Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kubla Con 2012

I'm back from Kubla Con 2012 with trophies! All three of my entries managed to place and my "Happy Monk" took the People's Choice award this year.

I got some great advice from a couple of the judges after the show and I'll have some better models to show next year.

StuG III Ausf. B - Dragon Models - Gold
CMON voting link

Old Japanese Man Bust - Silver
CMON voting link

Happy Monk - Silver & People's Choice
CMON voting link

And I've already ordered the model for my next competition vehicle....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dragon StuG III Ausf. B - SO CLOSE!

The display base isn't going to happen. Alas. I do have a nice ebony oval for the competition, but I simply didn't have time to finish the breakfasting Germans to my satisfaction. I'm a bit disappointed but, in the end, still quite happy with the model that I will be taking to the competition.

I get a lot of well deserved flack for "over weathering" my vehicles. I really enjoy creating extreme weathering -- whether it's a long abandoned tank or one recently destroyed -- and I really enjoyed going back to something simpler.

This was a straight forward, no frills, no detailing build with just a few after market accessories. The ditch beams are scratch built from basswood and coloured with oil paints and pigments. The food stowage, to compliment the breakfast crew, is from Verlinden. The rest of the stowage, with the exception of the scratch built tread pins, in the spare road wheels, came stock with the kit.

There's more work to do on this tank when it comes home on Monday -- but in the interim it's ready for the competition and I'm happy with what I'll be taking.

I'll post some better pics when I get back.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dragon StuG III Ausf. B - The Home Stretch!

I'm finally in the final stages for this project and happy with how it's coming together.There's still a lot to do, and not a lot of time in which to get it done before the competition this weekend, but I'm sure it will be ready. Of course I have no idea how I'm going to transport the display without destroying the tree... but that's a separate problem.

The StuG itself is nearly complete at this point. I'll finish the weathering when I'm ready to attach the model to the base. Right now it's just sitting there -- likewise the figures are pinned but not glued as they're not finished either. This is just a composition check to make sure everything is where I want it and that it's all going to fit as planned.

Here you can see our happy tank crew enjoying a nice breakfast before they get back to killing and mayhem. I'm paying a lot of attention to how these guys look from the "front" arc of the display to make sure that the highlights all bring the eye to the tank. You can see some of that here, despite the poor lighting, in that the guy in the foreground has highlights on his shoulders to his right arm, the guy in front of him on his left arm, and the guy by the tank is brightest closest to the tank itself. All of the highlights work with the models themselves but the emphasis is placed to draw the eye to the central point -- the tank.

I left some negative space at the front corner so that the tank, tree, and crew would have a focus from the center of the "front" arc to draw the eye into the tank as well. I will add some bright, low foliage in that area to help with the focus.

And here is the nearly finished tree. I have some foliage to add and some to trim away. But if you look at the last StuG post you'll see that it started life as a wire armature. Unfortunately I couldn't find the foliage I really wanted so I've had to settle for my second choice. I had hoped to make this a birch but none of my local floral shops stock the dropping grasses I need. Alas.

I'll have final photos posted soon but probably not before the competition this weekend as time is getting tight.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Monk - Revisions

Well, I just couldn't leave well enough alone -- and this time the model is better for it. That's not always the case, of course.

I did a bit more smoothing on the shadows and highlights, touched up the skin a bit more, and added the branch -- complete with leaves on the base to tie the piece together a bit more.

The original "finished" photos are here and you should be able to spot the differences without much effort.

This guy will be coming with me to a competition so there's still a chance I'll make some minor improvements in the next few days. I see plenty of things that I'd like to change -- but I know that it's easier now to screw it up completely than it is to improve on what's there. Given that I really am happy with the model, especially with the new changes...

Maybe this time I'll leave well enough alone.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quick Tip: Individual Track Links

As I was sitting here working on the tracks for the StuG III Ausf. B kit it occurred to me that someone out there might like to know the method I use to keep the tracks from getting everywhere. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tutorial: Hull Texture - German Steel Plating

 Several people have asked me how I created the steel plating texture for my StuG III Ausf. B and so I put together this quick and easy video tutorial.

I am also working with Secret Weapon Miniatures to bring back the "ask misterjustin" series as a monthly video tutorial segment -- so stay tuned for more on that front... and get your questions ready! Ideally I will be answering viewer submissions every month as I seem to be much better about producing tutorials when I know that someone actually wants to see them. Go figure, right?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dragon StuG III Ausf. B - Texture & Paint

I've had a lot of people ask me about how to create the German forged steel texture and so I'm using this kit as a demo piece. I haven't done anything to the build at this point beyond adding spare track to the front so there won't be a lot of extra detail to distract from the texture.

