees’ Glass Town Wars and the graphic novel Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg.
You might also know them through the 1960s children’s fiction book The Return of The Twelves (or Twelve and the Genie) by Pauline Clarke, based on the Bronte children’s original wooden toy soldiers.
The Bronte sisters Emily, Charlotte and Anne and brother Branwell created childhood and teenage imaginary Napoleonic worlds (paracosms) in tiny handwritten books of poetry, prose, drawings and fictional newspaper adverts in the 1830s and 1840s in Yorkshire.
Were the Bronte children some of the first wargamers, ImagiNations gamers and Historical Fantasy RPG players?
I have been playing Bronte inspired ImagiNations games for a number of years now – check out my page for them on my blog here:
That is why I am supporting the campaign by UK libraries and The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth Yorkshire to keep some of these precious manuscripts of the Law Collection in the Honresfield Library in this country and at their birthplace, rather than disappear into private collections after auction.
Updated July 2021 with Figure paint conversion pictures
A small colourful consignment of turncoats and mercenary troops, previously serving with the Duchy of Tradgardland, have been posted to new service here with various ImagiNations.
These familiar and classic Airfix OOHO figures from the 1970s will be perfect to bulk up the small numbers of the various colourful and random RainBow ImagiNations units featured on my Pound Store Plastic Warrior blog last week: