Groundwork

I find it very important not to just dress up the groundwork of a scene as pretty as possible, but firstly to use it for emphasising the story. At least, it should show the terrain, the vegetation and the weather conditions of that moment in time, all of which are important factors for the atmosphere of the scene. Here, the cold and wet loamy mud of northern France and the barbed wire demonstrate the terrible conditions of the trench warfare, and the broken gasmask in the corner brings a flashback to the start of the fight.

Take care not to overload any base. Besides making it as small as possible, I try not to keep adding details which might be very interesting on their own. but can detract from the focus and the story. The colours of the groundwork are carefully balanced to the figures, and bright colours are avoided. I usually try to add interest in a base by its composition (varying the levels for example) instead of filling it

Humbrol enamels, thinned with white spirit. After applying a base-coat and letting it harden thoroughly, I start with a highlighting session. Over a first application of the same base-colour, subsequent lighter highlight tones are added. Between every layer, I allow the paint to dry until the white spirit has evaporated, but not hardened. Now it is still possible to blend any sharp edges carefully with a clean brush, moistened with a little white spirit.

When the highlighted surface has dried, it is time

with bright details.

Any level-differences are first added with Magic Sculpt. Next, the corrugated iron (shaped from some copper sheet) was glued in place, and the sandbags sculpted with Magic Sculpt. After this, I applied a thick mixture of plaster and white-glue for the final terrain surface, which can be textured while drying and into which additional groundwork elements can be pushed. To make it dark from the start, some dark brown pigment powders are added to the plaster-glue slurry. For mud, this mixture is usually sufficient on its own, or with just a couple of stones (dried and crushed plaster) added. Care is taken to get some variation in textures, so tiny roots and 'plant litter' is also added to the groundwork. The barbed wire is easy enough to make from fine copper wire, but rather time-consuming. The detail is much better though than any photo-etched barbed wire.

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