04 August 2017

A-Wing Roadster (1/48 scale model), Part 1


My main plan and inspiration for getting back into modelling after twenty years is to make projects that are unique and maybe have some personal motivation, but some of the recent Bandai kits have made me want to just build them as "traditionally" (straightforward and accurate to their appearance in the movies) as possible (namely their C-3PO and Y-Wing Fighter kits). In the past few years Bandai has been setting a new standard for kit molds with their amazing attention to detail and the near perfect fit of the parts.

Standard Bandai box art.

I'd already built an MPC A-Wing before, way back in 1993 (I'm even listening to Saga as I build this just as I did back then), but this new Bandai A-Wing was irresistable, so I ordered two, not having a concrete plan, but loosely figuring one would be traditional (as seen in Return of the Jedi, where they first appeared in 1983) and the other would be...something different...maybe a unique paint job, maybe lots of weathering and aging...something would come to me...

A-Wing sprue tree, part 1.

I'd been browsing Pinterest, looking for and finding lots of inspiration for the various model projects I've got in mind and, seeing a lot of wheeled vehicles turned into flying vehicles caught my attention and gave me some good ideas for that kind of conversion...but somehow my brain flipped the concept (perhaps subliminally influenced by having seen Colin Cantwell's original X-Wing Fighter model*) and I realized the basic shape of an A-Wing would lend itself to making a great race car.

A-Wing sprue tree, part 2.

I knew the racing slicks from the Revell donor kit would go in the rear, replacing the cylindrical engines, and I figured I'd simply attach the spoked front wheels to the front of the ship, keeping it compact. But the more I looked at that roadster picture, the more I realized I had to add the chassis frame to the front to make it more "road worthy."

The existing shape of the ship would remain mostly intact and be the main element of the design, so I didn't want to add too many extraneous details, so I'm pretending the engine is contained within the fuselage.

A-Wing sprue tree, part 3.

This kit is amazing, with better and more accurate detail than the larger MPC kit. The big question model builders are still debating decades later is what is the actual size of the ship? Some pictures of pilots in the A-Wing cockpit from Jedi indicate that this kit is really 1/48 scale (and the pilot figure is undersized), but some behind the scenes pics of the shooting model would suggest this is 1/72 and the small pilot is accurate.

The source contradicting itself like this has led to builders making adjustments like adding a 1/48 pilot to this kit (which I'm considering doing, since I have a 1/48 pilot from a Zvezda Messerschmidt I could use (pictured among the Revell parts)...if I include a pilot at all, that is).

Further complicating things is the dragster/roadster kits are in 1/25 scale, and that makes me lean more toward the 1/48 option (otherwise the wheels would be huger than huge!). Whichever way I go, I plan to chop off the back of the canopy, leaving the front bit as a windscreen.

Donor kits box art.

Some Revell parts.

I'm using this kit as a donor for various kitbashing and such (like using the dragster body for my Bird of Prey), so not everything is shown here, but much of this will become part of the roadster. I stripped the chrome off the parts I needed using Drano Max Gel. It took very little time and didn't negatively affect the plastic.

First assembly.

I put the chassis together before snipping and assembling any A-Wing parts just to get started. The shiny, off-white parts used to be chromed.

Gouging for axle.

I didn't have to drill through too much to install my axle at the back –in fact, it was just this one part that had to be channeled and gouged. That specific part is blurry, but you get the idea. At this time I was still planning on using an aluminum rod for the axle.

Widening for axle.

The metal rod that come with the kit wasn't long enough so I planned to use an aluminum rod (I have some leftovers from when I made all those fence posts), but I needed to adjust the wheel hubs to make it fit.

First test assembly.

Much of the A-Wing is assembled (I'm still debating whet to do with the cockpit and if I'm going to "scale it up" to 1/48) and the roadster chassis is mostly done, the rest is dry fitted together.

Hidden details.

Back here is where the ship's engines would go, so their absence reveals areas that are too flat and uninteresting for my taste, so I added some car engine parts to hot rod it up a bit –even though you might not see these details because of the big, fat slicks. That cut-out bit on the wing tip is where the guns would go, but I added some more engine parts instead.

I was right.

With the slicks in place, my details virtually disappear (the flat surfaces might have been fine as-is)...but I know they're there...and now so do you. That flat back section will get a parachute pack and eight exhaust pipes.

Not bad, so far.

This is a test fit of the model in its current state. I've got two styrene rods coming out of the side channels of the fuselage (where the concussion missiles launch from) to further reinforce the chassis (which I might shorten a bit). I've added the intake for the engine supercharger to the front of the A-Wing where the double door access panels used to be (I filed them off).

Could be shorter.

