Tamiya D.520 – Part II: Paint and decals

In our last article, I assembled the Tamiya D.520 with some Eduard photoetch bits. Now, it’s time to talk about painting and finishing the model, which, given my preference for paint, is surely going to be the easy part.

Yeah, about that…

The paint scheme

I chose to keep things simple and go with the box scheme. I didn’t want to ruin my model with the garish red and yellow stripes of the Vichy version, and I also didn’t feel like doing a lot of research, so box scheme seemed simple enough.

Why would you ruin a perfectly good plane like that?

The D.520 has a tritone camouflage scheme on the upper surfaces of cool grey and desaturated browns and greens. On the underside, it is a light sea grey. Fortunately, all of these are colours that can be effectively shaded with blues or blue-blacks, which would not only make the shading easier but would unify the model with consistent shadow and highlight colours.

An interlude on lighting

Speaking of shadows and highlights, I need to do a brief interlude on some stylistic choices that were influenced by my background in figures. I think this background gives me a perspective on things that most people who build aircraft don’t have. As an example, someone on facebook asked me what colour I used on the blue of the markings and how accurate it was. I didn’t really have a great answer because I used at least four different paints to highlight and shade it, and I don’t care all that much about accuracy in colours.

Consider painting red. The traditional scale model approach would be to find the red that is closest to the real thing and spray it on in a uniform, opaque coat to simulate the real thing.

Whereas, my approach is going to be very different. I’m going to use colour theory to figure out what colours I want to use to highlight and shade the model. With reds, I like to go with a coal black to start as my deepest shadow. I might undercoat from coal black to ivory, from shadow to highlight. Then from there, I’ll go from crimson in the shadows to a brighter red in the highlights, and maybe even into a desaturated orange before pulling it all back together with a glaze of red ink. This adds shadows and highlights, making the model pop, accentuating the lines, and adding visual interest.

This approach doesn’t really take accuracy into account too much, because I’m using five different shades of red to paint one red item, and the goal is to get a gradient from shadowed to highlighted surfaces and accentuate shape. Even if I knew exactly what shade of red was used on the real thing and had that exact match, I’m still going to be using other colours to shade and highlight that tone. So to me, it’s kind of absurd to try to precisely match colours when a simple red consists of paints from coal black to ivory with crimsons and bright reds and oranges in between.

I know this approach isn’t quite traditional, and I feel like it is very different from what I usually see on the tables at model shows. This is an approach more informed by artistry than pure craftsmanship and historical fidelity. That’s not to to rehash the pestilential “are models art?” debate, and definitely not to lord over mere craftsman with my artistic snobbery. After all, one can respect both artistry and craftsmanship and everything in between, and just because something is artistic doesn’t mean it is good — good craftsmanship can be more impressive than bad art.

But, I think this is an approach that gives my models a relatively unique style; I’ve had someone comment before that he could tell that my 109 was done by a figure painter. It also makes the model stand out from a distance, which I think has some advantages to it — I feel like a great model is one that can pull your attention at several feet away, and then bring you in closer to discover all the details.

Where things started to go wrong…

I primed the model, no problem. I went with a zenithal prime, as you do when you learned everything you know from painting figures, then started to paint the kit. The bottom sea grey colour went on nicely, but then it came time to get serious about the camo pattern…

Primed, and with all the little sub-assemblies ready to go

My first thought was to use silly putty for masking. After all, I’ve seen people use putty for masking soft-edged camo, they just lay it down in round snakes instead of trying to flatten it and get hard edges. Yeah, that did not turn out great. The colour transitions were an inconsistent mix of hard and soft edges, and it was just a messy paint job. Also, I varnished in between colours, but the varnish went on too thick and gave a weird texture, and there were steps along the paint lines. It was just a really crappy looking paint job, completely unsalvageable, and the sort that had me worried that it was completely ruined. But, not giving up, I bit the bullet and stripped it completely before going at it again.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I think I’m done with Vallejo varnishes. I generally use Reaper’s brush-on sealer as my varnish of choice as I find it sprays better than anything I’ve tried from Vallejo. The only downside is that nobody stocks Reaper paints locally, so I have to order it direct from the manufacturer. Fortunately, Reaper offers free shipping to Canada if you spend $75 on their website, and I’ve never ever had a problem with finding a way to spend $75 on the Reaper website.

Second time’s the charm

So, when my attempt at masking a soft-edge camo pattern went south, I remembered a saying that has helped me in times of modelling trouble, when things didn’t quite go right with the finish or when I don’t have the right decals. That saying is “fuck it, I’m painting it freehand.”

After re-priming the model in the zenithal style, I used some very thin inks to brush on some general outlines for the camo pattern, just slightly tinting it to make myself a map for airbrushing. Then, I went at it freehand with my airbrush, gradually building up the colour from dark to light. I started on the bottom, and the only things I masked were the canopy and the bottoms of the wings and horizontal stabilizer when I went to do the upper surfaces.

I generally work from dark to light when I’m doing this, working with thinner paints as I go lighter, as it’s easier to add multiple layers with an airbrush than take them off. Also, with thin paints, you get a smoother gradient and can avoid that misty, airbrushed look. To place my highlights, I followed the zenithal prime, and focused my highlights in two ways. First, on a macro level, I wanted to highlight the upper surfaces, leading edges, and other areas that are highlighted based on the shape of the plane. Within that paradigm, I also wanted to add some modulation by higlighting the middles of the panels and leaving the panel lines a little more shaded. Of course, I also intentionally worked in some stippling and tonal variation, making sure not to apply a smooth, even coat, but rather something with a bit of visual interest.

See the subtle mottling and tonal variation on the underside

I did this one colour at a time, starting with the grey then moving into the greens and blacks. I did have to do some cleanup where the colours met, so it wasn’t quite as simple as 1-2-3, more like 1-2-3-1-3-2-1-2-1, but it eventually came out nicely. Finally, some Drakenhof Nightshade from GW was sprayed into the shadows and in the area of the panel lines to reinforce them and unify the scheme. A quick clear coat and I was in the home stretch, all I needed to do was apply some decals!

Mo’ decals, mo’ problems

The initial plan was that I would paint the stripes on the tail using a simple mask, then rely on decals for the remainder of the markings. Unfortunately, what no one told me was that the Tamiya decals from that time period were crap.

I applied the decals using all the best practices I could find online, and nothing I could do would get them to stick to the model and stay there. I had roundels coming unstuck and curling up, and my attempts to get them to stick just made things worse. And on top of everything, the roundels on the fuselage were applied over the white stripe on the arrow, but since the white wasn’t completely opaque, you could see the arrow running underneath the roundel. After struggling with it for several hours, I gave up on these craptastic decals and decided to use good old-fashioned paint instead.

Fortunately, the fact that these decals wouldn’t stick to the model meant they were easy to remove. About 95% of the decals would come off with a bit of masking tape, pressing it down over the decal and pulling it back up, and the other 5% could be removed with some gentle sanding using fine sanding pads.

The arrows and stripes were easy; they were simply a bunch of straight lines that could be easily masked. The roundels were a little harder, and I picked up a circle cutter and a template from a local art store to make a series of circular masks. As for the numbers… well, “fuck it, I’m doing it freehand” has been kind of a theme with this model, so out came the trusty Raphael 8404s.

Using liquid decals for the arrows…

Maybe it’s just that I had a bad experience, but I’m still suspicious of decals and would prefer to avoid them whenever possible. Even when they aren’t a god damn dumpster fire as in this case, it feels like there is just a lot that can go wrong even if you do everything right — they can silver, or you can get visible decal film, or they won’t settle properly. The decals could be old, or they could be crappy, or yellowed, or not quite opaque, or they could disintegrate the second they touch water. Maybe there is something I am missing, or maybe it is my inexperience with decals and strong background in painting, but it seems very much like to some extent, you are rolling the dice and taking your chances with decals while paint is more predictable.

The other thing for decals is that for all that, I’d still have to go over them to bring in highlights, shades, and tonal variations. Decals are generally flat and uniform in colour and my figure painting background means I can’t paint any single surface without using at least three different colours to highlight and shade it. It would look off to me to have all this tonal variation and weathering on everywhere on my model except for the markings, and things like white stripes are too stark for my tastes if they are pure white.

“I could just give up now and say it was captured by the Japanese…”

Weathering & Final Touches

Some light weathering was applied with the sponge technique. I did two-tone chipping, using the highlight colour of the paint (which was, of course, four different colours, depending on where on the camo the chips lay) and some grey metallic, applied mostly to areas such as the leading edge of the wings. The highlight colour chips were done first, while I saved my metallic chips for the end because, as I’ve said many times before, applying a matte varnish over a metallic paint kind of ruins the entire purpose of using a metallic paint in the first place.

To shade the panel lines, I mixed up an oil wash using white spirits and some black and blue oil paints to make it a blue-black. This was applied carefully over a coat of varnish, trying to keep it in the recesses only, then left to dry for a day before giving it another coat of varnish.

With the oil wash done and sealed in and my final coat of varnish down, I could finally pick out the metallic bits such as the exhaust, which was done with a mixture of Vallejo Metal Color and black ink. Exhaust staining was laid down with a mix of black and brown inks, ultra matte varnish, and flow improver, to create a transparent mix that avoids the glossiness and fragility sometimes associated with inks.

Finally, I could pop on the little fiddly bits like the pitot tube, antenna, and propeller, as well as remove the canopy masks. A sigh of relief was breathed as I placed it on the picture frame I made into a base — while an enjoyable exercise, there were moments of complete and utter frustration that really tested my patience.

Final thoughts

This is a great kit of a beautiful aircraft, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone, so long as you are willing to either make your own masks or get some aftermarket decals. For $20 or so, it could be a nice weekend project. As for me, I’m happy with it and I’ll probably take it to the local model shows and see how it does, whenever the hell those start happening again because 2020 sucks.

