Apr 152014
 

1782089_10152350716160429_1555553431_nSome time ago, Monique expressed an interest in the resin model kit, Devonian Encounter.  She’s always built styrene kits up until now, but this one really caught her eye.  With good cause, it’s one of the coolest ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ kits out there.  Not just the monster, but a whole diorama… pretty girl snorkeling, sunken boat, some vicious fish and a whole underwater scene.

At the time I couldn’t find one, but eventually Monsters in Motion listed it as available.  We’ve both bought from them, and always been pleased.  So I ordered it, wrapped it, and surprised Monique with it.  Then it sat for a while.  That’s normal for us, both of us have a backlog of models to build.  It’s kind of fun, picking which one to do next.

The whole mystique of ‘resin kits’ may have intimidated her at first, but it didn’t take long for her to dive right in.  We’re both members of a Facebook page full of excellent modelers, so there was always good advice on hand when she got stuck.

Not that she got stuck all that often.  There were things she had to research, like the best way to attach the sunken boat, or the best way to provide support for all the integrated elements.  For instance, she wound up screwing the boat onto the base.  Glue or putty just wasn’t strong enough on it’s own.

As always, she pays exceedingly fine attention to detail.  Not just with the build, but with the painting.  I was very impressed with the detail on the girl’s mouth.  For as small as that area is, Monique managed to get the lips exquisitely edged, with the teeth and interior all perfect.  While she’s great with all aspects, I think her strongest point is in the painting.  Monique has a touch with the colors that’s on the verge of magical.  Right from when we first began this hobby together, her sense of color was always spot on.  She said it’s because painting models has a lot in common with putting make-up on.  She custom blends a lot of her colors.

It shows in all her kits, and this one is no exception.  When she finished, she posted final pictures on the Facebook page that helped her so much.  Someone asked if she was sure this was her first resin kit?

That’s an awesome compliment, and very well deserved.  Spectacular build-up.  Enjoy the gallery below:

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Apr 062014
 
Working on the join with his sword hand

Working on the join with his sword hand

I’ve been working slowly but surely on Moebius’ Conan the Barbarian.  Last time was mainly Conan’s face and torso.  Since then, I’ve painted, then repainted (and repainted) his legs, trying to match the torso.  I should have made enough flesh for the whole kit, and I should have painted all the flesh in one go.  Instead, I went at him piecemeal, then ran out of flesh tone, then forgot exactly how I got the original colors, which made it a real trial and error to reproduce.  The final colors matched fairly well, but it was a lesson learned.  Future models will be managed better.

Had similar trouble wiith his hands.  Under ordinary circumstances, I’d have scratched the whole project, cleaned him up, and started over.  This time though, my airbrush work improved dramatically and I was very proud of the paint job on Conan’s torso and face.  So much so, that I didn’t want to start over.  Not saying my airbrush work is that good, just saying that it was a quantum leap forward for me personally.

Finally, everything progressed to the point that I attached legs to torso last night.  Not wanting any accidents, Monique helped me prop him up with bubble wrap and air pillows.  If he fell, or the glue didn’t hold, no harm done.  Got up this morning for work, house dark, dogs asleep, and the first thing I did was to make sure he was still standing.

Conan02In the future, I’ll pay more attention to painting individual pieces to match better.  And I’ll experiment with pinning and pre-assembly, which should help prevent some of the mistakes of this kit.  And, I’ll pay more attention to smoothing out details.  This kit has some rough areas, such as the toes.  At first, I thought they were acceptable, but over time, I’m wishing I’d cleaned them up better.  Same for inside the mouth.  This is my first kit where the interior of the mouth is an issue.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes on this model, but that’s because I’m trying new things.  Because of that, in some respects he’s the best I’ve ever done, and in other ways, not so good.  Not going to start over, because the parts that turned out well were a personal best.  Not confident that I could repeat it.  So I’m just doing the best I can with the rest, and counting this model kit as a learning experience.

For now, here’s the current work in progress.

Conan03

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Mar 152014
 

Conan is still a work in progress. For that matter, so am I, in terms of using the airbrush. My Badger Anthem 155 is by all accounts a great beginner’s airbrush, but I’m not a great beginner.  More like fair to middling.  Until recently, airbrushing has just been a means of doing a base coat/color before dry brushing.  Working on Moebius’ Conan The Barbarian has been groundbreaking for me.  This time, I’m learning to draw details… sort of details… with it.

