“In Enemy Hands” – the Spanish Republican 109

When I last reported on this model, I had gotten it all more or less together, aside from the landing gear, propeller, and a few other small bits that I didn’t want to risk breaking off as I painted. After hours of work sanding, filling, and re-scribing, I only had a few more little things to get done before I can launch into the fun part.

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About where I was last time…

For those of you who didn’t bother reading the previous article, this is the AMG 1/48 scale Bf.109B model, being done up in the colours of one that served in Spain and was captured by the Republicans.

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The finished product

Painting the Canopy

The 109 in all its variants has some rather extensive canopy framing. Fortunately, this kit provided pre-cut masks, however it only provided them for the outside. If you wanted to paint the framing on the inside of your canopy, which I did because I wanted to do an open canopy so the cockpit detail was visible, you would have to mask it yourself. Fortunately, I got a little trick from a friend for doing extensively framed glass like the canopy of the 109 – mask all the framing going one way first, paint it, let it dry, then mask off the framing going the other way. While this did take a little longer because there were a lot of “wait for the paint/primer to cure” steps, it made for good results and spared me the frustration of trying to cut little squares out of masking tape precisely to fit.

With the inside of the canopy framing done, it was time to mask the outside. The pre-cut canopy masks were a little easier to work with, as expected, however there were a couple sharp corners where they wanted to constantly pull up, so I had to be careful of that when I was spraying. Once masked, I glued in the front and back piece using a very small amount of gel super glue (sure to keep it open to avoid fogging). For the center section, I used blue tack to temporarily hold the center section in place and closed, preventing overspray from getting into the cockpit, while I painted the rest of the plane. I then primed the entire thing in black Stynylrez, fixed up any seam line issues or surface imperfections that became visible after priming, then hit it with a second coat of primer.

The Fun Part

When it came to painting, I chose to paint it in two halves; do the bottom first and let it dry before tackling the top half. This way, there are fewer worries about how to hold the model as I paint it – and given that I haven’t installed the landing gear yet, that is a bit of an issue.

Now, my approach to this is based partly on a background in painting figures and wargaming pieces. Here, you often emphasize shadows and highlights with your paints to make it pop from a couple feet away. There is little concern for matching the exact colour, because aside from the fact that there is no generally accepted FS colour for magical robits, you’re going to be painting in so many highlights and shadows anyways, that the ultimate colour on your model might go 20% lighter in the highlights and 20% darker in the shadows – meaning that there is little point in fretting over the right shade.

This is in some ways a more artistic approach than one that is based in trying to achieve an exact replica of the real thing. Not that it is any better or worse, mind you, but different, and it helps make the model pop, especially from a distance.

The bulk of the plane was base coated in Vallejo Metal Color Dark Aluminum out of the airbrush. With that down, I switched to their regular Aluminum colour for highlights on areas such as the upper curves of the fuselage, the leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces, and the center of some of the panels for a little modulation. I took a similar strategy with the red; after masking off everything that I wanted to stay silver, I laid down a couple coats of a deep crimson to cover up the metallic paint underneath, then then, on the upper surfaces, leading edges, and the center of the panels, worked my way up to a bright red. The brightest tone was a mixture of Citadel Evil Sunz Scarlet, some Flame Red artist inks to kick the intensity and saturation up a notch, and perhaps a little P3 Khador Red Highlight, which despite its name, is actually a not very saturated orange.

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The colours I used to achieve the red — a crimson, a bright red, a red ink, a highlight orange, and a little blue shade to reinforce some shadows

With that dry, I placed a piece of masking tape over the landing gear bays and ran my exacto knife around the inside of the landing gear bays, removing all the tape covering the bays but leaving the tape over the skin of the aircraft. From there, I sprayed the landing gear bays in Vallejo Green-Grey, which was my “close enough” approximation for RLM 02.

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My yellow process…

One other thing – as I was priming, I accidentally broke off the rudder, however this actually turned out to be fortuitous as it made masking and painting the markings on the rudder a lot easier. I simply sprayed the entire thing white, masked off the middle third, and painted the top red and the bottom purple, using a similar approach as on the stripes. After removing the masking, I sprayed the lightest touch of Citadel’s Druchii Violet shade over the white in a couple areas to preshade it, then sprayed it all with a Process Yellow acrylic artist ink, not being overly concerned with overspray onto the red and purple areas because yellow is such a weak colour that, while the pigment-dense ink will turn the white areas yellow, it won’t make a difference over red or purple.

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Oops…

 

There are a couple panels on the 109 near the nose section that are much darker than the rest of the plane, however they were small enough that I was able to brush paint them with a mixture of Vallejo Model Colour gunmetal gray and black and didn’t bother with masking.

Throughout this process, I did make a few mistakes; either missing a surface imperfection or messing up a mold line. To deal with these, I isolated the panel where the mistake was with Tamiya masking tape around the panel lines, sanded it back down to bare plastic, and then reprimed and repainted. I had to do this on a few panels, but fortunately none that were either too big or too difficult to sand.

Weathering, Panel Lines, and Reinforcing Shadows

For the panel lines, I decided to do it the hard way, applying some sort of combination of washes, acrylic artist inks, and plenty of flow improver with my 10/0 brush. The result was perhaps a little more stark than I wanted, but once you weather it and take a step back and look at it from “on the tables” distance, rather than three inches away, I think it looks pretty good.

