Friday, December 4, 2009

Wargames Terrain - Painting a Backdrop

One thing I have noticed as I have been taking pictures for these blog postings is the number of times there is clutter in the background. My gaming table is a 6' by 8' table that I built myself, with a raised lip around the edges (to hold in terrain boards etc) and shelving underneath for storage. Often for smaller games, I will clear off the near half of the table, making a 4' by 6' playing area, and leave the other half heaped with a multitude of stuff.

Functional, but not great for pictures. I decided I needed a backdrop for a view block, so tonight I taught myself how to paint a crude landscape. I have a largely unfulfilled interest in model railroading, which mainly consists of reading some of the magazines. At one point a few years ago, I picked up many of a series of instructional DVDs that Model Railroader put out. One of the things I remembered seeing was a multi part series on how to paint a basic backdrop. I found the DVDs, watched the two episodes on backdrops, and had a go at it.

The resulting backdrop is a spliced-together foamcore board 6 feet long and 20" high. Foamcore is basically two sheets of heavyweight cardstock sandwiched around a 3/16" foam center. The sky was painted first in a series of light blue shades getting lighter toward the top. I left some of the brushwork uneven to give the effect of a hazy sky without going for the puffy white cloud look. I then roughed in the rolling hills with various shades of olive green, brown and gray, blending clumsily as I went. Lastly, clumps of woods were added in by roughly dabbing in blotches of greenish-gray. The result is clumsy perhaps, and is certainly not fine art by any means, but I think it will serve its purpose well as a first effort. (I am already wondering how to paint in the hint of a little village nestled between two of the hills in the background - but that would probably be pushing my luck...).

All painting was done with cheap little bottles of acrylic craft paints from Michael's, a craft store chain (Folk Art brand paints at $1.29 per small bottle). I already had these paints, but probably wouldn't have had to spend more than $10-12 if I had been starting from scratch and purchased wisely. The whole project took less than 2 hours from beginning to end, and probably half that time was mulling over blended shades of paint... mixing... pondering... mixing...

The backdrop in place behind the remnants of the recent France 1355 game:

A wider shot showing the effect of dropping it down the center of my table, hiding the junk behind it:

I probably will not leave well enough alone, and will either try to make this one better, or do another one with what I have learned in doing this. Altogether, fun and useful. Hmmmmm. Maybe I could be a landscape painter... Ooooooh, shiny......