Bonus Content: Jagd Doga

I won this kit at a Gunpla contest a couple years ago. It’s an MSN-03 Jagd Doga from Bandai’s RE/100 line. RE/100 models seem like a step down from their more mainstream 1/100 Master Grade models — perhaps the equivalent of a High Grade kit blown up to Master Grade scale.

Of course, the kit went together quite nicely, as expected for Bandai. This particular kit has a lot of nicely curved surfaces in line with the Zeon aesthetic. I find I prefer the Zeon mobile suits over the Gundams, as these curved surfaces are fun to highlight with an airbrush.

It was a fun build, larger than just about anything else I’ve done. I didn’t include the shield because I couldn’t find a way to attach it in a way that I felt didn’t look awkward or detract from the pose. I also left off the beam sword and didn’t use the clear rods to represent missiles in flight because I’m not a big fan of these sort of clear parts – I find they tend to detract from the realism, and there isn’t much you can do with paint to make them look right.

Finally, I chose to go with a paint scheme inspired by Quess Paraya’s version because… well, because I looked this thing up on the Gundam wiki and I thought it looked cool. And just for shits and giggles, I took a picture of it holding my airbrush.

Incidentally, while I was looking up reference material on the Gundam wiki, I had a good laugh at this guy’s name.

Tamiya D.520 – Part I: assembly and cockpit

If you ask five warbird nuts about what the best looking plane is, you will probably get about eight different responses. Some people love the classic shark-mouth P-40. Others like a clean, in-line engined plane like the 109. People who watched Baa Baa Black Sheep as a kid might have fascination with the Corsair. And this is all tinged by national pride, with Brits preferring the Spitfire and Americans leaning towards the P-51 Mustang. However, all these people are wrong because the Dewoitine D.520 is the best looking plane ever. Period. End of story.

Okay, I might be overstating my case a little, but I think you could make a strong argument that the underappreciated French fighter is objectively a very beautiful craft. With clean lines, a long nose, and a canopy that transitions smoothly into a triangular tail fin whose swept rear contour adds just a little character, it’s got a very nice airframe. On top of that, their tri-tone camouflage scheme of desatured browns, greens, and cool greys hits a lot of the right notes when it comes to colour theory. They even went so far as to paint parts of the interior in a beautiful midnight blue colour — truly, this aircraft is a testament to French elegance, at least so long as you don’t ruin it with the garish yellow and red scheme of the Vichy version.

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The D.520 was basically the French equivalent of the Spitfire or 109 — a modern, all-metal, low-winged monoplane with an inline engine that was on the cutting edge early in the war. It came into service in early 1940, which was sadly too late to make much of a difference in the battle of France. However the story didn’t end there as production was continued under the Vichy regime, and the D.520 served in a number of air forces on both sides and on three continents in Europe, North Africa, and in the Syria-Lebanon campaign.

The kit

As I dabble somewhat in aircraft, this kit was strongly recommended to me by a friend who saw me fondling the box at a model show. Scalemates indicates a mid-1990s vintage, which may not be cutting edge but is a huge step up from some of the old kits kicking around at model shows. It sat in my stash for the better part of a year before I picked up some photoetch bling and then took it out. The local IPMS club is doing a French-themed contest for early 2021 (though who knows when we might actually be able to get together again, because 2020 is a dumpster fire), so it was only fitting that I went with this entry.

d520_boxWhen you open the box, you see that the kit is just two sprues and clocks in at a bit under 50 parts. There are no excessively small, fiddly, detailed parts — the smallest parts are things like the antennae, pitot tube, and control stick, which at 1:48 scale are not so small you need to get out magnifying glasses and tiny tweezers. There is no option for an exposed engine, which really cuts down on the parts count and makes for easy assembly on the front end. It does come with a seated pilot, which, although I didn’t make use of it, is a little touch that I like.

To kick the detail up a notch, I also got the Eduard photoetch set, which came with a photoetch fret and a piece of film for the instrument panel.

Assembling the office

Like most aircraft kits, you start from the cockpit and work your way out. The cockpit is also where the majority of the photoetch bits go if you want to go that route, which I did.

As I started to put the cockpit together, I quickly came to realize why people rave about Tamiya kits. It just went together right, and could probably almost have been just snapped together without glue. While more advanced modellers can fix problems, it’s a joy when a kit doesn’t have those problems to begin with. And remember, this kit is from the ’90s, so presumably Tamiya has only gotten better since then.

In the base kit, the only part of the cockpit that required more than the most basic of modelling skills to put together was the seat — there are a couple areas on the top corners that should be drilled out and cleaned up with a knife to properly represent the tube-and-fabric construction. I’m not going to complain about this because I suspect it would be tricky to mould the part that way to begin with, but it would be nice if this was called out on the instructions instead of forcing the modeller to figure it out on their own. There are also a couple of injector pin marks that could use cleaning up, but they probably aren’t very noticeable and that is to be expected on any model.

While I’m at it, cockpit assembly brings us into the wonderful world of photoetch bling. I went all out on this cockpit, using every piece provided on the fret. I’ve grumbled about photoetch before, but this was actually a much more pleasant experience than the last time I used it. I would have to credit that 100% to having the right tools for the job. A big part of that was due to a club member loaning me some proper photoetch tools, as well as me having upgraded my tweezers since my last photoetch project.

That said, while I went all out, I think you could easily get away with not doing so if you are so inclined. The catch with this and a lot of photoetch detail sets is that most of the details are in the cockpit, and they are generally hard to see unless you have an open cockpit and are specifically looking in there. The two parts that provide the biggest advantage to this kit are the instrument panel and the seat belts. The seat belts are one of the most visible cockpit details and do legitimately stand out with even a glance at the cockpit, so you would lose out by omitting those, unless you went with the included pilot. I’m not sure how visible the difference is, but the photoetch and film instrument panel also makes construction and painting so much easier than if you were to try to use the provided kit parts and decals.

IMG_2723.JPG

Look at all that photoetch…

Painting the office

The D.520 is unique compared to a lot of other aircraft from the era in that it has this really interesting midnight blue colour in the cockpit, which looks really neat once it is all together.

To start out, I primed with Synylrez black and worked up through some blue-blacks into P3 Exile Blue with the airbrush. From there, I gave it a quick dry brush of a lighter blue with a soft makeup brush, then went in with my detail brushes to pick out things like buttons and levers, and finished it all off with a thinned down blue-black wash to bring it all together and reinforce the shadows.

For the leather and fabric bits, the process was a little different as they will have a bit of texture and wear to them. To do this, I threw down a quick wet-blended base coat, with dark colours in the shadows and light colours in the highlights, then went in with techniques like stippling to bring in some texture. I finished it off with some ink glazes and washes, bringing it all back together and unifying the stippling and base coat.

Remainder of the assembly

With the two halves of the fuselage together, the remainder of the assembly went pretty quickly. Like I said, it had less than 50 parts. I left a few parts off for painting. The landing gear, propeller, and canopy were left off and painted separately; the fit was good enough that I would have no problems doing this. Also, the antennae and pitot tubes were left on the sprue until I was just about ready to attach them, as I didn’t trust myself to not lose them over the couple weeks to take the rest of the model from start to finish.

Apart from that, it was just a matter of following the instructions. I threw down some quick dark coats of paint on some difficult to reach areas like the oil cooler and radiator as I built, but apart from that there were no steps where I had to stop and paint.

You have the option of flaps up or down; I went with down, though I did break one of them off a couple times and have to glue them back on. Third time was the charm.

Overall, things went together very nicely. There were a couple minor issues, but they were probably my fault. The seam on the top of the nose is a little tricky — with the flat top of the nose, if you don’t line it up perfectly, it’s going to be a real problem to sand out the step. I would prioritize this joint when doing the fuselage join and work out from there, as I had to do a lot of putty, sanding, and rescribing to fix it after being a little too aggressive trying to sand out the step the first time. The air scoop on the bottom also didn’t quite go down right because I got it slightly warped when installing the radiator and oil cooler, so it needed some sanding and rescribing to make it work out.

Apart from those minor issues, assembly was perfect. Nice and simple, no major seams, the whole thing was a relaxing build and went together with the smallest amount of putty and sanding.

IMG_E2733

(Mostly) all together, with canopy masks applied

Final thoughts on assembly

In spite of the chaotic nature of the French aviation industry in the 1930s — a fascinating story that I may have to do some more reading on sometime — they put together a beautiful plane. And Tamiya did them justice by putting together a beautiful representation in 48th scale.

This was a nice kit. Fit was great, there were little to no frustrations, and it was simple enough that you could bash it out pretty quickly if you wanted. The Eduard photoetch bits were a nice touch and mostly went down well with the proper tools, but they ended up being barely noticeable, with one or two exceptions. There are two small bits in the wheel wells which were very frustrating, but those are not in a very noticeable place. There are some gunsights which would be a nice touch, but I chose to omit them after accidentally breaking them off two or three times, and I couldn’t find any pictures of the plane with these gunsights on them anyways. The rest of the photoetch parts are all in the cockpit, and while the seat belts are highly visible, you could easily get away with skipping the entire set, particularly if you are going with a closed cockpit.

Overall, this was a nice, relaxing build, and I’m sure this trend will continue into the paint and decals, because what could possibly go wrong with the decals that came in the box?

 

Bonus Content: Junior Commander Elizabeth Windsor

I got this bust for Christmas and decided to do it for a local model club’s blitz build a couple months ago. It is a 1/14 scale bust of Queen Elizabeth II in her ATS uniform circa 1945, from 9th Gate miniatures. The model comes in two parts — body and head — though it comes with two choices of head, with or without hat.

1/14 is a weird scale, noticeably smaller than I am used to for bust painting. Assembly was real nice, though. The cast was very clean and the two pieces keyed together so nicely you could paint them separately and avoid a lot of masking. If you looked very closely, you could see some striations from 3D printing the master, but they were so small they disappeared with a coat of paint.

