Monday, March 22, 2021

Dark Ages church - pimping the basic model

As a break from painting Dark Ages Saxons for the new project, I decided I'd get stuck into the Sarissa Dark Ages church I recently purchased from Arcane Scenery & Models. My first thought was to do a little research as the model has no stonework etched into the mdf walls. My (admittedly) uneducated impression of thousand year old churches is that they should be open stonework as we see all over the British Isles. But apparently, it was not unusual (but by no means ubiquitous) practice to coat or plaster stone walls with lime mortar that would take the colour of the earth with which it was mixed (vibrant reddish to yellow to white colours). This would provide an extra level of insulation, protection for the stone against the elements, and repelled vermin. I've also seen a reference to lime plastering helping in fire prevention. So, having availed myself of the interweb knowledge-base (everything on the web must be true!), I was content not having my church with open stonework and instead plastered. 

The basic Sarissa church assembled. This was a relatively easy build. I did, however, spend some time sanding down all the right angles: base, walls, window frames, etc. This "softening" of the basic model is all-important to give it a more organic feel. Few buildings, even modern ones, have perfect right angles and sharp edges. Also at this point, I covered the entire model in a couple coats of diluted PVA to seal and protect.

The next step was plastering. I went to my old fall back, Liquitex ceramic stucco, and mixed it with some basic chocolate brown paint.

The brown stucco was applied to the walls with an old brush, making sure to stipple rather than smear or brush. I was also not too concerned at this point to avoid getting the stucco on the window frames. This can be easily scraped off after drying.

A wash of diluted GW Agrax Earthshade applied.

Several drybrush layers, starting with the original chocolate brown and successively mixed with a light buff.

The stone window frames etc have been scraped of excess stucco and painted black.

Successive drybrush layers on the stonework, topped with Vallejo Heavy Warmgrey, which gives a very slight salmon-pinkish feel.

And the shingling begins using Warbases shingle sheets.

The three roofs complete with their shingles. The peak tiles are cut from the already creased edge of a brown paper envelope. Next up, coating the roofs in diluted PVA to seal and protect. 

While the roofs were drying, I added some water and mold stains on the walls, particularly around the windows and eaves. I used heavily-diluted GW contrast paints followed by a light drybrush of the GW Heavy Warmgrey again to blend better with the surrounding un-stained stucco. I also added some moss around the base, the windows and the eaves.

The shingled roofs have been primed black with successive layers of brybrushing (black + off-white).

Individual roof tiles have been treated with various light washes (browns, greens, blues, and yellows). This step, I think, really makes a difference as it takes a fairly monochrome surface and adds depth and variance. The roof, after all, is one of the first things the eye catches on the table (since we're usually looking down from above). I've also added some flower and grass tufts to the base to add some colour and break up the straight lines a bit (again, helping to make the model feel a little more organic).

The finished model with its inhabitants.


  1. Absolutely lovely job and sits in well with everything else, I increasingly feel that MDF needs help to become good looking terrain. I am just working on an MDF bard and doing much of what have and it's transformational.

    1. Thank you. It doesn't seem like much of a change when working on the mdf but the end result is indeed "transformational."

  2. Nice little village.
    Shame someone has to burn it down.