It was a long ongoing process, which I didn’t see coming, at first. It was a long time ago, at a meeting in the Danish model soldier Society “Chakoten“ there was a Swede, Jan Sennebo, who brought some painted 30 mm Danish Dragoons, (Swedish Mars figures, I later found out). I was thrilled by these, and talked briefly with him. I was struck by the fact, that it was possible, to paint a 2 dimensional figure into a 3 dimensional, just by adding shadows and highlights, in the right places. Years went on, and I visited London almost every year, and indeed “Seagull Models“ and “Under Two flags“, in my hunt for new round figures, there at Under Two flags, I bought my first flats, a little set of Napoleon and a group of artillery figures. I still have these. More years went by, and I was invited on a Jubilee committee for “Chakotens“ 50 years Jubilee, and we held our meetings at each of the committee members’ home. The day, when it was my late friend Kjeld Lülloffs turn to be our host, I won’t forget. Ringing the doorbell, I was led into a long narrow hall, on each side was packed with wall cabinets full of beautifully painted flat figures from many periods. I was sold, completely. I was then shown into his studio, that broke me completely, it was an “Aladdins cave“, of military art, figures by the hundreds. It was like a revelation to me. Like all the things leading up to this visit, suddenly made sense. He and I, later became friends, and I visited him many times, in his cosy penthouse appartment, where he most kindly answered all my many questions on flats, editors and engravers. He also got me the many figures that interested me, from his regular visits to the “Holy city of flat Figures“ Kulmbach, in Bavaria. Every second year there’s an“ International Zinnfiguren Börse“ in this charming city. Above the city resides the “German Zinnfiguren Museum“ holding many thousands of figures, on several floors. I was there every time from 2001-2007, getting my first hand exsperience of the atmosphere there, which is very special, the connection between collectors are very kind, and after the first purchases, coming back for more, one is treated like an old trusted customer. They even remember you coming back 2 years later. I do think that every true flat figure fan, should visit this event, at least once in their lifetime. And right now? I’m still as enthusiastic, or even more. The more knowledge I get, the more I’m sure of my favorites, both in history, and on engravers and editors. In the last years there have been several books on these editors, and engravers, especially from the German “Edition Krannich“.
Can you elaborate more on how your friend, Kjeld, helped you learn? What did he teach you that would benefit others?
Of course, he was a man of excellent taste in figures. He told me of engravers, especially Franz Karl Mohr, whom he considered the best. I now refer to him as Maestro Mohr. He didn’t engrave as many figures as some of the others, but what he did was superb. Kjeld always told me to limit my interest area, a thing I must admit I have a hard time doing. He was very interested in the Burgundian period, and the history of England, but also costume history, and the figures made after the German genre painter Spitzweg, had his great interest. He wasn’t that much into military hsitory figures, more to the cultural history available in flat figures. He also knew his history, and could tell of the historic background to most of his figures. I can also say that all the figures in his collection were first rate castings. He didn’t settle for second best. He was well known in editors circles. That said, he was also attracted to the one off figures, even though they didn’t fall into his main interest areas. I think the lesson he taught me was “quality before quantity“. I do have a hard time keeping my purchases into any specific period, I get tempted by many details in a figure. It might be a good colour combination, a stance, or figures from a period I never painted before.
Who are some of your favorite editors and engravers?
My favorite editors, well there’s many; Hafer with his many beautiful ancient figures, Wolfgang Unger who has many Mohr series, and civilian series, Jupiter Miniatures many large scale figures, Vladimir Nuzhdins artistry, Ulrich Lehnarts Burgundian knights, Glorious Empires Napoleonic series, Detlef Belaschks beautiful large scale figures, Liselotte Maiers “Loy figures”, many trappers and indian figures, even a buffalo hunt, Kieler zinnfigures 1700 types, and their 30 years war figures. the former Müller-Erfurts 30 years war figures, now sold by Wünsch, Fredericus Rex’s 7 year war figures in 54 mm. I have many favorite engravers, Vladimir Nuzhdin, Otto Thieme, Ludwig Frank, Sixtus Maier, Stefan Jahn, Hans Lecke, Daniel Horath, Wolfgang Bock, Wolfgang Friederich, Werner Otto, E. Kovar, Daniel Lepeltier, and of course Maestro Mohr. To see his faces on a 30 mm figure is unbelievable, in a space not larger than the head of a matchstick. He could engrave both character and details.