My first attempt was to try shading on the muscles. Laid down a medium flesh tone over the whole body, then started airbrushing the shadows in the creases of the muscles.  It was a big improvement, and I thought maybe that was good enough.  Until a good friend told me to try detailing the highlights as well as the shaded areas.

I had some doubts about my ability, but gave it a try. Airbrushing the darker shaded areas had been very successful. Airbrushing the highlights was even better – the contrast makes the muscles stand out.  Everywhere the light should hit received detailing with a very light skin tone.
Final result?  Some of the best skin shading I’ve ever done.  Lots of interesting brights and darks.  For some reason, this kit has been super-tough to photograph.  The flesh color and the shading just don’t show up true in a picture.  Tonight was about the best pictures so far.  It comes close to showing the trued color and detail.  Still a little off, though.

Learned an amazing new technique to use in future model-building.  Eventually, maybe I’ll get really good at detailing with an airbrush.  It’s going to take lots of practice, but even as a beginner I can see a huge improvement.  Glenn, if you’re reading this – Thanks!

As a final note, the mouth and eyes have really turned out well also.  The mouth has an actual gum-line between the teeth and mouth.  The eyes are really adding character.  The flesh of the face was airbrushed, but the features (eye, mouth) are brush-painted.  I’m very pleased with the result so far.

Really happy with the eyes and teeth.

Really happy with the eyes and teeth.

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Mar 022014
 

Been having a lot of fun with Conan.  He’s a great kit to work with.  Recently, I’ve been focused on doing the flesh tones.  At one point, the colors were very satisfactory, and I thought it was a good stopping point for the body.  But Monique (my Devil’s Advocate and quality control monitor) pointed out that professional model-builders do a lot more in terms of shading.  I’ve dry-brushed for years, and am learning on the airbrush.  It had seemed enough to me, but after her nudge I rethought it.  Without trying new techniques and stretching past my current abilities, there would be no improvement.  So, back out with the airbrush and the flesh tones.

After lots of practice and different attempts, I’m pretty happy with it.  Learned a few new things.  One very big one… thin my paints more.  Then more.  And a bit more.  As a newbie with the airbrush, it caused a lot of aggravation when the paint would stick and spatter, even after a thorough cleaning.  It finally hit me.  Tiny tiny amounts of paint; then about 4 times the volume with thinner.  We both use blue window cleaner to thin our paints.  Now my paints are finally spraying smooth and not clogging.  It may sound too easy, but it was a big deal to me!

The other thing was more of a progression.  Bit by bit, and with lots of stops and starts, I’m actually learning to use the airbrush.  In this case, detailing the shaded areas of muscle around Conan’s torso and legs.  It took lots of attempts, but at this point the result makes me pretty happy.

I’ve tried to take pictures to show exactly what I mean.  It’s a great camera, but for some reason, it’s just not capturing the fine detail of shading and flesh tones.  When you’re looking at these pics, bear in mind it looks much better in person.  If I can figure out what’s wrong with the pics, I’ll post better ones.  But for now, hopefully you can still see what I mean.  It’s my first time to ever attempt detail work with the airbrush.  And hopefully, just one more step along the way get learning how to use it well.

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Feb 222014
 
Almost ready for his close-up.

Almost ready for his close-up.

If you’ve built models for a while, chances are you’ve got your own “Holy Grail” kit.  The one you missed.  The one that’s out of production, super-rare, and nobody will sell.

For me, it was actually the Captain America kit I built a few months ago.  The Ultimate Soldier, by Mad Dog Resin.  And before that, it was the resin Phantom kit, with his wolf ‘Devil’.  For Monique, it’s Lon Chaney, Man of 1000 Faces.  Made by Janus, and long out of production.  Monique has wanted this kit for a couple of years, from the moment she first discovered it.  I can see why –  the detailing is great, and the subject matter highly unique.  Plus it’s a fabulous tribute to Lon Chaney.

Been looking for the kit ever since she told me how much she wanted it.  Recently, we had a chance to buy one.  I met the gentleman on a facebook modeling page.  He was asking $400 and it was missing the crate.  I didn’t object to the price or the missing part, but when all was said and done, we could only scrape together $300 plus shipping costs.  He took some time to consider the offer, but eventually declined.