I bought an airbrush a few months back and I've yet to try it out and learn how to use it, so, until I get some painting practice in, this is the state in which my A-Wing Roadster will remain. This'll give me some time to figure out what to do with the cockpit, which will determine the final scale of this thing.

Also, I'll need to design a nice paint scheme...maybe something sporty and retro in a 1970s style...a tribute to the era Star Wars came out in while also being a vague homage to these bizarre model kits:

Actual late-1970s MPC model kits.

*Original X-Wing Fighter concept
model by Colin Cantwell.

When I first saw this model it looked to me (and still does today) like Cantwell kitbashed a dragster body for the forward fuselage of his X-Wing, which makes it look faster than most airplane fuselages. The final X-Wing design used in the films is great, but I like the idea of a flying dragster –maybe one day I'll turn an X-Wing (back) into a dragster...








03 August 2017

Scale Models Projects Hub


To make my modelling projects easier to find, I've created this main hub for my three genre-specific sub-hubs. You can still read about my return to modelling by clicking the preceding hyperlinked phrase or by clicking on the Small Pond Shipyard logo at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!















30 June 2017

HOME – a painting collaboration with Celia Sage

Born & Bred & Bored & Dead
by Milé Murtanovski 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Home Away
by Celia Sage 
24" x 24", collage and oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Where the Heart Is
by Milé Murtanovski 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Home Builder
by Celia Sage 
24" x 24", collage and oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Always on My Mind
by Milé Murtanovski 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Home Range
by Celia Sage 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Conform or Be Cast Out
by Milé Murtanovski 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Homemaker
by Celia Sage 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Scarberian Rhapsody
by Milé Murtanovski 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]

Home Made: Squall Shadowed Hills
by Celia Sage 
24" x 24", oil on canvas, 2017
[Phase One]


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ABOUT the HOME PROJECT

You can scroll down to read the lengthy description in the Origins section below for more details, but here's the gist of this project:

Celia Sage and I each painted five paintings on the theme of "HOME," then we traded pictures and painted over half of each other's work. The final ten paintings will be shown in August at the House of Falconer in downtown Picton alongside photos of their original versions.

This post contains all ten original paintings, and, after the exhibition, the new "hybrid" final versions will all have their own post.



Opening reception is on August 1 at 7:30pm.


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ORIGINS of the HOME PROJECT

Up until now, all of my personal painting projects have been solitary endeavours where I come up with the ideas and images, and then I paint by myself, and that's that. And I like working like that. But I have long envied the collaborative nature of other art forms (specifically, music, theatre, and film) and I wondered if I'd be able to make something like that happen for me with painting (I know others have done so to varying degrees, but I need my own thing).

First, I needed a suitable project; this wouldn't simply be a show by two painters –we'd have to actively make the final product together in some way. Sure, I could "jam" with someone and do a bit here, they do a bit there, simultaneously on the same canvas, but I find the end result of that kind of effort too random and unfocused, compositionally –I need more control over the final images.

I had one idea for a project that could be adapted to a collaborative version, to wit, we each would create the same number of paintings on the same theme, trade them when they were done, then we would paint over half of each other's original paintings with a "response" to what they'd done, working within the same theme as before.

That sounded like a perfect project for me and a willing cohort: weird, exciting, challenging, and potentially mildly controversial (we're painting over another artist's work!). All I needed now was a willing cohort...

And the first person that came to mind was Celia Sage.

I'd admired her paintings since I first moved to PEC in 2010 and in my many conversations with her about art, I felt that, not only were we on the same page concerning a variety of art topics, but we were in the same paragraph. Her work is of a high calibre and not too dissimilar to my own, but still very identifiable as hers, so our respective styles would complement each other well for this project. So there was no short list; there was only Celia. If she wasn't into this project, I would have then had to make a list of people to ask. I approached Celia in late 2015 about this and I was very pleased, but not surprised, when she agreed to participate in this weirdness. I trusted her to give me great paintings to work with and also to do great stuff with my paintings.

We initially planned for an exhibition in 2016, but our already busy schedules dictated a later date would be best and a longer gestation/production period would give us the opportunity to make the best work we can. We talked with Alex Fida about a show at the House of Falconer in August 2017 and he was happy to accommodate us.

PROCESS

We met a few times to discuss potential themes and specific parameters: we would each paint five 24" x 24" paintings, primarily oil on canvas (but other media could be used as needed/wanted), then we would cover up exactly half of the other person's work for Phase Two. This division could only be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal –for simplicity; it would be too complicated to scatter our half all over the painting or do it in quarters or whatever.

For this initial collaboration I felt keeping it as simple as possible was best; I like working within strict limitations/guidelines and seeing how far I can push the boundaries –after all, we could mess around with other divisional/conceptual permutations on future projects. Other than those guidelines, I wanted her to feel absolutely free to paint whatever she wanted/needed to.

