Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Artistry of A.G. Smith

The work of Christopher Walker, profiled earlier here, coupled with a wonderful Dover publication received for Christmas, got me all revved up on paper toy soldiers.  I'd had the book below for several years but kept it intact as it is so nice to have as a  bound piece, but with the arrival under my Christmas tree of a duplicate copy I found myself free, and eager, to put it to its intended use.

As an illustrator myself, I have an affinity for the work of artists like A.G. Smith,  Alan Archambault, Christopher Walker and others.  The gender of the very prolific and talented A.G. Smith is a mystery to me as I can find no biographical information about the artist.  If Smith is out there listening however, I'd just like to say that I admire his or her work immensely, both in scope and execution.  

Civil War Paper Soldiers in Full Color by A.G. Smith is a delight to the eyes and, when assembled, a very satisfying resource for the game table.  Dover Publications are always a visual treat, and the work of A.G. Smith (one of Dover's regulars) is superb.

Now to recruit, assemble, and deploy these small but impressive 54mm paper armies of yankees and rebels.

It becomes immediately apparent once one begins the process, that is is not a children's book, at least not the cutting and assembly.

 Any parent or grandparent who presents this book to a child as a gift needs to be prepared to contribute hours and hours of careful cutting with an exacto knife of the 100 soldiers in the book.

The more meticulous the cutting, the more satisfying the results, and the cutting needs to be meticulous to get around noses, hammers, cap bills ramrods, and other very fine details.  I found myself changing blades about every six or eight soldiers.  Sharper is definitely better.  I also recommend using a "self-healing" cutting mat, available at any hobby, art, or fabric store.

I used a glue stick to join the two-sided figures together.

Each figure has a base to keep it upright.  Only one black cutting line is printed but it is more effective to make two parallel cuts as a slightly longer and wider slot will keep the base from warping.

Although a gluestick works best to join the soldier halves together, white craft glue is best for affixing the soldier to the base.  Don't overdo the glue, and results should look...

like this...

and this.  That's a really nice looking little toy soldier.  One down 99 to go!

I seemed to average about eight or ten in an hour, working a very leisurely pace.  Again, this is a cautionary tale for adults who think they can present this book to a child and glibly walk away,  not if you want it to be a satisfying experience for the kid in question.  Somebody will have to do the work.  Think of it as an excellent opportunity for some cross-generational family time, especially if popcorn is involved.

In addition to soldiers there are a few ancillary items included.

Two cannons round out the playroom floor mayhem as do a tent, two flags, stacked arms and a couple other goodies.

Each side has only one mounted figure apiece, prompting me to think that a  book of 54mm paper cavalrymen would be a natural for a future publication.

My Union army completed, it's time to get started on the sons of the southland.

It's worth noting than both armies are in their Sunday best, no butternut appears in the rebel ranks, only gray.

This recruit is ready to be thrown into the fray...

alongside his 49 comrades-in-arms.

This fighting phalanx of determined Dixiecrats forms a fierce firing line,

though the Army of the Potomac is the team to beat on my game table.

Smith doesn't skimp on variety, including musicians as well as a commander.

Artillery is represented on both sides with guns and some very nicely animated artillerymen...


and gray.  I really like the artilleryman taking a ball from the stack.

Finally cut out and assembled, the two armies met in awesome combat in my studio...

(click on the image for full dramatic effect)

as I hope they shall in yours.

Many thanks to Dover Publications and that exceptional talent of A.G. Smith for this truly delightful toy soldiering experience.

I've since ordered two more A.G. Smith projects from Dover; larger format soldiers and a really cool fort to cut out and assemble.  Look for both in the upcoming.

Soldier on!



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thinking of a Distant Spring

Winter has socked-in the Toy Soldiers Forever! studio.

This was the scene in my driveway at about five o'clock this afternoon:

But keep in mind that I live in a 54mm world.

I never tire of this particular view of the studio. 

No matter how badly you want to, please don't put your tongue on the cast-iron sentinel guns!

On the frosty outside, looking in.  There is a little heater in there by the way.

Regardless of the weather, at Toy Soldiers Forever!  it's Memorial  Day every day of the year.

Staying warm,


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

M.A.S.H. Lego-style

For Christmas Susan got me a little box of Lego soldiers and a jeep, and although this blog generally concerns itself with toy soldiers of the American Civil War, regular readers know that I occasionally stray farther afield.

Legos are as fun as they ever were, despite their marriage-made-in-hell with the Disney machine.

The Euro-style directions are clear and wordless.

And assembly is both fun and simple.

 As I close the door to my studio, I can only wonder what
 mischief they'll get in to.

One day in the Ardennes Forest.

Since the time of the Roman Legions it has been said, and rightly so, that there is nothing more dangerous than a Second Lieutenant with a map.  The trouble is compounded for our little squad of Lego GIs as their second-looey has not only a map but binoculars and walkie-talkie as well.

 "I insist..." he insists, "the road ahead is clear, there is 'naught to fear, get yourselves here!"

Ever skeptical of his leader's talents, our plucky engineer precedes the convoy with mine detector deployed (just in case).

A metallic "click" followed by a barely audible "uh-oh" and...

 Out goes the cry "MEDIC!!"

 Instinctively, our little corpsman rushes in to provide aid.

 Our wounded soldier is stabilized and stalwart litter-bearers whisk him to a waiting jeep.

Evacuation and medical attention are only moments away, and we hope for the best.

All the while the lieutenant ponders how this may effect his "O club" membership dues.

It was ever thus.

Soldier on!