When it came to weathering, I wanted to keep the chipping subtle, as is appropriate for aircraft models. I did some light sponge chipping on the leading edges, around access panels, etc. with some silver and some Khador Red Highlight on the red parts. I then took my 10/0 liner brush and laid in some streaks in the direction of the airflow with very thin paint, lots of flow improver and the lightest touch.

Next up, I took out some Citadel shades and got out my detail aibrush. I’ve been playing with spraying these through the airbrush a fair bit lately, and I think there are a lot of interesting effects you can get from them. The trick is, you have to just barely pull the trigger back, as pulling it back too far will cause huge problems. If you have this feature on your airbrush and you aren’t comfortable freehanding it, there is no shame in using the needle stop. While these shades are effective at sinking into recesses, if you airbrush them on just a tiny amount at a time, you can tint the underlying paint in interesting ways.

So, there are three things I want to do with these shades:

  1. Reinforce the shadows

While I did have some nice highlights and shadows and modulation going, I wanted to reinforce it a little more. By spraying some Drakenhof Nightshade, which is a blue-black, I can tint certain areas like the underside, the wing roots, and the panel line areas. Fortunately, this is a good shade for both the metallics and the red – blue, as a cooler colour, will push the shadows in the red more towards a shaded crimson and let the highlights really pop, while it also works reasonably well over metallics. Also, it dulls down the finish a little, which isn’t bad for shadows.

If you go too aggressive at this stage and don’t like it, you can always build it back up again by respraying some highlight colour.

  1. Add surface variation.

The surface of an aircraft isn’t perfect, so I like to represent that on my model. I like to do this in two stages. First, start with Drakenhof Nightshade, their blue shade. Then follow up with something brown, like Nuln Oil or Agrax Earthshade. This creates a very interesting surface because not only do you have some variation in lightness and darkness, but you also have some cool/warm contrast, which provides another layer of visual interest.

For bonus points, you can get some interesting effects by masking along a panel line, either with tape or just by holding a business card along the panel line as you spray. This will make it so that the marbling and variation isn’t continuous across the surface, but rather there are breaks in the pattern as we go from panel to panel.

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Metallic colours, and some shades

  1. Add stains

These washes can also be used to add things like stains. I did some stains and streaks by simply starting from a point of origin like the oil cooler under the wings or the radiator area and spraying a little bit of the colour I wanted going back from there in the direction of the airflow.

For the soot from the exhaust and the guns, I simply sprayed on some Nuln Oil, again, spraying it wherever made sense to me based on the airflow around the plane. I was considering adding some dry pigments, but the Nuln Oil itself actually gave me such a good effect that I didn’t consider them necessary.

Final Bits

With the bulk of the plane done, there were a few little bits that I had painted separately to attach at the end. Landing gear, propeller, center section of the canopy, and a few little protuberances like antennae and pitot tubes. I simply scraped away a tiny bit of paint, installed the part with either plastic cement or CA glue, and then touched up the paint in that area with a brush. The dorsal antenna was pinned into the surface with some thin brass rod, and a piece of EZ-Line was added and painted silver to add the wire – just before I found out that the particular aircraft which was captured by the Republicans didn’t actually have that antenna and wire. Oh well, I don’t build for accuracy anyways.

The Base

I couldn’t just leave it on the shelf as is, so I decided to make a simple base. I got myself a picture frame from the dollar store and sanded and painted it up. For the center of the display base, I chose to use national colours for a few reasons. Mainly, I wanted to emphasize that this aircraft was in Spanish Republican service, and the clearest way to do that is with the red-yellow-purple tricolour of the Second Spanish Republic, which is very distinctive as this short-lived flag is one of the only national flags in history to include purple. Unfortunately, presumably in part because it was likely hastily painted in the field, there are no actual roundels on this aircraft. So the only place where that tricolour shows up is on the rudder way at the back, partly obscured by the horizontal stabilizer. So, by doing the base in national colours, it would bring in the purple and yellow that is really only seen in one small area at the extreme back of the model, and emphasize the Spanish Republican provenance.

It took me a few tries to create the tricolour, but I eventually hit on the best way to do it. First, I took a piece of printer paper and traced out the shape of the inside of the frame, then divided it up into thirds for the tricolor pattern. Using masking tape, I masked off the middle third and then taped the whole thing to a piece of cardboard that I stood up in my airbrush booth. I loaded my airbrush up with acrylic artist inks and used it to colour up the two sides – one purple and one red. Once that was done, I removed the masking and sprayed the center part yellow. Similar to when I was painting the rudder on the plane, I didn’t bother remasking because I actually wasn’t worried about overspray at all – the yellow is a weak enough colour compared to the red and the purple that, while it will turn the white paper yellow quite nicely, it won’t make any perceptible difference to the underlying colour over the red or purple.  From there, I let it dry, cut it to size, and placed it into the frame.

Conclusions

This was an interesting experience. My previous experience with model aircraft fell into two categories. First, there were the aircraft I built in my childhood, which were done with all the enthusiasm and craftsmanship that the twelve year old version of myself was capable of. Second, there were the two archaic Polish kits from behind the iron curtain that were not exactly the sort of raw material that I’m going to use to create a masterpiece.

