Chasing The Masters – a periodic series
This is the first in what I plan to be an ongoing series. In any endeavor, there are people who stand out, those we learn from. And while we all want to have a certain “style”, the road to that lofty air is worn flat by the footprints of those in front of us.
My goal is not so much to replicate the works of great modelers, but rather to learn from them, extracting all I can, and merging it with my own processes to grow and improve as a modeler.
And I hope you will benefit from it in the process too!
In high school I played on the basketball team. Not that well, mind you, but good enough to be on the team. Most of my highlight reel would be focused on my rear end keeping the pine board warm. Still, I had fun, and enjoyed playing the game.
At the start of my 10th grade year, our school had a new coach. He’d come from being an assistant at a very good program in central Florida. From the very start, he pushed us hard. We weren’t the tallest team by any stretch, so he pushed us in speed and defense. He worked with what he had.
One of thing things he did to push us was schedule games with teams that were well out of our league. His purpose was not to embarrass us, of course, though at times in my mind I wondered. But looking back I can clearly see what his purpose was – pushing us to a higher level. Playing the same local teams that were about the same as we were in terms of capability never stretched us. It was as if we just constantly swam in the shallow end of the pool.
One of the schools he’d arranged for us to play was a highly regarded program in Gainesville, FL. They were always in the high school sports news, even where I lived a few hours away in Tallahassee. And always one name kept popping up in relation to that team.
Into The Deep End
Maxwell was one of those players coaches dream about. He was very, very good. Pulling straight from Wikipedia, “as a senior, Maxwell was the Mr. Basketball of the state of Florida as well as being an all-state defensive back in football.” The guy knew his stuff on the court.
When we arrived in Gainesville to play, I was trying to imagine how it would be playing against such a highly regarded player. Our coach had talked him up quite a bit. Speed, agility, shooting prowess… the whole nine yards.
Of course, being a cocky kid, I figured coach was simply trying to psych us out a bit. To make us worry some, so we’d not go on to the court thinking this was just another game.
The other team was bigger than us, both in height and physically. Even before the game started, I could see them looking over at us. Smiling. I felt a little like I’d suddenly found myself in front of the lion’s cage. And the gate was open.
All too quickly the warm-up time was over, and the game started.
Whatever I’d imagined ahead of time would now face reality.
Chasing Lincoln Wright
Lincoln Wright has been working in the hobby industry as an artist for quite a number of years in Japan. Originally hailing from Australia, he moved to Japan in his younger days, and got plugged in to the language and culture. His natural talent and solid work ethic showed through, and for many years he worked in studios, right alongside with the top professionals from Japan.
What he’s best known for is his work with the Maschinen Krieger property. Originally the brainchild of Kow Yokoyama, Ma. K (as it is often abbreviated) is a scifi franchise focused on armor suits and other vehicles from a post-apocalyptic timeline in Earth’s future. Yokayama’s original models were scratch built, and in a unique twist, the stories were developed after the models.
Linc worked for Yokoyama for a number of years, so he had daily access to observe the originators work and methods. It wasn’t as many of us do, reading books or watching videos. He sat in the same studio, producing works of art right alongside the inventor of the franchise.
And while the language barrier often means that much of what makes up Maschinen Krieger is little known in the West, Linc is uniquely qualified to bridge that barrier, and bring the aesthetic of Japan to a new audience.
Exploring The Work
My first step in chasing Lincoln Wright was to watch his videos. His channel has loads of content about a variety of scifo subjects. But for this exercise, I focused specifically on his Maschinen Krieger content. While I’d watched the videos in the past, I’d never really sat down and viewed them holistically, as one body of work. So over a few evenings, I binge-watched every Ma. K video Linc made available publicly.
What immediately jumps out are two things – his depth of knowledge of the genre, and his sheer talent. Obviously he has a wealth of knowledge about the property. Many of the stories on the boxes, and the photos of the models too, are his work. His work also appears in many print publications. He literally has an “inside track”.
His talent is also remarkable. Linc brings a knowledge of color, balance, shadow and light to his work. It’s not just a choice of colors, but a solid foundation of why those colors work, and how they will be viewed. Watching his videos is instructive far beyond just the “glue this here, paint this there”.
Getting Into The Build
The kit I chose for the project was a recent release from Wave, the 1/20th SAFS R Space Type Prowler. If you’re not familiar with Ma. K, think of it as a man-sized armored suit, with a rocket pack on the back. In the storyline, this type was used in combat on the Moon.
