At the end of last year, a very good friend was celebrating a significant birthday, (it is more than my life is worth to say she was 50). As she is always very supportive and complimentary about my figures, I looked for a suitable subject to do for her celebration. I searched manufacturer's lists for several weeks before deciding that a non- military subject, preferably female, was what was called for. My friend Quang of PiliPili had the answer in his range - a 120mm Geisha. The only problem I now faced was, that figure purchased, I only had just over one week to complete the task and given I work in oils most of that time would be taken up in drying time. A compromise was called for, that was the base colours would be painted in oils but the detail would be done using acrylics. I am a novice in the use of acrylics having only tried them once before with disappointing results, so this in itself was going to challenge me.
The kit comes in grey resin complete with part of a Japanese bridge. The parts are virtually flash free (except the bridge which did have to be cleaned up a bit), moulding lines are very faint and difficult to find. The casting is the usual standard to be expected from PiliPili - superb. The figure is posed standing on the bridge with one hand resting lightly on the handrail and the other holding her fan before her face in a very oriental fashion. The ethnic orgins of the figure are not in doubt - she looks very Japanese. My knowledge of Geisha's dress is based on a few nights surfing the net and I am not even going to try to explain any of it or use the correct terminology, the more learned amongst you can correct my piece.
Assembly is very straightforward and uncomplicated, so I will not refer to it at all. I wanted the kimono to be as striking as possible, so I chose to represent a dark grey and gold silk. For the Dark Grey silk I painted the upper part in a mixture of Windsor and Newton Pewter and Windsor and Newton Sepia overall, I highlighted using more or less straight Pewter with brighter highlights were done with Windsor and Newton Silver. The shadows were done by adding progressively more Sepia, with very dark shadows being straight Sepia. The collar and bottom third of the kimono was to be gold with an embroidered design on it. I painted it in a mixture of Windsor and Newton Jaune Brilliant and Windsor and Newton Gold, with highlights in straight Gold, shadows were a mix of Gold Ochre and Gold. The upper garment was painted Cadmium Red and the cummerbund was painted a pale pink. This was all set aside for a couple of days to dry off a little.
The bridge was painted Burnt Sienna with black uprights, a Cadmium Red cross member and the hand rail was covered in gold leaf (with limited success). The skin tone was my usual blend of Titanium White, Burnt Sienna and Gold Ochre, with a higher proportion of Gold Ochre than usual for European skin tones. The neck, hands and arms were painted leaving the face, which in keeping with the subject, would be white with red rouged cheeks and a pale blue "eyeshadow". Hair was painted pure black highlighted with French Ultramarine. I got a bit carried away and "gold leafed" the edge of the fan, which was painted a peach colour. Her hairpins and comb were painted in various erratic swirls of Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna and Jaune Brilliant to simulate tortoise shell, which was rather a failure although when I rubbed it off, lo and behold I achieved the appearance I was after!
Once the kimono and undergarment were dry I painted on embroidery. The undergarment was given a floral design of white daisies with royal blue centres; the gold silk on the kimono was painted with a cherry blossom design. The fan was given a branch of cherry blossom and a blue bird. The one thing I experimented with that exceeded my expectations was the cummerbund. I lightly over-painted the pink with Winsor and Newton Gold ink and was delighted that it looked as though this was a pink material with gold interwoven. I painted a bamboo design in coral coloured acrylic to complete it. The hairpins, comb and fan were attached and the whole thing pinned and glued onto the bridge.
The base was painted in various greens in swirling designs to represent weed and gold fish were painted on top. Once dry, the whole lot was varnished and then given a fairly thick layer of clear epoxy resin which both fixed the bridge permanently and gives the appearance of water.
Having concentrated on military subjects for most of my modelling career it was good to try something different. The very tight time scale forced me to experiment with materials and techniques; therefore I benefited as a result. My friend received a present that was unique to her, so all in all I believe it was worth it. Yet another class item from PiliPili. The kit is available from Historex Agents (www.historex-agents.co.uk). This year? Well, Suzanne will just have to wait and see.