This was a departure from those; I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I put a lot more effort into these than I did those archaic kits that ended up being little more than testbeds for this project. There were some frustrations on the way (see: everything about the front cowling on this kit) and a lot of figuring things out as I go (ugh, photoetch). However, it was an enjoyable experience, even if the kit itself didn’t exactly feature Bandai-level engineering.

My goal was to finish this up for the local IPMS chapter’s annual theme contest. I ended up picking this kit up about a year ago, and ended up putting it off, then shelving it a couple times, meaning I finished it with a little under a month to spare. And, as a bonus, I managed to squeak out a win with a split decision over a really interesting customized Bren Gun Carrier, captured by the Germans and turned into an improvised tank hunter. While I’m going to get back to my usual figures, busts and magic robits, this was a good experience.

Except for the photoetch.

May 2018 – Model Show Update

One of the advantages Ottawa has over Winnipeg is the fact that there are other major cities within less than an eight hour drive. As you’re not completely surrounded by hundreds of miles of wheat and canola, you can actually do day trips to other cities and attend events put on by other clubs. The month of May was a busy one with a number of clubs within not too long of a drive putting on model shows. In addition to the first local Gunpla group’s first contest (which I won first place in with my Zaku), I managed to make it to two model shows, the IPMS Montreal’s gala and Torcan, put on by Peel Scale Modellers.

IMG_0314.JPGMontreal was a fairly small show, with probably somewhere a little under entries. I did well with my figures and Gundam; they didn’t allow sweeps but I won first and second in fantasy figures, and was the only entry in busts so I won by default. There were only two Gundam entries; mine won first, but the second-place was a nicely assembled Real Grade Zaku of some sort reaching out to pick someone up from a busted up concrete shell of the corner of a building.

The really nice thing about the Montreal show, however, were the two presentations they put on by local modellers. Laurie Norman did a presentation on figure painting, including fantasy creatures like dragons. I think a lot of people managed to get a lot out of it, because painting figures is one thing that a lot of scale modellers feel intimidated by, and a lot of armour builders struggle with. Her session also reminded me that I’ve never actually done a dragon, and maybe I should try something like that sometime (hello, Reaper Bones…). Xiao Yang, who is an excellent naval modeller and won best in show at CapCon last year, did one on rigging ships which was very informative. I know I took away an important lesson from it, which is “don’t build anything that requires rigging.”

Highlights

At Montreal, there was the usual smattering and some interesting subjects, including a Saturn V that had me clenching my buttocks as it swayed back and forth on the table as people walked by. The highlights for me, however, were the dioramas. That, and a big CN semi tractor-trailer. Automotive isn’t usually my thing, and less so big industrial vehicles, but this was impressive in the finish, the scale, and the detail that went into the sleeper cab underneath a removable roof.

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Note the roof on the base next to the truck; it is removable

As mentioned, there were a number of dioramas with a number of focuses, including aircraft, armour, and civilian vehicles. They were all great, but here’s a couple standouts.

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Torcan

Torcan was a larger show, with almost 500 models on the tables. Again, these were spread out over all categories and had a nice mix of aircraft, armour, ships, etc., with a strong space and sci-fi section. I had a really good day at the awards ceremony, probably my best to date, sweeping the Fantasy Figures category, winning first place in Busts, Humour, and one of the Gundam categories, snagging third with my old Victor in the other mecha, and winning the Best Overall Figure with my Dana Murphy. So, overall, one sweep, as well as three other firsts and a third, and a Best Of award – quite the haul. The rest of the Ottawa crew also did well at the awards table, snagging about thirty awards across all the categories including one other sweep.

For some video coverage, check out this link.

Again, there were a lot of great models and dioramas on display. I didn’t get a lot of photos, but I managed to get pictures of a few that caught my eye, including the following.

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This egg tank was one of my favourites in the show because of the weathering. I just loved the use of that purple; it adds so much dynamism to the colour and really makes this piece stand out. The one criticism I have of it, though, is that it’s a shame that the builder didn’t carry some of the weathering over onto the decals. Seeing beautifully weathered pieces with pristine markings is one of my little pet peeves, but apart from that, this was a great example of taking an egg kit and running with it, and using interesting colours to create fascinating colour variation.

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This Lanchester armoured car was a unique subject, and in my opinion, it was a great use of colour modulation to highlight it. I know there is a debate over how much colour modulation to use, particularly among historical modellers, but as someone who started out in tabletop gaming, I’m a fan of it and I think this is an example of an appropriate application of the technique for a historical subject that really helps make it pop.

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Without getting too political, this diorama, titled “Happiness” was not only well done, but I felt that the portrayal of the triumph over Nazism and the end of the war is a refreshing alternative to a lot of what we see on the tables, and sadly poignant in 2018. But I like the hope that this diorama shows, as the nightmare of Nazism and war is finally over for this town and for the people in this scene.

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The Throne of Sprues was a humourous touch, as were the wedding cake columns on this base, but the weathering on these gundams were top-notch.

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Finally, someone brought a collection of Roman miniatures in what looked like 15 or 20mm scale. They were nicely done, and represent a scale that is just a little too small for me, so I have to give a shout out to my fellow wargamer for bringing these in.

I didn’t get a picture of everything that caught my eye, such as the 1/2 scale BB8 from Star Wars complete with lights and sound, or the historical crusader figure that I would assume really gave me a run for my money in the best figure award, but there are some photos and videos kicking around on facebook and the broader interent that one can probably find with a little looking.