I actually recorded a video demo today and hope to have time to get it finished this week. The technique is very simple and is a good, quick way to add texture, realism, and visual interest to a model. Plastic kits are too smooth and the finish always leaves something to be desired.

Of course even a simple demo kit deserves a nice home -- and so I'm working on a wire frame tree to have it moving through a field . The plan calls for a low fence as well but we'll see how that plays out after I put in the uneven ground.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Warlord Cromwell Mk. IV - Salvaging the Base

The first thing you should do when you're getting ready to approach a display model is think about the base and the setting. In the case of this project I completely failed to do that. I thought no further than using the shiny new baked ceramic bricks to make a road. I didn't even bother to consider that with a display this size 99.999% of the brick detail, especially the uneven treadway, would be UNDER THE TANK!


I didn't bother to consider the composition, colours, location... anything. And so this particular display has been a salvage project. I thought about what I would have wanted to do from the beginning -- and with the exception of the tank placement I have been somewhat sucessful.

First I added the wall. It's made from cut plaster and includes some creeping ivy.

Then I made the tree and added it to the base. I still need to apply some oil washes to help blend in the two bark materials -- which I also should have done before I added the foliage. Again, oops.

This project has been, more than anything else, an exercise in patience. I have been tempted to just toss it in the rubbish and start over. But I won't do that. I'm going to take it from where it's at and make it the best it can be. If nothing else it will serve as a reminder to plan out my other projects before I actually start work on them.

And besides, it's not BAD... it's just that it could be so much better.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Warlord Cromwell Mk. IV - Base Work

Earlier today I was ready to scrap the base for this project - despite the insane amount of time I had spent laying individual bricks for the road. At this point I'm feeling a bit better about it... but I'm still not happy.

In addition to the flagstone wall I have added earth to the bulk of the base. I'll colour that with some pigments and add bits of ground cover after everything else is finished.

But as it stands at this moment there's a 50/50 chance that the base could be scrapped altogether.

Warlord Cromwell Mk. IV

This is another great kit from Warlord Games --- this time the Cromwell Mk. IV -- that I decided to work on while mulling over ideas for my next big project. The weathering on this one is much more subdued -- and you can contrast the hull, which is nearly finished, to the turret which I haven't started weathering.

The turret will get an Allied star prior to the weathering. I added positioning marks around the turret. These would have been hand painted and so I kept the lines crisp and the numbers a bit rough. I'll add some chipping to them before the weathering starts.

I still need to add more pigment to the bricks, tracks, and road wheels -- and paint the handle on the shovel. Oops!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Inspiration - Weathering Tanks

This photo was taken during the protests in Egypt and is one of my all time favorite tank photos. It does an AMAZING job of showing what realistic weathering looks like on a well maintained, actively deployed, CLEAN tank looks like. Make no mistake, outside of a museum this is as clean as a tank gets.

One of the things that comes up a lot when we talk about weathering scale models is the fine line between well weathered and overdone. I think one of the things that really surprises people that haven't seen modern tanks in the field is how quickly they weather, how rough the surface is, how poorly they're painted, and how little the crews worry about keeping the paint fresh.

The photo above was taken recently in Sudan. You can easily see that the road wheels are pitted and rusty, the paint is chipped, the tracks are rusted where they're not being worn, and the front of the tank in positively CAKED in gunk.

This photo was taken on the family farm and actually belongs to a piece of well maintained, often used farm equipment. It's not pretty and the paint on the body is pretty bad. What matters is that it functions well and it's not falling apart. In the field, military or alfalfa, that's the most important thing.

This is a different view of the first photo that does a good job of showing just how worn and dirty this active duty tank really is.

And the question of what to do with a broken fender is pretty clearly answered in this one.

Here are some examples of tanks currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And here are some colour photos of WW2 era tanks in good shape that have been well maintained and whitewashed like you'd expect to see in the winter scenes.

But of course no discussion of tank weathering, especially winter tank weathering, is complete without a grainy, black and white historical photo. It is photos like this one that we're often forced to reference for historical projects -- and it can be made easier by taking MODERN photos and converting them to black and white. While you still have to do a bit of guesswork it does make it a little easier to sort rust from mud and whitewash from chipped paint.

Dragon Marder III M Ausf. -- Build

In between painting sessions on the Warlord StuG I have been building this Marder III M Ausf. from the Dragon Smart Kit line.

