As a kid, I spent a lot of time playing – as most kids do. Whether it was riding my bike, climbing trees, digging holes in the ground, running through the woods, or swimming in nearby ponds, outdoor activity consumed my days.
Most of the time, I was with friends. It might be a few close buddies, or a larger group. No matter what the case, though, it almost always included one aspect that most adults lose sight of.
No matter what the activity, imagination ruled. You didn’t just play football. You played football wearing the jersey of your favorite team and player. It wasn’t Jon dropping back to pass, it was Bart Starr. Jon and Curtiss didn’t ride their bikes racing down the hill, it was Spock and Kirk. Or two of Boyington’s Black Sheep. Digging a foxhole in the woods behind the neighborhood wasn’t just making a hole in the ground, it was preparing for a Nazi assault. Or to defend against the evil forces of the Empire. (And sometimes that distinction was even blurred… 😉 )
And while I loved pretending to be both historical and fictional characters, it always seemed to gravitate to the scifi realm. While I could read about real battles, and see the occasional movie, scifi was front and center every day. It was on TV. My lunch box was Star Trek. My t-shirt was Star Wars. I had the giant Space 1999 toy.
And the variety of models I built reflected this. Spitfires and X-Wing fighters occupied my model shelf. My action figures (they’re not DOLLS! 🙂 ) were both GI Joe and Star Trek.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, though I knew Star Trek and Star Wars and Space 1999 and so many others were fiction… yet I always sort of hoped that maybe, just maybe, this stuff could be real. One day.
Losing The Past
When I got back into modeling in 2006, for some reason I was drawn immediately to historical aircraft. It was not that I made a decision to exclude other genres, but I never really took a serious look outside of World War II single engined fighters.
And for a while I was quite happy – pretty much an entire decade. But at some point, I realized I’d built everything I wanted to build, multiple times. Though at one time the repetition was fun, somehow, without notice at first, it became a burden. Not only did boredom set in, but it’s sinister older brother, frustration, came along with him.
And kicked my butt they did.
A change was in order, one that took me back to the roots of when I’d had fun. Of those days when imagination ruled.
Little did I know it, but scifi was rising from a sea of drab green and neutral gray.
Finishing The Viper Mk. II
In the last exciting episode of Viper Mk. II tales, I’d painted the airframe, and detailed how I’d painted the red stripes. After I had some time to examine the work a few days later, I realized that though the stripes looked good, the coverage of the white was still a bit spotty.
I’ve probably mentioned it before… at my age I tend to say the same stuff over and over 😉 … but painting white can be difficult. Not so much the simple process of getting the paint on. Rather, getting good coverage, especially if you’re not going for a preshade effect, can be daunting.
The simplest way to describe what can happen is to compare it being out in the snow for a long time. There’s so much white all around that the things inside the eye that makes us see get a bit “blown out”… much like pointing your camera suddenly at a white object. Staring at it continually seems to degrade the eye’s ability to properly see white. After a while, things that aren’t fully white suddenly seem to be so.
When airbrushing white paint, I always try to do so over a coat of light gray, to try to counter this effect. It helps me see a bit more contrast as I apply paint, assisting me in knowing when an area is fully covered. I also split the paint session down into two parts. A break of about an hour seems to be a reasonable amount of time to allow my eyes to “reset”. I then like to examine the model under “standard” lighting first. We all have plenty of light above our work areas, generally, but that very bright light can contribute to the “snow blindness”. So by checking the model in more normal light, it allows the light gray primer to stand out more, because the surrounding white is not a bright.
For some reason, on this model, even after my second coat of paint, it appeared less than even. Unfortunately, I’d made a critical error in process. Thinking that I’d gotten things looking good after the dual white coat was complete, I’d gone ahead and removed the masks. What I should have done was let my eyes reset, checked it, and then removed the mask.
Instead, I’d pulled them off, blown out from looking at all that white expanse. Only later, when I examined it more closely, did I see the problems. While I could have tried to very, very carefully remask the red, I decided to take an easier approach. I thinned down some Tamiya white paint, and just misted it on carefully, using my Badger Patriot Extreme – taking advantage of its smaller nozzle size.
The goal was not to necessarily get full coverage, but rather to blend a few areas that had less than graceful transitions between lighter and darker areas. i knew that later weathering could be strategically placed to further mask the errant spots.
Quite often, the key to achieving decent results consistently is not necessarily avoiding mistakes – though that is important. Rather, it is a process, gleaned through experience, of learning how to manage the mistakes, and turning them to advantage. I’ve tried to always make myself set down the model if I find a problem that frustrates me. This allows me to ruminate on it a bit, and come up with a method to work the error back into the fold, so to speak. As I’ve heard more than a few times, “start loose, and tighten it up.”
The Markings Applied
The model was glossed with a coat of Future, and the decals were applied. The kit decals were usable. I can’t say they were good, really, yet they weren’t bad. They were much like my efforts in sports. Adequate… but there are better options. 🙂
The main issue was they had a tendency to fold up very easily. I had to really be diligent during the application process. And they weren’t the nicest decals in terms of printing either. From normal viewing distance they look fine. Up close though, the markings have a very “dot matrix” look to them. Still – adequately useful.
The kit supplies red decals for the stripes, and the sections that are designed for the wings contain the yellow “roundel” of what I suppose is the Colonial faction in the show. (I’ve never seen it, actually… I know, I know… I’ll watch it someday, Andy. 😉 ) Thoughtfully, they also supplied a set of those markings separately, for modelers who want to paint the stripes on.