I painted the two pieces separately, mainly using wet blending over a zenithal to lay down a quick, messy base coat, then smoothing it out with airbrush glazing. This makes getting smooth blends easy and avoids that misty airbrushed look. Since it came in two pieces, I could do the skin and the clothes separately without having to do any masking at all, which is very helpful in a blitz build. From there, I went back in with the brush to reinforce some highlights and shadows and paint the hair and all the little details.

I slapped it on a square black resin plinth and called it a day — finishing the blitz build with plenty of time to spare.

A more beautiful Beast

Editor’s note: It’s been a while since I’ve written an article here, I know. It’s been a rough time for all of us, and I’ve been having some difficulty adjusting to everything. I’m doing fine, all things considered. When this all started, I thought it would be nice to spend some time indoors and focus on personal projects for a few weeks, and then things would get back to normal.

Yeah, about that. It’s been four months, and things aren’t looking like they are going to get back to normal any time soon. The pandemic has us all stressed out and even those of us who have a lot of time on our hands are finding it hard to concentrate on anything. While my mental health has probably suffered a little, I’m still lucky in a lot of ways in that I have a stable job that I can do from home, and I haven’t had any close friends or family come down with COVID-19. A lot of people are struggling hard right now, between a global pandemic and all the racism and political issues we are dealing with — issues that have always been there, but have been boiling over these past couple of months. It’s a stressful time for all of us, but it’s also a time when it is important try to be good to each other. Be nice, okay?

Except to fascists, they suck.

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Ah, scale creep. It’s a common thing in the world of miniature gaming – a company will start out by making their figures in a certain scale, but eventually the temptation to start models that are a little bigger and have a bit more presence on the table will kick in. It’s not necessarily bad – bigger, cooler, better-looking models are objectively a good thing – but for people with large collections, seeing the old next to the new can make the old models look bad.

Warmachine is no stranger to this issue. When they first launched the game, it was all metal models because plastic is for people who don’t have testicles or something. At least, that’s what it said on Page 5. These metal models may have been fine for the time, but next to newer plastic and resin releases, they look tiny and kind of… pathetic.

page5.png

Wow. This aged terribly, and given that 2003 wasn’t that long ago, it probably sucked when it was new as well.

Unfortunately, not every model in their catalogue has been updated. In some cases, the community adapted. Guides existed online for enterprising Khador players to make a better-looking Behemoth out of various parts from the Privateer Press bits store, though PP did eventually come up with a resculpt. However, there remains one warjack in the Khador stable that desperately needs a resculpt – that is Beast 09, Sorscha’s character warjack.

Beauty and the Beast

Beast 09 is supposed to be a badass. An aggressive, ruthless, killing machine that strikes fear into the hearts of anyone in its path. With a giant axe, it cuts swaths through flesh and metal enemies alike, wrecking anyone and anything that gets in its way. Unfortunately, these qualities do not carry through into the model when you place it on the tabletop.

Beast_09.jpg

See how badass he looks in the official art?

There are two issues here, namely that the sculpt that had some problems back in the day, and it did not age well in the twelve or so years since it was released. Like many of the old metal warjacks, as soon as the first plastic warjacks came out, they immediately looked tiny, obsolete, and not very intimidating on the tabletop. These issues are compounded by the fact that the pose is very squat and not very dynamic, with the knees bent, making it look even shorter than it actually is. And… is it just me or is it weird that the axe has an icicle hanging off of it? You would think the icicle would immediately break off as soon as you swing it, especially that swing connects with a Cygnaran warjack.

33055_BeastO9_WEB

This sculpt isn’t horrible on its own, aside from the dumpy pose, but next to any other warjack, Beast-09 looks more like Beast-0.9

Like with the old Extremoth, the answer to this issue is a conversion. Sure, you can probably do a conversion using a regular Juggernaut kit, but this is Beast 09 we are talking about here – as a character warjack, it should have more table presence than your regular, non-character warjacks. Using an Extreme Juggernaut as a base, you can make something that, in the absence of a huge-based model, can be a centerpiece of your army.

What you will need

For this project, you will need a few things. Since Beast 09 is basically an upgraded Juggernaut, the Extreme Juggernaut (PIP 33115) is a natural starting point. In addition, you will need a few bits from your collection or the PP bits store. These include:

Black Ivan upgrade kit (PIP 33087) – you will need two spiked shoulder pieces as well as two of the claw bodies. Each kit comes with two of the shoulder pieces and one of the claw bodies, so you might be better off just buying two of these these kits and throw the leftover parts in your stash of bits.

Torch upgrade kit (PIP 33082) – the medal on Torch’s chest makes a good stand-in for Beast’s decorations; this is something you can probably get from the bits store though, unless you need the other parts for another project.

Spikes – when you are trying to make a warjack look badass, festooning it with spikes is a good idea. I used ones from my stash, but I think they were a couple Berserker spikes from the old metal sculpt and a sprue of metal Drago spikes. They’re just good to have around in your bits box, and adding a few bucks worth of spikes to your PP orders once the bits store reopens is a good way to source them.

In addition to your usual tools for working with metal warjacks, like a pin vise, drill bits, and glue, you will also need some basic sculpting and scratchbuilding supplies. These include:

Some brass rods and tubes

Plasticard/sheet styrene of various thicknesses

Meng rivet setthese are good for adding or replacing rivets, and are useful in a lot of conversions like this. Simply shave off the rivet from the plastic sheet with a knife and glue it onto the model.

Putty – I recommend Apoxie Sculpt as it is more easily workable than Milliput, but files and sands a lot better than green stuff or brown stuff

Tools – files, sanding sticks, and a saw.

Don’t Skip Leg Day

It’s natural to want to start with the legs, and one of the first things you will notice when you do so is that Beast 09 has some additional details on the legs not present on the juggernaut. Fortunately, you can add most of this detail with sheet styrene. Simply take some thin pieces, cut them roughly to shape, and glue them to the plate. Then, using a knife and some files, remove the excess overhang over the edges of the armour plate. Finally, add some rivets.

The tow rings can be added by taking a piece of plastic tube, cutting a small piece off the end, and sanding down the edges so it resmebles more a donut than a section of pipe. Glue that on, then simply sculpt a little ring to hold it on.

On the center plate, start by filing it flat. Some small bits of styrene tube can be used for the edges, and you can cut the runes on the plaque out of sheet styrene. The same process as we used on the thigh pieces can be used for the row of armour plate on the bottom, and more rivets can be added.

legs

On the back, you will also notice that in place of the butt-flap armour plate, Beast 09 has some square chunky parts. I built these up with thick pieces of plasticard, then filed and sanded it into shape. After attaching it to the body with super glue, I filled in the gap with Apoxie Sculpt and smoothed it out. This may not be necessary because it’s hardly noticeable, but I think it’s a nice touch.

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Warjack butts. L-R: Studio Juggernaut, Studio Beast 09, and my conversion. Sorry, I forgot to get a pre-primer shot.

Also, I did some work to change the pose of mine in order to make it more dynamic, balancing the entire model on the ball of one foot as though it was charging forwards. You don’t have to do this, but if you do, make sure it is securely pinned not only to the base, but that the foot is securely pinned to the leg.

Torso Time

The torso on Beast 09 has a few distinctive elements that we want to add. Most distinctive are the additional spikes in the shoulder area. The shoulder spikes from Black Ivan make a good substitute, though there are a few things you need to do to get them to fit nicely. Since the Black Ivan spikes are located using the rivets that are molded into the body, I find the best way to line them up is to use one of the rivets to locate them and file the rest off as they won’t line up with Black Ivan’s. The curve doesn’t quite match, so there will be some filing and putty work to blend these spikes into the rest of the body. Finally, the armour plate that these spikes are attached to on Black Ivan has rounded edges, while Beast is much more square. To address this, you can build up the corners with Apoxie Sculpt, filling out the rounded edges, then file them back down so they are square as opposed to rounded.

While you have the Apoxie Sculpt out, it’s also a good time to deal with the plaque around the neck that has the symbols on it. Simply use your putty build up the collar area, then once it dries and you have it sanded smooth, you can use small plasticard rods to make the edges. Then, carve some runes into the plaque using your scribing tool of choice. For the medal, I simply used Torch’s medal and made a couple ribbons out of plasticard, then pinned it in place on what would be the chest area.

Finally, Beast 09 has the Khador symbol on that top piece of armour plate. I didn’t want to try sculpting it, so instead I threw on some of Drago’s spikes so I would at least have something cool there and it wouldn’t be blank, and I think it definitely looks more intimidating than the original. I also didn’t bother with the additional detail on the smoke stacks, as I didn’t have a particularly good way to make six identical curved pipes for the exhaust tips and thought it looked good enough without them.

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To Arms!

If you want, you can probably get away with simply using the arms that came in the Extreme Juggernaut kit, but I didn’t think they looked quite right. The Extreme Juggernaut has some very rounded elements to the armour plate on its arms, while Beast is a little more square and boxy looking. We can address this be replacing the hand parts from the Extreme Juggernaut with the claw body of Black Ivan.

First, you will need to remove a section of Black Ivan’s claws, using a saw and a file to get rid of it. Then, pin the claws of Black Ivan to the forearms of the Juggernaut. This will look a little weird as the forearms are rounded but the claws or square, but you can fix that with putty – on the armour plate on the Juggy next to where it meets up with the claws, build up the rounded areas where the corners should be, then file and sand it back down in a more square shape. Add some rivets and maybe a spike, and you’re in business.

Finally, pin the fingers of the Juggy in place onto the claw body of Black Ivan. These fit decently as they are about the same size as Black Ivan’s claw fingers, however it will need a little bit of putty to make them mate up properly.

Axe to face!

Since I wasn’t a fan of the icicles on the original Beast 09 sculpt, all I had to do with the axe was extend the shaft a little to represent the 2” reach on Beast as opposed to the 1” reach of the Juggernaut. Remove the existing shaft, and replace with brass tube – it’s a pretty simple conversion, and it will give you the added benefit of a straighter, stiffer axe shaft that is less likely to get bent or broken. In addition to using a second tube to incorporate a bit of detail, I made sure to drill all the way through the axe head and allow the shaft to poke through the top of the axe a little, just to make it look a little more interesting.

