Thursday, June 27, 2013

"The Hunt" WIP - Episode I


Its been a while since I posted the introduction to this WIP but as it were, things often times get in the way. But after nearly a week and a half of sitting idle, some progress has been made! I'll take you through it.

As usual, I've started with the base. I've said before that I like to start with the base on my action figure dioramas because it allows me to shape the figure around the environment. Its just easier, at least in my own mind. So, it was time to break out the oasis foam and cheap wooden plaques and start to building...


I've created some elevation that will separate our hunter from the fleeing Rebel pilot...I almost forgot to introduce you to the main characters. Here they are...



Now that you've met the players, lets continue with the base. The oasis foam got the standard layer of celluclay. The celluclay was mixed with white glue, brown acrylic craft paint, some tiny stones and twigs, and  some Woodland Scenics fake snow to give it more texture...


A large rock or two were added. I find that bark from an oak tree replicates a rock once painted appropriately. You can also see I've created to reeds using stretched sprue...


More items are placed to give it more of a river bank type feel to it...





And here is our hero, hiding along the bank, up to his thighs (eventually) in murky water. Of course, I had to chop his legs off to achieve this...




And there is where I left it...I'm probably going to have to work on the pilot next before placing him in the water, otherwise it'll be difficult to seal his joints and paint him.
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"The Hunt" - WIP


If you've never had the opportunity to watch the movie Bat 21, I recommend that you do so. Not so much for its entertainment value, as much as you'll know what the heck I'm talking about through this post. I watched that movie, starring Gene Hackman and Danny Glover, for the first time when I was a kid - give or take ten or eleven years old and it left quite an impression on me. I recall it being one of the first "grown up" movies that I watched and one that left me rather unsettled after certain scenes. But, it became one of my favorites, even despite its inaccuracies of which I learned as I grew older, and I'll still watch it when it appears on television these days.
As a matter of fact, it was just on recently which sparked the idea for this WIP called "The Hunt". Based on the last Star Wars vignette I did, you probably realize that I like to give that saga a modern update (after all, it was a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away). I like to make my Star Wars scenes take place "a few years ago, on a planet that is pretty close to ours". I find inspiration in our world and apply it to theirs. That is as simply as I can put it.

The idea for this diorama takes a scene from Bat 21 in which Gene Hackman's character has just parachuted to earth after his EB-66 gets shot down over Vietnam. After Hackman makes for the tree line, some Viet Cong discover his whereabouts and one of them picks up his discarded flight helmet, as you can see in the picture above. Without giving too much away, I intend to replicate a similar scene in which an indigenous person has located a downed Rebel pilot's flight helmet who has concealed himself nearby.

The chase is on. Let the hunt begin!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Latest Hobby Shop Haul


I've probably posted this photo before, but if you're unfamiliar with the heavenly vision you see above, let me introduce you to the best place on earth...AAA Hobbies in Magnolia, NJ. It is what we in the hobby call the LHS. Though, at a good 40 minute drive from my house it is hardly local but well worth the drive as you can obviously see!
This past weekend was Father's Day, so I made my way to the hobby shop along with my best good friend Mark, and my three year old son. Bringing my son can be quite a task considering all the wonderful planes, trucks, and cars in reach of his little fingers. But I know that the enthusiasm he displays on the outside, is the same excitement I have on the inside. I love this place, I just disguise it better than a three year old...

Now then, I should mention that my stash has outgrown its ability to be stored comfortably and my wife, who is quite logical, decided to ban any further kit buying until the stash is depleted...to which I reluctantly agreed. It was one of those arguments that I wasn't going to win any way. But, just because I couldn't purchase a kit doesn't mean I can't have any fun while I'm at the hobby shop. I just have to think of other needs. It kind of serves as a good challenge, and I might be the first modeler in history to complete their stash before the next century.
So what did I get?


