Friday, 22 September 2017

Game of Thrones Bronn [WIP - Facial Skin Tone & Lips Revisited]

A while back ago I had stopped working on Bronn - a Game of Thrones character that I'm portraying using a Nocturna Models resin figurine - because I had reached a point whereby each attempt at correcting a mistake was resulting in yet more mistakes. I needed to take a step back. Time off, if you will, to work on other projects before coming back to this avaricious Westerosi sellsword. 

Bronn the Sellsword with his facial skin tones reworked for smoother transitions
Corrective work was also carried out on his upper and lower lips

Unfortunately, there was a price to pay for this long hiatus. Because I had painted Bronn during a period in-real-life when many things were going wrong, I was distracted to the point that I forgot to jot down his skin tone paint recipe. Previously I contemplated up to three skin tone colour schemes, one of which I had actually posted online. But for the life of me I couldn't remember which colour scheme I eventually used. So I tried the best I could to match the existing skin tones, the results of which you see here in this post. All things considered, I think his face turned out pretty okay.   

Bronn's blade was mildly weathered with Vallejo Engine Grime and Citadel Agrax Earthshade
Greenish hues are inherent in the paints used for his skin tone

There were two key issues I had to resolve. Firstly, the shadowed areas of his forehead creases were too wide and transitions were too abrupt. Apart from the forehead, the other issue involved Bronn's upper lip which was indistinguishable from his mustache. Both mistakes only came to my attention when I took macro photographs of Bronn's face (before pictures can be seen here) as they were not really visible to the naked eye. But the mistakes still rankled so I went back in with a Kolinksy Sable brush to touch up his forehead creases as well as paint his upper lip back on to the face.

I have seen dwarfs and dragons but it's the lioness that scares me

So Bronn is about done. All that's left to do is give him a once over and touch up any spots I may have missed. Hopefully it won't be anything major so I can post completed photos soon. Reworking Bronn's skin tone has made me realize how much I miss painting miniatures. As such I'll try to work in some figurine painting sessions in between time spent on my Star Wars and AFV scale model kits. Looks like I've some juggling to do with this triad of hobby projects. At the very least, it should challenge me to improve on a wider spectrum of skills. More importantly though, it'll be three times the fun. Until next time, thanks for reading and have yourself a great weekend.

Monday, 18 September 2017

T-55A Medium Tank [WIP - Assembly Part 3 of 3]

Having had it easy all this while with the assembly process of miniature figurines, I used to bitch and moan about how the Knight Models metal figurines can sometimes be a real challenge to assemble. But looking back now, it was precious experience gained which made for a much smoother transition into the world of armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs). So yet another step in my journey through the miniature/scale model hobby has been taken with the assembly of the Tamiya T-55A medium tank. 

Tamiya T-55A Medium Tank: Largely assembled and awaiting a primer coat
Tracks, tow cables, fuel drums, unditching log, snorkel and crewman will be painted separately before final assembly

Of all the different sections of the tank, its turret was the hardest of all to put together. There were a lot of small and fiddly parts to work with. In particular, the turret hooks and searchlight assembly were problematic, and both for different reasons. While the hooks were easy to glue onto the turret, their extremely tiny size meant that when I accidentally 'pinged' a few right across the room I had a hell of a time looking for them. Meanwhile, it was fairly difficult to keep the searchlight's many small parts in the correct position relative to one another and glue them together. Difficult but doable.    

Level of detail was highest on the T-55A turret ...
... hence it was the most challenging section to put together

What struck me most during assembly of the T-55A were the need for new tools which weren't required even on a particularly difficult miniature figurine build. Two such tools are hobby clamps and the pin vise/drill bits. While I had used the latter before to drill muzzle holes on a Space Marine's boltgun, AFV model kits need a wider range of hole sizes to be drilled. With the T-55A being a simpler model, only two sizes were needed i.e. 1.0 mm and 1.5 mm. But more complex kits such as Meng Model's Russian ZSU-23-4 Shilka require hole sizes ranging from 0.6 mm to 2.4 mm.  

Additional must-have tools for the assembly process: pin-vise, micro-drills and hobby clamp
Steps 12 and 13 of the T-55A assembly process: behold the tiny hooks
A miss-step saw thin glue seep into the hobby-clamp and slightly damage the turret surface

And as for the hobby clamps, they are usually required to hold two large parts together while the glue takes hold. A slight mistake on my part saw some of the extra thin glue flow into the clamps via capillary action. Luckily for me, the damage was not too extensive. Moreover I do not expect the damage to be very visible if at all once the primer, basecoat and weathering has been applied.

Tiny hooks in comparison to a paperclip and a five sen coin ... See? I wasn't exaggerating how small they are
Hooks were positioned according to the Czechoslovakian Army tank version
Basics of the turret completed i.e. up until Step 13 of the instructions

Apart from the hooks and searchlight, the rest of the turret came together painlessly. The only other issue of note was "storage box on turret (b)" whereby one of the four connecting points didn't touch the turret surface leaving a slight but obvious gap. To resolve this, I cut out a tiny piece from the excess sprue, wedged it between the gap and then applied extra thin glue onto it to melt the pieces together. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of this issue so you'll have to take my word for it. 

