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Saturday 12 February 2011

Sculptors - alive or dead.

A couple of days ago a custome was on the blower to me telling me how wonderful and indeed God like the Perrys are. Now ignoring the crassness of this I forebore to differ at that time but it did cause me to think. The cult of the sculptor has become ingrained in our hobby now - copying largly from the fantasy genre- that the amont of of bacl- stroking and downright brown-nosing in some quarters is positivly nauseating.
Not -at least in some cases the sculptors fault this but a very small part of the "celebrity cult" that we now have to endure.
Nevertheless I look at lots of toys from all sorts of sculptors and sorry dudes the Ps are not Gods they are not as was opined to me "the best sculptors ever"(compared to who? Michelangelo? Henry Moore ? John Singer Sargeant? or just other blokes who make toy soldiers )
This does not make them bad sculptors far from it but there are chaps both living and dead who are technically as good or better and artisically as good or better but have not become a pair of cults ....
Dead Dudes first- Chas Stadden and Les Higgins both were as crisp as modern sculptors and did movement considerably better than most .Technically their job was harder as most masters were either "lost Wax" or even plastecine yet both manged miniatures which still stand up very well today. The same went for Ted Suren at his best though some of his models were more quirky and less consistent than either Les or Chas. Suren's mantle has been ably inheireted by David Wilson of Jacdaw.
Steve Hezzelwood and Peter Gilder- very different in style - and thats a point too - were both capable figure makers.
Of other sculptors working today Chris Hughes. Bob Naismith , Nickolay Bokarev(Drabant) are all as capable as any )and Tom Meir's work rightly stands out as some of the finest around- (though his "historical" output is small). There are plenty of others too who's names escape me as I write this - the lad who does Minden for a start- though they are a bit thin for my taste - are fine models.
My point that there are plenty of fish in the sea and thank God they don't all look the same. So many of todays sculptors are so "Perry - a - likes" that we are in danger of having all the same tedious stuff no matter who made it.
As an illutration the photo show George Washington being offered a drink on campaign but apparently preferring what the lady on the veranda has to offer....
Perhaps being away from home he hasn't seen "Marthas Vinyard" for a while... scurrilous fellow that I am....
The ladies are Les Higgins and Washington is a Stadden and I like the differing styles of many older figures.These differences are becoming harder to find amongst todays sculptors. This IMHO is compounded by the "accepted painting style" as pushed in some- but not all- of the glossies. Its getting to the stage where its difficult to tell the differences....


  1. Andy,

    I think we're in almost 100% agreement - remarkable!

    Suren probably features higher up my personal list of sculpting greats, for me no one else has come close to capturing the character and humour he did - each one of his models is an individual, and could have just stepped out of a Hogarth cartoon.

    I'd also put in a a word for the late Dave Allsop - his later 20mm creations were (and remain) superb.

    Incidentally, the main reason i began my blog was because i'd become bored and frustrated with the aesthetic fascism of Perry/Foundry sculpting and 'black and splodge' painting that seemed to have become entrenched in the hobby media (both traditional and online) and which has never appealed to me.


  2. SC Can't argue with a word there. Agree with your points regarding Suren- I wasn't listing anyone by prefernce just as I wrote. I's also include Dave Allsop and not just for his 20mm. We still have some of his sclulpts in the Old Glory lines- 25mm Marlburians and some of the WBS range are his. Dave was a great Friend of mine. It was he who got me into this business so I'm biased.
    I also completly agree with your points on esthetic fascism both in sculpting and painting ND WE ARE FAR FROM ALONE HERE.
    This is a topic I wiull be returning to as it really gets up my nose.

  3. I don't know much about the 28mm figures around these days (I've never owned a Perry) so I can't really comment on that but as I work through my current project I'm often surprised at the amazing quality of some of Marcus Hintons stuff. True there is a lot of not so good stuff too but some are real gems. I'm sure many of the sculpters of the 60s & 70s would have produced even better figures if they'd had access to modern equipment.


  4. Stryker- couldn't agree more. I only ever owned a few hinton hint . The best were lovely- I had some Imperial Guard Grenadiers that more or less fitted with airfix but my preference was always 30mm - when I could afford 'em One can only imagine what these chaps could have done with access to greenstuff!

  5. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hear Him.

    Figure Fascists, the bane of the hobby.

    Ten years ago you could not suggest that Wargames Foundry were maybe not the most superb company in every possible way without the risk of getting lynched. Now they have transferred their blinkered psychophancy to the Perrys.

    As for painting style, nothing against Mr Dallimore et al but every thing written about the three shade system was said back in 196? by the late Derek Guyler explaining in Slingshot how he painted his Roman flats. Apart from undercoating them black of course.