Conclusion

If you have the opportunity to go to one of these model shows, do it. You will see a lot of fascinating models, and learn a lot just by looking at how people did their stuff. Better yet, bring some of your stuff. Even if it doesn’t win, you can get some valuable feedback and meet some new and interesting people, which is more important than any piece of hardware you might bring home.

Not that bringing home some hardware isn’t nice…

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Paintlog: Dana Murphy and fun with airbrushing inks

I’ve been falling behind on updating this blog, partly because I have a couple articles half-written that I haven’t had the motivation to actually finish. While those are still on the back burner, I figured it would be a good idea to update some of my readers with information on a recent project I did which involved some interesting techniques to accomplish something that most people consider to be very difficult.

Yes, I’m talking about painting yellow.

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Dana Murphy (72mm), Reaper #01407

Yellow is a colour that a lot of people struggle with, including myself. Until this project, my preferred method for painting yellow was “pick another colour scheme.” This is for a couple reasons; the main one being that yellow tends to be a very transparent colour with weaker pigments. As a result, you don’t get very good coverage, especially if you’ve punished yourself by trying to paint it straight over black primer or some other dark colour. And in trying to get good coverage, it is very easy to end up laying it on too thick and ending up with a patchy, horrible looking mess.

But what if we were to take advantage of that transparency? There is a trick that a lot of miniature painters use called zenithal shading, which is where you prime the mini black, then hit it from above and in the direction of the light source with a rattle can or airbrush to effectively preshade your model by making it lighter where the light is hitting it. Matt DiPietro of Contrast Miniatures has taken this one step further and developed a process he calls “sketch style” where one follows that up with transparent glazes to colour the model, and end up with good results quickly. By taking advantage of the natural transparency of paint, you can use the preshading you did in your initial steps and basically paint by numbers, automatically getting your highlights and shadows depending on whether you’re painting over black, white, or a shade of grey.

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Colours used – I used Reaper paints and FW & Holbien inks, but you could use your brand of choice for most of these. Citadel Casandora Yellow is on the far right.

Of course, shadows aren’t always as simple as adding a bit of black or a bit of white because of colour theory. So, knowing a bit about colour theory and being inspired by a couple things I’ve seen online, I decided that I wanted purple shadows, and the yellow to progress from purple into orange, yellow, and maybe a touch of white in the highest highlight.

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(1) primed mini, (2) first coat of purple

So, with the figure primed in my white primer of choice (I believe I used GW Corax White, with Reaper for touchups) (1), the first step in my journey on painting yellow was to load up my airbrush with a dark purple and began spraying from below (2). At this stage, it was more important to get it everywhere in the shadows than to be clean with it because I was going to cover up most of it anyways with more layers of paint.

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Step (3), front and back.

Following that, I grabbed a lighter colour of purple and went for my second coat. This time, however, I used a zenithal technique, focusing on spraying from above and leaving the dark purple in the deepest shadows (3). I also focused my fire on the front of the model, because when it comes to composition for a single figure, it’s good to have the main light source coming from the front. You can see this in the difference between the front and back. After that, I repeated the process with white, being a little more controlled with my spray and leaving some of both shades of purple present in the shadows but covering up the purple on the upward-facing surfaces, and again, focusing my fire on the front, where most of the light is going to be hitting her (4).

 

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Step (4) – note how the shadows are more readily visible from above

By now you are probably thinking that this article was going to be about painting yellow. Well, no fear, here is where we finally break out the yellow. I’ve got a couple different shades of yellow FW acrylic artist inks, one of which is a very bright lemony yellow, while the other is a little more golden. These inks, as I discussed in a previous article, are basically acrylic paints with a high pigment density and very thin consistency. As a result, they can actually go through an airbrush on a low pressure setting quite nicely; practically drop and shoot with a minimum of clogging.

This is also where the natural transparency of yellows is an advantage. A thin coat of yellow won’t do much to change the colour of those purple shadows, however if we spray it on over white, we’re going to get a nice bright yellow. So, with my shadows established in purple, I wanted to work up to my highlights, so I took my darker yellow and sprayed it over pretty much the entire model, ensuring to at least cover up all the white. After letting that dry, I followed up with some of my brighter yellow from above, and finally, added a bit of white to the bright yellow to get the highest highlight (4).

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After the first attempt at yellow (4)

Here, I ran into a bit of a problem. The highlights and shadows were looking good, but the transitions weren’t that great. Going from purple to yellow is a very stark transition, and I felt it needed something in between. So, I reached for Citadel’s Casandora Yellow shade, which despite its name is actually an orangey wash. After putting a few drops in my airbrush, I fired it into the shadows and all over the mini, getting basically all over and allowing the wash to sink into the shadows and anywhere where I needed either the depth of the wash or  that midtone transition colour (5).

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(5) After the Casandora Yellow, it’s now a bit too orange. Just like a certain world leader…

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No problem, I can just fix it up by re-highlighting the yellow (6)

The Casandora Yellow did a great job of bringing the yellows and purples together, but it unfortunately made the entire model a little more orange than I wanted and kind of killed the highlights wherever it went. Which was no problem — all I had to do was load up some more yellow inks and re-highlight by spraying from above with the airbrush, and then mixing in a little white to the lightest yellow for the highest highlight (6). The end result was a very nice, rich yellow which really sold the illusion of light and shadow at that scale.