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Final steps

That’s it for the conversion process; the rest is just assembly. Since the shoulders, elbows and waist are ball-jointed, you do have some flexibility in the pose. I find that, like with many warjacks, it’s a little easier do a sub-assembly, with a pin in the waist, so you can paint the legs separately. From there, it’s just a matter of priming, painting and basing, which I did using my usual techniques plus some playing around with oil paints.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, Beast 09 is the Khador model that is the most badly needs a resculpt. I was hoping we might get one when they released Sorscha3 and the new Man-O-War models, but sadly, it was not to be. Fortunately, it’s something you can do on your own with an Extreme Juggernaut, some spare parts, and some basic scratchbuilding skills.

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One of these things is more extreme than the other…

 

Bonus Content: Léa

Lately, I’ve been playing around with doing figures in unusual light settings, such as at night with some sort of OSL as the main light source. This is my first try at doing it on a large-scale model such as a bust.

The model itself is from Ouroborous Miniatures Exquis kickstarter. Exquis was a series of busts of normal, modern-day women, which I went in on for Léa and Yon. The subjects were interesting and unique, the sculpts were good, and the casting was the quality I expect for a resin display model — some small mold lines to clean up, but overall pretty good. I was most impressed with the turnaround time on the kickstarter. If I remember correctly, I got my product only a couple months after the kickstarter closed, which is a pretty impressive turnaround time. I’d have no qualms about recommending Ouroborous Miniatures kickstarters in the future, as you’re not going to end up waiting for a while unlike certain failed kickstarter projects.

Anyways, this sculpt spoke to me the story of a lost girl or a runaway, so I decided to paint her as though she is lit by a streetlight at night. To set the scene, I built a backdrop, painted it black, and stippled on some a little bit of light everywhere but directly behind her, which would be in her shadow.

I think it turned out fairly well — it’s probably not perfect, but it’s also the first time I’ve done something like this. I’ll definitely be playing with this sort of thing some more, though in the meantime I have some other challenging projects on the go so I probably won’t return to it for a little while.

Zaku Heads and Intermediate Weathering

So, it’s been a while. As I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and while people are talking about reopening, I’m not sure the end is as close as some of us think and hope it is. Fortunately, I have a stable job with the ability to work from home, so I’m not suffering too badly, but this crisis has really started to get to me in a lot of ways, and I’ve found being able to focus on things to be a real challenge, so some things like content creation have fallen through the cracks…

Anyways I’ve talked about weathering a few times on this blog before. From simple painted on scratches and chips and sponge weathering, to the hairspray technique, weathering is not only a great way to make your models match the environment and tell a story, but also a really easy way to cover mistakes. Just keep that last part between us, okay?

However, a couple recent projects involved me experimenting with some new techniques, or at least techniques that are new to me, so I think it is worth revisiting the subject and talking about some of my recent projects. These techniques are, in my opinion, slightly more advanced than some of the simple techniques I’ve showcased before like painted on scratches and sponge chipping, however they are quite rewarding and actually don’t take that long to execute once you get the hang of them.

The Zaku Head

To illustrate, I’ve got a little project that I call “The Sands of Time.” It’s an Exceed Model Zaku head that was given to me about a year ago, and my idea was that I would do a little vignette of it having been abandoned in some sort of post-apocalyptic desert. Since I was thinking of painting it green, it was only natural that I would go for a Martian desert because of colour theory – red and green are complementary colours, so there is room for some nice contrast there.

The model itself was very simple; in fact I suspect it is a toy from a gashapon machine. I made a box for it out of thick plasticard and filled it with clay, and to make the model appear half-buried, I wrapped it with saran wrap and after it was painted, pressed it into the clay. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself…

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Salt Chipping

Salt chipping is an interesting technique that is very simple; aside from paints and an airbrush, all it requires is salt which you probably have at home or at least can steal from a McDonalds. Like with the hairspray method, the first step is to base coat your model in the colour of the chips. You could go for some sort of metallic like an iron or silver, do something a little rusted up, or even go with something completely out of left field if the object you are chipping is made from some exotic space-age material. In the case of this helmet, I just did simple grey metals, applied zenithally.

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Vallejo Metal Color over Stynylrez primer

Once that is dry, what you need to do is use a big old brush and some water to get the surface of the model wet and sprinkle some salt on it. You can use regular table salt, or if you want to have fun, mix it up with salt of different grain sizes such as kosher salt. The salt will stick to the wet surface of the model, and remain in place as the water evaporates (which is a process that can be sped up using a hair dryer).

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Saltier than your average Warmachine player

Once that is done, simply airbrush your colours on normally – working from shadow to highlight, using thin paints. When the paint is dry, knock off the salt with a stiff brush and you will see that the salt effectively acted as a mask, leaving little chips underneath where the salt was stuck to the model.

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And with green paint applied, and most of the salt knocked off.

You can also do multiple layers of salt chipping – in this case, I laid down the green first, then masked off the white stripe and applied even more salt so that a large portion of the white would be chipped off and some of the chips would overlap the chips in the green coat.

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Double layer of salt chipping on the white stripe for double the fun

The downside is that sometimes the salt can leave a funny texture on the surface. I think what is happening is that some of the salt is dissolving in the water, then as the water evaporates, tiny pieces are left stuck to the surface. While this isn’t necessarily bad and the texture could actually represent textures that are intended to be present on the surface, it is something to think about.

Surface distressing

This one is pretty simple. With some very fine sanding pads, go over your paint, just giving the surface of the paint a little bit of distress. You can sand down through layers of highlights into base colours, or just scratch and polish the very top. This technique works really well in conjunction with salt chipping, as it can help take down some of that rough texture and expose some extra smaller chips that wouldn’t have been exposed from just knocking off the big chunks of salt.

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And after a little messing around with the sanding pads…

 

The risk is that you can sand down too far and expose the plastic. But even that is easy to fix – simply get a couple drops of primer and a couple drops of grey metallic paint and paint some chips overtop. In fact, the places where you do risk going too far are generally places like corners and edges which are most likely to chip anyways. I do need to do some experimentation on this, however – I’m thinking perhaps a coat of varnish in between an undercoat and a paint colour might allow me to sand through the top layer of paint but not all the way down to the plastic.

Oil washes and filters

Most of us who paint miniatures work with acrylics exclusively, and for good reason – aside from the number of us who have had traumatic experiences attempting to paint space marines with those old-school square glass testors bottles, acrylic paints tend to taste better than things like oil paints, lacquers, and enamels. However, so long as you can resist licking your brush for a little while, a cheap set of oil paints can open up a lot of possibilities when it comes to adding finishing touches to models.

There are a few disadvantages to working with oils. First, you need some sort of oil-based thinner or spirits, preferably odorless as recommended by Bob Ross, in order to thin your paints, clean your brushes, or basically do anything with them. You do need to be a little careful with these solvents, as they can remove underlying paint if you are not gentle with them, but a coat of varnish between your acrylics and your oils can prevent this and give you a little peace of mind. Finally, artist oil paints are designed to dry by having some of the oils soak into the canvas. Since we are not painting on a canvas, it is important to prepare your palette in advance. Put a dab of each colour you will be using onto a paper towel and let it sit for a couple hours, allowing the paper towel to soak up these excess oils that would prevent the paint from drying if we applied it to a solid surface like a model. Otherwise, it will take forever to dry.

Oh, and don’t use a wet palette, for obvious reasons. Something about mixing oil and water. And while I’m at it, also don’t use your fancy kolinsky sable brushes.

For all this trouble, oil paints offer something that acrylics can’t really match. They have a drying time which is orders of magnitude longer than acrylic paints, which opens up a lot of techniques that are simply not available with acrylics. You can push oil paints around on a surface for hours without it drying, which makes getting smooth blends very easy.

One way to work with oils is to use it to create filters and streaking. Simply apply a dot of paint to the model, then get a clean brush and push it around – either downwards, to create a streak, or all around to tint an area. Since I didn’t take any good photos of this process, check out this video from someone who has done it more than me.

Oils are also useful for making washes. Consider a traditional acrylic wash. Even well-regarded products like Citadel shades can have major coffee-staining issues and can impart a messy look to models. And if you’ve ever tried to remove some wash from somewhere you didn’t want it, if you’ve waited longer than about thirteen seconds after applying it, it gets real messy. However, remember how oil paints take a really long time to dry? You can make a wash with them by mixing a bit of paint into some odorless paint thinner. This can be applied either using the traditional “slather it on” Nuln Oil method, or by dropping it into panel lines. The properties of the wash itself (I’m not sure if it’s surface tension or viscosity) that make it flow nicely along panel lines, and the fact that you have a long working time that allows you to easily wipe away the wash from places you don’t want it, something you can’t do with Citadel shades or Army Painter washes, and prevent coffee staining.

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I didn’t get a great picture showing the effect of the oils, but you can clearly see on the finished product the effect of the wash on the panel lines — they were able to be done very cleanly with no coffee staining of the sort you might see with something like Citadel shades

I do need to play around with oils a bit more and unlock some techniques, but as someone who is used to working with acrylics, they are proving themselves to be an interesting medium and one with a lot of potential.

Back to the head

The final thing to do on the head project was the groundwork. This was my usual artist acrylic mediums, washed and dry brushed multiple times to get colour variation and texture to show. To finish it all off was some dry pigments. Throwing some on there a little haphazardly, I was able to blend the ground and the model together and make it look dusty, as though it has been sitting there for a long time. A few final touches and it was done.

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Final Thoughts

When painting models, weathering is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are some obvious caveats – it is important to consider which areas of the model will be subject to weathering and try to tell a story, and the amount of weathering one applies is up to the person doing the painting. However, even a little bit can go a long way and some techniques can be a low-effort way to make your models look better.

It’s also good to try multiple techniques. Even if they aren’t used for every project, or even not used very often, it’s always nice to have more tools in the toolbox. Salt chipping, surface distressing, and messing around with oil paints are all great techniques that you shouldn’t hesitate to give a go.