I started by assembling the basic parts of the model – arms, legs, torso, etc. While I did some gap filling, part of the Ma. K style is to add texture to the models, giving them a rougher, weighty look. Though Linc demonstrates several ways to do this, I chose to go for a lighter texture, and used Mr. Surfacer 500.
I applied this with a brush, stippling on the surfacer in fairly heavy fashion. I’d go over each area a few times, taking advantage of how it reacted as it began to dry. Not only did this process produce a nice surface texture, but it covered up any seams.
One of the hallmarks of Linc’s style is efficiency. In everything he does, there is a sort of elegance of process that seeks to reduce steps to only what is needed. One of the ways he often does this is by priming a model in a dark color that will later serve to show chipping and weathering.
Following his process shown in a few of the videos, I primed the model with Gunze Mr. Mahogany from a rattle can. This gave the parts a nice, dark undercoat. This could later suggest chipping, rust, and dirt.
Getting A Grip On Lacquers
While Linc demonstrates many types of media in his video work, he’s known for brush painting lacquers. While those are not paints that the typical Western modeler might think of for hand painting, it’s a part of the Maschinen Krieger style.
In watching the videos, I was careful to observe the method of application, and the purpose of that method. Lacquers never really cure. While they dry as any other paint does, they can always be reactivated by adding thinner. As Linc describes, this is not a problem, it is a feature. But coming to grips with that presents a challenge.
I chose what Linc later told me was probably the most difficult route – white paint on a dark undercoat. At the time, I did not think about that. I simply looked at the box art, thought “that’s cool”, and drove on.
Interaction With Underlying Layers
I thinned my paint as I’d seen demonstrated, grabbed a large flat brush, and began dabbing the white lacquer paint – AK Real COlor White Gray – on to the model’s surface. Almost instantly, I had a swirly tan mess.
I’d anticipated this from my video binges, or so I thought. But the reality of what I thought it would be, and how it actually was, were far apart. Frustration quickly set in. However, I’d seen it demonstrated, so I knew it could be done.
First, I adjusted my technique. While I had known that I should not brush it on as you would acrylic paint, I had not realized how light a touch was required. So a quick shift of my application method to be much gentler was called for. This helped reduce the look of melted ice cream mixed with mud.
A second thing I realized was there is a fine line between too much thinner and not enough. While the paint can activate the underlying layer, the proportion of thinner seemed to really make a difference. I added a bit more paint into my palette well, and immediately saw more improvement.
Change Of Brush
I also experimented with a variety of brushes. While Linc seemed happy to use a variety in his videos, I knew in my learner stage I’d need to find one that worked for me. I finally settled on a large round #8 sized brush. This allowed me to get a good load of paint, dab it on, and move on to the next spot.
That was another critical piece of the puzzle. Once some paint was added, I quickly learned to leave it alone. I could add adjacent spots of color, but I had to make sure not to go back into what I’d placed already. Keep moving along folks… nothing to see here.
Happily, the paint dried quickly, and remarkably smooth. This type of application would leave the most horrid brush marks and texture if using acrylics. But with lacquers, because of the way layers of paint interact, it all blended smoothly together.
No Poke Through?
As I’d mentioned previously, a key to Linc’s style is efficiency. One of the techniques he uses is what he described as “poke through” chipping. This takes advantage of the dark undercoat. Paint is applied over it, but full coverage is not the goal as it often is with airbrushing or “traditional” brush painting.
Instead, lack of paint coverage builds in chipping. The paint isn’t just applied in general, it is added on with purpose, strategically. Areas that would normally receive chipping are left less than fully painted. And while I understood the concept, I discovered something very quickly.
It ain’t easy.
First, my struggle to wrestle with activating the dark layer of undercoat meant much of the surface was tan. While I had some poke through, the color around it looked awful. (Almost as if a balding, overweight, middle-aged man was attempting to brush paint lacquers for the first time. 😉 ) So I had to go back over most of the model just to get it to look white – and in doing so, lost the benefit of the underlying color.
By the time I was halfway through, I started getting it to work. I can”t say I was in control of the technique, but I was at least holding it at bay. Yet even here, I realized how much experience counts. It’s not just a matter of not painting certain parts, or painting them thinly. It’s knowing where it works, and where it doesn’t. True, I had the dark underlying coat showing through here and there. But it looked like spots that had been missed – not the start of chipping and weathering.