It worked out for the best.  A few days later there was an eBay auction, offering pieces from an estate sale.  They had a pre-built Man of 1000 Faces.  It had all the parts, and went for a decent price.  I’m currently cleaning the paint off.  Did a lot of reading online, decided to try Easy Off Oven Cleaner.  There’s a lot of uncertainty about what will clean the paint without harming the resin, and it’s different for different resin materials.  I liked Easy Off because I knew what it was, where to get it, and it sounded mostly safe for resin models.

1000Faces05

I randomly chose the legs for testing.  It took a lot of back and forth.  Soak a day, clean… soak few days, clean.  After the third cycle it was looking pretty good, and the Easy Off wasn’t doing any damage.  So I put everything into one large trash bag, put that in a box, and emptied the can of Easy Off in it.

All that soaked for a few days, and when I pulled it out, the first layer of paint was mostly gone.  Put everything back in, soak a few more days…

This is still ongoing, but so far there’s been no harm to the model kit.  By now, some of the pieces are good to go, and some very close.  At this point I’m using a scrub-brush and a toothbrush.  It’s a lot of hard work, but the result, so far, is very good.  Soon, I think, I’ll resort to tweezers and toothpicks.  After that, it’s all up to Monique!

Just can't wait to get started!

Just can’t wait to get started!

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Feb 092014
 

Conans HelmetIt’s been about a month since my last post.  Beginning on a new model, Conan the Barbarian, a resin kit by Moebius.  You may have wondered what progress I’ve made since then.  Well, here it is.  This…  Conan’s hat.

Okay, it’s his helmet.  And I’ve been stuck on it for weeks.  Not all my fault, I’m not innocent either.  To begin with, I’m new (skill-wise) to the airbrush.  Figured, it’s a helmet.  Two basic colors.  Some shading.  Great opportunity for some simple practice.  Boy, was I wrong.  Actually, not so much about the airbrushing, but about having a clean edge where the two colors meet.  I’ve tried taping the edges, but there was bleed.  Tried mold-builder as a paintable frisket… that stuff always peels the paint up with it.  Eventually, I knew I’d have to just paint it with a brush.

In the middle of me being stubborn with the helmet, I dropped a part of my airbrush down the sink.  Not the first time, and it’s always a major hassle re-sealing the drain trap.  So this time, just wasn’t in the mood.  Went online, and ordered a bunch of replacement parts for the airbrush in general.  And a drain trap meant for salons.  It has an escape lid, with a hair-catcher.  I guess that’s important for hair salons, but it seemed like a pretty good solution for me, too.  Next time something important gets stuck in the trap, just pop open the lid and pull out the gunk.

When it arrived, I installed it, rescued the airbrush part, and set everything aside for the moment.  When the replacement parts arrived, they got stored for the next emergency.  Which was today, the first day I tried to airbrush again.  Cleaned the airbrush, took it to my desk for reassembly.  Not gonna drop anything down the sink from there!  Instead, a (different) piece hit the floor, bounced, and disappeared.  This wasn’t one of the spares, it had to be a completely unique part.  No simple replacement.  Monique and I hunted for maybe half an hour.  Finally, at the most extreme part of our search, I pulled the piano away to make room to pull the desk out, and shined the flash on the floor in back.

There it was.  Not just all the way back.  Not only was it up against the baseboard, it was as far against the baseboard as it could get, and then LEANING on the baseboard!  As if it was trying to climb the wall to get away from us.    We reassembled everything, including the airbrush, desk, and piano.  I told Monique I wasn’t in the mood to airbrush any more.

As a matter of fact, I’m moving forward.  The helmet is done.  Maybe it needs a bit more touch-up, but that’s not going to happen.  What you see here is the result of my work today, and I’m afraid to try any more.  Who knows WHAT catastrophe would happen if I tried to paint it again?  So, I hope it’s good enough because that’s my final decision.  Until next week.

While I’ve been working on the hat with the two pointy horns, Monique has knocked out a fabulous job on Moebius’ Dracula and victim.  And obtained her holy grail of models, Janus’ Man of 1000 Faces (Lon Chaney).  And started her first resin model, Devonian Encounter.

Looks like I’ll be busy writing up her adventures for a while.

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Jan 012014
 
Great art to inspire a dynamic Conan model kit

Great art to inspire a dynamic Conan model kit

After finishing Captain America: Ultimate Soldier, I took the obligatory few days off from model-building.  Cleaned up the workspace, washed out the paint bottles. Time to clear my head.  There are a number of models waiting to be built.  In particular I have a Galaxy Quest NTE-3120 N.S.E.A. Protector that’s been calling my name.  I’m a bit scared of it, because it needs custom lighting.  But the time is coming.