Bonus Content – Hope & Courage

Hey, remember when there were these massive brushfires in Australia and that was the worst thing to happen so far in 2020? Yeah… it’s been an interesting year. Anyways, Reaper did some brushfire relief minis earlier this year, and I thought it would be nice to do them up as a little diorama.

The minis themselves are two little cute koalas, one planting a tree and the other working away with an axe. I did have to remove the bases from the minis as they were sculpted on as one piece, but that didn’t take too long, and there wasn’t too much else to the minis themselves aside from a little work on mold lines.

The thing with these models is they are absolutely loaded with texture, which is great if you don’t like blending. While I started out with a quick wet blend and a little washing and dry brushing on the fur, the secret to these models is the thousands of tiny hashes that represent textures. Using my liner brushes, I simply made a bunch of little lines in light and dark colours over the wet blended base coat. These lines were done in the direction of the fur, and were in some cases guided by the texture already built into the model.

Similarly, if you look at the robes that the female Koala is wearing, you can see that they are not perfectly smooth either – again, I started with a quick wet blend, but instead of trying to add layers of highlights and glazes overtop, I went back and forth with tiny hash marks overtop, in both highlight and shadow colours, to add some deliberate microtextures rather than make it a perfectly smooth surface.. Particular focus was applied to the highlights, as generally textures are more apparent in light than in shadow.

As for the tree, I sculpted it with paper clips and brown stuff. Originally, I was going to go for cherry blossom leaves to symbolize spring and renewal, even if that was a little anachronistic for Australia. However, as I glued the leaves on, I found they detracted from the models themselves way too much, so I changed gears and did the tree leafless and somewhat charred, but incorporated that theme of renewal with the pink flowers.

All in all, it was a fun little project and it felt good to simultaneously feed my painting addiction as well as give a little financial support to people who are having a tough time. I thought it turned out quite nicely, though I was a little dismayed that my original plan for the trees didn’t work out. I will have to take a class at some point on making realistic trees, but until then, I’ll just stick to grasses and shrubs.

Six pieces of advice for new painters

I’ve been painting for a few years now, and lately, as I’ve been helping some newer people get into the hobby, I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey. While I don’t really have much in the way of regrets, seeing all of my previous, not so good work as a learning experience, there are a few things that, had I known about them earlier, it could have smoothed out my hobby journey. I’m sharing them here in the hopes that they will help out your hobby journey as well.

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Pictured: My hobby journey

  1. Try out new techniques as often as you can

When you are just starting out, there are a lot of techniques out there that are made out to be super-advanced things that are so far beyond your abilities that you shouldn’t even try them. You might know how to base coat, wash, and dry brush, but blending, sketch style, OSL, airbrush use, and so on are things that the masters do and you aren’t ready for yet.

Let me be the first to tell you that that is nonsense. While it takes time and determined practice to master certain techniques and get to the level of the guys who compete at major national-level competitions like Crystal Brush, there aren’t a lot of techniques in this hobby that you can’t reach a level of baseline semi-competence with by watching a few youtube tutorials and trying it out. The only one of these techniques that has a real cost barrier is an airbrush, but even then, the cost of a decent basic airbrush setup pales in comparison to the rest of your army (or armies).

Second, sometimes those techniques make for a better approach. Some models and colour schemes take better to certain techniques than others. Dirty skeletons are great for washing and dry brushing; Space Marines, with their large, flat surfaces not so much. These “advanced” techniques are not just for display painters – by trying them out, even if you are just going for tabletop quality, you might find that they improve both your speed and quality and reduce the frustration that comes with using the wrong tool for a job.

  1. Improvement is better than consistency.

When you are painting an army, particularly your first army, you will improve as you go. I did this, but as I started to improve, a worry started to creep in – was I breaking the consistency of my army by painting my new models better than my old ones?

Personally, I can think of two specific situations where I held myself back because of this, to my own detriment. First, I started out with a scheme of purple, white and silver for my warjacks, however I eventually found that the more brass bits I added, the better they looked. But, I was worried that adding additional brass would break the uniformity of my army. Turns out once I bit the bullet, my army just looked better. Second, with my basing, there were some times where I stuck to certain things longer than I should have because I was worried that if I did try new things and do better bases, then my army would look worse because the new models would clash with the old ones.

We should be conscious not to straightjacket ourselves with a need to make our armies consistent. An army is actually a good opportunity to practice and try new things. So long as there is some element of consistency in the colour scheme across all the models, your army will still look coherent even if some of your models are better painted than others.

Besides, if you are going for a best painted army award, judges often like to see progress, so that’s a plus.

  1. Use a wet palette (for non-metallic paints)

A wet palette is a great invention, and you can make a rudimentary one in five minutes out a couple bucks worth of things that you probably already have at home. A sandwich container, some paper towel, and a piece of parchment paper is all you need to get started. The paper towel acts as a sponge, and when the sponge is wet and the parchment paper is placed on top,

A wet palette will help keep your paints fresh throughout a painting session, and will open up a whole world of paint mixing and different techniques that are difficult when using a traditional palette.

  1. Zenithal prime just about everything

When I first started, I did a lot of research to figure out whether I should buy white or black primer. The theory goes that black is good because if you miss a spot it is less noticeable, but white lets you have more vibrant colours. I eventually decided on white, figuring that I just won’t miss spots.

It turns out the correct answer is “why not both” – by priming the whole model in black then spraying it from above with white primer, you can get the benefits of both. This effectively preshades the model, giving you a good starting point for shadows and highlighting, and is generally a much better starting point that all white or all black.

  1. Smooth, opaque base coats are a waste of time

Acrylic paints aren’t completely opaque; they won’t cover everything in one coat. That’s why Duncan tell you to use two thin coats. That said, trying to get a perfectly smooth, opaque, coat all perfectly within the lines (including in the hard to reach areas behind shields) is often a waste of time. Rarely in miniature painting do things stay uniformly one colour; we paint on exaggerated highlights and shadows in order to make the miniature look good on the tabletop.

So, if the end product is going to have colour variation on it, why spend so much time making the initial coat perfectly smooth and opaque? if you are using the traditional approach of base, wash and dry-brush, then the model is going to be covered by washes and highlights anyways so you won’t be able to see whether the base coat was applied smoothly or not.

Also, there are techniques that utilize semi-tranparent paint to great effect. Inking over a zenithal prime can be a fast way to paint your miniatures, and covering up your zenithal with a solid, opaque layer of paint renders the preshading elements of a zenithal prime kind of pointless. Or, you could wet blend your basecoat, doing basing, highlighting and shadows all in one. There are many ways to use the not-completely-opaque nature of paint to your advantage rather than trying to fight the properties of the medium, and we are seeing even GW embrace this with the recent release of contrast paints

Regardless, if you focus less on the base coat and more on the highlights and shadows, you will not only likely have better miniatures done faster, but you will be more likely to progress as a painter and enjoy yourself if you aren’t taking an approach that feels like a frustrating paint by numbers exercise where you try to get everything perfect only to slather it in nuln oil.

  1. Don’t varnish your metallics

Metallic paints can be annoying to use. Which is why spending the extra effort to use shiny metallic paints then hitting them with dullcote is kind of baffling to me. Sadly, it took me a long time to figure this out, so I have a large collection of dudes with dull metallics that just look grey and boring.

Just don’t do it. Metallic paints are fairly resilient by themselves, so you are probably safe to paint your metallics after you varnish. At the very least do the final highlights post-varnish to get that nice metallic glint, or try to bring some of the shine back with a brush-on gloss varnish. By simply changing the order in which you do things around a little bit, you can get much nicer metallics in little to no additional time because your final step isn’t cancelling out a lot of the hard work you did in the earlier stages.

Conclusion

It is often said that there is no wrong way to paint. While I agree with the sentiment, if you try to do miniature painting with a paint roller and house paint, you’re probably going to find eyeballs to be difficult and I wouldn’t be surprised to see you ragequit in frustration. I believe by starting people off on the right track and encouraging them to experiment with techniques, they can have the right tools in their toolbox to enjoy painting and be happy with their work. And, that will result in more painted models, which is why we are all here in the first place.

 

Bonus content: Warhammer is doll houses for nerds

In recent weeks, I’ve been working on banging out my projects in progress, and the largest among those, at least in sheer model size if not painting time, is my accumulated assembled, primed Games Workshop terrain.

GW terrain is expensive but fun to assemble. For some of the industrial terrain like the sector mechanicus pieces, they can be assembled in any number of ways, allowing you to make your own creations. I build these particular terrain pieces in accordance with the instructions, with the exception of blanking out the windows on the Warscryer Citadel with plasticard so I could paint it as though it was lit from inside. Also, I used some extra pieces from the citadel to use as walls and barricades.

Painting the Warscryer Citadel and the Bad Moon Loonshrine pieces involved a large makeup brush and a lot of dry brushing straight over black primer. By just doing a whole bunch of dry brushing, going from midtone to progressively lighter colours, and allowing the black primer to show through in the recesses, base coats and washes weren’t really necessary for a majority of the model. Washes and inks were used to tint some areas and add a bit of colour variation, and some dry pigments added the final bit of weathering.

For the Derelict Factorum, I more or less followed my guide from several months ago, including doing hairspray chipping on the large tanks. To finish it off, some GW Typhus Corrosion was dabbed on the lower parts, then I sprayed on some Reaper MSP Brown Wash to make the bottom few feet of the factory look as though it has gotten dirty through millennia of dirt and flooding in the underhive.

 

 

Obligatory New Year’s Resolution Post, 2020

It’s that time again, out with the old and in with the new. And as someone who has a blog that I struggle to think of good content for, that means I have to do a new year’s post.

2019 was a great year for me in the hobby. I built up a lot of skills and was able to work on a lot of projects that I truly enjoyed. The highlight is definitely Boudicca and my trip to Sword and Brush this year. She was sort of the culmination of a lot of things that I learned and a lot of techniques that I had been practicing away at, and coming away with the gold at Sword and Brush was a very sweet prize.