On the decal paper, they look fine at first glance. But as I cut them from the sheet, and examined them closely, I realized they had a horrible white border around the yellow edges. My guess (and it is purely that) is that the printer tried to back the yellow color with white to make it opaque, as cheaper decals often have horribly weak yellow printing. However, the background white extended (or bled) beyond the yellow borders.
My first thought was to ditch using them, and simply do without. However, I did like how they gave a bit of visual interest to the red stripes, so I decided to use them. I did briefly consider trying to carefully cut away the better looking sections from the red stripe decals, but that would have required a process of masking and color blending around the decal’s red borders that I simply wasn’t prepared to tackle. And a desire to get the process done meant looking for aftermarket alternative was out of question.
So I did what any good modeler of lazy disposition – like myself 🙂 – would do. I went with it, and figured I’d try to add some weathering to hide it. And then photograph it to not feature those areas. 😀
Getting The Grime On
For weathering, I started with the paint chipping. I wanted the red, especially on the nose, to be heavily chipped. I employed my favorite technique, “spongering“. I’d originally painted the model with Vallejo Mecha Color Offwhite. Grabbing this same color for the sponge chipping, I got started. It quickly became apparent that the color was a bit too translucent to adequately cover the red areas, and produce convincing chips. Looking through my paint shelf, I found my old bottle of Vallejo Model Color White. That stuff is thick as paste, but it is very opaque. I mix in a few dots of that to my VMeC Offwhite, and thus solved the problem. Though the color was a bit brighter than the surround white, as long as I applied it carefully just to the red areas, it worked. (Though in several areas where I was NOT so careful, it shows a bit. More places to weather later, right? 🙂 )
White areas were chipped with VMeC Phantom Gray, which I’ve really come to like when chipping on white paint. I later applied more chips to the red and white with a brush, to connect some smaller areas, and add larger chips. I also went back in a few areas along the red stripes, and lightly sponged some red back in, to add additional variation, and also to tone down a few gaffes I’d spotted.
To start the griminess, I first added some post-shading using my favorite mix of 2 parts Tamiya XF-69 Nato Black with 1 part XF-9 Hull Red. I call this color “Wauchop Brown”, after Australian modeler Chris Wauchop, who is a master of weathering. I’d heard him mention that combination years ago in an interview with Brett Green, and I’ve made us of it ever since. It was quite cool to see how just that post-shading seemed to shift the model from “brand new” to used rather quickly.
Back To The Oils… And Acrylics
While I’ve tried recently to convert as much of my weathering technique as possible to acrylic products for the sake of speed, there are times when nothing works quite as well as oils. And my favorite oil paint to use for making things grimy and oily is Starship Filth, a color I’d first encountered watching Foxx Wolf of Modelmaking Guru fame. He described it as a slightly bluish, mushroomy color. Others call it slightly green and oily. To my eye, it’s all of the above… it is a bit of a “Schmoo” color. It presents itself in many ways. And best of all, it’s very, very grimy!
I applied it heavily around the various intakes, recesses, mechanical sections and even just a grew general dots around the airframe. A subtractive process was then employed, using a wide brush moistened with odorless thinner to blend, smear, stiple, and remove paint. Some areas were left more grimy than others, while some were blended back to an almost too subtle look.
Of course, I then had to pay the Oil Man… the model was set aside to dry for a few days.
The next steps were adding some acrylic staining products. I’ve been experimenting with various Vallejo Engine Stain Colors, so these were applied in areas, both straight from the bottle, and thinned with water. Unlike the subtractive process used in oils, acrylics employ an additive process. Because they dry very fast, it’s not feasible to add them and rub away any excess. So sparing use is made, building up in areas, adding dots on dots, stains on stains, streaks on streaks. As I’ve used these products more, I see what a wonderful addition to the toolbox they are. Because of the fast drying time, they can be built up in multiple translucent layers, even utilizing different colors, and achieving effects that would be quite time-consuming with oils or enamels.
While acrylics definitely have an advantage in terms of speed, learning to utilize all mediums together will help pave the way to a very interesting finish with great depth.
Finishing It All Up
I touched up a few more areas here and there with some final chips, dings, streaks, and corrections. I reached the point where I realized that I needed to call it “done”. One factor that affects my modeling is blogging. If I were simply building, I could stretch models out much longer. But because I love to write about them as much as I do build them, every project has a self-imposed deadline by which I need to have it ready for publication. It’s not a process I mind – I quite enjoy it actually, but it does require looking for points that I can say “that’s good, right there.” Take the pictures, write about it, sell it on Ebay, move along.
I am quite happy with it. There are certainly things I could have continued on. For example, a friend pointed out that in the rebooted BSG show, the Viper Mk. IIs were very dirty. As I’d not watched it, I’d not realized that. And though I am quite happy with the level of weathering I did add to it, it’s nice to know that if (when… 😉 ) I build another, I can really pull out all the stops if I’d like.
In many ways, this “rediscovery” of my love for scifi has been quite liberating. Though I thoroughly enjoyed all… well.. most… of my airplane builds, I’d unwittingly painted myself in a corner. I’d spent so much time building one genre that it almost drove me from the hobby simply because I failed to account for the fun a few additions could make.
I now try to account for that in a very deliberate way. My build schedule now always includes a wide variety of the genres, and I am always on the lookout to do more, just to explore. (Don’t be surprised if you see me do a CAR in 2019… )
If you’ve gotten into a bit of a rut, try a genre breakout. Certainly if you’ve not built scifi, give it a go. It’s quite fun, and gives great leeway for expression. And while this Moebius 1/32 Colonial Viper Mk. II is no “shake and bake” kit, it’s not beyond the skills of even a novice modeler, and really looks cool when it’s all built up and sitting on your shelf.
In short, this is a fun kit. The 10-year-old in me is quite pleased with that. Imagination recovered.