From there, the yellows were done and it was time to put away the airbrush and pull out the brushes, because with that done, I was happy to brush paint the rest of the model. Of course, in doing so, I was careful not to get paint on the areas I wanted to keep yellow, as it would be hard to colour match such a complicated base coat. Also, areas such as the cream-coloured bits on her uniform had highlights and shadows blended in to match the lighting and shadows on the yellow — after all, it would look strange to have this perfectly shaded yellow next to a strap or a belt with no shading at all.

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“Once you’re done with the yellow, just pull out a brush and do the rest. No big deal, right?”

Another little detail where I really like how it turned out was the tricorder looking thing on her left thigh. Here, I think the edge highlight on the top corner really helps sell the shape to the viewer, and I had some fun with the colours on the screens. The little heart monitor screen is actually painted on with white and then glazed with green, to give an old-school monochrome CRT monitor vibe, and I like how the contrast between the edge highlight and the transition on the blue square worked out.

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See: Tricorder

Finally, as soon as I attached her to the base I noticed that the composition seemed off. I had glued metal rods into her feet to attach her to a handle while I was painting her, and the last step in theory would have been to clip those rods down to size, drill corresponding holes in the base, add a little super glue and drop her in. But when I drilled the holes, I centered them longitudinally, faining to take into account the fact that she was leaning off to one side. So once I got her in there, the whole piece looked off-balance. And with a contest deadline looming, I really didn’t have the time or the desire to fill those holes, re-prime, re-paint, and try again. So, as a last minute fix, I grabbed a tiny switch from an electronics project, clipped off the legs, and glued it to the base near her left foot. After hitting it with some primer, I quickly painted some blue gunmetal NMM highlights and a big red button, colours which were already used on the figure in small doses, but would stand out enough to balance out the imbalance created by having her leaning to one side. I think it worked, and definitely helped save the model composition-wise.

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My little mistake in positioning her on the base is most apparent at this angle. Without the little button, she’s way too far to one side because I centered her feet without taking into account her pose. Also, see the shadows here.

Conclusion

This was a fun project for a lot of reasons. First, it allowed me the opportunity to play with my brand new Badger Krome, which I picked up in the recent Badger 54th Birthday promotion. Second, I was able to use the airbrush to, in a short time, easily accomplish an effect that would be very difficult trying to do with a brush. Third, it just turned out really well, and I’m very happy with the end result. I feel as though I learned a lot in the process, especially as I’ve been shying away from yellow because I haven’t had much success with it before. Also, I took her to the IPMS Montreal (Réal Côté) show last weekend, where she won first place in the fantasy figures category, so that was a nice result as well. I think it’s always a good sign when one of the pieces you are most proud of is your most recent piece, and I think as I look back on my hobby journey, this will be one that represents a big step forward.

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Also, insert gratuitous T&A here

 

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HeritageCon 2018

This past weekend, I made it out to sunny Hamilton, Ontario for HeritageCon, a large scale model show with a category for figures. I had a fun time, learned some stuff, and came home with a full shopping bag and an empty wallet, so I would say it was a successful couple days.

The convention was held at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which, similar to CapCon, made for a cool experience to look at a 1:72 version of something on a table and turn around to see the 1:1 scale version behind you. The venue was great, though my one little piece of advice is that someone should really make sure to stock up the ATM with cash before opening a venue to a bunch of scale modellers and people selling kits. Lighting was good; perhaps not as great as CapCon, and you could tell by the fact that almost all the figure modellers faced their figures in the same direction that there was definitely one side that had better light, but still pretty darn good.

There were hundreds of models at the convention and it’s impossible to do it justice, but I’ll show off some of the highlights for me — things that either were particularly well-done, or subjects that I found particularly interesting.

IMG_2583.JPGFirst off, in the bantam category for modellers under 10 years old, there was one kid who entered in some scratchbuilt and kitbashed models of imaginary future weapons that were all delightfully Orky. There were a couple tanks made out of random bits and bobs, a mash-up of a MiG 15 and some sort of straight-winged aircraft, and what looked like a Dalek rolling around under propeller power with a couple missiles on stubby little wings. Whoever this kid is, I hope he or she keeps up the level of creativity and passion that encourages him to put a propellor on the back of a Dalek and a radial engine behind that.

IMG_2634.JPGSpeaking of stuff that looks like it’s straight out of the Warhammer universe, the T-35 was a Soviet multi-turreted tank that is probably the closest thing to a Warhammer tank in real life, in that it was boxy, had guns sticking out everywhere, and turned out to be horrendously impractical in actual combat. Still, this five turreted beast makes for an interesting model. There was also a very nicely weathered… some sort of German thing (I believe that is the technical term, though I have no doubt that some armour modeller will correct me) that caught my eye and will be going in the inspiration folder for the next time I do some weathering.

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In the world of aircraft, one of the little games I like to play at model shows is “spot the roundel,” where I look for roundels of aircraft from smaller nations and try to figure out where they come from. In addition to an Irish Hurricane that I remembered from CapCon, I saw roundels from Spain, Colombia, Austria, Thailand, and Czechoslovakia, but I think my favourite was the Iraqi Me-109 from the Anglo-Iraqi war. I am pleased to report that not only was the model nicely done, but a quick google search confirmed that I managed to identify the rather strange looking roundel on the first try.