Outside of figures and busts, a couple things stood out. First, in the world of gunpla, I built the Master Grade Ver.Ka Ball and tried out some new techniques on the finish. The lowly Ball is my favourite mobile suit; so many of the giant robots end up looking very busy and have a lot of style over substance, while the ball is simple and utilitarian. Plus ball puns are funny.

And in the world of historical models, my Spanish Republican 109 was finished early this year. It turned out quite nice, and I have another model airplane or two in the stash.

Resolutions

I was thinking about it over the past couple days, and while I could make some specific hobby resolutions — learn this technique, finish this project, etc., I want to go deeper. It’s been an amazing year of growth for me and I’m not sure where my brushes will take me next, so the resolutions that I want to share have more to do with having a healthy relationship with your hobby which will keep you in it longer.

Buy less crap

Let’s face it, if you are reading this blog, you probably have a giant pile of unpainted miniatures or unbuilt model kits lying around. You see cool stuff for sale at a good price, your imagination starts running, and pretty soon you end up buying stuff because you have an idea for a project that you might do sometime in the future at an unspecified date.

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Yeah. We all do it, and it keeps the companies that make the stuff we love in business. But that pile can actually be a source of stress. Seeing your to-do pile stack up can cause stress, and it can make it more difficult to get started on anything because of the opportunity cost. Every time you start a new project, there are dozens of new projects that you feel guilty for not working on. Finally, there are better things to spend my money on than stuff that I won’t get around to for a long time. Especially considering that that stuff isn’t going to disappear. Unless it’s some sort of limited edition item, I can just keep my money in my pocket and order it when I’m ready to paint it.

Though, if Bad Squiddo kickstarts a Spanish Civil War line, all bets are off. Maximum pledge, right here.

Be less competitive

I’ve discussed before, but while I like going to painting competitions and model shows, I’m starting to get burned out on the competition aspect of them. It’s great to see tables full of cool models and meet new people, but the competition can get to you because when it comes to picking winners and losers, things can start to get unpleasant.

Fundamentally, I think it is because competition can bring out something unhealthy in us. I took Warmachine a bit too seriously when I started getting… well, gud is an overstatement. That caused a lot of stress and frustration as I tried to perform at tournaments and then get frustrated when I inevitably didn’t. It started ruining the game for me, and I don’t want the same to happen for painting.

So, this year, it’s all about feeling good about my hobby work without comparing my work to others. Win, lose, doesn’t matter.

Manage my social media intake

First, with all the amazing painters out there on social media, you sometimes end up comparing yourself to others and inevitably, someone will post something that will make you feel like you are coming up short. No matter what you paint, you’ve already spent dozens of hours staring at it so the other guy’s stuff looks cooler because of novelty.

Second, there are a lot of places on social media that are quite frankly about as pleasurable as ass cancer. Arguments, negativity, trolling… no thanks. There’s a few that I should probably cut out completely, like Lormahordes and the WMH General Discussion facebook group; others I plan to just manage and try to keep scrolling when someone is wrong on the internet.

Ignore the haters

And, of course, going with the above, haters gonna hate. Every once in a while, I get some negative comments on social media or wherever. I know when you step back and look at it, when your article gets 100 likes and one guy telling you to fuck off and go play 40K instead, that’s a pretty good ratio — 99% satisfaction isn’t bad. But I’m the sort of person where it’s easy for that one guy to get under my skin and next thing I know I’m arguing with some random person on the internet at 2am.

Haters gonna hate. I need to focus on the people I care about and the people who like my content more than salty internet randos.

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Conclusions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about maintaining a healthy relationship with your hobby. With all the competitiveness, comparing oneself to others, and morons to argue with on social media, it can take effort to keep yourself in the right headspace to have fun. My goal in 2020 is to maintain that headspace and keep a positive attitude. From there, all else will follow.

PSA: Stop varnishing your metallics!

Note: this article is going to be short on pictures because, quite frankly, it is hard to capture what I am talking about in photos or even videos. The best way to illustrate this is in three dimensions — try it out for yourself by comparing metallics before and after a coat of varnish!

Conventional wisdom in miniature painting dictates that the final step to any projects is to protect your work. Seal it in with one or more coats of varnish; perhaps a gloss coat or two for protection and dullcote to knock the shine off. This will protect it from the clumsiest, most cheeto-fingered gamers and ensure your hard work will live on.

Unfortunately, there is an issue with this approach and that issue is metallic paints. All too often, I see people kill their metallics with varnish. And I am no exception — it took me a couple years to figure out that dullcote makes my metallic paint less shiny, so I have a lot of winter guardsmen with mediocre metallics in my collection.

Display vs tabletop

Of course, if you don’t plan on touching your models, this is less of a problem. In fact, this is one of the reasons why a lot of display painters separate gaming models from display projects — the varnish that is being used to protect the model often can have unintended effects on the finish. A lot of display painters don’t varnish their models, which is why they don’t want you touching them.

If you are handling them, then there are two things to worry about — paint chipping and paint rubbing. While paint chipping might be able to be ameliorated slightly with varnish, generally the problem there has more to do with how well the primer has adhered to the model (and how well you cleaned all the mold release off). Paint rubbing, on the other hand, is caused by a mixture of skin oils and friction as you handle the model. By sealing out those oils and putting a layer of varnish overtop, you can protect the underlying paint from both of these factors.

Back to metallics

Whether you are going for display or tabletop, metallic paint is harder to work with than regular paint. In general, coverage is often mediocre so they often require an undercoat in regular paints (essentially doubling your work), they can be broken easily if you thin them, they mess up your wet palette and your paint water, they don’t flow quite as smoothly, and they chew up natural hair brushes, meaning you can’t use your really good brushes on them unless you are very rich and you don’t mind killing every weasel in Siberia.

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How could you; it’s so cute!

In spite of these challenges, we still use metallic paints for their unique properties. Namely, that you get a nice shiny metal effect and… well, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to figure out why a matte varnish might mess with that shiny metal effect. And, if you are going through the trouble of using metallic paints to get a nice metallic shine then immediately kill that shine with dullcote, it should be evident that this is a counter-productive approach.

One other neat property of metallics is that I’m not sure why or how this is the case, but they seem to be more durable. I suspect something in the metallic flakes and pigments is a little more resistant to oily fingers and rubbing than regular paints. As such, they might not even need to be varnished.

So, for tabletop miniatures, there are at least three ways that you can address the problem of varnish killing your shine:

Save your metallics until the end

Generally, a coat of varnish is applied from a rattle can or airbrush. As such, you can’t really decide to varnish everything but the few metallic areas, at least not without a whole lot of obnoxious masking. Even if you are using a brush-on varnish, you want to paint everything on quickly with a big brush and not try to carefully paint around your metallics.

However, there is a simple solution. Paint the whole model, and give your metallics whatever base coat you desire (since one of the properties of metallics is that they often need either multiple coats or an undercoat to get good coverage), then do your varnish. Once that is done, go back in and paint your metallics over top of the varnish. The metallics should be tough enough to resist to the gentle handling we do on the tabletop, and even if they do chip, you have a solid undercoat underneath.

Save the highlights until the end

If you are still worried about the aforementioned cheeto-fingered gamers, you could varnish in your metallics, but save any highlights (be they true metallic metals or something simple like dry brushing) until the end. This way, you at least can get the protection of the varnish over the base coats while retaining the shine in the place where it matters the most — the highest highlights were light is glistening off the model. If your metallics do somehow get weathered from handling on the tabletop, the varnish will protect the undercoat and they will just look… well, weathered.

Bring back the shine with gloss varnish

Finally, if you did kill your metallics with something like dullcote, don’t fret — there is a way to bring them back somewhat. If you go over these metallics with a brush-on gloss varnish, that will help restore the shine. Unfortunately, it won’t be quite the same, particularly if you did a lot of TMM shading and highlights. A gloss varnish doesn’t have quite the same finish as metallic paints, but it is a lot shinier than a matte varnish. and will help make those metallics pop again.

Conclusion

While varnishing your tabletop pieces is a good idea to protect the paint from oily fingers, varnish will affect the finish. In the case of regular paints, the effect isn’t subtle enough that it isn’t a huge tradeoff. However, when it comes to metallics, that is a whole different ball of wax — you get less benefit from the varnish, and it can totally ruin the finish.

 

Bonus Content: Hutchuck!

Not much to say about him; I just finished my Hutchuck model as part of my push to clear out my WIP shelf before Christmas. The metallics on his club kind of reference what I am talking about; I put some work into doing good true metallic metals on them, and if I were to hit it with dullcote, that would kill the shine and I might as well just have done NMM using paints that are easier to work with.

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Down with the cult of Two Thin Coats!

A little while ago, I was having a game of Warmachine in the basement of my FLGS and a woman approached me asking for some painting advice. She had been using the traditional Duncan-style approach of base coat, wash, and dry brush, and she was starting to butt up against the limits of this technique. So, I showed her a few tricks with wet blending, glazing and inks, as well as sent her a link to Vince Venturella’s youtube channel because he is better at this than me, and it was like a revelation. In a very short time, she had greatly improved her techniques and started pumping out much nicer looking space marines.

The Duncan Way

If you are like most of us, you were probably taught to paint miniatures in the Games Workshop tabletop style, popularized by Duncan, the friendly host of Warhammer TV’s Tip of the Day. In this style, after assembly and priming with official Citadel brand spray primer, step one is to lay down an opaque base coat, always using two thin coats to make sure it is smooth and coverage is nice. Next, follow up with a wash to tint the shadows and some dry brushing to bring up the highlights. If you want to get fancy, throw on an edge highlight. Do a little basing, and you’ve got a perfectly acceptable space marine.

 

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Hey Duncan, I hope that isn’t paint water…

There is a reason Duncan teaches us to paint this way: it’s easy to teach. It’s not hard for complete newbies with no artistic training at all to understand that they should paint the blue parts blue then wash and dry brush. It’s all done in very discrete, easy to understand steps. Paint with A, wash with B, and dry brush with C. Conveniently, GW is happy to sell you paints A, B, and C.