At 1/35 it is substantially larger than the pieces I have been posting recently -- nearly double the length of the StuG, and the Flames of War wreck would nearly fit in the engine compartment.

At this stage I spent more time building the engine that I did on the StuG from start-to-finish. That engine has something like 60 parts, including a lot of brass etch you'll never see, and had to be built and painted before I moved on.

I put the port side compartment in place even though it means I won't be able to paint a few of the tiny details -- but I'm leaving the starboard side off so that I can properly detail the radios and get it all painted.

I have started work on the hull texture but forgot to get the inside of the gun carriage compartment -- OOPS! Fortunately this space will be much less visible when the model is put together. Because I forgot on this side I will intentionally skip the texturing on the other when I start work on it.

Given that this tank includes individually linked tracks I will probably still be building it even after the next model is completely finished. Because of that I usually have three projects in the works at any time -- a build, a detail, and a paint. These days I'm doing two tanks and one figurine. So now that the StuG is finished, and this is my detail project, I need to dig through my projects and find the next tank....

Warlord Stug III - Final

So here we are, finally at the end of this project.

My friend Mathieu noticed in the last photos that I had forgotten to pigment or filter the hull by the skirts -- and so the German emblem was too clean and shiny. This made me realize that I had also failed to weather the inside of the skirts.

That, in turn, made me realize that I had forgotten to gloss the mud, add water to the skirts, melted snow to parts of the hull, water in some of the recesses of the engine where snow would have melted, and a few other little details like that.

At this point I feel pretty good about the model but chances are good I'll find something small to change, finish, or clean-up, but this is otherwise a completed project.

I think Warlord Games did an incredible job with this kit. At 1/56 scale the detail is crisp, the casts were clean, and I had very little to do beyond glue the model together before I could get started.

And now here's a composite shot of the layout showing some of the details on the base -- and then some high resolution individual shots of the tank.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Warlord StuG III - Almost Finished

I moved the stowage between the skirts - where it should have been in the first place. The pigments have been applied and sealed and all that remains is to give it one last inspection before I declare it finished. I'll set it aside for the today and come back to it with fresh eyes tomorrow.

Several people have asked me for a high resolution shot - and so here it is: the full composition in high definition!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Warlord StuG III - Progress

I'm probably 6-8 hours into this project at this point - and I can see the end. I need to finish detailing - such as the shovel on the model and the bits, like the white tool box, in the last photo - and then do the next round of pigments. I'm also going to make the razor wire coils much less red, of course.

The base will get a bit more snow, mostly to soften the edges of the current piles, and a bit more Realistic Water in spots.

I'm debating a filter over the side panels as well. Although I'm reasonably happy with the weathering, as I wanted it to be heavy, I think the colour transitions are a bit stark. Pigments might be the answer but if that doesn't do it I'll go for a wash filter.

I added some small conversion detail -- such as the bent side skirt panel on the port side, the missing panel on the starboard side, and the toolbox, razor wire, and posts to the back. I also added some subtle details to the base -- for instance the branch on the port side extends across the tread rut and there are tiny bits of broken wood floating in the puddle where the tank would have pulverized it.

For now I need to wait for the second coat of mud to dry on the road wheels and skirts. A layer also went on the hull before the skirts went on.

After that... pigments.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Warlord Stug III Ausf. G

I got a chance to get my hands on some of the Bolt Action models from Warlord Games while I was at Adepticon. Given the simplicity of these resin and metal kits I was VERY impressed by the detail and quality -- and very excited to have something I could paint in a hurry. The total assembly and detailing time on this guy is less than one hour. The total time spent at this stage is about four hours.

A kit like this gives me something to work on while I'm working on more complicated build or detail projects -- like the 1/35 scale Dragon Smart Kit Marder III M. Ausf. sitting on the table. I spent more time assembling the engine on that kit that I will on this project when it's finished, base and all.

Another nice thing about the Warlord kits is that they're 1/56 scale -- making them large enough to do some of the quick and simple detail work that can make such a big difference.

The before and after shots here show the work I did to create the German forged steel texture. It only took me 30-45 minutes with my rotary tool, putty, MEK, and sandpaper to get this texture. But without it I'd wind up with a tank that had a glass smooth, very unrealistic finish no matter how well weathered it was otherwise. It's simple effects like this that really up the ante on a vehicle.

Next up for this one: the road wheels, and mud on the hull by the tracks. Then the side plates go on and final weathering starts.