An assortment of things. I used to subscribe to Finescale Modeler Magazine but, much like my stash, was simply taking up too much room, so I stopped. On occasion, I'll pick up an issue here or there, and in this case, AAA Hobbies gives away previous issue for FREE. Yes, no cost. So, I grabbed the four available issues. The wooden plaque is for the upcoming Star Wars diorama that, as of this writing, is ahead in the polls for my next project. There is a can of Testor's Dull Coat, two jars of Tamiya acrylic paint, and a little bottle of Vallejo Plastic Putty that I will be trying out. I was looking for Mr. Dissolve Putty, but they don't seem to carry it.
Wait, I know what you're thinking. You see two kits there, and you're saying I told the wife I'm not buying any more kits, right? Right. Technically, they aren't kits. Technically. They are accessories...a big difference. Consider if you will, the shoe was on the other foot, and I told the wife she can't buy any more outfits. Perhaps she comes home with a pair of shoes that compliment another outfit she already has. Perfectly acceptable, right? That's what I've done here.
I purchased a weapons loading set, and a set of aircraft ground crew equipment that will go perfectly with my previously finished Academy F-16. I'm in the NJ Air National Guard and serve as a weapons loader for F-16C's. So, I simply couldn't resist the opportunity to model myself doing what I do...


Neat, huh? Not a glamorous job by any means but still cool!
Any how, that is the long and the short of it. Hope I didn't make you all terribly green with envy at the greatness of my hobby shop, but if I did, I'm terribly not sorry because its the best place on earth. Don't hate.
Thanks for reading!

Eastern Front Vignette ~ "The Last Man" - Finished!


Well, it only took one previous episode before finishing this piece which is a testament to how simple these things can be, especially when you've already got the bits and pieces laying around from other builds. I'm rather pleased with how this one turned out, and I hope you are as well.
Before I jump in with the pictures, in no way do I intend to shock or offend by the addition of blood to the scene. To some, there may appear to be more blood than necessary but I'm hoping to convey a rather hopeless atmosphere for both characters involved. As modelers of military vehicles and components we can't kid ourselves by modeling things that make us and every one else comfortable. I think too often we simplify war with our models that show a bunch of GI's shooting the breeze over a few cigarettes, and romanticize it by focusing on the immense and impressive tanks and airplanes operated by these people. No, in this scene I wanted to show suffering. I just hope that its in as good taste as can be for such a subject.
Thanks.

The Last Man...








Thursday, June 13, 2013

Eastern Front Vignette - Episode I


Do you have a bunch of old models that you built a while back that you aren't sure what to do with? Perhaps they just don't meet your present standards? I have a handful that have been sitting in my shed for several years now. This pile includes a Panther, T-34, some figures, even a P-40. I'll even admit that three of them were donated to feed my son's enthusiasm for aircraft. You should see the state they're in!
Any how, I got the hankering for a quick vignette and I thought what better way to repurpose some old models than to use them here. I grabbed the turret off the old Dragon T-34/76, inspired by the photo above, together with some figures I painted a long time ago and set down to work.

If you've been following me for any length of time, you'll know that I like to use jar lids for bases, and this time was no different. I've even gone as far as collecting jar lids from co-workers who haven't the need for them any more. In this case, a Nutella lid was generously donated to the cause by a friend and co-worker of mine, and it'll do nicely for this scene. Then I cut some of my favorite basing material, oasis foam, and created some elevation...


I recommend painting it, otherwise it will look like your diorama is only good to a certain date. I gathered up some things, like an oil drum from a now defunct diorama, a jerry can, some scale bricks, and some wood to create the base. The wall is made of cork...


This is what it will look like with the figures in place...


I decided to paint the base first, that seems to be my new MO, and I like it. Gives me an idea of where the figures should go before spending time on finishing them. Instead of starting with a black base coat, I started with dark brown, which is more dirty, and earthy colored...


Some highlights were added to vary the paint color...


Then, my favorite thing since sliced bread, liquid mask was applied...


Green was shot over the liquid mask and the layers were blended together with a diluted spray of light gray...






Now all that remains is some dry brushing, fine detail painting, and some washes and the base will be ready for the figures. That is, once the figures are complete!
Thanks for following along...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Top 5 Things for Successful Dioramas

A diorama, in my opinion, can be one of the hardest pieces for a modeler to work on. One must put a lot of effort and resources into building a scene, and of course, the larger the base typically the more complex it is. This is probably one of the reasons I don't see very many of them on show room floors. There are a lot of things the modeler has to get right in order to produce a successful diorama, and I've compiled a few of them into a short list. Let's see if you agree with me.
Here we go...