Unfortunately, there are some issues with this approach. First, it works better on some models than others. For dirty skeletons where there is a lot of texture in the ribcage, you can get good results. However, if you try it out on a model with a lot of smooth armour plates, you can easily end up in coffee stain city. It is also a very limiting technique; it is very hard to progress beyond a certain point using only these techniques, and basically impossible to scale up to something like a bust.

Finally, it can be time consuming. Getting a smooth, uniform base coat where you stay within all the lines is difficult and involves a lot of very careful fine motor control. Particularly challenging is when you start trying to paint tricky to reach areas like armpits and the backs of shields, and you want to get a perfect base coat

Then, of course, you have to do it all again because two thin coats. And often two thin coats is a best case scenario; if you didn’t plan ahead and are now trying to paint yellow straight over black primer, you’re going to be at it all day.

And all of that headache and frustration over poor paint coverage for what? A perfectly smooth, uniform base coat that you’re immediately going to coffee stain with washes and then dry brush over?

In short, while this approach is easy to teach and easy to understand, it is often not the best approach both from the perspective of speed or quality in the long run. And while it might seem like I’m ragging on Duncan, that isn’t my intention. He has three jobs, all of which he is very good at:

  1. Show customers who are completely new to painting and modelling and have zero artistic background how to turn boxes of sprues into a tabletop-ready army that looks decent from a distance,
  2. Motivate them to get their armies painted through the use of instructional videos and a positive attitude, and
  3. Sell Games Workshop products

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It is possible that the above list is not in descending order of priority.

 

Why some people hate painting

The problem comes when new painters have the “basecoat, wash, drybrush” style beaten into their heads and it becomes gospel. They are never told that there is a whole world of techniques out there such as blending, glazing and the use of products like inks and mediums. Or, they are vaguely aware that they exist but think they are a bunch of very time-consuming super pro level techniques that they shouldn’t even bother trying because they are far beyond what they want to do for tabletop quality.

This right here is why I think a lot of people get frustrated with painting and feel it to be a chore. They struggle to get that perfectly smooth, opaque base coat, particularly when they are using weakly pigmented paints. That ends up being not only time consuming, but also less enjoyable of a process, particularly when you are on the ninth coat of red and it still won’t look right. And the end result is often less satisfying than they would like because of the limitations of this method.

And by clinging to this approach even when it isn’t appropriate out of either fear or ignorance, a lot of people out there are making painting more difficult than it has to be and sucking the fun out of what is an otherwise enjoyable hobby.

The Alternatives

There are a couple alternatives to this approach. Games Workshop being Games Workshop, they have developed a whole new line of paint for you to buy that promises to use magical paint chemistry to do it all in one step. There is also the sketch style popularized by people like Banshee and Matt DiPietro, where one starts with a zenithal prime, refines the value sketch, then covers everything with inks and glazes to tint it the appropriate colour.

Personally, my usual approach when not using my airbrush is to wet blend my base coat, doing base coating, shading and highlighting all in one step. This process starts with a zenithal prime. Airbrush or rattle can; doesn’t matter. You can even get a pseudo-zenithal by dry brushing the lighter colour on with a large makeup brush and focusing on where the light will hit the miniature. If you have an airbrush, you can also play with tinted zenithals. Perhaps you want some cool shadows and warm highlights, so you can make the shadows blue and the highlights ivory.

The zenithal does a couple things. First, it gives you an idea of where to place your highlights and shadows, so even if you aren’t confident with light placement, you can just follow the zenithal and get a decent result. Second, this preshading helps make the highlights brighter and the shadows darker. With the dark parts already dark and the light parts already light, you don’t have the sort of issues that you get when trying to paint a vibrant red highlight over black primer and wondering why it still doesn’t pop after seventeen coats of red.

Finally, this liberates you from having to do these smooth, opaque coats. If your paint is a little on the thin side and doesn’t have great coverage, that’s not an issue – it just means that the preshading from the zenithal will be more effective.

Paint like Bob Ross

Now it’s time to do some wet blending. Wet blending is simply the process of pushing multiple colours of wet paint around on the miniature itself to get shadows, highlights and other colour transitions. It is a technique that a lot of canvas painters like Bob Ross use when doing oil paints — how often have you seen him drop in some paint, clean his brush, beat the devil out of it, then blend his paint on the canvas or fluff some clouds?

If this is your first time wet blending, I’d recommend doing some practice. Get out your wet palette (if you don’t have one, make one), and pick out some colours ranging from your deepest shadow to your highest highlight. I recommend P3 Coal Black, Sanguine Base, and Sanguine Highlight if you have them. Also, grab a bit of flow improver; this helps the paint flow, making your blends smoother and giving you a bit more working time. Play around with it on the palette a little to get a feel for it; try to take a dot of paint and draw it into a dot of a different colour, getting a smooth gradient between the two.

Now that you’ve done that, you can practice on something like a base or a piece of primed plastic. Put a bit of one colour on, quickly rinse your brush, put down the other colour next to it, and use the brush to mix them in the middle to create a smooth transition from one colour into the other. As you get comfortable, try adding more colours — perhaps do a three colour blend from a shadow colour into a base and all the way into your highlight, or try to do a smooth blend from shadow to highlight and back to shadow. Then, once you are comfortable with that, pick up a model, figure out where the shadows and highlights go, and repeat the process only on a model this time.

Congratulations, you are now wet blending. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Or, if you can’t parse my written instructions, go check out Vince Venturella’s video on the subject because, again, Vince is better than me at this.

This is a great technique as it is one of the fastest ways to lay down colours in a fairly smooth gradient. It’s not going to be perfect, but remember, we’re just going for good tabletop quality. Of course, if we want to take it further, we can — my display projects often start with some quick wet blends to lay in some colours and from there it is mostly a matter of refining it, smoothing out those blends and adding detail. For example, Boudicca‘s red hair and green cloak both started with a quick wet blend, and well…

But for something like tabletop, Hutchuck here is a good example of what you can do with some quick wet-blends. While I did wash some areas in order to emphasize the shadows in the folds and creases of his leather belts and Liefeldian number of pouches, and I do have some more work to do to add a little more weathering, OSL and metallics, this is what a quick wet blend with a little edge highlighting and darklining can get you.

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How many huts could Hutchuck chuck if Hutchuck could chuck huts?

As you do this more, you will find that some colours work better than others. Ironically, it is the opaque colours and that will give you the most trouble, because these colours tend to end up being a little chalky, especially if they have a lot of white in the highlights. Capes are one of the best things to practice on when you are just starting out because they tend to have a lot of intricate folds that react with the light in interesting ways. If you are impatient when it comes to waiting for your paint to dry, a hairdryer will take care of that real fast. Finally, always try to use the biggest brush you can get away with — a big brush with a fat belly holds more paint and lets you blend over larger areas with fewer strokes.

Oh, as for the areas that are hard to reach like the backs of shields, where people obsess over painting the back of the shield, the arm, and the straps all in their proper colours, all within the lines, before slathering it in Nuln Oil? Forget about them! These areas are usually shadowed, so just stuff some of your deepest shadow colour down in there and blend outwards into your base colours. You don’t need to obsess over details in shaded areas; in fact it makes a lot of sense from the perspective of composition and colour theory that shaded areas should convey less visual information. Take a look at some of Caravaggio’s paintings and look at all the detail and visual information he put in the shadows. There’s not much; it looks like the dude just threw down some dark colours and called it a day. And if he can get away with it on paintings that sell for millions of dollars 400 years after his death, you can get away with it on your space marines.

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That’s not Nuln Oil in the top left corner

But this sounds hard!

Yes, blending requires a bit of skill. You need to know some basics of colour theory and light placement in order to pick out the appropriate colours and know where on the model to put them. Also, you need to be able work quickly so you have time to push paint around on the model before it dries. But, it is a skill where a little time investment up front can pay huge dividends because you are getting multiple steps done with a few brush strokes. When I throw down a quick wet-blended basecoat, I’ve often got base colour, highlights and shadows done by the time the person doing the Duncan method is finishing his first thin coat. And it looks better too.

Admittedly, brush control is a thing, but with a little practice, just about anyone can do this and get good at it. Case in point, I have no formal art training and am not special in any way and I can do it.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to miniature painting, there are many different approaches and techniques. While the traditional Games Workshop style is effective in some cases, whether you paint for display or just for tabletop, if you don’t go beyond that, you won’t have a lot of tools. And when you find out the hard way that it is hard to turn a screw with a hammer, that can cause a lot of frustration and resentment.

Also, we need to seriously rethink how we teach new people how to paint. I get it, explaining colour theory and light placement to someone who is touching a paint brush for the first time is hard. But if all we teach them is to follow the Duncan way, then we risk boxing them in. Everyone can benefit from more tools in their toolbox, even if all you want to do is put an army on the table.

And then, hopefully, together, we can defeat the grey hordes.

 

Bonus Content: First Mate Hawk

YARRRRRR! First Mate Hawk be keeping ye salty dogs in check.

This was an interesting experiment with resin pours, to see if I could get a fish floating around in the water. Resin pours are all about the formwork; to be successful, you need to get something that is smooth-sided and has no leaks. So, I made the form by cutting up a pill bottle that was roughly the size I wanted, then taped it down to the base with some of the Tamiya tape — the white stuff for curves, not the yellow stuff. Since I wanted to have Hawk standing on a dock, I used a styrene tube to represent one of the posts. The dock itself was scratchbuilt out of plasticard, with a rod extending down that would fit snugly into the tube I used for the post.

To ensure the resin pour went well, I did the first couple of millimetres with Vallejo’s acrylic air-drying water texture. The idea here was that if I did have a leak, I would be able to fix it before finding it late in the process when my resin starts leaking out and ruins the project. Also, any potential cracks between the formwork and the base would be sealed in with this stuff, ensuring I get a clean pour.

