Andy Singleton, Rome’s Northern Enemies (Painting Wargames Figures), (Pen & Sword, 2020)
Andy Singleton can paint model soldiers. In fact, he paints them exceedingly well. If you did not know that, then you are in for a treat with his latest how-to book, this time focusing on the Iron Age barbarians that gave the empire-building Romans such a hard time. For experienced painters of all standards, there is something in this book for you too even if it is just to salivate ever someone else’s inspired work. Singleton aims this book at the ordinary painter, trying to improve their techniques, and he does so by using a simple building block method illuminated by step-by-step photographs. It is a very effective approach.
Singleton dives straight in with a survey of the tools you will need to paint your figures, though helpfully, Singleton also covers the types of figures you can buy. Knives, files, glue, filler, primer, and, of course, brushes, are all part of the painter’s arsenal. Singleton teaches you the basic techniques of painting before getting into the specific challenges the Iron Age barbarians have to offer. He starts with weapons and armour where you learn how to make chainmail shine, or not if that’s how you want it, and then paint wood for spear shafts. Now comes something tricky; the ornate shield designs carried by the barbarians, but don’t worry because you can get shield decals, and Singleton shows you how to add them. Barbarians clothes were also often patterned, including horrible to paint tartan that Singleton makes look easy to do. Some of the barbarians painted their bodies, so we must too. Singleton teaches you how to paint flesh with tattoos and not make them appear like psychedelic rashes! Then he comes to my biggest bugbear: horses. Singleton demonstrates how to paint a variety of horses and their leather straps – this for me was worth the cost of the book. You will need those for the chariot that features next; how to assemble it, though sadly not how to paint it, which is disappointing given the superb chariots Singleton features in his photographs. Once you have mastered the figure, Singleton teaches you how to create realistic bases, which rounds the book off nicely.
Singleton writes in a light, friendly style that makes you feel accompanied rather than lectured to as you work your way through his lessons. The excellent photographs of painted figures are aspirational for most of us, but the great thing about a book is that it is always there in front of you for inspiration with the bonus that you can escape the PC for a while at least. While I would not dare to argue with Singleton’s techniques, it would have been useful to see how they work on smaller scales, especially the popular 15mm scale for the ancient period. That quibble aside, this is a first-rate book on painting figures and complements Singleton’s previous book on painting Imperial Roman soldiers. I recommend you get both. 9/10.