For the moment though, it’s going to be Moebius’ Conan the Barbarian resin model kit.  First impression is that the box it came in is gigantic!  The model is large, standing an impressive 12 inches tall, but the main reason the box is so large is the packaging.  The model is held in two layers of form-fitted styrofoam, carved to hold each piece securely.  I’ve never bought a model so safely packaged before!

With over 20 pieces, I categorized them as Conan, Girl, and Base.  In broad scope, that’s the order they’ll be done.  The base makes a wonderful stand to hold Conan while I work on him.  Seems obvious, but not every kit has such a good working mount.  While gluing and painting, Conan was mostly stable, but he wobbled a bit.  A toothpick wedged uder the offending foot took care of it.

Piece by piece, they look good.  The seams fit great.  I like when a model is sculpted to join on obvious seams.  Makes the painting so much easier.  The detailing is very clean.  I did some small touch-ups, but mainly running a polisher with a rotary device was sufficient.  The biggest visible problem is the thumb on his sword hand.  The sword itself need a tiny bit of rebuilding.  Not much, just to cover a small missing chunk near the guard.  But his thumb… seemed to be missing a lot of ‘meat’.  It took several layers of Bondo (makes a good contour putty) applied with a toothpick in the crevice between hand and sword grip.

Conan08

You can see the blemishes, but you have to be pretty close to tell. This is after I rebuilt the thumb.

After applying a light gray base coat, a number of smaller blemishes became visible.  I could have simply ignored them, but decided to smooth down as much as possible.  Spent this evening just smoothing down the minor rough spots.  I’ve read that this kit was originally slated to be a styrene kit like the majority of Moebius model kits.  In midstream they switched to resin.  Just to address the question, a couple of reviews state that the detailing suffered because of the change.  One reviewer mentioned a lack of fingernails and toenails.  There’s some truth to the loss of detail, though I couldn’t really tell until working with a magnifier on the small blemishes.  But my kit, at least, came with fingernails and toenails properly sculpted.

The proportions are good.  Very appropriate to the source material, which is a comic book cover.  Conan #1, from the 1970’s series.  I’ve worked on models with crisper detail, and models with softer detail.  You’ll have to determine for yourself what’s acceptable and what’s not.  As for myself, I like the work.  It looks like Conan, the art is strong and dynamic, and it’s a good match for the original artwork he’s based on.  As typical with Moebius, there’s a very nice color instruction sheet.  Going to enjoy this model kit.

Moebius is the only company I know that provides full-color instruction sheets!

Moebius is the only company I know that provides full-color instruction sheets!

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Dec 212013
 

 

The final paint for Captain America

The final paint for Captain America

He’s finally done – depending on how you count the time, he took either a year and a half… or three months.  Guess I shouldn’t count the year+ that I didn’t do any model-building. :^)

Anyway, that last bit went fairly well, once I gave up trying to use mold-builder as a paint mask.  That makes twice trying to use it, and both times didn’t turn out well.  I think that’s about it for mold-builder.  Great idea, and would be cool if it worked, but my luck with it hasn’t been running too well.  The first time was on the overal body paint for Cap.  While the mold-builder worked in general, it peeled up some very sloppy edges.  Learning from that experience, I tried to do a better job on the shield, and it still just didn’t work cleanly.  Had to resort to older techniques.

I wanted Captain America to look a little field-worn, like he’d been out there for a while.  With his shield, I wanted the opposite.  It needs to shine bright and clean.  To get the look, I used metallic paints.  First airbrushed a black base coat, then a really thick coat of Metallic white mixed with a dab of glossy white.  The rest was painted by hand, using metallic blue and red.  Not as smooth as the airbrush would have done, but it worked.

On back of the shield, a black base coat with a misting of silver to give it kind of a pewter look (just because that’s a cool color).  Then a misting of black around the outer edge, for a nice shading effect.  (You can really see it in the picture with the white background.)

The last step was to make straps for the arm.  It doesn’t make sense to just glue the shield on Cap’s arm.  It needed something.  After looking online, I found where someone else had the same thought.  They used leather straps, and it looked pretty good.  While discussing possibilities with Monique, she realized she had… wait for it… a spool of rawhide!  Who just keeps that stuff in the house?