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L-R: Roundels of Spain, Czechoslovakia, Austria, El Salvador, Colombia, and Thailand

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Iraqi Me-109 – note the hastily painted over Iron Crosses, which totally make sense in the context of a campaign that only lasted about a month.

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Sadly, this model did not survive the show

There was a beautiful P-39 Airacobra at the show. The Airacobra is an interesting aircraft because unlike most fighters of that era, its engine is located behind the cockpit and drives the propeller by way of a long drive shaft. This leaves room in the nose for a 37mm gun shooting through the hub of the propeller as well as nose-wheel landing gear instead of the tailwheel landing gear of its contemporaries. Finally, instead of sliding backwards to open, the cockpit has car-like doors on the side. While it wasn’t the most successful aircraft of the war, it put in some good service, particularly with the Soviets on the Eastern Front. This particular representation was well rendered, with nice weathering and panel line detail, as well as all the doors opened up to reveal details like the engine and the gun. I was lucky to get this photo as unfortunately, in what was probably the biggest tragedy of the show, I saw a dejected-looking builder packing away the model and a ziploc bag full of pieces that had broken off. Clearly, it had taken quite the impact and I just hope that it is fixable, as it is was a wonderful model of a subject that, in my opinion, is much more interesting than some of its contemporaries like the P-51.

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In the world of motorcycles, there was one that had what looked like a cool chrome non-metallic metal effect. I think it was a decal, but if you look closely at some of the chrome on that motorcycle, you can see that the reflection is not a result of shiny finish, but is actually drawn on the motorcycle. This is a more advanced version of the non-metallic metal technique, which I hope to master at some point in the future. Also, someone made a couple cool looking motorcycles out of miscellaneous metal bits and bobs, partly from broken electronics, which made for some unique models.

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Now, to paraphrase Sir Mix-A-Lot, I like big boats and I can not lie, which is good because there were two very nice large-scale U-boats on display. Submarines are always good to look at because if you look closely, you can see a lot of interesting detail in the weathering, as any vehicle that submerges under salt water and resurfaces many times is going to have some interesting weathering patterns. There was an excellent diorama of a sinking submarine, complete with lifeboats, escaping sailors, and realistic looking wave effects, which won best ship.

The winner of the Arthur Redding trophy was one of the locals, for his representation of U-190, a German submarine that ended up being captured by Canada at the end of the war and impressed into Canadian service. I’ve seen this piece before, but this was my first chance to get a really good look at it in some really good lighting and… damn, that weathering.

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That weathing, and all those fiddly bits on the guns and radars… ouch.

Finally, when it comes to science fiction, the gundam guys were out in force, with a lot of gundams done to a pretty high standard when it comes to shading and weathering. There was a red one (I believe that is the technical term) that had some really nice shading and highlights on it, as well as some sort of non-gundam walker thing that was pretty cool. Finally, there was also a robot spider from Johnny Quest which brought back memories of watching cartoons with my sister.

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Gundam

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Not a Gundam. Pretty cool though.

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Figures & Busts

Now, lets get to the important stuff — the figures and busts. There were six categories: historical, fantasy, busts, mounted, vignette and diorama. This was where I made most my entries, and there were a lot of very diverse figures and vignettes and dioramas. One of my favourites was this… well, I don’t know what it is, but it’s cool.

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Nice.

The competition in the busts category was intense. There were nineteen entries, the majority of which were painted to a very high standard. Almost all were historical, though in addition to my entry, there were one or two other fantasy busts.

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Very cool. A+ for composition.

Judging

I was recruited to judge some of the historical figures, obviously stepping aside for the fantasy and bust categories that I entered. This was my first time judging, and it was an interesting experience. At IPMS shows, models are judged in direct competition with each other, so instead of an open system with set criteria, we had to pick out a first, second and third place.

It was an interesting experience. Really taking the time to look at other people’s work closely enough to fairly and impartially determine who is the winner was an interesting challenge, and in the process, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and it sort of demystified some of the cool things I saw on the table. Of course, I also think I may have dodged a bullet in that one of the categories that I had to recuse myself from was the hyper-competitive busts category. With 19 entries, the other two judges had to spend a long time looking at it to narrow it down to a first, second and third.

My main of advice to figure painters who really want to compete is to focus on eyeballs. The main thing that distinguishes figure painting from scale modelling is the flesh tones, particularly on the face. When I go to look at a figure (or even a piece of armour that has a figure sticking out of the hatch), my eyes naturally go straight to the face. Further, if I’m judging a figure, the first thing I will do is kneel down and look him or her in the eyes. If it doesn’t look right, that’s not a good first impression. And if the category has a lot of entries, a bad first impression might mean that your model doesn’t survive the initial cut where the judges narrow down the field to the few that they think are really in contention.

Similarly, if you have a piece that has certain elements that “pop” and draw the eye, make sure those are well done. In one of the categories that I judged, there was one piece that just narrowly missed out on placing in part because of its bayonet. It had a shiny bayonet which was bright enough that it drew the eye, but was also just done up in plain silver paint with no highlighting or definition to it. This, in turn, pulled my eye towards the gun, where I found a couple more little things to nitpick, and long story short, the piece ended up just barely not making the cut to top three. Of course, this also came around to bite me as well, as one of the weak points of my Mary Read bust was the bird, which also drew a lot of attention with its bright colours.