Heres some examples of the mentioned engravers work
30 mm Napoleonic Lancer, editor: Sima, engraver: Sixtus Maier
30 mm “Der gestohlene kuss“ editor: Werner Unger, engraver: Werner Otto
30 mm, Grosse deutscher bauernkrig, editor: Possibly still Wolfgang unger or Hans Schwahm, engraver, Karl Franz Mohr, and yes its only a 30 mm high figure.
As long as I can remember, I have always been painting something, in the beginning plastic construction kits, leading to metal figures. In the beginning I used enamel paints, Humbrol, Airfix, Revell. Then I became a member of the Danish model soldier Society “Chakoten“ and heard of artist oil. I used this on round figures, and when I converted to flat figures, it was a natural choice for me. I prefer oils, because of the high quality pigments in them, and the soft transitions possible. Agreed, excellent results can be achieved with acrylics, which Greg’s figures show very clearly, it just doesn’t work for me. I get the best results from artist oil. For priming I use enamel paints, matt white, because it gives me the best base and bite for the oils. I prefer 2-3 thin coats, with drying time in between. I prefer W&N serie 7, Kolinsky sable brushes. Originally, these are made for water colours, and using them with thinner and oil paints, surely takes it’s toll, but with proper care, they can last for years. I paint from dark to light, building up layers and gradually lighten them, the old master did it this way, but without any comparison between these masters and me. It makes sense to do it this way. Take a horse, a brown one, I first cover it in a thin mix of burnt umbra, let it dry and then the following day a new thin layer of the same colour, but lighten it with orange and blend it, Then the same procedure and more highlight with orange, same again, but this time using naples yellow dark. In this way you do the dark shadows and the highlights at the same time, when done and satisfied, I use winsor violet to darken the shadows, the winsor violet gives the burnt umber more deepth. I never use black as shadows for white, it gives a chalky uninteresting dull effect. Instead use a mix of paris blue, karmesin and burnt umber, and a lot of white, this will give you a more lively shadow. The same with red, never use pure black as shadow, use a shadow mix of cadmium red, viridinian and cobalt blue. As base for faces I use tube flesh, a tiny speck of dark green and white, and model the face’s features with a mix of burnt umbra and cadmium orange. After this I use a lot of colours, different from figure to figure. If I end up with a face too reddish, there’s a cure for this too—Mussini has a wonderful transparent colour called “Sfumato“ the old masters used this for the same purpose.
What advice do you have for aspiring flat painters and for those who want to improve? Most say “paint, paint, paint,” which is, of course, profoundly true, but can you be more specific on how to paint more intelligently, rather than practicing the same wrong thing over and over again?”
In my line of work, there’s a saying, “Kill your darlings,“ which means, if it doesn’t work, try something else. I would suggest studying old masters work, and how they treat details, and especially colour theory, and how the different colours interact, a good basic book on this is essential. Also looking at other flat painters work can be inspiring, don’t be afraid to steal any good techniques, and combine it with your own. I work hard on my colour mixes, to learn with each new figure. Hopefully, I will improve in time. But in the end, we all have our personal preferences, on how we would like a figure to look, and what works for you, is as good as anything else. In the end it’s just a hobby, and we are supposed to have fun.
(Kjeld has already contributed a great deal of significant material to this website. Be sure to click on his name under categories and the site will collect all of his contributions in one place. He also maintains a blog. Currently, he is providing a brief guide to collecting “flats.” Don’t miss that series.)