I briefly considered re-priming and simply starting over. But two things came to mind. I knew that would not be honest. The point of this series is not to demonstrate what I can do, but rather to illustrate an honest effort to follow artists in their genre to learn from them. So starting over simply would not do. I also thought about what Linc might say – “don’t miss the lesson in failing.” (Of course, he may have said “start over you idiot – it looks like crap!” 😀 ) Linc brings a level of thoughtful reflection to his work, and part of that is always learning. So learn I would.
I continued applying the white until the model was pretty much covered. The poke through wasn’t there, which was a disappointment, but the lessons learned in application were very valuable.
Better Red Than… Some Other Color…
The box art shows a colorful scheme that looks a bit like fresh tuna… a bit of an orange, pinkish mix of color. It’s bold in a subdued way, if that makes sense. But I wanted bolder.
I grabbed my AK Real Color Red. It was a very red red… almost primary red. I thought the genre’s aesthetic would fit better with some adjustment, so to 5 parts red I added one part black (also AK Real Color), which resulted in a color I liked.
These were applied as I had before, but putting the lessons I’d learned to good use. I was much more restrained with my thinner use. This allowed me to add paint much more quickly, with little disturbance of the underlying layer. I even begin to explore doing a more traditional brush stroke in order to set the demarcation line between red and white. Generous use of paint on the brush, and a bare whisper touch, helped immensely. It was as though the brush never touched the model – only the paint did, flowing right off the end.
Before long, I had my shocking red color in all the places I wanted… plus a few more. 😉
Some Other Lessons
Along through this process, I learned other valuable lessons. Blending edges of paint takes on a whole new meaning when you can activate the previous layer. I did the painting over a the course of a few evenings. I’d start in where I’d last worked. Normally this would leave some line between the old, cured paint, and the new fresh paint. But with lacquers, I simply went a little heavier at first, activated the paint along the demarcation, and it blended in with the new. It took some time to find the left and right limits, so to speak, but the benefit seemed apparent. Nothing is ever really set in stone.
Another great strength I saw in lacquer brush painting was sitting right on my palette. I’d painted the red color on the model, and thought I had everything finished. However, a few days later, I noticed a large spot I’d missed. When using acrylics, I normally mix up a whole bottle of a custom color, so I can later go back and use it. However, in this case, I’d not done that. All the mixing was done right on the palette.
Then it dawned on me- lacquers don’t cure. Linc had demonstrated that. I dipped my brush in thinner, touched it to the now dry paint mix on my palette… and just like that, the paint was workable again. I swirled it around a bit, dabbed it on the model, and I was done.
Back To The Game
As the basketball game unfolded, it suddenly dawned on me that Vernon Maxwell played in a league of his own. His team was very good – but not a whole lot better than other good teams we’d played. Yet he moved far beyond even them.
The thing that was most startling was the speed at which he moved, and how his mind always seemed to be two steps ahead. The grace at which he cut through our team’s attempts at defense and offense was stunning. It was as if we were moving at half speed, in some sort of surreal “Twilight Zone” episode.
We went on to lose the game soundly. While we never gave up, the issue was never in doubt. Yes, the team was better than us… but I think had the roles been reversed, and Maxwell was on our team, we’d have won. He made that much of a difference.
Vernon Maxwell went on to play in college for the Florida Gators, and then enjoyed 13 season career in the NBA, the highlight of which was two NBA Championships with the Houston Rockets.
I knew Linc was good at what he did, but this first experience was a “Vernon Maxwell ” moment for me. Though I knew I would not be able to pull off “Linc style” right off the bat, I was shocked my how easy he makes it look. I knew he was good – but I didn’t understand how far the gulf was between perception and reality.
Yet the cool thing about Linc is he’s humble about it. He’s happy to share with people what he does, how he does it, and most importantly – why. He is one of the most uniquely qualified and gifted artists in our hobby.Yet he’s never one to draw his knit cap lower over one eye, hold up his latte, and declare he’s a big deal. Not unless he bursts out in laughter afterwards because he can’t take himself that seriously.
With the foundation of paint now dry… but not cured… the next step will be to add the weathering. Once again, I’ll be chasing the man Kow Yokoyama dubbed Maschinen Krieger’s International Ambassador – Linc Sensei!
Linc has a Patreon page, and subscribers get access to loads more video and content. Please be sure and check it out, and if you can, support him in his work to create, inspire, and educate modelers.