Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do as the Romans Do

In my son's room, quart-jars filled with tiny soldiers line the windowsills. Lots of them. My husband collected them as a child, inspired by his father's passion for painting historical military figures. In my father-in-law's basement squadrons, battalions, cohorts and legions fill wall-to-wall cabinets. Zulu warriors, Celts, Redcoats, Civil War soldiers, and French revolutionaries stand at the ready, weapons poised, all hand-painted down to the tiniest detail. My husband and his dad like to set them up on battlefields and play war games with them. I don't really get it, I confess.

I'll admit, I thought this passion was a bit weird when I first heard of it. Then my son's hands matured enough to wield the tiny brush necessary to add colour to 3/4 inch miniatures, and I find myself sitting with him to help out when he beings to paint. A base coat of white is sprayed on, then each part of the soldier is carefully coloured in with acrylic craft paint. When it is done, it is finished with a wash of dark oil-paint to create a patina.

They're tiny. They're fierce. They're adorable. And painting them is addictive.

My son's room is a scene from fantastical battlefields: Confederate soldiers rank up with Romans to fight the cowboys and Zulus. The time he takes to stand each tiny warrior in lines astounds me, as does the amount of time he spends playing with them. We are not a family that glorifies war by any means (and have avoided gun-play for eight years now), but the history of war is another story. The fateful weather, the lay of the land, the trick of a zipper or a red coat in betraying its wearer's whereabouts, and the folly of poor strategy are what capture our imaginations as a family.

For Christmas, he wants a set of Vikings and I'm already giggly thinking about painting those tiny, wild red beards!


  1. I have to get him to show me these armies the next time I am at your house! So much fun!!

  2. I think you've said it there. It's not gun play but learning about history and tactics. Organization and my goodness painting skills. Talk about eye hand coordination! :)

  3. Oh, so funny - my middling was just playing with the few soldiers she has. She showed me her scene and explained why each figure was placed where it was. She would LOVE to paint them too; I had no idea that they *could* be painted. And Vikings?! I'm joining in on the delighted giggling!

  4. It's sounds like painting pegs...addictive and fun with endless possibilities!


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