I think this vignette holds the record for the length of time I've taken to complete something. I can't actually remember when I started painting these figures, but it was definitely before I moved out of London, and even then the two figures I'd painted, the girl and her chaperone, had been finished for a while. So I reckon is was about July 2011 that I began work on this scene. I picked up all these figures when I visited Eureka Miniatures HQ in Melbourne earlier that year. The washer-woman, old crone and water trough come from a set in the Eureka Revolutionary Wars set, which also includes a French cavalryman watering his horse. I'm not sure where the artist figure comes from - there are all kinds of jems in the Eureka catalogue which can be difficult to find on their website. When I visited Eureka, wargaming chums John Baxter and Mark Spackman found all sorts of things for me to buy that I'd never seen before (including a wig-maker with a giant poodle - I must paint that set sometime soon). The reason for the massive delay in finishing this set was twofold. First, I couldn't decide on how to paint the stone water trough. Secondly, I was having difficulty arranging the scene and, in particular, finalising how to deal with the artist. I had decided quite quickly that I would use all these figures together, as an early example of en plein air
painting. The tricky part, however, was working out how to make the artist's easel and whether to add any other bits to the scene. So having painted and based the humans in 2011, I then failed to apply myself to the water-trough and the easel and consequently this vignette languished on my desk until April this year, when I shamed myself into sitting down and working through the outstanding items
As I find is often the case with "tricky" bits of modelling, the "difficult" bits didn't actually take long to finish. I painted the water trough with the Foundry "Stone" palette, and then gave it a final drybrush with an off-white (I forget which paint exactly, but it would have been a Coat d'Arms light grey). The easel I scratch-made from bits of matchsticks. I spent a bit of time searching the internet for pictures of mid/late 18th century easels to see what they would look like - not many seem to have survived, but there are quite a few paintings from the period which are themselves pictures of painting scenes. That said, easel design doesn't seem to have advanced all that much over the past 300 years. It probably the case, however, that the type of easel I made isn't the sort of thing that a painter would have taken out of the studio. Also, the painter in this scene is probably an amateur, as most established artists in the 1770s would have been concentrating on grand historical scenes or society portraits and wouldn't have wasted their time painted the local rustics. Anyway, the easel was a bit fiddly to do in the end, the hardest part being to carve out the ridge in which the painting sits. Once it was all glued together, I painted the easel with the Foundry "Chestnut" palette. Looking at these photos now, I realise that I should have added some gloss varnish to the water in the tough and the washer-woman's basket.
I arranged the figures in what seemed to me to be the most satisfying way, although I appreciate that it's not clear exactly what it is that the chap is painting. The picture itself is simply a bit of Gale Force 9 plasticard. I did think about trying to paint the scene into it, but discarded that idea after about 5 seconds. Rather than leave the "canvas" completely blank, I painted a "red ground" on it. Apparently red grounds are often used by landscape painters to prepare their canvases; I read that Constable favoured a sort of mid-brown colour and I tried to replicate that here. Making the scene look as if the artist is just about to start also meant I could put paints in the palette without smearing them around. I haven't glued the painting to the easel - so I could in theory have a go at painting something in the future.
4 figures, a water-trough and an easel. Painted July 2011-April 2013.