    There has been a lot of discussion as to how modern communication makes life hard for totalitarian states. I have been delighted in the way that the internet over the last six years or so has made people realise that they are not the only one left in the world who reveres Ted Suren or still uses Humbrol. Suddenly there are a couple of new 30mm ranges about, is it possible that the free exchange of ideas is making life harder for the figure fascists?

    Bloggers God bless them.


    Was Ted Suren was a supremely gifted sculptor, or was he often quite a bad sculptor but with a touch of genius? Discuss.
    please use both sides of the paper.

  6. John that PS is a bugger ! so using both sides of the parer- well almost I'd tend to go for a bit of both
    and yes I will discuss this further in a proper post.
    As to the bulk of your post You may have gathered I agree! Rather more than somewhat .

  7. Just came across this , and could not agree more.

    Hurrah for the old styles I say.

  8. Hi, I've just come across this post and would like to add three nominations just to broaden the appreciation of the sculptor as an artist: Holger Eriksson, John Niblett and Roy Selwyn-Smith, not names that jump to the front of most wargamers minds, but perhaps they should be.

    Best wishes, Brian

    1. Brian - Certainly John Niblett- I love his little 20mm Medivals- andECW though I don't have any and Selwyn -Smith- didn't he do a lot of the Britains "Kinghts of Agincourt" range- agsain Just before my tiime.
      As for Ericsson to be honest I'm never quite sure- He did movement better than many and some of his larger handmade models are still superb but I do find his 30mm stuff very basic even crude- though the cavalry are far better than the foot

  9. In one sense, the modern heroic style is very traditional - just look at the head size of all those Thunderbird puppets! It is also clear that in order to derive 28mm from 30mm, modern sculptors have simply chopped 2mm from the femur of every sculpt that they do. Don't get me started on 25mm horses either :O)

    Kind regards, Chris

    1. Chris- Horses ah well... Staddens 30mm are still the best around IMHO- even if they are a bit too finebred for actual cavalry mounts

  10. This is one of the greatest blog posts that I have ever read. There is an Emperor's New Clothes like adoration of The Gods that is cult-like and downright bizarre. I think that I will throw up the next time I hear somebody ask of a new range , "but are they Perry compatible ?"

    As you pointed out, wouldn't it be a sad thing if every range of 28mm figures were required to look the same?

    The Gods, however, are far from perfect. While I like their sculpts (lots of detail and creativity), the finished castings often don't live up to the promise as they are full of flash and still have too many tiny little venting threads that defy removal or clean up. The Gods have a big quality control problem when it comes to their casting process.

    1. Fritz- Just discovered this as I checked out some older posts- Agree entirely- Also I know at least one painter who charges more for ahem... certaqin figures as hes has to spend time cleaning them- he does the same for plastic too for assembly and cleaning. Makes a bit of a mockery of the PPp -lastic is cheaper. lobby.

  11. No mention of Garrison or MiniFigs designers then?
    Or how about Minot?

    1. When I wrote that almost a decade ago I had forgotten Minot- though I now own quite a few of his 30mm Napoleonics.I never really considered garrison or minifigs "great" but they were like the curate egg "good in parts" As it happens I didn't mention Lamming or QT either both of which - like Garrison I owned numbers of back in the day- before I wrote the original piece here.

  12. Chaps still appear to be reading this a decade after I wrote it. I'd now certainly add Barry Minot to my list for his 30mm Historical ranges(and his larger historical models) I now have numbers of Minot in my "Shinyloo" collection , which I did not have when I wrote this.Likewise Dick Higgs for the 30mm Minifigs which again I have some of including some rather nice Cavalry . Bill Lamming and John Braithwaite should be remembered as well both of them made fine ranges of figures - I have some of John Zulus and used to love Bill Lammings medievals- but no longer have any.

  13. I've just enjoyed reading this thread/post about sculpting. Variety is the spice of life, including in the trends of toy soldiers, everyone has their favourites. Being a lifelong casual sculptor of model soldiers I have always relied upon the basics of anatomy to guide how I sculpt each figure, for humans & animals. If the basic measurements are wrong, the head, limbs & body will look out of proportion, certainly not life-like. It is true that some figures focus more on detail than proportion or animation & can be little more than detail-laden caricatures, which I don't find attractive.
    In my humble opinion, Peter Gilder, Chas Stadden & Holger Ericson were fine exponents of the art of making a small figure look like a real human or horse; essentially, slim, correctly proportioned, with realistic animation & just enough detail to carry it off.

    1. Just found this and yes I agree. Though much of Gilders work was based upon Suren and some on Higgins. Ericson did movement very well - though I only own 2 of his models including a lovely little Napoleon who is photographed somewhere on this blog a few years after this now venerable post.