After whittling down an already rather short list, we agreed that "HOME" was a good universal theme that would give us lots of leeway for interpretation and images. The theme might have been a bit too universal as the challenging part of Phase One was limiting ourselves to only five paintings!

We kept our ideas a secret during this phase because I didn't want us to influence each other in any way (perhaps a painting I was planning was too similar to Celia's, I'd maybe reconsider doing it, or she would see I hadn't covered a certain subject, so she'd feel like she might want to, and so on).

PHASE TWO

By February 2017 Celia and I had each finished our five paintings and met at Small Pond for the trade...

Celia paints around to her edges;
I paint my edges black.

Now, let me be absolutely clear: I had no doubts about asking Celia Sage to collaborate with me on such an unusual project...but IF I DID...if I had even the faintest whisper of a ghost of a shadow of a doubt...it would have vanished as soon as I saw her five paintings. Celia delivered work with lots of variety, interest, and beauty (as I knew she would), but what I didn't expect was that our paintings had some key elemental similarities that it looks like we'd planned them!

In a theme as universal as "HOME," and having only five paintings in which to explore that theme, some similarities are inevitable, I guess...but some of ours were uncanny: we each painted family members; we each used one word as a prominent design element; we each have floating objects; we each have some kind of surreal landscape; we each have a sort of map element; while the overall group of ten paintings is quite colourful, we each have a rather limited colour palette within the individual paintings; and, rather than taking an objective, conceptual approach to the theme, we both went with a highly subjective, autobiographical approach.

I know that painting over Celia's beautiful work is an integral part of this project, but it took me a long time to get up the nerve to tape off and "delete" half her work with white gesso.

Phase Two wasn't about using pre-planned ideas or ideas left over from Phase One; this time we had to take into consideration what the other had painted and respond to that while staying on-theme.

Stay tuned for more Process and the final paintings from Phase Two after the show in August...


16 June 2017

Hat Trick

24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2017, (after Johns)

Peter and Alice of Blizzmax Gallery had asked if I would like to participate in their One 5 Oh Canada show celebrating Canada's 150th birthday this summer and, always happy to be part of a Blizzmax show, I said yes, not knowing right away what I could/would/should submit for inclusion. With an eye towards positivity and celebration (rather than grim political commentary) I settled on aping a couple of Jasper Johns paintings of American flags and giving them a Canadian twist.

This one is a riff on his Three Flags (1958) which I did in oil (rather than his encaustic on canvas) and is much smaller than his work. Because I used a different medium, I had to create an illusion of depth as well as rely on many layers of gesso and paint for actual texture. My flag paintings are less complex as a result, but no less fun and whimsical.

My other painting is a Canadian version of his White Flag (1955) which I titled Snowblind.

Creating the illusion of stacking.

Over a few layers of gesso (for added texture) I did as precise a tracing as possible of the maple leaf in our flag because accuracy was important here. The design of the leaf in the Canadian flag is almost impossible to draw freehand and almost no one can get it right.  The proportions of the other elements vary in my flag paintings, but the leaf HAD to be correct.

Then after I covered the surface with orange acrylic for my ground colour (as usual), I reinforced the shadows of the two top flags with black acrylic to give the illusion of stacked forms (Johns made three flags and stacked them while mine is decidedly flat).

Almost there...

As with my white flag, I applied some dark acrylics for depth and to assist in illusion of shadows, then went straight to oil colours getting to this point, which is pretty close to what I want –another few hours of touching-up (some reddening of the reds, some darkening of the shadows, and some brightening of the whites) once this stage is dry and I'm happy and the paintings is ready for the show.




13 June 2017

Snowblind

24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2017, (after Johns)

Peter and Alice of Blizzmax Gallery had asked if I would like to participate in their One 5 Oh Canada show celebrating Canada's 150th birthday this summer and, always happy to be part of a Blizzmax show, I said yes, not knowing right away what I could/would/should submit for inclusion. With an eye towards positivity and celebration (rather than grim political commentary) I settled on aping a couple of Jasper Johns paintings of American flags and giving them a Canadian twist.

This one is a riff on his White Flag (1955) which I did with just oils on canvas (rather than his encaustic, oil, and charcoal on canvas) and is much smaller than his flag. Because I used one medium instead of three, I had to create an illusion of depth as well as rely on many layers of gesso and paint for actual texture. My flag paintings are less complex as a result, but no less fun and whimsical.

My other painting is a Canadian version of his Three Flags (1958) which I titled Hat Trick.

Nice and sharp.

Over a few layers of gesso (for added texture) I did as precise a tracing as possible of the maple leaf in our flag because accuracy was important here. The design of the leaf in the Canadian flag is almost impossible to draw freehand and almost no one can get it right.  The proportions of the other elements vary in my flag paintings, but the leaf HAD to be correct.