My results

I entered a few figures, my aforementioned Mary Read bust, as well as throwing in my Victor colossal warjack into the Gundam and Mecha category. Between Yephima, The Black Sheep, Laril Silverhand, and Nancy Steelpunch. My main competition in this category was two large-scale female figures and a nicely detailed Sphess Mahreen from 40K.

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The competition

Against this backdrop, I thought I would be lucky to even place, especially considering the fact that I was working at such a small scale. At 35mm scale (about 1/48), Nancy was dwarfed by even the space marine, never mind the two large-scale ladies. I have to give some credit to my fellow judges on this one; it can’t be easy to look at a 30mm figure next to something a foot tall and try to determine which is better. In the end, Nancy edged out Mr. Space Marine Guy to come in second, behind one of the big ladies.

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More importantly than any ribbon or medal, I talked to one of the judges afterwards and got some good feedback. Basically, I needed to go a little sharper on some of my highlights and get my blends a little smoother, perhaps even trying out oil paints instead of acrylics. On the plus side, the judge told me that my metals are a strong point — which reminds me, I should write that article on TMM Brass that I’ve been talking about for months…

I also have the bust of Nancy in my stash, and I’ve had a lot of ideas rolling around in my head about what to do with her, so hopefully by the next big competition I’ll be able to bring both versions of her. I think she will be done in the same colour scheme as little Nancy, though with a few pink highlights in the hair, and I haven’t decided whether to do the punchy fists in NMM, which worked well for little Nancy, or TMM, which I’m a lot more comfortable with and got some kudos on on Mary Read.

My stuff

Finally, it wouldn’t be a convention if I didn’t spend too much money buying stuff. First, I had an idea for a project for a future contest for a unique take on the Me-109B. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find, as one can barely walk around in a hobby shop without tripping over a 109 kit. Boy, was I wrong. Apparently the early marks of the 109 are actually not that popular, and it’s the 109E and 109G that comprise almost all of the kits out there. Fortunately, the staff at Wheels and Wings in Toronto were helpful and hooked me up with the only 109B in the store, a somewhat pricy kit from AMG that includes rubber tires, photoetch, and lots and lots of tiny parts…

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Also from Wheels and Wings, I picked up some figures in a box marked Skull Clan – Death Angels, which were just too cool looking to pass up, as well as a book from Angel Giraldez, one of the top miniature painters in the world, on his techniques.

At the show itself, I found some interesting stuff. One of the vendors was selling stuff from Green Stuff World, so I managed to pick myself up a second, smaller leaf punch, some of their colourshift paints, and a couple textured rolling pins for sculpting pavement or cobblestone patterns.

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The spoils of war.

However, I think my best find of the day was some flats that I picked up. Flats are, as the name implies, flat versions of figures which seem to blur the line between painting figures and just straight up painting. My research tells me they had their heyday about 100 years ago, before three-dimensional figures became a popular thing, which is a fact that is corroborated by the vendor telling me that the were being sold from the stash of a nonagenarian. These are going to be an interesting challenge as they will really force me to up my game when it comes to painting in light and shadow, as I will have to represent three-dimensional people with a mostly-flat two-dimensional object.

In short, I’m going to have to pretend to be an actual artist on this one, so it’s going to be tricky.

Final Thoughts

HeritageCon was a great event, and I will definitely see if I can attend next year, as well as start looking around for other model shows that I can compete at. I know there is TorCan coming up in Toronto, as well as the painting competition at the Southern Ontario Open that I’m going all-in on, as I think I have a much better chance of doing well at that than actually coming out with a winning record at playing Warmachine. Even for people who have cut their teeth on wargaming figures, if you can make it out to a scale model show, there will be something there for you and a lot of techniques you can learn just by staring closely at the models on display.

 

The Joy of Painting Figures – presentation

I had planned to write something on painting woodgrain textures today, but I ran into some problems and didn’t get around to it. So, in lieu of an actual article, I’m going to throw up a link to a presentation I made on painting figures at a local IPMS meeting this week.

In short, I feel that figure painting can be an intimidating thing for a lot of scale modellers, and I see a lot of comments on the scale model internet to that effect. Flesh tones aren’t a uniform colour like the glacis plate of a Panzer IV, and people who paint figures tend to worry a lot more about things like lighting and colour theory than someone trying to make an exact replica of something, only tinier.

That is not to say that figure painters are better than traditional scale modellers. The sheer number of pieces and the level of detail in a model kit with all the aftermarket bling in it can get rather insane, not to mention the historical research involved to make it as exact a representation of the subject as possible.

The goal of this presentation was to demystify it a little — explain some of the basics of using acrylic paints (thin your paints, take care of your brushes, and just make a damn wet palette already), explain a little bit about the theory behind what goes into flesh tones, and share some techniques as to how I go about placing those highlights and shadows.

So, without any further ado, here’s the slides from that presentation.

CapCon 2017 — Craftsmanship on display

This past weekend I went to CapCon 2017, hosted by IPMS Ottawa, and held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  CapCon 2017 was a great collection of scale modellers, figure painters, and diorama builders.  There were categories and subcategories for pretty much everything, including cars, planes, tanks, ships and figures, and each entry was examined and judged by experts.

