Bob Letterman

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(04) “Logistics” The Figures

I have began building and painting the figures that will populate the diorama “Logistics”. A few of these are stock, out of the box. Most are converted to one degree or another. There will be somewhere in the area of 330 figures altogether. I will be using a few that I painted as box art over years past. These were mostly from the Custom Dioramics line, but a few others as well. I will be using Warriors, Custom Dioramics, New World Miniatures, Verlinden, Dragon, Alpine, Junior Town, Nemrod, Tamiya, Albertus, Preiser, Masterbox, Plus Models, Sol, Model Victoria, Legend and Hornet products. The majority of course will be Warriors, Custom Dio and Dragon.

So far, I have nearly 200 built, posed, converted and detailed, and now ready to paint. Each figure has a specific purpose and a specific place to go. Composition has always been very important to me. Some of these are radical conversions and some will have sculpted parts. As I go through them I also scratch various equipment that doesn’t exist on the market.

This is the first 170. I have another 50 in stages of completion that I will post later. Once I have them all built, I will begin painting them assembly line style as I have all the large dioramas I have built in the past.

I’ll start with some overall shots!

Some of the P.O.W.s


More Refugees

And More Refugees.

Some More Refugees

The overall shots above reflect a large cross section of the figures, US tank crews, truck crews, headquarters staff, German P.O.W.s, workers clearing the streets, refugees, German city dwellers, G.I.s walking on either side of the tank and truck columns, tank riders and a huge number of vehicle crews just to man the 48 vehicles in the diorama.

The workers cleaning streets.

The story centers on Gen. Patton, pausing to stop the XYZ Express supply column of GMCs to allow the Combat command B of the 4th Armored Division to move ahead after a massive traffic jam developed. The commander of CCB is Col. Creighton Abrams in his M4A3E8 Sherman, Thunderbolt 7, who is snapping a salute to General Patton, the commander of Third Army, as he passes! Many subplots are happening throughout. Camera crews will be filming the event, staff officers are getting information from two captured German officers from a map on the hood of a jeep.

Other officers are having a quick lunch, US soldiers are feeding the refugees from the back of a mess truck. The refugees are filling the street to the rear of the dio, P.O.W.s are being marched to the rear by M.P.s and the wounded G.I.s as well as wounded German P.O.W.s are also being taken to the rear. G.I.s will be inspecting the powerful K5E railway gun disabled by bombing from a prior air raid in the cutaway rail station in the front of the diorama.

Three destroyed German vehicles are in various locations and a US Diamond T wrecker has been assigned to clear the streets. A converted GMC deuce and a half dump truck and the US D7 dozer are helping to clear the massive amounts of rubble that will be on the finished diorama. Many other vignettes will be telling other stories!

Here is the Patton figure. It is composed of four kits from two companies Warriors, Custom Dioramics, and the parts box.

This is the Creighton Abrams figure. He still has a shoulder holster to be added. Abrams was a small man compared to Patton, who was 6′ 4″.

One of the cameramen filming history in progress. The figure is a conversion and a scratch hand held movie camera.

One of the motorcycle M.P.s in Patton’s entourage.

The scratchbuilt WW II 16mm motion picture camera on a tripod.

Various refugees.

Some of the staff officers.


I had bought a German soldier kissing a girl goodbye. A lot of work, but I turned him into a G.I. who jumped off a Sherman and gives a pretty girl a kiss.

Finally, a wounded marine converted to a G.I. which will be on the back of a Jeep ambulance.

As I am completing the M-32 B1 that will be posted on Logistics, the armor, I had to begin painting a figure crew for that. They must go in before I seal up the ARV. For the three man crew that will be visible, I used two figures from a Dragon tank crew. One remained pretty much stock except for added equipment and an arm and mike and the other was cut to a bust as a full figure won’t fit. The third crewman is a VP casting I have had for years, even before VP went to the green color resin. He was cut to a short bust as well.

There are varied ways to paint figures. My way is just one of many. I call these diorama figures as they couldn’t begin to compete with the historical figure competition. Some of those guys spend weeks and months painting a single 54mm figure. As I have to paint over 300 for this diorama, I must build and paint quickly or all those dios I have done would have never been completed.

The idea is to get the best results with the time allotted.

As I planned on posting this crew, I timed the face painting from start to finish. One hour and 40 minutes for all three. The uniforms go much quicker. I always do figures and vehicles assembly line method. Love that Henry Ford! These are the first 1/35th figures I have painted 1/35th figures in many years, so, I believe that as I go along, I will get faster and faster and the quality should improve as well. (Hopefully)!

I paint my uniforms and equipment with either Humbrol enamels or Vallejo or Polly S acrylics. I paint all flesh with artist’s oils. I have seen some magnificent painting with acrylics and even enamels, but they were by world class figure painters and I ain’t one of those and never claimed to be!

After building/posing/converting the figure, I always base coat the flesh parts with an acrylic flesh.

Then I use these oils, Burnt sienna, titanium white, mars black, raw umber and gold ochre. Those comprise the flesh tones. Later, I use raw umber for eyebrows and beards, red for cheeks and lips and so on.

BTW, I also use a cobalt dryer that accelerates the drying process of the oil paint.

I make a palet using only burnt sienna for the base color.

Then blend various amounts of white and gold ochre to create five shades of flesh. I also have a pure white and a pure burnt sienna blob on the palet for extremes.

Then, I use acrylic white and light blue for the eyes.

Then get a mix.

Then I paint the entire eyeball with this almost dark white with a hint of blue. (A tiny hint of blue) Barely visible in this pic.

Then I use acrylic black to make the eyeballs. I bought some of the Archer eyeballs and will try those out on some upcoming figures.

Next, I use a triple ought Winsor Newton brush to paint around the eyes, being careful to avoid and isolate the eyeball itself, finally covering the entire face except the eyes..

Apply one of the darker mixes for shadows

Then the first highlights next to the center.(On the palet)

Then blend very gently. (Very gently!)

Then more shadows and highlights and more blending.

Then I add a microscopic dot of red on the cheeks and lower lip and blend until it is barely visible but still there.

The finished flesh painted.

I have tried to use acrylics, but have never been satisfied with them. Far away they look nice, but, unless they are painted by much better figure painters than I am, they look clown-like close up. I like to get in close when I photograph my dioramas and it doesn’t work for me. The oils also give off an ever so slight sheen which looks much more realistic to me.

Next, I will post the uniforms being painted, I estimate that that will take about half the time as the flesh! I apologize for the photography, I paint figures in my lower level workshop and the photography studio is in the museum. I am in a hurry to finish these so I can complete the ARV and get it posted. In the future, I’ll move my figure painting to the museum workshop and use the good camera! This one has a macro, but a very limited one. With my dioramas. it is always about hurry, hurry, hurry! I have heard people say, why don’t you just take your time. With these monsters, they would never, ever be finished if I just took my time!

Some day, I want to build and paint a single figure and really take my time. It should prove interesting!

I took some photos with a real camera today after finishing the commander figure. From now on I will see that the pics are clear! Sorry about that! Keep in mind these are 1/35th and shown here about three to four times actual size! The last photo is actual size!

Actual size.

OK, Just added 38 more figures to the population. I think I am now over 300. I have maybe another 30 or 40 to go, mostly vehicle crews!

Another view.

And here is a lot of them together.

It’s coming along! Once the vehicles and figures are finished, then all my attention back to the base and buildings.

Well, seven more figures completed. The Jumbo tank crew and three tank riders.

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