Then after I covered the surface with orange acrylic for my ground colour (as usual), I reinforced the perimeter of the leaf with black acrylic.

Okay, Blue Jays!
(or whatever)

I wanted the white to sit atop a range of dark colours so as not to be pure, flat white, so I started with some cyan (in acrylic so it would dry faster –speed at this stage was important because the show was coming up soon and I wanted to give myself lots of time for the pure white oil portion).

More underneathness.

Still using acrylics I added some brown and green to vary the colours and then emboldened the outside border with more black.

Almost there...

This is the first round of white oils and the colours underneath are showing through nicely, but another session of pure white (once this stage was dry) would be needed for stronger coverage and the look I was after (not a copy of Johns, but capturing the essence of his paintings in my own idiosyncratic way).


28 May 2017

TARDIS (Study Model) 1/12 scale


I've wanted a TARDIS since I first started watching Doctor Who in the late '70s during Tom Baker's run which I watched on TVOntario on Saturday nights (with a repeat on the following Thursday which I also tried to catch). My mother didn't try to prevent me from watching the show but she didn't really like it –not because of the scary monsters, but because she was worried The Doctor would trip over his long scarf! This caused her much anxiety and me much amusement.

Anyway, Doctor Who merchandise was pretty scant in Canada, so getting some kind of toy or model TARDIS (or sonic screwdriver or overly long scarf) was beyond me for most of my life...but the show was enough and I enjoyed much of it.

A night's work.

I'd used cereal boxes for my study models of the Bata HQ in Toronto and an a-frame restaurant prior to this project, but, in researching architectural modeling materials, I was introduced to chip board, a sturdy cardboard-like material (similar to mat board, which is typically used when framing pictures). This stuff is great to work with and is cut easily with a utility knife (just make sure the blade's sharp...and use many light cuts (along a metal ruler) instead of a few heavy cuts). Regular white glue would suffice, but I used wood glue for a stronger bond.

Familiar...but sloppy.

After literally hours of searching online, I finally found some plans for a police box and divided the measurements by 12 to scale it down to a manageable size (but it might be fun to try to build a full-sized one!). Some of my measurements were off (the roof angle needs to be shallower, the four sign boxes need to be slightly taller, and the wall/door insets need to be slimmer and more rectangular). I was translating imperial to metric, fractions to decimals, estimating much of it, just to figure it out and get a handle on building these forms...but that's what study models are for. Now that I know which measurements to correct (I'll take a trip to Logopolis for some block transfer computations just to be sure), I can build a better-looking one next time in balsa wood. Eventually...

Ghostly, but better.

One side of the chip board was white, but the back and the edges are a tan cardboard colour, so I decided to use some white gesso to cover this up and unify the overall look. A pleasant surprise was that the gesso served as a gap-filler so it helped with just more than the colour.

The lamp cover was made from card stock-like paper from a flyer and the lamp itself is a few pieces of clear plastic from a package. I used a black Sharpie to line the windows and mark up the front panel details. The St. John Ambulance badge is simply blue pen.

Painted and Shopped.

I really like the look of a white TARDIS, especially after the gesso tidied everything up, making it look like a proper architectural model, but I was eager to see this in its proper blue, so I got out some acrylics and got to work. I started with a dark coat of navy blue and then two coats of cyan, allowing some of the dark to show through in the corners and shadowy areas here and there, adding a nice texture.

I was also eager to see what it looked like with windows and signage in place, so I Photoshopped those elements onto the model, planning to add printed details later.

Lamp parts.

Using leftover parts from the food truck model kit (which I transformed into the Small Pond Arts Puppet Wagon) and the Romulan Bird of Prey, I'll be adding a working lamp to this study model (and probably transferring it to the new balsa wood version whenever that gets built). Pictured above is one of the LEDs which is part of the lighting system I'm installing in the Romulan ship, but my TARDIS light will be the same, only flashing.

Printed details.

After getting colour prints of the window and signage details I carefully cut them out...but then realized I didn't have any glue handy where I was...so I rummaged and found some Gorilla Glue. Good stuff, but not for paper (note the discolouration) and it doesn't dry clear. I was impatient and should have waited until I could get my hand on some white glue. I can still fix this with a minor paint touch-ups and applying my spare cut-outs. The "Police Box"graphics need to be longer and the boxes themselves need to be a smidgen taller.

Spare details added.

Above is the TARDIS with four new window cutouts, as well as a new phone box label and St. John Ambulance badge...it looks good out in the sunshine at Small Pond Arts, checking out the new silo banner.

All in all, this was a very fun and quick project in where I learned a lot about building with chip board, which I think is a great material, especially for my future study models.