5. Vegetation. 

Unless your scene takes place within a ruined city-scape, than avoiding the use of foliage is almost impossible. There are a wide range of resources available to recreate trees and bushes, grasses and flowers, and some are better than others. In my old days, I used to think a little static grass and lichen would suffice, but its fair to say I was just kidding myself back then. Smaller amounts of vegetation can be recreated quite easily with static grass, or stiff brush bristles, but if you're looking for an acre or two of forest or jungle, it gets a little tougher. If you're going to include plants, they must look like plants. Its at that point where investing in some aftermarket plants will come in handy, unless you want to painstakingly scratch build your own. Fredericus Rex and Kamizukuri are probably two of the best photo etch paper foliage manufacturers out there. They can help you. 

Vietnam diorama containing very well done jungle foliage - via NAM Models

4. Varying the Groundwork.

Look outside and you'll see, for the most part, the environment changes a great deal even across relatively small spaces. Though the vast plains of the Russian steppe are an exception, its always nice to see a diorama that uses different features in the landscape. Take a look at the picture below. The builder has made use of so many different elements - foliage, dirt, rocks, water, and elevation. Yes, elevation helps move the eye about the scene, calling attention to certain areas. There is a time and place for flat and barren, but I prefer more interesting landscapes...


More photos can be found HERE

The most interesting feature in a diorama may be water. I can't go a day on Facebook without seeing a diorama that includes a water feature. Most of the time, they are fantastically done and I get jealous, ready to throw in the towel. If you can nail water, then you've pretty much got it made in the diorama department. I've only done water a handful of times, to a result I was somewhat pleased with. But what I'm capable of currently doesn't hold a candle to this example...
Water allows you to add so much more to a scene, almost a whole other dimension. Its an eye catcher for sure, especially if you submerge something in it. It doesn't even have to be that much water, but if you can vary the ground work, even with a puddle or two (as in the Vietnam diorama above), it will go a long way. If you can figure out water, it'll take your diorama to a whole new level, one I haven't quite reached yet...


3. The Characters.

This is probably the easiest thing to do, but one of the most important. A diorama is a basically a snap shot of an event. Within that snap shot are the characters playing out the scene. Characters can be anything from armor to figures depending on what you're trying to depict. Arguably, its the models within the diorama that have to be the most well represented. I can't say how many dioramas I've seen that have failed to capture my attention because the models fell short - exposed seams, silvering decals, etc. Having outstanding ground work marred by a mediocre tank will fall flat every time. It just won't look right. Like a child learning to walk, its best to crawl first. Nail the modeling basics first - construction, painting, weathering, etc - before diving into a more complex diorama.
Why do I say this?....

2. The Blend.

Because everything in the scene must blend seamlessly. Each aspect must be given the same amount of attention. All the elements must flow from one character to the next. Whatever state the ground work is in must be transferred to the models in the diorama. If there is mud on the road, the tracks of the Sherman should be muddy. Conversely, there should be little mud if the tank is rolling through a grassy field. If water is a prominent feature, make sure items are wet that need to be so. Too many times I've seen vehicles look out of place because their state didn't match their environment. If you look at the pictures above, you'll see what I mean. Look how the dirt and mud of the jungle floor essentially goes all the way up to the troops themselves. Blending all the aspects together makes for a good diorama.

1. The Story Line

All dioramas should have a clear story line of some kind. It can be simple, like the several you see above, but it has to be obvious. Getting the composition right is first and foremost important because you don't want viewers looking at all your hard work scratching their heads and wondering what the heck is going on here. Randomness just doesn't have its place in a diorama. You don't want to depict a dramatic battle scene and have one lone Panzer Grenadier standing to the side with his MG42 slung over his shoulder. That just wouldn't make much sense. Know your story before you build, and don't be afraid to amend a few things as you go. If you have a good story, be sure to tell it right.