Since my PZL P.11 remains half-finished on the shelf, and I haven’t actually finished a scale model kit since I used to build model airplanes with all the enthusiasm and skill of my twelve year old self, I figured there might be some categories that my gaming pieces might be appropriate for.  Fantasy Figures (under 54mm) would be good for my infantry, and there was a category for Mecha & Robots, which I figured that a steam-powered warjack would fit quite nicely under.

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Uhlan Kovnik Markov

So, I decided to pack my figure case with five entries: three in fantasy figures (my headswapped version of the Greylord Forge Seer, Uhlan Kovnik Markov, and Olga Strakhov & her Kommandos), and two in Mecha & Robots (my Black Dragon Spriggan, as well as my Victor).  I went more with the intention of seeing what I could learn than trying to compete with others, as while it is nice to win, miniature painting and scale modelling are the sort of hobbies where the primary rewards are intrinsic — that little rush of endorphins you get when you finish up a model and place it on your shelf, the joy you get from levelling up your skills, and the pride you take in your own craftsmanship when you show them off are all more important than any plaque or trophy that you may receive for the final result.

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That’s MR. Some Space Marine Guy to you!

That said, I did pretty well for myself when it came to awards — In the Mecha & Robots category, Victor got 1st place and the Black Dragon Spriggan came in 3rd, despite being physically dwarfed by some of the much larger mechs on the table.  The fantasy figures category had some very stiff competition, including a very nice… some Space Marine guy, I don’t know, I don’t play Warhammer… on a plinth with a stained glass window behind him, and I was pleasantly surprised to bring home 3rd place with my Lady Forge Seer.

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Lady Forge Seer — my take on the Greylord Forge Seer

The venue was perfect.  Being held in the War Museum, it was possible to look at a model tank on the table, and literally turn around to see the 1:1 scale version.  Also, it provided attendees with an opportunity to take a break from the showroom floor and take a look at the museum, which was full of inspiration.  Things like pictures of trenchwork, nose art, and all the military vehicles on display really made the day complete.

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Seriously, dude, you should learn to use an airbrush to apply camo… that brushwork just looks sloppy.

There was also a great silent auction with something like 180 prizes.  Though I put in some bids on a Blohm + Voss BV141 and a Hanriot HD.1 (because I’m too much of a hipster to assemble and paint something normal like a P-51) as well as a couple of books, I didn’t come away with anything.  Which was probably for the best, given my current backlog.

Some of the other highlights for me were:

The craftsmanship in general.  The level of competition in some of these categories was pretty fierce, and there were many highly detailed models that just blew my mind.  Particularly in the naval section; all the little details and the rigging on those ships was very impressive.

IMG_2023.JPGThe Diorama section was great, and I found myself staring at them a lot, trying to see how they did certain things and what I can pick up from them for my basing or my future diorama projects.  In particular, there was one titled “Last Stand in Berlin” that showed a lot of figures engaged in very dynamic poses, shooting each other, whacking each other with shovels, that sort of thing.  As well, a Marder II in front of a half-collapsed Belgian building was incredibly detailed and gave me some ideas for rubble bases.  As well, some of the scale trenchwork was pretty nice, and since messing up Cygnaran trenchers is a theme of my army, some of the stuff on display gave me a lot of ideas.

IMG_2038.JPGThere was a very well-done P-51 with all the access panels open and plenty of weathering.  All the dirt and smoke and grime tarnishing the silver and covering the markings on this model made for a very realistic piece with a lot of visual interest.  It was my candidate for the people’s choice award, as I felt the visual interest generated by the all the soot and grime really went a long way in making it look less like a model and more like the real thing.

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The Irish Hurricane IIC

A couple of aircraft with unusual markings also stood out for me.  Because we’ve all seen the American Mustangs and the German -109s, I like seeing aircraft of that era either produced by relatively minor powers such as Poland or Romania, or marked in roundels that make you go “hmmmm, now what country is that?” (because again, I’m kind of a hipster).  There was an Irish Hawker Hurricane that was very well done, as well as a Latvian fighter (I think it was a Junkers D.I) from the immediate post-WWI era.

The weathering on the armour was also something that I can take some inspiration from.  I’m starting to do more and more weathering on my pieces, and one of the goals for me was to learn to get better at it, and I do think I got some ideas from staring at all the Panzers and Shermans on display.

And of course, figures.  As someone who is primarily a figure painter, and who is looking at getting into busts and larger scales, there were some pretty fine figures to take inspiration from.

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Did someone say “busts”?  Or “fine figures”?

But seriously, there were some amazing pieces on display, both fantasy and historical, and at some points, I had to remind myself that my stuff, while maybe not up to their level, is good enough to be on the table beside theirs.

All in all, CapCon 2017 was a blast.  I am going to try to get out to some more IPMS events locally, even if they require waking up early on weekends and heading to places with not-so-great bus access, something I’m typically loath to do.  I think there are things that miniature painters, gamers, and scale modellers can learn from each other, and it’s a pity that there isn’t that much crossover between these groups.  And maybe by the time CapCon 2019 rolls around, I will have finally finished that P.11… or maybe not, considering the kit is decades-old, was missing parts when I bought it, and I already bungled a few things on the assembly…