My strategy paid off. I ended up doing about half the pour, placing my fish, letting it settle in nicely, then slowly and carefully so as not to disturb the fish, finish the pour. Once it dried, I broke off the forms and then did a second pour to fill the meniscus. In the meantime, I had finished painting Hawk and the dock and was able to glue them together, clean up the joint, and call it finished.

Two Great Shows: CapCon & OSAC 2019

As the leaves start changing colours, the model show season in Canada is starting to wrap up for the year because, to be honest, no one wants to leave the house in winter any more than they absolutely have to. However, over the past month, I managed to make it to two nice model shows in the Ottawa area: CapCon 2019 and the Ottawa Scale Auto Contest.

CapCon 2019

CapCon is run by IPMS Ottawa every other year and is one of the biggest model shows in Canada, on par with IPMS Hamilton’s HeritageCon. This year, I was on the organizing committee, so I got a firsthand experience of how the sausage is made, so to speak. I will say that being on the committee has greatly increased my appreciation for the work that these volunteers do (and greatly decreased my appreciation for Monday morning quarterbacking, but that’s another story).

CapCon is a bit of a unique show because it is held in a national museum. The Canadian War Museum is a great venue, being spacious, well-lit (weather depending), and having a certain ambiance with all the 1:1 scale models surrounding the competition tables. That does mean that CapCon is a little more expensive than other shows, but between the sheer number of models on the tables and with entry to the show also including unlimited entries and free museum access, you do get value for money.

This year, there were 692 entries, comprising about 750 models once you include dioramas, collections, etc. I believe this is slightly up from 2017. But, seeing as I was busy working a laptop doing data entry and making up the awards presentation, I didn’t really get to see very many of them. If you want to see pictures of cool models, go read the writeup on Model Airplane Maker, or check out CapCon on facebook.

One thing I was pleased to see was the growth in the figure categories. With about 80 entries, figures are a growing portion of this show. Also, my favourite category had the largest year over year growth and aside from an aircraft category that got split, was the most popular category in the show. With 24 entries in busts compared to the previous year’s five, I’m evidently not the only one who likes big busts and cannot lie.

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That’s… a lot of busts

Sadly, I have to keep my thoughts on CapCon short as I was so busy that I barely had a chance to experience the show. As for the awards ceremony, with the usual caveats that one shouldn’t focus too much on awards, I did pretty well for myself. While I didn’t win any special or theme awards, my balls and busts swept two categories (Busts and 1:144 Gundam) and I came home with a fairly heavy sack full of coins. I also didn’t really get much of a haul of kits or products, as I didn’t have time to shop in the vendor hall or watch the silent auction like a hawk as all the Beargguys slipped away.

OSAC 2019

While the Ottawa Scale Auto Contest is primarily an automotive model show, as a response to popular demand, they have been steadily adding additional categories and expanding into all sorts of non-automotive categories to the point where it is now perhaps 50% non-automotive. This year was the first year at a new venue, as between club tables, vendor tables, and a couple hundred or so models, they had outgrown their previous location.

One fundamental difference between OSAC and other shows is that there is no judging at and all the awards are decided by popular vote. Of course, there are pros and cons to both ways of doing it, and as Canadians learned last week, sometimes a straight up first past the post voting system can give unusual or unrepresentative results. However, the use of voting seems like it is a reaction to some of the issues that have been occupying my mind lately about model shows, namely the question of how to have the draw of competition without all the drama and negativity that competitiveness can introduce, so they get credit for approaching that problem.

Aside from a few minor administrative issues, it was a good show. I’m not sure what it is, but between the OSAC and AMRO shows, the car guys seem to have a more relaxed approach to the hobby which I like. I wonder if perhaps it has to do with their subject matter; after all, in a world of hot rods and custom cars, there is lot more room for creativity and a “why not?” attitude than with military subjects where there isn’t really a such thing as a low-rider Sherman tank with a chopped top and custom paint.

I was at the IPMS club table for a good chunk of the day, promoting the club and hanging out with the gundam guys at the next table, but unlike at CapCon, I managed to escape and take a look at the models, where I had a few good conversations and met some interesting people. As with CapCon, for more pictures, check out the recap on Model Airplane Maker, and keep your ear to the ground as the Hobby Centre or Ottawa Model Car Group will probably be posting show photos on their social media in the near future.

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This motorcycle was one of my favourite entries in the show. You need to have a near-perfect finish if you are going to do a lighted display like this, and this model didn’t disappoint.

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In the judged category, this XP-55 Ascender had that combination of excellent craftsmanship and unusual subject that I tend to appreciate. The XP-55 was one of a few particularly unusual WW2 fighter prototypes that the Americans toyed with briefly before returning to more conventional designs. Personally, I think it looks like what you get when someone says they don’t need instructions to assemble a P-40 Warhawk.

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There were a couple big paper ships. I chatted with the builder about them, and they seem like quite an interesting modelling medium. While they come printed in the colours you need so there isn’t any painting to do (unless I suppose you screw up), there is a lot of cutting, folding and gluing required to turn a booklet full of paper into a detailed model.

While I forgot to get a picture, Steve from Model Car Minion brought out some classic cartoonish Weird-Oh models. These are whimsical kits that are definitely a product of their time; that time being the early 1960s. I’ve often wondered who buys these and I suppose now I know. But seriously, it was nice to see these unique models you see on the shelf at the hobby store on the table and chat with Steve about them, and his use of straws from juice boxes as exhaust pipes was positively genius.

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And speaking of unusual things, without a doubt the most unusual thing I saw at the show would be a Mussolini trading card at one of the vendor tables. I was almost tempted to get it and mount it upside down somewhere with Xs over the eyes because we apparently live in a world where Ace Ventura is feuding on Twitter with Mussolini’s granddaughter. 2019 is weird.

My OSAC haul

Aside from a couple plaques, I came away with an airbrush stand that I won in the silent auction, a polypod ball kit that a friend brought to me straight from Japan, and a ’64 Ford Falcon convertible. To be honest, I’m not sure what to do with the latter. It looks like a nice kit despite the dated box art, but I haven’t really done car models since I was about 10 years old, so I’m kind of between “not my jam” and “challenge accepted.” Since a ’64 Ford Falcon probably wouldn’t look right as a Mad Max conversion, I’ll probably have to go for the nice smooth showroom finish and maybe try out some worse-tasting paints than my acrylics. Of course, I’ll probably find some way to put my own twist on it; perhaps I’ll do something stupid like try to do all the chrome parts in NMM or work in some unusual shading in some area in the interior that no one will see.

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Also, I’m not really a Ford guy; my family has been GM as long as I can remember, so there’s also that issue. Oh well…

Conclusions

CapCon and OSAC were two great shows. While if CapCon sticks to their schedule the next show is going to be two years out, those in the area should circle their calendars for OSAC, and don’t let the name fool you – it’s not just an auto show!

 

Bonus Content: Batskiboat, featuring Julie Newmar

With a stack of AMT Batskiboats sitting around the hobby store at a steep discount, someone from the local Gunpla group got the genius idea of a little challenge based on the idea of seeing what we can do with this cheap, basic kit. Of course, time made fools of most of us and by the end of the challenge, only two Batskiboats were completed for the big show.

The Batskiboat was a boat featured for about a minute and a half in the 1992 movie Batman Returns. Which meant a minute and a half of waiting for Catwoman to make another appearance, but I digress.

This is a pretty simple kit, with only about a dozen parts. I spent most of my time on it correcting issues, some of which were my own fault, like somehow losing two pieces and having to scratchbuild replacements because I was too cheap to spend another $10 on a second kit, or me deciding that raised panel lines weren’t good enough and rescribing them. But, with enough sprue goo, milliput, sanding, and bits of plastic, I was able to get it together. While I was at it, I also did a little customization, greeblifying up the rear near the jet exhaust and adding seat belts to the cockpit.

Most of the painting was done with the airbrush, using the Nighshade Purple/Coal Black/Menoth White combination that I am particularly fond of to put a little twist on the jet black Bat-stuff. Afterwards, I cut out a Batman symbol stencil out of frisket and sprayed over it with some Green Stuff World Color Shift paints to get a neat effect and drive home the model’s bat-pedigree.

Finally, for a focal point, I decided to have Catwoman posing on top. However, I had a bit of an issue with my references. Batman Returns features a modern take on Catwoman, and while I wouldn’t kick Michelle Pfeiffer out of bed for eating crackers, as we all know, the only true Catwoman is Julie Newmar.

And since a 1/24 Julie Newmar wasn’t readily available, I decided to get some sculpting practice in. At the risk of being seen as one of those weirdos who buys Master Box products, I picked up “Marilyn” from behind the locked glass case at the local hobby store. I reposed her, rotating her right arm about 180 degrees so her hand was on her hip rather than holding onto the brim a nonexistant hat. I also left off the hair and hat which were fortunately separate pieces, preferring to sculpt that on myself. Then, after sanding and filing off some of the details on her clothes, I got to sculpting. Most of it was done using Brown Stuff aluminum putty, which is generally my putty of choice for organic shapes as I find its properties to be a nice happy medium between Green Stuff and Milliput. This process took several days, as I had to sculpt in in several layers, and let the putty cure between layers. I cheated on a couple areas, making her claws out of stretched sprue and her belt out of some Tamiya tape, but the rest is either brown stuff or the original kit details.

Catwoman’s outfit was painted in similar colours as the batskiboat, albeit with some work done with the brush afterwards to reinforce highlights and shadows. The skin tones were given an initial pass with the airbrush and some additional work with a brush, while the hair was simply wet blended and given some washes, dry-brushing, and painted in highlights. I wouldn’t say she was my best work, in part due to an unfamiliar scale, but considering that most of the painting was done somewhat hastily the day before the show, she isn’t bad. Finally, before doing the metallics, the entire outfit was given a coat of about a 50-50 mix of satin and gloss varnish to give her a little contrast and help focus the eye on her – not that Julie Newmar needs any help to catch one’s eye.