Assembly of the first few turret pieces that are specific to the Czechoslovakian Army T-55A
Instructions for yet more turret parts that are specific to the Czechoslovakian Army version
Final two steps of the T-55A build comprising the tank commander and standard turret pieces
Czechoslovakian Army T-55A turret build completed
Tank commander sits atop a superbly detailed turret

With the help of a bucket-load of patience the turret eventually came together piece by piece, little by little. Details are impressive for this tank from the cold war period and I can't wait to get started priming and painting the T-55A. Although a lot of hobby hours have been put into the assembly process, a lot more hours of painting and weathering lie ahead before the tank can be brought to life.

Except for the commander, unditching log, tracks and tow cables, everything else will be basecoated in olive drab

At least now I have an inkling of the work (i.e. hobby-hours) involved in putting together a 1/35 scale AFV. Moreover working on a relatively straightforward build has allowed me the opportunity to 'dip my toes' into AFV model kits of this scale. Going forward, there will arguably be much tougher or at least more complex builds e.g. Meng and Trumpeter kits. But for the moment, it's valuable experience gained and most importantly it has been fun. That's why we have this hobby after all.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Star Wars Snowspeeder [WIP - Upper and Lower Hull]

After detailed work on snowspeeder pilots Wedge Antilles and Wes Janson, it was time to move on to the vehicle's bare upper and lower hulls. Before any weathering effects are attempted, however, my plan is to first give the entire snowspeeder a simple off-white basecoat, orange stripes and black-grey panel lining. All the separate pieces will then be assembled together for the final weathering process. First things first though. It's always important to get the basics right first. And for the Rebel Alliance snowspeeder this meant getting the proper hues for its entire hull.    

Bandai Star Wars 1/48 scale Snowspeeder, work-in-progress on the upper and lower hulls
Orange hues on the Snowspeeder hull are much redder than the pilots' flight suits
Effect of chipping fluids on brush-on acrylic paints, after either a 30 minutes or 18 hours drying time

Each modeller will have his or her interpretation of what is considered a movie-accurate hue for a particular Star Wars vehicle. This is complicated somewhat by the fact that colours behave differently at different scales. While there are after market paints which claim to have recipes closely resembling actual mixes used in the movies, I simply chose paint colours that I judge to be close enough. In this case, I used the Tamiya AS-20 Insignia White (US Navy) for the primary hue on the hull. As for the orange stripes, I used a 8:2 ratio of Vallejo Model Color Clear Orange and Carmine Red.

Bandai's plastic was given a primer, basecoat and clear coat to protect it from subsequent enamel-based weathering
Lower hull after a basecoat of Tamiya AS-20 Insignia White (US Navy) and a layer of Gloss Clear Coat
Bandai plastic is susceptible to cracking when coming in contact with enamel-based products so tread lightly
Lower hull after panel lining with a 2:1 mixture of black and grey Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color
Upper hull after panel lining with a 2:1 mixture of black and grey Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color

Prior to applying panel lining, a clear coat (Tamiya TS-13) was sprayed on to protect the underlying paint as well as the notoriously weak Bandai plastic. Based on previous experience, any form of oil/enamel solvents will likely cause its plastic to become brittle and crack. It was only once the clear coat had dried overnight before I proceeded to apply a 2:1 mixture of the Tamiya Panel Line Accent Colors Black and Grey. Even then care should be taken not to over expose the plastic to enamel thinners which are used primarily to clean up excess panel lining.   

Tamiya Masking Tape is a great product which is gentle on the underlying paint layers
Masking tape was used to delineate the orange areas
Reddish orange will be painted within the area masked off by the tape
Even on the smallest areas, masking tape was used to ensure a clean edge

Subsequently, the reddish orange stripes were painted onto the upper and lower hulls. Even though I was hand-painting it with a brush, it still helped to first mask out the areas so that the stripes would look clean and straight. After a series of tests (see third photo above), I settled on using a combination of AK Interactive Worn Effects and 

Vallejo Model Color acrylic paints are used in combination with AK Worn Effects for a chipped paint effect
Snowspeeder orange is an 8:2 mixture of Vallejo Model Color Clear Orange and Carmine Red
 The acrylic paint was painted over a layer of AK Worn Effects which had dried over a period of about 30 minutes 
After the paint had dried overnight, a chipped paint effect was created using wet, hard brushes and a toothpick

Things are slowly taking shape but it's early days yet. What struck me about the snowspeeder so far is how different the work flow has been from the Tamiya T-55A I'm building. In the Bandai kit's case, I've largely painted the separate pieces before assembling while for the Tamiya kit it has been practically the reverse i.e. assemble before paint. Interesting to say the least. I'll have to have a couple of more AFV model kits under my belt before I can say for sure if this is the work flow norm. 