It looked like heavy-duty shoelaces in width, light tan in color.  With a bit of painting to match his gloves, the strips worked like a charm.  Perfect fit for the strap braces on back of the shield.  While I did consider attempting to fashion rivets for the leather, that seemed like going a bit too far.  Even without the rivet look, I’m very happy with everything about Cap.

My final task was to write a big “Thank you” to Mad Dog Resin.  Great sculpt, excellent details, and a lot of fun.  ‘Captain America – Ultimate Soldier’ takes a place of pride on my shelves!

While I’m starting my next model, here’s some random pics from Captain Americal: Ultimate Soldier:

 

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Dec 142013
 
It's a subtle look, but a good place to see the chalk is just under the pocket on the side of his leg

It’s a subtle look, but a good place to see the chalk is just under the pocket on the side of his leg

Just a little interim progress to report today.  I was nearly done with Ultimate Cap, and Monique convinced me to experiment with Pastel Chalk shading.  I’ve never tried it before, but this was a good opportunity – I liked my shading, but it needed a little more.   With chalks, you scrub a bit into powder on a small piece of fine sandpaper.  Or at least, that’s what we use.  Since I’ve never done this before and only wanted to enhance the dark areas in the creases, I just used black with a tiny bit of white.  The idea was to darken the areas just under any highlights, to make the highlights stand out better.

First, the white areas… boy, that’s cool.  Great effect, easy to apply.  Next, tried the blue areas.  Wow, just awesome.  Really made it ‘POP’.  Heady with newbie success, I decided to darken the nostrils and put a little shading on the ears.  This is where I really messed up.  The shade was too dark.  I tried to wash the chalk off, but it wasn’t cleaning up.  Wound up repainting those areas and trying to match the shading that was already there.  It took a long time, and I really regret getting overconfident.

So, lesson learned.  To shade flesh tones, match the colors better.  One last thing; when trying desperately to fix the nose and ears, I inadvertently smudged some chalk on the white and blue.  Lucky me, it accidentally turned out quite well.  Part of my intention was for him to look like he was out in the field.  Not pristine and untried.  My Cap is battle-hardened, a seasoned veteran through and through.  So the smudges actually worked in my favor.

To be fair, the chalk is pretty subtle.  It doesn’t make a huge difference, but the total effect is very nice.   Finally though, Cap is done.  Not doing any more.  The base has been done for a long time.  All that’s left is the shield, and it got a coat of black last night.  Hope to have it wrapped up soon!

Here's the 'before' - just a light coat of gray.

Here’s the ‘before’ – just a light coat of gray.

 

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Dec 082013
 
Nearly finished with Cap

Nearly finished with Cap

First, let me apologize for the long delay.  It’s been about a year since Monique and I worked on our models.  Real life got in the way.  Literally… the hobby room turned into a storage room, and overflowed to the point there wasn’t room to work.  Since we began modeling together on our anniversary a few years ago, we decided to celebrate this anniversary the same way.  Cleaned the room out, and spent several hours painting and building.

Ultimate Cap has been waiting all this time.  I kind of dreaded picking back up.  The Mold Builder I’d used last time had left a LOT of damaged detailing.  But I sat down, picked a color, and started.  First, just kind of smoothed out everything.  Those edges where the paint had peeled up with the mold builder had a lot of loose flaps hanging off.

The rest of the process was pretty basic.  Detail paint on the edges, correcting tinier and tinier errors until I just couldn’t make it any better.  Younger eyes and steadier hands would have been nice.  :^)

Having to do so much repair work by hand was pretty disruptive.  The original airbrushed smoothness of the colors is mostly gone.  Add to that the fact that I haven’t mixed those colors in a year and had to guess for the closest match… it needed a huge amount of damage control to get the shading back.  Next model I’m definitely taking notes on which colors are mixed together to achieve a specific look.

Cap is nearly done now.  Monique suggested ‘painting’ some colored chalk on to achieve a smooth dry-brushed look for his sleeves.  Mainly in the white area.  She’s very good with that technique, and I haven’t tried it yet, so I’ll have to give it a try.  Then I’ll start on his shield.

Monique is building a Dracula Bela Lugosi Deluxe Model Kit (with victim).  I’m sure she’s taking progress pictures, which means I’ll have posts on her progress as well.  In the meantime, here’s a few more pics of the ‘nearly done’ Captain America.

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