So, that's it. My top five list of things that can really make a diorama pop. I will say that I haven't nailed all of these aspects, but I'd like to think I'm improving. I believe that these are always my goals going in to a build, though some remain elusive (water), I'll just keep practicing until I can get them down.
I hope you enjoyed the read, and if you've got anything to add or even disagree with, feel free to comment and let me know!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Revell 1/48 B-25J - Finished!


It only took me about five years but finally, the Mitchell has reached completion. Until now, this model was the longest standing unfinished project on my shelf, so it feels good to finish it up, and will feel especially good to return it to my father who has been exceedingly patient!
Lets take a look at it...


The decals went on without much trouble. I was worried there would be excessive silvering but the gloss coat prior to setting them and then the dull coat afterwords really blended them into the finish without a problem. The chipping was done with a small pointed brush and Tamiya aluminum for a more direct application. Then the more random chips were applied with a piece of sponge dipped in the same aluminum paint...


Here you can see the step ladder provided by Revell to keep the kit from tail dragging should you neglect to weight the nose...



The underside was left relatively simple. Shielded from the sun, it wouldn't fade much. Plus, sitting on a shelf, and for the size of the model, it won't be handled a great deal meaning the underside won't be seen that often...


And there you have it. The first completed father/son build at the Combat Workshop. It is, by no means perfect, as the blemishes are never readily visible in photographs, but I'm really happy with the finish, and I believe my father will enjoy it as well.
Thanks for following along!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Revell 1/48 B-25J - Episode II


So its been a little while since I posted an episode for a build log but there is a reason for that. Mainly, I've decided that I'd rather have several episodes for each project containing lots of related content instead of having many smaller episodes posted containing really only bits and pieces of the build. This way, things will hopefully seem to flow a little better, and won't be so disjointed.
From here on out, I'm going to try and finish up each step of the project before posting on the blog. In this case, I've wrapped up painting on the B-25J, therefore, blog post...
Lets take a look.

To begin the process, in the same manner as the F-16 I did earlier this year, I painted the entire model flat black to start the three layer blend. To be honest, the B-25 looks pretty mean in all black, like an aerial assassin...


The next step is the white and this is where I think I made my biggest mistake. I failed to blend the black lines which resulted in a fairly stark contrast once the OD top coat was sprayed over...


Its working out in my favor so far, but for a little while I was worried the lines would be too thick and pronounced. But with the OD laid down and some subtle streaks and fading with some light gray, its starting to blend nicely...



I take it back. My biggest mistake came when I clumsily spilled some of the contents of the color cup on the top side of the starboard wing. This is one of the most disheartening experiences a modeler can have and immediately I think back to when I was a child and one of life's early frustrations (whatever it may have been) would cause me to kick just about every inanimate object in the house that I could find...


However, not to be foiled, I thought about a clever way of fixing it as well as adding some character to the bomber. Instead of stripping the paint and trying to match the OD base coat, I decided to paint the spoiled panel a completely different color. This way, I would fix the spill and make it look as though the B-25 had recently been repaired...


I did the same thing to a panel on the port side wing to kind of even it out a bit...


And voila! The results...



The control surfaces were lightened as well, which also adds some nice contrast. I'm all about contrast! No its time to paint the undercarriage.


Masking. Lots of masking. In this case, just white masking tape but I'll also use the blue painter's tape from time to time. Honestly, the blue tape is probably preferable as it is less tacky so you'll run less risk of pealing your paint...



I cover as much as I can without going over board. I don't like to finish a paint job only to realize I've applied paint to a surface that didn't need it...


I didn't document painting the underside for two reasons. One, its gray and kinda boring, not much to see there. And two, I intend on mounting this to a base meaning the underbelly will not be seen any way, so only a little color modulation was necessary.
I then painted the wing tips white, and masked the ring around the engine cowls so as to paint it yellow. And that did it for principle paint work.

Finally, the weathering. I found this great picture showing a terribly worn B-25 and wanted to give my model a similar treatment...


I didn't want it quite that dirty, but some where in between clean and what you see above. So I darkened some of the panel lines (again) inboard of the engines and created some exhaust stains using the handy airbrush...







The entire model got a coat of Future to gloss it up in preparation for the decals which will go on tonight.
I love it when a plane comes together....
Thanks for reading!

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