Snowspeeder's bare upper/lower hulls with with an off-white basecoat, reddish orange stripes and dark grey panel lining
Closeup of the chipped paint effect achieved using Vallejo Model Color paints and the AK Worn Effect solution

Right at the end I couldn't resist painting the foot pedals on the pilot's side of the cockpit area (see immediate photo below). It is highly likely that the pedals will be hidden from view once the entire cockpit area and canopy are assembled. But the obsessive-compulsiveness in me took hold and I painted them anyway. In for a penny, in for a pound as they are wont to say.

I couldn't resist painting the foot pedals although they'll most probably be hidden from view

Up next for the snowspeeder will be its power generator (back engine), cooling fins and yet another hidden from view part i.e. the canopy roof. Until then, I should finish assembling the Tamiya T-55A tank and get some research reading done for a future project (it's a King Tiger if you must know). This week has reached it's mid-point so here's wishing you the best for what remains of the week.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

T-55A Medium Tank [WIP - Assembly Part 2 of 3]

Assembly of the Tamiya T-55A medium tank continues with the addition of a variety of parts on its upper hull. Adding details that greatly enhance the tank's overall look, these parts consist of fender fuel tanks, fuel drums, storage boxes, headlights, spare tracks, grilles, exhaust, driver's hatch, tow cables, a snorkel, and an unditching log. Each piece contributes to a more interesting upper hull.

Tamiya T-55A Medium Tank build, work-in-progress (Part 2 of 3) - front upper hull
Tamiya T-55A Medium Tank build, work-in-progress (Part 2 of 3) - rear upper hull 

Continuing from where I left off, Step 6 saw the start of my frustrations with this kit's assembly process. The headlights, especially, were a nightmare to work with. Tiny parts with rounded surfaces combined with small areas of contact between surfaces meant gluing them together was almost an exercise in futility. Getting the headlights to stay in the correct position before applying glue was nigh impossible. I improvised by first lightly coating the parts with extra thin glue. This allowed the headlights to stick long enough to the opposing surface in order to be positioned correctly. Once the parts were in their proper position, more glue was applied to form a stronger bond.    

Of the two parts in Step 6, the headlight was tougher (nay, a nightmare) to assemble
Front end of the T-55A takes shape with the addition of its headlights, tow hooks, driver's hatch etc.
Closeup of the detailed parts on the T-55A's front end

After the fiddly nature of the headlights, the remaining parts of the T-55As' front upper hull were thankfully much easier to assemble and quickly fell into place. Details of note on the front upper hull include, among others, fender fuel tanks, storage boxes, spare tracks, driver's hatch and tow hooks. 

Fender fuel tanks, spare tracks and storage boxes add more detail to the front upper hull
T-55A Medium Tank, front upper hull with requisite parts (after Steps 5 through 7)

Then it was the rear upper hull's turn. Tamiya AFV model kits rarely include photo-etch parts but at least a mesh was provided to simulate the grilles. Measuring the mesh against a 1:1 scale diagram representation of the grille size, I proceeded to cut out four rectangular pieces of mesh (see below). These were an accurate fit for the relevant rear upper hull sections, and subsequently glued in place. 

A mesh was cut into four correctly sized pieces used to simulated grilles on the rear upper hull
Grille set (left) and storage boxes (right) for the T-55A's rear upper hull
Early stages of the assembly for the T-55A rear upper hull parts
At this stage, the rear upper hull still looks bare with more parts yet to be added

Yet more stowage boxes and fender fuel tanks completed the rear upper hull assembly. The only other accessory for the T-55A's upper hull were its tow cables which will be painted separately before being attached. Tamiya used a string to mimic the textures of a tow cable, which was fairly sufficient.

Rear upper hull looks much better with the addition of storage boxes and fender fuel tanks
T-55A Medium Tank, rear upper hull after Steps 8 and 9

Meanwhile, lots of cool details such as fuel drums, a snorkel and an unditching log were added to the T-55A's rear end. The snorkel in particular was specific to the T-55A version I was building namely the medium tank found in the Czechoslovakian army during the cold war. Both the fuel drums and unditching log were pretty much standard fare for almost all T-55/T-55A versions.

Yet more detail on the T-55A rear end (fuel drums, snorkel and log) and fenders (tow cables)
Fuel drums, a snorkel, an unditching log/beam and tow cables
T-55A Medium Tank's rear end (after Steps 8 through 10)

While steps 6 through 11 had rough moments, it wasn't anything a little patience couldn't solve. Tamiya's reputation for easy-to-assemble kits is well-earned and the difficulty I faced is largely in relation to what I'm used to before (snap-fit parts from Bandai or straightforward miniature figurine assembly). Only one-third of the assembly process to go before I have a T-55A ready for priming and painting. Next up will be the pièce de résistance of the kit, or any tank model kit for that matter, i.e. the turret. Until then, it's back to work on the snowspeeder. Updates in the next post, of course.

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